I’ve been all in on Kindle Unlimited since the very beginning. Truth be told, I’ve been afraid to leave it. What if KU is giving me additional exposure I wouldn’t have otherwise? What if I leave, my rank tanks, and I can never recover? What if most of Amazon’s readers refuse to buy books because they’d rather find one in KU?
Despite those fears, I rationalized that I could take the risk of sacrificing one pen name to see what would happen. So I proposed an experiment to myself. Here’s what I did:
- I selected a pen name with steady earnings that I haven’t touched since 2015.
- I turned off Kindle Unlimited’s auto-renew on all books written by that pen name (so they’re slowly coming out of KU over the 90 day period).
- I watched my earnings, paid downloads, and pages read of that pen name and overall to see the results.
As of this writing, the experiment has been going on for about 3 weeks and so far I’m very pleased with the results! Here’s a quick screenshot to give you an overview of what happened:
So what happened?
To sum it up:
- Earnings are up by nearly 50%
- Paid downloads are up by over 100%
- Pages read are down by almost 25% so far
Remember, I wasn’t able to get all of this pen name’s books out of KU all at once. Many of their books are still waiting out the 90 day period and are still available to readers in KU. Because of that, I expect that these results will only continue to improve. Eventually, pages read will go down to 0 but that will be offset by a sharp increase in sales and earnings. In the end, earnings is all that matters so if by taking my stuff out of KU increases overall earnings I will continue to remove all books from the program.
What about my other pen names (ie the control group)?
Since this was an isolated experiment on one pen name, I was able to watch the performance of all pen names to see if these results were isolated or not. Here’s what that same chart looks like for all of my published works (including those of the experimental pen name) over the same time period.
As you can see, paid downloads are only up by 36 overall. The pen name in my experiment is up by 41 over the same time period. That means if it wasn’t for the experimental pen name, I’d actually be down 5 paid downloads! You can see a similar result for earnings. Thus, it’s clear that the results I’ve seen are due to my slow exit from Kindle Unlimited.
Kindle Unlimited is not for everyone. As you can see by the above results, it is far better for me to remove myself from the program. I’ll end up earnings more via paid downloads if readers don’t have the option of borrowing my books for free. This will give me the freedom to publish on all platforms again, thus increasing my earnings even further!
Assuming that these results continue (I’ll let the experiment run for the full 90 days to make sure all books are out of KU) I will be leaving Kindle Unlimited entirely.
My publishing strategy
To give you a better feel of why it’s better for me to exit Kindle Unlimited, it’s important to disclose my publishing strategy because it is likely related to why I’ve seen the results that I did.
All of my successful books were written with the following guidelines:
- They were erotica shorts of roughly 5000 words.
- They were all part of a 3 part series.
- Book #1 in the series is permanently free.
- Books #2 and beyond in a series are priced at $2.99.
Getting out of KU only makes sense with this strategy because KU is not what is giving my books exposure. It’s actually the free book at the beginning of the series that does. In terms of exposure on Amazon’s website the only thing that matters is that readers can find that first free book and that’s not affected by KU at all. If they like the first book (which I hope they do), they will grab the rest of the series. KU did very little in terms of garnering me more readers and, as it turns out, only managed to cannibalize sales.