KU pages and royalties: a look at numbers

I thought you might like a peek at some interesting numbers. This is from a Written Word Media post. They do a lot of posts on all kinds of topics, often interesting and sometimes helpful. This one is about KU readership.

The KU global fund is the money that KDP uses to pay authors whose books are in Kindle Unlimited. The size of the global fund reflects the number of KU participants. When KU started, in July 2014, the global fund was $2.5 million. In September 2014, it doubled to $5 million. In December 2015, it was $13 million — barely more than doubled again. That’s a lot slower growth than I would have expected.

In January 2018, the global fund hit $20 million for the first time. It had been edging up on that for some months prior. In April 2020, it hit $30 million, and at that point, it was tending to go up faster month by month. In December 2021, it hit $40 million. In January 2024, for the first time it hit $50 million. That’s an (indirect, obviously) measure of how many readers have joined KU. Presumably there are close to 25 times as many KU readers now as their were in 2014.

What does KU pay authors? That’s in the linked article too. I don’t usually look up the fluctuating number, but the amount is (slightly) different every month. When it started, KU paid $.005779 per page. Ah, those were the days! I had nothing in KU at that point. It went down to $.004 something rather fast and has been under $.0049 basically ever since. The least KU has ever paid was last year, when it went under .004 for the first time ever — in July of last year, it went to $.003989 per page, and a good many people pulled at least some books out of KU. Either because of that or for some other reason, KDP changed its mind and the payout has been above $.0040 ever since. That low point was unfortunate timing, as that was when I released TASMAKAT, which got a lot of pages read. Too bad it was the worst-paying ever month for KU! Though obviously the difference between 0.00389 and 0.00410 is pretty tiny.

Anyway, since then, the payment per page has gone as high as $.00458 (last November), then it went back down, and at March 2024 stood at $.00415.

That doesn’t seem like much, does it? But it adds up.

I just multiply pages read by .004 for purposes of estimation: 10,000 pages read = just over $40, and now it’s easy to calculate everything else, isn’t it? Obviously 100,000 pages = $400 and 1,000,000 = $4000 and so on. You just keep adding zeros.

These are KENP, which means Kindle Edition Normalized Pages. A normalized page has fewer words than a page when you’re looking at the document in Word, TNR, 12-point. In KENP, MARAG has 574 pages. It’s just barely over 125,000 words, so that tells you about how a normalized page is calculated — a normalized page is about 220 words (or so, this isn’t exactly right either). KENP has nothing to do with the pages shown on the product page, by the way. The product page shows the number of pages for the paperback OR hardcover, whichever is less, which is why it says that TASMAKAT is 550 pages long. The KENP is close to 1400 pages. That means KU pays about $5.60 if someone borrows the book and reads the whole thing, which is obviously less than the $6.99 for a direct sale. On the other hand, KU royalties are just about exactly 50% of total royalties for TASMAKAT, and the proportion will go up over the next year or so because royalties from KU will tend to outpace royalties from direct sales over time.

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5 thoughts on “KU pages and royalties: a look at numbers”

  1. This is very interesting. One question that occurs to me is does an author receive payment if the book is read more than once?

  2. Gill, great question, and alas, no. The author is paid only for the first borrow-and-read.

    Mona, I was surprised how *much* payout varies by month, and how random it seems.

  3. Does Amazon at least let you know about rereads? Because if you are getting to many, surely it’s time to take it off KU.

  4. No, Amazon doesn’t show re-reads, and

    Also no, definitely not. KU is just too massively important in terms of generating income. That’s why I reluctantly pulled the Death’s Lady series from wide distribution and put them into KU.

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