There is a lot of worry and hand-wringing over on the Amazon Kindle Digital Publishing’s Community Forum pages the past few days, after Amazon rolled out “Kindle Unlimited.” For $9.99 a month, readers get a Netflix-like subscription to ebooks, and once they read 10% of those books, authors get a share of the Amazon fund (like KDP Select). Up until now, payouts have hovered between $1.80 and $2.50 for borrows; no one knows what the payouts will be for KU.
Here’s what indie authors are saying about it: https://kdp.amazon.com/community/thread.jspa?threadID=198609&tstart=0 (You probably need to be logged into your Amazon KDP account to read it…)
But I think it’s worth giving this new service a go with my latest book: “How To Make Easy Cash With Old Magazines: Make Money Finding, Listing & Selling Used and Vintage Magazines In Your Spare Time!” I’ll use it as an experiment. It launched early June, and since then has sold only a handful of books (1 of the orders turned into a return…). It’s got decent reviews, and it dovetails nicely with my original book on selling used books online; my hope is that readers of this title will be curious to learn more (and order) that book… which I’ve prominently promoted on the end-of-book pages of “Easy Cash.”
Day after I signed up for the 90-day exclusive with KDP & KU (you get ’em both when you sign up), I noticed a different layout on that book’s sales page. Here is a screenshot with my circles noting the promo of KU:
This test will run through October. I’ll report on the results as time goes along, to share my experience and my thoughts if KU gives self-published authors a new way to promote their Kindle books online, or if it represents a threat to author income in the long run.
On Aug. 14th I viewed KU borrow revenue at approx. $1.80 each, far ahead of what I was expecting. I figure Amazon knew it needed to sweeten the pot and boost the royalties authors received to give this program a chance to build momentum. I estimate September reports will show a slightly lower payment per download; I’ll guess $1.40-$1.50 each.
Yep. The KU revenue dropped to $1.54 per borrow, just a smidge above where I guessed it would land. The funny thing for me, though, is that even this falling per-borrow income is adding on nicely to my monthly royalties. In fact, I took the plunge and added my ebook on selling used books online, and the borrows have outpaced sales. I went ahead and boost the selling price to $3.99. I had about the same number of sales, but a higher margin. Interestingly, the ebook also saw sales increase in the UK Kindle Store, which Amazon just announced would also be featuring the KU Unlimited program this month.
The September KU per-borrow rate may rise, or it may fall from $1.54. I’d predict that Amazon would once more add money to the fund to help maintain a rate closer to $1.80 – $2.00, if for no other reason than to keep author’s ebooks in the KDP Select Program through the busy 4th Quarter. The two books I have in the program will earn me enough extra cash to keep me happy they are available in Kindle Unlimited. For now.
Amazon is now boasting that the Kindle Unlimited program features 700,000 Kindle books subscribers can read for free. Within a few months I believe the program will either be branded a complete success or belittled as a complete failure. Time will tell.
October 2014 update: It’s almost the end of October now, and I’ve noticed a slowdown of KU borrows. The September KU royalty stayed constant at $1.52 for U.S. ebook borrows, while the newly-launched UK KU (yes, KU has landed in the U.K., and it makes a delicious — although not very profitable addition to my income stream yet –palindrom) earns but $1.27 per borrow. Some authors are complaining that the KU borrows are lowering their sales revenue; this seems to be happening to my income, also. However, it seems that it all comes out right in the wash, as total revenue has stayed constant. Those complaining authors are likely taking their titles out of KU when their current 90-day exclusivity agreements expire. Will this bode well for the future of KU? Still, the answer remains: time will tell.