Up until now, my short-stories and my recently published short-story collection have been available through the Amazon KDP Select program. This allows readers who join Amazon Prime to pay a monthly fee of $9.99 (Isn’t it amazing how often that price seems to come up these days…) and then download any book included in KDP Select. The theory is that the reader gets the chance to read books that they might otherwise not, and the author gets a somewhat nebulous share of a global fund made available by Amazon. (They keep tinkering with the exact formula as people continually try to game the system.)
As part of KDP Select, authors can also make use of a couple of promotional tools where they can give their books away free for 5 days out of every 30 or use Kindle Countdown Deals where a book can be discounted for a set number of days. Both of these tools are very easy to set up and will often attract a lot of interest to a book. At least that’s the theory. My own experiences have shown somewhat lacklustre results and I’ve heard from other writers that although it used to be an effective promotional tool, it’s less so now.
KDP Select undoubtedly provides opportunities for writers far beyond what was available in even the fairly recent past. I do have some reservations, however. Firstly, I dislike the fact that Amazon changes its “rules” without consulting writers. I also have a problem with some of the privacy aspects (tracking what everyone reads page by page – including monitoring how long someone spends on a page, for example), though that seems to be something that few people worry about nowadays. I also don’t like the fact that Amazon controls so much of the publishing market; monopolies, or near monopolies, are never good for customers or producers in the long term. These issues to my mind are all big enough to warrant a long hard look at Amazon and its business practices. But they’re not ultimately why I’ve chosen not to continue with KDP Select.
I’m an independent writer. That means I don’t have a big book publisher behind me. All of the effort that goes in to creating my books is done by myself, my wife, and various freelance editors. I design everything including the advertising, cover graphics and video book trailers. Sometimes I make use of stock imagery or video to enhance my own (sometimes limited) skills, but for the most part I do it all. I’m not the only one in this position; many (if not most) other independent authors do the same thing to a greater or lesser extent. Some people because they just love to be in control of every aspect of their work, some because they can’t afford to hire enough professional help to do all these things. But I think the pride in their own work is something very common with independents.
So that being the case, why the hell would I tie myself to one distribution channel?
That’s the real problem with KDP Select. When you sign up, you have to agree to be exclusive to Kindle. So I can’t then sell through Apple’s iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, or any of the other distribution channels that exist. How crazy is this? I can’t even sell you my own book, through my own website.
So while Amazon has done a lot for writers, their exclusivity clause makes the whole KDP Select program incompatible with the “independent” philosophy. How can you possibly consider yourself to be independent and proud of it, if you tie yourself to a single distribution channel? If you go to a car dealership that only sells vehicles from one manufacturer, that has that manufacturer’s branding everywhere, and only repair cars of that brand, would you think of them as being an “independent” dealership? Of course not. To me it’s the same thing.
I know a lot of people will disagree with me. Including other independent writers. But to me, “independent” “and “exclusive” don’t go together, no matter how good the Kool-Aid tastes.
Does this mean fewer people will read my books? I’m not sure. Through Smashwords I have access to much wider distribution and what’s more, my books are still available through Kindle – Smashwords doesn’t demand exclusivity. I can also sell direct through my own website if I want. It does mean that people who join Amazon prime won’t have free access to my books and I’m sorry about that. I wish there was a way that I could allow my books to be downloaded through the Amazon programs without the exclusivity restrictions.
But if you want to check out my writing you can read the samples here on my site, or through the online book stores. Or alternatively, sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you a free copy of a complete story of your choice. I think that’s a fair way for people to try out my writing.
Happy reading everyone!
Very informative post. I too question the exclusivity clause of KDP Select and I’ve read many articles about the damage Kindle Unlimited has done to book sales. As indies, we appreciate the platform offered by Amazon, but some of the policies don’t seem all that helpful to authors.
Great post David! I’ve just gone back to KDP for another experiment, but come March I may go back to Smashwords with both my titles (and third) and make first one free. Then force Amazon to price match once it gets back onto iBooks etc.
I agree with this in theory, but in practice I found I was making all my sales on Amazon anyway. Perhaps it’s a peculiarity of my readers, but they don’t seem to show up on Apple or Kobo. I concur with the comments about periodic giveaways, too. I get a fair number of downloads when they’re on, but those readers never leave reviews, and there is no visible carryover into paid sales.
Thanks Richard. It’s a tough call I know, we’re all trying to find the right balance that works for us and I don;t think there’s a “one-size-fits-all” solution with these things. I’ve more recently adopted a more “hybrid” approach. I put individual short-stories on KU, but leave my collection off.
Right now I’m trying to decide which way to go with my upcoming novel and it’s definitely a hard decision to make.
I’d also say it seems quite hard to reach readers who like science-fiction as opposed to fantasy or sci-fantasy.
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