Whether you’re an experienced author already racking up sales and new readership, or you’re just dipping your toes into the vast waters of the self-publishing industry, the thought of making your books available through Kindle Unlimited (KU) has no doubt crossed your mind.
The real questions is, should you or shouldn’t you?
Is there a clear advantage for you, the author, in using this service? Because let’s be honest, your main goals are to gain exposure for your work and make a living while doing it.
With this in mind, let’s discuss how you can market your books effectively by leveraging the Kindle Unlimited platform, along with the pros and cons of using KU vs a wider distribution strategy.
What is Kindle Unlimited?
If you don’t already know, Kindle Unlimited is a subscription-based service offered by Amazon that allows readers (Prime and otherwise) to access their entire inventory of KU books for one low monthly fee.
At under $10 a month, it’s easy to see why Kindle Unlimited has gained a reputation as the “Netflix” of books!
But, wait a minute… $10 a month for unlimited access to all of their books!? If you’re wondering who makes money with this arrangement other than Amazon, you’d be in good company.
Authors the world over have been scratching their heads and tip-toeing around signing up for Kindle Unlimited because they’re not sure about its long-term benefits or potential drawbacks.
The Pros and Cons of Using KU vs. Using Wider Distribution
There are several pros and cons that go along with using KU vs. wider distribution options, or doing the exact opposite.
- It enhances the reach of your books – Amazon has at least fifty percent market share in the US and UK when it comes to digital book sales. That’s VERY significant. Their best-selling Kindle e-readers, tablets and apps, as well as Amazon’s amazing ecommerce platform and knack for turning browsers into buyers are what drive this phenomenon. And it’s increasing every year.
The bottom line? Having your books featured on Amazon increases the likelihood that they will be found and read by a lot of people.
- You gain access to Amazon’s ecommerce tools – Amazon’s team is masterful at getting consumers to buy, and it’s no different when they market digital books.
Through their KU program, you gain access to unique promotional tools like their Kindle Countdown Deals and Free Book Promotion, which both help to boost your readership and launch your new titles to success.
- You earn royalties for ever page read – Unlike traditional books sales where a customer buys your book and you get a one-off payment, with KU authors are paid a small royalty for every page read from each book.
Yes, you probably won’t make millions, but every penny does add up.
- Exclusivity of your book title with KU – You read right. If you decide to promote a book using Kindle Unlimited, you cannot promote that title anywhere else.
You’re title is bound to Amazon’s KU for 90 day spans, after which, you have the option to renew your contract.
- Potentially low earnings – Unless you’re in the top percentile of book publishers in the Kindle Unlimited program, you shouldn’t expect to get hefty royalty checks.
The vast majority of self-published authors find that the potential for earnings per book are much higher on other platforms when compared to KU.
There seems to be more to love about the program than there is to hate it.
But is it wise to put all of your eggs in one basket and have titles exclusive to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited? Is there a point to even signing up if the chance of earning significant royalties are slim?
The Answer: Yes and No, depending on your marketing strategy.
How to Use KU to Sell More Books
We already mentioned that Amazon has the lion’s share of the digital book market, but something that you may not know is that their KY customers are no ordinary readers.
The average person who signs up for a subscription service like Kindle Unlimited is best described using one word: Voracious!
Think about it.
Who else would sign up for an unlimited supply of books each and every month? Someone who can’t get enough of the written word and who has the potential to turn into a very loyal reader, if given a good reason!
Marketing experts the world over have used the “free offer” angle to hook new users into their products and services for decades. Some examples are, free samples given away at wholesale clubs, free trials of software and free content given away to get new subscribers for email lists.
It’s so surprise that this strategy works amazingly well for selling eBooks too, especially if you’re newer to the game and haven’t made a name for yourself among readers.
If you view Kindle Unlimited as a springboard for launching your self-publishing career it can be a real asset. The key is not to make all of your books available there, but only a few of your absolute best.
And why your best work?
Because, if a reader comes across one of your books you want them to be so excited, spellbound and addicted that they have no choice but to go out and buy additional titles if they want more. How’s that for encouragement?
Even a single exceptionally written and presented book offered on the KU platform has the ability to move you from completely unknown to prominent among your target audience, literally overnight.
But what if you’re an established self-publisher who already has a significant following?
If you’re already well-known and enjoying lucrative digital books sales, Kindle Unlimited may not be an essential aspect to growing your readership (although it can’t hurt).
On the other hand, by not publishing at least one title on the platform, you may be missing out on significant marketing potential (don’t worry, you can always use a pen name).
Lindsay Buroker, one author earning a full-time income for her work, attributes anywhere from 85-90% of her income to utilizing the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and Kindle Unlimited platforms. In contrast, her other book titles spread across seven alternative platforms collectively bring in the remaining 10-15%.
In her case, the math is undeniable.
But the only way to know how it would work for you is to choose some titles, register for your own Amazon KU account and see what happens.
The Perils of Avoiding Wider Distribution
No matter how you feel about Amazon, the fact is that they are one of the major book distributors worldwide. While it may be a grave mistake to leave them out of your plans for marketing and distributing self-published titles, total exclusivity could be equally troublesome.
While it can be very effective, as with most things, there is one caveat to using Kindle Unlimited exclusively for marketing your brand.
While Amazon does have the majority of readers, you are missing out on the millions of readers on other platforms such as Apple’s iBookstore, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and more.
For that reason alone, it is never recommended to use any single distribution and promotion strategy. Instead, focus on using KU to promote some of your best books to gain the exposure and new readership that only Amazon can offer and put the rest of your books up for sale on any platform and in any format that will produce sales and profits for your work.
While Kindle Unlimited isn’t a good fit for every author, it is worth investigating as part of a multi-strategy book marketing plan.