Thursday, December 8, 2011

Would You Give Amazon Exclusivity Over Your EBooks?

That's the proposition Amazon is offering thousands of self-published authors who distribute ebooks via its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) arm. Details regarding KDP Select can be found here. I found out out about the offer as I logged into KDP this morning to, um, you know, eh, check out the KDP Community and what's happening with them! Yeah, that's the ticket.

Basic terms of KDP Select: if you're a self-published Kindle author or publisher, for a period of at least 90 days, you vow to sell your soul to the Devil can enroll as many ebook titles as you choose. To participate, you just have to promise that your ebook(s) will not be sold online anywhere during the term. Not online through Smashwords or its distribution partners, Kobo, Deisel, Apple, Barnes & Noble or Sony. Not Xin Xii, OmniLit or Pubit (owned by B&N). Not even through your website or blog.  Your paperbacks are unaffected.  During the proscribed period, you have the option of making the book free for up to five days. Your enrolled titles are also made available for borrowing through Amazon's Kindle Lending Library, which is also available EXCLUSIVELY to Amazon's Prime members (of which I am a card-carrying member - I buy enough from Amazon to justify the $79 fee). You can learn how many people borrowed the books, something which isn't available to authors automatically enrolled in Kindle lending based on their enrollment in the 70% royalty scheme. Non-Prime customers can still buy your ebooks and you earn the same royalties. There's also some slightly muddied language about additional royalties, but I don't feel like sorting out legalease this morning.

Before unrolling this offer to all, Amazon previously invited certain high profile indies to try KDP Select for six months. Several of them said no and I would have too. Six months AND I have to rely on Amazon for revenue exclusively? Oh, and Prime members get to borrow, not buy the book? As the one book per month that they can borrow through the Kindle Library? So they have the choice of Stephen King's Dome for $19.99 or mine for $2.99, and will somehow choose the cheaper one as the freebie? As Whitney once said:  

Except - you knew this was coming - if you're like me, a self-published author whose revenue is generated mainly from Amazon and more directly, through sales on Kindle. If you are, then certain parts of this deal start to look attractive. For instance, if you have a title that you already have made available only through Amazon, you don't have the hassle of making the title unavailable anywhere else. If your revenue as a self-published author comes mainly or only through KDP, what have you got to lose?

Before you think I'm suckling at the teat of Amazon or afraid of biting the hand that feeds me every month, allow me to assure you: Amazon fucks up sometimes. Like this bonehead move announced on December 6 right here: Amazon Will Pay Shoppers $5 to Walk Out of Stores Empty-Handed. Really, Amazon? How about that $2 surcharge on delivery of Kindle in certain geographic areas, which was mentioned in a recent post? Whether or not Kindle authors choose to participate in this power play (and believe me, they're discussing the pros and cons at Kindleboards), this is another blatant attempt to create a monopoly over ebooks and tether authors to the existing system, even if it's for a mere 90 days.

So why has Amazon made this move now? Will it increase their bottom line by enlarging the offerings that make Prime membership so good? Does creating goodwill with self-published authors by inviting them to the grownups' table make Amazon the go-to guy for future authors? The reasons are less important than the fact that Amazon can do these things. Do you see any of its competitors thinking in similar terms? Part of why Amazon can make this offer as attractive to self-published authors is because ITS RIVALS DON'T DO DIDDLY SQUAT TO COMPETE. Forgive the shouting, but all of those sites, like Smashwords, like Pubit, that also offer the opportunity to self-publish do next to NOTHING to promote their authors or self-published works. If Amazon recognizes yet another area they can exploit and make some Kindle authors happy in the process, more power to them. Perhaps this move may shake up the competition. Lord knows they need it.

EDIT: Since folks on Twitter and Kindleboards are asking, I'm enrolling the omnibus edition of the Sultana books, raising the price to $6.49 and doing a freebie December 24-29. I'll post about the results of my experiment with KDP Select in the spring KDP answered my inquiry about enrolling books in a series, I won't be testing Select.      

What do you think of this latest move by Amazon? If you're an author publishing through KDP, will you consider enrolling in KDP Select?


Mirella Patzer said...

Lisa, you'll have to keep me posted on what happens with the Omnibus. I'm really disillusioned with Smashwords and may try to publish my book by myself at the other sites. Thanks for telling me about this.

Anonymous said...

I have enrolled my short story collection. It's 86p/99c and I taken it down from smashwords where it didn't sell anyway. The downloads were minimal compared to the sales through amazon. So, yes, I have nothing to lose. I probably won't do it with my novels. Not immediately, that is. The more platforms it's availabe, the better, I think. If it doesn't sell on other platforms, I can always unpublish it and give amazon select a shot.

Lisa J Yarde said...

Mirella, KDP has deliberately muddied the waters with a "commercially confusing" clause:

During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or content that is reasonably likely to compete commercially with your Digital Book, diminish its value, or be confused with it.

As you know, the omnibus contains both books. It sells at a loss of two dollars, compared to if a reader bought Sultana, then Legacy. My lawyer hat tilts toward the omnibus NOT meeting the requirements for inclusion, but I'm waiting for KDP to tell me so. Since I have not uploaded the ebook everywhere, its sales are exclusively generated from Amazon anyway. I'll email you whenever KDP answers.

Lisa J Yarde said...

Stella, thanks for visiting and good luck with your sales, I hope this impacts other books too. My Smashwords experience compares to yours and while I'm not as disillusioned as Mirella, I have gone the route of Pubit directly instead of enrolling in B&N through Smashwords because my epubs through the latter always looked a mess. I hope you'll visit in the future and let me know how Select works for you.

Michelle Gregory said...

i don't like the idea of one place having my book and me having no control over it. it seems too much like selling it to a big publisher.

RP Dahlke said...

Found yr post on Twitter re: the KDP announcement. The line that caught my attention was the carrot to "share" in the monthly fund... the math is a bit iffy since we authors are given an example but no clear qnty counter for what our share will be. I'm thinking yeah, my e-book could be borrowed 1,500 times, but will there be 100K titles up in December or is this measurement just wishful thinking. I make 99% of my sales on Amazon, but still B&N sell a few & lil' ol Smashwords has its uses, like coupons for contests.

Lisa J Yarde said...

Michelle, it seems the contrary is true - you do have control. You can choose to opt in or opt out. Amazon won't alter your listing, royalties (NOT YET, screams the cynic in me) if you don't get in on this scheme. Also, those who've played 'make it free' have some option to control when that happens.

The more I think of it, I really don't like the 500K to 6 million pie in the sky they're dangling. When I checked my Kindle this morning, there were 12K books in Prime lending library. As of 5pm, 21K. How's that for visibility and a slice of that pie?

Lisa J Yarde said...

@Unknown, yeah that carrot is the thing that bugs me too. The portions are getting smaller as more authors upload. I'm on the fence and not making a move until KDP answers my question on series enrollment. If they never do, won't change my game plan.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Less than 2% of my e-book sales come from places other than Amazon. However, I've had readers who own Nooks or iPads ask when my latest book would be coming out on those devices, because they wanted to read the next in the series. (I use Smashwords to get into other distribution channels (Apple, B&N, etc.) and it can take a few weeks to get approved and distributed.)

Because of that 2%, though, I won't enroll in Amazon's KDP select. That 2% matters to me and I prefer not to restrict my readership based on their choice of devices or make them wait 3 months longer to get a book. Sorry, but there's just not enough incentive yet for me to lock myself into one distributor at the expense of alienating even a small segment of readers.

What I'm interested in seeing is how other online e-book retailers will react, if at all, and if this changes the landscape in any way. I'll give Amazon credit for thinking ahead of the curve and connecting writers to readers in so many innovative ways, but sometimes all the changes just make my head spin.

Unknown said...

Thank you very much for this post. I honestly wouldn't have known about this had you not shared. It's probably changed since then, but that doesn't mean this is the only issue with KDP.

I found it kind of iffy that I couldn't "unpublish", if that's even the word I want to use, or market beyond them, but this gives me more reason to question KDP.

I've also noticed that their author central pages don't offer much for social networking links. It doesn't support wordpress links like it claims and my wordpress blog is working better for me than any other methods it supposedly allows.

Unknown said...

Even though this post is old in comparison to now, thanks for posting it. It gives me more reasons to question and have second thoughts about KDP.

I don't like the fact you technically can't "unpublish", if that's even the word I want to use. Plus, their author central pages don't support wordpress links like they say they should. It's the most successful social networking tactic to advertise my writing and myself as an author and I'd like to be able to keep that up, even though amazon's author central doesn't seem to want to do that.

Again, thank you very much for this post.

Time flies when you're having fun, or writing novels.

It's been a tremendous twelve months. A new job and health issues have impacted my writing time, but I'm still at it, trying to wrap...