12 Thoughts on Kindle Unlimited

by Steve Scott | Join Him On Facebook

Amazon recently launched Kindle Unlimited.  Does it help authors? Or will it kill your sales?  Check out these 12 thoughts to learn about the long-term results of this program.

It’s been over a month since Amazon launched their Kindle Unlimited (KU) program, which gives readers unlimited access to 600,000 titles and audiobooks for the price of $9.99 per month.

During this time, there has been varied opinions on what this program means to both authors and readers.

On one extreme, there are people with the “Chicken-Little-the-sky-is-falling” mindset who feel this is yet another example of how Amazon is destroying books.

And on the other end, there are the people who praise every change that Amazon makes to their publishing platform.

Also during this time, I’ve had a number of people email me, asking my opinion on Kindle Unlimited. Did I see an increase in downloads for my habit books? Or am I seeing a negative impact on sales?

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about KU. While I love the idea, I do think there are some negatives to this program that might hurt authors in the long term.

So in today’s post, I’ll go over 12 thoughts I have about KU—both the good and the bad. Plus, I’ll cover a few strategies you can use to get the most out of this program.

Let’s get to it.

Thought #1. The Payout is Decent (For Now)

When KU was launched, my first reaction was that Amazon had to keep the payout near the $2.00 they offer for Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL) borrows. Otherwise, authors might leave the KDP Select program and move to competing platforms.

Two weeks ago, the first payouts were announced and authors saw around $1.81 per KU download. Not quite $2.00. But still pretty good because many authors saw their total borrows skyrocket. So while the payout isn’t quite the same, many authors increased their total revenue.

Example: In the weeks before the launch of KU, I was averaging 60 to 100 borrows per day. Then, after the launch, I’ve seen anywhere from 160 to 1,800 borrows per day. Obviously, there are major outliers like the 1,800 borrow day on August 1st, but overall, I’d say my average borrows have more than tripled.

Here’s a pretty graph to show what I mean:


(Click the image to enlarge)

My point?

While the payout per book isn’t as good as a sale or the $2.00+ KOLL borrow, the total volume of KU borrows more than makes up for a lower payout.

Thought #2. Amazon’s Math Doesn’t Add Up

I’m no math whiz, but it seems like Amazon’s calculation don’t quite add up. From their email sent to Kindle publishers on August 14th, it seems like they had to “find” a lot of extra money in order to reach this $1.81 payout.

To start, here’s the second paragraph of their email:

Kindle Unlimited (KU) is off to a great start with a strong early response from customers. Due to this early surge in demand, we are adding a KU “launch bonus” of $500,000 to the KDP Select global fund for July 2014. This is on top of the base fund amount of $2 million in July. This brings the total funds paid on borrows to $2.5 million, which is more than double the size of payments in June.

And then there’s this section:

For July we have decided to extend payment to all KU books downloaded and opened in July, even those not read past 10%. To support this, we will add an additional $285,000 in July payments, making the funds paid to authors in July $2,785,000.

We all like bonuses, but it’s not a good sign that the KU program can’t pay for itself.   Perhaps they underestimated the volume of borrows. Or maybe they’re willing to lose money in the short-term to bury Scribd and Oyster. Or perhaps the payout will be substantially lower in the months to come.

All of this is pure conjecture, but right now, I’m not convinced that the $9.99 subscription will completely pay for the royalties given to authors. So where will the money come from?

Thought #3. Amazon Really Wants Authors in the KDP Select Program

The biggest drawback to KDP Select is the 90 day exclusivity clause. This is a huge drawback for many authors. So, Amazon must continuously roll out new tools that incentivize authors to stay in the program

First it was the free days with KOLL borrows. Then it was Kindle Countdown Deals (KCD). And now it’s KU. (Sidenote: Don’t worry…I also get confused with all these K-acronyms.)

The reason self-published authors stick with KDP Select is because they see a strong financial benefit behind this decision. So I’m willing to bet that Amazon doesn’t mind losing money in the short-term to keep authors happy. Sure, this won’t help the bottom line of KU, but it might help Amazon maintain their dominance of the eBook market.

Thought #4. KU Helps Catalog Businesses

My recommended strategy to Kindle authors is to build a catalog of eBooks. Instead of trying to hit a home run with one book, you should create shorter titles (15,000 to 25,000 words apiece) that thoroughly solve one problem. It’s like blogging. Each entry drills down into a topic and provides an in-depth answer. From what I’ve seen, KU really helps authors who follow this catalog approach.

To illustrate this point, let’s go over some fictional numbers…

Pretend you have a catalog of 10 books, that each cost $2.99. You know that your average reader will purchase three books, which costs them $9 and adds $6 to your total revenue (per Amazon’s 70 percent royalty rate.)

With a KU subscription, if a reader really likes your content, there is no additional “purchases” he or she has to make in order to check out your entire catalog. So, in theory, they could borrow all 10 of your books, which generates $18.00. That’s three times what you would have made on sales.

Obviously, these numbers are completely fabricated. But I’ve received at least ten emails from readers who say they’ve picked up my entire catalog simply because the books are now “free” through KU. These are the kind of emails you want to get.

Now, I’d still be happy even if KU borrows dip to $1.00. The more people who download my books, means more long-term customers and subscribers. While you don’t make as much per unit, you get a heck of a lot more exposure and discoverability.

Thought #5. KU Borrows Improve Category Rankings

So far, I’ve seen strong evidence that every KU borrow acts as a sale in Amazon’s ranking algorithm. That means your books will move up the category charts (and get more exposure), simply because they’re part of the program.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any hard data to back up this claim because six months ago I stopped worrying the ranking of my books. But I do know that before KU, one or two of my books were in the Top 100 for Business & Investing category. Now I see about five on this chart. Really, the only “change” was the introduction of the KU program.

Overall, my gut tells me that Amazon treats a KU borrow just like a sale. So, if you’re looking to improve your exposure or category rankings, then the program can help.

Thought #6. KU Might Cannibalize Sales

According to my charts in the last month, it looks like the KU borrows cause a decrease in sales. Think of it this way…It’s not like Amazon flipped over a rock and discovered a new crop of book readers. The KU subscribers are the same people who used to buy your books. So odds are, borrows negatively impact sales.

For instance, in the few weeks leading up to KU, I was averaging anywhere from 430 to 1300 purchases (once again, there were a few “outlier” days where I ran a special promotion.) After KU launch, I now see anywhere from 250 to 560 sales.

ku-sales(Click image to enlarge)

Now, you could explain that the diminished sales are partially due to the fact that I took off the last seven weeks and went on vacation. But I also feel that some of the decrease is due to customers borrowing books instead of buying them.

Thought #7. Some Authors Will Game the System

Amazon was really smart with one rule for KU. In order to get paid on a borrow, your readers must complete over 10 percent of the book. Unfortunately, I feel this will lead to a glut of “Kindle gurus” who recommend dodgy gimmicks to game this system.

For instance, I’ve already seen advice about adding lots of front-matter (to encourage readers to flip through the book) or to write shorter books (a smaller page count to reach the 10 percent threshold.) Not only will these tactics tick off subscribers, they will add to the growing negative reputation of self-published books.

Do yourself a favor… Avoid any tactic that tricks readers or leads to an inferior reading experience. Instead, write quality content that solves a specific problem. In other words, focus on the fundamentals that I mentioned in this post.

Thought #8. Authors Might Become Too Dependent on Amazon  

I’ll be the first to admit it’s dangerous to build your business around one platform. I’m taking a huge risk by keeping my books in KDP Select, but I made this decision fully knowing what could happen.

Now, with KU, there is yet another benefit to sticking with KDP Select. But there’s an inherent danger to thinking that the good times will always last. With KU, I can easily see authors relying too much on the Amazon platform.

History has shown that nothing stays the same. In the last decade, we’ve seen many “can’t miss” income strategies collapse. Once upon a time, you could make good money with Google Adwords, Adsense, EzineArticles.com and Facebook. But, something changed with each site, which put many folks out of business. The same thing could easily happen with Kindle. If you’re in KDP Select and expect the payouts to last, then you might wake up one day and get a nasty surprise.

While I depend on KDP Select for the bulk of my income, I’m also a realist. I own all the rights to my books, I’m growing a sizeable email list and I’m looking beyond Amazon for additional revenue streams. In other words, I’m building my own platform.

Right now, the payouts are good for KU borrows and Amazon has the strongest platform. But don’t expect it to last forever. My advice is to take advantage of these good times by building your own following.

At a bare minimum, start an email list. Then grow your audience by providing free content on a platform like a blog, podcast or YouTube channel. The more you can do to build your audience, the stronger position you’ll be in if (or when) Amazon changes a major rule. (Check out my case study to learn how I’ve built my own platform for Develop Good Habits.)

Thought #9. KU Has a Limited Selection

On the surface, 600,000 sounds like a lot of books. But besides a handful of famous authors (i.e. Michael Lewis, Hugh Howey and Suzanne Collins), the books are mostly comprised of self-published titles. This could be a problem if readers don’t get the books they want to read.

For instance, in the past month, I’ve really gotten into the Ryria Revelations series by Michael J. Sullivan. So when I first subscribed to KU, I didn’t want to read the 32,000 books listed in their fantasy category—I simply wanted the next chapter in the adventures of Royce and Hadrian. (Since these books are published by Hachette, I don’t see them being part of KU anytime in the future.)

Many readers feel the same way. While some might enjoy “discovering” new authors, most want to read specific books by specific authors. And if they get don’t see them in KU, then there’s little incentive to stay subscribed.

Down the road, this limited selection could become a big problem if Amazon doesn’t add more popular books to the KU program.

Thought #10. KU is a Two-Tier System?

I’ve also heard the argument that KU has basically created a two-tier system. The argument here is that certain traditionally published and popular authors don’t have to play by the same rules like self-published authors. Instead, they get two major advantages:

  • Full royalties on each KU borrow like they would with a sale
  • No exclusivity rule—they can publish their books on other platforms.

I have mixed feelings about this argument. While I think it’s a good thing to get as many popular books into KU as possible, the math simply doesn’t add up. If Amazon is paying out $7 per borrow to a traditionally published author, then it doesn’t leave much money for the rest of us. Plus, it’s another reminder that different rules apply to different people.

Nobody knows what will happen in the future, but it will be interesting to see what happens when/if Amazon starts adding more popular titles into the KU catalog.

Thought #11. KU Bounty Program?

Amazon has shown they want KU to succeed. So what will they do to make this happen? I could easily see them set up some sort of “bounty program” similar to ACX.com. On ACX, authors get $50 when their audiobook is the first purchase made by an Audible listener. Will Amazon create something like that?

We probably won’t receive a $50 payout, but I think it would a great idea to allow authors to set up a special “KU Landing Page” that promotes their books. Instead of telling readers to buy books separately, we could market the KU program as a way to get a dramatic price break on our entire catalog. The authors gets a bounty with additional borrows and Amazon gets another KU subscriber. Everybody wins.

Thought #12. KU is Worth Trying…For Now

Like everything else in life, results will differ. While I see many positives in the KU program, some people feel it will damage their sales. My advice? Try it out and see happens.

Think of it this way… A book in KDP Select requires a 90 day exclusivity contract. Now compare this to a multi-year contract from a traditional publisher. 90 days isn’t that long of a time. You can try it for a few months and see if it positively impacts your book sales. If it doesn’t, then you can move your book to other platforms.

For now (late August 2014), I’m sticking with Kindle Unlimited. The payout is pretty good and the program helps grow my audience. But there are some negatives to the program. At the end of the day, you have to carefully weigh both the good and the bad to see what makes the most sense for your business.

Agree? Disagree?

Sound off in the comment box below…

Take Action. Get Results.


Josh Barsch

Hey — great article! The best yet I’ve seen on KU. I just wanted to point out that in Thought 8, I think you meant to say “dependent” rather than “depended.” Figured you didn’t catch that. Thanks again for the article!

Steve Scott

Hey Josh– Thanks, glad to share my thoughts on KU. And a big thanks on catching the grammar. I didn’t have time to run this by my editor like I normally do. 🙂

Josh Barsch

No problem man, I actually didn’t plan for you to publish my comment, just wanted to let ya know privately. Thanks!

Steve Scott

Haha…no worries. I mess up things all the time, but don’t mind when people let me know. It’s how I learn how to improve both the blog and my writing.

Joe Bigtime

Have you ever thought of writing fiction?

Steve Scott

Hey Joe — I’d definitely love to. But that would be at least a year away…have way too much to do right now. 🙂

Harshajyoti Das

Amazing stats Scott. I agree when you said, that we shouldn’t solely get dependent on Amazon for sales. It’s always advisable to start building our own following asap.

Scott, I always wondered how your dashboard would look like. Thank you for being so transparent with those screenshots.

On a side note, I am writing a book called, “The Art Of Book Marketing For Self-Published Authors”. As a part of my research, I need to pick the brains of a few experts. Would you be willing to answer a few questions about book marketing and promotion? You will of course be cited.

Steve Scott

Harshajyoti — Glad to show it! Should have shown screenshots a long time ago…keep on forgetting when I write these posts.

Re: Your book. I’m definitely interested. But could you send me a direct email: stevescottsite[at]gmail[dot]com

D Kendra Francesco

My daughter and I have been thinking about signing up for this. I’ll show her your article. I’ve decided to wait, since most of the kinds of titles I’ve bought recently aren’t included. I already have a number of your books (and Mr. Stables’ below), and several other authors. But what my daughter reads is completely different from my fare.

In the meantime, you’ve given me the “argument” I needed for those who say, “professional writers don’t use free email carriers”. Obviously, yes they do.

Thank you for both.

Steve Scott

There are valid points two both sides of the argument. My main contention is it works for me, but you should test it out on your own and see what kind of results you get.

Kurt Frankenberg

D Kendra,

I gotta recommend KU as a user. Not only have I rounded out my Steve Scott collection 😉 but I’m also able now to browse through a book and see quickly if it actually delivers on the promise made by its cover.

I’m digging books by Tom Corson-Knowles and Michal Sta for example. And I’ve been able to sort through garbage and repetition by other authors without committing to buying their book to do so.

Steve, great treatment of this subject; more thorough than any commentary I’ve read on KU. As a KDP author myself, I’m adjusting my strategy in light of the “catalog” idea. Already WAS due to your example, but now it seems that the timing is just right for guys like you that have an extensive list of books.

Keep Stepping,


Steve Scott

Hey Kurt — Thanks again for checking out my books on KU! I’m actually doing the same…lately, I’ve been flying through a bunch of titles that *might* have good content. If so, I’ll continue reading. If not, I send it back and pick up another.

Re: Catalog. Glad to see you taking the catalog approach. That strategy has made a huge difference in my business.

And you keep stepping as well 🙂

Harshajyoti Das

Thank you Steve. I have just sent you an email with a couple of questions. Thank you so much for your time. I am sure, you will be able to inspire many others to write and publish their own books.

Steve Scott

Thanks Harsh! Got them and should be able to complete them in a week or so.

Francis Fanzilli

Thanks man, you always post awesome stuff. One point on thought #2 – I think Amazon can afford to take a loss on KU indefinitely. A program like this gets relatively sophisticated buyers in the door – I think their aim is to make more money on higher priced items vs. trying to make KU profitable for them.

As for my experience with KU – I’ve been building out a site and large e-mail list off Amazon and will now get back to publishing content (in the shorter, simpler style you described). We’ll see how KU works for me!

Anyways, keep the great posts coming!

Steve Scott

Francis — You might be right about that. If people are regularly picking up books in KU, they might feel the need to buy other things. Who knows? Maybe the $9.99 will mitigate the lose a bit for the borrows and Azon knows they’ll generate income through other sales channels. Great point!

Jim F. Kukral

Great stuff Steve. Thanks for taking the time to lay it all out.

Steve Scott

Thanks Jim. More than happy to share.

BTW– Really excited for your conference. You have some great speakers lined up!

Jim F. Kukral

Yes! Excited for you to be there. Next one you’ll be on stage. You have too much to share.

Steve Scott

Sounds like a plan. 🙂 Speaking of which, I definitely have to start working on my public speaking skills. Sad to say, that’s a habit I’ve avoided for way too long.

Tim Brennan

One thing I am confused about…. it used to be that Amazon Prime members could borrow one book per month. Is this still true? Or do they also have to be “Kindle unlimited” members now?

Great stuff Steve!

Steve Scott

Hey Tim — As far as I know, you still get a borrow each month from Prime and KU is a completely different option. So I guess if you’re a member of both, there would be no point to using your Prime for Kindle. That said, I might be wrong about this.


Steve, your floating social thingy is not letting me read the first paragraph your articles on the phone. It is very irritating.

Ian Stables

Hi Steve. KU definitely affects your sales rank. I have definitive proof. I published a brand new book. It had not received any sales. However, it has been borrowed. The book has a sales rank number assigned to it. That proves that borrows affect rank.

Steve Scott

Good to hear you see a direct correlation. I’ve seen some evidence of my own books being positively impacted, but didn’t pay attention to sales ranking before KU. Thanks for letting me know!


Awesome insights as always Steve!

Your books/blog have helped me go from self publishing newbie in Nov. 2013 to making around 14k a month between KDP and CreateSpace.

My thoughts – At the end of the day, KU gives us more exposure and turns more “lookers” into “buyers”. Ultimately, I believe it will make us more money in the long run. What will be interesting is to see how many people actually sign up for the subscription service after 30 day free trial ends.

As for your sales figures. You have a very loyal following so I believe that people who may have downloaded two of your books in the past are just instantly downloading all your KU stuff.

Steve Scott

Great to see how you’ve applied everything and seen your revenue shoot up. It shows how much consistency pays off.

I hope you’re right about “the more money long term.” I do like the fact it provides more exposure and potentially lots more downloads per reader, but we really won’t know what will happen until KU has been out for a few months.


Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to explain this whole KU program. As a new author, having just published my second book, I was getting a bit concerned about all these “borrowing” options instead of buying. I understood the Prime Membership borrow payment that authors received, but this KU thing had me slightly confused.

Love your books, and getting your monthly membership update.

Thank again for clearing things up and steering a new author away from shortening my books, just for the 10% read.


Steve Scott

My pleasure Suzanne (and thanks for stopping by.) Yes, KU can be a bit confusing, especially since there are two VERY conflicting opinions on its merits.

Mark L Messick

I’ve seen just about the same stats as you.

Borrows skyrocketed and sales went down slightly at first — but the borrows greatly affected my sales rank which in turn got me further borrows and downloads. (Through bestseller lists, etc.)

Because of the sales rank help it turns out that August may be my highest paying month yet. (And that’s WITHOUT even publishing a new book.)

I also came to the same conclusion as you.

KU is a good option RIGHT NOW, but things could change very quickly. Amazon has repeatedly shown that they have a “lose first, win later” strategy (for example, they lose money on the production of Kindle devices, in hopes that they’ll make a profit through book sales) which is CURRENTLY good for us authors.

Amazon is losing the majority of royalties per book (they only get 30% per sale) which means they’re currently “losing”.

So when are they going to pull the rug out so to speak, and start “winning”?

Steve Scott

That’s a VERY valid question Mark. I love the developments, but I’ve also seen people get burned in the past by trusting a large corporation. Kind of reminds of that old adage, “When the sun shines, make hay.” Things are good with Amazon, so we should maximize this platform with the assumption that something might change along the way.

Mark L Messick

100% agreed.

One thing that worries me is the exclusivity clause in KDP Select. That shows that Amazon is looking to crush the competition and dominate the ebook market.

And to do that they’re willing to lose a little upfront. But once they’ve eliminated the competition what’s to stop them from “cashing in”?

We saw this same exact scenario play out in the movie rental industry. Companies like Redbox and Netflix put all of the rental shops out of business, and AFTERWARDS they jacked up the prices (if only slightly) and will continue to do so.

I think Amazon will do the same thing, more or less.

But I also think that Amazon is very smart, and they know that in order to keep turning a nice profit they NEED us authors.

Without us, they fail. If things get too bad and authors start backing out then Amazon’s entire system will collapse. So while things may get slightly less lucrative for authors, I also don’t think they’ll totally dump us.

But, this is all just speculation. The only thing to really do is exactly what you’re doing: plan ahead, hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Steve Scott

Re: “Cashing in”… scary thought there, but not impossible. Of course, once Amazon feels comfortable, they can basically do whatever they want. Good points with Netflix and Redbox. They completely buried Blockbuster…I hated that chain, but still felt bad about how quickly they got taken out. Overall, extremely valid points. Definitely kicked my “paranoid radar” up a few notches. 🙂

Fran Civile

You’ve written another great article Steve! I have read some diverse opinions about the new KU program, but your 12 points did it for me … I can see it all more clearly now.

I’m going to share with a curated post on my blog.

Steve Scott

Thanks a bunch for the comment and share Fran. There’s a lot of different things to consider with KU, so hope this helped you make an informed decision.

Tim Hague

Hey Scott, good stuff. Just a comment about Amazon and financials…this is a company that is not really driven by profits in any aspect of its operations. Very different than the norm but it certainly allows them to dominate any market it goes into and as you mentioned I think it’s just their way of making sure they continue to dominate the eBook market. One other point of note is that the KU is another incentive for an iPad only tablet user (like myself) to consider buying a Kindle fire so there is a hardware sales pitch to the KU decision.

Steve Scott

Excellent point Tim! I didn’t think of how this program could positively impact hardware sales. Maybe it’s another way they’re willing to “lose money” in order to drum up revenue in other aspects of their business.


I hear what you say Scott, and I don’t have near the down loads that you do, but I’m with you, I’m going to see what happens to sales and then make my decission to stay or not.
Right now I’ve had more down loads, but less revenue. So like you say, do you wat more exposure, or more money?
At the moment I’m leaning to pull out.
Paul F

Steve Scott

Hey Paul — At the end of the day, you have to make decisions that work best for YOU. If you’re seeing a decrease in revenue, then it might make more sense to promote your books across ALL platforms.

Matt Stone

One thing I’ve noticed is that books that are selling well are getting tons of borrows/KU downloads. Books that aren’t selling well aren’t getting many borrows/KU at all. It seems to me that low-ranking books are getting buried deeper and high-ranking books are soaring up the sales rankings.

If anything it just reinforces the notion that you should write good books and give them a great launch rather than try to game the system.

One nice perk when running a lot of 99-cent promos is that there is typically a big surge in KU downloads during a 99-cent promo, making the drop to 35% royalty on many of those promos much easier to swallow.

Steve Scott

Hmmmm… you know, I think you’re right. I didn’t crunch the numbers on different books. But it makes sense that the rich get richer (i.e. popular books). In theory, we might see more long-term sales on the poorer selling books as readers work their way through a catalog.

I haven’t done a $.99 promo (up until today) and haven’t launched a book since KU. It would be interested to see what the numbers show. I’ll definitely keep you updated.


Thanks, Steve, for the presentation on Amazon.
I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. I have published several books with them and always treated me ok. My biggest problem with Amazon is that they won’t let me sell their goods online due to where I live..Colorado..bummer.
Always enjoy everything you publish and have all of your books on Amazon, wouldn’t miss a one without buying/renting.

Steve Scott

Hey Ron — I hear you on that. If I lived in Colorado or California, I’d be a little ticked off.

Anywho…thanks for the support on the Kindle front. Truly appreciate it. 🙂


Just after a bit of clarification guys – so from what Amazon said the KU units listed in our sales dashboard are all of the KU ‘purchases’ made, yet we don’t know how many of those were read past 10% in order to receive the royalty?

Steve Scott

SJ — As far as I can tell, the KU units now show the downloads that have been read at 10%. Last week, Amazon updated the pages to show this metric. That said, I might be wrong about this.


In short: we are being bribed once again to stay with Amazon.
Their bribes has no real competition… so we stay.

I like what Matt said about KU, that it seems to promote higher quality books.

Steve Scott

Good points… KU might be seen as a bribe or another incentive.

Prasenjeet Kumar

Great article, Steve as usual. I also believe that KU might end up cannibalising sales. But I don’t mind if my revenue increases substantially through borrowing and more readers end up discovering me this way.

Let’s see what really happens in the future!

Steve Scott

There is definitely a strong possibility that it would cannibalize sales long-term. Right now, it’s really a waiting game to see what will happen.

Marta Tuchowska

Great article Steve! As usual.
I totally agree with you, authors should work on building their own platforms, e-mail lists and good relationship with their subscribers.
In #8 you say: “I own all the rights to my books”, my question is: do you register your publishing rights somewhere ( officialy) to protect yourself before you publish your work?
Most authors (including me) assume that once your personally written content is self-published, you own the rights to it, but…( a big BUT)..with so many copy and paste guys out there…if someone steals my content what would I do?
I was wondering what are your thoughts on that.
I also agree with you that books that are 15-25 K words will always do well as opposed to those 18 pages useless pamphlets produced by “kindle gurus” and their “students”.
@Harshajyoti Das- good to see you here. Waiting for your new book!

Steve Scott

Marta — I’m definitely NOT a lawyer, but as far as I understand the law, you have inherent copyright when you publish a book. But if you sign away your rights (like with a traditionally published deal), your obligated to follow what’s written on the contract. As far as the cut-and-pasters, you can contact Amazon if someone is REALLY being obvious about it. I’ve actually had a book or two taken down, because they were almost word-for-word reproductions of my stuff.

Re: 15k to 25K. Glad you agree! Honestly, I feel the marketplace is maturing. Readers expect more value and content for their purchase. It’s up to us to provide as good of a reading experience as possible.


Hmmm. “Gaming the system” didn’t even occur to me. I actually thought this would raise standards by adding an (extra) incentive to authors wanting to benefit from KU to write a killer first chapter to encourage readers to read on. Maybe I’m naive?

Steve Scott

Hey Karen — Unfortunately, some people don’t see it that way. It’s funny…I published this post yesterday, and today I came across a “Kindle Unlimited Secrets” course…certain gurus are already teaching methods to shortcut the process. This is the kind of stuff that ticks me off.

Kathi Linz

Well worth my time to read and definitely something to chew on. I plan to do quite a bit of writing now that the season is winding down and you’ve given me the information I need to make wise choices. I find the books and articles you put out are excellent information. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience. Kathi

Mark L Messick

I think the SMART ONES (like you) will know that a totally amazing first chapter is the real secret to being successful with KU.

But most authors aren’t really that smart — they’re lazy. In fact, most “authors” on Amazon are really actually internet marketers who outsource hundreds of crappy books and try to cheat readers out of their money.

Those are the kind of people who will try to game the system, but they will ultimately fail in the end.

The smart ones like you who have great quality books are the ones that will make a nice long-term income with Kindle.

Steve Scott

Agreed. And actually, I feel that since other people might *game* the system, as authors, we should start focusing on improving the quality/length of the books. The closer we can get to traditionally published books, the better we’ll be in the long-term.

Stephen Guise

My thoughts are similar to yours; I’m wary of KU. Like you, I saw a fairly significant dip in sales when KU was launched. I did see about triple the borrows, but my book is 5.99, so I need two borrows for every sale I lose (assuming $2 per borrow payout).

For me, it boils down to that payout number. If it stays around $2, I’m happy. If it dips to $1, I will NOT be happy and will likely drop exclusivity with Amazon. If Kindle Unlimited is bringing Amazon more revenue, it should bring authors more revenue too, but if it’s only bringing traditional publishers more revenue and hurting self-published authors, Amazon will get burned by the droves of authors who drop exclusivity.

And if Amazon is losing money to gain market share, they need to absorb that loss and not pass it on to us.

I think they know this, and so I have faith that they’ll at least keep the borrow payout above $1.50. This really does encourage shorter, lower-priced books, where a borrow pays you about the same as a sale, and it’s easy for people to read to the 10% mark. Your catalog of books at $2.99 is already well-positioned to succeed with KU.

It’s an industry-rattling move, that’s for sure. It should be an interesting ride!

Steve Scott

Yeah, I feel authors who have books like yours (longer word counts, higher prices) are at a disadvantage with KU. If it goes below $1, then you’ll definitely take a hit with this new program. My advice:: Start working on your next book. 🙂 You probably knew I was going to say that. 🙂

Dr. Jim Sellner, PhD., DipC.

Excellent article. Boy there’s a lot to learn & keep up on. Thank you so much, Steve, for your work. Trust you had a great vacation.

Steve Scott

Thanks Jim! It was a fun vacation, but really nice to get back to work.

vella di

Thanks for sharing informative article. Some great useful points here about Kindle Unlimited. I think KU is the best way to increase sales rank. I learn great thoughts with this post.
Thanks for sharing valuable post with us.

Steve Scott

My pleasure Vella!

Marlayna Glynn Brown

Fantastic article. Thanks for laying out the points. My catalogue of 6 is exclusive on Amazon….and I have 1 trilogy that is not. The trilogy does not sell outside of Amazon. You’ve inspired me to dig deeper and truly examine my numbers….which seem to be showing fewer sales but a huge increase in borrows. Thanks again.

Steve Scott

Marlayna– I definitely encourage you to dig into the numbers. That’s really the only way to truly know what works for you. I’m actually going to take a few books out of Kindle Select in a few months to make absolutely sure that I’m making the right decision. Really, it’s a matter of making decisions that best work for YOUR business and not someone else’s.

Timo Hofstee

Hello Steve, I only read your post just right now. I agree with most of your points, especially with the latest one. I also analyzed in detail the effect of KU on my sales and borrows and, although it started out rather positive, future trends look worrying. You can find the in depth analysis with graphs etc. on my blog.

But I come to the same conclusion: Sales down, borrows up (at least temporarily), but we have to wait for another 2 months to see how this really ripples out on the long term.

Keep writing!

Steve Scott

Thanks for the comment Timo. I’ll take a look at the post after I respond to comments. I do see a downward trend of my sales/borrows. But I also haven’t published a book in almost two months, which ALWAYS leads to a decrease in sales. Unfortunately, it’s hard to be sure if reduced sales are caused by “book atrophy” or if it’s due to KU. Hopefully in the next few months, we’ll learn more about the long-term ramifications of KU.

Haze Lau

Hey Steve, thanks for this! It’s certainly great to know how it benefits authors (for now) in term of payout and improve category rankings.

I also very agree with you in Thought 7. I feel it’s really important to educate our fellow self-published authors on publishing quality content than trying to game the system with dodgy tricks, in order to keep this Kindle publishing ecosystem healthy in the long run.

More Kindle authors focus on content quality = more high quality Kindle ebooks = more readers are happy to buy = more money Amazon makes = more payout and benefits to Kindle authors

Personally I think the players played a large part for causing those old income strategies to collapse as too many of them had abused the system. Really thanks for not being one of those “Kindle guru” and continue sharing honest and useful insights.

Steve Scott

Definitely agree. The more quality books we get into Amazon, the more it legitimizes the entire model.

Re: “No Kindle guru.” Thanks! I try my best to provide as helpful information as possible.

Diana Loera

I really enjoyed the KU article.
I watched my KU sales go up considerably and my regular sales dipped somewhat but not too much. I am definitely keeping stats on KU vs regular sales.
Thanks again for a great article!
Diana Loera

Steve Scott

Yeah, KU is something we have to closely monitor. Still not sold on the program, but for right now, it seems to benefit people who do smaller books.


Hello Sir, please do you still earn a living with affiliate marketing? I have started implementing what I learned in your affiliate marketing without the bullshit course… just wanted to know if I can still hope to make a living online via affiliate marketing…

Steve Scott

Hey Tayo — While I still earn some money with affiliate marketing, it’s no longer my main strategy. I still feel you can earn a living with affiliate marketing, but like everything else, you need to build a brand/audience and promote products that directly solve a problem that they regularly experience.


I found your site because of your books being in the KU system (I was actually looking at your author page on Amazon to see what other books you had in KU.)

There were 2 points that I think play off each other in your advantage (this is the viewpoint of the reader here, so I can understand taking it with a grain of salt): Thought #4 (Helps the Catalog) & Thought #6 (Might Cannibalize Sales).

One of my biggest fears as a reader is buying a self-published e-book for $2-3 only to find out it’s complete junk. It’s happened more times than I care to think about. Since they often have fewer reviews, I became hesitant to buy a book unless it came recommended. The reason I signed up for KU was a chance to read all those books I was thinking about. Technically, this could cannibalize sales (I’m not buying, just borrowing.) At the same time, I’ve actually gone back and bought several books I’ve read through KU so I could have an open spot in my selection but have the book able to read again. I was also more willing to buy (not just borrow) other books in the author’s catalog because he had proven his ebooks were worth my money!

Like I said, I’m a reader, but I can see that being helpful for the writers. Now that it’s been a few months, how is it panning out for you?

Steve Scott

Glad to see you over here Jacqui!

You’re right…as a reader, I totally love Kindle Unlimited. It lets you take chances on books you wouldn’t normally consider. I now scan through a few books a week, simply because they’re available on KU.

As an author, I still have some mixed feelings. It’s definitely hurt my total volume of sales. The payouts are lower (it was $1.54) last month and it might get lower. For now, I’m still in a “wait-and-see” pattern. But after I launch two more books in the six weeks, I’ll have a little more data to make a long-term decision for sticking with the program.

Kim @ A Fictional Universe

I kind of like the idea. Like a Netflix for books. But I`m not an author, so what do I know. I only want cheep access to lots of books without having to go to the library.

I am more interested in audiobooks, and it is sadly to few of them on kindle unlimited.

Steve Scott

Hey Kim — Yes, I definitely think it’s a great service for “power readers,” but like you said, not too many audiobooks. I think that will change as more authors start embracing that platform.


Steve, thank you for this post! I believe Kindle Unlimited is the way to go and I myself have great results with it. It is all about numbers. More books (quality books), more sales!

Steve Scott

Lots of things have changed since I wrote this post…I still like Kindle Unlimited, but it’s not as profitable like it once was. But for new authors it provides a great way to build and audience and monetize your early books.


A great article. Even though its been out a while it still gives me a crystal clear take away that I needed to hear: Amazon Kindle is good now (and probably good for a while in one way or another) so tap into it. But don”t under any circumstances neglect to build a platform that can survive outside of Kindle f it needs to.

Having only just got to your DGH case study I see that is what you have been doing. I wonder – are you planning to try to integrate Youtube into that platform more? I have very mixed feelings about YT but also feel its a piece of the puzzle with potential.

Steve Scott

Hey Simon … it’s been awhile since I wrote this article, but KU still does have some benefits. That said, I’m moving some books out of KDP Select, just to see what else is out there.

Re: YouTube. Not really. It’s one of this things that I know gets results, but for now, sticking to a few core strategy and trying to maximize them. I’ve learned that it’s best to not spread yourself so thin when it comes to building a brand.

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