Is Kindle Unlimited still a good option for indie authors?

Indie authors face a myriad of challenges not experienced by traditionally-published authors of larger house. From typesetting, to interior layout, to developing top-notch editing skills, going indie is not for the faint of heart.

But one of the biggest hurdles for an author—regardless of whether those books carry your brand or that of a big name house—is gathering a cluster of loyal readers.

Without a doubt, getting readers to leave positive reviews and flood social media with quotes, images, and trivia about your title is an ongoing, uphill battle that leave many authors discouraged.

Enter Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon’s subscription-based readership program has been around for some time. Authors who’ve been in the business for some years might remember it’s former name—CreateSpace. Regardless of the program’s name, K.U. is essentially a way that readers can get exposed to emerging authors. By paying a nominal fee, readers can read an unlimited quantity of e-books.

This may seem like a win-win as readers are more likely to “take a chance” on a lesser-known author if there’s no price tag staring them in the face. Let’s face it, when many are struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic, books may not be at the top of the priority list.

But if readers are used to paying a set amount for an unlimited amount of product, it feels as though you’re reading the book for free. This can work to an author’s advantage, no matter where you are in your reading journey.

Readers really do like Kindle Unlimited

A five-star reviewer once thanked me for having my book, In the Shadow of Your Wings, on Kindle Unlimited.

And thank you for making it Kindle Unlimited so those of us with multiple readers can quench their thirst without breaking the bank.

Amazon Review

And indeed, for parents or families with many readers, subscription-based reading is a powerful option that saves space, time, and money.

The Kindle Unlimited program limits author options

But there’s a catch. Besides all the competition, Amazon restricts an author’s ability to make digital sales once their books are listed with the program. The retail behemoth also takes a chunk of the royalty pie and pays authors a percentage of a monthly pool of earnings that varies.

So, is Kindle Unlimited still a viable option for indie-authors?

That depends.

If your web traffic allows for a high-volume of sales, then joining the Amazon bandwagon may not be the best option. You will keep more of your hard-earned cash if you sell directly from your site.

However, if your web traffic or conversions are low, you may want to consider enrolling your book in Amazon’s program. It is not a long-term commitment and can increase your exposure to new audiences.

Kindle Unlimited Sales increased in 2019

According their article State of the Kindle 2020, Authormedia.com cites research firm K-lytics. According to their data, Kindle Unlimited sales increased 14% in 2019.

While the pandemic’s impact on e-book sales has yet to be conclusively proven, I think it’s safe to assume that, due to global lockdowns, e-book consumption on subscription-based models will meet or exceed 2019 levels.

The bottom line

The decision to enroll in KDP is a personal one. While at times I’ve de-listed my books from Kindle Unlimited to pursue other options, I have always come back to Amazon’s program simply because I’ve had more success with it than without.

It’s important to recognize that a Kindle Unlimited listing can be used as a “search engine” as well as a book listing. I’ll talk more on that next week.

What’s your take on Kindle Unlimited? Share your thoughts in the comments and post a link to your Amazon page if you have one.

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JP Robinson
JP Robinson

JP Robinson is the President of Lancaster Christian Writers Association, minister, and educator. He has over 15 years experience in education and marketing. JP’s novels have garnered praise by industry leaders such as Publisher’s Weekly.

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