HarperCollins on the scent of Kindle Unlimited with backlist test

HarperCollins UK is testing out backlist titles on Kindle Unlimited in the UK and Australia after shunning the subscription scheme since it launched five years ago.

There aren’t a lot of details on just how many books Harper is releasing on Kindle Unlimited but it looks like they’re aiming mainly at the romance market, which is massively popular on KU.

For example, The Scent of You by Maggie Alderson, published by HarperCollins as a reprint edition in 2017, is now available on Kindle Unlimited. It is contemporary romance fiction (about a perfume blogger) priced for sale as an ebook at a hefty £6.49, which is a relatively normal ebook pricing level for trad publishers.

The book is 512 pages so if it were published by an indie author through KDP Select, it would probably get around £2 for a full read on Kindle Unlimited, less than half of the £4.55 that would be paid out on a sale as a 70% royalty.

However, Amazon is reckoned to offer traditional publishers who do offer titles through Kindle Unlimited the same payment as would be received for a sale.

This would make it doubly vexing for indie authors who have supported Kindle Unlimited over the years as they continue to get the KENP rate per page read while trad publishers pick up 70% royalties.

Self-published authors who want their ebooks on Kindle Unlimited have to sign up to KDP Select and make their ebooks exclusive to Kindle. They are paid out of the monthly KDP Select Global fund on a per-page-read basis according to the number of KENPs read (Kindle Edition Normalized Reads).

However, while Harper’s entry to KU might mean that indies are faced with increased competition in a market which they have largely made their own, it could also bring a new influx of subscribers to Kindle Unlimited which can only benefit indies overall.

HarperCollins has offered titles on subscription services Scribd and Bookmate for several years but all the Big Five trad publishers have steered clear of Kindle Unlimited.

It’s certainly noticeable so far that HarperCollins is being careful about the titles they are putting on to Kindle Unlimited. None of the massive-selling Harper books such as Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, have been moved on to KU.

Harper could, of course, face a backlash from bookstores fearing print best-sellers being seriously hit by titles being available as ebooks on a £7.99 a month subscription service.


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