Like you, I was completely caught by surprise by the whole Kindle Unlimited thing. Unlimited access to over 600,000 titles on any device for just $9.99 a month? Wait…doesn’t Scribd do something like this already? Do we really need another Netflix-like book-borrowing system. I was skeptical, but on the hunt for something to read (I’m still slogging through The Goldfinch, for some reason…), I fired up my Kindle after a several month hiatus and saw the ad for Kindle Unlimited. I took a read. A 30-day free trial was enough to get me at least remotely interested.
The good thing was I did find a lot of titles I would be greatly interested in reading. Of course, no titles from any of the Big 5 publishers, but that was to expected. The bad thing: you’re only allowed to borrow ten titles at a time. Bad deal? Maybe, but then again, your local public library probably imposes a borrowing limit as well.
Limits aside, I was hooked. I blitzed through three books in a day and a half, and I eagerly returned these so I can picked up three more. I can see why this, for the customer, is appealing. I know Amazon has the same kind of thing with Prime, which is included with the Prime membership (which I don’t have), so for Amazon to offer something similar seems like a win-win for both the online retailer and the customer.
Then I started thinking about the authors. How are they getting compensated for their books being “borrowed?” Immediately, I’m thinking about the shittastic business model that is Spotify, where you have to download, for example, the new Imagine Dragons album, oh, what 87,124,713 times in order to match the same exactly royalty payment the band would get where I to buy their album from Target? Not that I would, because Imagine Dragons bore me to tears, but you get my point. What if a book has to be borrowed about 93 billion times before an author sees a $120 royalty check?
Better yet, where is Kindle Unlimited getting all 600,000 of these titles from? I noticed a few Harry Potter titles, and the Hunger Games trilogy…hang on, didn’t I see an e-mail from Kindle Direct Publishing the other day, that I may or may not have ignored?
Today we are excited to introduce Kindle Unlimited-–a new subscription service for readers in the U.S. and a new revenue opportunity for authors enrolled in KDP Select.
Do I know of any authors enrolled in Kindle Direct Publishing Select? Oh, wait a minute...I’M A KDP SELECT AUTHOR! HANG ON! WHY WASN’T I INFORMED OF THIS? THIS IS AN OUTRAGE? HOW DARE AMAZON ALLOW MY MASTERPIECE TO BE oh who I am kidding?
(Here’s the pic I snapped of the search results for my book, which I posted on my Instagram account)
Upon first reaction, I was pleased. It means some more exposure. Some new ways to market my book, perhaps (more on that below), and spread the word.
Upon second reaction, I started thinking about that Spotify example again, and whether I’d get royally hosed in the ass, royalty speaking. I started looking into this issue a little deeper.
From the friendly little e-mail I received from Kindle Direct Publishing just the other day:
KDP Select authors and publishers will earn a share of the KDP Select global fund each time a customer accesses their book from Kindle Unlimited and reads more than 10% of their book-–about the length of reading the free sample available in Kindle books-–as opposed to a payout when the book is simply downloaded. Only the first time a customer reads a book past 10% will be counted.
I dug a little deeper, searching for help topics at KDP’s website:
To qualify for royalty payment
You’re eligible for royalty payment from Kindle Unlimited each time a new customer reads more than 10% of your book for the first time. A customer can read your book again as many times as they like, but you will only receive payment for the first 10% read.
So this means that in order for me to get the royalty due my book, which is 149 pages long, should someone borrow it, they need to get past Page 15. In other words, they’ll read the first two or three essays. Fine.
But nowhere does it tell me how that royalty is calculated. I did see this over at Michael J. Sullivan’s terrific blog piece at Digital Book World:
Self-published authors are paid from a pool set by Amazon each month. They have no idea how much they will be paid per book.
So rather than settling on, say a flat 20% royalty (I’m probably overstating, considering Amazon’s going to get their pound of flesh and maybe more) for every borrowed book, I might (key word “might) be getting, on average, $2 per month, whether my book gets downloaded a shit-ton or four times max. I mean, just how is this pool calculated? How will I, or the thousands of other self-published authors who’ve opted into Kindle Direct Publishing, know exactly how much of a payment we can expect?
It’s fuzzy, that’s for sure, but my hope is that enough voices will be raised, and a royalty structure that’s fair to self-published authors will come to fruition very soon.
Why am I bringing this up? Because I threw my book up there just to get the feel for self-publishing, to give myself a crash-course on the good, the bad, and the ugly on what it means, and what you have to do, in order to self-publish, and do it successfully. My book’s a non-fiction tome with a somewhat limited audience, and I readily accept it’s something of a challenge to market an anthology (I’ve found people really do hate that term!) of previously-published blogs, but so be it. As far as my experiences with Kindle Direct Publishing – and, to a larger extent, CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing imprint – have been very positive. Should I decide to self-publish, and that’s a very distinct possibility, I will likely opt for KDP once again, exclusivities and fine print be damned.
But I do admit the current payment format allotted for self-published authors whose books are part of the Kindle Unlimited program has me concerned.
In the meantime, here’s an interesting marketing strategy: why read when you can borrow? Sure, I’d rather my book sell like hotcakes, but I’ll take it being available in a wide format like this. So, if you’re on the lookout for some funny, insightful, slightly offensive but always thought-provoking essays on sex, marriage, politics, music, why your favorite band sucks, leggy supermodels, and James Patterson, then
be a cheap ass read my book, “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run: Seven Years of Rants, Raves, Dirty Jokes and Bad Ideas From a Small But Loud Corner of the Blogosphere” for free, once you sign up for Kindle Unlimited.
Then tell me how much you loved it.