The New Changes to Kindle Unlimited

by | Jun 30, 2015 | Book Marketing Basics

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Amazon, sales on amazon, Kindle Unlimted. KDP Select, Self-publishingIf you haven’t heard the news yet, Amazon is making changes to Kindle Unlimited beginning July 1, 2015. They are going to be paying by page read for books that are in the Kindle Unlimited service. If you aren’t familiar with Kindle Unlimited this is Amazon’s “Netflix” service for books: you can rent books for a set fee per month.
If you’ve self-published and your book is in their KDP Select program you are automatically in the Kindle Unlimited system.
So let’s look at what Amazon is changing. Here is the information from their website:

“The author of a 100 page book that was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).
The author of a 200 page book that was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $2,000 ($10 million multiplied by 20,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).
The author of a 200 page book that was borrowed 100 times but only read halfway through on average would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).”

A lot has been said about this, most of it not great. I do, however, think that for most of us in Kindle Unlimited, we should wait and see what happens before we dismiss the whole idea of having our books in a subscription service.

Why? Because if Amazon works the way that I suspect it will, the changes in the way they pay will also affect their Kindle Unlimited algorithms, pushing titles that are earning more to the forefront and those that aren’t, could potentially be lower on the list. This algorithm change could also affect their regular bookstore, too.

Let me explain my thought process here. First off, if you’re being paid by pages read then you need to have a good book, right? If your book isn’t good (and we know a lot of them aren’t) then you won’t make much. This is particularly interesting when you consider how many writers post poorly written books, or books so bloated with useless content, that the reader simply can’t get through it. Why do they do this? Well to game the royalty system, which never works by the way but ends up cluttering the Amazon site.
So what is prompting this change?

The problem Amazon faces is one we all face: there are many, many books and not all of them merit a sale. At one time or another we’ve probably all picked up a book, started reading and thought: Wow, this is not what I expected. And I’m not just talking about self-published books here. I’ve had the same thing happen with traditionally published titles. At the same time, it’s a trend we’re seeing more of. Let’s face it, competition is fierce and if you’re going to compete, you need to write a great book. This new way of pricing, in my view, helps to raise a bar that hasn’t been terribly high across the board.

Now this won’t affect your book if you aren’t in the Select or Kindle Unlimited system, but I suspect that if this works, Amazon could change this across the board. Meaning change this pricing structure for all of their books. Though I suspect that could be met with rioting Problem: one thing that I keep seeing over and over is that this model of payment encourages writers to write longer books. Many of you probably know the trend of “short is the new long” and while long books will never go away, episodic and serialization of books is a strong trend and one that isn’t going away anytime soon. So keep in mind that you shouldn’t write a long book unless the topic or story merits it. I plan on keeping my short books short. I personally won’t be making any changes to the content I produce. Why?

While these Amazon changes affect everyone in the Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited system, you won’t want to become a slave to this. You still want to produce content your reader wants, not just content that you think will bring you huge sales. Ideally, they are one and the same.

Keep in mind that many authors may be removing their titles which could be a great win for those of us who continue to keep our titles in the Kindle Unlimited system. Your exposure may increase significantly due to the drastic reduction in books.

Is there more that Amazon can do to fix the Kindle Unlimited system? Sure. I think making it non-exclusive is a great idea – mostly for self-published authors who are in their Kindle Direct Publishing Select program. Though Amazon is the biggest e-tailer, exclusivity scares off a lot of people who might otherwise list their books and the goal for Kindle Unlimited is to grow the library.
The other thing that I think Amazon needs to focus on is putting more Audible titles in there because right now the library of audio titles is narrow. Yes, this will certainly ding Audible memberships, but other bonuses can be given to Audible only members to retain that subscriber baseThe bottom line? If your book is in the Select program and the idea of being paid by number of pages read scares you, get in touch with Amazon immediately and ask them to remove the Select feature which will pull your book out of Kindle Unlimited.


As a final tip: you should do this anyway if you have more than one book in that system. Why? Having all of your books in Kindle Unlimited is not a good idea – regardless of how their pricing works. Why? Because you’ll generally get paid less for your book when it’s being loaned out to a reader so having all of your books in there could drastically reduce your revenue.
So that’s my take, I’d appreciate your feedback and insights.


  1. Norma Padro

    This post is very informative. I don’t have a problem with my books being published there. I’m content that people are reading my work. It sounds like it’s going to be a good opportunity.

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Norma thanks for the response! Glad you enjoyed this piece!

  2. Jennifer Waddle

    Thank you for explaining this! As a new author, I had no clue what it really meant. Very interesting…just makes me want to write even more captivating words!

  3. writerkris

    Penny – there’s a group of us can make no sense of what Amazon has so far suggested (and what you have here.) Let’s take a 100-page book for $2.99. A sale of that would earn approx $2 (70% royalty.) Therefore a hundred sales of it would earn approx $200. How can it be anywhere near $1000 for a hundred borrows? We’re sure they have their figures wrong.
    Kris Pearson

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Thanks for this – I agree the math seems sketchy at this point – though part of that is because it comes out of a “fund” which changes often, too. So the fund is $11 million and then we get a note from Amazon saying it’s now $15 million, etc. So the money we make changes often because of this.

    • James Ross

      This is merely to offer a reason for the change as it was explained to me by a KDP Select customer service rep. There are many authors generating 100-page books for $2.99. A 400-page book costs the same because that is what the market is for an e-book these days. Is it fair to the author producing full scale novels to not get compensated adequately? Amazon Kindle is paying authors by the page now. What is wrong with that?

      • writerkris

        Nothing wrong with that at all – I was simply commenting on Amazon’s maths.

  4. James Ross

    Penny – I have all of my books – 6 novels and 2 bundles – in the Kindle Unlimited program. Amazon’s KU efforts have attracted a lot of readers and the monthly fund has grown dramatically. Their marketing strategy has recommended my books to others especially after I used you to promote 2 of the books this spring. Personally, cross sales of my books have risen twenty-fold and with my average book length between 400-600 pages I’m finally, after a decade, getting readers reading my pages. I love the change and can’t wait to see where I fall on the monthly chart when the check gets cut. Half of my monthly sales figures are coming from KOLL. – Jim

  5. nglover

    I have been frustrated by the rip-offs of the old Kindle Unlimited system. I saw one book recently that the Look Inside component (10% of the content) consisted of one sentence. The cover was great, the blurb was great, and an unsuspecting Unlimited reader might download the book, read the first page, realise they’d been conned and throw it aside. But the author got paid the same share of the monthly bucket as I did having a reader finish my 140,000 word Historical Romance!

    I had become so frustrated by what I was seeing that I’d decided to take the full book out of Select and publish a 6 part serial of the same novel and have that on Select. I would then be paid more fairly for my work. But then the announcement was made and I literally cheered.

    Someone said that art shouldn’t be measure by quantity, but if it takes me three times as long to write a novel of equal quality to someone else, shouldn’t I be paid three times as much?

    Whenever there is money involved there are people who will find ways to cheat the system. It has taken KDP a long time to realise the loophole the con-artists were exploiting, but at least they have.

    I have seen significant increases in my readership since KU came into being, and I like the program. Now I’ll be fairly compensated, I will happily stay with the Select. I just have to find a new promotional vehicle. The free promotions on Select used to draw in new readers, but with so many on KU, a freebie isn’t a draw anymore. I have no trouble keeping readers, once they find me, but it’s finding me in the crowd that is becoming more and more difficult. And I know I’m not alone.



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