Kindle Unlimited & Marketing Strategies (for A-L-L Authors)

Unlimited Books

Kindle Unlimited Affects Every Author

Whether or not your books participate in Kindle Unlimited, this new Amazon program impacts how you should market your books.

Kindle Unlimited allows Amazon customers to read an unlimited number of books—with 600,000 to choose from—for a monthly fee of $9.99. You can learn more about Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Some authors are for it; others are against it. Either way, it changes the effectiveness of traditional marketing strategies, and will bring about new marketing opportunities.

Complaining doesn’t help. Cheering only helps a little. Realizing how this impacts marketing, planning for it, and making the most of it right out of the box—that can give you a marked advantage.

When a new and big program comes out, there are always some authors who take advantage of it. Months later, you hear success stories. Then many other authors try those things, but it doesn’t work quite as well.

It isn’t months later yet (unless you happen to be reading this post many months after it was written). Here is your opportunity.

Changes to Marketing Strategies

Part of your potential readership will be in Kindle Unlimited, but part won’t be. That’s why every author will be affected by this.

Some marketing strategies that used to be effective may become less effective now.

Here are some book marketing strategies that may lose their effectiveness:

  • Promotional prices. Whether it’s a Kindle freebie, permanent free price-match, Kindle Countdown Deal, MatchBook offer, temporary price change, or a Smashwords discount code, it won’t look attractive to thousands of readers who have access to Kindle Unlimited. Even if you aren’t in Kindle Unlimited, some of your potential readership is. Thus, Kindle Unlimited may dampen the effectiveness of promotional pricing.
  • Omnibus. A boxed set won’t have the same value to a customer with a subscription for unlimited reading. Kindle Unlimited authors should remove the omnibus from KDP Select; it only has value to readers who aren’t in the program. Again, since thousands of your potential customers are now in Kindle Unlimited, it will impact the effectiveness of the boxed set.
  • Series. Many series authors make the first book free or 99 cents. That’s not such a good value in the Kindle Unlimited program. If the series isn’t in Kindle Unlimited, a low price of the first book won’t appeal to as many readers as it has in the past. If the series is in Kindle Unlimited, a higher price may seem like a better value to those customers.
  • Low prices. Many 99-cent, $1.99, and $2.99 books have appealed to readers through low prices. They’re cheap, so it’s easier to take a chance on them. But in Kindle Unlimited, higher price-points may be more attractive, as more expensive books won’t cost customers more money; they want to get a better value. Some of your potential readers are in Kindle Unlimited, others aren’t. Fewer customers overall will now be attracted to lower prices.
  • Advertising. In the past, you could advertise a promotional price effectively through BookBub, E-reader News Today, and many other paid and free advertising services. These may lose their effectiveness with many customers moving to subscription pricing. Higher prices may be perceived as a greater value, without the added cost, to Kindle Unlimited customers. There will be fewer customers attracted to promotional pricing.
  • Sales rank. Books in the Kindle Unlimited program that are receiving downloads will benefit in terms of sales rank. This gives books that thrive in the Kindle Unlimited program an advantage over books that aren’t in the program.
  • Reviews. You might think that Kindle Unlimited customers will tend to be more satisfied, since a book that doesn’t suit their needs won’t be a waste of money—just go out and get another book. However, like KDP Select freebies, many customers will stop reading the blurbs and Look Insides and just download books without knowing what to expect, and, unfortunately, Kindle Unlimited books will occasionally receive some crazy reviews from these customers. Every book eventually gets some crazy reviews; maybe reviews where the customer clearly didn’t pay attention are better than some other critical reviews. And once a bad review is posted, it sometimes deters other would-be reviewers from piling it on.
  • Traffic. Kindle Unlimited books may take away traffic from books that aren’t in the program, in addition to helping to boost the sales ranks of books that are in the program. Books that aren’t in Kindle Unlimited need to become more effective at reaching customers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited.
  • Print books. Customers who prefer print books are less likely to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. Authors who aren’t in KDP Select may now want to market their print books somewhat more.

Kindle Unlimited Marketing Opportunities

Once you understand how marketing strategies are impacted by Kindle Unlimited, you can take this into consideration with your planning.

Here are some suggestions for how to market books enrolled in KDP Select in the Kindle Unlimited era:

  • New groups. Start a new group on Facebook in your genre specifically for Kindle Unlimited readers and/or authors. Or join a new group. There is a new Kindle Unlimited target audience. You want to find ways to reach this audience. Be among the first to do this effectively and it will be a sweet advantage for you.
  • Advertising. Look for new clubs and advertising services specifically geared toward Kindle Unlimited. It won’t be about sale prices, it will be about matching books to readers. It might be a new release email newsletter for Kindle Unlimited customers. Perhaps editors selectively screen submissions for quality content. There are many possibilities. You could even start such a service yourself (which gives you added publicity). The time is ripe.
  • Children’s books. Children’s authors should be marketing the potential of Kindle Unlimited to parents and teachers. Parents may not have realized how easy it would be to read a different bedtime story every night from a huge collection for just $9.99 per month. That’s a steal. Since kids’ books tend to be short (but not cheap), parents and children (and teachers) can really get their money’s worth out of Kindle Unlimited. Parents are likely to read books by authors who help them realize what a value this is.
  • Holiday gifting. This is one promotion that will still appeal to Kindle Unlimited customers. Since they still have to buy gifts for friends and family, promotional pricing for gifts will entice all readers. So you can still market promotional pricing toward gifts. Be sure to mention the gift part in your promotions. Kindle Unlimited subscribers will see the promotional price and think, “No big deal,” until the gift part reminds them, “Oh, yeah, that will cost me money.” Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of event just for books. This will be a great opportunity to gift e-books for the holidays.
  • Pricing. Consider raising your price. It won’t deter Kindle Unlimited customers; it may help establish higher value. However, keep in mind that if the price seems higher than the book is worth, customers (even in Kindle Unlimited) are more likely to feel dissatisfied (i.e. they didn’t receive the expected value), perhaps leaving a critical review. Rather, if your book is currently priced lower than it’s value based on how the market has been prior to Kindle Unlimited, you may want to reconsider this. Remember that you will still have readers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited. Also, any downloads you get through Kindle Unlimited will help your sales rank, so you may not have to sweat your sales rank with a higher list price. There are a lot of things to consider regarding price (you can always try out a price change temporarily to see how it works). You might keep your UK and other countries’ prices low, since Kindle Unlimited is presently only available to US customers.
  • Paperbacks. A higher Kindle price may make your paperback look somewhat more enticing, too. Previously, a low Kindle price versus a high paperback price made the Kindle edition seem like a better deal—and it still will to customers who aren’t in the program—but the lower price won’t attract Kindle Unlimited customers. For some books, this might be a good time to push more paperback sales to customers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited. In fact, some of the readers who won’t be joining Kindle Unlimited are those who prefer print books.
  • Opportunity. Kindle Unlimited is new. There are many opportunities to creatively market your book specifically to these customers. My list may help you get started, but surely I haven’t thought of everything. Put your thinking cap on and you may be among the first to try out and effectively use a new book marketing strategy.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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9 comments on “Kindle Unlimited & Marketing Strategies (for A-L-L Authors)

  1. Thanks for making it all clear Chris. I find checking out your posts and reading through them on these kind of things is always easier than going through all the rig-a-mo-rough of amazon/kindles site. And I can easily pop back for another quick view if I forget a detail or something. Thanks again Chris… great job!

  2. Interesting. Though I wonder how many people signed up. I read a few articles yesterday about a lot of the big publishers not getting involved in the Kindle Unlimited system. Do you think a public stance against it could prevent a lot of readers from signing up since they’re probably not joining for the indies?

    • That’s a good question. My feeling is that it will still be popular. For one, it’s Amazon. For another, now there is a compelling alternative to paying $10+ to buy one book at a time from big publishers. Now you can pay $9.99 and read as much as you want; it’s not that hard to find good alternatives to the big names. Some customers will see this. Plus, indie authorship already has a huge market share; it already has enormous internal support.

      I believe some big names (authors or publishers, maybe the top small presses) had opportunities to negotiate for more than the going download rate. Hence, you see Harry Potter and other famous books on the list. Many books like those will attract some customers, or at least some 30-day free trials. (Amazon may announce some new additions every month to entice people to try yet another month.)

      As soon as we know what Amazon is paying per download for July, we’ll have some idea how much participation there is in Kindle Unlimited in the first couple of weeks. These numbers should be helpful.

  3. I only just realized this and I’m not sure if many people have talked about this point yet, and maybe you could re-iterate it too.

    As far as I’m aware, if you cancel your subscription to Kindle Unlimited, you lose access to the books you actually read during that month, which would make sense since it’s a subscription service.

    I actually still think that for a casual reader (light reader like myself) who only reads 2-3 books a month, I’ll be better off looking out for the KDP FREE promos and 0.99 cent bargains, that way, I get to keep the book FOREVER.

    Love your previous posts about Kindle Unlimited too, Chris. Keep them up!

    But wow! What a time it is to be an author. Can’t wait to see the impact of Kindle Unlimited on the salaries of indie authors down the line, even after a few months. Now that will be a huge talking point!!!

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