This post is called Kindle Unlimited FAQs, but could just as easily be called ‘A KU Conversation with Kate Canterbary.’
Running a blog dedicated to Kindle Unlimited, it’s obvious that I’m a fan of KU. Quite frankly, my bank account simply can’t keep up with my reading addiction. I’m also not reading the typical, mainstream bestsellers and I love discovering new authors. For me, KU is perfect for both. When people ask me about it, I tell them it’s like Netflix for books.
Oftentimes, the question of compensation for the authors comes up and I’ll admit, I was woefully uninformed. Recently, the question came up in one of the groups in which I’m active, The Walsh Groupies, run by the author of the Walsh Series, Kate Canterbary. I found the conversation extremely informative and I thought you might as well. [PS. Thanks, Kate, for the great info and for letting me share it here!]
One caveat ~ Amazon often changes its rules. This is where it’s at today. If there’s a major shift, I’ll do my best to keep you all up-to-date.
For the purposes of this blog, I’ve trimmed the conversation and removed all names besides Kate’s. I’ve also edited it lightly.
Group Member: Can someone explain to me how it affects an author if you get the book on KU in lieu of buying it on sale for $0.99? Does getting a book through KU hurt? Help? Or have no impact?
Kate Canterbary: Authors are paid a little less than a half cent per page (page # defined by Amazon for the purposes of KU). So if an author has a 350-page book, that comes out to about $1.71 that s/he is paid. For a $0.99 book, the author is paid about $0.30.
GM: What if you borrow the book on KU multiple times? Does the author get paid each time?
KC: Only if you take the book out and check it back in, and then take it out again.
GM: So, how does this work with the audiobooks? I agree, KU has introduced me to many new authors and I’ve ended up purchasing the book because I enjoyed it so much.
KC: I can only speak for myself because my agent handles my audio negotiations, but it’s something like 25% of the retail price. I think.
GM: It sounds to me that KU is better for the author unless you can sell your books for $5.99 or more. And this is based on a 350-pager. I think the bottom line is we want to know how best to support an author that we like.
KC: The very best thing to do is tell other people about the books you love. Most authors who do have books in KU are agnostic to KU vs. purchasing, although some will say do both, but telling others is the best. Whenever there are posts in here, or The Rockstars of Romance Roadies group, or The Locker Room, or wherever — those matter. A lot.
GM: Wow, that is good information to know. I use KU to read the new authors and then I buy the books after if I like them.
GM: Who decides if a book is a part of KU?
KC: The author opts into KU, but it’s a 90-day exclusive commitment to Amazon. You can’t sell at BN, Apple, Kobo, etc. during that time. And the KU-then-buy is a very generous way to love all over your favorite authors.
GM: I’m happy to hear this. You see a lot of anti Amazon, but for someone like me, who reads so fast, KU is the only way I can feed my habit 😇. I’m glad you get paid every time we sign them out, because I like to reread a series every time a new one comes out!
GM: So me checking out every book in a series again to reread before a new one comes out is good? Good to know!
GM: Kate, some authors have half their series on KU and half you have to buy. Do these authors wait to see if people will buy them and then put them on KU if they aren’t selling as they would like? I’m not complaining, but it bums me out when I’ve read most of the series on KU, then can’t afford to read the rest. I was just wondering if they can put them on KU anytime they want?
KC: It varies. Sometimes it’s to generate interest in older releases, sometimes it’s because newer titles are still new and selling across all platforms, sometimes there’s another explanation.
GM: Kate, I love reading all your explanations because I’ve always wondered how KU works. Since you get paid by page, does Amazon track how many pages were read when a book is checked out? Maybe suppose the person checked out the book, read a few chapters, didn’t like it and returned it. Do you get paid for the pages read? Or is it just a full payment for each checkout?
KC: Any pages read.
GM: I use KU to find new authors. I don’t have a lot of extra income so I’m careful on where I spend my “book” money, and I read so much that there is no way I could afford to “keep up my habit” if I didn’t utilize KU.
GM: From what I’ve heard, it’s really rough on new authors without much reach. I used to buy from Smashwords whenever I could, but not many authors seem to try to circumnavigate Amazon any more, it seems. I wish, for their sake, that there was a different way. I think that the authors have to opt in to KU though, right?
KC: KU is a choice, yes. Personally, if I was giving advice to a new author, I’d say start out in KU. It automatically increases your Amazon rank, makes your book more likely to be recommended, and the risk is lower for readers who don’t know you. Then, go wide.
GM: Yeah, and you can decide which books to opt in. My sister has all of her current books on all platforms, but her next new series will go KU first, so it’s not an all-or-nothing thing. She was exclusive to Amazon when she first started.
KC: The direct-to-KU release model has worked very well recently. For some.
GM: There are so many benefits to the reader going KU. If you are an addicted reader as I am, the $9.99 monthly subscription fee will save you if you buy books like I do, and you also get the benefit of obtaining the Audible book at a discount price, if available.
GM: With KU, it’s a borrow situation, correct? You can’t keep them on your Kindle?
GM: You can keep up to 10 at one time. Then, they are sent back into the KU universe one by one every time you download a new KU book. As long as they are in the KU library, you can check them out again later.
GM: Thanks for the question and this thread ladies, I suddenly feel so educated on the ways of supporting my favorite authors. Kate, thank you for your time in giving us this information.
KC: No problem. It’s a hot topic among authors and I’m a data nerd so I research everything.
GM: I think you have to finish the book for the author to get credit. That’s a new rule that came out in 2015. Made a lot of people mad.
KC: Any pages read are credited. No thresholds.
Ok, so there you have it. If you have any questions that weren’t covered, ask them below in the comments and I’ll try to get them answered. Or better yet, join us in The Walsh Groupies on Facebook. I promise, you won’t meet a better bunch of [pervy] ladies!