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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Clemmer

Kindle Unlimited: Blessing or Bane to Indie Authors?

A few months ago I published an e-book for the first time, my NaNo novel Mostly Human. I was using Kindle Direct Publishing, which I’m a big fan of as both a reader and a writer. During the publication process, I had the option to join Kindle Select, which would mean more publicity, higher ratings… and admission to the brand new Kindle Unlimited (basically Netflix for books, to anyone who doesn’t know about it yet). The downside was that I couldn’t sell the book through other stores. It was a tough call, but in the end I decided not to take the risk. Now that K.U. has been out for a few months, many authors are voicing their opinions of the experience–and some of the results are shocking. Soon I’ll have to face the same option with other e-books, so I’m weighing the good and the bad about this new opportunity.

First the good.

Kindle Unlimited means that people won’t have to take a gamble to read your book. That’s amazing as an indie author who probably doesn’t have a very big audience. People don’t want to pay money to read something from someone they’ve never heard of, but if it’s free as a part of their K. U. subscription, they have no reason not to check it out.

And it pays. Readers pay through their subscriptions every month. Writers earn when a reader gets through ten percent of the book. Unless your novel is the epic saga of the century, ten percent shouldn’t be very much at all. Many authors have reported seeing their sales skyrocket after joining Kindle Unlimited.

Then there’s the not-so-good.

Kindle Unlimited is turning into a nest for scam writers. Once I read a report about someone who wrote a bunch of 10-page mystery “books” that were all the exact same story, word for word. Every time anyone read through the copyright page of any of those e-books, the writer would get paid money.

As a result, many readers are turned off by the idea. While there are some good books available, many more are trashy clumps of words that were written just so that someone could get some fast cash.

But it gets much worse than that. Writers for Kindle Unlimited earn from a pool. It doesn’t matter if you write ten pages or a thousand–if a reader hits the ten percent mark, the writer gets paid one share from the pool. That’s terribly unfair for those of us who spend a lot of time and effort creating an incredible novel, only to rely on people reading the first hundred and fifty pages before we earn the same as what others earn for people reading only the intro material of their stories. In essence, Kindle Unlimited rewards cheap short stories over lengthier fiction. It’s a bad situation.

More than that, it can prevent sales of your novel. I’ve already read several accounts of indie authors who had a sizable following of readers, losing everything after joining Kindle Unlimited because now everyone preferred to read it for free.

More people are reporting the unfairness of the Kindle Unlimited system, but Amazon has yet to come up with a solution that satisfies most people. It’s still a tough call for me, a young author who’s just getting a start on the public screen. I want people to read my books… but I don’t know if I want to take that risk and become just another one of the crowd.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Does Kindle Unlimited hurt or help independent writers? Please share in the comments section below!


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