The Indie Author Kindle Unlimited Debate


I bring an issue to the table today, the ongoing debate of Kindle Unlimited’s affect on indie authors.

Indie Authors & Kindle Unlimited 

In Jul 2014, after a few months of speculation, Amazon announced Kindle Unlimited, allowing people to borrow as many books as they choose for a monthly subscription fee of $9.99. Indie authors quickly got skeptical.

Kindle Unlimited features over 700,000 books for subscribers to borrow. Although bestsellers and well-known books are featured in the commercials and advertisements, 85 percent of the books in KU are by self-published authors.

To be in Kindle Unlimited, a self-published author has to enroll in Kindle Select, and have their e-books remain exclusive to Amazon. In the trade-off for being exclusive, authors have access to 5 free promotional days and time-bound promotional discounting during the 90 day contract period.

Jane Friedman wrote a great blog post on the skepticism behind Kindle Unlimited.

Traditionally published e-books are paid the same amount as a sale while indie authors get paid through the Kindle Select Global Fund. When a person borrowing a book gets to the 10% read mark, the author gets paid.

What’s the pay rate?’s kinda vague and unpredictable. The global fund varies from time to time and pay rates are released on a monthly basis. In the first three months of Kindle Unlimited the pay rate averaged $1.62. Is this proper compensation? Authors getting paid $1.62 for their novel?

Let’s examine the price points for indie/self-published books. The majority are priced at $2.99 and $3.99. Publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and with the author royalty rates at 70%, an indie author would be able to take away $2.09 and $2.79 on a $2.99 and $3,99 priced e-book, respectively.

So the pay rate is higher if an indie author is not enrolled in Kindle Unlimited but…an author wouldn’t get the promotional benefits provided by Amazon.

It’s a tricky issue about whether indie authors should enroll in Kindle Select and be part of Kindle Unlimited. Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, talked about how authors who go exclusive with Amazon become more dependent (rather than independent) of Amazon.

Coker’s statement is something of note, considering many authors are focused on growing an audience and readership for their book(s). Is remaining exclusive to Amazon helpful or hurtful to authors? Is remaining exclusive to Amazon beneficial or hurtful in the short or long run?

It’s the author’s choice to decide.