Borrows boom but Kindle Unlimited January payout falls to $1.38 despite new high for KDP Select fund

Kindle Unlimited payout to authors per borrow since the scheme started in July 2014. The $1.86 payout for July reflects the fact that KU was launched midway through the month. The range since then has been from $1.54-$1.33, giving an average of $1.43 for the six months that KU has been in full operation. This chart is built on a scale using 1 as the base, rather than 0, to show the variations more graphically.

Amazon dashed hopes of a strong start to the year for KDP Select authors as the Kindle Unlimited payout for January 2015 fell to $1.38 per borrow from $1.43 in December despite the KDP Select fund for January being topped up to yet another record high of $8.5 million.

Amazon had set the fund at just $3 million for January, but, as has become usual since the launch of Kindle Unlimited, it added a huge bonus of  $5.5 million, bringing the total fund to a new record of $8.5 million, a 17% rise from the previous high point of $7.25 million in December.

It looks like total Kindle Unlimited borrows for the month rocketed by over a million compared with December when the total broke through the five million mark. Amazon doesn’t release official figures but dividing the January KDP Select fund by the payout per borrow (8,500,000/1.38) gives a massive total of 6,159,420 — representing a 21% leap on the previous month.

In December, dividing the total KDP Select fund of $7.25 million by the borrow payout rate of $1.43 produced the total of 5,069,930. This was a 9% increase from 4,642,857 in November, which was a 12% rise from 4,135,338 in October.

The KDP Select fund has seen big increases over the first full six months of Kindle Unlimited, with January’s $8.5 million representing an 80% rise from $4.7 million last August. Over the last six months, a total of $37.45 million has been paid out to KDP Select authors on borrows. The average monthly rise in the fund since August has been 12% and the fund seems certain to break through $10 million perhaps as early as February.

Kindle Unlimited was introduced halfway through July last year and the payout for borrows for that partial month of KU was $1.86, but this fell to $1.54 for August, and then to $1.51 in September, before the low point of $1.33 was reached in October.

After widespread protests from authors, the payout started rising again to $1.40 in November and $1.43 for December, but the latest reduction to $1.38 is bound to renew concerns among writers about the benefits of being enrolled in KDP Select.

The average of the payouts for the six full months of Kindle Unlimited (excluding July when KU was introduced halfway through the month) is $1.43, which now probably comprises the ‘new normal’ for borrows, give or take a few cents either way.

For Kindle Unlimited (and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library) on the site, authors are getting £0.90 per borrow for January, which is a fair reflection of the current exchange rate for $1.38.

The rise and fall of Kindle Unlimited. The KDP Select fund has been on an ever rising trend while the payout per borrow has flattened.

Last week, Amazon crossed the American borders to extend Kindle Unlimited to Canada at CA$9.99 (US$8) a month and Mexico at 129 Mexican pesos (US$8.60) a month. These offers both represent good deals at current exchange rates as KU in the US costs $9.99 a month and in the UK the monthly cost is £7.99 ($12.43).

In January (when it announced the payout rate for December), Amazon claimed that Kindle Unlimited was benefiting authors when it revealed some findings from the opening months of KU, saying total royalties to KDP Select authors more than doubled when compared to the same period in 2013.

It added that total earnings on titles priced $2.99 or higher were growing faster than the overall average, and that around 95% of authors enrolled in KDP Select (necessary to be eligible for Kindle Unlimited) were staying with the program. It also said authors in KDP Select were seeing faster sales growth than non-KDP Select authors.

The KDP Select fund for February 2015 has been set at $3 million initially, with, no doubt, another big bonus to come, but perhaps fewer authors (and books) as at least some disgruntled writers start to head for the exits.

Kindle Unlimited heading for $100 million-plus payout for 2015

Kindle Unlimited December 2014 borrow rate rises to $1.43

Kindle Unlimited payout to authors increases to $1.40 in November 2014

Best-seller HM Ward pulls out of Kindle Unlimited as earnings plunge