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 Joann Wallace
    March 30, 2019 at 10:47 pm

    Thank you for this article. It was very helpful. I’ve recently gone wide with the two books I’ve independently published. Once you realize that Amazon (KDP) considers authors suppliers, not customers, you have a better understanding of why they do what they do. The customer is king at Amazon, the supplier, not so much. Also, I find D2D much more user friendly and customer focused. At D2D the author is the customer. Amazon (KDP) needs some competition and D2D and other book distributors are giving it to them. That being said, every author must make their own decision.

  • Avatar for Joann Wallace
    March 30, 2019 at 10:35 pm

    Wow, that was mean spirited. KDPS isn’t for everyone, with good reason.

  • Avatar for zurcacielos
    December 22, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    You are a writer so I put over a table a couple of things to think about:
    – have auto-critic.
    – are you like Prince or George Michael fighting against platforms?
    – a teenage will think that he can create a musical band and he will be freddy mercury and HE WILL BE that sort of god for so many people. Now… what the teenager doesn’t know is that the owners of the audiences, distribution channels aka scenarios, stadium contracts, and the owners of the “know how” to handle those contracts and put amazing girls in your videos, handle MTV and many other things… is not Freddy or George michael, but Sony, Warner, etc. They have the knowledge, they have the territory and they defend it, they fight anybody else trying to take the pie from them.
    – Freddy is just a component, of course the artistic ego will make you believe you are the center of the universe, not knowing about the software technology needed to run amazon, not understanding that you need to pay 100k dollars per year to each software developer or it goes to Microsoft, Google, IBM, etc. And you don’t know about marketing, distribution channels and a billion things.
    – Freddy kept the love of his fans.
    – At the same time, you are not as exclusive as you think, there are thousands of writers in worst economies waiting for a penny to eat.
    – that is what you are.
    – Now… before subscriptions, writers could cash the “value of pages sold never read”, which generated a HUGE problem for the user which is having 10 books and reading 1. Of course you were very happy, more happy than anybody because that meant that 9 out of 10 of your sales were made by consumerism and people that bought into your marketing and wanted to read but actually the “human reading capacity” was not there. There wasn’t an actual person with free time and willingness to actually read your book. That “detail” did not existed.
    – Amazon is the most customer centric company of the world, it’s their slogan, and now they handle the billion complexities behind this world to make things better to his audience and protect their customers giving them a change of paying for the material that actually transforms their own lives for better.
    – Some people don’t like it. Well… when Uber appeared many taxi drivers got angry, but the industry was more democratic where anybody can drive even if they make less money than a taxi driver before.

    I’m adding my two cents with the only purpose of making people think :)

  • Avatar for Shortstory Woman
    November 7, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    For me, though I am just starting out, it is worth it, yet. but time will tell I think…. ;)

  • Avatar for Stacey P Trombley
    April 27, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    But a reader can do this without KU, by checking out a few pages on the preview then not buying it and you get 00.00$ ( you can do this at B&N site as well as Amazon, and I’m sure many others) It’s also the same in a bookstore. People can pick it up, read a few pages before deciding to buy or not. There’s very few times a reader will want to buy the book without at least seeing if it’s written well or something they think they might enjoy. A short summary isn’t always enough. This sounds like an issue with the way books are sold in general (to you) not KU, IMO.

  • Avatar for Pamela M. Covington
    April 5, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks for your insight on this, Derek. I’m bailing out of KDPS after a year and a half and will begin branching out to open publishing in time for my second book. Your discussion helped me with the decision to do so.


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