Is Amazon KDP Select A Better Bet For Backlist Books?

Selling Backlist Books

A lot has been written about the choice between Amazon KDP Select exclusivity and open publishing when it comes to new release titles.

But what about when your titles are over a year old and they are slowing down in sales? They are set to become your backlisted books.

It’s a dilemma. What do you do if you have a backlist of five, ten or fifteen titles?

I am a firm believer in open publishing. But I have to say that when it comes to my backlist, Amazon KDP Select has its advantages.


While it is not news that Amazon dominates the ebook and book market, there is no doubt that the others, including Apple, Barnes and Noble and Kobo can contribute a lot of sales in the first year after a new book is published.

Many self-publishing authors take the route of using Amazon exclusivity for the first three months to gain some traction and reviews and then revert to open publishing to try to attract extra sales revenue.

But what about when a title is two, three or five years old?


Amazon KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited to the rescue for backlist books

As much as I hate the fact that Kindle Unlimited reduces royalties (unfairly perhaps), it is one of the most effective means of attracting new readers.

At a price, yes. But it works.

I mention this because over the last few months I have been surprised to see KU page reads appear on my KDP Dashboard.

Why am I surprised?

Because they are all very old titles.

And yet, after all this time, readers are finally getting around to reading my ebooks that they might have saved to their reading list ages ago.

This tells me that readers collect ebooks on Kindle Unlimited, but may some time to getting around to reading them.

However, in the end, they perhaps, do read. And of course, an author like me finally makes a buck.

At the same time as discovering that I am earning a few long-overdue bucks from Kindle Unlimited, I can also confirm that sales of my backlist on Apple, B&N and Kobo is far from making me rich.

My sales revenue from these retailers over the last few months makes for sorry reading.



So, what should you do with your backlist titles?

The temptation is obvious.

Pitiful sales via open publishing, or take your chances on Kindle Unlimited and try to gamble that you can attract new readers to discover your backlist books.

Well, it’s not really such a gamble, is it?

The one positive¬†thing about Amazon exclusivity is that it only last for ninety days. It’s not like that you are signing your life away for forever and a day.

As with all things self-publishing, it pays to experiment, try new ideas, try old ideas and in fact try any ideas.

And of course, never give up.


Derek Haines

A Cambridge qualified CELTA English teacher and author of 18 books with a life long passion for publishing in all forms. I started my working life as a lithographer and spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business. Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.

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