Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Is Kindle Unlimited hitting author incomes?

Is Kindle Unlimited picking authors pockets?

Kindle Unlimited sounded like it might actually help authors to reach a wider readership. For a relative small sum a month ($9.99), members can read as many Kindle books as they want. Authors like me hoped that would lead to our books that wouldn't otherwise be bought, being lent instead and us getting a payment (albeit less than what we'd get for a sale) for each loan.

Sadly, I've found Kindle Unlimited has lost me money, especially for my non-fiction title, Living Cruelty Free: Live a More Compassionate Life.

I put a lot into writing that book. More than I put into any of my fiction titles, because I had to do so much gruelling, distressing research into animal cruelty and human cruelty towards other humans that gave me nightmares. All of the research took almost a year to do and I had to decipher complicated laws that made my head spin.

I had a publisher for the book, who badly let me down and didn't send me a royalty statement in 2 whole years since the book was published, causing me so much stress trying to get the rights to my own book back. Then I self-published. I did everything myself and it cost me more money than I could afford.

Considering the work that went into Living Cruelty Free, a book readers could turn to again and again, I felt a Kindle price of £4.99 ($8.99 in the USA) was fair.

Sadly, I'm starting to notice a trend. I sell a book and it shows up in my sales on KDP. Soon after, usually within an hour, that book appears as returned and a loan shows up almost right away.

So, what's happening?

To me, its simple.

People are either 1. Buying the book by mistake, instead of borrowing it using Kindle Unlimited, and then they're returning the book and borrowing it.

Or, 2. Borrowing the book because it costs nothing.

You can't blame readers. But, you can blame Amazon for having the facility to buy and borrow a book on the same page (which i believe is confusing people) and for coming up with a scheme that takes even more money away from writers.

Borrow rates for authors on KU in 2024

When one of my book sells, I make $6.26 or £3.37 on a 70% royalty. On a loan, I make just over a dollar. So you can see how I lose out every time a buyer switches to a lender.

I'm not alone in this. Other authors are also being hit in the pocket, and many of them used to be big earners. See here

What's your experience of KU? How has it affected you? I would love to hear your experience. 


  1. I think it is confusing for the customers.
    After buying a book and clicking to go back to the store, the first thing we see is an advert for kindle unlimited, so it's not surprising that people return the book and borrow it instead.

  2. Hi Jenny. The table you show of falling borrow rates is not good news. So far I've only had a handful of borrows on my books and the vast majority of those borrows have been in the UK (where 90% of my sales are too.) So no proof that I'm losing sales to KU. But what I think is unfair is that the 'borrow rate' is a flat rate regardless of a book's sale price. My books are comparatively short and therefore cheaply priced so I'd be happy with $1.39 royalty but I can completely understand your point of view with a more expensive book that required a lot of research. Let's hope that things get made fairer. On a more positive note, if you re-do your Amazon 'tax interview' and include your UK NI no., the US tax withholding drops from 30% to 0% now, with no need to jump through hoops to get the exemption.


DI Duncan Waddell - Detective in a Coma Book 2

One lost girl. A bus full of secrets -'My new WIP

One lost girl. A bus full of secrets - My new WIP #amwriting