Thursday, November 29, 2012

Amazon The Grinch Who Stole Christmas? Amazon Doubles Down on Exclusivity

Will Amazon be the grinch who steals Christmas from thousands of indie authors this holiday season?

Last year, a mere three weeks before a record-breaking Christmas for ebook sales at the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony and other retailers, Amazon convinced thousands of indie authors to remove their books from the virtual shelves of all Amazon competitors.

The lure:  KDP Select, an opt-in program that requires authors to make their books exclusive to Amazon for a minimum of three months.  I blogged my opposition to the program here at the Smashwords blog, and in the months since also spoke out against it here, herehere and here.

The controversial program has its share of opponents and supporters.  Some authors have done well with it, and others have not.

I contended, and still contend, that exclusivity is a devil's bargain.  When authors go exclusive with any retailer, they increase their dependence upon that single retailer, limit long-term platform building at other retailers, disappoint fans who shop at other stores, and hobble the development of a thriving and competitive ebook retailing ecosystem.

KDP Select places authors in a difficult position.  They must decide if the short term benefits of KDP Select outweigh the long term harm caused to their writing career.  The potential benefits are uncertain, and the harm is impossible to measure.  How does one measure a missed opportunity?  One thing is for certain:  When I look at the Smashwords bestsellers, they're authors who maintain non-stop, uninterrupted distribution of all their books.  They're the authors who are working to build their audiences at each retailer for the long term.

This Christmas season is shaping up to be another record-breaker for Smashwords authors.  In the last 12 months, sales at the Apple iBookstore have surged as Apple continues to dominate the tablet and smartphone markets, and has built the world's largest global ebook retailing network with stores in 50 countries.  Barnes & Noble has expanded to the U.K. with the support of 2,500 brick and mortar retail storefronts promoting, displaying and selling the NOOK family of e-readers.  Kobo was acquired by Rakuten, a global ecommerce juggernaut, and has aggressively grown its global footprint and sales for the benefit of Smashwords authors.

Amazon's response to the rise of its competitors?  Today, Amazon doubled down on its exclusivity strategy. It sweetened the KDP Select lending library pot with an extra $1.5 million to be paid out over the next three months (press release here).

Undoubtedly, some indie authors will reach for the carrot and immediately pull their books from distribution, and as a result will never know what they missed out on this holiday season.  It's somewhat ironic that after decades of writers bowing subservient to traditional publishers who controlled the only path to retail distribution - and after so many traditionally published authors saw their books forced out of print when retailers dropped their books - that so many indie authors will now pull their books from distribution with their own hands.

What affect has KDP Select had on the growth of Smashwords?  Not as much as our detractors might think.  After Amazon announced KDP Select last year, some authors speculated it would put us out of business.  Quite the contrary.  We and our authors have enjoyed another record year this year, thanks to growth across the Smashwords distribution network.  We've enjoyed record profitability, and have grown our staff to 19 professionals, all singularly focused on creating success for the 50,000+ authors, publishers and literary agents we serve. We're reinvesting our profits to provide faster support, improve the speed and reliability of our distribution, and open up new distribution and sales opportunities (I'm writing this post from The Hague, the Netherlands, where I just concluded two days of exciting meetings with representatives of the International Federation of Library Associations). We'll end the year with nearly 100,000 new titles added to the Smashwords catalog.  Last Christmas was a blowout record for us, and I suspect Smashwords authors who remained fully distributed last Christmas and thereafter benefited by the reduced competition when thousands of KDP Select books disappeared from retailer shelves.  I expect this Christmas will be no different.  I expect some of our authors will pull some of all of their books, and the authors who remain fully distributed will become stronger for it.

Amazon is smart to realize that indie authors are the future of publishing.  If they can convince a large percentage of indies to surrender their independence to Amazon, Amazon will enjoy long term competitive advantage.

Indies have a choice to make.  They can support Amazon's strategy, or reject it.  I don't envy the decision many authors must now make.  It's unfortunate Amazon would play indie authors as pawns in its larger battle to harm its retail competitors. I wish the best to all self-published authors, regardless of their decision.


Image credit:  Wikipedia



56 comments:

Margaret Yang said...

This doubling down looks like fear on Amazon's part. If the original pot of money was working well, they would have no need to double it.

Scott Waxman said...

Great post Mark. I couldn't agree more. We have resisted exclusivity at any retailer with our titles at Diversion Books and it has paid off extremely well. We have been able to foster strong relationships at each of the major retailers ensuring multiple merchandising opportunities. We will continue to help promote an even playing field going forward.

David Bowman said...

Here at Bluewood Publishing, we told our authors we agreed with you about KDP last year, and wouldn't be proposing to put any of their books into it. Not one of them disagreed. Since then, we've seen no need to change our policy, and none of the new authors we've taken on in the last year have voiced any oposition to that policy.
Sorry, Margaret,I disagree about it being fear from Amazon, 1.5mil is peanuts to them and they're simply pushing to establish thier monopoly. Which needs to be resisted!
It doesn't matter if you're a big publisher, a small publisher (like us) or a fully self-published author. A closed, single retailer market is a bad thing.

ModWitch said...

"KDP Select places authors in a difficult position. They must decide if the short term benefits of KDP Select outweigh the long term harm caused to their writing career. The potential benefits are uncertain, and the harm is impossible to measure."

First, I guess I need to laugh at this. If the second sentence is true, and I think it is, then the first one is only opinion. We have no idea if individual or collective Select authors are helping or harming their long-term careers. And yet I see this opinion expressed lots of places, by a lot of people who feel fairly free to judge me and the decisions I've made as somehow less wise, less informed, or less professional. I wish we could have this conversation with more respect - we're *all* guessing.

As for my single point of data, I'm a Select author. Since enrolling in the program a year ago, my audience has quadrupled. I don't know what would have happened had I not enrolled in Select - but I feel like my long term career looks pretty rosy right now, regardless of whether I stay in Select or not.

Good luck to all authors this coming year, no matter which paths they choose.

Webbiegrrl Writer said...

Wow, what a well-spoken commentary, Mark! I shouldn't be surprised. I've been of a mind with you on this subject since the get-go but you really are speaking here from as fair-minded a position as you can. As one of those Indie Authors who keeps wondering "Should I bail? Should I just try the Amazon KDP Select program out once?" I really appreciate your "missed opportunity" remarks. I cannot measure whether or not I'm missing a great opportunity. I suspect I'm doing better using Smashwords to get me full distribution worldwide instead of allowing Amazon to limit me to their select few but I can never know for sure. Your words are definitely reassuring for my doubtful moments. Thank you!

-sry
Sarah, The Webbiegrrl Writer
@webbiegrrl

Heard about my 30,000th Hit Giveaway yet? It's a great way to kick off this season's sales - click here to enter the giveaway!

Robyn Porter said...

Interesting read. I have some in Select and others are not. I think it ends up being dependent on luck and the author and what they are able to do to get exposure.

On a side note, I'm still waiting on your Tech people to fix a bug with being able to select a 'second' category. Hopefully that gets fixed soon. :(tom

K. A. Jordan said...

This side of the publishing business is so new that each author has to make up their own minds. I had my fling with Select, with one of my books hitting the 'sweet spot' in early December.

The rest of this year, my experiments have convinced me that the wider my e-books are available the better.

This year, I'm ready for the Reading Season with 2 paperbacks and several short stories with ads for the novels in the back.

The upside of Amazon's 'double down' is those of us who choose a wider presence will benefit from the smaller pool of books. A high-quality e-book will have a better chance of standing out.

The Smashwords platform has improved in many ways since last year. I've always gotten good Customer Service from the Smashwords Team.

Mark, I urge you to remind your vendors of how data-hungry author's are - like birds, we are prone to panic and tend to fly off if startled. It's in their best interest to provide fast access to data and royalties. Good Customer Service to Smashwords' authors is their best defence against Amazon and Select.

Timely reporting is going to be critical, because waiting 2 or 3 months to find out sales numbers drives authors to a vendor who reassures them with instant reporting.

I'm looking forward to a great Reading Season in 2013.

A.G. Claymore said...

I've tried select. My second book (first in a series) was signed up for a couple of three month terms. Early promotions got good results, leading to a respectable surge in sales. Then the algorithyms were updated. Later promotions led to a couple thousand downloads but almost no boost in visibility. I've brought that second book back to Smashwords and plan to do the same with #2 when it comes off select in a couple of weeks. I think that the recent announcement of extra Christmas cash might start a goldrush of authors, eager to get their hands on some of those borrow dollars. As always in this industry - when everyone is rushing to do something, it's time to do the opposite.

Rick Carufel said...

Amazon has a rapidly developing double standard for eBooks. If it's from one of the Big 6 they are treated with respect and fairness, If it's an Indie or self publisher they are treated like crap.
Amazon has degenerated since they adopted a policy of management by algorithm. They mindlessly support every questionable thing their program does and refused to answer any questions with real answers.

polarfly said...

I have all my books in Smashwords and will probably leave them there, except for KOBO. The covers of my books in KOBO have been replaced with blank black covers. Is this Smashwords problem or Kobo's? Growth is wonderful but not at the expense of expertese.

SoulAdrift said...

I am always amazed at this continuing effort to make Amazon the Great Satan. They are a BUSINESS, people. They are operating in America - land of free enterprise. They are operating smart, and making money. I see nothing wrong with it. They are not obligated to cater to hand-wringing writers. The bigger question is why any writer would stoop so low as to allow their books to be part of the KDP Select program (and Amazon is not holding a gun to your head). The benefits of this are iffy at best, and for me, there is an ethical issue with writers giving their books away for nothing. If you respect yourself as a professional, you do not agree to give away your product. Period. Meanwhile, you can continue to list your book with Amazon's regular program, and across other vendors/platforms as well. So what's the problem? All is fair in marketing. Use your head.

Derek Haines said...

I'm eating slices of humble pie as I return cap in hand to Smashwords Mark. After a year with KDP Select, I can only say that while it started with lots of promises, and did deliver in the first few months, Select systematically stripped away the advantages as the months went by.

There is no 'Easy Street' in self publishing, and certainly no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but readers have made a decision about Indie writers. They DO like reading them. My hope now is that these readers will recognise that ebooks are available from sources other than Kindle.

But as many readers have told me, they are 'hooked' on 'One Click' buying and delivery and have to ask their kids how to load a book manually.

No matter what KDP Select does to sweeten the pot for authors, I still believe that 'One Click' purchasing and loading is Amazon's big advantage. Break this, and the playing field will be very, very different.

Frank Anthony Polito said...

Say what you will about Amazon, I've sold 500+ Kindle copies of my self-pubbed e-book LOST IN THE '90s and NOT ONE of the Smashword versions which I've offered on BN.com, iTunes, and all the other channels that Smashwords distributes to... Not sure why this is, but as an indie author, the $$ is what keeps me publishing via Amazon.

Jeffrey said...

My biggest issue with Select is with my current novella. It sells extremely well on the Nook but not at all on Amazon.

Ruth Ann Nordin said...

In my opinion, being exclusive will always be a bad move, no matter where you are exclusive at. I'm not a lottery player because I don't like risk. For the average indie author, the best thing they have going for them is control over their story and part of that control is where it's sold. Not everyone owns a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad, etc. Patience is necessary to be successful.

Shortcuts can hinder the ability to establish a solid foundation. I'd rather have a steady stream of income coming in from my books through multiple venues than reaching a peak with one or two books at one place. Sales rise and fall in different places at different times, and these are factors authors can't control. The more venues you're at, the better your chances are of making a living and sustaining that income.

Indie Newbie said...

Ruth Ann, you summed it up nicely. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. The wider the distribution, the easier it is for authors to reach readers using devices other than the kindle or even Amazon itself. Even looking at royalty statements I find that people buy books from various distributors and I'm happy they're able to find my books at sites they love to frequent.

Darren G. Burton said...

During the Christmas/New Year period of 2010/2011, my sales on Amazon skyrocketed. Last Christmas/New Year, they actually dropped on Amazon due to the Select program (which I didn't enter into). For their exclusivity clause they're not really offering anything. The possibility of a few borrows and being able to offer your book free for five days. Big deal. Really don't see why so many authors are even willing to participate in the program. There's no real logical attraction there.

Ty Johnston said...

Nope, not gonna do it. Fell for it once. Sales plummeted, across the board. To the day.

And when I opted out, sales shot back up. Across the board. To the day.

No, thank you.

Mark Coker said...

@margaret - Possibly. It's both a defensive and offensive move. I think they're trying to make the most of their dominant position while they still can. By most estimates, their market share has dropped since 2009, from around 90% to maybe low 60s. If their share drops further, they'll lose their power to play these games.

@ModWich - I'm not judging your decision as less-anything, nor am I questioning the wisdom of those who decide to try it. My purpose is to help authors understand all the potential implications. I know many authors have reacted negatively to my opposition to KDP-S and concluded I'm judging them. Not the case. As I've posted elsewhere and here, and as I predicted in my very first post, I recognize that KDP-S has worked well for some authors. Good for them. Every author's experience will vary. After doing this for almost five years, I've seen so many cases where books sell poorly for months or years before they suddenly break out in to bestsellerdom, or cases where they break out at different retailers at different times. Authors that don't expose themselves to full distribution risk missing those life-changing breakouts, however rare they may be.

@K.A. agreed agreed. We've made good improvements on reporting speed this year, but we still have more progress to make. I don't think we or our authors will ever be fully satisfied until we approach real-time reporting. It's a tough nut to crack as a distributor, but we'll keep marching in that direction.

@polarfly. See Site Updates on the Kobo cover problem. Kobo's working to fix it asap. It's even affecting my books. :)

@Frank I see six sales in your Sales and Payment report, but point taken. Six vs 500 is big difference. Congrats on your success at Amazon. Let's hope readers elsewhere start finding your book too.

@Ruth Ann thanks for stopping by. Your experience makes a great case study in patience and perseverance. You hit the top 10 at Kobo about a year before you broke out at Apple to become their #1 romance title for a period of time. Diversification irons out the inevitable bumps and unpredictability.

@Darren - You might have been affected by the fact that Amazon gives some level of preferential discoverability to KDP-S titles vs. titles that are at KDP but not enrolled in -S. This means authors who choose not to enroll in KDP-S are being disadvantaged, or dare I say "punished" due to their non-participation. After all, people who agree to exclusivity deserve something extra. Some authors might see this as unfair. Others might see it as strictly business. I see a risk to Amazon here. Their customers trust them to do a great job of matching them with books they want to read. What happens when Amazon knows one book would be more satisfying to a reader, yet another book is elevated above it because it's in KDP-S, causing the reader to receive a less-than-optimal read? Such instances could erode Amazon's customers' confidence in their algorithmic recommendations. If Amazon adjusts their algorithms to restore fairness, then KDP-S authors lose their advantage. It's a tightrope. It means other retailers who don't play the exclusivity game, and that treat all books equally, have a window of opportunity to develop better discovery to match each reader with the ideal book.

BFuniv said...

I signed up for Select for my second Sparrow Swift series. Then, a bit late, I investigated what advantages there were for me. Not much. Happily Amazon gave me several days to repent and the books are now fully distributed.

I like open source software. I like distributed and robust systems. I like choice. What was I thinking?

ModWitch said...

"@ModWich - I'm not judging your decision as less-anything, nor am I questioning the wisdom of those who decide to try it."

Sure you are :). You talk about making devil's bargains and following carrots and surrendering independence. Wise people don't chase any of those things.

I can be exclusive AND building my independence. I The more my audience grows and the more they sign up for my email list, the more viable an author I am, even if every single retailer goes belly up tomorrow. The more stable my long-term career at one or all vendors is. No deals with devils or sentient carrots necessary.

"You might have been affected by the fact that Amazon gives some level of preferential discoverability to KDP-S titles vs. titles that are at KDP but not enrolled in -S."

Other than participation in the KOLL, where are you seeing preferential discoverability? I'm honestly curious - I watch this pretty closely, and I haven't seen any evidence that reader recommendations or any other algorithmic functions are affected by Select status.

David Seed said...

dear mr. coker,
in 1949 i declared myself a writer and have lived accordingly, experiencing a great life (with only a little writing success).
writing is a calling, a way to live, a philosophy, but not a way to make money.
i admire what you are doing for writers like myself, and you have my loyalty.
sincerely, david seed

Mark Coker said...

@modwitch Every author values their independence, but that doesn't mean they're foolish to give up that independence if the price is right. Every author has a different price. If a publisher offered me $1 million for my novel, I'd probably be foolish to not take it, even though I value my independence, and even though I don't think trad publishers have a bright future. If you're doing great at KDP-S, I have no right to judge your decision as foolish or otherwise. Maybe your move was brilliant. Or maybe your books would have eventually taken off everywhere if given more of a runway. That's an unknown. What is known is that other authors are building fan bases at other retailers, and they have an advantage at those retailers against authors who are not there. We're still in the early days of the ebook revolution, but with the glut of books out there, and the tsunami of books to come in the years ahead, breakouts in the future are going to become more and more difficult at every retailer. As I mentioned in the Write Non Fiction post at http://writenonfictioninnovember.com/2012/11/12/the-immortal-ebook-fights-for-survival/ the first seven RL Mathewson books sold moderately well at Apple, but it wasn't until her eighth book that she experienced a huge breakout (to NYT list), and that was after months of moderate sales and smart iterations, and then the huge audience she built up over many months was primed and ready to propel her latest novel, Checkmate, to #1 in four countries in under 48 hours. She's only one example. Great books + ready-audiences = more success. Your success at Amazon proves that. Now your opportunity is to replicate that success elsewhere, if you choose. It would require a leap of faith that may or may not pay off for you.

Re: preferential discovery, from Amazon's very first Jan 12, 2012 post-KDP-S post mortem press relase at http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1647593&highlight= "Paid KDP sales grew rapidly in December — and results show that paid sales of titles participating in KDP Select are growing even faster than other KDP titles." If KDP-S titles sell better than non-KDP-S titles, it means -S titles are getting preferential discovery through sales rank alone. They're getting free days, something most non-KDP-S authors are denied unless they game the system by forcing price matches through Smashwords. When titles go off free, many authors see a temporary sales boost. Free downloads generate more reviews, which could give good books advantage over better books that might not have reviews. They're getting paid lends, something others don't get. And those lends reportedly give some measure of sale rank advantage, and better sales rank increases discoverability.

Darren G. Burton said...

@Darren - You might have been affected by the fact that Amazon gives some level of preferential discoverability to KDP-S titles vs. titles that are at KDP but not enrolled in -S. This means authors who choose not to enroll in KDP-S are being disadvantaged, or dare I say "punished" due to their non-participation.

I'm not sure if that's what happens or not, but it's possible. I attributed my drop in sales last holiday period due to the glut of free content on Amazon. People no longer had to pay money for my books when there was suddenly a deluge of free ebooks to choose from.

Mark Coker said...

Thanks for that comment, David. I appreciate you pointing out that for many writers, writing is a calling, and the act of writing and publishing in and of itself is a rewarding endeavor. We (meaning I) sometimes have a tendency to celebrate the commercial successes at the expense of the equally rewarding success that has nothing to do with sales. It's why I started Smashwords. Even a book with a perceived market of one has a right to be published.

Catherine Jaime said...

Mark,
I appreciate the work you have done with Smashwords, and the doors you open for self-published authors such as myself. However, for those of us with LOTS of titles, I don't think it has to be all or nothing one way or another.

I have more than 40 e-book titles. (I like to write, what can I say?) Many of them sell well through Smashwords and the other companies that they are distributed to. But I have just a few titles (3 at last count) that I was having trouble getting formatted properly for Smashwords and decided to put them in the select program at Amazon and give it a try.

It's been almost a year for two of them, and there have been ZERO borrows of those titles, so I have not shared in that pot at all. However I have put each of them as giveaways for 5 days during each of the 3 month periods. I have a decent number of downloads of those titles every time they are free AND the sales of some of my other titles go up at the same time.

So, all that to say, the majority of my titles will continue to be available through as many sites as I can get them on, and a very limited number will be enrolled in Amazon's Select program.

So, thank you again, Mark. Smashwords is great, but I will continue to try to "have my cake and eat it too!"

ModWitch said...

"Every author values their independence, but that doesn't mean they're foolish to give up that independence if the price is right. Every author has a different price."

That still sounds to me like you're suggesting those of us in Select have sold out, but I'll leave that alone now :).

"If KDP-S titles sell better than non-KDP-S titles, it means -S titles are getting preferential discovery through sales rank alone."

Okay, I think we interpret this differently. I say these authors are getting exactly the results the algorithms would give any author coming off free (and yes, Select authors have better control over that than others). But it's a result of a specific behavior that increases sales rank, not of simply enrolling in Select. I haven't used the free tools in Select for any of my full-length novels, for example, and I don't think they're get a sales rank boost boost simply for being a Select book.

The algorithms reward free (not nearly as much as they used to!) and they reward moving lots of copies via a promo (not nearly as much as they used to!) and they reward new releases. All authors are facing the same algorithms and the same sales rank calculations, but a lot of us have different tools. I don't have as many books as some, but I have a series. I'm in Select, some aren't. I'm not willing to use free as a significant promotional tool, some are.

I'm glad to see you weren't suggesting a bias in the algorithms to favor Select books. It sounds like you just mean a bias in the tools, and that I agree with - it's one of the reasons I signed up.

Rajasir said...

To Amazon "Enjoying your share is justified but every year coming with new pranks to try to eat the whole hog will land you in trouble in future."

Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Sony have their faithful customers but Amazon is only trying the method of luring people.

Not a good business sense in the long run.

Thanks Mark for giving us a chance to say a few words.

Regards

Virginia Llorca said...

I've been rotating my books through KDP, but I think you have a good idea to not do it at Christmas time. B&N has always been my best seller. I have had thousands of downloads during KDP freebies but it has minimal if any effect on my sales. Maybe a few extra right after. I have had exactly one borrow.

And it is great you put my new covers and blurbs up so fast. Thanks.

Bruce Grubbs said...

Although I do well well with KDP Select, I would leave KDP and republish with Smashwords but I can't because my books are nonfiction travel and how-to that are heavy on images. They simply won't fit in the Smashwords 5mb file size limit unless I remove some photos and illustrations, and that is unfair to the reader. That said, I agree with Mark that exclusivity is a bad thing for authors and publishers.

James said...

One of the best things about Smashwords is that it is fantastic for non-American authors (like myself).

Smashwords gives me access to everyone but Amazon (which I can get on my own) and I sell far more through Premium Distribution than I have through Amazon. Apple alone outsells Amazon 3-1 for me, and Kobo does 2-1, while B&N sells just a bit less than Amazon.

Why would I give up six times the sales for the 2.5 times I would get with Select?

I also like that Smashwords pays every quarter - unlike Amazon, which punishes non-American authors with a payment threshold 10 times as large as American authors. KDP might be great for American authors, but for the rest of us, it's not all it's cracked up to be.

TheSFReader said...

Dear Mark,
I'm a fierce proponent of Smashwords, and it's my preferred e-bookseller for english language "indie" ebooks. I'm also one of those who agree with you on the BAD effect the exclusivity part of the SELECT program has on self-publishing from a macroscopic point of view. Select is indeed one of the reasons I've decided almost a year ago to boycott Amazon. (Hi ModWitch BTW)

However, moaning and cursing Amazon for their cunning is NOT sufficient to win against them, while providing better support for authors and readers would.

As a reader I'm still waiting for your getting rid of the meatgrinder, which IS one additional hurdle for authors to provide books through you, and which provides at best "correctly formatted" ebooks, way under the quality of properly manually formatted ones.

I seem to remember you saying some direct epub upload would be in the pipe but can't find it since there is no search option on the blog...

I also understand that the Smashwords site direct sales part is not really your priority, but still...


From a writer's POV, there still is the delays between changes made on Smashwords, and they being forwarded/updated by the final resellers. I understand that at least half of that is the reseller's fault, but I think some of the rest could be enhanced from your side.

While I HATE saying it, if Amazon has gotten that prominent position, and if it IS able to propose a program like SELECT despite its Exclusivity requirement, it is because they provide a better experience to "both" of your customers : readers of course, but authors too.

I'm sorry, but from my point of view, unless you step up YOUR side of the game, at some point in the future Smashword's catalog will keep on loosing some of the great authors it has. And it's not the mass of money-fueled 50 Shades-alike erotica authors that will keep me buying from you.

Scath said...

I'm more interested in what improvements Smashwords is going to make.

New site design? Accepting epubs (unless I missed the announcement those are being accepted now)?

And please bring Premium ISBNs back. They were superbly cost effective for small indie publishers with limited capital who prefer to be listed as the publisher of record.

Vicki Hopkins, Author said...

I think it has its pros and cons. I opted into KDP on one book last May and the resultant downloads skyrocketed my romance into 3 days of being #1 on the best seller list, and then drove the next two months in sales for me to over $12,000 on the second in the series. After the free period ended, I had two books in the paid top 12, and I made the movers and shakers list.

Before that, I languished with selling 50-100 books a month making hardly nothing. That tactic gave me visibility to a bigger audience. I have two titles in KDP and three that are not in KDP. Every 90 days and I do a freebie to push interest.

I would not put all of my titles in KDP, nor will I leave the other two titles in KDP forever. I guess it just works differently for everyone. I know my experience was not the norm, but it was blessing at a time I really needed extra cash.

Mary Anne Graham said...

I'm (finally) finishing my latest historical romance. It should be out and about within the next month. I've never tried Select and I've heard both raves and rants from the participants. Select seems to be as individual as the rest of the publishing journey.

It might be nice to have some personal experience and the prospect of seeing if it could pay enough to help me write full time is tempting.

I'm considering it for my new one but I'm deciding whether I'll trade autonomy and control for $$$.

Quacking Alone

Sylvia said...

I'm sure I would sell more books with Amazon Select because despite excellent reviews my novels are not well enough known to sell more than a handful of copies elsewhere -- they don't fit neatly into any genre and they are not light reading. Since making one of them free, it has had thousands of downloads at Amazon and far more people have bought the sequel in the past two months than in several years before, whereas few people discover even the free title at other outlets. However, I will never give any retailer the exclusive right to sell ANY book, regardless of whatever advantages that might have. "Real" books have always been available from all booksellers, by special order if not stocked. To restrict distribution of an ebook is to turn it into a mere commodity instead of literature offered to the reading public on the same basis as a printed book. I believe ebooks deserve the same status in the eyes of readers as printed books and that Amazon's policy of treating them differently will delay their acceptance by traditional booklovers.

sharpteethpublishing said...

Okay. Everyone has awesome points on both sides. I too thought I was going to venture into KDP-S, but I had a horrible time trying to upload my book so I gave up. Not to mention Smashwords authors who do distribute to multiple retailers also can opt in to Amazon. Patience, one day it will come.
Hey, me personally, after all of the work that I do just writing my novels, I don't need the technical side to wear me out as well. When it's done, it's done and when it's ready to read, I want someone to read it.
Hats off to Smashwords for making publishing so easy for all of us. Mark started this company with us in mind and I appreciate all that Smashwords does for me!

Charl Dee said...

Mark, Perhaps your message would be clear if you proposed requiring exclusivity to set a zero price?

jambalian said...

Amazon have had to double the pot now that Prime is available in countries other than the US. If they didn't, the share for each borrow would have tumbled. Anyone thinking they're going to get a ton of money from borrows should think again. I expect it will remain at just around $2 a pop.

Personally, I will be leaving KDP at the end of the month and going through Smashwords.

Elizabeth Barone said...

I have to say this, and mostly because I love Smashwords: the Amazon bashing has got to stop. It's honestly really annoying at this point. Blog posts about how Smashwords can improve my career rather than why I should avoid the competition would be so much more helpful.

Susan Klopfer said...

I am staying with Smashwords and Amazon. It makes the most business sense. Besides, I would never rely on one big giant who would squish me without blinking. I ain't crazy, and that's a poor business model, besides.

supernalliving.com said...

KDP ain't what is used to be. The Golden Months when a great give-away led to jumping onto the bestseller list waned some time ago. Now authors can give away a bunch of free books and get little in return. I think a lot of people download free books and never read them. The Prime payout sounds good, but with a wide selection, the income isn't that enticing. I created a KDP sampler of short stories and excerpts. It gives some freebie exposure without tying up all the books in the mighty ZON catalog. Dana Taylor

Linda Nelson said...

It does not hurt me by much if others take part in amazons double down. I will just sell more on the other sites due to less competition.
so I say let them go for it...

More people are buying Kobo and Nook readers now anyways.

Anna Rose said...

I have no desire to use Amazon's "exclusive" program, as I like my books to have the widest coverage possible. There are plenty of folks out there who feel that doing business with Amazon hurts other business, so they refuse to buy from Amazon.

I've got my books available on Smashwords and Amazon, and that's working for me just the way I have it.

The Cover Counts said...

I don't think there is any *right* answer. It's all growing and changing so quickly that there isn't much of a chance of nailing it down.

I do know that through it all, I've valued Mark's opinion and analysis. Whether I agree with it or not, it makes me think about the publishing industry carefully and in ways I might not have considered before.

Thanks Mark. Happy Holidays to you!

Jeanie Henderson said...

Harping is not attractive, nor is being defensive. I've not been successful on Smashwords since last May and found a mistake made on my SW site. Customer service never fixed it. Lastly, it's only three months. Three. Months. That's it. It's a free market system. Get over it.

Greg said...

I've been with Smashwords since May of this year and I've yet to see ANY evidence of this "advantage" you keep harping about. I've been on Amazon in a much shorter time and my visibility with ereaders has multiplied tenfold. (By the way, not only has no one not bothered to download my book through Smashwords, no one's even bothered to download a sample of it.) Some "advantage". Also, I came up with a better description of my book and changed it. Did you guys distribute the change to retailers? NO! No you did not!

Greg said...

I agree with Elizabeth Barone. In fact, that's the point I was intending to make with my original comment. Hate to say it Smashwords, but you guys need to take lessons from Amazon. Their KDP Select was what helped me get my book seen by more people. I know you guys have some info somewhere that's supposed to help people, but I haven't got the time to hunt it down.

Ahmad Ardalan said...

I will check if the sales for my book The Clout of Gen increases this holiday with smashwords to decide what to do next year.

Theresa M. Moore said...

You Amazon apologists and supporters will learn your lesson soon. It does no good to keep all your eggs in one basket. I made more money from Smashwords than I ever did with Amazon, so I'm sticking with Smashwords. Fish or cut bait.

Theresa M. Moore said...

BTW, there is absolutely no guarantee you will earn anything with KDP Select, and I have about 50 authors who agree with me, all of whom publish on KDP. Most are pulling out of the program with nothing to show for it. Things to think about.

Greg Wilhelm said...

That's funny. I just said the same thing about Smashwords. I'm seeing more DOWNLOADS on Amazon than Smashwords.
For those keeping count, that's 222:Amazon, 000:Smashwords.

amyjoywriter said...

Thanks for sharing this, Mark. I'm posting a link to it on The Indie Writer's Network. We have a forum dedicated to discussing the ups and downs of the kdp select program, and this will bring another voice to the conversation.

--Amy Joy
http://indiewritenet.com

Anna Erishkigal said...

I danced on KDP Select for two whirls of the dance floor. It did nothing for me either in borrows or sales. It didn't even net the reviews I'd hoped to get.

Goodreads ... so much better. You do a giveaway ... you get reviews (I got a 40% review rate). Why doesn't Smashwords import the Goodreads ratings like Kobo does? I went direct to Kobo's distribution platform for that reason, but love Smashwords (even the irritations of meatgrinder) for how author-friendy it tries to be.

Greg Wilhelm said...

@Anna Erishkigal-I'm also using Goodreads and I was surprised by your comment about their giveaway. I wondered how I missed that. But once I looked into, I remembered that I had seen it before and discovered that it was intended for copies in "print" only. As an Amazon KDP select member, I can do free giveaways of my "ebook". On Goodreads, I can't.
By the way, I did another "Free File Friday" last week and 20 more people downloaded my book. That's now a total of 242 people who now own my book.

Nancy Madore said...

No one seems to be mentioning the fact that the bestselling books that are in Amazon's select program are not exclusive, like, for example, the Harry Potter books. Those are for sale at Barnes and Nobles Nook store. It seems that there are two sets of rules. Only the indie authors have to give up their rights to sell elsewhere. This way Amazon gets to brag 'exclusive' books, while undercutting the other stores with free popular books. And those free bestsellers are getting all the funds in the pot. This whole promotion is about putting everyone else out of business. Has no one else noticed this?