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Amazon's Kindle Unlimited book subscription program


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#1 AQCrew

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 09:53 AM

We have been waiting to report on Amazon's "Unlimited" subscription program, which it officially rolled out to its readers last Friday, July 18, because we have had a difficult time assessing exactly what we want to say about it

 

At this point, we will simply say that everyone SHOULD know about it as well as its potential implications, and we will attempt to outline some of the more "unknown" mechanics of how the program is affecting authors and leave the macro-economics and discussion points to others who track and report on industry issues as well.

 

If you haven't heard about it, you can read Amazon's official press release here

 

If you want to read a more "insider" analysis about the program and its potential impact on the publishing industry and all the controversy and consternation, you can go here:

 

http://davidgaughran...-key-questions/

 

or here:

 

http://www.hughhowey...ndle-unlimited/

 

If you want to be clued in to more specific implications that not many people seem to be addressing, you can read on...

 

1. Book participating in Kindle Unlimited are not all created equal

 

There are traditionally published books that are participating with and without their consent.  There are indie self-published authors whose books have been put into the Unlimited Program without Amazon requiring "exclusivity" from them.  And then, there are indie authors who have been left out of Kindle Unlimited because their books are not participating in KDP Select -- Amazon's exclusivity program which requires that authors only publish on Amazon and no other distribution outlets.  If your book is currently and automatically part of KDP Select, your book is part of Amazon's new Unlimited program.

 

2. Books that are participating in Kindle Unlimited are currently benefiting in their Amazon's sales ranking

 

We can now confirm that books participating in Kindle Unlimited are receiving a significant bump in ranking due to the fact that the new inflated number of "borrows" seem to be counted towards the book's overall daily sales.  Why?  Read #3.

 

3. The "Blue "KU/KOLL" number represents books that have already banked the 10% reading threshold - and thus, will receive payment

 

Many authors who are participating in Unlimited are reporting a spike in their KU/KOLL borrow numbers.  In some cases, 3 to 5 times more borrows than what was normal while their books were simply in KDP Select (recently, KDP Select borrows paid authors approximately $2 per borrow from a global fund managed and funded by Amazon).

 

Everyone wants to know... are those inflated "borrow" numbers REAL sales numbers?  Or will they be adjusted in some way later on?  We believe the blue borrows being reported in the KDP dashboard are confirmed "reads" -- representing readers who have reached the 10% reading threshold -- and thus, triggering payment to the author.

 

4. How much will Amazon pay for each of these Unlimited "borrows"?

 

This is the BIG question, and the answer goes back to #1 -- all books participating are not created equal.  

 

Most of the Unlimited books are KDP Select books from indie authors and they will receive a pro-rata share amount-- to-be-determined -- by the overall Global Fund provided by Amazon.  Yes, this is the same Global Fund earmarked for KDP Select borrows, but now, it will all be one big pool.  Currently, payment for each Select "borrow" averages about $2 per borrow.  Readers who were enrolled in Amazon's Prime program were limited to one borrow per month, so the total number of "borrows" was seemingly capped on a macro-level.

 

Now, all bets are off... borrows are skyrocketing for participating books and everyone is buzzing about the implications and the $$.  How much is each borrow now currently worth? And ultimately, how much will Amazon now be willing to pay for a book's "exclusivity."

 

And then there are traditional publishers and successful indie authors who are receiving different payment terms under their participation in Unlimited -- in some cases, receiving full wholesale payment for a "borrow" without needing to adhere to the exclusively requirement of the average KDP Select author. 

 

5. If you are confused and have no idea what we're talking about, you're not alone -- but you're also falling further and further behind the curve.

 

We would like to point out that Amazon's Unlimited program has likely just radically changed the publishing landscape and you don't even know it.

 

The implications are going to be so complex and so far-reaching and so long-term that we can't even begin to report on how and why.

 

What we WILL say is that if you are a newbie who was contemplating self-publishing and have been waiting on the sidelines, things just got significantly more complicated for you to jump into the pool.

 

If you have been indie publishing for a while and your books are not part of Select/Unlimited, and you are currently wondering why your Amazon sales rankings have been getting worse all weekend -- it's likely because of the launch of Unlimited.

 

If you are a traditionally published author and you think this is just one more way that Amazon is hurting you and your publisher -- it may or may not be true, depending on your publisher and their willingness to play in the sandbox with the 'Zon -- and under which payment terms. Some publishers seem to be working with the 'Zon and they seem to be getting favorable payment terms in return.

 

Remember -- an "unlimited" subscription service has to provide content that Amazon readers WANT to read and pay $9.99 per month to access, and Amazon can't successfully launch and maintain an unlimited subscription service without participation from the major publishers and their content.  Sorta like how Netflix was five years ago.



#2 RC Lewis

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 10:39 AM

A lot to think about with this. Personally, I found Chuck Wendig's post helpful in navigating the details, along with potential pros and cons. (As always with Chuck, adult language is a possibility. You've been warned.)

 

http://terribleminds...ted-and-beyond/


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#3 AQCrew

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 11:27 AM

A lot to think about with this. Personally, I found Chuck Wendig's post helpful in navigating the details, along with potential pros and cons. (As always with Chuck, adult language is a possibility. You've been warned.)

 

http://terribleminds...ted-and-beyond/

 

First comment on the blog cited by RC Lewis is this:

 

 

 

Amazon is ev– Oh. Wait. Can’t say that. My first thought as a reader was “Heya! that’s cool!” My second thought as a reader was “Oh, lord, that’s a lot of really bad books I can wade through...

 

This is also something that's not being discussed enough...

 

Amazon is literally building an entire section of its site -- a section that only shows the participating Unlimited book exclusively for its readers who have paid the $9.99 month subscription fee (right now, a free 30-day trial is being offered).

 

That is HUGE. 

 

Unlimited readers are being given a special access link and the books there are being shown to them in a different way that when you go to Amazon as a non-Unlimited member.  Books within the Unlimited section --displayed to logged in Unlimited members -- are being marked FREE in big bold letters and Amazon is ONLY displaying the participating content.  

 

HUGE, people.  HUGE.



#4 Darke

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 01:42 PM

It might interest you to know it's only being offered to US customers. 

 

Also, if they're offering a larger monetary portion to Trad books over indie, won't that upset some? And if they don't offer some Trad books, who is going to keep the subscription going past the free month? It seems to me that Amazon now NEEDS the Big 5 to keep this program going.  


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#5 Guest_AWExley_*

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 02:07 PM

My YA steampunk novel is in Kindle Unlimited. I figured throw one book in as an experiment, see how Unlimited works and what they will be paying. I am nervous about denouncing all sales channels and being exclusive with Amazon to participate, so find it really interesting that some books are being added without having to be exclusive.

 

As someone who is outside the US I see this as the evolution of KOLL and again is not available to the rest of the world. While the American market is huge it's not the only market on the planet  :wink:



#6 Darke

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 03:36 PM

...find it really interesting that some books are being added without having to be exclusive.

 

That's a really good point. If the Big 5 can have their books on BN, Kobo and the lot, why are the Indies restricted? That doesn't seem fair at all, and I don't think Scribd or Oyster have that clause either.   


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#7 mwsinclair

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 09:54 AM

For what it's worth, I've noticed a big bump in KOLL (kindle owners lending library) on Battery Brothers this month. It used to only happen once in a while -- once or twice a month, tops. To date, we've had 14 this month. Again, not a huge number, but clearly more common.



#8 RSMellette

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 02:56 PM

Interesting stuff.

 

Some of this reminds me of a fictitious measurement a friend of mine's father came up with back in the Mac vs PC / Beta cam vs VHS days...

 

A PONC value.  Price Of Non-Conformity.  

 

As in, "Sure, a UNIX based computer system might have some advantages over out-of-the-box Windows, but there is a high PONC value."

 

Average Joe e-reader uses a Kindle - be it e-ink or via an app.  You can be another fish in the Sea of 'Zon, or you can be King of Nook.  One of them has a higher PONC to pay.


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#9 C. Taylor

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Posted 04 August 2014 - 08:20 AM

I've put a handful of titles in--basically the ones that don't sell huge, since it'd be less of a risk.  I figure I don't have much to lose and it could help visibility.  So far, my pirates are doing decently on it, with borrows equaling about 3/4 of what I'm getting for sales on that book.  


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#10 AQCrew

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 07:35 PM

We've just gotten word that Amazon has sent out the following email to authors whose books are in their KDP Select program, and as a result, are also currently part of their Kindle Unlimited (KU) offering to readers.

 

Basically, the upshot is that Amazon is increasing the size of its KDP Select Fund (as everyone who is watching this issue expected Amazon would since reader demand and KOLL/KU borrow downloads have exploded for many authors who are participating).

 

Indie authors still don't know the final payout amount per borrow for July, but this email from Amazon makes it more likely that July's payout it will remain close to the historical average for KOLL borrows -- which has been $2.00 per borrow. UPDATE: we are seeing reports of the final number as $1.80 per KOLL/KU download for July (yes, this is in addition to whatever normal sales the book accrued as well)

 

In other words, many authors are going to get a windfall for July that they didn't expect...especially since many authors are reporting high double digit KU/KOLL numbers -- PER DAY -- on their most popular titles.

 

 

 

Hello,


Since you are enrolled in KDP Select, we wanted you to know about some important updates regarding the global fund.

Kindle Unlimited (KU) is off to a great start with a strong early response from customers. Due to this early surge in demand, we are adding a KU “launch bonus” of $500,000 to the KDP Select global fund for July 2014. This is on top of the base fund amount of $2 million in July. This brings the total funds paid on borrows to $2.5 million, which is more than double the size of payments in June.

We also have news about how KU and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) borrows appear in your reports. Since KU launched, our reports have been showing KOLL downloads plus all KU books *opened*, instead of books read to 10%. As previously announced, we plan to pay royalties on books read to 10%. We apologize for any confusion this created. In the next few days, we plan to backfill our reporting to reflect borrows in this manner (KOLL downloads + KU books read to 10%).

For July we have decided to extend payment to all KU books downloaded and opened in July, even those not read past 10%. To support this, we will add an additional $285,000 in July payments, making the funds paid to authors in July $2,785,000.

Key points about recent fund activity
- Your July payment report shows your total earnings, including the additional funds paid during July for books opened and borrowed but not read to 10%.
- Next week, we will update all other KDP reporting for July and August to show KOLL downloads plus Kindle Unlimited borrows that have been read past 10%.
- Even after we backfill all other reports, your July Prior Month Royalty report will remain showing all KOLL downloads plus all Kindle Unlimited borrows that were opened in July, including those not read to 10%. All future reports, including future Prior Month Royalty reports, will reflect KOLL downloads plus KU borrows read past 10%.
- If a book was opened but not read to 10% in July but does pass 10% after July, you will also receive credit for the borrow when that happens.

For August, we will pay authors for KOLL borrows upon download and Kindle Unlimited borrows read past 10%.

Best regards,
The Kindle Direct Publishing Team


#11 Darke

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 08:38 AM

Yes, that sounds about right. A friend of mine said hers was $1.81, so that's about the average.

 

Still not doing it.


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#12 AQCrew

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 10:14 AM

 

Still not doing it.

 

What if we gave you a cookie?   :wink:

 

No, seriously... we're not advocating it either way -- although we do think that if anyone is on the fence or feels overwhelmed about testing the indie self-publishing waters, then an easy way to get started is to only distribute through Amazon and enroll your book in Select for the first three months as a way to get yourself in the game.  Kindle Select -- and now, Kindle Unlimited -- just got more appealing for those who are starting out.

 

We are seeing reports of authors who have $0.99 books that are enrolled in Select/Unlimited whose "borrowed" numbers skyrocketed in July because of Kindle Unlimited being unveiled in mid-July (and now, we understand that these crazy numbers are a result of Amazon counting Unlimited borrow downloads if the readers simply "opened" the authors' books).

 

Going from being paid $0.30 for every sale versus being paid $1.80 for inflated borrows can easily be attributed to being in the right place at the right time.  Especially since were talking about several hundred to several thousands of borrows for these authors.

 

But it is also a sign of the times, and something writers should be aware of....



#13 Darke

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 10:26 AM

The real test, for KU and this new feature is the long run. 


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#14 J. Lea Lopez

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 01:33 PM

I have a short (and I mean SHORT) story that I enrolled because I hadn't had the time to get it up anywhere other than Amazon and with moving and other stress going on, I didn't want to be bothered for a bit anyway. It's 99 cents, and I'm hoping that if it gets a good amount of borrows from KU I'll end up more from that than the 35 cents per sale I'd usually make. Especially since I've sold maybe 10 copies of it since I put it up. Figured it can't hurt! It does suck that it's only for the US though. Is the Kindle Owners Lending Library global, then? Because I do show one unit in the UK, but Amazon lumps KU and KOLL borrows together in the report.



#15 E.B. Black

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 01:11 PM

I'm really discouraged by this Kindle Unlimited thing. I just enrolled my only book in Kindle Unlimited yesterday.

 

I have sold a total of TWO books, while not on Kindle Unlimited, since it launched. Only one book for this month in total. That's a lot less than what I would usually sell in a month and a half. So I have to try it because I think most of the people I normally sell to are attracted to this kind of thing.

 

I'm really nervous right now. I feel like I am flailing and lost and confused about what I should do with my books in the future.

 

I was going to release two books towards the end of this year and originally, I was going to make the first book free. But I'm not even sure if I am going to do it that way anymore because I just don't know WHAT to do with this Kindle Unlimited thing. And how it's changed things and if free books even MEAN anything anymore.

 

And I'm afraid they stole all the advantages I had over traditional publishing. Ugh. The readers are going to go for all the bestsellers because you can get those for the same price now as any of our stuff. >_<
 

I feel like Amazon completely betrayed me. </3


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#16 AQCrew

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 01:21 PM

These are all fair sentiments.

 

BUT -- if you have just enrolled your book in Unlimited -- then you need to make sure you play the game.  That means... we would suggest you beef up your keywords on that book, then run it for free for one day tomorrow (Sunday) using your one of your 5 free Select days and then wait....and gauge how your increased visibility after your free day increases your Unlimited downloads for the week.

 

Yes, the game has changed, but it's been changing slowly over the past year.  Permafrees don't have the same bang anymore and readers are getting turned off by shorter works, installment works, "bundles' that are really just small installments rolled into one book, and books that end in cliffhangers -- intended to lure them to buy the next one.  Those tricks are out... the new tricks begin.



#17 E.B. Black

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 01:34 PM

These are all fair sentiments.

 

BUT -- if you have just enrolled your book in Unlimited -- then you need to make sure you play the game.  That means... we would suggest you beef up your keywords on that book, then run it for free for one day tomorrow (Sunday) using your one of your 5 free Select days and then wait....and gauge how your increased visibility after your free day increases your Unlimited downloads for the week.

 

Yes, the game has changed, but it's been changing slowly over the past year.  Permafrees don't have the same bang anymore and readers are getting turned off by shorter works, installment works, "bundles' that are really just small installments rolled into one book, and books that end in cliffhangers -- intended to lure them to buy the next one.  Those tricks are out... the new tricks begin.

 

I was actually just looking at my kindle dashboard and thinking about when I wanted to do my free days to see if that helps.

 

It's a lot different than it used to be with this discount thing they have now (I haven't used kindle select in over a year), where you can just discount the book instead of having free days. I'll be spending awhile today trying to figure that out. I'm kind of confused about whether or not they even allow free days anymore because they are saying that the lowest price I can have on my discount days is 99 cents?


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#18 AQCrew

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 02:10 PM

Yes, you still can.

 

look at your title in your dashboard, then click on MANAGE BENEFITS --> drop-down Menu: KINDLE COUNTDOWN DEALS --> change it to FREE BOOK PROMOTION --> then select CREATE A NEW FREE PROMOTION for this book



#19 E.B. Black

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Posted 23 August 2014 - 02:15 PM

Awesome! Thank you. I missed that little drop down list somehow.


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#20 mwsinclair

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Posted 24 August 2014 - 06:22 PM

free days can be great for driving up traffic. We had a huge boost for Battery Brothers -- roughly 13,000 "sales" if I recall correctly.






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