I frequent my fair share of authors forums, both live chat get togethers and on things like twitter and Facebook. In these forums a question that comes up fairly often from newer authors is whether or not it is worth putting there books on Kindle Unlimited. There is a certain degree or reticence in this regard from some authors, others have had bad or middle experiences with it, and often it is purely a case of authors not knowing if this going to be good for them or not, and also not understanding the restrictions doing so places upon the self published author.
As I fine myself answering this question, or at least expressing my own opinion while explaining the mechanics a lot it’s clear it is a subject on which people want advice. As I have not done a ‘how to’ post for writers/self publishers in a while I thought I would try to address the subject in this post. But first to explain what it is, and the restrictions placing your book on Kindle Unlimited.
Netflicks for Books…
The netflicks for books analogy is probably the most used to explain what Kindle Unlimited is. While not entirely accurate its not far off. there are two ways a reader can access Kindle Unlimited books.
The first is by subscribing to Kindle Unlimited, which allows them to borrow books for ‘free’ from the library of eligible books. They pay a flat fee each month and download as many or as few books as they like.
The second is through Amazon Prime. If you have an Amazon prime account you can download one book for free each month, provided you ‘return’ the book you lent last.
How do you, the author, get paid?
Amazon have a monthly fund, this is made up of a portion of subscriptions and a small portion of money from Amazon Prime. This is set aside after the month ‘prize’ awards (which go to the biggest sellers) the fund is divided between all authors based on a small amount per page read. So if someone borrows you book and flicks through the first 25 pages on kindle unlimited you get paid for 25 pages, if they read the whole book you get paid for whatever the page count is (this is not your actual page count in a paperback version , it is generally a little higher than the paperback page count, they work on a set value of words per page, generally is is also higher than the page count the kindle version of your book will say it has on its amazon listing)
The actual amount a page is worth varies every month, depending on how many pages in total are read across the whole of kindle unlimited, and the size of the monthly fund. It is generally around 0.003 pp meaning a book worth 400 pages is worth around £1.20. The dollar rate for US reads (and likewise every other territory) is different but the same principal applies.
Longer books are therefore worth more than short books in this model, but there is a cap to that. I’ll come back to that in a minute.
The downside to listing your books on kindle unlimited ( which you can do for 90 periods at a time though it will self renew unless you say otherwise) is if you list your books on Kindle Unlimited you are not allowed by the contract to list those same books anywhere other than Kindle. That may seem restrictive, and it is. the rights and wrongs of this you can debate with Amazon by all means. They will say that having exclusive eBooks rights on books on Kindle Unlimited they bolster the platform, which is true, but you may decide you don’t want to bolster Amazons grip on the marketplace, and fair enough if that’s a stance you wish to take.
The 1200 page limit
In order to avoid fatuously long books trying to game the system there is a high end on page reads where the payment per page stops at the cap. This is to stop people putting a whole series together on kindle unlimited with hyper links to the last book trying to clock up enormous reads (the system only remembers the highest page the reader was on for accounting purposes). As such do not put all your books together in a single volume ( a popular approach to book marketing). While you may not be doing so to game the system other have done just that which is why the cap is there. So put series together by all means but separate them into small groups to avoid the cap if you need to…
The Flip Side
The flipside’s are the other benefits you get by listing a book on Kindle Unlimited is you can use there promotion. You can run free books for up to five days ( don’t is my advise but opinions vary here) Or put you book on a 7 day sales price (which is generally a better plan) So while you are signing an exclusive agreement for 90 days you do get promotional tools as well.
Is it worth it?
Well that’s the big question isn’t it… The simple truth is that comes down to this; Amazon won the Kindle, Nook, Ibook wars. Much like Blueray vs HDDVD or if you old enough Betamax v’s VHS, Kindle became the popular choice of the masses as far as ebook platforms are concerned. They did this by loss leading Kindle Fires so they were much cheaper than the alternatives, and once Apple held up the white flag and allowed a Kindle app on to there Ipad/Iphone platform the writing was on the wall for Nook. There are other Ebook platforms, smashwords for example but even if you have listings with all the competitors the chances are the majority of readers for ebooks will come via Kindle. You could sell a reasonable amount on other platforms, but finding readers as an independent is hard enough on Kindle.
In simple terms you are more likely to get more readers on Kindle Unlimited than you will gain by having your books listed on other platforms. And yes that whole exclusive release thing is the very tool Amazon used to win the war, but the war is won and its too late to side against the victors…
While readers, not money, has always been my own personal driving force in these matters, the results are much the same. If you want an example of why I say this see the graph below.
This is the revenue split this month as of yesterday, (as it was the easiest to grab), on an average month the revenue split between eBook sales and Kindle Unlimited reads can vary from about this much to anything you to 45% or even 50+% Kindle Unlimited.
Personally I care more about how that splits out into books, and over the last 5 years about 30% of all my book sales have been Kindle Unlimited, with about 15% paperbacks and 55% kindle downloads, though those are rough percentages, as equating page reads to books sales is complicated. In the last five years I’ve clocked up 118624 page reads, which as the average across all my books is around 400pp to a book equates to around 296 books.
As I say these are rough figures, Scar of Avarice is only 105pp while Passing Place is 556pp but the average across all my books is around 400pp give or take and while I could figure it out more exactly 296 books in total is about right.
That 30% Kindle Unlimited books as you may guess is equal to about 30% all revenue, sure I make more on a kindle download of A Spider In The Eye than I do in page reads, in page reads its worth around £1.20 on a sale its worth £1.60. But as from Russia With Tassels is a longer book the margin between a kindle unlimited read and a straight download is negligible, while Passing Place actually pays more though Kindle Unlimited because its has a high page count.
So the question becomes would I sell that 30% of all sales on other platforms if I went none exclusive and left Kindle Unlimited. The simple answer is no, I just wouldn’t. They won the platform war and that’s all there is to it.
The Other Advantages
There is one more set of advantages in going on Kindle Unlimited. On the off chance your not swayed by simple access to a larger market of potential readers. Anyone reading at least 10%of a book on Kindle Unlimited registers as a sale, and counts towards amazon best seller ratings. And kindle Unlimited counts as proof of purchase allowing the reader to review on Amazon. Books sold in other marketplaces do not.
Amazon is the big bad, plenty of people dislike Amazons business practices, or want to make a stand against them. Frankly all power to you if that’s you. But while I may deplore Amazons business practices at times, it is the market place and Kindle Unlimited is part of that marketplace, and a large part, certainly a bigger opportunity to find new readers than the none exclusive alterative presents these days.
Hopefully that answers a few questions for some of you, or opens the eyes of others. this is by no means comprehensive but it is the bare bones of the reasons I go with Kindle Unlimited, which comes down to more readers at the end of the day. I like readers and I get more this way.