Home » Amazon, Ebook Borrowing/Lending » What’s So Interesting About Kindle Unlimited?

What’s So Interesting About Kindle Unlimited?

18 July 2014

From regular TPV commenter, Will Entrekin:

Big news today: Kindle Unlimited.

Ten bucks per month for unlimited access to any Kindle book in the program, on any device.

Who’s got two thumbs and started his free trial within ten minutes of the announcement? Yeah, this guy.

Let’s be honest: from a reader perspective, this is awesome. Ten bucks per month? Hell, I’m lucky if I don’t spend three or four times that every first of every month on the Kindle Monthly Deals.

From an author perspective? A publishing perspective?

. . . .

According to my KDP page, by enrolling in KDP Select, my books can be part of Kindle Unlimited. And when a reader reads 10% of my book, I’d get paid. It’s not clear how much, but my guess is that, as with the Kindle Owners Lending Library, authors get an equal share of a fund dedicated to all participants eligible to get paid.

Is that more or less than I get from the 70% I get now? I’ve no idea. It may be less per book but ultimately more overall, depending on the success of the program and my hypothetical book’s performance within it.

. . . .

Netflix? Spotify? They worked with studios and labels to get the content their platform would use. Which I think prompts a question, and maybe a couple: How much do the artists get paid? How much do the labels get paid?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I’ve heard that it’s a low number–for some reason, 11 cents sticks out in my head. But I may have just made that up.

Point is, though, in the case of Spotify, authors make their royalties based on their agreements with their labels. The labels pay Spotify. [PG thinks Will meant “Spotify pays the labels.”]

You probably see where I’m going with this.

What’s brilliant about the way Amazon did this is they didn’t have to talk to anyone beforehand. They didn’t have to go to the corporate publishers. They spent years building this awesome digital reading platform, and then they spent more years attracting some terrific authors, and offering incentives to those authors to go all-in with them. “Let us be the only place people can buy your ebooks,” they said, “And we’ll make it worth your while. We’ll give you free promotions. Countdown deals. We’ll let people borrow your book.”

“We’ll make you part of Kindle Unlimited.”

. . . .

Now, I don’t know for sure they didn’t talk to the corporate publishers, but I do know they didn’t launch with any.

That’s huge.

. . . .

This may just be the largest endorsement of independent authors and their work . . . pretty much ever.

Link to the rest at Will Entrekin

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Amazon, Ebook Borrowing/Lending

132 Comments to “What’s So Interesting About Kindle Unlimited?”

  1. So there aren’t any big or traditional publishers sending books to this? I thought I read somewhere that there were tradpub authors enrolled in KU, and that they’re getting a very different deal from the rest of us.

    • None of the big five, anyway. One could probably argue Algonquin is “traditional” (it’s a term I find imprecise), but I don’t think they’re corporate (or all that large) in the way, say, HarperCollins is.

      • So none of the Big 5 are in on this, then? That is remarkable.

      • Nice article, Will. I thought something similar when I read it, but my thoughts were no where near as eloquent or developed.

        My first thought was it was a great way for newbies to get readers, and for big publishers go decline in importance.

  2. I’m torn. Amazon hasn’t given hard numbers, but on the other hand, it would be easier to convince Amazon Unlimited subscribers to try my books. It seems that this is worth experimenting with for a while.

  3. Do you count Scholastic as a corporate publisher? Because my husband is browsing through the KU listings and says Hunger Games is there.

    I don’t know who owns Scholastic and don’t care to look it up right now, but at the very least it’s not all/only indies up there.

    Angie

    • They’re arguably corporate but not conglomerated, I guess? They’re also primarily education and children’s books. I think they’re why the Harry Potter books are included. There are some other titles from medium- to larger-size publishers. I think I saw Algonquin, and know I saw Open Road.

      It’s definitely not all independent, no. But it’s a lot independent.

      • Algonquin is a press that still calls themselves independent, but in the old, small pub sense of the word.

        • Algonquin strikes me as one of the (few) good guys — the sort of publisher not solely interested in the bottom line, and who really does perform some of those oft-mentioned functions like editing and marketing — but they’re still a division of a larger company (Workman).

      • Re: Harry Potter, Rowling retained her electronic rights; that’s how she was able to start up Pottermore. The Harry Potter e-books are essentially indie, although I’ll bet Rowling gets a much better deal than your average KDP writer. [wry smile]

        Angie

  4. I’m excited to see where it goes. It doesn’t make good sense for me to commit any if my current titles to Select, but I intend to launch a new pen name soon, and I’m looking forward to trying it for 3 months. A little trial is a good thing in this business. Gotta stay flexible and adaptable.

    • Well, I’m not in Select and won’t bother for what I’m likely to earn. I earn $4+ for every 70% sale. Since it’s a fund, I doubt I would receive half what I earn now. I definitely won’t be bailing on wide distribution just for borrows, not for current or future books.

      But maybe this will be good for short story writers. Now that I might be willing to try. 🙂

      • Right — it’s not going to make sense for every business plan or for every reading audience. But it can be a fantastic discoverability tool for the right type of book.

        • I’m actually thinking about the possibilities for short stories now. I think this might actually be very good for those writers, the more I think about it. Readers can get through a lot of short stories in a month and might be more tempted to try short fiction since they’re not paying by the story, while writers will probably make more money with the borrow system than they’d make with sales. Unless there’s some kind of length limit KDP has put in place that I don’t know about–that would be a problem. ETA: My short stories do better on Oyster, now that I’m thinking about it, but on Scribd, it’s my books that do better.

          • This was my thought as well. I’ve been kicking around a “Dollar Fiction” brand with a couple of other authors who like to write short stories / novellas. We were a bit unsure of whether 10k-20k scifi and horror and maybe some crime shorts would actually sell at $.99, especially as most of the first titles we’ve envisioned are ongoing serials or series.

            For my regular novels, it isn’t going to be worth it to pull everything back to Select, as I’m starting to get traction at all of the other retailers (finally). But I definitely can see readers suddenly going through series after series from a heck of a lot of different authors, taking the chances they might not have taken at $.99+.

            Of course, it all depends on exactly how much a ‘read’ is going to net us in royalties, whatever you want to call it. If it’s something abysmal like the music subs, I think I’d rather take the chance of doing better with sales across all channels.

            • Makes me wonder if this could cause short story prices to start trending upward too. If subscription services pay a percentage, like Oyster and Scribd it really makes sense to price higher. However, with Amazon’s fund, I’m not sure it would make a difference, unless it’s proved the price does impact rank (I can’t remember if it does or doesn’t to be honest). More borrows, better rank, possibly more sales at the higher price to readers who aren’t in KU. I don’t know, just some thoughts running through my head. But I think it all deserves some careful consideration.

    • I’m looking forward to your adventure into PNR 😉

  5. Glad you found it worth sharing, and thanks for catching the typo. Will fix!

  6. Here’s the scenario I fear:
    – A large percentage of Indies are already included in Kindle Unlimited because they are in Select (sure, you can request to have your books removed from Select, but how many Indies are going to do that?)
    – Kindle Unlimited becomes very popular, so Indies feel they must have their books in it, so most of them go exclusive with Amazon to join Select
    – Amazon mandates that Indies must be in Select if their books are to be on Amazon
    – Nook dies
    – iBooks dies
    – Kobo dies
    – Smashwords dies
    – Scribd dies
    – Oyster dies
    – etc.

    But wait–that’s just for Indies. The Big 5 will have a different deal I’m sure. They won’t have to be exclusive with Amazon. Meanwhile, Indies will get whatever breadcrumbs Amazon decides to give them. Impossible, you say? Who decides how much you get for KOLL? Amazon puts money in a fund each month and then it is split between all books borrowed. It will work the same for Kindle Unlimited. KOLL/KU royalties could drop from $2.00 to $0.50 or less, and by then it will be too late to do anything about it.

    Although, maybe you could still get a trad publishing deal. 🙁

    • “Amazon mandates that Indies must be in Select if their books are to be on Amazon”
      If that becomes reality, then I’ll pack my books and leave Amazon, and I don’t think I would be the only one.

      • Not only that, it might cause a few indies to stop being Amazon customers, too. Amazon has treated its indie authors like customers to this point–pulling this sort of switcheroo on us would be an incredible breach of that paradigm.

        • “Amazon has treated its indie authors like customers”

          Indie authors who aren’t audiobook producers. Re: royalty slashing earlier this year and no opting out of whispersync.

    • There’s no evidence anything like that would happen, and until there is, the smartest thing to do is what Libbie mentioned above: stay flexible and adaptable.

      Keep calm and publish.

      • T-shirt!

        • Seconded!

          • Grrr. I’m always late to these parties.

            Third.

            I’ve heard enough “but what if Amazon turns evil?” stuff in the last three months already. If Amazon turns evil, someone else will rise to the occasion. If you didn’t catch the hint over at Konrath’s site, in the comments, he and a few others are working on… something. Hints are to a direct-to-reader one-stop-shop for ebooks (and maybe other digital goods like audio books?).

            If that’s what he/they are working on, and the payout is 85-95% (this is just a lame, stupid guesstimate, but it would make sense to pay out even higher than Amazon and iTunes to draw authors, hopefully without exclusivity clauses), that’s a pretty good incentive. It also has the possibility of forcing Amazon and others to up their own payout (since everyone hates the term ‘royalties’).

            It’s a lot of what-ifs, but there’s a bit of a buzz in my author-ly circles about what it might be. And maybe it won’t ever see the light of day. It’s past April 1, though.

            • *sighs*

              Royalty: Compensation for the use of property, usually copyrighted works, patented inventions, or natural resources, expressed as a percentage of receipts from using the property or as a payment for each unit produced.

              Publishers licence your IP and turn it into product, make money selling it through retailers, and give you a token sum for the privilege of being able to do so. Amazon Publishing does this as well. No one would argue this is not a royalty.

              An indie publishing through KDP makes their own product, and sells it themselves through retailers.

              In both cases the retailer takes a cut. Unless you are telling me that retailers pay publishers royalties then indies are not receiving royalties when selling their books on Amazon.

              It’s not a case of disliking the term royalties. It’s a case of using the right word for the job. Calling a sales cut a royalty at the same time as talking about actual royalties only serves to confuse the debate.

              • It’s a royalty–that’s how Amazon reports it to me and that’s how I report it to the IRS–which is ultimately better for us, or so my accountant tells me.

              • In the United States the money Amazon pays for KDP sales is in the Royalties box (Box 2) on the 1099 form they issue.

    • A demand for exclusivity for a product that has a vast majority of the market would probably be a tipping point into a monopoly inquiry.

    • Spot on.

      For the record, I’m really not against subscription models, as long as they try to find a right balance between convenience for the reader and fair compensation for the author. Oyster does it right by granting us 60% of the list price instead of whatever peanuts from Select’s cash pool.

      Amazon’s KU is pretty much Spotify for ebooks. If you’re not familiar with it, check out how indie artists enjoy getting shafted over there.

      • If you’re not familiar with Spotify, check out how indie artists enjoy getting shafted over there.

        Oh, do tell. I’ve wondered. I know next to nothing about Spotify besides that I love listening to it and wish it had an equalizer.

          • Thanks Ken. I went against my personal anti-Salon policy to read, but the article seemed a little light on details. All I saw was .0037 cents and the idea of negotiating as individuals. Is that really what artists make from Spotify? A third of a penny every time a song is played?

            Is that bad? What did they make when radio stations played their songs? How much did they get from their labels?

            And this is just Spotify, right? One revenue among myriad, no? There’s still iTunes, and Amazon music, and CreateSpace to make CDs, and selling merch at shows (note, I’m speaking only of independent artists; from what I understand, big name artists make their money from ticket sales and tours, and not selling CDs and streaming music, anyway).

            • I don’t even use Spotify. I use Pandora, which I presume pays more because they have ads. And they play more smoothly on my phone. I don’t mind listening to ads if it means the artists are being paid better.

              • Spotify has ads, too. There’s a free ad-supported version, and then two tiers for pricing, with a Premium account running $10 per month for unlimited, no-ad access from all devices, including mobile. I don’t know if the free version offers mobile options.

                I used to use Pandora, but I like being able to specifically listen to a song, and I’ve found that Spotify’s radio function is similar to Pandora’s. So for me, Spotify is like Pandora with the added benefit of being able to access a specific song.

                • Oh, that’s cool.

                  Honestly, I don’t listen to music all that often anyway. Most of my listening is to audiobooks or podcasts. I’m addicted to stories.

    • The lack of agency implied in this attitude bothers me. Not agency pricing, this kind of agency:

      http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(philosophy)

      The best protection against the heretofore completely theoretical Evil Amazon is to have a plan. Let us assume that everything you say comes to pass. Indie authors are not helpless. Band together and start your online ebook retailer. You have an effing copyright on your stuff. If Amazon doesn’t keep Joe Konrath happy (and let’s face it, keeping Konrath ain’t easy), Amazon won’t be selling Konrath’s books. The most successful indie authors have the know-how and capital to replace Amazon’s retail prowess. Heck, nowadays they could even bring a device to market if they needed to.

      The Big 5 are trapped by their own inertia. Indies needn’t be. Amazon probably knows this better than most indies. Which is why I doubt it would ever come to that.

      • “Nothing is impossible to the man who does not have to do it himself” – A. H. Weiler.

    • “But wait–that’s just for Indies. The Big 5 will have a different deal I’m sure. They won’t have to be exclusive with Amazon.”

      Sure it will be exclusive. Everyone else dies.

  7. But what about the requirement to be in Select — which means you must be exclusive to Amazon?

    • Yes, it does, Yvonne.

    • What about it? I address exclusivity to some degree in the original post; I’m wary of it, but you know, it works for some authors and doesn’t for others. When you consider that going all in with Amazon is one tool in a large box full of them (pricing strategies, marketing strategies, box sets, BookBub, et al.) . . .

      The press I direct has been slowly moving toward being more widely available. But on the other hand, that means I can see which books do well on other platforms and which ones don’t. If books aren’t doing very well on another platform, maybe Select makes sense.

      And remember: this is day one. It could always change. It’s as possible that Amazon could remove that requirement as that it would require exclusivity just to publish there in the first place as feared above.

      • Will, with all respect for a nicely written piece, the kboard thread with 33,900+ reads, doesn’t seem to support the idea that : “This may just be the largest endorsement of independent authors and their work . . . pretty much ever.”

        http://www.kboards.com/index.php?topic=189900.new;topicseen#new

        There is much concern for the unset amount to be paid for reads, and the exclusivity clause.

        And it’s evident that big name authors/titles available on KU are also available on Scribd and Oyster.

        That’s a two tier system regarding exclusive commitment.

        That being said, I am myself “probably” going to put an in-progress short into KU, so I’ll know first hand how it works for me, as I do in regard to Scribd and Oyster.

        Time will tell, and I do wish you all the best.

        • Well I did say “May just be.” It may not be. I think it’s kind of huge, though, that Amazon looked at the independent work available through KDP Select, considered Kindle Unlimited, and thought “Yeah, let’s do it with this content.” That shows confidence in the content, likely supported by their data.

          And I agree the exclusivity is problematic. Who knows, though? It may drop. This is just the launch.

          I’ve put my first novel into KU. We’ll see how it goes.

          • Very true, Will, it may drop. I love Amazon. My wife and I have been with them from the start, and that won’t change.

            My feeling actually is, Amazon no longer needs exclusivity to maintain its goals. And would garner more readers, writers, and goodwill that way. But that’s my feeling 🙂

            And I don’t like working from speculation, so I plan to both subscribe, at least for a few months past the free intro, and put my next in-progress short on KU.

            I do think though, that Amazon didn’t look at the titles in Select and think, wow, these are great titles to start competing with Scribd and Oyster with, but more like (obvious speculation on my part) we gotta get moving now! and these are available.

            That doesn’t take away from KU, but validates, as both CEOs, from Scribd & Oyster, say, that the subscription model not only works, but is gaining momentum. At least for now 🙂
            the-digital-reader.com/2014/07/17/oyster-scribd-comment-kindle-unlimited

            So bottomline, like you, yeah, we’ll see how it goes. Thanks Will.

            ps- I see you’ve posted some info about DBAs etc, thank you so much, going there now.

          • It’s a “no duh” to me. Of course they thought it was worth proceeding with indie content. KU is going to be most attractive to the most avid readers, the kind who buy a large number of books per month and typically read them all. Which readers do that the most? Romance readers.

            You saw the latest AE report. Indie authors have more than 50% of the romance market, if I remember correctly.

            I’m sure romance-reader subscribers will make KU a success all by themselves. The other genres will just tag along.

        • Honestly, though… a lot of folks in that particular Kboards thread have a long history of declaring that the world is over every time anything changes. That’s why I only posted like twice in that thread. It’s rampant and panicked speculation, declarations of doom that are not based on actual observations, and a whole lot of hyperbole. There are a few rational individuals there telling people to gather more information before they decide that the world has come to a crashing end, but for the most part it’s a whole lot of sound and fury.

          This happens all the time on Kboards, and it’s usually the same handful of people inciting the panic. The threads always get huge and terrify half the community members.

          I wouldn’t take its tone or its popularity all that seriously.

  8. Interesting, but not enough to get me to sign up for Select. I’m one of the oddballs that make a lot more money in other avenues than on Amazon.

  9. Great post Will. I’m sad they require KDP Select for indie authors.

    It feels like its time to create co-op publishing firms just to get around things like this and be treated as real publishers. This fits in with Hugh Howey’s union concept I guess.

    An interesting way to compete with Oyster and Scribd.

    • Dean Wesley Smith has been urging indie authors to create a small press for ages.
      I followed his example (in France) and am very happy for it since it means that my books can be (and are) stocked and ordered by bookstores, which still sell more than ebooks around here.

      • Marquejaune, do you have a post or any links telling more about how to go about this? Or is it more of creating a DBA (doing business as) name and going from there? Thanks so much.

      • I’ve maintained for years this is what indie authors are already doing anyway. I think it’s pretty easy to support the argument that all indie authors are small presses whose list happens to include only the books of their founders/directors.

        And Felipe, if you don’t mind visiting my site again, check out: http://willentrekin.com/why-you-dont-need-an-isbn-and-what-you-should-invest-in-instead/

        That should also lead you to another on Doing Business As (I think that’s actually the title of the post).

        I’m a firm believer that authors should see a lawyer and get advice about LLCs and DBAs and etc.

        • Will, thank you!

          Skimming it I already see one of my pressing issues being addressed :

          “Me, I think you’re better off taking the $1000 you’d buy for a block of 1000 [ISBNs]…and going directly to a business lawyer who can help you complete the paperwork and filings necessary to become a limited liability company (LLC).”

          Gonna read the rest after breakfast. Yeah, us old guys have our priorities, and habits. 🙂

        • This doesn’t solve the problem I’m specifically addressing. I don’t think being an LLC changes how you publish books on Amazon (KDP) unless you sell a lot of books and can negotiate a contract like a publisher something most small presses are not able to do either.

          My point was that if indies want to be paid per book rather than % of “pot” we need something – what that something is is the question.

  10. I’ve got “Elizabeth of Vindobona” on Select for the moment, although it will come off when the 90 days are up so I can put it on Kobo and B&N. I’ll be curious to see what my revenue is from it compared to the other books in the series are. I’ve never done Select before.

  11. I don’t much like the idea and won’t participate until I see what comes of it. In terms of money, I mean.

  12. It seems like shorter works are going to have a big advantage here, which actually makes a lot of sense. If the idea is to get people to consume fiction, then the draw will be short works that people can just go through, one after the other.

    And short works means it’s easier to hit that 10% or 20% or whatever minimum you need to get paid, which means that serialized shorts have the potential be huge. If it weren’t tied to KDP Select I’d definitely try this.

  13. I was excited about this since I have two 99 cent stories in Select that do get borrows, but I just went to experiment and all the KOLL Read for Free buttons are now KU buttons. Every time I try to “borrow” a book, I get redirected to the KU signup screen. As far as I know, both KOLL and KU are supposed to be available, but it looks like they broke the KOLL functionality.

    I sent an email off to Amazon customer service, but if anyone here can point out how I’m wrong, I’d be grateful.

    • Patricia Sierra

      As far as I know (so I could be wrong), with KU, you can buy books from your computer when you’re browsing on the Amazon Website — but to get a book via KOLL, you need to order it from your Kindle device (which I find to be so inconvenient, I seldom borrow a book).

      • I’ve always borrowed from the website before. I also checked on my Paperwhite and the same thing happens.

        • I wonder if they are having first day bugs. I’m signed up for KU so seeing one borrow button made sense to me when I looked at your story. I’m seeing the same thing you are both at the website and from my Paperwhite.

          • Just got off the phone with Kindle support. It turns out it did lend me the book through KOLL even though the prompts and the auto-forwarding to a sign-up for KU happened instead of anything telling me it was loaned through KOLL. Eventually, after the rep was able to duplicate the problem on her Kindle, she thanked me profusely for reporting the problem.

        • Patricia Sierra

          That’s really odd that you can borrow from the website. Only way I’ve been able to borrow is via the device, per Amazon’s instructions.

          • Same here. I’ve never been able to borrow from the website. Interesting.

            • My memory of borrowing from the web site may be incorrect. I haven’t done it that often. To be honest, my main concern wasn’t that I couldn’t see how to easily borrow a book via Prime, but that Prime members would no longer be borrowing my content.

  14. Here’s my take as a practising statistian on how to evaluate your best strategy (whether to go into Select big time to benefit from this or not):

    1 – inventory all your books
    2 – randomly assign them to two groups.
    – group 1 gets put into Select.
    – group 2 stays out of Select but stays in other stores.
    3 – track sales, downloads, earnings (whichever metric is most important to you) for some specified time period.
    4 – compare group 1 to group 2.

    Note – if you want to do this right, the randomization step is key (use excel’s random number generator, flip coints, whatever). If you cherry pick which books go into which group, you whether or not it is KDP select that is really causing the sales difference, if you find one (e.g. you might subconciously put your best books in the program).

    It is worth noting that if Indies go into this en masse, it will (in principle) make those who don’t go into KDP select more competitive on the other sites, such as Nook iBooks, and Kobo. So, it’s not easy to predict what might happen.

    • You want to make sure that the books being tested in both groups are from comparable genres, cover quality, etc. If you put all your SF in one group and all your Romance in the other you might imagine there’s a difference in platforms when really it’s the genre that drives the difference.

      Also, though I think this is test is a valid and useful experiment, it doesn’t evaluate potential growth over time.

      FWIW, I plan to use KU the same way I use Select–which is to say sparingly and temporarily. These may be effective tools to introduce readers to your work–but long term I want my work on all markets.

      BTW, having your work spread across all markets is your best protection against Amazon “turning evil.” I don’t worry much about Amazon going bad, but it’s a possibility. If it DID happen wouldn’t it be better to already be selling other places?

      • The randomization is meant to account for things like differences in genre, cover quality and so forth. However, some experimental designs will block on a couple of factors, then randomize within the blocks. A really big publisher might consider that.

        I suspect we will enrol shorter works in the program. A lot depends on what the price per read turns out to be. It seems odd that a 7,000 word short story would end up making as much as a 250,000 word novel.

    • I’d just make one adjustment to your suggestion, Daleo: randomize your stand-alone books. If you include series in the selection and your series gets broken up between the two groups, you’re going to skew your results, as of course nobody on iTunes is going to buy Book 2 of a series if they can’t get Book 1 because it’s in Select. 🙂

      But otherwise, it’s a good plan!

      • Agreed about the series versus stand alone idea. You wouldn’t want to break up the series. I suppose you could think of the unit of analysis being the story arc, rather than the book, for series where the stories are tightly linked.

  15. Kindle Unlimited is not unlimited.

    You can’t have more than ten (10) books at any one time. You can return one and get another, which makes this good for quickly evaluating a book to see if it is what it promises.

    It’s probably best to view this as an enhanced borrow feature or an expanded version of the “view first 10%” of this book.

    So, it is unlimited in the sense that Verizon offers unlimited internet access – i.e., limited. Corporations have their own unique definitions for words

  16. How could trad published books be in he program if they have to be enrolled in Kindle Select? This is an appealing idea, but Barnes and Noble brings me the most sales. Like Hunger Games is not available at B&N and elsewhere as an ebbok? No. I don’t want to go and look.

  17. Hunger Games is available as a Nook ebook at Barnes and Noble.

  18. I signed up instantly. What’s really very cool is that it provides access to Audible titles multiple whispersync’d titles between audio and text. I also subscribe to Scribd and find little overlap between the two. I buy a lot of books and I’m curious to see what this does to my buying habits. I suspect it will considerably reduce what I spend monthly, but it remains to be seen. Admittedly my interests are primarily non-fiction, biography, history, etc., so the choices may not be as substantial.

    Note that MeeGenius has created a subscription plan too. I can see the advantages, for it provides a relatively constantly revenue flow especially with the assumption that participants will use less than a certain number per month, outliers like me notwithstanding.

    • I’m signing up pretty soon, want to start when I have some head start time to read more.

      Right now am reading “a lot” on Scribd.

      And based on my browse of KU titles, there does seem to be some backlist big name overlap, Michael Crichton for example, but would expect, with KU’s exclusivity, for there to be a huge non-lap(?) 🙂

  19. Good article, Will. I don’t know if you’re right, but it was an angle I hadn’t thought of, so thanks for giving me something to ponder.

  20. Thanks for the article Will, and especially for all the time and care you put into it. I also liked learning more about your point of view. Thanks.

  21. I’m in.

    I’m eager to see what happens for 90 days. Now granted, over 95% of my digital revenue comes from Amazon, so it arguably wasn’t that difficult of a decision.

    I’m not a huge fan of monthly subscription services as a consumer (though I have used Netflix for years), but my sense is many people, especially 20-somethings, are in fact. And while Scribd/Oyster have enjoyed limited success, Amazon is the metric ton gorilla in the market. If anyone can make it work, they can – and it appears they’ve decided they will.

    One of the many reasons I’ve chosen to independently publish is the ability to be flexible and adapt quickly to a rapidly changing marketplace. It seems to me this is an opportunity to do just that.

  22. I’m a little confused. Is there a way for us to advertise our books within the unlimited service? There are so many titles, what can we do to make our titles stand out inside the service? Making our books free through KDP or using the countdown deal will do nothing for visibility for our books, to readers who are searching inside the unlimited pages themselves. I recently removed a couple of my titles from select to expand to other distributors, but I’ve left some in select. I feel like my books will be lost in this huge unlimited bucket, with no real way to point readers to them. When we make our books free or on sale, there are plenty of places to advertise and link to our books like bookbub etc. Maybe someone can shed some light on how this will work for visibility. Thanks

    • Do you have a mailing list? or Facebook page?

      When you rotate (or add titles) into KU, why not share that info with your readers.

      • Thank you, I’ve notified my readers on my facebook page and I’ve recently started a mailing list. I guess it will just depend on us all to do our own advertising about KU, I just hoped Amazon would create a way for us to become more visible on the KU pages, like rotate books more often or something like that. Participating in the program means those books are exclusive after all, it would be nice if they implemented more tools for us to help visibility. Just a thought.

    • If someone subscribes to KU they will see “kindle unlimited/free read/borrow” when they look at a book. I suspect the big promotion newsletters ENT, BookBub, etc., will soon have ways to promote this. They all had announcements and links to KU when it was started. I’m sure opportunities to promote will become available over time.

      I wonder if they will add a new bestselling/most read KU list.

  23. As a self published author this KU deal is disturbing. Instead of my usual royalty I’ll get around $2, while traditionally published books are compensated exactly as if someone had purchased the book. How is this fair? How is this treating self published books the same as others?

    • Fair has nothing to do with it. I make a deal with Amazon. Someone else makes another deal. The other guy isn’t limited by my deal. No reason he should be.

      I don’t know the terms of Amazon’s contracts with various publishers. So I have no reason to think all publishers are treated the same. If it is like most other busiensses, there are all kinds of different deals and treatments.

      And there is no reason to expect Amazon to treat me like JK Rowling. I wouldn’t.

      • Yep. I agree with Terrence.

        Besides, the publishers who have agreed to try some books in KU while keeping them on other sites have undoubtedly paid for it, like co-op. I sure as hell can’t afford co-op prices! Every company has to give up something in order to reach their audience. Scholastic might pay a big co-op fee to get Harry Potter into KU but keep it available elsewhere, too. the “fee” I can afford is keeping my KU title exclusive to Amazon for 90 days. Hopefully you get a good ROI, but if you don’t, don’t use that advertising source again.

  24. Can you go into Countdown for deals instead of select? They mentioned it in the email so I was wondering. At least there you are suppose to get paid 70% royalty.

  25. I put the one book I had in Select at the start of the year back in to see what happens.

    It doesn’t sell very much (6-13 copies per month), and it did have 4 borrows via Select the first time around.

    Already had a borrow or read. Kind of wish they’d break those down into separate columns, but I guess since both will pay the same that’s extra work.

    Don’t think I’ll be putting any of my series books in, but I might try a few one-off titles in there.

  26. Among all the “The sky is falling! It’s the death of Oyster and Scribd!”, I just want to offer an alternative: Starbucks.

    You see, when Starbucks first started expanding, I remember all the cries of “this is the death of all the indies! Giant Megacorp will kill us all!” (Independent coffee shops, in this case.)

    But the opposite happened – Starbuck entered many towns, and sides of towns, that had never had a coffee shop before, and trained the general American public on what a latte was, and why they ought to pay a couple bucks for it. And when the public so trained decided they wanted a better latte than the burnt shots starbucks pulls, they looked around – and indie and small chain coffee shops are flourishing, having exploded across the country compared to pre-starbucks days.

    What does this have to do with Scribd? Well, Amazon has access to a lot of people who think of libraries as “that place they went in the summer sometimes back when they were kids.” And Amazon’s going to do the best it can to get them to know that they’ve got access to a really nifty library, for only $10 a month. But if they can’t find everything they want in the library – well, they just might turn to the competitors, if those competitors manage to find a way to differentiate themselves in the marketing and in the market from KU.

    • Dorothy, I think Scribd & Oyster already are differentiated.

      All the non-exclusive titles not in Select. Plus most of the same trad publ titles. And set royalty rates for the writers of 60% regardless whether retail priced at .99 or 9.99.

      Actually I feel very hopeful for both real libraries and the competing subscription programs. The CEOs of both Scribd & Oyster issued statements welcoming Amazon’s entry as validation of their efforts to-date.

      Libraries are on the verge of turning over 20,000 local systems of brick and mortar centers into cutting edge digital outposts.

      There’s much to be hopeful for, I hope 🙂

  27. I joined KU for the free 30 day trial, and played with the site a bit. I figured I would return later to do some more exploration.

    Then I went looking in the normal Kindle selection for a particular book with no thought of KU. When I landed on the book’s page, there was an additional “Download For Free” button on the right side. The book was in the KU selection.

    I am presuming that Amazon matched up a KU subscriber with a KU book, and gave me the free download button.

    Moral of the story: You don’t have to be in the KU system to get KU books for free.

    • You have to be Prime member, and the book has to be in Select. As far as I know, it has to be on the .com store, and you have to be an American. Other than that, anyone can get a KU book for free 😉

      • Well, I just did it three more times. Same thing happened each time. I went to the normal Kindle page for a book, saw the “Download for Free Kindle Unlimited” button, and pushed it.

        I am a Prime member, but I don’t see what that has to do with it. KU isn’t limited to Prime members.

        All I did to gain this access is click one time on the 30-day free trial button. Pretty easy, and I just downloaded $24 worth of books.

        • And then you forget you ever did this, until 2 years later, you’re out a couple hundred bucks. Welcome to the gym! 🙂

          • Yup. That’s why I’m not signing up for KU, myself. (Not yet, anyway.) I’ll gladly put in a book or two and see how it goes for my sales, but I’m not going to subscribe.

          • Sure. Everyday when I go to the gym I thank all those folks who came only once, and keep paying because they know they will get in shape one of these days. I think the hot water I use costs more than my gym membership.

            I was a bit surprised when the 30-day free trial was just a single click. Is it auto-renewal? I don’t know. Who knows how long I will be subsidizing literature in America without knowing it.

            You’re welcome, America…

            • Yep with auto renewal I need to set a reminder in my calendar to cancel and/or regularly review keeping my membership.

              I know I saw information about the auto-renew when I signed up but I’m one of those weird people who scans terms & conditions for fun. So I don’t know if I clicked on “learn more” or blue highlighted “terms and conditions” or if I saw things because I don’t have one-click enabled & it’s treating KU like an ebook purchase (PR disaster in the making if this one).

  28. As the author of numerous shortish, cheap non-fiction books, all in Kindle Select, this is excellent news for me. I may experiment with higher prices, if this borrowing becomes a big part of my sales.

  29. Serials for the win I say!

    By that I mean proper serials, like the ones that briefly did well two years ago before readers started buying the full season box sets and ignoring episodes. This will bring back the episodic story, or it could if handled right by authors. Pull the box sets out of circulation, and get remuneration from the fund X10 if you have ten episodes.

    Short fiction will do well in KU I think. Longer fiction, not so much is my guess. I won’t be putting my old work in Select for this, but I might write something especially for it.

  30. Totally off-subject, but has anyone noticed the new ‘beta pricing’ thing inside KDP? I was looking because one of my books was already in a Select, so I wanted to see if I needed to tick any boxes or anything, and there’s a price guide based on data from other books, which is kinda cool. Apparently, my books are way under-priced according to this.

    Anyway, I thought it was worth mentioning since it’s Amazon sharing some data by the looks of it.

    On KU, assuming I don’t need to tick a box, mine isn’t very exciting so far, but I did get a couple of troll reviews this morning for no apparent reason (I guess the competition started early).

    I’m not sure what the pricing thing is based on. It’s not genre because on my US edition of a 50k novel, it recommends $6.99. On the UK edition of the same book, it recommend $2.99.

    • Where do you see the beta pricing?

      • When I went to the ‘Rights and Pricing’ section inside one of my books on KDP, there’s a button above the prices. I think it’s labelled ‘View Prices’ or something similar. It’s big orange button. You can’t miss it. If you click it, it brings up a graph of the most popular prices for that book.

        I can’t figure out how they calculate it, but I think it takes in the size of the book, the genre and the sales history of it to come up with the ideal price for you. (I’m just guessing on that last bit though).

        • beta pricing…Which pisses me off, as I’ve put in years of research and rewriting to launch a Roman historical series, and I’ve been pricing it at 5.99, but the amazon bot told me I should drop to 2.99. Once read, the fan inevitably impulse buys the next two books at 5.99, so I feel that the trilogy is proving itself. There’s no way I’d drop to 2.99, but I can see there is one guy churning out Roman army pulp at 2.99 and his books are weighting Amazon’s Roman genre algorithm downward.

        • Well that shot the hell out of my day. They say I am giving away the store with my $2.99 price. Leaving money on the table? Me? Pass the gas pipe.

    • Just saw this. It must be new.

      But honestly, you know that chart that goes around, about how $2.99 is an ideal price point, because it sells the most copies and gets the most revenue?

      It’s that graph. It proposes that .99 and $1.99 books sell okay but don’t make much in revenue, and then whoa $2.99 spike! with a gradual decline thereafter, so good luck to anyone trying to sell a book for $7.99.

      • I sell my books for $7.99 and I’ve done quite well thank you. The calculation must take in a lot more data than just genre to create the graph, as mine didn’t match yours.

        • I was saying that’s what the graph appeared to say, not what I propose. I’m flexible about pricing; I know my upper most limit, as well as that it’s not other readers’. I think price is just another strategy, like Select and BookBub and all the other tools in the tool box.

          You’re right the graph does change, though. I ran it on a bunch of different titles and there were some that looked a little different. On my titles, it showed $2.99 as ideal price so far. Maybe they just notice our titles are in categories that often don’t do great indie (literary, humor, coming-of-age)? Dunno. It’ll be interesting to check back once in a while.

  31. Steven Zacharius

    Kensington has 2000 titles as part of the launch and there are some other large publishers that are also included but none of the big 5; probably because of their Agency contracts.

  32. Steven Zacharius

    Kensington has 2000 titles in the program at launch. My question for Amazon is what happens if this service actually becomes successful and they have to keep paying traditional publishers the full download price of a book; thus losing money any time someone downloads more than one book per month? Are they willing to lose money on the membership? It’s the same story with the other subscription services as well. My guess is that eventually if people sign up for these subscription services that they will all end up being only indie books in the program or older backlist titles….unless Amazon requires this of publishers in new deals that they make if you want to be sold on Amazon.

    • We have lots of history showing many people under-utilize membership stuff. It’s a balance between heavy users and low users.

      Anyone seen a magazine subscription on the web that does not have an auto renewal? Same thing there.

      In a successful program the revenue from low-volume users covers the cost of the high-volume users.

      But, what if it doesn’t? Then they change the program.

  33. Thanks for pointing out the new Beta pricing help feature! It recommended raising the price of my bestselling book (a romance)from 1.39 to 4.99, estimating a 50% decrease in sales, and 240% increase in royalties. I raised it to 2.99. As it is in Kindle Select, that will hopefully encourage more people to borrow it.

  34. I’ve been given to understand that all my books that are in Select (most of them) are automatically in the KU system. I don’t like this high-handedness at all and have gone through my list to remove my novels from the automatic renewal for Select.
    (It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they overruled this! They’ve done it before.)

    • There’s also a form you can fill out to remove those titles currently in Select from Select. Click on the KU info button (upper left, below the header navigation) on the Bookshelf page in your KDP account. It’ll take you to an info page with a link to the contact form.

    • I would have left one in to see how it does. The money from Prime borrows is shared with KU reads. If your books are in select I think it benefits to have them in this. However I think its good to diversify, maybe a short/1 book in KDP Select, 1 perma-free on Smashwords (or other technique), rest of books on as many platforms as possible. Perma-free & KU are loss leaders for discoverability in my idea (lists of other books & how/where to find them should be at back) but then I’m also crazy & think authors should sell books from their websites in all formats where they can play with coupons & know their books will always be available for sale.

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