Kindle Unlimited’s Subscription Model Making Authors See Red

A new subscription offering from Amazon is ruffling a few feathers in the self-publishing arena.

Kindle Unlimited allows subscribers to access more than 700,000 titles on Kindle devices for only $9.99 a month, after a free 30-day trial. About 24% of Amazon’s 2.7 million titles are available, with very few of them bestsellers as many major publishers have opted out of the service.

This leaves the many independent and emerging authors who have long used Amazon’s platform as a marketing vehicle to view this development with deepening dread.

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Their aversion is rooted in the “all you can eat” model, where instead of paying for individual titles, the subscriber is now shown a “Read for Free” button next to the book title in the Kindle Store. It should be noted that “Free” is somewhat of a misnomer here since users are already paying $9.99 a month for access.

The authors fear they will be paid less because they will no longer receive the 70% cut from each digital copy sold, but rather a much smaller fluctuating amount based on the amount of “borrows” in relation to the amount of monthly fees collected. That amount has fluctuated between $1.33 and $1.39 in recent months.

In an interview with the New York Times, self-publishing novelist Holly Ward said: “Your rabid romance reader who was buying $100 worth of books a week and funneling $5,200 into Amazon is now generating less than $120 a year…The revenue is just lost. That doesn’t work well for Amazon or the writers.”

Additionally, authors are reluctant to complain due to a fear of being buried within search results so that their titles are never found.

This looks like a push by Amazon to create brand loyalty by lowering the cost for their most voracious readers in the hopes that keep coming back month after month, instead of a large one-time purchase. $9.99 is very attractive to the bookworm, less so to the casual one-book-a-month reader.

To the authors who relied on individual sales on Amazon, however, Kindle Unlimited is leaving them out in the cold and without a dime in their pocket.