Friday, 16 January 2015

The future of Kindle Unlimited?

No no, this isn't going to be one of those 'Why is Amazon stealing money from the mouths of my children' posts. For starters, I don't have kids. Also, my cat is plenty fat. 

While I'm one of the thousands of authors who closely watch Amazon's KU rate (it was 1.43 for the month of December, if you were wondering), I'm just as interested in the letter they send out after to participants. This month's letter was particularly enlightening. There's definitely some hints of change to come. 

Read along with me, won't you? My thoughts will be in red. 



We have continued to see strong response from customers to Kindle Unlimited (KU) and are adding a bonus of $4.25 million to the previously announced base fund amount of $3 million, bringing the total fund to $7.25 million for the month of December.

(Tara imitating the voice of Amazon): We will pump as much money into this to keep the reimbursement rate within a tight band. If that number moves lower, it'll be gradual so that we don't get a flood of bad press. 

As we start 2015, we wanted to share some initial results from the first few months of Kindle Unlimited:•    Renewal Rates – Authors have chosen to renew their titles in KDP Select at rates in excess of 95% in each month of 2014.

(Tara imitating the voice of Amazon): HM Ward is an exception, people! 

Here's what I think. I think some people have seen their sales go up. Some down. Me? I can't tell. My sales are kind of neutral. Most of my books are in Kindle Unlimited. Now, would my sales have halved if it weren't for Kindle Unlimited? Probably. If I'm looking just at sales, I've plummeted. 

But I don't care. What matters is the amount of money deposited in my account. My mortgage doesn't care if the money comes from buys or borrows. 

I do know that in my genre, there's a lot of really talented authors. If KU is the way readers find their way to me, I'll take it. 

•    A La Carte Sales Growth – During the 5 full months since KU launch (August to December 2014), royalties to KDPS authors from a la carte sales have grown faster than a la carte sales on KDP overall or Kindle overall.

•    Adding in the payments for KOLL and KU over that time, total royalties to KDPS authors more than doubled when compared to the same period in 2013.

I'm down for a la carte sales. By a lot. So I'm not one of these authors. Or maybe I am. Maybe everyone's really, really down and I'm down less than these people. I also haven't doubled royalties, but I also didn't really exist in 2013. 

•    Total earnings on titles priced $2.99 or greater are growing faster than the overall average. The same is true for titles 150+ pages in length.

Here we go. Talk about burying the lede, Amazon. 

If this isn't an FYI that Amazon's going to start reimbursing differently for $0.99 or <150 page books, I don't know what is. Read it here. Next month, maybe two months down the road, as they make the tech changes they need at their end. But this is coming. There's been a bunch of chatter about the flat-rate reimbursement rate. It's going to change. 

And you know what? If it's $0.99 books, I'm okay with that. I think it's somewhat ridiculous that I get paid more for a borrow than a sale. More than the cost of the work, in fact. 

The length is troubling. I write erotica. Short works are the genre norm. Still, I'll confront it as it happens. 

<blah blah blah from Amazon about all-stars.>

We’ve gotten lots of great feedback in the past weeks and months, including a bunch of ideas on how to further improve the structure of the program and make it work better for authors and readers alike. Like everything we do, we’re looking hard at all your feedback and we expect to keep tweaking and improving the program in the future.

A double confirmation. Changes are coming. 

Best regards,The Kindle Direct Publishing Team


Don't expect the market to be stagnant, people. Amazon will tweak. You should be tweaking too. 


  1. Good? Bad? Dunno. But it doesn't surprise me at all. It doesn't make financial sense for Amazon to pay more for borrows than sales. Nor can I see them happy with lots of very short books (many of which are simply chapters, each borrowed
    and reimbursed separately). I do think 150 pages is way too high to be a new standard.

    1. Yeah, it's too soon to tell, Sophie. I don't know if 150 pages is the right bar. But places like BookBub won't accept a work that is less than 150 pages, so there's some thought perhaps that that is the right number.

      There's always people that will game whatever Amazon comes up with. Me, I'd like to make money, and marketing wise, I respond where possible to Amazon's moves. But at the end of the day, my time is much better spent writing the next book. Always.