I am considering going over to the Dark Side.
I’m thinking about turning my back on two decades of business philosophy and experimenting with a ruthless approach to selling.
Yes. I am considering enrolling in KDP Select.
If you’re not familiar with this program, it’s offered by Amazon.com’s Kindle Direct Publishing arm. It allows participating authors to have their books become part of Amazon’s Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL), wherein Amazon Prime members can check out an eBook into their Kindle once a month. By participating, authors earn a percentage of the royalty fund Amazon allocates to the KOLL. Right now that’s $600,000 a month. Amazon projects it will pay $6M to KDP Select participants this calendar year.
Moreover, having your book in the KOLL gets it greater visibility on Amazon.com, and more visibility can lead to more sales.
And, as if that isn’t enough, KDP Select authors can offer their books for free for up to five days in a 90-day period. Amazon promotes those free giveaways to help drive traffic.
But there’s a catch. Like any for-profit business, Amazon is not motivated by simple good will. There’s a profit angle in it, and it is this: to enroll in KDP Select, you have to offer participating books exclusively through Amazon for a minimum of 90 days.
My liberal sensibilities as well as my business acumen rebel against exclusive distribution arrangements. They’re anti-competitive, and they generally do more harm than good to the market.
On a micro level — looking just at my own situation — I’d have to make some hard decisions. Would I continue to offer State of Grace through Barnes & Noble and Smashwords and its distribution partners? That would rob it of the benefits of KDP Select, and it’s the foundational book of the Wolf Dasher series and, in a larger sense, my entire authorial career at the moment. But to get it in KDP Select, I’d have to unpublish it from BN and Smashwords. I have two very nice reviews on BN.com, and Smashwords has actually paid me royalties.
On the other hand, BN has sold exactly two copies of State of Grace. Smashwords has sold six. Amazon owns 85-90% of the online book market, despite BN’s aggressive advertising campaign for the Nook and Smashwords distributing to Sony and Apple’s iBook store. Every author I’ve read or chatted with on the subject has said both that BN and Smashwords accounted for only a tiny percentage of their sales and that enrolling in KDP Select boosted their sales incredibly.
And I need a sales boost. Seven months after its release, State of Grace has embarrassingly low numbers. I’m not worried about that in the long term, because I knew this was going to be a long, uphill battle. But I do have to do something to give the book a shot in the arm. To build my career and achieve my goals, I’ve got to investigate using all the methods available to me.
And that includes enrolling in KDP Select.
It may make me cringe to enter an exclusive distribution arrangement. It may fly in the face of how I like to do business. I might alienate non-Kindle users (including, sadly, my brother). But if it can jumpstart my career, I have to at least think about it.
I haven’t made any decisions yet. There is a lot to think about, and I can certainly approach this in a tiered manner. First, you don’t have to offer a book through KDP Select indefinitely. It’s only 90 days at a time. So I could offer books for three months exclusively through Amazon, then publish them to BN and Smashwords as well.
Second, KDP Select is only for eBooks. You can offer the print edition non-exclusively even while the eBook is only available through Amazon. Thus, if I published the print and e-versions simultaneously, readers without a Kindle or Kindle app could still get the book when it’s new.
And, of course, even if I unpublish State of Grace from BN and Smashwords, I can always republish it through them after 90 days.
So I have options. There are ways to do this that will not tie me exclusively to Amazon forever.
But I’m pretty sure I’m going to experiment with KDP Select in some fashion. I can’t ignore the advice of other writers and the data the’ve presented.
The truth is, this is about limiting sales. It might seem limiting to refuse to sell through certain distributors, but, in this case, the opposite may, in fact, be true. I’ve got to look at that.
And if that means I’m joining the Dark Side, well, hopefully I’ll get one of those cool, red lightsabres.