Thursday 8 December 2011

The Arrival of KDP Select: What Does it Mean for Authors?

I woke up this morning to do my usual routine of sales checking, but when I logged onto Amazon KDP (the digital publishing platform that allows authors to publish eBooks direct to Amazon) I found a big sign with gold letters announcing '$500,000 available for December' staring back at me.

My first thought was that I'd won some kind of Amazon lottery (honestly, that's what the sign looks like - and I suspect that is not accidental!) but then realized that probably wasn't the case, so I looked into things further.

Basically, Amazon Select is a lending library set up through Amazon. To enrol books, the titles must be exclusive to Amazon for at least 90 days. They're allowed to be published in paperback and sold elsewhere, but not in digital format. The publisher of this book will then receive a percentage of the amount of money in the pot (for December it's $500,000, but next year they say it will be $6 million) according to the number of times a customer has borrowed the book.

So, the good points:

  • Hopefully more money. It's another avenue in which to make royalties. Here is how Amazon explains it (though I think they've aimed high). 

For example, if the monthly fund amount is $500,000 and the total qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles is 100,000 in December and if your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn 1.5% (1,500/100,000 = 1.5%), or $7,500 in December.

  •  You'll also be allowed to make your book free for 5 days, so introducing your work to a whole heap of new readers (that is, if you don't already have free books on Amazon). 
  • The exclusivity is only for 90 days, after which time your book will be able to be sold on other site.
And here are the bad bits.
  • First of all, there's the exclusivity thing. I've often worried about the amount of control Amazon already has on an author's income. As it gets bigger and bigger, Amazon is effectively becoming a super-publisher, just without the quality control of acquisitions or editors. If something happened to Amazon (or it suddenly decided to pull all of my titles) I'll have lost about 75% of my income. Creating exclusivity only gives Amazon even more power. 
  • A member of Kindle Owners Lenders Library will only be able to check out ONE book a month. This tells me the customer is going to be pretty picky about which title they choose. Are they really likely to chance that one title on a newbie, indie author? 
  • Will it affect sales in the regular kindle store? If people can borrow the book for free, are they less likely to fork out the money to buy it?
  • Once you sign up, you've got 3 days to change your mind, but then you're tied in for 90 days. Amazon then automatically re-signs you up for another 90 days once the first period has finish, UNLESS you go in a check a box on your bookshelf to say you don't want this to happen. Amazon does say they will send you an email 15 days before renewal, but we all know how easy it is to miss these things.
So what have I decided to do? Well, I'm in the lucky position of having numerous titles, two of which are new this month and as of yet (other than Amazon) are only available to buy on Smashwords. So this morning I've unpublished them from Smashwords and enrolled them in Amazon Select. This isn't too big a deal for me because sales on Smashwords are always small. The titles I've enrolled are two short story collections--one in my Marissa Farrar name, and one in M.K. Elliott. Choosing short story books could work against me. People are probably less likely to borrow the short story titles than if I'd enrolled my novels, but I didn't want to take that kind of risk just yet.

For now it's just a case of 'wait and see'. To be honest, I'll be surprised if I get many people borrowing my books at all, but I guess it depends on what my competition is. Either way, I'll be sure to report back and let you all know how it's going and whether it's worth enrolling in KDP Select.

Marissa Farrar's dark vampire 'Serenity' series, is available to buy from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Just click on the links to purchase the first in the series, 'Alone', for only $0.99.


  1. This is really interesting. Thanks for the head's up, Melissa. I'll have to think about this!

  2. Welcome Red! I'm certainly going to be interested to see what the end of the month brings, though I suspect the royalties will be closer to $7.50 than $7,500!

  3. That's really useful Marissa; thanks for sharing with us.

  4. No problem, Lily. Hopefully I can shed a bit more light towards the end of the month when I can actually report some figures!

  5. Great info. This really gets me thinking.

  6. Thanks Boone. I should clarify; one point I didn't make enough of is the 'free for five days' part. If I'm thinking rightly, this could prove to be a huge promotional tool for authors. At the moment it's very difficult to get freebies up on Amazon. By creating books specifically designed to promote your novels and then enrolling them in the Select programme, you can decide on specific promo dates for the book to go free. Hopefully this will not only gain some sales of the 'freebie' (when it switches back to cost because it'll be pushed higher up the sales charts) but will also help sales of the novel you wanted to promote.

  7. You've chosen a wise way to test it out, I think. I'll probably do the same with some non-series stuff I plan on publishing next then there will probably be some better research data, as well.

  8. While this opportunity sounds great, I have to wonder about how often my book will actually be borrowed from the library. My book is currently priced at $.99...why would a reader borrow it (as they only get one loan a month) when they could borrow a high priced book to save money and justify the cost of being a prime member. At least, that's what I would do: buy the cheaper priced ebooks and use my one a month loan for books I'm too cheap to buy! Perhaps this is a great program for when I price future books higher.

  9. I totally agree with you, Claudia. I would do exactly the same thing! Over the past twenty-four hours I've come to the decision that the biggest benefit to this new program is the five day free option. Yes, it means our books our only sold on Amazon, but if we're clever about it and use the programme purely for books that we've created to sell our novels, it could work in our favour!

  10. I think you are at a better advantage Marissa, as you have more than one book on Amazon. While I'd love to take advantage of the 5 day free option, I think it would benefit me more if I have the second book in the series already published (which won't be until Jan/Feb). Please keep us posted!!

  11. This is quite an interesting concept on the part of Amazon, Marissa. I totally see it as a way Amazon is trying to become even bigger than it is now. Instead of the Big Six, they want to be the Big One. Not cool in my opinion. While I don't have a lot out there yet because of working to get Angelic Knight Press rolling, 2012 will be a big year for the Press and for me. Vamplit will be doing my novels, and we will be putting out many new books from the Press. I personally plan on two short stories a month, short story collections, and three to four novels a year. I don't figure on doing what Amazon proposes, either, but I am most curious to see how you do.

    Great post!


  12. While all three of my novels have been Kindle paid genre bestsellers, they have sold squat via other platforms (B&N, Smashwords, etc.) So, I'm willing to give it a shot. The way I look at it, I've got little to lose. So far, Amazon has been very good to me and also very responsive with my queries, troubleshooting, etc. Five minutes after signing up, a Prime member borrowed one of my titles. I'll decide after 90 days whether it was worthwhile and whether or not to renew. It's nice not being treated like chopped liver as an author.

  13. Make sure you keep us posted about how well you do with the borrowing side of things, James! I've not had anything borrowed, but as I explained, I wasn't really joining for that aspect. I also agree that Amazon has been good to me and pays most of my royalties. While I don't like having all my eggs in one basket, I also don't believe in biting the hand that feeds you! (Could I possibly fit any more clich├ęs into one paragraph!!!).

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