To understand KDP Select, you first have to be familiar with Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited is a subscription program for readers that allows them to read any book in the Kindle Select program for “free” or really, for $10 a month.
Kindle Select is the author side of the program. When you are setting up your eBook, you have the option to put it in the Kindle Select program making it available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Rather than get paid as a sale, you are paid for page reads. If your book sucks and people read about ten pages and abandon it, you only get paid for those ten pages. If your book keeps them on the edge of their seats and they read all the way through, yay, you get paid for all of those page reads. And everything in between.
Amazon takes all the monthly subscription revenues and adds them up, then takes their cut and fees off the top. (If you’ve ever run Bingo, this is where you make the big bucks.) The remaining balance is divided by total number of page reads that month. This determines the rate per page. Then, it’s simply a matter of Amazon multiplying how many page reads you had by that month’s rate. Right now, the KDP per page payout amount hovers around $0.00404. So, if you had a total of 1,000 pages read, Amazon would send you about $4.00. Not excited yet? Understandable.
But Wait! There’s More!
If you put your eBook in the Kindle Select program, you cannot sell it anywhere else on the Internet, even from your own site. It is locked into the program for 90 days and the renewal is automatic. That means if you want to drop the program, you have to make sure to take it out before it re-ups.
If you’ve already gone “wide” with an eBook and decide you want to put it into the Kindle Select program, you will have to unpublish from every platform where you have put your book. If you used a service like Draft2 Digital or IngramSpark, you can easily unpublish it in one or two moves (and then wait until the eBook is pulled from each platform). If you’ve put the eBook up on various platforms individually, then you’ve got a little work ahead of you. (So good to keep track of where you have put things, isn’t it?)
So, What’s the Upside?
According to WordsRated.com, Kindle Unlimited has approximately three million subscribers and 60% of the bestselling titles on Amazon are in the program. There are plenty of authors making thousands of dollars each month in the Kindle Select program. In addition, Amazon pays out “All Star” bonuses for books that meet “a variety of customer signals.” I like to think that means it’s a book that is performing well organically, but probably not. I have seen “real people” get the bonuses, so they don’t always go to the big name, traditionally published authors.
Kindle Unlimited subscribers are also more likely to leave a review. They do not show up as “verified” but they do count towards your overall ratings and review count. Many of the promotional services (and/or “paid newsletters”) want you to have a minimum number of reviews of your book before you can advertise with them, so in that regard, KU readers can be helpful.
Probably the number one upside to being in Kindle Select is that you are allowed to put your book “on sale” for five days out of every 90 day cycle. You can mark your Kindle store eBook down to zero, discount it, or do a “count-down” deal. This is also helpful when you are using a promotional service like FussyLibrarian or Freebooksy. Some of the promo services ONLY allow you to run ads for discounted or limited time offers. Kindle Select makes it easy to run those, though really, just doing a price change on your eBook for the time period works, too.
Are Bestsellers in KU?
Yes (fiction) and Not-So-Much (nonfiction).
Of today’s (August 22, 2023) top 100 bestselling books in the Kindle store, nine of the top 10 and 39 of the top 50 are in KU. Of the next 50, all but eight are in KU, with four of the eight listed in Amazon Kids. Nonfiction authors, bad news: Only three of the top 100 bestsellers were nonfiction.
So, flipping over to the Nonfiction Bestsellers (eBooks), only one (1) of the top 10 is in Kindle Unlimited. Eight of the top fifty, (plus five in Amazon Kids), 18 of the next 50 are in KU (and 8 more are in Amazon Kids). So, a total of twenty-six of the top 100 nonfiction eBook bestsellers are in KU.
If you’re a romance writer, you’re in luck. Romance takes the top spot with KU readers. Clearly, fiction, notably romance authors, feel it’s to their advantage to use KU while nonfiction authors are not as enthusiastic. I also noticed a few clearly fiction books that have snuck into the nonfiction top 100 (unless grumpy lumberjacks’ romances are being scientifically documented).
Is Kindle Select Right for You?
If you’re writing reverse cowgirl, billionaire, hockey, friends-to-lovers romance books (I just made that up—pretty sure the reverse cowgirl is not a genre), you can probably make some money from page reads, especially if you can turn out book after book after book. Romance, fantasy, and mystery are the genres that do best with both KU and non-KU readers, with romance being readers’ primary genre. (WrittenWordMedia, July 2021)
If you are writing a series of books, fiction or nonfiction, and you want to let people get a “taste” of what you’re all about, Kindle Select is one way to do it. Of course, having your book in the program doesn’t mean anyone is going to find it. Just as with any platform, you still need to drive people to your book.
I am a big proponent of going wide with your books. I don’t like to put all my eggs in one basket. However, many authors will use Kindle Select at launch to garner as many reads and reviews as they can in the first 90 days and then take the book out of the program and go wide. I call that having the best of both worlds.