Is Kindle Unlimited Worthwhile For Self-Publishing Authors And Their Ebooks?

Is kindle Unlimited Worth It

Is Amazon Kindle Unlimited worth it for authors. After twelve months, I probably have to say thank you, but no.

Like all new ideas, it takes some time to decide if it works or not. But after trying it, here is my Kindle Unlimited review from a self-publishing author’s perspective.

Is Kindle Unlimited worth it for authors? The answer depends on many factors, so there is no way I can give a definitive yes or no.

Kindle Unlimited (KU) uses the KENPC page reads scale to calculate the royalty that Amazon pays to authors. I have to say that compared to a regular ebook sale, the return is quite modest.

The Kindle Unlimited library of cheap reads

The fundamental problem I have with KU is that it undervalues the price of an ebook.

If a reader completes a full ebook, the return is approximately fifty-percent or even less than a standard ebook sale.

Avid KU readers have unlimited access to so many books per month.

So, of course, they can save a lot of money by reading from the selection of one million books or so that are available to them.

Yes, it’s a great deal for avid readers with a Kindle device or app, but what about a published author?

For an ebook that retails at, say, $3.99, the return to an indie author for a full read on KENPC is somewhere around $1.35.

Also, keep in mind that this return can vary each month depending on how much money Amazon allocates to the KDP Select Global Fund for KU.

All of this means that Amazon will heavily discount your ebook.


How readers use KU

So many of the page reads I obtained were for only a few pages of a Kindle book. You might think that readers could easily have read these few pages for free in the preview read or with Prime reading.

But KU has over a million titles. For a KU reader, it is easier to flit from one book to another and take a quick bite before deciding to read on.

Quite honestly, can you give back a hamburger after two bites and only pay for what you ate?

From my experience, having my books included in KU was not too dissimilar to offering free ebooks.

But then again, I suppose I have to add some balance here. I got paid a tiny royalty payment for those few pages that could have been read for free.


Do you want real ebook sales?

Amazon has around a million ebooks available for its Kindle Unlimited subscription service of $9.99 per month. There is also a 30 day free trial period. It is close to free access to as many ebooks as one can try.

A few pages here, a few pages there, until a reader finds a book they like.

As an author, I have to say no to this pick and choose, because I can, way of reading ebooks. But I might be old-fashioned in my thinking.

A reader has plenty of opportunities to assess an ebook before purchase through reviews and preview reads.

Buying an ebook should not be a ‘try before you buy’ or ‘take one bite’ experience.

I’m sorry, but if a reader wants to read one of my ebooks, paying for it on the Amazon Kindle Store is the customary way to reward my efforts.

From this, you will understand why I exited KDP Select and Amazon exclusivity and returned all my ebooks to open publishing.

If Amazon gave me a choice to opt-out of Kindle Unlimited but to stay in KDP Select, I might have taken a different approach.

But clearly, Amazon needs cheap KU ebooks for avid readers.


I said goodbye

Kindle Unlimited is great for a voracious reader who likes to read on the cheap. But for an author, I’m still not sure it’s such a great deal.

But I said goodbye to KDP Select and went back to open publishing on all available retailers.

It took a couple of months to get all my ebooks out of Amazon exclusivity. But it was heartening to see that there were still real ebook sales from Amazon.

For my ebooks that I returned to being available through Draft2Digital on Apple B&N, Kobo, and others, I started to see some sales again after a slow restart.

Thank you, Kindle Unlimited, it was nice knowing you, but you were not my cup of tea.


But it is not so simple

For authors, there is no perfect world. In fact, book publishing is a very tough business now.

The ebook market is over-supplied, and sales are much harder to get compared to a few years ago. It applies not only to self-publishers but traditional publishers as well.

I am sure you have noticed that in recent times, some of the big publishers now have titles in KU. It is a sign of the times.

Sometimes you have to bow to market forces and go to where the market is most active right now.

If you are not getting a lot of regular ebook sales, is it worth accepting that the smaller return from Kindle Unlimited is the best bet right now?

It’s a difficult decision. But it is one that authors, including me, will have to make.

Perhaps, for now, I have said au revoir to KU instead of a definite goodbye.


Further reading: Kindle Unlimited Has A Problem – It Can’t Count 

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

Avatar for Derek Haines

15 thoughts on “Is Kindle Unlimited Worthwhile For Self-Publishing Authors And Their Ebooks?

  • Avatar for Ray Wright
    March 5, 2018 at 12:38 am

    For longer works, the economics of KU are not that much different than ebooks on Amazon. I have a 450-page printed work that converts to 668 Kindle equivalent pages on KU, and at half-a-penny per page, the difference between selling a $4.99 ebook and having 668 pages read on KU is less than a dime. I’m happy with both distribution methods, but I can see how the inequity impacts shorter works.

  • Avatar for Malla Duncan
    October 17, 2017 at 11:37 am

    I have also exited Amazon entirely for these same reasons. But the decline of ebooks goes back further to ‘free’. I know of no other product that that takes a year to produce which is then given away for free in the hope that the receiver will pay for something else. It’s retail madness at its best. And its not about the books, its about having free fodder for their Kindle sales. Writers have been thoroughly duped by Amazon – and hugely unfairly treated. I sell quite happily on B&N and Apple – and there’s no fuss. I’d rather that than go through the humiliating and restrictive rules and regulations of this ghastly monolith called Amazon. But good luck to those writers who are happy with it – or hanging in desperately waiting for the winds to change.

  • Avatar for Norma Padro
    December 9, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    I’m very happy with amazon’s KU. I’m just happy about being able to publish my work all together. This is my success and amazon helped me with achieving my goal.
    I have a lot to be thankful for. All I wanted was to be an author and this dream was finally realized a few years ago. Since then I haven’t looked back. I will be writing some more stories soon to publish them. It doesn’t take much for me to be happy.
    I guess others have different goals in life. At first I wondered if being an author was going to make me wealthy, but I don’t think like that anymore. When I see a sale here and there it makes me happy that at least someone is reading my work.
    Like everything else I get sales sometimes and sometimes I don’t, but no one can predict a sale from anywhere. When it does it will and if it doesn’t one day it will.

  • Avatar for M. C. Frye
    October 26, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    I know several other authors who have decided to ditch amazon exclusivity. If this becomes a trend, it will be interesting to see if amazon chooses to woo back departed authors.

  • Avatar for suzaloo
    October 7, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Perhaps if your book was any good, people would read it. Just saying.

  • Avatar for Cheryl Sterling
    October 7, 2016 at 7:33 am

    I agree 100%. I sold hundreds of a 100 page book on plotting and received (maybe) enough money for a Big Mac meal. I don’t understand the hoopla writers have about KU. As soon as my 90 day term expired, I exited, raised the price and have been selling 10 a month. I’d rather have the money than readers who chase the next best free thing.
    Thanks for posting!


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