Four months ago, I wrote this post: On Self Publishing: Top Ten Lessons I’ve Learned…So Far. A lot of that was cheerleader type stuff and cautions about social media do’s and don’ts. I did mention however that new authors should start with Amazon and the Kindle Select Program (Point 8 in the post). Today, especially given all of the changes to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (KU) Program for readers, I wanted to take a closer look and Kindle Select and, especially, Kindle Unlimited.
The problem with KU before was that an author who wrote a 300 page work of fiction was getting paid the same borrow rate as the author who wrote a 12 page book on how to tie a tie (the past couple of months, about $1.33 a borrow). The payment system favored short, slapped together books over much longer researched works of non-fiction or full length fiction novels. Beginning July 1st, Amazon changed the game. Now author’s will be paid by the number of pages actually read. Here’s what works and what doesn’t now:
1. Very short non-fiction books are out.
If you don’t have dozens of short books, in series, that get enough borrows to give you high volume, you’re not going to be making any money via Kindle Unlimited. That train left the station. Your payment per borrow will be pennies.
2. Short stories will do better as anthologies.
Short stories in some genre’s do well at a $.99 sale price but setting the price to $2.99 to garner borrows at well over a dollar were the real boon to authors used to making only $.35 on that $.99 sale. (Note: You have to sell at $2.99 to be in Kindle Select and take advantage of KU borrows unless your book is on a countdown deal). Listing individual short stories in KU is just not going to work anymore. Your five or ten page story will only make you a few cents now. If you’ve done several stories and you still want to participate in the KDP program for the exposure, you’ll make the most by collecting your work and putting it out as an anthology now. Take your single stories out of the program, drop the price to $.99 and load them to the 35% royalty structure on Amazon and on all of the other services where they’ll get eyeballs and sales. Load the anthology to Kindle Select.
3. Series works are in.
Even in non-fiction, but certainly in fiction, borrowers love books in series. They’ll read one, return it and then borrow the next. Put all your series books in Select and make sure it’s easy to tell they’re part of a series (subtitled, numbered, etc.)
4. Boxed sets are now a hit.
Buyers love boxed sets of 2 or more books sold at a discount over the per book price. The more the better, to them. Before, it didn’t make financial sense to sell a set through KU with the flat payment system. You lost the payment of subsequent borrows by selling all of your work as a set. Now, themed boxed sets of non-fiction works or boxed series sets are hot with borrowers who can read everything you have back to back without having to borrow multiple books against their limit (10 at a time). It saves them having to search for the next book in your series too. They can just jump right into it.
5. Quality wins!
Under the old KU payment system, If a borrower read a single page of a ten page book (10%) and returned it because it was low quality trash, the author still got paid for the borrow. Ten percent read was all an author needed. Now if borrowers leave a short book after a page or two, the reader ultimately wins. There’s so much less incentive for schemers to put low quality drivel out there with a handful of great reviews to draw buyers when they’ll be collecting only a penny or so instead of well over a dollar for it.