Enrolling in Kindle KDP Select and granting Amazon KDPS ebook exclusivity is always a difficult decision.
There has been a lot of debate recently about Amazon’s new feature, Kindle Unlimited, which is offered to authors who chose to enrol in KDP Select. As a long time self-publisher, I have to say from the outset that it is not a good idea at all. However, for some authors, it might be.
Let me start by going all the way back to the very beginning of KDP Select. When it was first introduced, I was onto it immediately. Why? Because it gave an author a chance to be discovered. Back then, when you offered your ebook for free during the five days each three months, these giveaways counted towards sales, and in doing so increased a book’s sales ranking and exposure. That was enough for me in those early days to give my exclusivity to Amazon, and I made a lot of sales from the increase in my e-books’ rankings.
KDP Select benefits declined
In hindsight though it was a monumental mistake. Not long after the introduction of this great promotional tool, Amazon reduced a book’s sales ranking ratio from a give away to 50%, and then shortly after to 10%. This meant having to give away ten times as many e-books to achieve the corresponding increase in sales ranking. Then finally, a giveaway became worth 0% as this feature was killed off. In the meantime, though, the e-books I had removed from Smashwords, and in doing that, from Apple, B&N and many other online retailers had lost all their rankings and it took two years for them to recover after I got out of KDP Select and re-published back on Smashwords.
The other irritating downside of Kindle KDP Select was that even though I had removed my e-books from publication via Smashwords, Amazon suddenly became the police, as they continually sent me warning (bordering on threatening) emails saying they had found my e-book being offered on some obscure small retailer and if I didn’t have it removed my e-books on KDP would be removed.
For those new to self-publishing, you have to know that Amazon really do want you to commit exclusively to them. Why? Because KDP Select is a pool that Amazon fights with. It’s interesting to note that in Amazon’s publicity about KDP Unlimited that they say 600,000 e-books are available. This number is approximately the number of e-books enrolled in KDP Select and it was the same sales pitch, and almost the same number, they used when they introduced Prime Lending a couple of years ago. Both of these services work on a pool of money that is at Amazon’s discretion each month, and then paid by some hidden formula, which while being a mysterious, is always without mystery, well below the royalty, you would normally receive at your e-book’s listed price. While I was a member of Select, Prime borrowed books earned about half of a normal sale. Sometimes even less. My judgement was that they were both in Amazon’s favour, and certainly not mine.
No major publisher that I know of has joined either Prime Lending or Kindle Unlimited, but Amazon needs a pool of e-books to fight Oyster and Scribd as they launch their new subscription offer. I say, it’s another example of authors being used to fight Amazon’s marketing wars.
Apart from being a marketing fighting fund of e-books, KDP Select is also used as a tool to penalise authors who publish on KDP but refuse to join Select. The penalty is that your royalties are cut in half in many Kindle Stores around the world.
Should you open publish?
My experience says that it is far better to publish as widely as possible, and not give your rights away to one publisher.
Except under one circumstance. If you self-publish on Amazon KDP only, you’d be silly not to be enrolled, as your royalties will double in many Kindle Stores, and what have you got to lose with KDP Select e-book lending and subscription services? Well, only about half your normal royalty per e-book when it’s lent, borrowed and read by anyone paying $9.99 per month, but only if they read more that 10% of your book. Well, that’s their current rule of thumb, but as I have experienced in the past, Amazon’s rules can change overnight. And do.
I have to say though that I am an admirer of Amazon and KDP and the wonderful opportunities it has given to self-published authors. However, exclusivity is something you hand over for a fat advance check, and not for your royalties being cut in half. For another view about Kindle KDP Select, you may like to read this article by Mark Coker on the Huffington Post.