Why I’m questioning KDP Select

Most fledgling authors are forced to take a step away from the keyboard and consider publishing and distribution, it’s just the reality of the times we live in. You do hear stories (especially somewhere as small as Ireland) of authors getting picked up for their first book, but I for one have no idea how that’s done when so many publishers no longer accept manuscripts. Self publishing seems the best route to get your name out there and begin building up your work.

You can’t mention self-publishing without covering Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP as we’ll refer to it from now on. It’s Amazon’s background site that takes care of all the self publishers out there. It’s free, though you do have to pay Amazon a chunk of your sales, but there is no real barrier to entry. During the process Amazon will try get you to sign up for KDP Select.

KDP Select requires exclusivity on Amazon for your eBook. In exchange you get a few perks:

  • A countdown deal once per quarter where you drop the price of your book for a limited time.
  • A five day free-book promotion
  • Earning 70% in certain markets that usually only give you 35%
  • Enrollment in Kindle Unlimited, the Amazon learning library.

The countdown deal is a basic promotional tool. I’m somewhat amazed that it’s restricted to KDP Select only (though I guess that’s why it’s such a tempting benefit.)

Same goes with the free book promotion… feels like a basic tool for getting your book out there.

70% in certain new markets feels like a no brainer, but, I’m not sure how many of my English language books I’m going to be selling in Mexico or Brazil etc.

Kindle Unlimited looks like the greatest thing for boosting your name – Books are free to borrow and you get a small amount for pages read. Surely it’s a win win as it’s not costing the reader anything more than their time.

As much as I hate the chance of a monopoly, starting out KDP Select looked like the obvious path. In the past I had gone with Smashwords for broad distribution, but I don’t know anybody with anything other than a Kindle these days and the end of Barnes and Noble’s Nook (diginomica.com) suggested that Amazon were winning the war. So, determined to make a go of this writing lark, I went full steam ahead with KDP Select.

When I’m in writing mode I rarely think of sales. Or promotion. I know it’s terrible and to succeed you should be hustling every day etc., but right now, as I put the finishing touches on my second novel, I just want to make it really good. So, with the end in sight, I logged on to Goodreads to set up a giveaway for the first book, to lay the groundwork as it were.

OK, still some reads ticking over on Goodreads and a nice healthy presence in many TBR lists, but, really two months of nothing much. Then I checked KDP. Again, two months of quiet with barely any borrowing. Same in paperback world. OK, what should I expect when I haven’t been pushing or advertising the book (though I did do a big Bruce Springsteen promotion, but that was largely ill-advised.) I googled Diary of the Wolf and despite all the review requests, search visibility wasn’t great.  It all felt a bit deflated.

Then I remembered Smashwords, which had been sending me notifications about upgrades needed for my books. I was under the impression that I’d killed off all my books on Smashmouths, in order to comply with KDP Select, but yet the emails kept coming. So, I found some books still published, short stories from five years ago. I went about unpublishing them because they weren’t representative of my current work. Before I logged out, I noticed my account balance. $300. Odd.

As I went through sales reports, I realised that Smashwords was ticking over without any promotion or interference. Smashwords, for those unfamiliar with the platform, both sells ebooks directly as well as distributing to other stores such as Barnes&Noble, Apple etc. Readers were gobbling up my short stories without any push or prompt. The numbers were higher than my recent Amazon efforts. Something was very very odd. Suddenly I found myself faced with a platform I had long ago dismissed and it was actually slowly working away.

Now, I don’t know if any of it was comparable. I deliberately don’t allow my Smashwords account to publish to Amazon, because I don’t need two people taking bites out of the pie when I can upload content myself. But it has really got me to thinking.

Linsay Buroker writes quite an interesting piece here where she looks at both sides. The argument for KDP Select in terms of exposure and money seems strong, but her point on diversification is important. I’ve spent many years working in the news media, where you saw an ever growing reliance on Facebook, only for Facebook to change the rules with serious financial implications and no escape. If authors put all of their eggs in the KDP Select basket, who is to say that Amazon won’t decide they want a bigger cut and we’ll be left looking around with no other options.

It’s a tough call, but definitely something I’ll be pondering over the next few months. A diverse strategy seems to make the most long term sense, but does it require a certain critical mass before it makes sense?

Let me know your thoughts.

Here are some other bits worth reading: http://www.justpublishingadvice.com/should-i-enroll-in-amazon-kindle-kdp-select/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-coker/is-kindle-unlimited-bad-f_b_5615224.html

 

FrankWhy I’m questioning KDP Select