Amazon’s Unlimited program

I just read the newest post on the Smashwords blog, Is Kindle Unlimited Bad for Authors?  As it mentions in the title, the post is all about Amazon’s new program and potential effects on indie authors.  In case you’ve been under a rock for the last week and haven’t heard, Amazon has just started “Kindle Unlimited”.  It’s a subscription program where readers pay a flat rate and read as much as they want for the month.

The catch for authors is that if you want your book to be in the lending pool you have to be part of Kindle Select.  Kindle Select is fairly controversial in writing circles because to be in the program, and have access to the benefits, that book has to be exclusive to Amazon, you can’t put the book up anywhere else.  If you’re in the program you get access to promotional tools and benefits, and will be included in the lending library and the new Kindle Unlimited.  One of the most powerful promotional tools included is 5 “free” days every 90 days, where you can give away ebooks to draw in new readers.  Being included in the Unlimited program would be beneficial too, giving readers a chance to access your works without paying anything (yet the author will still be compensated for it).

A lot of writers think this isn’t fair because Select and Unlimited programs force authors to choose between Amazon’s benefits or having their work available on a variety of other sites.

All of this is explained very thoroughly on the Smashwords post, which basically said it was a bad deal for writers.  That isn’t particularly surprising since the programs would force authors away from sites like Smashwords, though they did explain it all very thoroughly.  There are plenty of other complications, like author reimbursement, that are also brought up.  If you read the comments, it’s pretty clear that many Smashwords writers are against Amazon and the programs.

However, I think this is a fairly short sighted perspective.  Sure, there are some aspects to the programs that aren’t great for writers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things that can be really amazing too.

For example, the reason that “free” days can be so positive is because it draws readers that otherwise might not check out your work.  They read one book they like, they’re more likely to buy the next book, tell their friends about it, leave reviews, etc.  I think the Unlimited program will do the same, drawing readers to you, but you’ll be compensated for them.

So, let’s say you’ve got a couple books out already and sales have stagnated.  If you made one of your books exclusive to Amazon and got it included in all those programs, it would be a way to introduce your work to new readers.  That one book would have to be exclusive, but the rest of your books could be published in whatever way you wanted.  Think of it like another way to market yourself.  And the Select program operates on 90 day periods, so you could actually cycle books into and out of the programs to try and draw in new readers (though I’ve heard it can be complicated and time consuming to get work removed from some sites).

Instead of looking at Amazon’s programs as either all good or all bad, look at them as another tool in the tool box.  Check them out for yourself, see if they might be something that can be useful to you, and decide whether the trade off is worth it.  As writer’s, can we afford to arbitrarily pass up programs that could really help us?

3 thoughts on “Amazon’s Unlimited program”

  1. I agree with you, J.M. I’ve put a half a dozen or so e-books into the Kindle Select program just to take advantage of the Kindle Unlimited and I see borrows every day as a result of my involvement. I haven’t had a pay-out yet but that will come, down the road.

    Some folks feel that this “cannibalizes” their sales figures – but from where I am sitting all that it cannibalizes is something that is ENTIRELY theoretical. I’m just not a slick enough salesman yet to sell that many books that I need to start worrying about sales trends and theoretical sales and probability charts and – damn it, Jim, I’m an author NOT an accountant!


    1. I wish I had half a dozen e-books to put into the program and experiment with. Someday. I just figure we’re all looking for the best ways to get our work out there (and I’m no salesman either), so every angle should be examined for how it might benefit us.

      Thanks for your feedback. I’m glad it’s working out for you and hope to have a couple projects of my own published soon.

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