Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Authors: Is the Future of eBooks Unlimited? – A study



Picture this. A reader is curled up on her couch with a Kindle in her lap, reading and swiping a mystery novel. She had found this author a month ago and already had read three of his books. She used Kindle Unlimited to receive the eBooks online.

Where is Unlimited headed. Well, let us look at the environment we’re in.

The book industry is moving more and more toward eBooks. They are easy to quickly obtain and read. The reader can just find an eBook and buy it or read it for free. The trick is to have the readers find your books.

Millions of books and readers and lots of money available from Amazon. And the good thing is your book will be there forever.

You just have to get the reader to check your book out. Of course, the more books you have on-line the better opportunity you have for sales. And if the books are linked together like a series, the potential for more reads is greater.

The question is: What has been your experience with Kindle Unlimited?

It is time to do a study of Kindle Unlimited and the program’s impact on authors. Over twenty outstanding contributions to the study.

  1. What has been your experience with Kindle Unlimited?

2. Are you involved with a group that promotes Kindle Unlimited?

3. Has making your eBooks available on Kindle Unlimited been worth the time/effort?

In my last study, Group Hug, several top authors acknowledged that sometimes they received more revenue from Kindle Unlimited than from the sale of their books. 

The Starting Gate

The following is a summary of their experiences with Kindle Unlimited.

Dianne Harman

Dianne is an Award-Winning Bestselling Mystery, Suspense and Romance author.
Website - Twitter: @DianneDHarman - Facebook - Goodreads

About 65% of my royalties are from Kindle Unlimited, so I'm a huge fan. I have never had a problem putting them on there. It's quite easy. As to why I went there? I tried wide for about a year when I started but got nowhere. I switched to Kindle Unlimited and my royalties started going  

Mimi Barbour

Mimi is a NYT & USA Today, best-selling, and award-winning author. She writes Romance, Paranormal, and Suspense novels.
Website - Twitter: @MimiBarbour - Facebook - Goodreads

All along, I’d been submitting my books to multi-author box collections, and when I was invited to join one where the books would be strictly for Select [Kindle Unlimited] so we would earn pages-read as well as sales, it went over incredibly well. I decided the ladies at the Billboard needed to have the same experience, and so we started with the first box collection put together in the group called Unforgettable Romances. What a rush! It still sells well to this day. That began a landslide of collections in every genre.

Between us, I often make more on my page-read amount than I do on my sales.

Experience

What was their experiences with Kindle Unlimited.

Cheryl Bradshaw

Cheryl is the New York Times & ten time USA Today bestselling mystery, thriller, and suspense author.
Website - Twitter: @cherylbradshaw - Facebook - Goodreads

I write primarily in mystery/thriller and find the KU program to be very competitive in those genres. KU works for me in subgenre categories where visibility isn't as hard to come by. My ghost mystery series is a perfect example of that. It's a smaller demographic, but that series does a lot better in KU because the competition isn't as fierce. If you're looking to break out in KU, consider publishing in a niche genre where you can attract a demographic of readers who struggle to find enough new books to read in those smaller categories.

Denise Devine

Denise is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary sweet romance, historical and cozy mystery.
Website - Twitter: @denisedevine5 - Facebook - Goodreads

Being part of a multi-author series in KU has been a positive experience for me. Often when someone reads my series book, it leads them to read other books of mine as well.

Bonnie Edwards

Bonnie writes Romance, Contemporary and Paranormal novels and novellas.
Website - Twitter: @BonnieEdwards - Facebook - Goodreads

For years, I kept my books "wide", which is a term for making eBooks widely available on lots of platforms.

I moved most of my books to Kindle Unlimited about 3 years ago because I wasn't marketing my books well enough to make a profit. I had to do something different. My experiment with KU paid off and I've been happy with my decision to focus on only one retailer. My income more than trebled very quickly...but please realize I was a terrible marketer and I take full responsibility for my lack. Moving into KU made marketing easier for this lazy writer.

Dani Haviland

Dani is a USA Today best-selling romance author. She writes the timetravel series, The Fairies Saga.
Website - Twitter: @dani_haviland - Facebook - Goodreads

I publish both solo titles under my own name and box sets for The Authors' Billboard. The KU revenue is much more for the sets (roughly 85%) than my single titles. Weird.

Marla Madison

Marla is the bestselling author of the Detective Kendall Halsrud series and the TJ Peacock & Lisa Rayburn Mysteries.
Twitter: @MarlaAMadison - Facebook - Goodreads

I love KU! I do make more money on my pages-read than on book sales, so I only use KU.

S.R. Mallery

Sarah is the award-winning author who writes Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction, and Mysteries.
Website - Twitter: @SarahMallery1 - Facebook - Goodreads

Having started out with my eBooks being on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc., after a couple of years, I realized that by far, the vast majority of my book sales were coming from Amazon. That led me to temporarily pausing those eBooks on B&N and signing up for Kindle Unlimited on Amazon. That was the best decision I ever made! Now, with all of my books in KU, I find that no matter how many books I sell per day, or, if every once in a while, I don’t even sell that day, I always have pages read, which continues to bring money in.

Amy Metz

Amy is an Author of Mystery & Thrillers as well as a blogger and book editor. She writes the Goose Pimple Junction mystery series.
Website - Twitter: @authoramymetz - Facebook - Goodreads

I've had a really good experience with Kindle Unlimited. Last year's numbers show I made more money on Kindle Unlimited than I did on eBooks or paperback. Making my books available on Kindle Unlimited has definitely been worth it, even though I've done very little to promote my books with it. I like Book Report, because it gives a breakdown of number of pages read through Kindle Unlimited. I can even see daily sales vs. Kindle Unlimited payments.

Stephanie Queen

Stephanie is a USA Today Bestselling Author who writes steamy sports romance novels.
Website - Twitter: @StephanieQueen - Facebook - Goodreads

Your request for information about KU experience is very timely! I haven't had my books in KU except for a few novellas as I wanted to be wide for philosophical reasons. And although with the help of numerous BookBub Features, I'd been able to get my percentage of non-Amazon revenue up to about 40%, I realized it would be very difficult for my romance books to be competitive on Amazon unless they were in KU. 90+ books of the top 100 in every romance category are in KU.

Joan Reeves

Joan is a NY Times & USAToday best-selling author of Contemporary Romance.
Website - Twitter: @JoanReeves - Facebook - Goodreads

My experience with Kindle Unlimited is probably like most authors. It's the biggest game in town and definitely can keep a book earning. However, like books not in KU, discoverability is a factor. The system is glutted by millions of books, and I happen to write in the most popular genre, Romance. Without placing ads, sending newsletters, and always promoting, it's difficult to get and keep traction in the marketplace. There are drawbacks to having all your books on KU too: (1) unable to give away free copies for reviewers (2) unable to satisfy readers who like your work but who buy only from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc. I usually feel as if I'm missing sales at other platforms. (3) Readers who grab your "free" KU read but never read it because their Kindle is already filled with the max number of KU free reads (not to mention hundreds of box sets they received free or for 99¢). A reader may forget your book when another "new shiny" hits KU, and your book gets shuffled off unread to make room to grab the newest book.

Revenue

What is the bottom line here? What kind of money are we talking about?

Terry Ambrose

Terry is the author of the McKenna Mystery series and the Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery series.
Website - Twitter: @terryawriterguy - Facebook - Goodreads

I’m one of those authors who typically receives more revenue from Kindle Unlimited that I do book sales. When I first started, I resisted the urge because I felt I should try to have the broadest audience possible. However, what I’ve discovered is that big names get big sales, the rest of us—unless we’re very lucky or extremely good marketers—wither and die. Kindle Unlimited levels the playing field to some degree. I’ve found the restrictions of the KU program are outweighed by the increased readership.


Mimi Barbour

Mimi is a NYT & USA Today, best-selling, and award-winning author. She writes Romance, Paranormal, and Suspense novels.
Website - Twitter: @MimiBarbour - Facebook - Goodreads

(Experience ) - A few years before Select first started, I had spent many hours setting my books wide on all the major sites and doing each singularly in order to reap as many benefits as I could. Not an easy chore for a Canadian because B&N wouldn't let us upload directly to their place and Apple insisted one needed a Mac to add books there.

But, I found my ways and persevered and was just beginning to benefit from all those places when Amazon came out with the Kindle Unlimited program. In a matter of months, my earnings dropped to half of what I had previously made, and I was floored. After all that work, I didn't want to delist everything and be exclusive to Amazon. But eventually, after getting the feedback from other authors, I did just that.

Now, other than some paperbacks and my two freebies (Retaliation and Partners), all my books are in Select. It took me a while to crawl back up to my earlier earnings but time, patience, and more books finally got me there. I have to admit that it's the pages-read income that has been the major contributor for that happening.

(Worth the time/effort)- Yes. Absolutely. As I said earlier, a lot of my income is from the pages-read portion of the Amazon royalties. You know what, it kind of tickles me because I used to wonder how many folks actually read my books after getting them on their Kindles. Now I know for sure that a lot do, and it makes all this work seem more worthwhile.


Barbara Ebel

Barbara is an award-winning bestselling author. She writes Medical Suspense and Thriller novels.
Website - Twitter: @BarbaraEbel - Facebook - Goodreads

KU has proven to be the cornerstone of my book avenue for exposure and sales. I believe the marketing of an author's books/backlist totally depends on the author's personal circumstances.


Bonnie Edwards

Bonnie writes Romance, Contemporary and Paranormal novels and novellas.
Website - Twitter: @BonnieEdwards - Facebook - Goodreads

I moved most of my books to Kindle Unlimited about 3 years ago because I wasn't marketing my books well enough to make a profit. I had to do something different. My experiment with KU paid off and I've been happy with my decision to focus on only one retailer. My income more than trebled very quickly...but please realize I was a terrible marketer and I take full responsibility for my lack. 

Katherine Logan

Katherine is an Award winning, best-selling author. She is the author of the Celtic Brooch Time-Travel Series.
Website - Twitter: @KathyLLogan - Facebook - Goodreads

I have always been in KDP. I make more money on Kindle Unlimited books than I do on a purchase. The Topaz Brooch - $6.99 for eBook x 70% = $4.89 The book has 1414 KDP pages @ .0044 (coverage per page) = $6.22 I don’t really have a quote, but for me it’s more profitable to stay in KDP.

Judith Lucci

Judith is a Best-Selling Mystery, Thriller & Suspense author.
Website - Twitter: @JudithLucci - Facebook - Goodreads

I’ve been working with Kindle Unlimited for the last six years and have found them to be a good avenue to market books. Currently, about half of my income comes through Kindle Unlimited. What I don’t like with this program it’s not knowing month-to-month what the global fund will pay. It seems to vary more now than it used to. I wish that would change and they would pay us the same rate each month. It would be nice to have a rate we could depend on.

S.R. Mallery

Sarah is the award-winning author who writes Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction, and Mysteries.
Website - Twitter: @SarahMallery1 - Facebook - Goodreads

YES, I love being on KU! And although I pretty much sell every day, if my book(s) is on sale, I often make more money through my KU pages read than I do from the eBook. 

Stephanie Queen

Stephanie is a USA Today Bestselling Author who writes Mystery and Romantic Comedy novels.
Website - Twitter: @StephanieQueen - Facebook - Goodreads

So I recently (9 days ago) launched my first book in KU, a new adult/college romance. And it was my best launch ever, with 18-25k page reads every day since launch day. KU daily earnings are 2-3 times book sales earnings, including other non-amazon retailers.

So my experience with KU has been short, but phenomenal and I am planning to launch and keep the entire series in KU, including 3 more books currently in pre-order so far.

Maggie Toussaint

Maggie is an Award-winning southern author. She is a Mystery and Romance writer.
Website - Twitter: @MaggieToussaint - Facebook - Goodreads

I have several books in KU, but many of my books are “wide” in that I use other vendors too. My KU experience has been interesting. I made more money from books in KU back before Amazon started giving people that had the most reads a higher cut of the profit. Still, the pages read income is very nice. I’ve found that KU readers are loyal and keep seeking out KU books and authors.

The Unlimited Approach

The challenge is the same as always. How do I get to the readers? And how do I get them to READ more of my eBooks? With READ the keyword.

Cozy Power! Collection - HBS Author's Spotlight Showcase 

One approach that I have blogged about is an Unlimited Cozy Mystery Collection. Twelve Cozy authors submitted one of their first-in-a-series novels to the collection. The objective was to get readers to read one of their eBooks in a series and to continue to read the rest of the series. Another objective was to have multiple authors displayed so the reader could get exposure to other Cozy authors.

The jury is out on the success of the collection but so far there are good reports. But it sure makes sense. Outstanding authors. The same genre. Free to read on Unlimited. Multiple author exposure.

Bonnie Edwards

Bonnie writes Romance, Contemporary and Paranormal novels and novellas.
Website - Twitter: @BonnieEdwards - Facebook - Goodreads

Our [Romance Gems group] main objective is exposure, support, and marketing. We have monthly themes and sometimes we offer free books or chances to win. We've done some box sets and have some others in the works. These are fun because now that we've created our setting, we'll revisit and write more stories in the same towns. There's nothing like having a whole team of us supporting and marketing at the same time.

Absolutely, moving the bulk of my eBooks to KU has been worth the effort. Marketing is streamlined and effective for me (the lazy marketer).

Marla Madison

Marla is the bestselling author of the Detective Kendall Halsrud series and the TJ Peacock & Lisa Rayburn Mysteries.
Twitter: @MarlaAMadison - Facebook - Goodreads

Definitely worth it. Less time and effort than going wide. I will say that it is absolutely necessary to have a book that people want to read. So many self-published authors make the mistake of having a boring first chapter. Also, it helps to get a Book Bub feature. And absolutely necessary to advertise on the best sites. (they aren’t cheap, but it pays off)

Joan Reeves

Joan is a NY Times & USAToday best-selling author of Contemporary Romance.
Website - Twitter: @JoanReeves - Facebook - Goodreads

The blog groups to which I belong, always promote our KU listings. However, I know many authors who try to keep some titles in wider distribution and do quite well. I've never liked having all my eggs in one basket so I'm trying to pull some from KU as the enrollment expires. It's tough because I have many of my books in box sets that are in KU, so I can't do much with them. This year, I'm releasing new books wide first in order to get NetGalley reviews, then at a later date, I'll probably put them in Kindle Unlimited.

Jinx Schwartz

Jinx is the Award-Winning Mystery Author of the Hetta Coffey series.
Website - Twitter: @jinxschwartz - Facebook - Goodreads

At one time I hired a guy to promote my books on to Kindle Unlimited readers and boy, did he. I was making good money on KU, more than sales, but he was a little on the pricey side and then things went wonky on his end and I felt I had to get out of that. How he knew where to find and engage KU readers I don't know, but he did. He reconfigured all of my key words in Amazon and ran frequent freebies.

Problems

There were some problems or reservations reported.

Peggy Jaeger

Peggy is an award-winning author. She writes Romance, Contemporary, and Mystery novels.
Website - Twitter: @peggy_jaeger - Facebook - Goodreads

[My perspective as a hybrid author] Even though I get hundreds of page-hits every month, I rarely make more than one dollar on the KU experience per month.

[Worth the time/effort?] No, it has not. I have since pulled my indie books because I have decided to go wide with distribution to reach a wider audience.

Judith Lucci

Judith is a Best-Selling Mystery, Thriller & Suspense author.
Website - Twitter: @JudithLucci - Facebook - Goodreads

Currently, all of my books are in KU, but I’m planning to move my standalone books and my new series wide. I know it’ll take quite a while to catch on, but I kind of like having my work spread out.

It’s hard to get recognized on Amazon now because there are so many books. Every time I send an email, run a special or post on Facebook I always say what are the book is available on KU.

Jake Needham

Jake is a best-selling Mystery & Thrillers Author. He writes the Jack Shepherd crime thrillers & The Inspector Samuel Tay Novels.
Website - Twitter: @jakeneedham - Facebook - Goodreads

My books have never performed well in KU. Over the last six months or so in particular, their KU performance has dropped to such a miserable level that I have withdrawn one of my two series from KU entirely.

Joan Reeves

Joan is a NY Times & USAToday best-selling author of Contemporary Romance.
Website - Twitter: @JoanReeves - Facebook - Goodreads

Making my ebooks available on Kindle Unlimited has been worth it in terms of financial reward in the short term, but one never knows whether Amazon will change their Terms of Service. They did that with Audible, reducing an author's royalty from 50% to 40%, and the authors had no recourse. One thing I don't understand is why Amazon does not pay a larger Page Read fee for the books in KU. I always think the per page read fee is too low. However, none of the other ebook sellers have any more than a small piece of the market. It's like that immutable law of marketing says: "It always pays to be the first with an idea." 

Maggie Toussaint

Maggie is an Award-winning southern author. She is a Mystery and Romance writer.
Website - Twitter: @MaggieToussaint - Facebook - Goodreads

My quote for KU: “Using KU is a two-edged sword. An author makes more money that way but in the process, you exclude and alienate readers who can’t access mobi files.” Maggie Toussaint, author of the Seafood Caper Mysteries.

When I recently brought out my reissues on KU for 90 days, one reader who didn’t use Amazon said she’d never read another one of my books because I’d excluded her. I would rather have reader satisfaction than a disgruntled reader. 

Conclusion

This study highlights the experiences of Kindle Unlimited from a group of outstanding authors. Many of them have had good experiences with Kindle Unlimited and increased revenue with pages read as the catalyst.

One approach the authors used. They formed a small group. They create a book set like Cozy Power. Their goal was to have readers read the first book in one of their series, all on Kindle Unlimited. And then continue to read the whole series.

All the authors in the study had lots of quality books on Unlimited. They were marketing their backlist. One of eBook’s advantages. There is no time stamp on reading an older book. A good read is a good read.

Marketing to the Kindle Unlimited audience directly is growing. Listings are starting to display the KU logo. The goal is to find readers and keep them coming back for more.

Author groups are starting to see the rewards. They are organizing by genre and themes and they are developing collections. Visibility and exposure are the goals.

There are some problems reported but many authors say that Unlimited is the way to go. Like always, if you put the time and effort into the future of eBooks, your reward could be Unlimited.

11 comments:

  1. Very interesting comments. Glad to see I am not the only one who is not in love with KU

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  2. So, yes, now the world knows I'm a really lazy marketer. Thanks for including me and my confession, James.

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  3. Thanks for including me, James. Each author's take is very interesting. :)

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  4. Thanks for the balanced report on the benefits and drawbacks of Kindle Unlimited, James. I am still confused though about if a KU purchase only generates royalties if the book is actually read.

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  5. Great analysis, Jim. Thanks for including my comments. To answer Gail, a KU purchase is not a purchase. It's basically a "rental" I suppose one could say. Revenue is only earned if pages are read of the "rented" book.

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  6. Thank you for clearing up the KU question, Joan.

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  7. Thanks for letting me be a part of this post, James. I hope it helps other authors in their decision-making.

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  8. Hi James, fantastic job on the subject. Here’s a new one for you to consider; when I ask readers if they get books from Book Bub or 1 of the 20 or so promo companies looking to promote my books, I get blank looks. So, I would be interested in hearing what you have to say on this subject after polling readers.

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