The December numbers are in for Amazon’s rather controversial Kindle Owners‘ Lending Library (KOLL) and for some people they turned out to be quite good. Right around 295,000 rentals were made of the approximately 70,000 titles available to be checked out in December alone. Given the $500,000 fund allotted to compensate KDP exclusive authors for these rentals, that means approximately $1.70 per lent copy was handed out. Things went over so well, in fact, that Amazon is throwing another $200,000 into the pool for January’s authors. This will bring the total to be divided up to $700,000, though of course it will also quite possibly be divided among even more authors this time around.
Among the more notable success stories, we know that the top ten most popular KOLL authors put together nabbed over $70,000 from these rentals alone. That is around a 30% increase over other monthly income from the same works. The top earner was Carolyn McCray, author of a number of paranormal romance and mystery/thriller titles, who is quoted in the Amazon Press Release as saying that “KDP Select truly is a career altering program”. Romance writer Amber Scott, 16yr old children’s author Rachel Yu, and the puzzle book producing Grabarchuk family made up the rest of the highlighted triumphs, with over $6,000 in KOLL related income apiece.
In these cases, obviously there has been no significant downside to the program. The fact that participation in it requires exclusively making one’s work available exclusively to Kindle owners may have more of an effect on many others, however. What the press release numbers do not tell us is the average income that an author managed to pick up this month, aside from the fact that it was a measurable percentage increase over participating authors’ usual monthly income from Kindle Store proceeds. It would be interesting, if pretty much impossible, to compare how many authors saw a jump in profits compared to the number who actually lost income due to exclusivity. It seems safe to assume that this was the case for at least some people.
As with anything related to self publishing, however, most of the success will have to come through some form of author driven advertising. Random hits by interested browsers are nice, but word of mouth is frequently not enough to drive sales on its own even for a skilled and prolific writer. The lending community opens the door to new readers, but so far is not arranged in such a way as to point readers toward any particular title.
Overall this success is a plus for any fan of the Kindle. Owning one gains some ongoing perks in the form of book rentals, success stories among authors will surely lead to even more participants, and Amazon has immediately shown themselves likely to increase the compensation pool. We’ll be watching the program here in months to come as the situation stabilizes. You can’t really assume that holiday Kindle sales are having anything but a positive effect on everything related to the eReading line, so it might be the end of first quarter before we can say anything definitive about ongoing positive trends. Still, off to a good note.