How Kindle Unlimited Actually Works

by | Apr 9, 2024 | How It Works | 0 comments

Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program is a monthly (sometimes yearly if you get a deal) subscription that makes it possible to read any book in the program every month you’re in the subscription.

What you pay for…

Many readers think that when they first buy a book and then see it available in KU that they can then download it through KU and scroll through the book to make the author a little more money because they already enjoyed the book. While that is a sweet thought, here’s a little something you might not know: Amazon tracks your reading speed. That means that if you go from reading a single page in 2 minutes to flipping through a whole book in 5 minutes, they know you’re not reading it and WILL NOT pay the author for those pages. In fact, they may decide that the author is responsible for what they may call fraud and close the author’s account (while also withholding the past two months’ royalties which they will then proceed to keep).

Screw the man… or us?

I recently saw a video on Instagram where this woman said that to screw Jeff Bezos over if you have a KU subscription, you should read as much as possible because then you would be costing Amazon money but not the authors because they still have to pay per page read. That is NOT TRUE. Amazon does not pay a predetermined amount per page read. They pay out of the money earned on their subscriptions each month. That means that the more you read while still only paying $11.99 per month, the total payment per page that authors receive gets less and less. In fact, historically that number per page read has sadly gone way down over the past few years while the number of subscriptions has gone up.

So what’s the stitch?

Another thing to note about KU is that the actual word count per book is determined by Amazon and not how many pages or words a book actually has. For example, my book Saint is 62K words long and the paperback is 227 pages. In KU pages it is 330. Now you may think that’s a lot, right? My ebooks are for sale at 5.99 USD which I think is a fair price. In fact, it might be a bit less than they’re worth considering the time that has gone into writing them, but I digress.

In January 2024 the Global Fund e.g. the amount of money Amazon got in from their KU subscriptions was 52M USD and every author got paid 0.0040 USD per page. Now, what do I make on Saint for a full read in KU? From front cover to the very last page? 1.34 USD. I, for one, would think my full-length book is worth more than that.

The Global Fund in January 2024 is the highest it has ever been and yet the payout is some of the lowest. In comparison, the Global Fund in November 2018 was 23,6M USD and the pay per page was 0.0052 USD.

Here’s a little comparison for you:

Make of this what you will, but please consider how you buy and read books. It’s also worth mentioning that most authors make more from putting their ebooks in libraries than they do in KU, so if you’re using the subscription because you’re saving money (honestly in this economy, who isn’t?) then know that libraries are a valid and often more profitable option for reading books from your favorite authors.

But why stay in Kindle Unlimited?

I know you may be asking why I have my books in KU and the simplest answer to that is that Amazon owns the monopoly on selling books. The program is flawed and one major thing is the lack of transparency, especially to readers. Most readers don’t know that authors may get penalized for something they’ve done to be nice (or to stick it to the man). They don’t know that authors only get paid for the first time they read a book. Yes, the second read is free, which is why a lot of the readers who know this will also buy the ebook or paperback if they loved the book so much that they know they’ll do a re-read.

I do applaud those readers and I know that many of the informed readers spread that information every chance they get. I really want to thank those of you out there that do this or have done this before. It really means a lot to us authors!

But KU is also an easier way for especially new(er) authors to get their books in front of an audience. Most people would rather read a new-to-them author’s book on KU because they feel they wouldn’t be wasting their money if they don’t like it and that is completely valid and fair. That is also a major reason why my books are in KU. I may have over twenty books but I know there are plenty of people who’ve never even heard my name or read a single one of my books.

This is how my earnings from ebooks and Kindle Unlimited are distributed. I earn 69% from KU and 31% from ebook sales.

Am I leaving or not?

If you’ve had a look at my shop on this website you may have already noticed that I have a bunch of my books for sale here. Most of them are paperbacks as they aren’t exclusive to Amazon, unlike any ebooks in Kindle Unlimited. If they’re in the program, they cannot be for sale anywhere else, and despite how, for many, the only place someone could steal your work from IS Amazon, they are very strict with this exclusivity which means that if your book is stolen and pirated, Amazon may shut down your account. Having your books in KU these days feels like a major gamble, but for most KU authors, they can’t afford to pull their books out of the program either.

It’s a tough choice for most writers. As are all the decisions you have to make for your business. My plans for the future is to have as many of my books available for sale on my website but the ones that do really well in KU will get to stay. For now, at least.

Thank you for reading!

I hope it gave you a better understanding of Kindle Unlimited and what you can do to make it less of a struggle for your favorite authors while still enjoying your favorite books and characters!

If you have any comments or questions, please share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you all!


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