Parsing Kindle Unlimited as a reader and writer

I’ve had Kindle Unlimited (KU) for the last two(?) months and I’ve come to some conclusions for KU as it stands right now. Of course, all hypotheses are just that, so we’ll see if my suspicions play out the way I think they will.

As a reader, KU is useful for me because I can blow through multiple books a day. At $9.99 per month, it is very much worth it for me because suddenly I am limited to the KU selection for my reading and so in the end I end up saving money. Asides from my auto-buy authors, I no longer look at book blurbs of books that are not available for KU. It doesn’t matter if it’s 99 cents or 1.99 — I’m no longer tempted, which is great for my wallet.

The way I use KU as a reader has also swayed my opinion of using KU as an author:

  • There are some books that I’m happy to read with KU but which I would probably never pay for with cash, even if it is part of a series. These are the cotton-candy reads that I will read once without it leaving much of an impression on me and that I will likely never re-visit again.
  • KU is really useful for trying out new authors. An additional benefit is that it disappears from my Kindle when I return it, saving me from having to go into my account and delete it. Yes, I delete books sometimes because when you have 4k+ books on your account, it can get hard to browse through your own library.
  • I re-read and when I have money, I am more likely to pay money for a book that I’m certain that I liked rather than spending my money on bets.
  • I think I actually save time now because I’m much more likely to not finish a book. Since I’m just borrowing it, I don’t feel compelled to read it to the end. Yeah, it’s odd, that mindset of killing time to ensure that I feel that I’ve gotten my money’s worth of distraction.

So, my thoughts on KU as an author:

I have no illusions to the fact that there will be those who consider my books cotton-candy. As such, I’d rather have my books be available for them to borrow and read rather than not. If originally 4 out of 10 people will buy my book, it would not necessarily be worth it in the long term for those 4 to buy the book for $4.99 rather than having 8 people borrow, read it, and then possibly recommend it to their friends. It is both advertising and expanding my demographics.

The fact that a reader has to either read the book or turn it in for another one means that, unlike a book they bought for free, there is additional incentive to at least read the book and try it instead of letting it languish on their Kindles forever. This is good for me as a new author.

The 90 days of exclusivity aren’t really a big deal unless you’re a big-name-author who might move a couple thousand books in the first week of release across multiple platforms. I could be wrong about this, but since I have 0 sales on Google Play and 2 sales on Smashwords to date, I’m going to go with the anec-data for my following books. Also, unfortunately for us number crunchers, it’s impossible to know for sure how much money you’re leaving on the table from those 90 days of exclusivity versus the amount of money you’ve made through KU borrowing.

I won’t lie — an author will lose some sales from those who would have been tipped over into buying versus not and they will only get whatever the borrowing rate is. However, for my part, I’m not going to worry about it because in my opinion as a reader, there’s always the die-hard fans who will buy it regardless and those who will borrow it from the library or a friend. You can’t get it all.

Some of my friends have asked why Phoenix Chosen is priced the way it is and why I haven’t enrolled it in KDP select. 

My reasoning is that I don’t want to undervalue my work and I don’t believe in contributing to the notion that a book is worth less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks. I also don’t want Phoenix Chosen to be one of those books that people snap up because it’s cheap and then end up never reading. There’s also the theory that readers are more likely to rate a book badly when it’s priced at 99 cents or so.

For another reason, since Phoenix Awoken isn’t ready yet, I don’t feel like a burning need to make the first book free or cheap to hook in more readers. I’m happy to have it sit where it is  and see how it does while I write and edit book two.

However, when Phoenix Awoken is ready, I’m going to enroll the first book in KDP Select and then have the first book free for the first five days of Phoenix Awoken‘s release. When the third book is ready, I’ll likely do a promotion where the first book is on KDP Select again for three months and then the second book will be on KDP Select for the three months after that.

And now, that said, I really should be working on book two so I actually have something to test these theories on. 🙂