Here’s How Amazon Could Fix Kindle Unlimited

Ugh. Publishing stuff. I’d much rather be talking about something else. Anything else, really. Like wombats on hanggliders. Like all the cheeseburgers I have ever eaten. Like this amazing rhubarb barbecue sauce I had last week. Like all of the awesome words you can form just by smashing a mundane word (preferably a noun) up against a vulgar one: cocktrumpet, fuckrelish, jizzglisten, shitnoodles, and so on, and so forth.

But here I am, talking again about Kindle Unlimited.

(Sorry, everyone. Music has Taylor Swift. Publishing has me.)

I do not mind Kindle Unlimited in theory.

In practice, I remain unsold.

Amazon has made changes recently to this subscription program — changes that now say authors in that program will get paid by the page if someone downloads the book through the Kindle Unlimited service. (Note: some articles are going around that suggest that this is how Amazon is paying all authors now, by the page, and that’s just a bag of horseshit that got struck by lightning and is now walking around like it knows a thing or two. It doesn’t.)

This contrasts with how the program originally worked which is that folks reading the book were all paid the same rate once someone read to a certain point in that book (10%). So, if you wrote a 250,000-word epic fantasy brick or if you wrote a 10-page pamphlet on the dangers of ostrich syphilis, when someone reads to 10% of either book, you receive $[INSERT DOLLAR FIGURE BASED ON SOME MYSTERIOUS CALCULATION BASED ON AN OCCULTED ALGORITHM BASED ON THE MAD WHIMS OF WHATEVER INSANE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE THAT RUNS AMAZON.COM]. The payout was once thought to remain steady at a couple-few bucks, but this year hit a new low at $1.33 in March. The guy who wrote the pamphlet gets paid more than a buck if someone reads one page of his syphilitic manifesto. The lady who wrote the bludgeoning weapon known as an epic fantasy book would get paid that same amount if someone read to 25,000 words of the book — roughly the size of a novella.

That sucked and Amazon changed it.

Now, it’s pay-per-page.

I’d argue that this is better. It fixes the weird inequity and stops punishing people who wrote… y’know, actual-size novels. And it stops incentivizing people to write tiny little no-nothing stories, or for writers to break up actual-size novels into hitching seed-spurts of “serial content” (“My novel, THE RAMTHONODOX CONSPIRACY, is broken up into 215 downloadable chapters!”)

So, yeah, it’s better.

I’d also argue that it’s still not great.

Here’s why:

First, the entire program continues to demand exclusivity from those enrolled. Meaning, you still have to be all in with Kindle Unlimited. No direct sales (though some say Amazon doesn’t really watch that closely). No B&N. No nothing. Exclusivity has always in the publishing world been a thing you get paid for — or, should be, anyway. If someone says to you, “I want you to be in with us, and out with everybody else!” then that offer better be an actual offer. It’s not a favor to you — it’s a favor to them. (And it’s why you should be wary of that kind of language inside any traditional publishing contract, by the way. Authors make a living by not being locked down, and if you are a Kept Penmonkey, then you should be paid for that.)

Second, it’s remains based upon some mysterious algorithm. There’s still this “global pool” of KDP Select money which seems to be arbitrary (and going down, down, down), and what you’ll be paid per page every month is not a fixed number. Whether their pool is high but the payout is low due to the sheer number of self-published titles or whether their pool is simply too low to pay those authors well, I don’t know. It’ll probably pay well at the outset and then begin to pay less and less as it goes, which is what happened with Kindle Unlimited. And we have no idea how any of this is calculated going forward. For all we know, there’s a chimpanzee high on DMT throwing darts at a bingo chart taped to the wall. I mean, that’s what I’d do. Hell, that’s what I do now any time I have to make a hard decision. His name is Jeepers P. Montesque, and he wears these frilly suits and fancy boots and — well. I’m digressing.

Third, it takes away the author’s financial independence. So-called “indie” authors (which is in some ways a misnomer because we’re all independent authors, not employees) find power in doing things their own way. It’s one of the reasons I love self-publishing — you have the power to make choices about your book that not every author gets to make. And really, one of the biggest choices is price. The value you choose to assign your book is an author claiming governance over her financial destiny, and she has the power to course correct that price over time. Taking that away from an author is a sin. It robs them of their sovereignty and actually diminishes part of the value of being an author-publisher in the first fucking place.

(Some have noted that this program will also change the way books are written, which is to say, books will become salacious cliffhangers driven toward getting people to turn to the next page. Maybe? I’d argue this is a pretty brittle bone of contention — and I’d further argue books are already written that way. We already want books that are meant to be read quickly and to completion. Books that readers don’t finish are books readers don’t talk about. And books readers don’t talk about are books that will sink and die at the bottom of the ocean. Word-of-mouth matters most above all else, and that means writing books that — gasp — people actually want to read from front to back and then maybe front to back again.)

So, Amazon — you and me, we’re pals. We’re cuddlebuddies, right?

I’m going to fix Kindle Unlimited for you.

I’m going to blow it open and make it awesome for authors.


Let’s do this.

a) Remove the exclusivity. Because fuck exclusivity, that’s why. Unless you’re offering me a pony when I sign up for the program, don’t pretend this is some kind of favor to me.

b) Make payouts based on the price that I set for the book. In a perfect world, that means the price I set for my book is the money I get paid when someone completes my book. You can tie it to percentage — so, if they read 15% of my book, I get a 15% payout on the price that I set.

That’s it! Ha ha ha, fixed.

Okay, let’s tackle that second point, because it could present some problems.

It might, for one, encourage high prices — meaning, authors will take whatever books they sell and bump them up to $9.99. Pamphlet about ostrich syphilis? $9.99. Though that’s also a downside for those authors because now their e-books sell for that price, and they have to worry if someone’s going to pay it. Solution to this could be that Amazon could set programmatic limits on the payouts associated with works — meaning, they assert that books that are too short cannot receive the full percentage of the payout. This, probably based on average prices of certain length books — Amazon already calculates that and recommends pricing to author-publishers, after all. So, if your average novella is going for $2.99, maybe it only pays out that much per read.

Another solution would be to pay authors a reduced royalty — a fixed percentage that does not change month to month — of, say, 50% of the price instead of the normal 70%.

The point is that, authors should get to choose their own prices.

That’s always been part of the advantage of being an author-publisher.

And it should remain an advantage, one that cascades through all of Amazon’s programs.

(As a sidenote, some have suggested that Amazon has wonked up the algorithms to help ensure that books enrolled in KDP Select/KU are given more favorable rankings. This is not something easily proven, because again, everything Amazon does behind the wall of their marketplace is shhh seeeecreeeet. For all we know, it’s a hyper-intelligent ant colony deciding what happens. Maybe Jeff Bezos is just a thousand praying mantises stuffed in a skinsuit stuffed in a business suit. UNTIL AMAZON SHOWS US THE TRUTH WE WILL NEVER KNOW.)

Amazon, as always, is a beast to be reckoned with. They single-handedly made independent publishing a bona fide thing. And it’s why I don’t want to see them shitting up what has been ultimately a pretty good deal. Innovation is good. And I think their fix for Kindle Unlimited is a move in the right direction. But it’s still not enough. To me, the program needs to be changed to be more in favor to the authors, and more in line with what traditional authors already get.

*does a sassy version of SHAKE IT OFF*

*crowds run screaming and streaming from the building*

*music cuts short, lights turn on, seats are all empty*

*sad mic drop followed by one lone tear on top*



    • Could it have been for a price-matched sale? Does your book have a lot of pictures? Was it for a sale in one of the countries (e.g. India) where if you’re not in Select you still get lower royalties even if you’re above the price floor?

      There’s probably a reason for it. I have always found it WAY easier to figure out Amazon royalty accounting than accounting from almost any other licensee I’ve ever worked with. But that *does* sound weird.

    • Some countries have weird payments that are different than what you’d get from the U.S. store. Sometimes they even show up in U.S. dollars. I’ve gotten weird dollar amounts from that before. I thought that was only for sales though, not borrows.

      Which gets to one big theme for Amazon problems: either through hidden complexity or outright secret-keeping, Amazon lacks transparency.

  • I don’t pretend to understand how authors get paid by KU. Or rather, the way how much they get paid is calculated. But I certainly understand enough to give a hearty ‘HELL YEAH!’ to an end to exclusivity. It smacks of company stores except we’re workin’ in the word mines, instead of the coal mines. Exclusivity, if agreed upon by both parties, should come with a healthy financial incentive.

  • Agreed. I also wonder why it has to do with actually reading the book. Shouldn’t you get paid for a download? After all, people buy books they never actually read. They still have to pay for having them. So I would eliminate the whole page thing and just pay for the full download based on a percentage of price. There. Simple. They could set price tops according to page count. If I download a Kindle book that’s not on KU I have to pay the full price whether I read or not, so… same should go for KU. Pay up Amazon!

    • That’s not really an apt comparison. It would instead be like if Netflix paid the owners of the content based on what people added to their queue to someday watch but then never did. That doesn’t make any sense.

      • Not really sure how Netflix works, though this blog post did make me wonder about it. You have a point there Rick. However, from what KDP says, you actually get paid for a download with the KOLL (Lending Library) regardless of whether it gets read or not. I guess it will never be a perfect system, but I still think that getting paid for how much of the book someone reads doesn’t make sense either. I won’t get paid extra if they read it twice. This is a topic that we could discuss for months! Now I’m very curious as to how Netflix pays their content views…

      • You have a point Rick, but there is a major difference between Netflix and KDP and that is that Netflix actually pays the owners for the rights to stream their content. The whole thing was a problem and the reason that Netflix separated their streaming accounts form their DVD accounts. The movie makers wanted payment for everyone with access regardless of weather they watched or not. And Netflix pays for that. KDP doesn’t pay for the exclusivity of your book or the right to have you on their lists. That’s a big difference! If they will pay based on page read, will they pay extra when someone reads your book twice?

        BTW, you do get paid per download (regardless of whether read or not) when someone downloads your book on KOLL.

        • KOLL is also a different beast in that you have a limited number of those available to you, so you’re using up a slot that can be measured with a dollar amount. If I go and download 300 e-books from KU and never read them, it’s crazy to me to assume that those people should get paid.

          Yeah, the Netflix and KDP comparisons aren’t perfect since KDP has self-publishers using its service, and there’s little or no demand for those in comparison to Netflix’s content, which presumably have some kind of demand or expected demand based on Netflix’s willingness to pay for them upfront, and on an individual viewing basis.

          I don’t think there’s an easy answer, but I also don’t see paying for KU downloads that are never even opened as any kind of fair.

        • KOLL is also a different beast in that you have a limited number of those available to you, so you’re using up a slot that can be measured with a dollar amount. If I go and download 300 e-books from KU and never read them, it’s crazy to me to assume that those people should get paid.

          Yeah, the Netflix and KDP comparisons aren’t perfect since KDP has self-publishers using its service, and there’s little or no demand for those in comparison to Netflix’s content, which presumably have some kind of demand or expected demand based on Netflix’s willingness to pay for them upfront, and on an individual viewing basis.

          I don’t think there’s an easy answer, but I also don’t see paying for KU downloads that are never even opened as any kind of fair.

  • I agree a hundred percent about the exclusivity. I get why Amazon wants it, but I think it’s asking a lot to be Amazon-exclusive just to be able to put my book on their subscription service. There are advantages, sure, and some people have had serious sales (or borrows?) from KU. But the idea of exclusivity to one store doesn’t sit well with me.

    But for the price thing, I don’t know if I agree. Mainly, I feel like authors are already setting their own price on KU. It’s a way for them to set their price to “FREE,” while still getting money. If they sell their pamphlet for $9.99 or $0.99, a subscriber to Kindle Unlimited still gets the pamphlet for free (or rather, they get it and any other books that month for the price of subscription, like Netflix). So it doesn’t really make sense to me that KU books could have variable pricing.

    I mean, they do still have a price, but that price only applies to what non-subscribers to KU pay for them. Subscribers see their price as $0.00.

    • I don’t mean to suggest the price should be variable for readers, but the payout should be determined by the author. Pricing control in the hands of the author is power. Pricing control out of the hands of the author is the way it’s always been and, to me, acting as an author-publisher is very much about doing things your own way and not being beholden to a larger publishing entity or service.

      • I just don’t get how that could work, but I could be missing something obvious.

        Like, when selling books normally, it makes sense to set a price. Using KDP’s normal 70% royalty (exceptions apply, etc, but…) I could price a book at, say, $9.99 or $4.99. With the $9.99 book, I’d get around $7.00 per sale, and with the $4.99, I’d get around $3.50. In both of those cases, Amazon is able to pay the amount just fine, because for every time they owe that royalty of $3.50 or $7.00, they’re getting that much plus 30% sent to them.

        But with Unlimited, the subscriber/reader isn’t paying them separately for each book. So why wouldn’t everyone just set their payout to the max? The end user still gets the result for free. Even if the Unlimited “price” had to match the sale price for non-unlimited customers, it’d be way too easy to game the system. After all, if someone’s getting tons of free downloads from Unlimited subscribers, and those pay as well as straight-up sales, we’d probably see an even bigger proliferation of expensive pamphlets or 50-part serials with each chapter priced at $9.99. Because why would I make ten bucks off my novel when I can make five hundred?

        And since Amazon’s only got a finite amount of money to pay out for Unlimited (subscribers pay a set amount each month), that becomes unsustainable fast. I mean, I know they’re no stranger to running at a loss in order to draw in customers. From what I understand, KU’s funds were supplemented in the first few months so authors got paid while all the subscribers were still in a free trial period. but if they don’t cap the amount they pay out per month in some way or another, it’d get ludicrously expensive even for them.

        I’m not really a fan of the whole system myself. The exclusivity part is, in my opinion, the worst bit. But having payments change every month according to mysterious reasons (probably a function of how many readers pay, how many total pages are read, and how much Amazon wants to keep for themselves) doesn’t exactly encourage me. It’s just… I don’t see how a different model could stay afloat, financially.

        • All of this is ultimately at the heart of the problems with subscription-anything online. Often, creators get paid a pittance of what the actual thing is worth, short-changed based on the idea of convenience and clickiness.

          Keep in mind, though, what I’m asking for re: author-publishers is the same as what traditional publishers get (for those few actually enrolled in KU) — if someone downloads a trad-pub book using KU, that publisher is given the full amount owed to them by Amazon. (Note: I don’t know if this changes now with the modifications to KU.) Seems to be that author-publishers should get the same deal, lest they be getting a second-class deal.

          • I think I’m in agreement with you on both those points. I do think that traditional publishers are only getting the sweet deals they have because Amazon _does_ have a glut of indie writers to fall back on. But that doesn’t mean that things should be that way.

            And yeah, subscription services do have some advantages for creators, but they’ve got serious issues as well.

            Personally, I’m interested in seeing how this all works out. I doubt Amazon’s going to make any major changes to KU’s payment scheme for the next couple of months after this big one, but I would love to see it get better for writers at some point in the future.

  • I look at KU as being a place where you can get paid for making your novel perma free. Good for the first book in a series, but not the whole series. It’s not perfect and it never will be as a subscription service. Yes the exclusivity sucks but you aren’t forced to put your novel in the program. You can always opt out.

    The program is good for new authors and people trying to reach new readers with the first book in a series or one of their backlist books that aren’t selling as well anymore. They can keep fiddling with it, but you’re never going to make everyone happy.

  • “Cliffhangers” – actually, the best writing books/teachers recommend that in fiction you try to end your chapters with a “cliffhanger” (literally or metaphorically), some sort of hook that will entice the reader to say, “I’m just going to read one more chapter–OMG IT’S SIX IN THE MORNING AND I HAVE TO GO TO WORK!”

    The exclusivity provision is what gets me. No, I don’t make a lot at other retailers, but I do make a few sales. And when I tried KU for a couple of self-pubbed titles, I didn’t notice any kind of appreciable benefit to being exclusive. The only “benefit” was the free promo ops, but those didn’t translate into sales bumps later. *shrugs* I’d rather have the freedom to capture sales outside of the ‘Zon’s architecture.

    I did notice that, as of July 2014 when KU started, my Amazon author rankings for my largest pen name (for which none of the books are entered in KU) dropped. They only started recovering when I started writing more and my release dates on Amazon grew closer together. This correlates with similar information I’ve received from other authors. The only thing that changed in July ’14 was KU was instituted. Also, looking at all my book titles, I noticed perceptible dips in rankings for my most popular titles at the same time.

    So do I think the ‘Zon gives heavier weight to KU books/authors? Absofrigginlutely I do. I can see it. And it’s not that I begrudge them that, because it’s their sandbox.

    Also, I think there’s a big difference based on the kind of book/genre/heat level. Some books/authors will go gangbusters in KU, and some won’t. Even if they didn’t lock the exclusivity in with a 90-day period, that would be an improvement. Get into KU, try it for a month or so, and see where you’re at. With all the retailers now providing sales stats within a day or so of accuracy (varies by retailers) you can take a couple of weeks to see if something’s working or not. So an author could try KU for a couple of weeks, and if they’re doing well, stay in it. If not, they can opt out and try other retailers as well.

    • “Get into KU, try it for a month or so, and see where you’re at. With all the retailers now providing sales stats within a day or so of accuracy (varies by retailers) you can take a couple of weeks to see if something’s working or not. So an author could try KU for a couple of weeks, and if they’re doing well, stay in it. If not, they can opt out and try other retailers as well.”

      Some, at places like kboards, have suggested (and again there’s little way to verify this) that dropping in and then out of KU significantly harmed their visibility.

    • I know I’m two months late, but…Amazon DOES include borrows in its ranking algorithms. So yeah, you’ll see a sudden surge (drop?) in your ranking when you sign up with KU. I’m going to remove a bunch of my books soon, so I’d better be mentally prepared for the drop in ranking. Has nothing to do with the bottom dollar, I hope. I shall see.

  • I am a reader. I don’t write, just read. When I purchase a book, whether ebook or hardcover/paperback, I pay for the entire book. The bookstore/website gets all their money upfront. They don’t refund a portion to me if I don’t finish.
    I’m sorry, I really had no idea authors weren’t paid if I didn’t swipe through an entire ebook. I will from now on. Is there a certain amount of time I need to spend on a page so this will count? Must I read through the book within a prescribed time?
    Do you get a better deal if I buy an ebook through B&N, Indie, Google???
    I find this distressing. I don’t like the way Amazon treats authors, but as a reader what can I do?

    • I also wondered the same thing, Blu, and being as I am just about to publish my first it has me wondering… what happens if it sits in your reader for 6 months before you open it? is KU checking back in 6 months to see if you read it? What if you skip right to chapter 6, because, well maybe the number 6 is lucky to you? Do i get paid for every page in between? or only page 1 and page 180?

  • My only real contention with the new set-up, other than what you have already pointed out, is that it unfairly hits children’s authors. Since Amazon has been pushing their Kindle for kids (a normal Kindle Fire in a special protective case), this seems like something they should be considering. Children’s authors write books that are shorter than adult novels, but no less difficult to write and, arguably, more expensive to produce (because of the illustrations). With the new Kindle Unlimited rules, I foresee a lot of children’s authors pulling their books from the program.

    • I didn’t think about that. That’s definitely a concern. This is where Chuck’s suggestion on getting a percentage of the price once they finished the book would work better than this new system.

    • Authors will be getting an increased word count per page that includes an image based upon size of image. If anything, children’s books will become more lucrative.

  • As a small press publisher, I’ve dealt with Amazon for many years on the wholesale side. I’ve seen and heard enough evidence to be convinced the Zon manipulates algorithms in order to suppress, reward, or merely torment publishers–and authors–for its own mysterious purposes. Gosh, my sales are dropping off suddenly, without any obvious reason, yet at other platforms they’re rising. Let’s see–oh, yeah, in a few months I renegotiate my Sith-inspired contract with the Zon. So someone in the Sith lordship has turned off the juice to my books. Again. I’ve never seen Amazon do anything that doesn’t benefit Amazon while leading, eventually, to less control and less money for authors. This latest change is another dark step down that road. It appears to be good–in some ways–but it’s a greasy slide toward a piecework payment system.

  • Agreed on the “end exclusivity” requirement. After all, readers are not going to be exclusively tied to Amazon even if they do opt to enjoy their Kindle Unlimited program, so why should authors have be? Sure, they’re not-so-subtly encouraged to be exclusive with Kindle, particularly if they read on a Kindle device, but I read most of my Kindle books on my iPad — which means I can side-load anything I want in MOBI or EPUB formats.

    Ultimately, both readers and writers want the same thing: CHOICE. And currently, I think a lot of writers are opting out of KU precisely because KU doesn’t give them the choice to distribute their books elsewhere. I’ve tried it before, and I saw some extra cash rolling in because of it, but it’s that lack of choice and dependence on Amazon’s ever-changing whims that ultimately made me opt out of it.

    I feel like the Kindle Unlimited offerings will eventually be tied back to Prime membership, because you can already stream as much music as you like as a Prime member, so why not just tell people they can read as many ebooks as they want, too? The only thing that needs to happen there is sorting out payments, and right now, paying authors from an ever-diminishing pool, for an arbitrary “per page” price is not going to make authors interested in supporting the model.

  • I get the exclusivity thing, and I agree with Chuck that authors should be given huge incentives for it. These people should be treated like royalty.

    Now the payout based on a how much I read? I don’t know. That’s turning books into a metered consumable. I mean, I don’t cut the gas station a check every time I burn 1/8 tank of gas. Granted, the utility companies get to move money from my account to theirs depending on how much I consume, but I don’t get my monthly utilities in a defined package. HBO doesn’t charge me to watch Game of Thrones and then not charge me for missing the latest documentary.

    Lastly: Paid by the page. How does Amazon define a page?

    • My guess is, anything less than that is game-able. Meaning, if it’s purely based on “click and download” and not “10%” or “how much you read,” then you could ask all your friends and social media buddies to all circle-jerk click again and again, and you earn coin every time.

      • You only get paid the first time a page is read by a KU/KOLL borrower.

        And Amazon has defined a metric for how long a “page” is. We’ll know more about it after the first month’s royalties are in.

  • Being in KU really helps with rank and visibility in the Zon store. A big part of it is “ghost borrows.” Borrows are counted towards sales rank as soon as they happen, even if the reader never gets to 10%.

    My biggest complaint is the lack of warning. I devised a strategy around KU and now my stratgey is crap and I have to scramble to change it or accept a lower payout.

  • While I am not a Kindle user, I do have a question. What happens if you re-read your favorite parts of the book? Or re-read the book altogether? Does the author get paid every time a KU user reads the same material? It only seems fair. Since I have a tendency to go back and re-read favorite books pretty consistently, I wondered if there would be an upside to this?

    • According to the announcement, only the first read through is credited. The old borrow system did the same thing, only the first borrow is credited. Otherwise it’s too easy to game the system.

      I must say I hadn’t considered that authors should be rewarded for exclusivity. One more reason to appreciate Scribd and Oyster, which don’t require it.

      • Thanks for the clarification, though, I suspect there are lamentations on behalf of all romance novelists whose quasi-pornographic scenes elicit repeat visits. They would make a killing if that were the case.

    • That isn’t really a solution. And it ignores the fact that Amazon is a 900-lb. mecha-beast when it comes to publishing. It’s important to talk about these things to improve the experience for authors when possible — not ignore them because “don’t like it don’t do it.” That’s very dismissive.

  • KOLL/KU Global Fund for July was $2.785 million (average payout $1.80), 31 days of KOLL, 14 days of KU ——–1.547 million borrows
    KOLL/KU Global Fund for August was $4.7 million (average payout $1.54) full month of KOLL and KU——–3.052 million borrows
    KOLL/KU Global Fund for September was $5 million (average payout $1.52) full month of KOLL and KU——-3.29 million borrows
    KOLL/KU Global Fund for October was $5.5 million (average payout $1.33) full month of KOLL and KU ———4.14 million borrows
    KOLL/KU Global Fund for November was $6.5 million (average payout $1.40) full month of KOLL and KU——–4.64 million borrows
    KOLL/KU Global Fund for December was $7.25 million (average payout $1.43) full month of KOLL and KU ——–5.07 million borrows
    KOLL/KU Global Fund for January was $8.50 million (average payout $1.38) full month of KOLL and KU ———–6.15 million borrows
    KOLL/KU Global Fund for February was $8.00 million (average payout $1.41) full month of KOLL and KU ————5.67 million borrows (28 days February)
    KOLL/KU Global Fund for March was $9.30 million (average payout $1.34) full month of KOLL and KU —————6.94 million borrows
    KOLL/KU Global Fund for April was $9.80 million (average payout $1.36) full month of KOLL and KU —————–7.21 million borrows
    KOLL/KU Global Fund for May was $10.8 million (average payout $1.37) full month of KOLL and KU —————–7.88 millon borrows

    June? $11 million + is very likely

    And Amazon already said July will be in excess of $11 mil. Same with August.

    $150 million payout possible for 2015 and likely surpassing $200 million for 2016 just from Kindle Unlimited.

    More paying subscribers to KU = more revenue = more overall Global payout Fund

  • Preemptive warning- I’m not particularly intimate with the details of KU. Neither have I ever self published.

    With that out of the way, I’d say the very idea of Kindle Unlimited is some Wild West stuff. I can understand Amazon attempting a spotifysation of the milkyway of self published content.

    With my consumer hat on, I can see how this addresses many of the core issues. How do you decide which novel to take a chance upon, when there are just so very-fuckin’-many?

    Playing devil’s advocate, the game to played by content producers is to write to the platform. KU, to my mind, should be looked at as a gigantic giveaway stall. KU isn’t going to make any one rich directly, but it may introduce you to somebody who has been hankering for whatever it is that you produce. It removes that level of commitment to handing over hard cash, becomes a kind of content buffet. Self published authors will probably have no serious monetary incentive to do this in the short term. Long term it could be awesome for them. Nobody wants to write for free, and nor should they. The flipside to that is if nobody ever gets to see your stuff beyond a sample, and your core audience is going to be kindle using chaps and chapettes, you want as many of those suckers reading as you can get.

    The exclusivity clause is bogus, obviously, and it would appear to be designed to achieve the content buffet. Where people are writing to KU as a platform. This doesn’t mean that all self published stuff has to be written that way in the future. There’s simply not enough money in it for that to be the case.

    Pay-per-page is deck chairs on the titanic. It’s combing the whisping stragglers on a bald chap’s head. It’s farting in calcutta. If you’re going into KU, you need to think of it as anything other than a serious revenue pipeline.

  • Some really interesting points. The only problem I found was that I kept having the phrase, “Chuck Wendig is the Taylor Swift of publishing” in my head. Also the mental images.

  • Math! Eyes crossed. Passed out. Feeling groggy.

    Solid ideas, as far as I can tell. Therefore, unlikely to be adopted. (Call me cynical. I was skeptical in the womb and it grew.) I would like an end to exclusivity because, as frustrating as Amazon can be, I need more rage in my life and I’m pretty sure the weaknesses of the other sales platforms could fill that void.

    A common theme that comes up often is that people will have to write longer books. I say no. Just write more compelling books. As you point out, that’s what we were supposed to be doing, anyway. Chapter endings should have word buttons that induce the hypnotic suggestion to turn the page. I’m tending to write shorter books now. I’m not changing that strategy because (a) KU isn’t the be all, screw it all, and (b) I enjoy the visibility I earn by publishing more often.

    Best of all: shitnoodles! I have a new word of the day and it’s awesome.

    Thanks, Chuck.


  • Apple is now #2 in ebook market share.

    Apple might also join into the ebook subscription game. That will put some pressure on Amazon to end exclusivity. Ending exclusivity will be good for all self-published authors and I hope it will happen in the future.

    Judging from the growing payout pie, Kindle Unlimited is gaining some serious traction. Hopefully this will force Apple to jump into the market sooner.

    KU Global Fund by month:

    July 2014 was $2.785 million in payout
    August was $4.7 million
    September was $5 million
    October was $5.5 million
    November was $6.5 million
    December was $7.25 million
    January 2015 was $8.50 million
    February was $8.00 million
    March was $9.30 million
    April was $9.80 million
    May was $10.8 million


    If KU can get 5 million paying subscriber worldwide, that would bring in $5 mil x $10 a month x 12 months = $600 million a year.

    Higher subscribers = higher revenue = higher page read = higher payout pie

  • June 24, 2015 at 6:11 PM // Reply

    Hmmm, I like your idea! And yes to no exclusivity. If they wanted to sweeten the pot, they could do like 50-60% royalties for exclusive titles, and less royalties for non-exclusive titles enrolled in KU. I would be cool with that.

  • The pool is just so damn absurd. It takes an open market that can be win-win for multiple authors, and turns it into a zero sum game.

    If three authors put out awesome books that are of interest to me, it’s entirely likely I’ll buy all three. And all three authors win! None of them are harmed by the fact that I bought books from the others as well.

    But with THE POOL, me buying books from authors B and C actually reduces Author A’s compensation. Suddenly they’re in direct competition with each other in a way that they weren’t before.

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