What Kindle Unlimited Means For Authors

Now that Amazon has uncorked their Kindle Unlimited service I, like many indie authors, was curious. What does this mean for us withered scribes, scribbling away in our garrets and bobbing on the waves of Amazon’s massive literary marketplace? Will I get paid if I join Kindle Unlimited? How do I add my book to the mix? Will I become fabulously rich?

Full disclosure: I’ve been mucking about with indie publishing for a year now with the Mytro Project and, with enough digging, you will find one or more of my books on Amazon.

With that said, let’s address our scrivenarial concerns.

Will I get paid if I join Kindle Unlimited? I have asked Amazon for more specifics on how royalties work in Kindle Unlimited but what appears to be happening is that they are treating Kindle Unlimited books as part of their Kindle Direct Publishing Select Program. KDP Select is a part of Kindle Direct Publishing system that allows you to upload and publish books in a few minutes. I’ve written about it here.

The KDP Select Program is a special service offered to indie writers who agree not to make their books available elsewhere. It’s a very mercenary concept on Amazon’s part but allows you to offer your book for free for a limited time and support pre-orders. But woe betide you if you upload your book elsewhere. The moment Amazon’s robots find your book on, say, Barnes & Noble, all that largesse is over.

So how do you get paid? KU will supply limited royalties from something called the KDP Select Global Fund. Readers must read 10% of the book to be eligible for royalties that will change from month to month. Here is the exact Amazon language:

The fund amount is variable and announced on a monthly basis. We constantly monitor all factors that impact the KDP Select fund in order to set the fund amount for our KDP Select authors.
…Earn your share of the KDP Select Global Fund amount when readers chose and read more than 10% of your book from Kindle Unlimited, or borrow your book from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

In other words, if someone grabs your book on KU you will receive a small amount from a fund set up by Amazon itself – and that’s only if they read ten percent of your book.

What does this look like in practice? You can see the KU line on my KDP report. You’ll also notice that the “Free” books are separate from KU books.

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Since I’m not part of KDP Select, I’m out of luck. I suspect Amazon has signed a number of deals to get so-called Big 5 titles on the service as well.

How do I add my book to the mix? This is still unclear. I didn’t notice a distinct “add to KU” button on the KDP dashboard but that could be because I’ve opted out of KDP Select (for a few reasons, but mostly because I wanted to experiment with the Nook, iBooks, and Kobo stores) so I don’t get any of Amazon’s benevolence. Enrolling in KDP Select is, arguably, a tough pill to swallow unless you truly and endlessly love Amazon.

Will I become fabulously rich? I doubt it. But maybe someone will read your book, like it, and buy a million copies. An ink-stained wretch can dream.