Thursday, December 8, 2011

Amazon Shows Predatory Spots with KDP Select

Amazon today announced a new service offering for authors and publishers who upload to their KDP platform: KDP Select. Writer beware.

At first glance, the program looks enticing. Amazon has created a $500,000 monthly pool of cash they'll distribute to participating authors based on the number of times your book is borrowed from their new lending library.

As they note in their FAQ, if your book accounts for 1.5% of the downloads during the monthly lending period, you'll earn 1.5% of the pot, or in this case $7,500.

But there's a catch. Actually, multiple catches, which are outlined in their Terms and Conditions:

  1. For the time your book is enrolled in the program, you cannot distribute or sell your book anywhere else. Not Apple, not Barnes & Noble, not Smashwords, not Kobo, not Sony, not even your own personal blog or web site. Your title must be 100% exclusive to Amazon.
  2. If you violate their exclusivity terms at any point during the three-month enrollment period, or you unpublish your book to remove it from the program so you can distribute your book elsewhere, you risk forfeited earnings, delayed payments, a lien on future earnings, or you may get kicked out of the Kindle Direct Publishing program altogether.
  3. Your enrollment, and thus your liability to Amazon, automatically renews every three months if you neglect to opt out.
Amazon has also modified the Kindle Direct Platform's user interface with the effect of making it almost difficult not to enroll your books. Where they once placed their pull down menu for managing your book's settings, they've now placed the enrollment link. The pull down settings menu is moved to the bottom of their dashboard.

Let's examine the implications for this new program, not only for authors but for the nascent ebook industry as well.

When authors enroll a title in the program, they're contractually obligated to remove their books from all other distribution channels.

Wow. Most indie authors appreciate their independence. This rule is quite restrictive.

Impact on authors:
  • Forces the author to remove the book from sale from the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords and others, thereby causing the author to lose out on sales from competing retailers.
  • By unpublishing a title from any retailer, the author destroys any accrued sales rank, making their book less visible and less discoverable when and if they reactivate distribution to competing retailers
  • Makes the author more dependent upon Amazon for sales. Do you want to become a tenant farmer, 100% dependent upon a single retailer? As some of you history buffs may know, tenant farming, and the abuses of power by landlords, was a primary contributor behind the great Irish potato famine.

Impact on competing retailers:
  • Harms other retailers by denying them access to your book.
  • Many authors will permanently stop distributing to Amazon's competitors once they become fully dependent upon Amazon for the lion's share of their earnings
  • Motivates more customers to purchase at Amazon since Amazon has this exclusive content.
  • Discourages formation of new ebook retailers around the world
The new Amazon KDP Select program strikes me as a startling example of a predatory business practice. Amazon has the opportunity to leverage their dominance as the world's largest ebook retailer (and world's largest payer to indie authors) to attain monopolistic advantage by effectively denying its competing retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony, etc) access to the books from indie authors.

The move will also make it more difficult for new retailers operating outside the US to gain footholds in their respective markets if they lose fair access to the content readers want to read.

Amazon might argue that indie ebooks today only account for a fraction of overall book industry sales. True, but that fraction is growing quickly as indies scale all the best-seller charts. This trend will continue as more and more professional authors turn their back on traditional book publishers in favor of self-publishing. Amazon is smart. They understand indies are the future of book publishing.

European Commission and US Department of Justice Unwittingly Working to Create Amazon Monopoly

Amazon's new service offering comes at a time when the European Commission and even the US Department of Justice are scrutinizing the legality of agency ebook pricing. Agency ebook pricing, as you'll recall (see my blog post last year on our move to agency pricing) allows authors and publishers to set their own price and receive higher royalty rates. Amazon is a long time foe of agency, and as a result is probably enjoying a virtual wet dream as they savor the implications of potential restrictions against the agency model.

If agency pricing is limited or overturned, it would allow Amazon to price ebooks at below cost and effectively eliminate the profitability of all its competing retailers. This would also discourage the formation of new competitors. It's ironic that the EC and US DOJ are pursuing these ill-advised campaigns that could lead to less competition in the ebook market, not more.

What the EC and US DOJ fail to realize is that big publishers (the target of these investigations), which (I agree) price their books too high, are becoming less relevant to the future of book publishing as authors lose faith in the myth of big publishing. The problem of high prices from big publishers is not an agency issue, it's big publishers pricing their books too high.

Agency Pricing Enables Indie Authors and Small Publishers to Lower Prices

Despite fears to the contrary, we see evidence at Smashwords that agency pricing might actually encourage lower book prices. Indies, which are enjoying great benefits from the agency model (Smashwords only distributes to agency retailers), are using agency to offer customers lower prices, not higher prices. The average ebook at Smashwords is priced under $5.00, and we have over 15,000 books priced at FREE. Why do indies price their books lower when they have the freedom to charge anything they want? The reason is that indies realize that consumers value fair prices, and as a result these lower prices give indies a competitive advantage over the large publishers.

When an indie author can earn 60-70% of list with agency pricing, they can set a lower price yet still earn more per unit than if the book was sold under a wholesale pricing model (where the royalty would equal 43-50% of list). As an example, if an author wants to earn $2.00 from each book they sell, at a 70% agency rate they'd price the book at $2.85. Under the wholesale model (50% discount off list), they'd need to price the same book at $4.00.

The agency model puts profits in the pockets of the author or publisher, where it belongs, while allowing the retailer to earn a fair profit. Agency pricing relieves retailers from the pressure of competing on price and instead forces them to compete on customer experience, such as developing discovery tools and recommendation systems that help match readers with the books they'd enjoy reading.

How should indie authors respond? Horror might be a good start. Recognize that your long term interests are best served by enabling a vibrant and competitive global ebook retailing ecosystem to develop. Distribute your book to as many retailers as possible. A world of many ebook retailers, all working to attract readers to your books, is much preferable to a world where a single retailer dictates all the terms.

Obviously, I have a horse in this game. Smashwords is probably the world's largest distributor of indie ebooks. We publish and distribute over 90,000 ebooks from 33,000 indie authors and small presses around the world. We exist to serve our authors and publishers. We supply Amazon's competitors. We'd love to supply Amazon as well, but they're unwilling to provide us agency terms.

Image credit: Wikipedia


Allen Schatz said...

It was easy to get to "nah, pass" without even reading all the fine print. Thanks for thorough evaluation, Mark. Good info for all of us to have.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I have too many fans through Apple and B&N to consider excluding them. Plus I don't like the idea of one company controlling Indies.

Anonymous said...

When I saw the words "exclusive to the Kindle store" in my email, that was it. I never want to put all my eggs in one basket. Because, you know, the handle could break.

K. A. Jordan said...

Interesting idea, but I'll pass.

I can see where someone with huge sales could be interested.

Right now, I wouldn't want to close any doors, even for 90 days.

Mr Write said...

Good article from Mark. I find Smashwords so much nicer to work with. Upfront about their modest percentage, people from around the world pay the same price and payment is by paypal. Amazon is a huge company but could learn a lot from Smashwords - but sadly don't need to. I have one title on KDP that I don't have on Smashwords so have enrolled one title. It will be interesting to see what % of that $500,000 I get....
Jeremy aka MrWriteCzech on Twitter.

Shawn said...

I have unpublished Melody and the Pier to Forever from Amazon for the time being. I have so little trust regarding Amazon that I can see them taking even more cancerous steps to snag indie authors. I predict this program to be a massive failure, and in so being I can easily envision Amazon giving indie writers an ultimatum: publish exclusively with us or else. Sound far-fetched? Any reasonable individual before today would've viewed KDP Select as far-fetched!

If I were you, O Indie Writer, I'd take a good long look at your Amazon account and the titles you've listed there. Because the way Amazon's going, they may not be your titles for long. They may in fact be very soon confiscated by Amazon.

You've been warned.

Anonymous said...

While I understand your points, Mark, I have to disagree with your assessment that Amazon is forcing authors into this. The entire thing is optional. You can put none, one, some, or all of your books in this program. Yes, they become exclusive, but it is for a 90 day period. Two weeks before the renewal of enrollment, Amazon will send an email saying it will be renewed if you don’t opt-out. It’s not like this is a once-and-done decision, but you are painting it that way. I think this could be a great way for authors to promote their works.

Personally, I’ve put three of my works in KDP Select, and yes, I removed them from Smashwords. Unfortunately, the sales I get through Smashwords and who it distributes to are very, very, very low in comparison to Amazon, so I’m not during much harm to myself over the next 90 days.

This is just my opinion, and I know other authors would completely disagree. But I personally emailed Amazon about a program like this a few months ago. So I’ve been waiting for it, and I’m glad it’s happening.

Unknown said...

I don't know if the move will be a good move or a bad one, but right now, my sales at Amazon are already more than 100x what they are at all other sites combined.

Instead of getting angry at Amazon, maybe other companies should woo indie authors with more marketing opportunities. When Wal-Mart has a sale on TVs, Best Buy doesn't sit around and cry about it, they price-match.

BN does not allow Indie authors to go free except through SW. When it does go free, is there even any mention of it anywhere? If there was, I never saw it when my book was free there. In two weeks, it was only downloaded 500 times. In the same amount of time, it was downloaded over 55,000 times on Amazon, which led to many sales of my second book, and also of the first when it went back to paid.

Krista D. Ball said...

I actually laughed out loud - I LOL'ed in real life - when I got the email. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Ooooo I can make an extra $2.50 and piss off all of my overseas readers, my epub readers, and my anti-Amazon readers all in one click of the button.

Nah, I'll pass.

Lisa J Yarde said...

I get the points as well, but have to wonder: for authors like me, who derive most of their revenue from Amazon to begin with, how does exclusivity hurt us in that case? I don't buy any of the hype in KDP's release about Select's benefits to self-published authors, but I have felt for a long time that Amazon actively promotes us more than most. I would love to see another entity out-compete Amazon. Right now, that's not happening from my narrow view.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

@timecapsule: This is the latest example of Amazon making it difficult for authors to work with other retailers as they slowly wall authors in. Yes, you can opt out, though that reintroduces the time and effort it takes to get the book redistributed to other retailers. At Smashwords, this is accomplished with a single click of the button, but it still takes anywhere from a day to a week for the book to appear again, and by that time the book has lost it's prior sales rank and is therefore less visible to customers.

@MP, your points are well taken as well. Because amazon controls 70% or more of the ebook market, it usually holds true that they sell more than anyone. By participating in the program, you reinforce that gap and it becomes a self-fulfilling inevitability that they will always be your largest. Free titles do so well on Amazon because there are so few of them. That, and their larger customer reach.

Miss Mae said...

And there's no way to delete your books either! I've checked them not to publish, but they're still there under "draft". So Amazon won't allow us to delete our books, so they keep our files, right?

Oh, I knew I should never have gone up at Kindle!

David Sheppard said...

I was absolutely shocked when I got the email from Amazon this morning. How could they possibly expect me to pull my six eBooks from all the other places I have them though Smashwords? Voluntary, yes, but still really distasteful. I've been a long-term Amazon Prime customer and published both paperbacks and digital through them. But this KDP Select made me really uneasy. I have more sales now through Barnes & Noble than Amazon. I can't imagine this going over very well. It's so anticompetitive that it is really cringe worthy.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

@lisa No doubt, Amazon does an amazing job of connecting readers with books. Much of this great performance is simply due to the fact that they're the largest online book retailer, with the largest installed based on dedicated e-reading devices, with a bookstore that's tethered to their e-reading device, operating a great store with great discovery features. According to ( gets 83 million monthly visitors, 10X that of Amazon understands that for authors like you, the cost (measured in lost opportunity) of you giving them exclusivity doesn't seem so high, but they also understand that if they get you to participate it helps guarantee that you will become even more dependent upon them. What they're doing is quite transparent, and they understand it'll be tough for many authors to say no.

Sylvia Says -- the blog said...

I hate Amazon's opportunistic move on this. There is absolutely NO WAY that I am going to give them exclusivity rights for my published titles!

As for the lending library, I've been told this isn't optional. I hope it is optional, because I won't be lending out my ebooks. For the price I charge on Amazon, readers can pick up my ebooks for the cost of a cup of coffee. So Amazon is really squeezing the indie author out of the game, or so it seems! This is sad ;-(

vickiejohnstone said...

Good article! :)

I nearly opted in by accident today because I went to check my US book page and then realised the dashboard has changed. Basically, where I used to click to view my book pages, there are now opt-in boxes. The fact that you can't even publish your own book on your blog or website... well... that's goodbye to SampleSunday and other promos for those who opt in I guess. I am totally against monopolies and business tactics that are unfair. Competition is a good, positive and constructive thing. Stamping out the competition is just not a good thing. As soon as I saw this new scheme I was disappointed. Amazon has done some brilliant things, but this new idea is not one of them. Writers are people, not money machines.

Unknown said...

I agree with a lot of what you're saying, but I have decided to add my book to the program because I hardly get any sales from Smashwords or B&N anyway, so I'm not really losing out on much. I recognize that it is monopolistic, but as an indie author I have to do what I can to make my books available and I think the Lending Library helps with that.

Plus I do enjoy the option of being able to make my book free 5 days out of the 90. Yes the 90-day contract is kind of scary, but that is incredibly short in book standards. If I'm unhappy after the 90 days, I'll simply withdraw. Thanks for the informative post.

Rex Kusler said...

It's just another option. You can use it for one book, all of them, or none. I only have one self-published book available now, and I haven't wanted to bother with the other sites. So it's a good deal for me. It'll be free for 5 days starting tomorrow and will probably help my AmazonEncore titles.

Anonymous said...

As customers, we should tell Amazon what we think. My message to Amazon:
Subject: Don't be evil

I was looking forward to getting my books in the Kindle Lending Library, but given your foolishly predatory licensing terms for KDP publishers, I will decline to participate. I would be happy to support your attempt to build a "Netflix for books", but not at the loss of my independence.

Anna Scott Graham said...

So I'm sensing here the whole Smashwords/Amazon integration is off the table. Which isn't a bother; I didn't go indie to make money. But I have been wondering, as the last few Smashwords blog posts mentioning Amazon haven't been of a warm and welcoming variety.

Everyone has different requirements; Smashwords fits mine fine. If that means fewer downloads (all my ebooks are free), well, at least I know I can choose with whom to distribute. If I wanted Amazon to be among them, I would have arranged that months ago.

Sarah Woodbury said...

I don't want to posit a good/evil motive here, because Amazon is a business like any other. It's been very good to indie authors up until now--and very good to me, especially in comparison to some of the other vendors that seem to actively dislike indie books.

That said, I won't be taking my books down from Smashwords. Long term, I'm looking to grow my readership worldwide, not limit it, and 90 days exclusivity (especially over Christmas) is 90 days without a broader market.

That's not to say I wouldn't try it with a new book, and not to say it doesn't make sense for many authors who haven't made much headway with the other booksellers.

What would be really nice is if the other outlets saw this as an opportunity to court indie authors.

Ricki Wilson said...

I just made Maggie’s Fall available to deployed soldiers through Operation eBook Drop and Smashwords free coupon option. I would never renege on that offer, yet participation in KDP would require me to do just that.

Debbie Bennett said...

Surely, if your book has ever been for sale via smashwords, you can never remove it sufficiently to satisfy amazon's stringent demands? The very fact that smashwords retains a copy of your unpublished book (so that customers who bought it when it was published can subsequently re-download it) would seem to violate amazons t&c.

Anonymous said...

Read my blog for today:

I've already removed my Amazon links from my site, and am preparing to move my ebooks to "draft" status on KDP for the next giveaway sale. The fact is that I have not had any meaningful sales on Amazon since the glitch went off in August, and this just adds insult to injury.

Elena DeRosa said...

Just updated today's blog post to add a link to this one. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I would also remind those authors content with the status quo that the status quo has changed. I such you read "Animal Farm" to get the gist of the issue, as well as understand what is going on in the ebook selling world. When I joined Smashwords again, I opted out of distribution to Amazon. I did so because my ebooks were already listed there. I also make it a habit of keeping entities separate if there is a likelihood of entanglements. But if you read my blog, Amazon has going beyond the line and set itself up as a monopoly already, so I have the option to remove my content since I have no third party in control of it. It is hard to stand by and watch others go down in flames while sitting on the mountain, but people have an annoying habit of not listening. It's not my problem if they learn the hard way.

Anonymous said...

Mark, I believe the KDP deal is worse than you've stated. It doesn't necessarily apply JUST to the work submitted to the program. The author is prohibited from selling any OTHER work that might compete or be confused with the work - in other words (arguably) ANYTHING ELSE BY THAT AUTHOR.

vickiejohnstone said...

I've already commented, but then I decided to blog about it. It's here:

Unknown said...

There's also the question of what do you really gain with this program? Think about it. Readers ONLY get 1 free download/lend per month. 1. Put yourself in your reader's shoes. Are you going to borrow that $.99 or $2.99 indie title, or are you going to borrow a $9.99 or $14.99 traditionally published ebook? I don't see any indie really getting 1,500 borrows in a month that aren't also getting much higher sales than that per month. Even for people to borrow your book, they have to know it's there. Few will probably browse past the first page or two of titles before they find a book they want to read.

I also don't like what this does for actual libraries offering free ebooks to their members.

Finally, I don't get the argument about Amazon being most of anyone's sales. That's true today, but how much effort is really put into reaching readers in other markets? Most authors I see just put up an Amazon link. I make sure to tweet BOTH my Amazon and Nook link equally and 30% of my sales come from B&N. Who also have a PubIt store now on their main site like Amazon, if anyone's paying attention.

Tracy Falbe said...

I know the KDP select is the hot news today, and I certainly checked it out this morning. As soon as I got to the part about exclusivity, I stopped reading. I HAVE ZERO INTEREST IN THAT! Not even tempted. Sure I like my Amazon sales but I would not give up my sales through Smashwords distribution for the mere possibility of making royalties IF my novels happen to get action through the Kindle lending system. This deal seemed to want me to let go of the bird in my hand to go chasing after the birds in the bushes. My Barnes & Noble and Apple sales easily equal or surpass what I make at Amazon. And Sony and Kobo are worth having too. I'm fully committed to diversification.

Kate Danley said...

Elizabeth Ann, I thought you brought up a very interesting point. As a reader, I have to concur. I know that I would (and have!) used my free download to grab a $14.99 book before the $.99 book.

And I think Sarah brought up another good point - Christmas. The week after Christmas, January and February tend to show the strongest sales.

I'd be really interested in hearing back from an indie author who has both opted in and has data from past years for a comparison. Any takers? Report back in February?

Lindsay Buroker said...

It's hard for me to see why this program would even tempt authors. With as many people signing up as there are, I imagine it'll just be another place for an unknown author's books to languish in obscurity. Same old story. Only the popular guys will make money.

If it's the free ebook bit, well, you can still backdoor your way into Amazon with a freebie via their price-matching thing (upload your book at regular price at Amazon, price your book for free at Smashwords, then hit distribute). Maybe it's possible Amazon will take that away, but they haven't yet. If anything, they should make it available more easily. I have the #1 epic fantasy freebie over there now (and, yes, that helps a lot with sales of subsequent books in my series), and I can't imagine getting any more exposure than that.

If anything, I believe independent authors should be figuring out ways to become less dependent on Amazon, not more. Don't just watch sales numbers. Get people to your site and get them to sign up for a newsletter, so you can email them and let them know where they can continue to buy your books if the day ever comes when Amazon's deal is no longer attractive.

P.S. You can download my fantasy freebie at Smashwords through the end of December. (Hey, what kind of marketer would I be if I didn't plug my stuff? :D)

Jody W. and Meankitty said...

Yeah, the noncompete wording in the Exclusivity clause gives me great pause. 90 days exclusivity isn't a killer but the rest of it could be, ie. "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), in digital format in any territory where you have rights."

Carl East said...

I think it's a good idea, but for me it won't work out, mainly because I earn more at Apple than I do at Amazon. It wouldn't make sense for me to pull my books from Apple. So, the way I intend to use it is to release books that are not selling anywhere else, just to see if I can jump start a few more sales. I also intend to take full advantage of the 5 day free scheme to promote my work. If after the first 90 days I don't see any benefit I will simply pull out. What I won't do is place all my eggs into one basket.

Carl East

Vicki Hopkins said...

Amazon is becoming a gorilla in their tactics not only in eBooks but in the print world as well with competitors to CreateSpace. I'm not about to give them all my apples. I'm sticking with Smashwords, other distributors, and my current printer. Easy to pass, because they are becoming too aggressive. They are losing my respect and causing ripples in the industry on many levels.

Meghan said...

Thanks for explaining it so clearly. The thing I love most about Smashwords are all the different distribution channels. That KDP Select requires exclusivity is the best reason to just say no.

Anonymous said...

I haven't done really well with sales on Smashwords either (whereas on KDP I've done much better). Still, I agree with you the most dangerous aspect of this is how it squeezes out the competitors, Mark. Frankly, this borders on anti-trust if you compare it in context to the whole Microsoft Internet Explorer suit some years back.

What's most dangerous, however, and where writers should beware is in this whole concept of exclusivity. That's a dangerous road for any author. The whole reason I became and independent author is because I wanted to maintain creative and business controls over my literary properties. I've found Amazon's policies of late to be quite intrusive on the rights of authors and this is just another example.

Do what you will, but I've been a professional writer for almost 15 years and I would advise other independent authors to stay away from this.

Raymund Hensley said...

I guess they're feeling the heat.

How classy of Amazon to not mention the "you cannot distribute or sell your book anywhere else" part in the email. And I love how at the end they say, "Thanks again for choosing KDP to publish your work."

Nahh. Pass. Especially since I'm selling more at B&N and other places. All thanks to Smashwords.

Mahalo. -Ray

Randolph Lalonde said...

A KDP rep called me a couple weeks ago to give me a heads up about this and offer me an early spot.

I turned it down on the phone, and I hope they have difficulty finding enrolees.

Anonymous said...

As I read KDP's announcement today, red flags popped up. After examining the implications, I'd say the this is one of the worst things that can happen to an indie author.

I understand some authors will go into this, thinking since they aren't selling much anywhere but Amazon, what's the harm? Well, in 2009, I barely sold anything. In 2010, I'd say 90% of my income came from Amazon, so 10% came from Smashwords' distribution channels. In 2011, about 50% of my income came from Smashwords' distribution channels.

The key here is time and diversification. If I had stayed only with Amazon, I would have missed 50% of my income this year (and while I won't specify what it is, I made more than my husband who has been in the miliary for 20 years). I fully expect 2012 to be the year Smashwords' channels gives me more than Amazon the way the trend is going. Why? Because there are more stores to sell through.

Being an author is a game of patience. You don't always sell a lot right away. I started back in 2008 with ebooks and didn't make my first $140 until December 2009. I did a lot of writing, publishing, and gave away a lot of books for free. Then when things caught on, I kept a few books free while pricing others. $0.99 to $2.99 doesn't seem like a lot until you add up the sales and the awesome royalty rates we get as indie authors.

Now, isn't it possible if Amazon wants our books and gets this monopoly that they won't turn around and then take away the good royalty rate? Then what? You'd be making the same as a traditionally published author (maybe) while not having the diversity of a traditionally published author? Sounds to me like we'd all be backing ourselves into a corner if we go along with this Select program.

I think it's best to think long term on this one.

(Sorry for the lengthy comment.)

Anonymous said...


That should be "Now, isn't it possible if Amazon wants our books and gets this monopoly that they WILL turn around and then take away the good royalty rate?"

Sorry for the error.

CS McClellan/Catana said...

So I'm guessing that the experimental publishing with Amazon is over and done with. I don't see how SW can possibly continue trying to work with Amazon now.

I've been holding off publishing on Amazon, waiting to see whether there will be an agreement or whether I'd have to go through the KDP platform. I've had my doubts about publishing on Amazon all along because I didn't like their practices. I'll stick with Smashwords and maybe looking into setting up my own little direct to the consumer store eventually.

Josephine Dillon said...

I'm not sure what I'm going to do...

V H Folland said...

I'll pass, because having an ebook available in only one place seems like a risk. What happens if the listing breaks (which has happened to me)? Better to manage the risk and have multiple channels to market.

Linda Pendleton said...

I'm not going for it. I love the freedom of self publishing. I want my books at Kindle, and at Smashwords, and in turn, all the other ebook formats via Smashwords, and elsewhere. I'm happy with that.

I think it is a bad idea and too restrictive.

I do sell more books through Kindle, but I also sell through the others. And I don't plan to lose that.

If I wanted to offer my numerous books and those of my late husband, only through Kindle I would not have also gone to Smashwords some time ago.

Marissafarrar said...

If authors are smart about this, they can use Amazon's predatory ploys to work in their favour. It is very hard to get freebies up on Amazon, but now, if an author has a novel coming out, they can write a 'promo' book to advertise their new novel and then set it to go free via the Select program when the paid-for (and non-exclusive) novel goes live. This will generate huge interest in a book that otherwise might have taken a while to see decent sales.

Personally, I'm all for it. I've got no intention of making my novels exclusive, but if I can put some intentionally promotional work up for free on Amazon, then I will.

I hope other sites take Amazon's lead and come up with some ways of making promotion on their sites easier.

Trevor said...

I passed on the offer too. Not that I think Smashwords is a better platform. I've sold a reasonable amount of books on Kindle but not a single book through my Smashwords account. I won't be taking them down just yet but there seems little point keeping them there.

Anonymous said...

No one has mentioned that it's a way of promoting Amazon Prime to Kindle customers, who would otherwise opt out of Prime due to not buying physical books nearly as often for the shipping requirements. I don't think in that sense it's nearly so 'predatory' towards publishing as one might think, from a writer's POV. From a Kindle customer's POV, it's a whole different marketing tool.

I don't have a problem with it, as I have unique books only available on Kindle which seemed extraneous to add elsewhere.

I can't praise Smashwords highly enough for the extended distribution, especially to Nook and Kobo. But so far the most I've been able to shift are in the Summer/Winter voucher sale - again, something I'll continue to opt into with Smashwords, as it's a great promo.

Remember the FAQs do say you may continue to distribute your print editions elsewhere, the exclusivity only counts towards digital unique editions.

Alexis Harrington said...

Meh--to me this could just as well be called Book Loan Lotto. Gambling with your titles and not knowing what you'll get, if anything. Except you know what you WON'T get--the right to exercise the freedom we all wanted when we became indie authors. I suppose some people will take advantage of this, but it really doesn't interest me.

Ty said...

Far too many red flags for me to want to take part in KDP Select. The word "exclusive" was the first red flag, but then it went down hill from there as I read further and further into the small print. I'm really hoping enough indie authors will be smart enough not to take part in this, and perhaps Amazon will pull Select or trying something else less predatory in the future. But if this is a sign of things to come with Amazon, I think they'll only be hurting themselves in the future.

Cazraik said...

I did look at this seriously, until I read Mark's post and then did a bit more digging....

This offer is Limited to Amazon Prime Customers, and they ONLY get to choose 1 (ONE)book a month!! I will repeat that: They ONLY get to choose ONE BOOK A MONTH!

What are the odds it will be my book? About as great as me winning the Powerball lottery!

Then, the part about exclusivity... if I'm published here on Smashwords, and Smashwords has distributed the catalog containing my books to all the other eBook suppliers, I am going to spend a lot of time retracting my books from those retailers to ensure Amazon's exclusivity clause -- which, by the way, gives Amazon an excuse, in the end, not to pay me royalties if they discover my ebook still on someone's website.

Given that my ebooks are linked all over the place, how can I ever possibly guarantee exclusivity? I have no way of knowing who all has copied a link to their blog, or downloaded a pic of the cover, etc.

And what about Facebook... I uploaded pics and links, and I have no idea how many other facebookers have links to my books on their pages.... Exclusivity out the window, per the contract!

After careful consideration, and much digging, I, too, have determined BEWARE! This is in NO WAY a good service to authors, or readers (ie: 1 book a month!)

I am going to PASS!

Mel Comley said...

Thanks Mark, I was one of the people on KBS yesterday advising writers to be cautious but felt no one was listening to me.

I highlighted the clause about your commitment and think anyone going into this venture needs to AFTER consulting a lawyer.

Amazon are dictating what we do, maybe they realise that the Tablets are selling wholesale worldwide now and fear the competition.

On the other hand if people want to sign up, it leaves the door open for the rest of us to climb up the charts on B&N etc. ;-)

. said...

Of course Smashwords would be against it. They're losing authors, from whom they make money. My take is that Smashwords shouldn't fear. The only authors that will enroll in the Amazon borrowing program are those that don't make any money with Smashwords (and B&N, Apple, etc) anyway. (For example, I've made all of $2 with Smashwords since July and a couple of thousand with Amazon. So I have nothing to lose.)

So, most authors that join the program might even make more money, not less.

"Your enrollment, and thus your liability to Amazon, automatically renews every three months if you neglect to opt out.Amazon has also modified the Kindle Direct Platform's user interface with the effect of making it almost difficult not to enroll your books. Where they once placed their pull down menu for managing your book's settings, they've now placed the enrollment link. The pull down settings menu is moved to the bottom of their dashboard."

You're making it sound scarier than it is. First, before you enroll your book you have to check that your read their terms. Also, 'As a reminder, you will receive an email 15 days before your book’s current enrollment term expires. If you don’t want to renew, simply go to the book’s “edit book details” page and uncheck the box next to “automatically renew this book’s enrollment in KDP Select for another 90 days.”'

Now hurry up and expedite book removal so I can join the program! :)

Anonymous said...

After posting what I did way above, I ended up taking my books out of the program.


The vagueness of the exclusivity. A few books were collections of shorter stories I wrote. I also have excerpts and full versions of them available on my site. With all the places my stories could be at this point, how can I guarantte Amazon I'm exclusive? If I can't, how easy would it be to have Amazon pull the rug from under my feet.
So, reluctantly, I took them off the service. Good news is, they are back on Smashwords, B&N, and everywhere else.

Nancy Beck said...

Heard about this on Konrath's blog (in the comments). I didn't like the idea of having all my eggs in one basket, as you said here, Mark.

The thought of being beholden to any one company to distribute my books...leaves a terrible taste in my mouth. (Even at SW, I get the extra benefit of getting into places I can't get into, which is a nice service to have.)

I really don't get why anyone would want to do this.

Vanessa Finaughty said...

I would never even consider doing this. If they were Barnes & Noble, there's a chance I might have fallen for it, but since most sales DON'T come from Amazon (in my experience), it would be shooting ourselves in the foot to make our books exclusive to Amazon. I'm going to share this post with as many writers as I can so they don't get snared. Thank you for taking the time to write it!

P. V. LeForge said...

The new KDP policy has even farther-reaching implications. Amazon Kindle machines read only books formatted in the Kindle (.mobi) format. If more authors decide to become Amazon-exclusive, fewer books will be available to those customers who own reading devices that use only ePub formatting, such as Kobo and Nook. So not only will Amazon realize more sales from books, but from machines also.

Michelle Muto said...

I think I'll keep publishing with Smashwords, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble. My readers don't all have Kindles. Plus, I didn't become indie to have such a restrictive contract.

Joansz said...

Excellent article and great comments. I too will pass on this "exclusive."

I've reposted this article to FaceBook in a lame attempt to make it go viral. It should go viral.

Joshua Guess said...

I had a long, thoughtful comment planned out in response to this blog post, but I decided against it. I'm certainly no amazon apologist, but it seems to me that many indies (and I'm an indy writer, have no doubt) are looking at what could be instead of what is. I have nothing against Mark or Smashwords, I think it's a brilliant company and service that will continue to grow.

That being said, from a business standpoint, most of what Mark says here sounds to me like a cry for help. "I'm the little guy, don't go exclusive because it will hurt my business!"

I get that, I really do. And I hate that anyone would suffer from amazon's new Select program. But here is the reality, at least for me: Amazon represents the vast majority of my sales. I've made thousands of dollars there. I've made eight bucks at Smashwords. Maybe a few hundred at BN.

This program may make me money through borrows, but I don't really care about that. I want to be able to promote my books for free, end of story. I don't want to have to upload it to smashwords and make it free then wait for amazon to match the price. I want options and control. This is a business for me, as it should be for any writer.

I'm not saying some of Mark's points aren't valid, but I find it HILARIOUS that so many indy writers would balk at an exclusivity deal that lasts 90 days and that you can opt out of if you pay attention and do it in time. How many of us would have jumped at the chance for a book deal a few years ago? I bet quite a few. And those are exclusive, sometimes for many years. At least I have control over this. It's my call.

I'm not saying for anyone to do it or not. I AM saying that judging the program before you've tried it based on a DIRECT COMPETITOR knocking said program may be a bad move. Look around, see what other authors who've tried it say. I'll be trying it and blogging about it for sure. If it sucks, it sucks, and I'll opt out.

But I won't be scared away from making potentially very large sums of money and having more control over my marketing because the smaller publisher doesn't like it.

GameCatAlpha said...

Copyright law (even Berne).
Distribution channels.

These are the three things that define whether or not Amazon can actually do this. Read up on these things for yourself. You'll see the loopholes you can play. ;3


Annie Oldham said...

I received the email about it yesterday or the day before. I first thought, "Ooo! Extra money!" Which is, of course, what Amazon wants you to think.

Then I read further and got to the exclusivity part. My next thought was, "Boo! Fewer ways to reach my audience." So of course I won't be enrolling.

The other interesting thing about this program is that the lending library is only available to Amazon Prime members. So while any Amazon customer can still purchase your book, not every Amazon customer can participate in the library. Which narrows your sphere of influence even more.

Pass. Being old resounding pass.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the outcry of the renewal has been heard by Amazon. They now have a checkbox for the book. By default, the book is checked for automatic renewal. But you can uncheck it if you don't want it to renew after 90 days.

Jim Kukral said...

You make some really great points and every author should really think about if they should do this.

Time will tell if this is a smart business decision for authors long-term. No way to know now. But there's my point.

You have two types of authors. Those that write for business reasons and those that write for vanity reasons. You have to admit that from a pure business decision standpoint, the KDP Select "may" be the best option financially. Again, we don't know yet.

But for authors who write for vanity reasons, who are more concerned about wider distribution and "seeing their name in lights" in multiple places, KDP Select isn't sounding like a good idea.

Ask yourself, as every author should do, are you writing for business reasons or for vanity reasons. Neither is wrong, you should just decide and make the appropriate decision then after.

That being said, Amazon is the New Walmart.

Anonymous said...

I've thought about this more overnight. The key this time was my readers. I look at the traffic I get to my blog and there are people from all over the world who visit and many of those are using apple products, meaning they likely visited my blog after reading my stories on Apple iTunes. I also have a lot of fans through B&N. There's no way I can kick them to the curb, so I wrote a blog post to them, promising I would avoid exclusivity where possible.

Stephanie Chandler said...

Excellent post, Mark. Amazon has been bullying authors and publishers for too long. I would never give up exclusive rights. That's why I kissed off traditional publishing and decided to go independent!

Stephanie said...

Good points. What also concerned me was this undefined pool of money and the lack of information about how many people you'll be sharing it with. It's not well defined and a total gamble on what an author would make from it. Plus, I don't like the Amazon lending library idea. That's what we have actual libraries for!
Stephanie Queen

Selena Kitt said...

Total gamble. No telling if it will pay off (unless you wrote The Hunger Games... then you're already golden :) but there's no gain without risk either.

I don't trust Amazon (or any other big company) but Indie authors are in bed with them, like it or not.

So I'm in. But not ALL in. A safe bet. An experiment.

We'll see!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great post, Mark!

The moment I saw the word Exclusive alarm bells went off. I admit, I chewed on the idea of releasing some kind of "amazon only" content - something new - until I saw the words "Your blog". Whoa. Wait a minute. I can't post my own words on my own blog? Sorry, I don't think so.

I've seen a lot of people comment that they sell lots more through Amazon and that USED to be my experience, too, but has not been the case for the last several months. In fact last month I actually sold a handful more on B&N (through Smashwords) than I did on Amazon. I have one book that is free on Smashwords (and it's sales channels) and on Amazon, too. When it went free (on Amazon) I initially gave away a lot more Amazon copies than B&N (12,000 on Amazon) but that was in May. Months later, the numbers are now almost identical for it and my other books. Add to that that Amazon doesn't allow you to make your book free to start with, so none of my short works are on Amazon and neither is my How to Get a Cheap Book Cover because the images don't display well on a Kindle, so, for me, they are not the be all, end all sales channel.

While I don't plan on taking anything down from Amazon (eggs in one basket and all) neither do I plan to give them exclusive rights to anything. What a way to say to my Nook readers, "Sorry, but you just don't matter."

Giselle London said...

The KDP thing is only good if you have a lot of books. It wouldn't make sense if you only have one or two, especially if you aren't getting at least 95% of your sales from Amazon.

One computer glitch, one change in the way Amazon's algorithms work, and your past sales are gone, or your current sales disappear. Snap--no income! No way am I putting all my eggs in one basket, no matter how attractive that basket may be.

Now, if you have ten titles out, and put one on KDP Select, that's no biggie.

My sales at Smashwords suck right now, but I appreciate what they do for me. Amazon may be my biggest single distributor at the moment...but it's still only 1/3 of my income, and my book hasn't even shown up in the SW premium distributors' stores yet!

I'll probably end up writing a book specifically for use at KDP--but probably only that one. The rest will be kept on SW and other distributors, who don't want to control me.

Kelly McClymer said...

Great post. I opted in with one title (the one that isn't widely distributed and is still newly out there and needs to make a name for itself...or not).

In my opinion (which is worth nothing on the open market), this is not a move by Amazon to start demanding exclusivity. It is, instead, a move to entice enough authors to try this new outlet that it puts a kink in the Nook book sales for the anticipated Christmas rush and to build Amazon Prime.

My book will be in direct competition with The Hunger Games. If I didn't own a copy, I'd borrow The Hunger Games before I'd borrow my book :-) In other words, I don't think I'll see any borrows, or any significant money from taking them up on this offer. However, the discoverability offered to me by the free offer may be valuable (may).

One of the things I value most about Smashwords is the coupon feature. I just gifted a book using this feature. To gift a Kindle book, I have to pay for it. Win for Smashwords.

For other writers like me, who make the bulk of our money on Amazon but have read 1984 and Animal Farm more than once, keep doing what you're doing. The most important value I get from Smashwords is knowing that I'm not limited to one big vendor who dictates all the terms.

Like I said, I don't think Amazon was expecting to start adding exclusivity into its bargain...yet. The digital ebook space is still too much of a wild west. One day, if we authors help build several robust alternatives to Amazon, it may even be a healthily competitive space where the authors matter. Maybe that's too much to hope for. But 'tis the season for hope. So that's what I hope. Healthy competition. Healthy experimentation. Happy authors. Happy readers. Happy etailers.

Happy Holidays!

ChulaSlim said...

I enrolled one of my titles in the KDP lending library program and after reading this blog post decided to check out the Kindle library. I own a Kindle Fire and am a Amazon Prime customer so I was able to browse the books to try and find mine. No such luck! There were thousands on books in the library of all categories. Assuming that Amazon has millions of Prime customers, (possible, because the fees are reasonable) how many of them are readers? Lets assume out of the millions, 100,000 customers borrow books from the library, the odds of finding your book in any category are about 1 in 1,000 or more. It's like a lottery. If your book's not highly rated or a best seller you're unlikely to even get one download. I thought about this and about the fact that I've sold about as many books of that particular title through Smashwords as I have through Amazon and since I could still cancel the KDP lending program, I did so. Now, Mark, I have only one question. Could you please expedite the review process to fix my Boo-Boo?

Mark said...

I got the announcement email from Amazon this morning. As soon as I saw the exclusivity part I said "Hell No!" and deleted the email. It's just not worth it.

Redameter said...

I think going with only one distributor narrows everything and you lose so much from the others. I've come to appreciate my sales from B&N and Apple too much to give them up.

Not much different than using just one publisher for all your books, which I have done before and I won't do that again, unless I'm forced.

Mark is right putting all your eggs in one basket means you only see profit from that one basket. No thanks. I'll stay where I am at. has come to be my stabilizer and I don't want to rock the boat so to speak.

If they have a budget per month, I doubt anyone is going to be taking home all the prizes unless it's someone very big.

Apple and B&N are too reliable to give up and delivers these, plus we are growing, so why rock a good boat. LOL


Merry Christmas
Rita and God Bless

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis, Mark: balanced yet emphatic where required. Whether it satisfies the legal requirement of predatory business practices is for the DOJ to decide, but clearly it's in the --spirit-- of those practices, otherwise people would not be reacting with this justified indignation.

Amazon has always been ruthless. Bezos continually pushes the limits, and backs down only when the public outcry is loud enough that it starts to hurt sales (c.f. Amazon's initial resistance to accessibility for the visually-impaired on the Kindle). He's got the moral rigor of a jackal, but the business acumen of the most successful businessMEN of our time.

Using independent authors as cannon-fodder in the ebook wars is despicable.

To the authors who have posted here of your willingness to accept Bezos’s filthy lucre "as an experiment" or because your sales on other platforms are low, my advice to you is this:

Stick to your principles! As a "self-publisher" you are a PUBLISHER, which means that you have embraced the holy oath to make your work as widely accessible as possible. If your sales are low on other platforms it's because you are not doing your job, and are missing out on as much as half of your deserved readership. Ignore the man behind the curtain and get back to work!

RowenaBCherry said...

You can hide a book from potential buyers at Amazon, but once it's in their files and has been sold once, it can never be removed.

They need to keep a copy in case a customer loses theirs, and wants a replacement... maybe to lend.

Harper Jayne said...

I think the largest incentive in the exclusive package is the free days. It's a big pain in the butt to mark your stuff down to free on Kindle, and it can get you enough exposure that people are willing to pay for it (because it comes up in bestseller lists) thus making you more money in the long run.

I published a short on Smashwords. It's free. I'm publishing it on Kindle for $0.99 and hoping that a price report on the Smashwords Edition will cause Amazon to drop it to free.

That's a silly amount of hassle. The temptation is, then, to enroll for 90 days and then opt out again, at which point you publish on other platforms. If Amazon offered the ability to set books to free for 5 days every 90 outside of the exclusivity agreement, I'd probably pay them for the service.

Lee said...

And Apple won't do exactly the same?

Honestly, we need decent legislation and fast, to counteract these practices. I won't even get started on the whole "Apple hates USB" war going on with its iPad and attempt to run everything through its truly HORRIBLE itunes product.

But then, Steve Jobs was a God, according to the Appolytes, right?

Anonymous said...

I am one author who will not be using that program. I believe in an open marketplace. I also think Smashwords offers the most user-friendly interface, the best royalties, and the best service. I don't care whether or not I make a ton of money on Smashwords. I really appreciate the flexibility it gives me, and I applaud Mark Coker for creating such a great tool for authors.

Sara Jo Easton said...

I became an independent author so I could interact with people and not be exclusive to one company with no ability to even give excerpts of my book on my blog. I'll pass on this program.

Carl East said...

There are far too many people here scared of what they haven't looked into more closely. I for one have no intention of jumping ship, as it were, because I admire what smashwords has achieved. However, I will be using Kindle Select as a tool for future books. It's quite simply the best way to promote ones books.

Going exclusive with Amazon would hurt me, as I make thousands at Apple, through Smashwords. So I intend to game the system for all it's worth, but on my terms and not on theirs. If I believe they are failing to deliver I will simply go back to how it was and ignore it.

Oswald Bastable said...

Up yours, Amazon!

Hugh Ashton said...

I've been distrustful of Amazon for some time. This just confirms my worst suspicions. Of course it's not compulsory to join the program. Just as it's not compulsory to undervalue your work by pricing it at $0.99 (free is a different matter). But a lot of "authors" will just see the $500,000 and leap at it.

Webbiegrrl Writer said...

I have to say, there are 2 points no one is really stressing.

1) As Lisa Scullard (::waves, hi lisa!::) noted, this is not just a method for Amazon to use KDP to leverage a non-compete clause on Indie Authors. I said "just" because I certainly think Amazon has that predatory plan underlying any actions they take. Let's face it, they're in business. However, they're in business to make money at every turn and Amazon Prime is a subscription service from which they reap a lot of monetary residuals. That service had a great interest when it opened but as with so many online shiny objects, interest was a little fleeting and the subscription rate has fallen off a little. The streaming video program they launched (timed to slam Netflix who separated their streaming video from disk-by-mail service) perked up the Prime membership renewals but didn't actually bring in new subscriptions, according to business reporting from places like TechCrunch.

2) I'm also curious that no one has asked--nor has Mark yet spoken about--how this will or won't impact the "on hold" plans to finalize a distribution channel from Smashwords to Amazon's Kindle stores. Is that totally dead in the water OFFICIALLY now or just being held in limbo yet another month or six?

I've always uploaded my book directly to the KDP platform myself and opted out of the channel here on Smashwords (while also including the MOBI format in my Meatgrinder outputs). I send plenty of Kindle customers here to Smashwords and don't actually advertise my Kindle URLs. I've still sold a few copies at the Kindle Store but by advertising my Smashwords presence instead, I've shifted over a thousand copies of my "test run" book off the SW site (most of which were Kindle copies). I never intended to actually sell it in the first place so I find this enormously amusing.

Would love to hear a new Site Update on Smashwords/Kindle plans for the future, if there is one.

Jim Brown said...

It's fascinating reading all the reactions here. Amazon are doing nothing wrong - they're conducting good business, offering authors and publishers a chunk of a large sum of money in return for some exclusivity. You scratch their back and they'll scratch yours. They're also being open about it and emailing everyone with an open explanation about the program. "When you make any of your titles exclusive to the Kindle Store for at least 90 days.." is the very first line of the program description. It's business, and they are courting you for your business by dangling a carrot in front of you. No-one is forced to take it.

Now, all of you who are either for or against this program (and I will say right now that I am not enrolling any books in it because it doesn't suit me - I'd lose more than I'd potentially gain) should look at your own businesses and see if this can be of benefit to you. It's as simple as that. There's people commenting here that they get a hhuge chunk of their sales through KDP. If that's the case then this program could well be right up your street. Someone at some point will take a very large chunnk of cash from this program, and well done to them if they do.

Business is all about opportunity. Amazon has seen an opportunity and is presenting others with an oppportunity in order to make the best of it. Every author should treat their writing as a business, whether they self-publish or not. See this as the business opportunity that it is, and simply decide if it's useful to you or not. Not all buiness opportunties are.

Are Amazon trying to corner the market? D'uh, yeah, of COURSE they are. They're in business! If they don't try to attract available business, someone else will. When you write or publish your latest book, you make every endeavour to corner as much of the available readers' cash as is out there, and if you're not then you damn well should be.

I'm no apologist for Amazon. There's several things Amazon do that I don't agree with, but they provide opportunities I'd never get from bricks and mortar stores, and whether you love them or hate them, you can't argue that they helped get a great many authors and publishers sales for books and ebooks.

So they changed the KDP dashboard around. I see nothing difficult about it. There's a huge banner announcing the program and the $500,000 amount at the top, and a column that is clearly marked "KDP Select" and "Enroll" for each title. They're not hiding anything.

I'd personally love to see someone get some big bucks from this, but equally I'd never consider it myself. As someone mentioned above - it's not always wise to put all your eggs in one basket.

Scath said...

There are many authors who are all ready 'exclusive' to Amazon, for whatever reason.

I was excited by the Kindle Select program (saw it on the KDP forum before I checked my email), and was eager to join.

Then I checked the terms and saw the exclusivity clause.

Forget putting in anything I currently have available. Amazon is 74.5% of my sales this year; I'm not going to cut out that other 25.5% from Smashwords and its partners.

I thought perhaps I'd write something specifically for Kindle Select, because I can see the possible benefits of having more readers trip over my work by being in it. And there is a person reporting on their Select title's progress over there, and they have had some sales as well, not just borrows.

But the competition clause bothers me, because technically, anything I have elsewhere is in competition to the same titles on Amazon - from Amazon's point of view.

Not from mine, of course, but I can see why that would be their point of view.

If I can get clarification on that, I might put one of my contemporary romances into the Select program next year. I don't write many of those, so will have to think about it (I concentrate on urban fantasy and general scifi). Maybe I'd begin using a pen name specifically for that genre. I don't know, it's just something to think about for now.

I'm a Prime member, though I don't purchase all ebooks I want through Amazon, so I checked out the Lending Library on my Kindle.

Not quite 15k titles so far (as of yesterday), and from what I could tell, almost all were indie/self-pubbed.

I won't 'borrow' anything shorter than a novel length work, if I'm only getting 1 loan a month, and seriously doubt I'll be the Lone Stranger on that. Hell, I check out two books at a time from the library, and usually turn them in the next day, because I read that fast! The librarians love me, LOL. :)

Figuring not many shorter than novel length works will be borrowed through it, so in that regard, it's a bum deal for indies/self-pubbed.

Personally, I think it's not that big of a deal, regardless of the furor being raised over it. Those who sell exclusively at Amazon will opt in, those who don't either won't, or might put in a title or two to test the waters.

As long as it's optional, and no effort is made to strong arm indies into joining it, I just don't currently see it Kindle Select as a huge problem.

I imagine if Amazon did attempt to make it a condition of continuing to distribute with them, indies would leave in droves, which would be pretty counter-productive to Amazon's drive to make money and have the largest market share of ebooks sells. ;)

Scath said...

And I really wish we could edit our comments. Please ignore extra words and misspellings.

There's a reason I hire editors! :P

Carl East said...

I'm hoping that all of this shakes up the industry. I mean, things have stagnated a little over the previous months. What with promises of other sites joining the fold but not materializing, it's all getting to be old news, when it should be vibrant and fresh. There are things that Smashwords can do to get back on top of their game.

For instance, I think Smashwords should get into the App business like everyone else, and get us all down to monthly paid. Also, there needs to be more transparency where our earnings are concerned.

If Amazon and B&N can show us on a daily basis what we are earning then why can't Smashwords and Apple. These are ways for them to improve their already great service and they are things that are in the realms of possibility.

The updates to sites like Sony and Kobo needs to be sorted ASAP, without the promises that keep falling through.

I guess, what I'm saying is that they need to UP their game to keep with the competition, and the couple of things I've suggested are just the start.

Charles E. Wells said...

Many moons ago I was in the TV repair buisness and the TV companies had "protected Territory" where one dealer in the area did not have to worry the competetion selling the same brand. When Walmart came on the scene, they shipped all brands to all stores in all protected territories, thus breaking the whole process down. I have one free book with Mark at Smashwords, eight for sale, and opted out on my Amazon distribution. When I got the email about KDP I realized the move was to monopolize the Indy markets. Let's pray writers get wise fast and avoid KDP at all costs.
Charles E. Wells

Perry Wilson said...

For those of you who just said no when they saw 'exclusive to Amazon', it's probably important to know it's only for 90 days.

I sell most of my books through Amazon, so the reality is that I won't lose anything by giving it a try.

I understand not everyone is willing to try something new, but I like to read the agreement before I say no.

I did that with Google books because they won't state the royalties, they want the power to discount and bundle my books. And I didn't get into self publishing to give up control.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

@Webbiegrrl We'd love to distribute our books to Amazon, but until they either give us Agency terms (which, based on what they have told me will not happen) or create a bulk upload system for KDP (this is/was on their roadmap, though the implementation date is behind schedule and up to them), everything remains on hold. In the meantime, we're distributing a small number of titles to them (<300).

@Carl - We haven't talked about this, but over the last two months as promised we've greatly increased the speed and frequency of sales report integration into our Dashboard reports, and we will continue to improve that in 2012 as part of our faster-faster-faster initiative.

Dragon Film Productions said...

Thank you for submitting this information because most of us would have never heard about it on the mainstream news channels -- unless enough people speak up about it on their Twitter, Facebook, and as many social networking sites as possible. Indie authors band together!

Richard Crasta said...

Mark: Good and thought-provoking article. Are you sure about the part where if a customer opts out of Select, all their royalties, even on other books, can be withheld or delayed, and they be removed from the program? Thanks.

Christine Leov Lealand said...

This is playing LOTTO with my books where I can only have one tiny ticket to a small proportion of the 'pool' of available money each month. And it is a small pool of money, not a pool proportional to the number of entrants.
Amazon are putting up peanuts to get the monkeys, guys!
So if say 3 million indie authors sign up - where are your monthly sales going to land you in ranking in that 'prize pool'? Huh?
What is 500k divided by 3 million???
Amazon say they are only offering 6 million for 2012 - divide that by 3 million signed up indie authors - what is your share going to be???
Did Amazon say they have limited the number of authors who can sign up?
No they have not.
Amazon are smart they get exclusive rights to a huge number of authors for a paltry sum, compared to the profit they will make from those same authors.
Sad isn't it - we authors being tempted into jostling for a chance at a tiny lottery pool - which I bet is going to disappoint a hell of a lot of authors.
The smallness of the lottery pool shows just how much Amazon respects and values their indie authors.
Like thirsty wildebeest at a dwindling muddy pond in the Sudan with Amazon the carnivore circling round...
No problem to me and my authors, we are expanding our publishing to independent ebook retailers around the world.
If three million monkeys line up for Amazon's prize that is less competition for us out in the free world.
And WHEN Amazon really get going on their monopolistic practices which are already impacting on retail as per their latest smartphone retail steal - I can't see indie authors being treated with any more respect than this week.
Amazon can change their minds about how they treat independant authors and publishers anytime - if all your eggs are in that basket how long will it take you to recover if it breaks?

Scath said...

Christine, you have to figure it'll work out about the same as it does now. Some indies will be borrowed a lot, some a little bit, and others, not at all.

Plus, I doubt 3 million indies will sign on for it. ;)

Most of the ones that I've seen saying they've opted in are putting in short works. I seriously don't think they'll have many downloaded, so they'll probably opt back out after the initial 90 days.

Like I said above, I certainly wouldn't 'waste' my one lend a month on anything shorter than a novel.

To be honest, unless Amazon sweetens the pot further, I'm betting a lot of people won't keep their titles in after their first 90 days.

Except maybe those who really don't care if they make money with their titles, and just want people to read them.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not my goal. :)

Anonymous said...

I haven't joined KDP select and I have been quite vocal about it on Kindleboards.

I won't dwell on the negative aspects, but rather I would ask the question of Mark, what he intends to do about it. Possibly in tandem with the other distributors.

Gary said...

This is similar to what they tried a few years ago: Offering a similar "deal" to get people to go with their publishing co, and charge a bigger fee to people who used a different publishing service.

Don't get me wrong, I like Create Space for publishing the print books and most of my sales are in person author signings and expos like Comic con, Sci-Fi Expo, Galaxy Fest, etc. and online sales are MAYBE 5% of my sales - almost all of that through Smashwords (Thanks for creating the concept, Mark)

It just sounds like another screw job on the indie author.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

@richard: Amazon's KDP Select policies only apply to the book or books you enroll, so carefully review their terms for the complete details.

@declanconnor: All I can do about this is share my concerns, as I've done here and over at my Huffington Post story at Amazon Aims to Empty Competitor Shelves of Indie Ebooks Beyond that, it's really up to the indie author community to decide for themselves if they will stand for such exclusivity. Continue sharing your opinions with your fellow indie authors. One thing I won't do is encourage our retail partners to develop similar service offerings that require exclusivity. As much as it would be a punch in Amazon's gut to have indies remove their books from Amazon, that's not in the indie's best interest either.

Graham Murray - Author said...

The KDP deal is both an interesting and extremely complicated concept. AMAZON isn’t stupid; they’ve done their homework and have come up trumps. Ask yourself at whom are they are really aiming this deal?
I make my living from book sales. The vast majority of my sales come from AMAZON (mainly US and UK). While Smashwords (SW) has done a sterling job of distributing indie titles on the web, my own research (and SW’s own ‘stats’ utility) shows that most visitors at SW go there for the erotica, specifically the FREE erotica. Your stats may be different to mine.

Sales at SW are extremely low compared to anywhere else because many visitors expect free books at SW and will rarely part with 99 cents to buy a book. I have some titles both at SW and AMAZON (priced the same, naturally). Each title earns more EVERY month at AMAZON than my entire time at SW combined! That’s talking to me loud and clear. SW is not for sales - it’s for distribution.

Of my 100+ published titles, I distribute these to very specific markets and monitor them to check sales, demand, etc. While AMAZON may be seen as the wolf at the door right now, they DO have the resources to promote new writers, whereas others lack such strategies.

SW visitors have to click on “Add to cart” BEFORE they see that a title has a coupon. I want visitors to see a title’s coupon options BEFORE they have to click on ‘purchase’, this way they can see the value of the purchase and I could use this to my advantage in a big way. AMAZON has capitalized on this. They do work for you to make sales! Their royalties may be lower, but 50% of zero is still zero.

Strategies like this gives the author a wide degree of flexibility when it comes to pricing and, can also ultimately remove the need to make titles free, which is wreaking havoc in the publishing world. You will never make a living by giving books away. It is merely a useful marketing ploy and can be an invaluable marketing tool.

The KDP deal will work for some and not for others. If you had just one title available for $1.99, would you join? However, if you have 100+ titles to play with, would you consider some and not others? The KDP deal will work for some of my titles but not others.

Also, sales, reviews and comments at SW are tiny compared to elsewhere, so it makes no difference to someone with one title if they make it available through AMAZON and remove it from SW – they may make some sales via AMAZON, whereas it will probably sit dead at SW indefinitely.

I also don’t make money by ‘lending’ books, not unless sales are in the six figures, which are few and far between. And if this were the case, then why lend them anyway? It makes no sense.

Before you decide about AMAZON’s KDP ‘offer’, you really do have to think very carefully about it. Yes, AMAZON is trying to become even more powerful, but they are also trying to help struggling new writers. Their KDP program may be the way to go for writers who are not enjoying sales elsewhere.
Right now, my SW stats shows that erotica outsells other fiction by a factor of at least TEN. Obviously, I keep churning out adult material for SW and nowhere else as it simply will not sell elsewhere. Sure, it’s pocket-money in comparison, but a dollar’s a dollar and they keep coming in.

Also, if you have a FREE title at SW and then try to sell it on AMAZON, they WILL make the title free. It’s one or the other.

Authors are a fickle lot, as are readers. Don’t expect any great loyalties from either. Strike while the iron is hot and make your money while you can. Exclusivity is not necessarily the Kiss of Death.

AMAZON is aiming at prolific writers with potential; not one-off indie ‘writers’ who are offering 240 words of ‘personal poetry’. We live in a democracy; anyone is free to challenge AMAZON if they wish. Right now in the indie ebook publishing world only one man can do this, and that man is Mark Coker. I am all agog . . .

Melanie Novella Ray said...

I personally HATE it. Seriously. I have a Nook Color and I won't go out to get a Kindle just to get those authors.

In fact we have turned our review blog into one that does NOT review KDP select books. If authors want to confine themselves to one platform, fine.

It doesn't mean the readers are all going to be cheery about it. So says this one at least.

Anna Pescardot said...

I have to agree with most of you, that as soon as I saw the word "exclusivity" it put me off. I was interested at first, as well. I have equal sales on Amazon, apple and Kobo and so I have no plans to lose half of my revenue by making a deal with just one retailer. You only have to watch an episode of The Apprentice to know that exclusivity is not good for business. I am out unless Amazon take this clause out of their terms and conditions.

Anonymous said...

My publisher put my memoir that's selling VERY well in the program, and I put a self-published novelette in it also. At this point, I'm trusting my publisher. 90 days. Well, there will definitely be an evaluation at the end of it for certain for me (and I'm assuming my publisher) and probably for anyone else who has opted into it. Though I do hate to see the Amazon giant drawing books away from other marketing avenues. I guess we'll all see what happens....Interesting times in the publishing industry!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

Anonymous said...

Of course, there's nothing SELF SERVING about this blog post, since Smashwords doesn't want to lose revenue by having Amazon be the exclusive distributor of a digital title.

There's nothing wrong with exclusivity. Unions practice this all the time. It's called "Closed Shop". Would Smashwords call the union practice of "tenant farming" unfair? I dare you.

The only question that needs to be asked by an author is: Does the Amazon deal benefit the author more by enrolling? If the answer is yes, then for him it's a good plan. If the answer is no, then it is not.

Amazon is hanging out a carrot. They get exclusive distribution, you get another source of revenue. It's up to you to decide if this is a good thing or not. Not Amazon. Not Smashwords.

I am not going to take the Amazon offer. One day I might change my mind. Or I might not. But it's not this evil "predator" that Smashwords wants you to think. Every business wants to find ways to make more money. In this case, Amazon wants to make more money by getting you to deal with them exclusively. Smashwords wants to make more money by keeping your titles available to them. Nothing wrong with either position.

That's business.

Besides, hard to complain about monopolies when using a Google blog, isn't it?

Graham Murray - Author said...

You have to remember that Amazon’s KDP ‘Select” deal is ONLY for the digital platform. Many of us have titles in both digital AND paperback formats. The ‘deal’ does NOT affect paperbacks of the SAME title.

I finally decided to enrol a particular title in the Amazon program. It has been on Amazon for quite a while and digital sales have been reasonable. Nothing great, but good enough (it is also available in paperback, which sells much more.)

The same title distributed through SW has done squat for me! So, in this case, exclusivity is neither here nor there and is not an issue. It’s already on Amazon and, as it’s not doing anything elsewhere, why not enrol it? I certainly will not LOSE any sales and I may make some extra bucks. As I said previously, Amazon’s ‘Select’ program can be a boon for authors with many titles available; it’s a chance to boost titles with flagging sales.

Not only this, but the Lending Library feature could become a way of gaining extra exposure. A reader who borrows your book (or a free offer), may like it and then actively seek out your other titles, which they may then purchase. This can’t happen if the book is a dead duck elsewhere.

As I can also make the title available for free for 5 days, this will also be a useful way of determining if it is the content/title or the price that is hampering sales. If it flies off the shelves when free, I know it’s the price and can re-examine my pricing structure. If it still flags even when free, then I need to re-examine the content or unpublish it completely.

Always remember that a poorly-selling or poorly-written title CAN affect the sales of other books. If in doubt, take action to rectify the situation. Perhaps the book really is just crap and I don’t see that. In which case, it needs to be removed to prevent it affecting my other titles (yes, I know . . . they could ALL be crap and I’d be none the wiser!)

For me, all of this is business – it’s all strategy and marketing ploys. At the end of the day, the guy with the best strategy will win.

Also consider that when you publish in paper, your publisher will rarely let you go with other publishers simultaneously, will they? So why all the fuss about the digital format exclusivity? Anyway, as the ‘Select’ program is ONLY for the Kindle platform, this alone will severely hamper worldwide sales.

I’m just not seeing that AMAZON is in any way doing anything other than exhibiting shrewd business acumen, and the rules, terms and conditions are right there for all to see. They have not hidden anything away.

Cheryl Tardif said...

Any business that moves in with a monopoly strategy is one to watch out for. I've read the fine print and their contract really only benefits one entity--Amazon.

There are far too many red flags for this initiative--the main one being that authors loose control of their options. Isn't that why many KDP published authors decided to go this route--so they could maintain control?

Any retailer that uses an exclusivity clause is one to be wary of. They don't make it easy to get out of, not without possible negative repercussions. It's just not worth it.

My advice to authors who want to keep control and keep their readers happy--something Amazon misses the boat on with this ballsy move--then publish your books on multiple platforms so that more people with multiple brands of ereaders can read your books.

As for their example of the profit-sharing premise, they quoted much higher than the average author will make. I think those who go into this will have a rude awakening when they see what they actually make.

My advice as an author and publisher? Stick with the regular KDP program. It's good as it is. There's a lending program attached to it already. It's also fair and shows respect to writers, something this new program doesn't do.

Cheryl Tardif
Publisher, Imajin Books

Unknown said...

By signing up with Amazon KDP Select, you will be losing distribution through Apple's iBookstore under their platform. For me, Apple's iPad is the game-changer that makes the whole ebook reading experience a pleasurable one, and permits access from many countries. The iPad has ramped up the competition for ebooks on a global level, and it has spooked the bejasus out of Amazon, knocking their long-established Kindle reading devices off their pedestal. So much so, that Kindle rushed out its Fire colour device to try and compete. The Fire's main claim is that it is half the price of the iPad. That may be so, but the Fire is filled with bugs: it doesn't work even half as well as the iPad. A third of reviewers of the new Fire device give it negative reviews at Amazon's own website. It's great to see all this competition for indie authors--but exclusivity is too high a price to pay. And which author ever made decent money off library or lending sales? Amazon is using smoke-and-mirror strategy to snare indie authors with KDP Select. Open a door for 90 days? Ha ha. Watch out! That door may close and lock you in.

M T McGuire said...

I am absolutely with this but... I sell a risible amount of books on Amazon about 300 in 2 years BUT I've sold 17 yep 17 on Smashwords and most of those were giveaways for operation e-book drop or for reviewers.

OK so it might be a bad book but the comments I get from readers and the merchandise I sell suggest it's not.

So Smashwords. What I want to know is this? What do Amazon do that you guys don't? How can we authors help you to achieve the same sales figures as Amazon?

I am guessing it may be to do with the fact that many of the sites you supply don't have such busy forums or, like Barnes & Noble are not open UK residents.

I'm tempted to do the KDP Select thing because losing my novel isn't going to affect you, anyway. BUT it will affect operation e-book drop and that, in itself, is enough to make me think long and hard about it.

I am also tempted to put a bit more effort into finding apple forums and marketing my book to iPad readers...

Just a few thoughts, as you can see, I'm havering at the moment.



Catherine Jaime said...

Thank you Mark and others for much food for thought. There have been many valid points made in the current discussion, and it looks like much of what needs to be said has already been said. Before I go into my personal decisions and thoughts, I did want to point out that a couple of pieces of misinformation in the comments here - at least based on my reading of the Terms and Agreements: A customer can only borrow one book at a time through the program, not one book per month. That's a potentially big difference! Where the one month comes in is if a customer borrows the same book more than once in a month, only one time counts towards the book's share of the loans. Not quite the dire picture some people are painting. (I'm sure both of those are meant to keep authors from "gaming" the system, which I actually appreciate!)

I have been a non-published writer for many, many years, but only found out about many of my authors as an indie author in the last year or so. Before that time I was offered a contract with a small publishing company that makes Amazon's exclusive clause look like nothing. This publishing company wanted ALL rights to EVERYTHING that I was writing - including books I hadn't written yet! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry as I read the contract. Needless to say, I didn't sign with them.

Several months later I learned how easy it was to self-publish through Amazon's CreateSpace and their Kindle program, and shortly after that another blog led me to Smashwords. I love Smashwords AND Amazon. I currently do a little better on Amazon each month, but I think the growth potential on Smashwords is at least as good, if not better, so I don't plan to turn my back on either option anytime soon.

But does that mean I think that Amazon's new option is all bad? No, not hardly. I had already read the terms and conditions completely before I found the discussion here, and went back and reread them a second time just to be sure. I'm going to try a few of my titles and see how they do. The ones I'm putting up there are mainly ones that weren't on Smashwords yet, or at least hadn't made it into the Premium Catalog yet. If there are no bites, they'll come to Smashwords in a few months. And meanwhile my other titles stay put in both places!

Thanks again for the great work, Mark, and a wonderful option for indie authors!!!

TheSFReader said...

Oh, following-up on that KDP Select predatory spot, I've discerned a new one beginning to appear : Customer lock-in through DRMs, at least in European countries (FR/ES/IT) so far.

This (in addition to the other preceding moves)decided me to "boycott" Amazon's Kindle Store

(more details on my blog: )

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what Graham Murray and Ann Best had to say. I think both of them summed it up well. The only thing I would like to add to this discussion is that, this is a learning process for me. I'm still in the infancy stage of finding out what marketing tool works best for me. Like Graham I also put in my books that were virtually a statute on the shelves of other retailers; 50% of zero is still zero. As of today, I must say the KDP Select Program has been very disappointing to me and my bottom line. The good thing about this (IMO) is those books weren't really moving so I have no loss income. The bad part is I seriously hate that I've locked my books into the program for 3 months; especially around the holiday season. Again it's learning lesson so I now know to avoid all marketing schemes that requires exclusivity especially around major holidays and peak selling times.

Would I do it again? Sure I would. How else will I learn what works and what doesn't work, however instead of including 90% of my books, next time maybe only 50% of them.

I would like to say that Graham you really did drive home the point about why certain kinds of readers come to SW... Let me amen you on that. I definitely feel that authors who are writing to earn a living are definitely hurt by the image of SW as being a "distributor" particularly of free erotica (which is neither here nor their since it is perceived that way). I sincerely wish that SW would set a limit as to how many freebies an author could offer on this site if only to get rid of the stigma of coming to SW for "free reads". While KDP Select is very disappointing to me overall, I must say I like the idea of offering only one book free for no more than 5 days within a 90 days period. That is reasonable and a great marketing tool for not only authors but also the KDP platform.

Unknown said...

Blogged about this here.

Mark, the onus is on you to lift your game and compete better. Get back to being innovative. Adapt or ...

victor said...

Perhaps it would be wise for Smashwords to do a kind of welcome back promotion to encourage authors who have tested KDP. Contact every author, and do a special program like one for readers with something in multiple purchase discounts or some kind of serious promotion. This would draw back authors, use the power of the Amazon exposure and perhaps put SW in a better position.
Love what you guys are doing, and I will always have a soft spot for SW. I for one am not going away, in fact I am working with other authors to help get them up and going with SW, it has been an invaluable tool. We have worked very hard to get to a high level of recognition, but we need to continue to expand as well.
Wishing what every good dog already sees in you, the Best!
Victor Brodt and JacktheDog

Addison Gast said...

So far, my Amazon checks do not reflect any earth shattering. JUST another journey into the unknown by the marketing team at Amazon.

Jian Qiu Huang said...

Predatory Techniques do not work:

Predatory business practice in the long run does not help the predator nor the industry in the long run. I draw your attention to the 'IBM' computer days when the brand tried very hard to swallow up its competition using its sheer size. They use this to side-line emerging competitors like Compaq, Sony, Toshiba and needless to say the Mac.

Today the IBM computer sits in most garages gathering dust if not at a dump site. This serves as a sad reminder of the failure of a predatory business practice.

The emerging indie authors & publisher industry made possible by the ebook format, is developing to be yet another one of these plays, just like the 'IBM' era. Let us allow time for the industry to grow before trying to take a bigger slice of the market.

If I were Amazon, I'd rather grow by maintaining my current share with a growing market then increasing my share in a dwindling market. In this way there is a win-win for all.

Learn and let learn.......

Gio Pago said...

As far as I'm concerned, AZ is going to have to get up and go with the marketing strategy for KDP Prime Select Program. Maybe that is why they are trying a 3 months period bc it will take that much to sell the program to their members. As one of the authors who took the plunge to try the program, I am disappointed with the lending aspect of their program and even the 5-day freebie marketing strategy. As far as I can tell readers are harvesting up as many freebies as their Kindles can hold (who can blame them) therefore it is hurting the overall sales of eBooks on the whole (IMO).

By the time readers finish reading through their 1st round of freebies, more than likely another round will occur and thus a vicious cycle of freebies will emerge and unless AZ has some checks in place to stop it; it will be interesting to see how overall sales for indie authors and the publishing industry will be helped or harmed. Personally I can't wait for the three months to end so that I can take my eBook out of the game. This has been an interesting experiment with marketing and I urge everyone to look at it as such. It is only through experimenting do we find out what works and what doesn't.

Graham Murray - Author said...

I have come to an obvious conclusion since dealing with the world of indie publishing and it is this: as long as writers give away their works for FREE (novels and novellas), readers will hunt down these freebies as much as they can and only when desperate will they fork over a few bucks for a decent read.

The idea of FREE - once ingrained in people - is unshakable. Already the trend is for readers to actively seek out freebies and boy, there’s certainly no shortage of them. People will read any old crap as long as it’s FREE. How many bricks and mortar stores have FREE books for you to take home or borrow? So why should digital publishing be any different? Because we CAN; it’s that simple.

There is no need to ever make ANY title free, not when we have the digital ability to offer SAMPLES of works. But as long as writers continue to mark titles as FREE, the entire SW, AZ, SONY et al debate over marketing ploys becomes moot. Why? Because readers couldn’t care less – they will continue to seek out the freebies, and the market is already awash with them.

Do YOU own a Kindle or NookBook or iWhatever? How many titles have you actually BOUGHT versus the number of FREEBIES have you downloaded? How many Smashwords titles have you BOUGHT to support the cause?

It’s a sad state of affairs but, like the WWW, once it became public some 25 years ago, was flooded almost immediately with . . . yep, pornography. Sorry, ‘erotica’. It is estimated that up to 95% of the WWW contains web pages of a sexual nature, and that (jokingly), the remaining 5% are not worth reading.

The indie market has gone the SAME way. So-called ‘erotica’ (porn by any name) is by far the most downloaded genre of all indie material. My ‘erotica’ titles outweigh ANY other of my titles by a factor of TEN, minimum. For every title I sell or is downloaded, at least 100 (or more) of an erotic title is snatched (rarely bought). Free porn is in demand but, where’s the money in that?

KDP ‘SELECT’ states that “only acceptable material” will be considered? Has anyone tried to add an ‘erotica’ title to the ‘SELECT’ program? Try it and see what happens . . .

There is a great deal more the Amazon’s ‘SELECT’ program than meets the eye. For writers, the advent of indie publishing has meant that everybody has become nobody, and nobody will ever become a somebody in the literary world. F’rinstance . . . without cheating, name any THREE of the world’s top twenty indie titles. See what I mean?

Now that the field is wide open, guess who will win?
Right . . . whoever has the best MARKETING strategy.

Many of the big literary names initially stated they would never “go digital”. And now? Now they’re all jumping on the bandwagon.

Writing is no longer about the QUALITY of the content, it is about NUMBERS. Like everything else, writing has become all about the MONEY. Should we be surprised over this? Of course not. That would be extremely naïve indeed.

If you write adult material, take the time to examine that little utility called ‘stats’ beside each of your titles. You’ll be surprised how predictable reader’s trends are. Every single one of my titles, without exception, follows a normal distribution curve. Coincidence? I think not. Sex sells. Period. Not making money? Change your writing style and write whatever is in demand. I don’t mind telling you that since the last SW payout, my current SW balance is over $500. Guess where 95% of that revenue came from?

Amazon’s ‘SELECT’ program is a clever, ingenious marketing strategy and, while many may not like it or may disagree with it, there will be no shortage of takers, especially newbies, desperate to see their titles selling or being distributed via the lending concept.

They have nothing to lose and, quite frankly, if you have titles that are otherwise dead, neither can you by adding them to the ‘SELECT’ program. The worst that can happen is that you make a few bucks. It’s the American Dream, right? It’s Progress. Don’t fight it. Go with the flow and make whatever money you can.

Cheryl Tardif said...

I have to applaud Mark and everyone at Smashwords. First, this company knows about customer service, whether the "customer" is a reader or an author publishing through them. I have enjoyed the personalized contact and assistance over the past few years, something I NEVER get at Amazon. Thank you.

I spent some time thinking about Amazon's new KDP Select program, though my initial reaction was NO WAY! I've read up on the pros and cons on many blogs, read the comments here both for and against.

I publish books via regular KDP and Smashwords. I sell more ebooks on Amazon, but I do sell an increasing amount on Smashwords. Amazon is a bigger, more well-known company so it's no surprise that that is where the major sales are. For now. Does this tempt me to jump ship and remove my ebooks from Smashwords? NO WAY!

The bottom line is this:

If you're an author whose main focus is on making money any way you can, then KDP Select is for you; if you're an author whose main focus is making your books easily accessible to any book lover using any kind of device and thus earning your income, stay away from KDP Select.

I've climbed up on my soapbox over at:
Amazon's new carrot: KDP Select.

Mark, all the best in success for 2012, and I look forward to watching Smashwords grow. :-)

Walter Knight said...

I will keep my "America's Galactic Foreign Legion" books at Smashwords because of the potential of non-Amazon venues, but it would be nice if Smashwords made my books more visible. I said so much on Joe Konrath's blog (he is already participating in KDP).

A ranking system at smashwords would be good. Cover art displays for those loyal best selling authors who stay another is idea.

It is very tempting to join Amazon. I've sold 25,000+ books, but 95 percent have been at Amazon. However, eReader cell phone devices that can do everything have a lot of potential over Kindle, so I'll take a long term approach.

David C. Drizzit said...

I declined this offer as well, the only thing it does is restrict my ability to sell my book.

DonOmite said...

Okay, I'm going to go for the dark side on SOME of my books. Not all. Maybe all. Why? My sales went through the roof. I made more sales in 1 week then I have made in total through all other outlets. This is not the KDP "borrows" even. This is SALES. Whereas with Smashwords I was making almost nothing with the books I am using for my testing of KDP, so far I have made over $1000 in January alone. I made $200 in the last week of December. WITH JUST ONE BOOK.
Admittedly that book was not one I was currently offering anywhere because it was like an old version of a current book.
On the other hand I have some that do very well on Smashwords so I have no reason to move them anywhere. Or do I?
Now let us look at Smashwords. How many times have they said to NOT go through other publishers? We are told they will take care of distribution for us. So it sounds to me like the pot calling the kettle black up to a point. Yes, Smashwords does not mandate that we stick with them exclusively.
As far as the "borrows" go, I have not seen the money on that yet. I had over 100 borrows on that 1 book in December. If enough people have declined the offer, then I will make a bunch of money from it.
I am not saying to put all your eggs in one basket. Smashwords gives me a better global exposure. Some of my books sell better in Europe than in the USA.
Okay, final point. Payment. Smashwords is quarterly with very slow updates. That is because it relies on other companies to actually sell the books. Amazon does not and you can see your sales immediatly. I also get paid monthly not quarterly.
Let's face it. There is good and bad to all of this. I think Amazon will force other businesses to follow suit. After all, do you think Penguin lets their authors send their books to Tor at the same time?

DonOmite said...

Okay, I have read more comments here and I am amazed at how little some people seem to understand the real world of business.
Smashwords has said NOT to go to B&N (for example) directly they will handle it for you. Strange. That sounds oddly familiar to what they are belly aching about.
Now think to yourself, why are you an author? If all your books are free then no need to go with Amazon's deal. You don't care about money.
If you are trying to make money, you will go where you will get the most. Right now that is Amazon for some books.
I think this could be good because it may just force companies like Smashwords to be more aggressive in marketing themselves and thus our books. I bet one day Smashwords will be offering the same deal as Amazon. Which will be good for us authors.

Noelene said...

Authors aren't stupid. We're all getting beyond monopolies I think and enjoying our "indie-pendence". :)

Anonymous said...

You know I thought someone in the comment section was just 'whistling dixie' when they said that SW Mark Coker was crying like a baby; however I am one of those authors who decided to give KDP Select program a chance to jump start my sales. Well after a couple of months like other authors have stated I haven't seen anything earth shattering with my sales in the program, so I decided that my new release I would skip the KDP Select program and enroll my book on all platforms available (Smashwords). Any way I would have thought that SW staff would have more class than to actually have an axe to grind against us authors who were only making a business decision; nothing personal. However after almost of two weeks of uploading my eBook to SW it is still pending approval; thus holding it up from entering SW premium distribution. Really Mark? Say it ain't so? Please say that this isn't some form of "punishment" for authors who elected to make a business decision at marketing their wares?

I hope that it is only some kind of 'technical' problem as to why my eBook is setting in the virtual world of limbo awaiting approval for almost 2 weeks. Are there any other others having similar experiences like I am? Any who elected to skip trying KDP Select and those who tried it? Is there any kind of backlash you feel when attempting to publish your eBook back on SW?

DonOmite said...

Unfortunately it is typical. Smashwords is SLOW. Period. Slow approval, slow reporting, and slow payments.

I understand the reporting is dependent on the outlets' reporting but payment once a quarter?

Amazon makes a decsion on a book in 72 hours at the most. (Longest I've seen) and reports are quick. Payments are 45 - 60 days after the end of the month of the sale but it is every month.

Amazon has its problems, don't get me wrong. And SW has its upside.

But the fact that I made $500 last week alone on Amazon (not counting borrows) which is 5 times what I made from SW the last quarter makes me overlook some of Amazon's problems.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

@dcc0b630 We would never penalize, punish or single out any author for the decisions they make. Our systems don't know if you're in Select or not, nor to our systems care.

We have made a recent change (just yesterday, as a matter of fact) to our automated systems that should prevent a small number of authors from waiting multiple weeks (or longer for review). In the past, if authors made updates to their book while they were waiting for review, they went to the back of the vetting line. This was a glitch that has now been corrected.

L. J. Hutton said...

As someone who is just about to start publishing e-books, and therefore has a major decision to make, may I add another word to this discussion?
I'm a big reader of fantasy and it's what I've written most of so far. Now if I go with the Kindle option I'm immediately up against the big boys in the field. But has anyone else looked at the reviews of books such as George R R Martin's latest books? The huge gripe from Kindle readers is that the formatting is terrible! And this isn't a cheap download! So there's a danger that if a new Kindle owner goes for their favourite writer they are likely to have a very poor impression of the Kindle format. I'm talking here about a reader's perception, not a writers - indie or otherwise. Now those of you who are in the Smashwords community will be aware that this is sheer laziness on behalf of major publishers who think they can just dump stuff into the e-format without any additional effort - but will Joe Public know that? No they won't! And if you were one of those folks who has paid out good money for something that drives you nuts to read because of the format, not the content, would you then risk paying for someone you might perceive as 'less professional' because they self-publish?
Of course Kindle does have massive sales, but the big publishers are not exactly helping the image of the e-books with those they publish badly in this format.
On the other hand, I've not come across anyone (reader) making the same complaints against Smashwords. This may be because your system is much better at picking up hidden horrors in the formatting before it gets to the release stage. But equally, I suspect, it has a lot to do with Indie writer/publishers caring a lot more about their work and being prepared to put the work into making them good.
So for my part, I'd rather be part of an e-community that cares, and where I'm not fighting just to get seen against the giants in my field who might already be creating negative reactions - reactions I don't have the resources/cash/whatever to be able to counter because of the scale on which those works are distributed.
For me Smashwords is definitely the place I will be placing my work in the near future, and if I need to concider Amazon later then hopefully, by then, the so called professionals will have upped their game.

Unknown said...

I have had ebooks online for ever and sold very few. I am willing to commit for 90 days. I sold 1442 of one book in December. I am not working outside the home and I need the money. I am being read. I won't even tell you what I sold in January. I am still counting clear up til midnight.
I have wanted an opportunity for getting out there. Innovative thinking has always been surrounded by fear.

I choose to go for it. I have no regrets.

Unknown said...

Well, I'm moving my five ebooks from the Amazon KDP program to Smashwords. I have my print editions with them, which should suffice for now. Amazon can keep the less than $100 they claimed I made from lending one of the books out for free in the month of January; I'm OK with that. The first day I had a free promotion on that one book, I had over 500 downloads in a matter of hours. Downloads then slowed down so dramatically when the book became a 'paid-for' item. As soon as you offer it for free, the download-rush begins. Let's be realistic here fellow-authors - put yourselves in the shoes of readers. Why would you buy a product that you can get for free just by being an Amazon Prime Member? It costs only $79.00 to become a prime member, and you are on to a 'download spree'. Why am I an Independent Author/Publisher if I'm still being controlled by an entity on what to do with my books? One thing though, SMASHWORDS/MARK - could you move quicker on the BOOK APPROVAL PROCESS, please; there is room for improvement in that area. Besides that, you are doing a great job! Thumbs Up!

DonOmite said...

If you have no sales on Amazon or no "borrows" then you will probably not do very well in Smashwords either. Yeh. I had over 20k downloads when one book was free. BUT that book then went on to sell more in the next month than it had total anywhere. It has died down considerably but the borrows continue. So I have to look at it and decide on no sales anywhere or some sales on Amazon? Not a hard decision to make. Plus Amazon payments are faster. About 45 days after the end of the month vice 30 days after the end of the quarter.

So a sale in Jan will get paid around the middle of March on Amazon. But a sale in Jan will get paid on the last day of April with Smashwords.

Of course then my sales in Feb get paid in April with Amazon. So every month I'm getting paid.

Reporting is almost instantaneous on Amazon. Lucky if you see your sales for months on Smashwords.

I think Smashwords has a lot of room for improvement. Primarily promoting the Smashwords site more so sales are from the site instead of through 3rd party vendors.

WritingAlways said...

Don't be too sure! Besides those figures are just for a few days in January. I have a book on Smashwords already, and I'm impressed with the status of things.

Unknown said...

Don't be too sure! Besides those figures are just for a few days in January. I have a book on Smashwords already, and I'm impressed with the status of things.

Unknown said...

.....forgot to add that my target readers are overseas (outside the United States).

Elizabeth Mueller said...

If I understood the new contract correctly, the authors who choose the %70 royalty rate have NO choice but to go along with the lending library as of February 9th!

Did I understand correctly? :O


A to Z co-host

John Matthews said...

Hi Mark,
First off, admire your initiative with Smashwords and I agree: the pay-pal recent complaint is just like book censoring in a modern guise.

As for Amazon's 5 day freebie exclusive; again, you're right, it's tremendously anti-competitive and if the EU can tell Microsoft to dismantle, they can certainly read Amazon the riot act.

Meantime, the main thing in your favour is competing strongest where you can: right now that's in being the ONLY player in town to offer a permanent free book with B&N and Kobo, etc - which Amazon then will price match.

This has been a boon for many authors like Rebecca Forster, who I've e-mailed on the subject. So much so that I decided - being in a similar position as her - bestselling legal thriller writer with several books in my backlist - to emulate.

And here comes my ONE complaint: I uploaded a never before seen volume about gun control - called The Second Amendment - in two books in mid Feb.

I anticipated a week or so (this on top of the extra week - and cost - to get someone else to format for me), but it took over two weeks, and then came back with some alter notes (one to do with Kindle, the other a confusion caused by chapter numbering). I changed and uploaded the new versions... and now I wait again. What worries me, seeing the comments of other authors, is that I'll go back to the beginning of the review queue (IOW, another two weeks).

Thing is, I'm running a test with this. I'm currently with kdp with my other books, and if this runs smoothly, I'll shift them over and use one freebie to feed the rest (as Rebecca Forster does).

But right now I'm stuck and losing sales with each day that passes. And I'm sure I can't be the only author in that situation.

I agree with your thoughts about KDP and the competition angle; but by making your own system so difficult/time-consuming to gain entry to, you're playing into their hands.

You're doing a great job in every other area, but this really is one area you've got to streamline more: making your system easier and more accessible, and not soooooo time-consuming to get from entry to premium distribution.

chezjim said...

So - has all this proved to be much ado about nothing?

I put one book in Kindle Select as an experiment. So far, it has been borrowed... 0 times. As have all my other books, which include monologues for actors and food and criminal history.

So obviously I'm not re-upping for the next three month period. And I doubt any more than a handful of people will.

I'm sure Kindle Select works beautifully for some class of authors. But I'd guess that same class of authors sells well enough elsewhere to make it questionable whether they want to forego sales anywhere but on Kindle.

This may change; Kindle itself took some time to get going. But I really don't think the Kindle Select program has proved to be much of a menace to anyone, or even much of a factor.

DonOmite said...

Actually I want to put MORE books in there. My sales flew and peaked and now are back down to where they were BUT still getting borrows. Not only that,I'm actually getting reviews ... a LOT of reviews. I have 3 books in one category that all hit #1 at one point. PLUS my paperback versions are selling better.

I guess you just have to have books people actually want to buy or borrow for it to work.

My income is still 10x what it was on Smashwords tho for those books. Other books I've left on Smashwords because they are doing pretty good. I may try and shift them over too for 1 period just to see how they do.

victor said...

Very similar experience to below; #1 in 3 categories, 17,000 downloads but we are now back on Smashwords too. I like the wide exposure SW gives. If you care to follow please feel welcome Always glad to encourage anyone positive.
Victor Brodt

John E Nevola -The Last Jump said...

There is certainly room for both sides of this discussion. Some folks seem to be doing MUCH better on amazon and others are delighted with their results on SW.
I enjoy working with SW and Mark Coker is an inspired business leader and a good guy but I was not getting many sales from SW.
So I decided to try KDP Select and unhooked from all my other channels (Barnes and Noble, Googlebooks and Smashwords). I was late to the game and started December 16.
My Kindle sales were the same or better than before, In addition, I was earning more "royalties" on borrows through KDP than SW and B&N sales combined. So I decided to try another 90 days. I'll revisit June 16 after I try one or two "free" book promotion days. On another note, the KDP police are watching. I initially forgot about Googlebooks and they sent me an email pointing out I was not in compliance. I fixed that - no penaly and it was no problem. Then just today I got another "violation" email that my book was still on sale at KOBO even though I unpublished it on Smashwords in December. I'm trying to fix that now. Don't get me wrong, I get the point about "exclusivity" and it initially turned me off. But being an Indie author frees one to make these judgement calls. I decided to TRY IT OUT. The results were good for me to a point so I'm giving it another 90 days. Something tells me I'll be back publishing on Smashwords someday, but not right now. I need to see what KDP Select does for my book and its sales.

Etienne's Stories said...

It's difficult, if not impossible to ignore Amazon—they're the two-ton elephant sitting in the living room. On the other hand, I don't trust them, and with good reason. For a number of years my partner and I sold used books, both on Amazon and B&N and several sites that specialize in used books. Amazon's treatment of its resellers is shameful in the extreme, then came the day when they allowed resellers to list and sell used books for $0.01, and the bottom dropped out of the used book market for good. Amazon, like eBay under their new CEO, seems to have one rule: "Our way or the highway."

Scott Seldon said...

I found a way to make use of KDP Select and not restrict my ability to publish the titles I want to. What I have done is to write a novella specifically for KDP Select. I'm not sure yet if I will leave it that way past the 90 days or publish that novella with Smashwords at that time. I guess it depend on how successful it is in helping me garner sales. I can tell you that by using a KDP Select free day that in that one day I had more downloads than my other title that is free at Smashwords and Amazon had in nearly a week. It also provided my only sales to day in the UK.

There are some big drawbacks to this. Enrolling a previously published book in KDP Select would be crazy. For a major new title, if you only do the first 90 day round and then publish elsewhere, you are looking at something like 120 days before your title will be in all the markets Smashwords distributes to. That is why the only titles I will enroll in KDP Select are one I write specifically with that in mind. It is a great way to draw people to you on Amazon, but it is not a great way to publish in general.

Virginia Llorca said...

This thread so badly needs updating since writers now have so much more experience with the KDP Select program. B&n has always been my best market and it was never clear why. I would love to know so I could repeat the effect. But my fourth rotation through Select has been phenomenal. You also learn when and where to promo and it is synergistic. I brand it a success. On Apple I got a one star review from someone who could not make head nor tails of my book. Her only other review was a 5 star for a pizza ordering app. Amazon Prime members are usually serious readers or they would not be paying to belong. I will continue to rotate my books through Select, not ignoring other venues.

Collette Thomas said...

I tried the KDP Select and did not do well. I do much better at Smashwords. I did not re-enroll and place these books at SW. Coincidence, but since I did not re-enroll in the KDP account is being blocked at Amazon. I follow all rules and guidelines and the reason for the block was resolved in May, with a confirming email from them. Yet last night received one telling me to prove exclusivity on a small ebook of recipes which I've unpublished on all sites simply because I have no way to do that. These are recipes I gathered an into a simple ebook. I unpublished the book, but still I'm blocked at Amazon. So author beware when you enter these programs. Wish I had read Mark's article way before this.

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Anonymous said...

Had my book, 'Surviving Urban Crisis' in that 'select' thing, never made a dime. But they whined about it being for sale internationally thru Smashwords. Told 'em to cancel the deal.

Unknown said...

Do authors understand that KDP doesn't force the author into an exclusive deal, but simply your choice of titles?

Sure, I don't like monopolistic behaviour like the next guy but can someone explain how this is different from "opting in" to an exclusive television deal, for example? It's the same concept - you may be a financial reporter - your skillset includes financial analysis, but the network quite reasonably expects you to offers your skills to the exclusivity of competing networks.

What's the big issue exactly?

Just to re-iterate, you're free to publish "other" titles anywhere you like. It's not an author-exclusion programme guys!

Disclaimer: I'm yet to publish an ebook but found this post interesting.

therapydoc said...

Since mine is a new niche book, only now making the rounds with friends and family for criticism, I leaned toward Select. But now, considering your article and the comments above, it is obviously not so pashut (sounds like pa-shoot, Yiddish/Hebrew for simple). Oy vey.

Art For The Home And Office said...

This is all well and good. But why would ANY company want to cross-promote products.Of course they want exclusivity. So do most print publishers. What if the thing goes "Harry Potter" on you? You gonna share the glory with other publishers?