Still Worth to be on Amazon’s KDP Select?


Recently an author wrote in a forum: “I’m seriously debating whether or not I should opt out of the KDP Select program (after my three months are up). I’ve had very few borrows to make it pay, so it’s only really the promotion days that seem to be a plus. My last book did okay on free promo, but not a lot of sales to follow.”  Well, I have read similar posts during the last two or three years on a regular basis.

Many authors doubt, as Amazon Kindle Free Days, CountDown Deals and Borrows are not that lucrative any more. KDP Select can be a viable marketing tool, but the biggest disadvantage is the “exclusivity” an author has to adhere too, which causes a lot of effort and planning on other retailers sites, and lost sales there – as you will have to pull your books from all other vendors, you cannot even leave them for free there.

The KDP Select Program is Optional.
As an indie author, you are not required to agree to the program or use a program tied to KDP Select.  However, if you enrol in KDP Select, you are signing away your right to use your e-book for anything other than reaching the KindleUnlimited crowd, and to get the right to offer free uploads of your e-book (5 days), Countdown Deals, Kindle Giveaways, and to participate at KindleUnlimited.

Kindle Free Days:
When you have that many downloads of your free book, you may climb to the top of your particular Kindle subject category – if scammers haven’t clogged the free book categories.  Just read David Gaughran’s article: KU Scammers Attack Amazon’s Free Ebook Charts.

However, getting to the top of the “free” category doesn’t affect your paid ranking – after the free days end and your book starts costing money again.

If you pay a large sum to certain promotion websites and newsletters, you are promised that hundred thousands of readers receive notification about your free book.  But this only working out for authors who

  • already have a significant following, or
  • are selling a series and offer the first book as a free download

Theoretically, if readers get hooked, they might eventually purchase the rest of the author’s works.  But for authors with little to no name recognition and just one or two books published, it’s more difficult to see how using free days can significantly increase their sales.

Kindle Countdown Deals:
Kindle allows you to cut the price of your book down to 99 cents.  However, this feature is largely useless in isolation if you’re an unknown author. There’s no point in slicing the price of your work to just under one dollar if only a few (if any) readers will ever note it.  Quite a few online promoters offer to boost your countdown deal—often for a hefty fee.  But it is important that you have enough reviews, and an online presence, perhaps also some blogger interviews.

Kindle Giveaways:
Amazon’s latest feature allows Kindle authors to offer a number of their books as a giveaway prize, similar to those at Goodreads. If an author has a significant Twitter, Google+ or Amazon following, Giveaways can prove a useful feature.  You can even earn royalties from the books your participants “win” – since you pay for them.
Giveaways do not only improve the numbers of followers, it could potentially increase the number of reviews within the following months.  Giveaways do not necessarily translate into high rank-jumping at Amazon in the long run.

Kindle Unlimited:
Rather than to pay for individual copies of books, those who’ve signed up for the program can read all they want.  Authors receive a certain amount of royalties per page read, which amounts to less than half a cent per page. The question is, if people who download them, like they download a Netflix video, will they become your dedicated future readers and book buyers.
KDP offers a lot of promotional tools, to let readers download or borrow your books, which results usually in higher visibility for a short time.  Since last year, participating authors are only paid by pages read, instead of by the number of books downloaded.  However, none of these measures will build you a huge audience right away.  It can perhaps improve sales for a short time, but none will make your book a bestseller.

Exclusivity with KDP has its Downsides Too.
While you are exclusive with Amazon, you can’t receive e-book income from any other online stores, but you can still have audio-books in iTunes and your paperbacks at Kobo, Barnes & Noble and other retailers, or sell them from your website.  Being exclusive with Amazon means relying wholly on one vendor for the income as a writer.  Many authors aren’t so sure of its benefit, due to the restrictions Amazon imposes, only 23 percent of all e-books are in KDP Select.
Unfair for Self-Publishers:
There is also some unfairness towards self-publishing authors: Amazon’s traditionally published books of legacy publishing houses have no exclusivity requirements – and can be sold wherever the publisher wishes.

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