Royalties for Kindle pages read vs sales

A question often posed on Facebook groups is "Do authors get paid more for a book if it's read via Kindle Unlimited or bought as a Kindle ebook?"

The answer is surprisingly complicated!

It depends on:

  • the cost of the book as an ebook
  • the number of pages in it
  • the country it's read/sold in
  • the currency exchange rate
  • the KENP rate (amount paid in each country per page read) - which is different in each country and changes month to month, depending on how many people are in KU and how many books they read!

I said it was complicated!

Since an author is paid per pages read, clearly a shorter book will generate less money via Kindle Unlimited than a longer book. But if the book is priced at 99c/99p then it will probably net the author more if the book is read in KU rather than bought.

What has often interested me is how different my royalties are across different countries, for the same book.

Let me use "Aegyir Rises" and the box-set as examples, and look at UK v US v Canada v Australia.

Amazon tells me "Aegyir Rises" is 454 KENP (Kindle pages) and the box-set is 1606 KENP. If I look at a month where I have good data for those four countries, I can calculate how many pages need to be read to earn me a pound in each country. From that, I can calculate how much I would earn for 454 pages, and 1606 pages. I can also compare the royalties generated by reading the book in comparison with buying the book.

Okay, so in the table, you can see in the pages/£ column that an Australian has to read a lot more pages (512) to earn me the same amount as money as a Brit reading the books (332 pages)! I think this must be a reflection of how many people are signed up for KU in Australia, how much they pay for it and how many books they read each month.

If you then look at how much each book sale gets me (in £) the data are all pretty similar. The killer column is the final one: how much I get if they read the book in comparison with if they bought the book. 41%... OUCH! Even 66% isn't great!

Is the box-set any better? Well... yes, and no

The final column looks better, right? But compare how much I get paid if someone in Australia reads the whole of the box-set in comparison with someone buying "Aegyir Rises"... £3.14 for 1606 pages read (three decent-sized books) compared to £2.14 for just the first book. The only reason the percentages in the final column look better is because there is a price-cap on the box-set in Canada and Australia. You can't charge more than $9.99 for an ebook in Canada or $11.99 in Australia. Since individual books are priced $4.99 and $5.99, you essentially get a book for free by buying the box-set there.

Are you surprised by how little an author gets? Minimum wage in the UK is £8.91/hour for my age. £8.91 x 40 hours/week x 50 weeks per year = £17,820. The average payment for the ebook if it's read is £1.17. If it's bought it's £2.09. To earn just the minimum wage, I need to sell ~4 books every hour. Or 7.5 people have to read the entire book every hour.

I can tell you for free, I get nowhere near that! It's a really good job I didn't hope to make any money by writing books!