Romance and Kindle Unlimited, by May Burnett

Kindle Unlimited is much discussed these days, for the revolutionary plan to pay the writers whose books are borrowed under the scheme by pages read as of July 2015. We author/publishers were informed of this by Amazon in the middle of June, that is, with very little advance notice.

Authors of shorter works are understandably apprehensive, while those of us who have full novels on offer look forward to the proposed change.

For those who may not know, self-published authors on Kindle, who agree to keep their books exclusive to Amazon, can opt to have their books be a part of the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owner’s Library. In the past, we received a small lump sum for each borrow, as long as the reader had completed the first 10% of the Ebook.

That scheme incentivised very short or serialised works and many authors of full-length novels complained and/or pulled their works out of the Library. In turn, some readers claimed they found nothing worthwhile among the hundreds of thousands of books in the scheme and did not prolong their subscriptions.

As a voracious reader of various genres I suscribed to KU the first day it was possible in my region (I live in Europe) and have discovered a variety of interesting authors on KU. It has all the advantages of a huge library permanently in your pocket, but it’s true you may have to sift a bit till you find exactly what you relish.

Since the individual book is free for the customer, who pays only the subscription of 9.99 dollars or Euro per month, one tends to download anything that looks interesting, and simply send it back if the first few pages show the book is not quite right for this reader after all. I know I do this. Asking for the sample first, as you do with a book you plan do buy, becomes less important. With very short works just reading the first chapter might have already triggered the payout. One can see why Amazon felt they had to adjust the incentives, so as to get and retain more substantial, longer and engaging books in their library.

As a writer of novels usually in the 220 pages range I welcome the new plan to pay per page read, even if the notion that Amazon knows this about ever reader is a little unsettling in its implications. But if they know when you pass the 10% mark, it stands to reason they also know how much of each book you read altogether.

Even under the old payment scheme, and with relatively long books that did not “game the system”, I found Kindle Unlimited a boon. The key is to have several books on offer, preferably a long series in a popular genre. Romance is perfect, as romance readers tend to read a lot, quickly, and when they find a new author they like they often glom the whole backlist. If they find a whole series available for borrowing, at no extra cost to themselves, so much the better for both sides!

Some writers leave only their older or shorter works in KU and even so see a benefit when KU makes new readers try out those works, at not risk or cost, and then proceed to buy their other books.

In the current month of June – my best month ever – over half of my writing income will derive from KU. On the morning of the 24th I stand at 1177 borrows for the month, and look forward to a monthly income of well over 2000 dollars from my romances. That is over double the previous average. Since December my writing income has hovered at just over 1000 dollars monthly. Given the length of my books, KU readers worldwide have read a minimum of 23 540 pages written by me since the beginning of the month. I love knowing that.

What caused this sudden jump? On June 9th I published the second part of a trilogy, Lord Fenton’s Revenge.


At the same time I put the first volume, Lady Susan’s Bargain, free for five days (another benefit of being a Kindle author), and put the first three chapters of the new book in the back as a teaser.


There were over 1600 free downloads. I advertised with exactly one Twitter guy on Fiverr, so spent 5.50 on publicity.  The new book cost me a grand total of 11 dollars, by the way, and half of that was a tip. That money was gained back multiple times by the end of the first day. I plan to repeat the experiment with the free book and advertisement at the beginning of July with the first of my Amberley Chronicles series. Wish me luck.

So, is KU for every writer? I think for longer standalone books, perhaps not so much. But for prolific writers with low overhead and a lengthening backlist, who are only just building up their brand, it does offer distinct advantages. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.


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