Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Writing 101: The Truth About KDP Select

Most indie authors head straight for Amazon's KDP program when they want to self-publish a book, and for good reason. Amazon is the leader in the ebook market, and their system is incredibly user-friendly. Personally, I don't advocate this -- for formatting reasons, I always advise going to Smashwords first. Some indie authors can't go to Smashwords first, or at all, because of KDP Select. Some indie authors swear by KDP Select; they think it's great. Before you sign up for it, learn the truth about KDP Select, and make sure you know what you're getting into. 

What's KDP Select?

When you go to Amazon to present your ebook to the world, you're going to find something called KDP Select. This is a special program for indie authors that allows you to run free promotions on your books, and if you spend any amount of time on the Kindle forums you'll learn that many indies love it. 

The program certainly has its merits. Listing your book on Amazon's free list is a great way to get a whole lot of downloads (not sales, because you can't earn any money on free). This means you're potentially getting a whole lot of readers, and this is why so many self-published authors sign up for the program. 

Free Promotions

The best thing KDP Select has going for it is the free promotions. It's a good incentive, I'll admit, especially for indie authors who really want to spread the word about their work. But free promotions have a dark side, too. Kindles, Nooks and other ereaders hold a whole lot of books. Plenty of ereader owners download books because they're free. How long are those free books going to sit on those readers before they get a second or even a first glance? No one knows. Maybe it won't ever get looked at. 

Yes, you're going to get downloads from running free promotions, but this doesn't necessarily translate into readers. Once the free promotion is over, the majority of indie authors find that their book sales go right back to where they were prior to the promotion. Sales rankings change quickly in Amazon, and a brief spike is commonly accompanied by a quick fall. 

KDP Select isn't the only way to fun a free promotion, either. You can generate coupon codes on Smashwords to give books away for free, and you can even create special promotions to give your books away for free on your own blog.

The Dark Side

There's one huge drawback to KDP Select that makes it a deal-breaker for lots of indies: it's an exclusive arrangement. Once you list your book with the program, you cannot sell your book anywhere else until you pull it from the program. This means you can't sell it at B&N, Goodreads, Kobo, Apple or another other online ebookstore. Amazon does have the biggest chunk of the ebook market...but they don't have the whole pie. Once you enroll a book in KDP Select, you're automatically limiting yourself  and shutting yourself off from a wide group of potential readers because you're only selling your book in one place. Is it really a good idea for indie authors to limit themselves...in any way?

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  1. Great post, It's true I see some authors jumping up and down at the thought that they had 2000 downloads in a few days but how many of them are keen to read it and will read it in the following month? I like how you specified the good and the bad sides of this. I bet many authors didn't know that once your with amazon your limiting your work to only a few potential readers. Very well done Jade!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Nic. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. I thought that it was only exclusive for the first 90 days? Then you could publish with Smashwords after that. I know many Indie authors who selfpublish through Amazon and then through Smachwords 3 months later...

    Great post. I dont always comment, but I read your posts all the time!!!!

    1. Hi, Mrs. Jones! I'm so glad you took the time to comment. Yes, KDP Select is a 90-day program. However, your book automatically re-enrolls in the program every 90 days unless you change it. My understanding is that this also renews the exclusivity, though I could be wrong about that. You have to manually tell your book to stop re-enrolling in order to get out of the program.

  4. Great blog Jade and thanks for the info about KDP.

    Angelina Light

  5. Thanks, Angelina! I'm glad you liked the post.