Because someone on the internet will willfully misinterpret this, this isn’t bashing authors who use Kindle Unlimited, but with everything, it is a business decision. I’m writing this post because I feel bad for my friends who have gone all in on Amazon and feel like their world has been upended. It especially sucks because having been publishing since 2014, this has happened before.
Full disclosure: once upon a time, I had my books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. I’ve been publishing since 2014, so I think my books were in KU from 2014 to 2018 or 2019 (I honestly cannot remember). There were times I made really good money off KU, like more money than I make now because I paired KU with a Bookbub ad and my profits/exposure exploded.
I still took my books out, and the reason being is that I have been through the KU song and dance before. This rollercoaster of profit and loss is nothing new to authors who have been around a while and why you don’t see many authors have been around a while on Kindle Unlimited. KU had a different payout system for a while, then they changed that, and our royalties tanked, then more people started indie publishing and enrolling in KU, and profits tanked again. Lather, rinse, repeat for different yet very similar reasons.
At some point, I got sick of it. I liked the perk of easily being able to run a sale, but ultimately, it wasn’t worth it. I had friends who told me they wanted to read my books, but they didn’t use a Kindle. Looking at other indie or hybrid authors I looked up to, I noticed most of them had their books at stores besides Amazon. That sort of solidified my decision to go wide with my books and pull them out of Kindle Unlimited. It makes me sad that a lot of the indies I knew back in 2014 have disappeared or don’t talk much about publishing because I think a lot of newer authors could have expected this to happen and been prepared for it.
I’m not going to lie, removing my books from KU was an ordeal, and I think they do that on purpose. My books had been published at different times, so I had to pull them out individually and wait until the next one was about to clock out of its 90 day KU cycle. I’m not going to lie, laziness almost got me there. I was frustrated and ready to just let them rot in KU, but eventually I got my shit together and removed all my books. They still remained on Amazon, but I looked into Draft2Digital, and it seemed easy enough to get my books on there.
To all the authors who were not around back in the day, you’re very lucky not to have to deal with Smashwords’s “meatgrinder,” which also stalled my publication process. Now though, it is so easy to post your work to D2D and use their formatting tools to make your ebook look attractive. I, then, took that file from D2D and uploaded it to Google Play in order to have even more reach. If you’ve never published your books wide before, there are tons of resources online, especially on Youtube that can walk you through the process of uploading your books onto other platforms.
At this point, besides fear of lost royalties, I can’t understand why anyone would stay in Kindle Unlimited. I understand that I am looking at this from someone who has watched KU for a long time and been burned before, but between the shittier payouts, people getting their accounts banned because some asshole put their books on pirating cites, and Amazon bots taking people out for no reason, it seems like a terrible decision to keep your eggs in one basket. For those who hang on hoping to ride out the storm, it may happen. KU is publishing chutes and ladders, but at some point, you may feel like you’re still not making money on KU and that money could be made elsewhere.
What I like about having my books on many platforms is that I get readers from all over the world (especially on Google Play, which seems to reach everywhere but China), I get to have my books in library systems, and readers who don’t use a Kindle, can still access my books. The worst part about going wide is that you do need to revamp your marketing a little bit and actually advertise that you’re wide now. You will probably have a few slow months until people realize your books are there, and there will always be platforms where your book does better than others. Series do really well on Google Play, but outside of Amazon, most of my books sell best on Apple Books.
I have to admit that I roll my eyes when people act like having their books on Kindle Unlimited is some moral good because they’re “accessible” and cheap. Having your books in library systems is less sexy than KU, but your book is equally accessible and even cheaper. It isn’t like KU is available in all countries (same with libraries, to be fair). Still, I like the fact that I can make my books as available as I possible can make them without relying solely on Amazon. At the end of the day, this is a business decision that I made for myself and my book. I don’t like leaving money on the table, and after almost ten years of being an indie author, you will see history repeat itself and watch others not heed the warnings from established authors because some hustle-master on Youtube or Tiktok said it was a great way to make money. With what’s going on, you need to ask yourself if it’s worth it to be at Amazon’s mercy. There are other options, but you need to do your due diligence and decide what’s right for you, but please, don’t think KU is the only way to make money because I can promise you that it isn’t.