Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Is KDP Select worth it?

I'm a pretty pragmatic girl. I weigh factual pros and cons and tend to make most decisions that way. However, when it comes to KDP select I don't know how to be practical. Here's the deal with KDP Select:

KDP Select is a program through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Authors who publish through KDP have the option of enrolling their book in KDP Select. Amazon provides the following sales pitch:
  • Reach a new audience - Distribute books through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library and reach the growing number of US Amazon Prime members.
  • Earn a whole new source of royalties - Earn your share of at least $6 million throughout 2012 when readers borrow your books from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
  • Promote your book for free to readers worldwide - The newly launched Promotions Manager tool will allow you to directly control the promotion of free books.
  • Instant feedback - Check real-time performance of your books in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
Interesting, right? The veracity of these statements is questionable--their pitch is a bit more wonderful than the actual program. Still,  I love Amazon.com. I genuinely think that they are the best company in the entire world. Here is their detailed outline of KDP Select.

Here's KDP Select in layman's terms:

You can self-publish your book with the option of selling it for as low as 99 cents at a 35% royalty option. This agreement lasts for exactly 90 days. During this 90 day period, you have the option of giving your book away for free for 5 days (consecutive or not--up to you). During these 5 days of free promos, your books will appear on separate FREE lists on Amazon that will increase visibility and the likelihood that someone will download your book. Additionally, books in KDP select can be downloaded for free through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. This means that anyone who OWNS a Kindle (not just the application) and is a registered PRIME member (two criteria that must be met) can download one free book a month--hopefully they pick yours. However, if a reader downloads your book through KLL, you get a cut of a grand total 600,000 dollar spending budget--which usually amounts to $2-2.50.

THE CATCH: You can only sell your ebook through Amazon.com. This means, no Smashwords, Nook, iBooks, etc. (You can sell a print version anywhere you want though).

My gripe with KDP Select is just that--that I cannot sell through Smashwords, Nook, etc. I'm playing in a limited field, and authors who sell through all channels typically only garner 60% of sales through Amazon--the rest mostly come from Nook.

To me, that's a big con. There's a whole other market that I'm not selling to, and Microsoft just teamed up with Barnes and Noble to challenge Amazon for interstellar domination. This means, for me at least, that when the KDP Select period on The Complex ends at the end of May, I have a big decision to make--whether or not to keep the book in KDP Select.

I'm horrified by the idea of giving my work away for free. It's not because I think I've written the next great novel that will define a generation. If that's the case, I predict a bleak future for America. No, my hesitancy to give away my work for free comes from the stigma that is associated with free. If you get something for free, you assume it's crappy, right? JK Rowling never gave away Harry Potter for free. Tolkien never did that with LOTR either. Granted, they weren't in the ebook age, but still. 

THE ONLY reason why I stay in KDP is for the 5 free days, which I have not used after 70-something days of being published and probably won't use in this 90 day period. So, why do I stay in?

Well, I think I've solved it. This is not a novel (pun intended) revelation, but it's one that I really think must be hammered home. THERE IS NO FREAKING POINT IN GIVING AWAY YOUR BOOK FOR FREE UNLESS YOU HAVE OTHER WORK AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE.

I see a lot of new writers on KDP forums and twitter who release their first book on Amazon.com and then do a free promo a few days later. Good God, what are you thinking? You're giving a book away to potential costumers who would have paid for it, and you're only guaranteeing yourself a few days of higher rankings on the site. The rankings change so frequently that there's no point in doing this.

Let's talk about it in pretzel terms:

Wetzel's Pretzels makes an employee stand outside their store with a tray of exotic pretzels and give bite size morsels to any person who walks by. In turn, hungry mallgoers eat said morsels and then flock to Wetzel's to get a larger piece of the same pretzel, or even another one of the lovely and exotic options that Wetzel's has to offer. Perhaps they'll even splurge and buy the Pretzel Hot Dog, because that morsel they had outside was just so damn good that they have high hopes.

Downtown, in the dense pretzel district that is lined with shops, stands Joe Pretzel. He only sells one pretzel. He offers an entire pretzel to a passing costumer for free. They like it, they eat it and shrug and move on with their day. They don't buy another pretzel--they've already tried this one. They don't go inside the store--they've experienced the entire range of pretzels that Joe offers. Maybe, they hate the pretzel because they KNOW there has to be something second-hand about a free one and then write bad reviews on Yelp. Joe loses potential costumers to his free sales and loses potential potential customers who are put off from the bad review.

Case in point, be logical about your free days.

BUT I encountered a second problem--that being the one of Amazon versus Barnes and Noble. I eventually made the decision to keep The Complex on KDP Select because when I publish the sequel I might want to make The Complex free (I probably won't, but I need to keep to option open). If I were to remove from KDP Select and then put it on Smashwords, Nook, etc. I would have to remove it from those channels if I wanted to return it to KDP select for free days later on. It seems like too much of a hassle. But then again, a Nook reader simply will not buy a sequel without having read the first installment in a series. There's the conundrum.

Bottom line: The Complex will stay in KDP Select for the time being. The free days could be great for hooking new costumers when I publish other books, as I will definitely do in the future. All of my sequels, however, will go to all channels available. I know this is a strange set up, but to me it makes the most sense.

Do you think KDP Select is worth it? Comment below. I know people have mixed results with the free promos, but the consensus seems to be that they only work with multiple novels.

-Do you think KDP Select is worth it?
-Is it illogical to publish a sequel on Nook when the original book is not available? There doesn't seem to be a harm in it.
-How do you perceive free books?
-Have you ever used your free promo days?



  1. Thanks for this. I haven't published yet, but I was looking into KDP Select on Amazon this morning. I'll keep this bookmarked. Cheers.

  2. I wouldn't do it. I agree with you I wouldn't give my book away for free plus it's sell it not only on amazon.

  3. Great post. Really informative!

  4. I have only heard great things about KDP :)

  5. I've been in the KDP, and for me, it's been a great choice. But it's because I have a number of books to sell and most importantly, I have been involved with Indie Book Collective (Goodreads group) and their promotions have really made the difference. I'm not sure it would be worth my while as a single author to try using this tool on my own.

  6. Thanks Cathy. Great "unpacking" of the whole KDP Select pros vs. cons. I have a physical, "real" (?) book that I just - today - published as an ebook on KDP. I've been toying with the idea of KDP Select because of the KDP "fund," a very big carrot. Reading your post, I'm less inclined to get into the it because I've put 6 years into this book, have printed physical 1000 copies of it, and am hoping to increase my presence through the use of the ebook format. Your content is spot on, even if I'm not working on a series. Thanks for your great content. Ciao. Jerome

    1. Hi Jerome,
      In your case I would avoid KDP Select for the time being. That way you can also put your books on Nook and Kobo, which makes for great exposure. I finish my KDP Select term at the end of this month and I'm certainly not re-enrolling this time. Thanks for commenting! I'll try to find your book online and check it out.

  7. Good day! In your entry did you use the data from any extra researches or these are fully your exclusive conclusions? Can't wait to see your answer.

    1. Research gathered from the forums on KDP. I've summed up the sides of the debate and crafted a pretzel analogy.