There has been a lot of chatter on various loops over the past few weeks about whether Amazon's Kindle Unlimited has been a disaster or a triumph for author-publishers.
I have come to the conclusion that it depends what price your books are, how many books you have available and what genre you write in.
Just in case any of you don't know what I'm talking about I will give a brief explanation. K U is similar to Net-flicks or iTunes – you subscribe for £8.99 or $9.99 a month and can then borrow up to 10 books at a time. If you want to borrow an eleventh book then you have to return one of the books already on your device. You can keep these books as long as you want – but I don't know if you can borrow the same book a second time as I've not actually tried to do so.
There are around 75000 books in the system, the majority are author-published, but not all of them. Amazon put in a pot of money each month and, depending how many borrowers there are, the amount given to each author for each loan can vary. As the dollar is so strong at the moment $1.50 means that each borrow is worth £1. Amazon introduced a bonus system last year – if your sales put you in the top hundred you get a substantial payment, and if a book is in the top hundred you get another payment. I've been fortunate to get four of these author bonuses so far.
Now, for me, as I have forty books and box sets available, and most of them are Regency (a very popular niche market), and all these sell at less than £1.50, you can see that every borrow gives me massively more than a sale. In the US my loans often outstrip my sales, but not so in the UK.
However, for those writers who price their books at more than £1.99 every loan could be said to be a loss as they would get slightly more from a sale than from a loan, The more expensive the price of the book the bigger the loss. Some writers have pulled out of Amazon Select because their income has halved. For those authors who have some titles in the system and some out they found that sales for the ones out of the system vanished altogether as readers just borrowed the ones in KU.
I have heard writers say they don't wish their books to be given away free so will not join KU. This is not what is happening, books are not free, they are being borrowed and for each borrow the writer is given a $1.50 compensation – this seems like a good deal to me. Personally, I believe that people are more likely to try my books if they can borrow them than if they have to buy them. I don't think that someone who has borrowed a book is necessarily the same person who would buy it.
KU has doubled my income and I think it a brilliant system and of benefit to writers and readers alike. I am reading more books than before, and even if I don't like the book I have downloaded, I always flick through to the 10% mark so the author gets their payment.
What do you think? If you are a reader, have you joined? If a writer, are you in the system or out?
I can't be the only writer who thinks KU is fantastic , but all I hear on Facebook or tails of woe and anguish.
Fenella J Miller