How to Sell More Books with Kindle Unlimited


Guest Post

by Penny Sansevieri

We’ve heard a lot about Amazon’s big new subscription service, which is essentially a way to read books (limited to ones enrolled in this program) for one monthly fee. You’re limited to ten books at a time, so if you want more, you’ll have to return a book or two and then the system will continue to let you add to your library.

People have asked me about results in this program, and so far I have to say that when it comes to nonfiction, I’m not terribly impressed. At least my nonfiction books aren’t doing great (and they sell well on Amazon in general). That, however, makes a lot of sense. Why? Because Kindle Unlimited (being a subscription service) speaks much more to the fiction reader—in particular the genre fiction reader—than it does to anyone else. Now this doesn’t mean that your book won’t do well there if you’ve written nonfiction, but the program really bodes well for the fiction crowd.

With that in mind, I started to do some experimenting with the system and here is what I found.

Fact #1: Kindle Unlimited (KU) really appeals to the avid reader. This means that if your book is genre fiction, you’ll do really well here. I’ve found that the hyper-fast readers often fall into this category and can really save money with this subscription service. Consequently, some of the highest sales are coming from these readers.

Fact #2: In order to be a part of the Kindle Unlimited community, you have to have your book enrolled in the KDP select program. That said, I wouldn’t recommend having all of your books in there all at the same time. In fact, I recommend rotating them in and out of KPD select. If you have a series, this becomes even more crucial, because with KU, if all of your books in that particular series are in the Select program, they will all be migrated to the subscription shelves. Granted, this can work in your favor, but I would suggest keeping just the first in the series in KDP Select with a link, letter, or some blurb in the back of the book that will take readers to the next book in the series, and then the next, and so on (to maximize your royalty income). Depending on how many books you have in a series, you could conceivably rotate two or three in and out of the program. You’ll want to experiment with this because not all genres (even in genre fiction) respond the same.

Fact #3: Kindle Unlimited pays you for the number of pages a customer reads! But the catch is that they don’t pay for re-reads, only for the first time the book is read. Amazon calculates the number of pages read across all genres, devices, and display settings with the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC). It’s calculated by using standard formatting settings and is used to measure the number of pages customers read in your book, starting with what they call the “Start Reading Location.” Amazon typically sets SRL at chapter one, but nontext elements within books, including images, charts, and graphs, will count. (At least this is how it was working at the time this article was last updated, but Amazon changes all the time.)

Fact #4: Themes matter a lot. This was a bit of a surprise to me, but when I tested this across a few titles, I found this to be absolutely true: Themes matter. What are themes? They are the new keywords Amazon uses to define and categorize your book. (I did a video on this here.) I found that though some people are using these, not everyone is, and this surprises me. I know it’s hard to give up one or two of the keywords that you upload to the Amazon system, but trust me, it matters. In a test we did recently, I removed all of the theme keywords from the back of a fiction book. The book plummeted down the KU list, going from 84 sales a week to 1. When I added back the theme words into the keyword area, the book bounced back up again and has returned to its almost normal status.

Fact #5: Additional content works well on KU. We have an author who just finished her book and the editor pulled several sections from the book (as editors often do). I’ve encouraged her to create a “Director’s Cut” of the book with the additional pieces either in a separate edition or as separate books on Amazon. Having this additional content to drive a reader’s interest to your book can be really helpful—not just for the KU program, but across the board. If a reader likes your writing, he or she will likely read everything you’ve written. Bonus content, director’s cuts (or whatever you want to call it), can really help pull in new readers.

So that’s the wrap-up on the Kindle Unlimited so far. We’re always testing online marketing and keeping up-to-date on changes on Amazon and elsewhere, so see below to contact us with questions!

Do Now

1. Get a handle on effective book marketing options. Penny offers free consults to help you build your unique campaign (based on up-to-the-minute genre and online-marketing research). Especially if your book sales are currently struggling, you should check out the customizable, done-for-you promotion campaigns Penny offers. She has an incredible team that we’re happy to support; we think she’ll care about your success as much as we do. If you’re a time-starved author who just wants to write—but still hopes someone will read and buy your books!—then this is the break you’ve been looking for. If you might be ready to seriously explore promotion help, you’re in luck: right now Penny is offering our community a super discount on her all-important Amazon optimization services. You won’t find anyone with as much know-how on boosting Amazon sales. We suggest you check out her services today—and don’t forget to check in with us to get access to your discount!

2. Sign up for her free e-course on 52 Ways to Sell More Books and get her newsletter with up-to-date promotion tips for a constantly evolving market.

If you found this information helpful, please share! And now your thoughts—any insights you’ve gained from the book-marketing trenches?

Penny-SansevieriGRAYPenny Sansevieri is a branding and packaging specialist who puts her vision into each book promotion campaign. Her exceptionally skilled and experienced team has helped multiple authors become New York Times bestsellers or get their books optioned for movies. But this team feels their biggest successes aren’t the books that hit the New York Times. Their best success stories are of those authors who started without a platform—just their first book in hand, hoping for the best. Her team lives for this kind of story: “If we can take that author and get them heard above the noise that exists in our business today, then we have truly done our job. That is success.”

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  1. Connie Tucker

    What a smarty! I am so impressed with the tactics Penny has shared with us here. I’m certainly going to employ them, and feel like I might need to share my royalties with her!

  2. Michele

    Gosh, what great information! Thanks to Penny for helping me to understand the ins and outs of KU. I had no idea.

  3. Ron

    Thanks for the info Penny! My experience is exclusively with fiction, and my sales stats show that about 10% of total books out the door come from borrows, so it’s definitely worth enrolling in KU to get that extra revenue. I can’t say that KU is something that’s built into any of my marketing strategy, but it is an additional option for the end readers, and shouldn’t be ignored.

  4. Adrianne

    Yowza! That’s a pretty byzantine structure that Amazon’s got going for KU. This stuff terrifies me. I’m relieved that there’s a resource– Penny and her team– to help us navigate it. At present I’m still just a lowly wordsmith with very little promotional savvy, and it’s comforting to know that when I finally finish this blasted manuscript someone will help me to get more people to read it. Thanks!


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