Enrolling in Kindle KDP Select and giving Amazon your ebook exclusivity is always a difficult decision.
There has been a lot of debate about Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (KU).
It is a service offered to authors who chose to enroll in Kindle Direct Publishing KDP Select.
As a long-time self-publisher, I have to say that I am not a fan of KU. However, for some authors, it might be worthwhile.
KDP Select history
Let me start by going all the way back to the very beginning of KDP Select.
When it was first introduced, I was into it immediately. Why? Because it gave an author a chance to be discovered.
Back then, when you used your free book promotion during the five days each three months, those giveaways counted towards sales.
In doing so, it increased a book’s sales ranking and exposure.
At the time, Kindle Countdown Deals were also very useful.
That was enough for me in those early days to give my exclusivity to Amazon every 90 days.
I made a lot of sales from the increase in my ebooks’ rankings.
KDP Select benefits decline
In hindsight, though, it was a monumental mistake.
Not long after introducing this great promotional tool, Amazon reduced an ebook’s sales ranking ratio from a giveaway to 50%. Then shortly after to 10%.
This meant having to give away ten times as many ebooks to achieve the corresponding increase in sales ranking.
Then finally, a giveaway became worth 0% as this feature was killed off.
In the meantime, though, the ebooks I had removed from Smashwords, and in doing that, from Apple, B&N, and many other online retailers, had lost all their rankings.
It took two years for them to recover after I got out of KDP Select and re-published back on Smashwords.
Policing Amazon KDP Select
There’s an irritating downside to Kindle KDP Select.
Even though I had removed my ebooks from publication via Smashwords and believed they were not available anywhere else, Amazon suddenly became the police.
It sent me warning (bordering on threatening) emails.
Amazon said that it had found my ebook being offered on some obscure small retailer. If I didn’t have it delisted promptly, ALL my ebooks on KDP Select would be removed.
For those new to self-publishing, you have to know that Amazon really does want you to commit exclusively to them. Why?
Because KDP Select is a pool that Amazon fights with.
It’s interesting to note that in Amazon’s publicity about Kindle Unlimited that it says over 1,000,000 ebooks are available.
This number is approximately the number of ebooks enrolled in KDP Select.
It was the same sales pitch and almost the same number used when it introduced Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) and Amazon Prime Lending some years ago.
Both of these services work on a pool of money that is at Amazon’s discretion each month.
Author earnings are paid by some hidden formula, which, while being mysterious, is always without mystery, well below the royalty you would normally receive at your ebook’s listed price.
While I was a KDP Select member, Prime borrowed books earned about half of an average sale. Sometimes even less.
I judged that it was in Amazon’s favor and certainly not mine.
No major publisher that I know of has joined either Prime Lending or Kindle Unlimited. But Amazon needs a pool of ebooks to fight off any competitors.
I say it’s another example of Amazon using self-publishing authors to fight its marketing wars.
Apart from being a marketing fighting fund of ebooks, KDP Select is also used as a tool to penalize authors who publish on KDP but refuse to join Select.
The penalty is that your royalties are cut in half in some Kindle Stores around the world.
Should you open publish?
My experience says that it is far better to open-publish as widely as possible and not give your rights away to one publisher.
Except under one circumstance.
If you self-publish on Amazon KDP only, you’d be silly not to be enrolled in Select.
Your royalties will double in some Kindle Stores, and what have you got to lose with KDP Select ebook lending and subscription services?
Well, only about half your regular royalty per ebook when it’s lent, borrowed and read by anyone paying $9.99 per month. But only if they read more than 10% of your book.
Well, that’s the current rule of thumb. But as I have experienced in the past, Amazon’s rules can change a service or feature overnight.
I have to say, though, that I am an admirer of Amazon and KDP and the wonderful opportunities it has given to self-published authors.
However, exclusivity is something you hand over for a fat advance check. You don’t do it for your royalties to be cut in half.
For another view about Kindle KDP Select, you may like to read this article by Mark Coker on the Huffington Post.
Should you enroll in KDP Select?
There is no right or wrong answer; other than that, you need to be aware of what book marketing goals you have.
Authors have succeeded by taking both routes, but only by understanding how best to leverage each choice.
Researching the best categories and search keywords is a good place to start.
If you are sure that your book is a great product, its success will depend on how effectively you promote and market your book.
You should use a broad mix of effective book promotion services and work on using your blog as the central hub for expanding the reach of your author platform.
But the one good thing to say about KDP Select is that you only enroll for a limited time. You can get out after 90 days.
So it is possible to try it and know that you are not committing yourself to a long-term agreement.
Every book is different and appeals to different readers. My experience and conclusions about KDP Select may not be the same for you.
Depending on your viewpoint, the significant benefit or downside to enrolling is Kindle Unlimited.
It is up to you to decide if you can make more from subscription readers than from ebook sales to customers.