Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why I Haven't Enrolled in KDP Select

I usually shy away from controversial topics, but here goes...

For those of you who haven't heard yet, Amazon recently offered a new program for authors and small presses who upload books to Kindle directly called KDP Select. In a nutshell, it requires that the e-books enrolled in the program be withdrawn from other retailers for the initial 90 days. This does not apply to audiobooks or print versions, just e-books. For buyers, the upside is that if you're a member of Amazon Prime ($79 annual fee) you may borrow one Kindle book per month for free, provided it's part of KDP Select. Authors whose books you borrow then get a per cent of a fund set aside by Amazon, based on the number of borrows. Authors may also select to offer any book in KDP select for FREE for up to 5 days.

Let me just say this has been the most divisive topic among indie authors that I can remember since I started indie publishing a year and a half ago. Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords and probably the first and biggest distributor of digital content to embrace indie authors, had his own understandable thoughts on the matter. He spoke about the possible far-reaching implications here, from both a broader business perspective and the potential effects for both authors and readers.

For many authors who weren't selling enough copies elsewhere to justify not joining in the KDP program, it made sense. With free books, there's a chance for fresh exposure to new readers. So far, I've not made any of my books free, but that doesn't mean I don't see it as a viable marketing tactic. It's just one more tool in the kit.

Added exposure is another allure of KDP Select. Amazon Prime members are voracious consumers/readers. What author wouldn't want to be placed squarely in their sights?

Frankly, I feel like part of the minority, because I didn't join. David Gaughran discusses the topic more thoroughly here in his blog. I had many of the same misgivings.

But what it really came down to for me is that MY READERS MATTER MORE TO ME THAN MY SHORT TERM GAIN. Indie author Kait Nolan gives her perspective as a Nook owner here.

A couple weeks ago, I had a lovely e-mail from a fan waiting for the final installment of The Bruce Trilogy to come out on Nook. The delay was primarily with me not getting a properly formatted book to Smashwords in a timely manner (too many irons in the fire, yeah, yeah). Eventually I uploaded to Barnes and Noble directly, so that lovely reader had his book just two days later.

I don't sell piles of e-books through Apple or B&N. Not even 2% of my digital sales are through retailers other than Amazon. But that 2% matters to me. I don't care what kind of e-reader you choose to own. I want my books to be available in as many places as possible. Variety and competition, I believe, enrich our lives by making our options more individualized.

There are many, many things Amazon does well and perhaps the greatest thing going for the site is that it is soooo easy for readers to search for new titles there. I have found so many fantastic new voices this past year since I first got my Kindle, that I've never been more satisfied as a reader.

As an author, I'd prefer to just sit back and see where this is going and how other retailers and distributors will counter this move. For now, everything is status quo on this end.

Until later,


Sarah Woodbury said...

Thanks for this, Gemini. You've given a very cogent argument for not joining KDP select and not abandoning readers (many of whom also live outside the US) just because they read off a different platform. I hope it works out well for you (and for all of us)!

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Hi, Sarah. Digital publishing is such a dynamic landscape now. I am eternally grateful to Amazon for taking the risks that they have, but I think people *should* have choices - and I say that as a die-hard Kindle owner. Am I missing out on a great opportunity? Possibly. And who knows, maybe I'll have a change of heart one day? I can't say I'd rule it out for a new release in the future. For now, though, it all comes down to the readers and making books available for all of them.

Anonymous said...

I've been watching this issue and wondering what to do, but my instinct has been to stay away. I dislike something that demands total loyalty and also, as a small author, really, why would anyone borrow one of my books when they can only borrow one a month? The borrow option is not yet in the UK< where most of my sales are.
This is something that is going to change and develop and alter constantly over the next few years, and really, I don't know what is going to work. The big issue is that nor do they!
Watch and wait, is what I shall do, because my reader base is growing, but slowly.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Hi Viv - Yes, most of the changes being tested are at and it remains to be seen if will follow through. I've seen a few authors get a huge boost already with KDP Select, but I'm more interested in what difference it makes a few months from now. I just couldn't pull my books (in an established series) from other channels when I already had some readers there, however few. For me, the real hang-up is the length of the exclusivity being 90 days - that's a long time to make Nook or iPad readers wait.

Amazon has provided so many opportunities for indie authors and I do hope this move spurs some other retailers to improve their search features and connect readers with fresh voices. We'll see. I bet it has gotten the attention of traditional publishers, though.

Lisa Yarde said...

While I'm still waiting to see, what I have seen so far is that Select has torpedoed any visibility my books may have had. I have never sold the volume you have, Gemi, but in the last three weeks, many of my titles have stalled with only Sultana perhaps going for one copy a day, sometimes one in two days. Sadly / strangely, I'm not in a panic about this. Check with me a month from now is this "invisible book" trend continues. How far off will it be before enrollment in Select becomes required if you want readers to know your book exists?

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Excellent points, Lisa. My sales took a hit, too. Then at Christmas, all those new Kindle owners went straight for the known bestsellers from the bookstore era. Another hit. Taking out an ad in an effective blog would take months to get lined up. Social media can be a slow route to raising awareness. In a panic that my titles would fall further back in the Also-Bought lists, I lowered the price of The Crown in the Heather to 99 cents for a few days, while all those gift cards were still loaded. I had no idea if this would help, but I did know I'd lose income in the short term. Luckily, it worked. Sales floated steadily back up and so far they're steady, but who knows where things will be two or ten months from now.

Add to all that the news about B&N separating off their Nook arm and Amazon quickly becomes even more essential to reaching readers. Scary how quick things change and how one new program can shake things up.

I am seeing some books in Select that got an initial shot in the arm, now start to tumble back down - which in turn leaves more room for others to climb back up. Other authors seem to be thriving with it. I think it's a little early to tell if it's essential to succeeding, but yes, I've felt the squeeze, too.

I'd actually love to diversify and gain more readers on Apple and Nook (although that one is up in the air now), but they don't make it easy to get noticed like Amazon does. So, yeah, it's a dilemma. I totally understand writers who have chosen to go that route.

I may take the dive with new releases for the initial 90 days. but for now, I'm still an observer. I've never been the impulsive sort, but as a writer you'd like to be able to reach as many readers as possible.