Authors Profit from the Kindle “Lending Library”

Today Amazon revealed their first statistics for the “Kindle Owners’ Lending Library”. There’s over 75,000 ebooks that can now be borrowed for free for one month by the members of Amazon’s “Prime” shipping service, who are paying an annual fee of $79. That service also offers free two-day shipping (and cheaper one-day shipping), plus free access to a selection of online movies and TV shows. But the people who may be benefiting the most are some of Amazon’s self-published authors!

The program’s “off to a strong start,” Amazon reported today, noting that in just the month of December, nearly 300,000 Kindle owners borrowed an ebook. In fact, each ebook in the library was borrowed by four Kindle owners in December, on average — though of course some ebooks were more popular than others. And Amazon had set aside a $500,000 fund for December to be shared among “KDP Select” authors (who publish their ebooks using Amazon’s tools and agree to let Amazon hold exclusive digital distribution rights). Today Amazon announced they’re bumping up last month’s fund by 40% — to $700,000 — which means “KDP Select” authors will earn $1.70 for each time one of their own ebooks was borrowed!

Self-published authors seem to have discovered a new way to measure their success. The 10 most-popular authors in the KDP Select program saw their Kindle ebooks being borrowed an average of 4,117 times, if I’m reading Amazon’s statistics correctly. They’d reported that those authors earned $70,000 from the lending library — which has to be a cumulative total, meaning on average an extra $7,000 per author. And since Amazon’s reported they’re paying $1.70 for each “borrow,” the total number of borrows is $7,000/$1.70 — which comes out to 4,117 times. “The list of top 10 KDP Select authors includes Carolyn McCray, Rachel Yu, the Grabarchuk family and Amber Scott,” Amazon announced today.

That’s especially exciting for one author — Rachel Yu — who is just 16 years old! She’s self-published five children’s books in the Kindle Store, including “A Wolf Pup’s Tale,” which she wrote when she was 15. “All proceeds will go to Rachel’s college education fund,” reads a note on the book’s page at She published her first ebook just 16 months ago — “A Dragon Named Dragon” — at the age of 14, and now she’s one of the 10 best-selling authors in Amazon’s KDP Select program. “It’s so cool to be part of the success of KDP Select…,” she says in today’s press release from Amazon. “There’s truly no other opportunity like Amazon for self-publishing.”

Rachel earned $6,200 just in the month of December, according to Amazon’s announcement, and another self-published author earned even more. “Participating in KDP Select has quadrupled my royalties,” reported Carolyn McCray, who writes paranormal romance novels as well as mysteries and historical thrillers. Amazon reported today that just in December, Carolyn McCray earned $8,250.

In fact on average, all “KDP Select” authors are earning an extra 26%, according to Amazon. “KDP Select appears to be earning authors more money in two ways…,” announced Amazon’s Vice President of Kindle Content. Besides their revenue from the lending program, “we’ve been surprised by how much paid sales of those same titles increased, even relative to the rest of KDP.” Obviously Amazon is touting the experience of their most-successful self-published authors. But it’s inspiring to hear about their success. It makes you wonder if the world of publishing really has been transformed forever.

“During many decades our family is working in the Puzzle World,” reads one humble “author profile” at for the Grabarchuk family. Besides creating and marketing puzzles, they “produce interactive puzzles; solve hundreds puzzles a year; make puzzle researches and historical studies; and are involved into many other puzzle activities all over the World.” The Grabarchuk family also became one of the 10 top-selling authors in Amazon’s KDP Select program for December. In just 31 days, they earned $6,300. “Finally indie publishers are playing as equals with the big publishing houses in the world’s biggest eBook marketplace,” co-founder Serhiy Grabarchuk said enthusiastically in today’s press release from Amazon.

And Amazon provided one more example — romance writer Amber Scott. With seven Kindle ebooks, she’s reporting that the KDK select program “utterly transformed my career,” and her earnings for December were $7,650. She’s apparently attributing some of her success to the Kindle Lending Library, saying “I’ve experienced not only a surge in royalties but a surge in readership thanks to the increased exposure.” And she ended her comment with an exciting prediction for 2012.

“What an exciting time to be an author!”

One thought to “Authors Profit from the Kindle “Lending Library””

  1. ” The 10 most-popular authors in the KDP Select program saw their Kindle ebooks being borrowed an average of 4,117 times, if I’m reading Amazon’s statistics correctly. They’d reported that those authors earned $70,000 from the lending library — which has to be a cumulative total, meaning on average an extra $7,000 per author.”

    Excuse me, no offense directly intended towards you personally but this is rubbish. Amazon is spreading the good news that 4 or 5 authors made between $8,000 and $70,000 (or maybe it was $70,000 combined, which is not a lot of money). What about the AVERAGE author? How much is the AVERAGE author on the Select platform earning? Only ten people can be in the top ten so that has nothing to do with self published authors with books in Select (over 70,000 authors I hear).

    And also how can a person make more money giving stuff away for free than they can by charging money for it??? Not in this world. To me this is the same type of nonsense that was spread around about the 99 cent ebooks. People kept saying authors can make more money selling work for 99 cents than for $9.99, for example. Utterly silly (to me). And now they are suggesting that authors can EARN more money by giving things away for free. It’s just so silly and crazy.

    And these so called top ten authors whose names Amazon seems to have pulled out of a hat? I’ve never heard of ANY of them. No John Locke? No Amanda Hocking? No Joe Konrath? No Victerine Lieske?? Those authors who were bestselling before are the names I expected to hear, but I think Amazon wanted to make it seem like any author had a chance to earn money so they left those names out.

    From the comments I’ve read all over, most of the Select authors are authors who had a hard time selling their work for 99 cents, so now they are giving their ebooks away. These particular authors will never be able to SELL their work. Free is the only option they have, and they have no place left to go as they already have their books on the bottom of the price scale.

    I have one question: Did Amazon pay you to run this story?

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