It’s hard to believe, but Kindle Unlimited (KU) was launched only a short two years ago. It feels like authors and readers have been complaining about it for a lot longer than that. For authors, it’s usually about royalties. For readers, it’s about the availability of books they want to read. Being both an avid reader and an author, I was, needless to say, a skeptic.
I finally subscribed to KU this spring, and I’m close to being a raving fan. This is something of a leap for me, because skepticism is my natural state, especially when it comes to subscription services. But, let me share why I’ve been so happy with KU so far.
I would not recommend KU to anyone who is not an avid reader. (But I’m not sure I know anybody who isn’t an avid reader.) I probably read 3-5 books a month. The prices usually range from about $3 up to $16, so I’d put my average cost at about $5-6 a book. To break even on KU, I only need to read a couple of these books a month.
Of course, you’re not going to break even as quickly if 99 cent novels are all you ever read. But, if that’s your thing, I’m guessing you read even more novels a month that I do, so your breakeven point may be just as easy to reach.
Availability of titles
It’s true. You’re not likely to find the latest best sellers on KU, but then I tend not to read the latest best sellers. I like what I like, and it’s usually not what everybody else likes.
What I can find on KU are quality authors that I might not have tried if I had to shell out $5 or more for someone I had never heard of. (Not to say that they aren’t well known. They just aren’t well known to me.) Here are a few authors I’ve discovered specifically because they had at least one title on KU: MaryLu Tyndall, Tamara Leigh, Robert Masello.
Quality of titles
I’ve also heard it said, many times, that KU only has self-published authors whose works are of questionable quality. There’s no doubt that there are a number of them out there. I would guess that for every book I finish, I probably download three or four. The great thing is that I can try the author out without worrying about doing any due diligence. (I used to spend tons of time combing through reviews.) If, after a few pages, I find it’s not my cup of tea, I set the book aside, and I’m not out anything but a few minutes of time.
Over the years, I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent on books that I would rather have tossed into the trash bin than finished. (Just because a book has hundreds of 5 star, raving reviews, does not mean it’s actually good, if you know what I mean.) But, because I paid out good money, I often read to the end. That’s time I will ever get back. Plus, those of you who are writers understand the dangers in reading poorly written books. Bad writing is contagious.
So, from an avid reader’s point of view, I can’t see how one could lose by subscribing to KU. But, how about from the author’s point of view?
I may not be the best judge of this as I’m not trying to make a living writing novels. (I make my living writing; just not romance novels.) But, it seems to me that there is an advantage to KU for the struggling/just-starting-out writer as well. If you can get your work in front of more people, that’s a good thing, right? And, unlike giving away a sample work for free, you get paid when someone reads your book. In fact, they don’t even have to read all of it, and you still get paid. (Last I heard, the subscriber had to read at least 10%, and then the author earns royalties based on the total number of pages read even if the reader doesn’t finish the book.)
I have only one book on KU, but if it were up to me, I would put all of them there. However, it’s not. That decision is my publisher’s, and I’m sure they have a method to their madness. But what say you? Is KU a reader’s/author’s dream come true, the bane of your existence, or somewhere in between?