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Answering the question: Do Kindle Unlimited (KU) Downloads of Kindle E-Books Benefit Authors Financially?


Well, the short answer is maybe potentially, then again possibly way later, though often just a little, while other times quite a lot! The fact is, KU sales aren't reported to the author at the time of download nor is the author credited for any royalty until the book's pages are read. You see, authors are paid very slightly by the read KU pages. Not many readers understand the background of KU, so I thought this would be worthwhile info to share.


What is Kindle Unlimited (KU)?

For those unfamiliar with Kindle books, they are e-books digitized in a specific format for the Amazon Kindle Reader device (though, an actual Kindle device is no longer necessary as readers can now simply download the free kindle app onto their other devices). It's obvious that anyone can purchase a kindle e-book through Amazon at the listed price, just as they would a paperback or audio book. However, Kindle Unlimited (KU) is an Amazon subscription service enabling readers to pay a flat $9.99 monthly fee which lets subscribers to KU download and potentially read an unlimited number of kindle's e-books each month (magazines and audiobooks are also included in the service).


KU Downloads Aren't Calculated as "Sales"

Downloading a kindle book using KU, however, does not translate to a "sale" for an author as would an individual ebook purchased at the listed price (be that full price or sale price). Indie authors and book publishers have no visibility of any KU downloads on their online reports as they do of both paperback and a Non-KU kindle book purchases when it occurs. In fact, authors do not get paid for KU books when they're ordered/downloaded. The reason for this is, of course, that the $9.99 monthly subscription price individuals pay must stretch to accommodate any number of downloads each reader may make. So, how do author's get paid for KU downloaded books? By the pages (when/if) read.


How Are Calculations Paid Out KU Downloads?

Payment by the pages read equates per an approximate formula to between $0.004 and $0.005 per page. In other words, for every 1,000 pages read, authors get between $4.00 and $5.00 (Note, that the average page count for a novel is between 250 to 400 pages, though). You'll have noticed I used the term  "approximate." That's because Amazon's formula for tabulating pages is not shared. 

"Read-thru" and timing are other factors affecting payment. A book started by a person but not finished that month or ever (for any reason, whether 'it's not to my taste,' or 'the stove caught on fire and I've not had time while we're refinishing the kitchen') means the payout recorded to the author is significantly lower due to the low number of pages read.

Regarding timing, often kindle book fans "collect" books regularly and some books are completely overlooked amongst the collection, returned unread, or else neglected for quite some time. Which translates to no author payment if not read, and, payment of some amount ONLY when some pages are actually read.

The good thing is that eventually a person can get around to reading the book and the author's report will at that time record a read-thru payment. Especially for authors with a book series in which fans follow that storyline and characters from book to book, and those authors writing in the "hot" categories of romance, thriller, or mystery, even KU sales can pay off very well and quickly as things heat up.


None of the above apply to Non-KU (a regular purchase) of a Kindle book using a credit/debit or other Amazon approved payment method. For example, when a kindle book is listed for $3.99 and a person pays $3.99 to download the book to their kindle (or other device using the kindle app), that is recorded as a sale for the day and noted in the author's report which also adds that royalty to the total sales payments due the author.


What's My Point?

No, I'm not taking KU to task. Fact is, KU is quite beneficial in getting people interested in reading many books and they can do so much more affordably. Plus, ebooks are easier to carry! Yet, I do have an obvious selfish as well as altruistic reason for jotting this background about KU, and it is this: To urge KU subscribers to savor the books they download, meaning to read the books. Books are meant to be read; they desire to be read. Each desires your personal attention. They want to be enjoyed and seed new thoughts in you of people, places, things, potentials of possibilities. That is what authors desire for our books and for ourselves, as well.


As authors, two of the ways I and others can experience the sure certainty of knowing our efforts are acknowledged and done is (a) checking our online reports for sales recorded, and (b) noting payments for our efforts in the requisite columns for KU as well as the coliumns for paperback and Kindle purchases. Cheered, we can move along more energized to our next project. (And, if you're wondering, all of the above regarding KU sales and payments also applies to the KOLL (Kindle Online Lending Library)

Well, I hope everyone reading this feels they have learned something new. I thank each of you for your support whether that is in following my infrequently sent Newsletters, ordering any or all :-) of my three books, sharing info about my books with others, writing encouraging emails to me, leaving reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, etc., etc.  And, feel free to write back and let me know what you thought of this post also. -- Thanks, Claire

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