The publishing journey is truly a journey with many obstacles, and it doesn’t lead straight to success as one is always led to believe. We all know J.K. Rowling’s story, how poor she was, how she wrote chapters of her book on paper napkins, and how several publishers rejected the Harry Potter story – they must be kicking themselves now.
The road to an author success is not short and straight, but it is a long and winding one, with many roadblocks, twists, and turns.
Amazon KDP is a wonderful publishing platform that makes publishing for an indie author (independent author) more accessible, and they offer great tools. Within Amazon KDP, you can even sign up for Kindle Unlimited.
How does Kindle Unlimited Work?
You can sign up for Kindle Unlimited (or KU) and stay in the program for 90 days, a period which can be renewed. You can do that manually or have it automatically renewed if you prefer that.
When your book is enrolled in KU, readers who pay a monthly KU membership can download your book for free. You are paid according to the amount of pages they read, between $0.004 and $0.005 per page.
That may seem very little, and it is, but for some authors this can be quite lucrative if they can produce many pages and keep on publishing on a regular basis. There are authors who turn out two to three books per months, although how they do that is not easy to understand for authors who usually need at least a year to write a book (that includes me), which is basically the norm.
The way Kindle Unlimited works is great and it provides a viable return for some authors, but not for all. I have heard a list of complaints from authors whose books are enrolled in KU. While some authors have been able to quit their day time jobs and dedicate themselves to writing full time, for many the earnings are small and not enough to make a living.
Considering how much work is involved in writing and publishing a book, it does not make sense to have your book in a program that pays you for the amount of pages that are read.
However, KU offers your book to millions of readers, providing that it does not get lost in the maelstrom of books that are published every day. See, here’s the thing, the amount of books on Amazon is mind blowing, and remaining visible as an author involves a lot of hard work and constant promoting.
Amazon offers free and paid promotional tools, so in the end you end up paying your publisher to promote your book.
Kindle Unlimited for Readers
For a small membership fee, readers can download an unlimited amount of books every month. Nevertheless, their Kindle device or app certainly has a limit of books, so when they reach their limit, they should return some books to the library, in order to download newer books. Kindle Unlimited has become incredible popular for Kindle readers.
What’s Good About This?
- On Amazon KDP you publish your books for free.
- You set your own price
- Authors can earn a 70% royalty on books that are priced between $2.99 and $9.99
- Authors earn 35% on books that cost less or more than that
- You are in control of your content – Some traditional publishing houses may be uncomfortable with certain content
- Fast publishing process
What’s Not so Good?
KU can work great for authors, but it can also be a drag, for the following reasons.
1. KU is exclusive. That means that you cannot sell your book on any other book sale platforms and you cannot offer them in any other promotions on other book sale platforms. So, you are limited to Amazon.
While Amazon is a popular and successful sales platform, it is not the only one and I am not for putting all my eggs in one basket.
2. Moreover, there are numerous people who – for ethical reasons – simply refuse to buy anything from Amazon and prefer to give preference to other sellers. Some of my friends and relatives want nothing to do with Amazon, so as authors and online entrepreneurs we must keep that in mind.
3. Amazon KDP sales reports do not represent all sales. If you sell paperbacks on Amazon, but they are not sold through the Amazon US site, those sales will simply not be displayed in your sales reports. You are prompted to pay for an additional service to see those sales. I do not like that.
A company should be able to display all your sales without any further ado or obstacles. If you are an author that is based in the US, then there is no problem, but Amazon sells internationally and so it should be adapted to its international sellers, which it doesn’t seem to be.
I have two slogans:
If you want something done, do it yourself.
Why complicate things when you can make it easy?
Consequently, when companies or people tend to complicate certain procedures, I tend to turn away.
4. Kindle Unlimited has been compared to the Spotify for authors. Spotify has caused a substantial loss in revenue for many artists. Nowadays nearly everyone downloads music and the same threat is hanging over the publishing industry.
If a book sales platform like Amazon KDP is teaching customers to get books through subscription services instead of actually buying the books, the result might be that people will buy fewer books or will stop buying them all together, and instead continue with their free downloads on Kindle for a small monthly fee.
Amazon is a great platform to promote your books. They give you all the possible tools and promotional methods at your disposal, and I will be happy to continue publishing my books through Amazon. Nonetheless, KU is something I do not recommend, and as soon as my 90 days are over for each book I have on Amazon, I will not re-enrol.
An Author’s Work
As wonderful as KU can be for some, it minimizes all the hard work an author puts into his or her manuscript. It takes approximately a year to write a book, but that is by far not the norm. For some it takes two years, there have been others who needed ten years or even more to get their book written … I myself have a book that took me ten years to write as well, so I can relate.
(Can you understand authors’ reactions now when they hear about people producing three books a month, just to get the required pages in for KU?)
After you write the book you have to get it edited, which is also a lot of hard work. Then the formatting follows, and next you have to find the right book cover design. The book cover design is usually the fun part, because someone else makes your written creation come to life in a photo or design, and that is pretty cool.
After all that, the author has to turn into a marketing strategist; and let’s face it, most authors are no PR experts … but nowadays authors are forced to put themselves out there and market their books. The publishing industry has changed.
Is KU Worth it?
While KU certainly offers advantages and exposure, in my opinion it is simply not worth it. After all that hard work we sell our books for the price of a cup of coffee, which is still considered “too much”. So, many authors end up giving it for free, either in KU or in free promotions.
When I offered Thorn Heart for free during five days (not on KU, but in an Amazon promotion), it was downloaded a lot and it drove my book rank up in Amazon, but as soon as that promotion was over and the price “increased” to a staggering $1.99 there were no more sales … and suddenly my book rank dropped …
So, this is why free is simply not worth it for me. KU, for the previously mentioned reasons isn’t either, and I know that authors stand divided on this. Some swear by it while others swear it off … I think that an author’s hard work should not be offered for free. Although many authors offer their work for free to get their rank up, I believe that they should not have to do this after all the effort and time they already put in to it.
Did you see the Oscars?
You can compare it to the amazing actor who receives his Oscar, and you see him stand there with a proud smile, giving a list of thanks to all the people who helped him get to where he is now, but those actors never mention the one person who did all the work, themselves.
The viewer does not see the ten or twenty years of sacrifices he had to make to get to stand on that podium and accept his long coveted prize. It’s the same with writers.
I think that any author deserves the payment of at least a cup of coffee for their ebook. Kindle Unlimited may be viable for some, but given the high amount of competition and the exclusivity of Amazon KDP – which limits authors – it is simply not worth it.
Promotions and giveaways are always great initiatives that can help an author gain more exposure, but offering a book for free during days, weeks, or even months is something that authors perhaps should abstain from.
This article may be controversial for some authors and some will agree while others will disagree; that all depends on your own experiences. However, I do think that as an author you should respect and value your own work.
12 thoughts on “Kindle Unlimited and Authors – Why I Choose to Cancel my Subscription”
Wow that is very informative. I never knew that Authors was losing out on so much money when using amazon to see and promote their books. I was thinking about using amazon to sell a book of poems I have wrote. Now I think I will look somewhere else to try and get my book out to people to be seen. I also don’t understand how people are putting out 2 or 3 books a month. I do know that a lot of people are making very short books and not even writing them their selves. They are using ghost writers to put out books fast. Thank you for this article it was very informative.
There are many other great publishing platforms out there. Amazon has very good publishing tools, but so do Smashwords and IngramSpark.
Thanks for your comment!
Well said and I totally agreed with you on even if it’s a coffee worth, nobody should give out their hard work sweat for free.
Thanks for the information because I have actually thought about becoming a publisher with Amazon Kindle Unlimited.
I hope you find another place where your effort can be well rewarded. Great post.
Thank you for your comment! The publishing tools on Amazon are great if you are thinking of publishing. You can do that and still stay away from Kindle Unlimited 😉 There are also many other great platforms where you can upload your work. Smashwords is a really good one.
Thank you so much for sharing your Kindle Unlimited experience with us, Christine! Two of my aunts are authors and have expressed similar frustrations with KU; Amazon is very territorial and feels that it’s the only big fish in a small corporate pond (which is as far from the truth as it gets). I also don’t believe in putting all of my eggs in one basket; no business or platform is invincible. You all should receive much more credit and much more money for your blood, sweat, tears, and finished product than you do-Amazon should be ashamed of itself. My aunts are a bad day away from dropping their subscriptions as well. Haha I will definitely share this article with them. God bless you!
I agree, Amazon is by far not the only big fish in the pond; there are many more lucrative options. I can understand your aunts’ frustrations 😉 Thank you for sharing my article with them!
I have had friends that recommended me trying KU when I was writing all the time. Something made me not pursue that option and I am glad I didn’t.
When your 30 days is up with Amazon, do you get the rights to your books back so you can get them published through other means?
One of my friends makes decent money through Amazon as a voice over actress. She makes enough to take her family on expensive vacations. She writes books along with the voice over gig.
Out of all my friends that told me to try it, she is the only one turning a great profit.
When those 90 days are up, you get your rights back, and you can use other book sales platforms, yes. I am waiting for those 90 days to be over 🙂
There are several people who can make great money with Amazon, but since the amount of artists selling their work on that platform is so enormous it is not always easy to get noticed among the millions of works out there.
Thank you for your comment!
It seems like people only download free books from KU instead of paying to read the books. And, it feels bad that all the hard work from every author only returns a little by using KU. The biggest downside I realize is that once you use KU to promote your books, you cannot upload your books on other competitors’ platforms. That sounds non-sense to me which you will lose lots of possibilities to make people aware of your publications, right?
So, in that case, does that mean you prefer Smashwords than KU after many comparisons?
Very true, while KU offers your book to millions of readers, there is no guarantee all those readers will see your book, and having it exclusive on Amazon makes an author lose opportunities elsewhere.
Thank you for your comment!
I was not aware that authors were losing out on Kindle Unlimited ! This was definitely a new information to me.
I enjoyed reading your article – very well put together.
Thank you for stopping by!