Home » Amazon, Ebook Borrowing/Lending, Pricing » KDP Select – Worth the Exclusivity?

KDP Select – Worth the Exclusivity?

1 October 2012

A vigorous discussion concerning Amazon’s KDP Select took place in the comments section of a post called Watching the Numbers that appeared yesterday.

For those not familiar with KDP Select, here are the major components:

  1. Your ebook is available exclusively on Amazon for 90 days.
  2. You have the right to promote your ebook for free for 5 out of the 90 days.
  3. Your book is automatically enrolled in the Kindle Owners Lending Library from which Prime members can borrow one book per month.
  4. You are paid for each time your book is borrowed from the Kindle Owners Lending Library. The payment varies from month to month, depending upon how many books are borrowed, but typically is a little over $2 per borrow, so it’s pretty close to the royalty generated from selling an ebook for $2.99.
  5. The most recent change is that KDP Select enrollment allows you to earn 70% on ebooks sold through Amazon’s new Indian store.

When KDP Select was first introduced, the major attraction was the free promotion days, but many indies have become disillusioned about the marketing value of this type of pricing promo. The major perceived downside of KDP Select is that you have to take down your ebook listings on the Nook, Apple, Kobo, Sony, etc., stores so your ebook is available exclusively on Amazon.

So here’s the question that began in the comments section of the previous post – Is there a positive payoff from increased revenues from Amazon through KDP Select that offsets the loss of sales in other ebook stores?

To the extent that indie authors have shared their sales numbers in general terms, a few romance authors sell well on the Nook store, but the majority of indies seem to generate 90% or more of their sales through Amazon. If this is the case, even a small uptick in Amazon sales rates would more than offset lost sales in other ebook stores.

Some authors have expressed concern about offending prospective purchasers in non-Amazon stores, but is this really a good business decision? If you generate 10 more Amazon sales (or royalties for loans to 10 Prime members), is there a reason you wouldn’t be willing to give up one lost Nook sale?

PG will share that most of Mrs. PG’s books sell more in a day on Amazon than they do in a month on the Nook store. If KDP Select lets her bump sales/lending revenues for a book up 5% on Amazon, she’s money ahead even if she has to give up all Nook sales. As far as sales through other ebook stores are concerned, let’s just say they’re way behind the Nook store.

What’s your experience? If Amazon shut down ebook sales tomorrow, how would your career as a self-published author look?

UPDATE: There’s an interesting post on KDP Select at Self-Publishing 2.0

Amazon, Ebook Borrowing/Lending, Pricing

61 Comments to “KDP Select – Worth the Exclusivity?”

  1. I wrote down a summary of my KDP Select promo on my blog here – http://jamescalbraith.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/kdp-select-a-week-later-the-price-of-ones-soul/ – the tl;dr version of it is, it’s by far the best (and most effortless) promotional tool available to a newly starting author (and I’ve tried a lot) – and 90 days in a long term is a small sacrifice compared to the results.

  2. Well I’m not a self-published author, I’m an e-ink reader in Canada. Amazon doesn’t sell any decent reader in Canada at the moment, so anybody who is Amazon exclusive loses me as a reader. Trust me, I could do any conversions required; it’s just not worth the trouble, as far as I am concerned. Enough of the big publishers sell to my library that I wouldn’t miss out on my reading time. At the moment, though, I can still find enough on Smashwords and author stores to keep me going.
    Maybe if Amazon sold epubs to people without Kindles… but I’m not holding my breath.

    • ‘Amazon doesn’t sell any decent reader in Canada at the moment.’
      I don’t quite understand the problem here. As a Canadian, one click on Amazon.com will bring a Kindle winging its way to me by the next business day. I know some people may prefer other ereaders, but definitely not because Kindles are not readily available to us.

      • Wendy, I just looked. The only Kindle available is the Push-Button Kindle, last year’s model, or maybe from the year before…

        • The Paperwhite hasn’t released anywhere yet, so ignore that.

          I’ve got a Kindle keyboard (the old model push-button one) and a new Kobo Touch. Frankly, the push-button Kindle is much better than the Kobo Touch. You push the button, the page turns.

          On the Kobo Touch, you touch the screen and the page decides whether or not it wants to turn. The Kindle Touch might be better, but I’d still go with the button model (which you can also use with either hand, because there are buttons on both sides).

          • Agreed — I prefer the push button models.

            But that’s irrelevant to Pholy’s objection: the customer is always right and the customer doesn’t like what Amazon is offering in terms of hardware.

            Saying the customer shouldn’t feel that way is irrelevant.

            The only question is whether there are enough customers who like the way you do business to be able to snub those who don’t.

      • There is the problem that until very recently, Kindles were only available in Canada by mail order. Many people are willing to buy books and suchlike things online, but want to try a new electronic gadget hands-on before they buy. Just a while ago ONE retailer in Canada started carrying Kindles in stores — by which Kobo had a pretty fair head start.

    • kindle ebooks can be read on a pc, (google kindle for pc, although I’m sure there is a mac version too), an IPhone, android, or windows device through the kindle app. Having an actual kindle device is not a requirement.

      • IF you have the device, Snowfire. There are a lot of people out there like me that don’t have a smartphone, or Iphone, or Android, or Window device, and a computer too old to run the Kindle reading program.

        The only options I have on my computer are no-DRM ebooks that can be opened in Calibre (and no, I don’t read long ebooks on the computer. It hurts my eyes and gives me headaches) and the ereader itself.

        “Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you.” Mark Cuban

        (cue the responses about “this isn’t a competition” while ignoring the basic business principal)

        • Then your problem isn’t the kindle. it’s technology itself. by the way, this poster was complaining about amazon Not supporting other devices, not that they do not have a device more current than 11 years (when xp was released).
          Have you read the FAQ’s and help documents on the calibre page, they give steps for accessing and converting .mobi files. You can download most files directly from amazon, and transfer them via USB (or floppy disk). That seem pretty easy and flexible to me.

          • My computer is newer than 11 years. So is my phone.

            Can I easily convert non-DRM books myself? Yep, but that’s assuming the other readers out there know about the technology as much as I do. It’s my business to know this technology. I use it all the time in my business (by the way, I do have a Kindle. All I’m saying is that I can see where the other readers in other countries are coming from on this issue.)

            The readers? Eh, maybe so, maybe no, most won’t bother if it’s not easy. And that’s the point. The ease of purchase and use. That’s what the poster did point out. She could do the conversions if she wanted to use her valuable time and energy (and people only have so much of each). She’s choosing not to. And this is only one person speaking up in a forum she likely knew her post would be taken apart. How many lurkers? How many others out there?

            And then there are those like the other poster that can’t get an ebook from Amazon no matter what (I have some of these same types of buyers). Their country is blocked. All this moot for customers like them.

            And to be clear, I’m not saying Kindle Select is a wholly bad thing. If it’s used in a good business fashion for a specific reason. If it’s a pointed promotion. If it does not exclude the rest of the ebook world-wide market forever.

            • Running a business – and self-publishing is business like any other – means making tough decisions. No business is able to cater to all of the people, all of the time. In my case, the numbers can’t be argued with: at a cost of alienating a tiny sliver of my previous readership for 90 days, KDP Select increased my sales tenfold. That’s argument enough.

              • The readers (at least me) don’t get annoyed if you put your book in Select for 90daays first, then add it to other places later. It’s when the book goes into Select and stays there forever (and it’s one we want to read) that we start to get annoyed.

              • The question is, when did this happen? I’ve heard anecdotal reports that KDP Select worked like gangbusters last year, but has been producing steadily diminishing returns this year. Yeah, yeah, data is not the plural of anecdote . . . but where there are that many anecdotes, anybody who wants data should be out collecting it instead of sneering that there isn’t any.

      • Last time I checked, that wasn’t true. I read from an iPad and I can’t read KOLL titles on it. I also own a Fire and have a Prime account (both under my husband’s name, further complicating the issue, since accounts can’t be shared.) Bottom line, if it’s a Prime KOLL book, I generally skip it completely, even if I might have sampled it or bought it otherwise. I’m annoyed that I should pay for something that’s supposed to a be a benefit of my Prime membership. I spend a lot with Amazon on goods AND books. I carry my iPad and phone around with me, that’s what I read on, and I’m not going to add my Fire to my load. I’ve complained about this to no avail. If I’m really interested in a particular title, I might borrow it from one of the lending sites, but otherwise KOLL is a big insult to me.

  3. In my case free days certainly help boost up sales, not only of the digital version, but also of the paperback. Actually paperback is the largest portion of my sales, and it comes from Amazon. So for me KDP Select is a good marketing tool and I don’t mind the exclusivity.

  4. I haven’t seen them address using Select as a way to boost a brand new author/pseudonym. Maybe they don’t need to boost their new pseudonyms, but I can see value in getting reviews and downloads for a first book from a first-time author. It’s only three months, after all. If you are thinking long-term, three or even six months is not that big of a deal. That doesn’t mean you won’t use other services, it just means your trying to get some word out before you go to other platforms.

  5. For me: my books and collections sell better on Amazon, my short stories sell better everywhere else.

    I don’t do KDP Select, but I do like Amazon.

  6. It’s totally case by case for me, but Nook sells OK, and one of my books sell pretty well on Kobo (surprised me since I didn’t expect anything from Kobo due its issues w/ search engine, etc.), and Amazon, though, sells the most, it’s not by some overwhelming margin.

  7. Fully one-third of my total sales come from BN.com in any given months. It took a year of being on PubIt to reach that, but I don’t believe in “putting all your eggs in one basket”. I’d rather use all the platforms available to reach as wide of an audience as possible.

  8. For those of you who like detailed numbers, I discussed my latest brief experiment going off of KDP Select in

    And then detailed the results of my most recent KDP Select promotion in

    For me the bottom line is always how to get people to discover my books–because if they don’t find them, they aren’t going to buy them. Since right now they aren’t finding them in non-Amazon books stores (no matter what I do) and they do find them in Amazon if the books are ranked high enough in the main category for my sub-genre (historical mysteries), then having them available to be borrowed, and doing free promotions through KDP Select gets them that visibility.

    I also believe that in the long term (or maybe the medium term–smile)–many families will have multiple devices. So that having a cheap Kindle around for casual genre reading–and the freebies–while also reading books on the family’s iPad or on your iPhone (using the Kindle ap) and then having your Nook because you really like it for reading in bed, etc. will become common. In this case, like someone who went to their local chain store for the best seller then to the indie mystery store for new ideas in mysteries, the different devices and different estores will be used interchangeably.

    Would it be better if everything was device neutral–of course! But as an author in the here and now, Amazon and KDP Select lets me get my books to the greatest number of readers, and that has always been my main goal.

    M. Louisa

  9. I’ve tried Select a number of times and never had a sales bump afterwards. I have books that sell at BN that don’t sell at Amazon. I have books that sell at Kobo that don’t sell at Amazon. The books that sell at Amazon sell everywhere. I have a Mature YA that sells more in a day at BN than all month at Amazon.

    It really helps if you are writing in a clear, specific genre.
    If you’re off-genre like I am, maybe things don’t work so sparklingly well. I have never derived lasting help from Select. Sure, people download free books whenever they can, but if that doesn’t lead readers to buy my other books, then how is that a benefit to me?

    • I agree with you, something is up with Amazon KDP and their sales reporting. Sales were steady for months then suddenly dropped off to 10% of what they were doing monthly starting in July. We do not think they are reporting accurate sales figures lately and that is why we chose to take all of books out of the select program. Since adding the title to other platforms sales there have been pretty consistent, making it even more plausible that amazon kdp is just not properly crediting publishers with sales.

  10. I had my first book on Amazon since 6/10. Smashwords was the same month. It went up at B&N as soon as Pubit became available. So, for 18 months, I had one book everywhere, and for one year, I had two books everywhere. (second book came out 1/11.)

    The very first month I was in Select, I had more borrows than I had sales of all other venues outside of Amazon combined. I had some complaints from a few Nook users, but no matter what I had done, I couldn’t gain traction anywhere but Amazon. I bought an ad on a Nook forum, hung out on the B&N boards trying to chat books–not just my books–but it was futile. A could get a few sales, and people on the forum were supportive, but there weren’t enough of them.

    I put my third book up on Pubit in June, after doing an initial Select run after publishing it in March. I didn’t expect many sales because the other books were in Select, but I did it for the few readers I had on B&N who had read the first two. I made a few posts on their forums, posted it on some FB pages, and I got a total of about 10 sales in 4 months. I will probably put it back in Select just to get a few borrows. I have a new book coming out soon that I intend to put in Select as well. It’s what works for me at this moment. If things change, I can adapt and 90 days isn’t a deal breaker with me.

  11. I’m watching this discussion with interest since I’m self publishing soon. Thanks for all the good info & links. I’ve been following the blog and lurking for a while.

  12. I put my e-book “Let’s Do Lunch” into Select in December because I figured I didn’t have anything to lose – it hadn’t sold on B&N or via Smashwords in months. My paperback sales were better.

    I ran the 5 free days in one shot. Imagine my surprise when I had more than 3.5k downloads in the US and the UK – and a very nice collection of sales and borrows afterwards. The e-book paid for the paperback in 1 month.

    After Christmas, I put all my work into Select, but the ‘magic’ didn’t happen with my other works. So I put them back up in the different markets. But sales were respectable. The end of June I did a 2 day free run that was picked up on Pixel of Ink – and gave away 10k copies.

    August sales were very nice – in September Amazon sales fell off the cliff – even with a free day thrown in. Smashwords’ channels appear to have made up the difference. This is due to having ‘Swallow the Moon’ free for June and part of July.

    My most popular off-Amazon story is a short horse story/mystery called ‘Impressive Bravado’ which has been very popular.

    Bottome line – I made $60 in 2011. In 2012 I’m making $35 a month, average. I give Select credit for my Amazon sales this year. It brought me into visibility on the Romantic Suspense charts – which really helped.

    However, I’ve just got the one book in Select, not any of the others. It will be out of Select by Christmas. I don’t want to miss any sales.

    Select is a good tool. I think it IS a good way to launch a new book. Long-term I wouldn’t want to put all my e-books in the Amazon basket. I own a Nook – so I understand how frustrating it is to not be able to find the books I want to read.

  13. I’ve been reading everyone’s comments with interest. Looking at my numbers for 2012 (which is VERY short term by Kris’s standards and anecdotal by William Ockham’s), I literally can’t afford to go exclusive with Amazon. My B&N numbers average six times greater than my Amazon sales, and Apple sales (now that I’ve got product on the iBookstore since July) are rapidly gaining on the Amazon numbers.

    A handful of writers I know have banded together to share information, but what works for one of us doesn’t work for all of us. And once a technique is found, if everyone uses it, the technique loses its value. Look at what’s happened with buying reviews and 99-cent books.

    A large part of the problem is everything is so new and changing so fast that we won’t have any real data for a long time.

  14. I’ve noticed a diminished Select effect over time (but that could be because readers already know I’m out there.) This year I only put the first book of my SF trilogy in Select, purely as a marketing tool to promote the series as a whole. Books 2 and 3 were all platform from the beginning.

    As far as multiple outlets, my books are on B&N, Amazon, and Kobo, *plus* my own online store so Amazon could disappear and I’d still have options. I recommend having your own store–that lets you do all kinds of cool things outside of Select, and it is cheaper than Amazon for many non-US purchasers.

    • I think those of us in Select would all still have those options if Amazon disappeared as well. I think it would take me about an hour to upload to all the other sites. (three are already uploaded to Pubit, but only one is published at the moment.) I heard Kobo isn’t difficult, and the only reason I would go through Smashwords would be for Apple and Sony. Those might be the hardest to do, but not impossible.

  15. Here are some KDP Select promo statistics from the folks at FreeBooksy: http://www.freebooksy.com/author-blog/2012/9/18/freebooksy-report-the-state-of-kdp-select-free-promotions.html

    I talked about my KDP Select promo here: http://phantomimic.weebly.com/2/post/2012/05/my-free-promotion-experience-and-some-questions-about-free.html

    In a nutshell the first promo in April went really well (19,000 plus downloads and so far the equivalent of 300 plus book sales), but I did a second promo in August that was a bust (only 2,000 downloads in two days and the equivalent of 20 plus sales). Maybe this one didn’t work because it was a second promo, or because it was August (slow month). I would like to hear about people’s experience with second promos.

    • I’m running my second promo right now, and it seems to be doing even better than the last one. I still haven’t been picked up by Pixel Of Ink, irritatingly, so there’s still a lot of room for improvement on the numbers 🙂

    I think a lot of people in KDP Select have felt trapped for the first time this fall because many reported in the KDP Forum that their Amazon sales plummeted by 50% in September. It seemed to be a seasonal thing until people reported no such problem with their other platforms. Reporting by Amazon last month was, by many accounts, all over the map. Today Amazon lost their UK URL link and you can’t access your UK sales on the reporting pages unless you link over to another language.
    We’d had KDP non-apologies and non-explanations since the beginning of last month, no matter how many polite complaints have been posted. “KDP administrators,’ speak only of technical glitches that are solved, when they aren’t.
    Some irate KDP writers blame it on the hookup with India and some people just shrug it off as a summer slump, but the worrying thing was that there were major discrepancies in the September reports and Amazon never coughed up a real explanation. We’ll still waiting for that promise that lost sales would be made up and accounted for. The accounts for September have now closed and there were no sales made up by month’s end.
    Summer Slump you say? My own September Amazon sales fell by more than half over sales during August, that allegedly “slumpy” time. What gives, Amazon? Where’s the accountability? Who’s in charge. At least over at Smashwords, we’ve all got Mark Coker’s email address, although he begs us not to use it. And when there’s a tech glitch over at Smashwords, they say so up front.
    I sell quirky, brainy literary comedies and unsurprisingly, got no bump in sales after trying KDP three times before uploading new work to Smashwords, as of now six novels, with three more in the pipeline.
    Each time I used “Select” free days, I got about 400 downloads total. The same 400 people? I see no evidence that these books have yet been read and they certainly weren’t reviewed.
    I compare that to free promos via Library Thing using Smashwords coupons where each book was requested by about 100-plus “reviewers” and I got about half a dozen reviews, all positive and carefully thought through. Not much traction there, although it’s nice to find my tribe, however small and so there was a 5% market exposure return.
    Even if you’re selling more on Amazon than elsewhere, and I’m running about 5-1 on sales via Amazon versus Smashwords, I can’t see longterm how exclusivity with a partner that plays hide and seek with your reports, even if only for reasons of technical glitches they don’t seem to take too seriously, can be good business. And Amazon is not so big here in Europe. I know that’s hard to believe in the US, but I’ve lived in Central Europe for fifteen years and I know.
    The team of writers Dean Wesley Smith and Kathryn Rusch have made this clear in their numerous blogs about the longterm.
    Remember, Amazon started out with 80% of the ebook market and now have an estimated 60%. I wouldn’t have my Canadian fans via Kobo if I’d stuck with Amazon alone, nor all those new B&N readers in the UK and iBook people who knows where? Amazon is so down-market in so many ways, that I half-suspect the mention of a literary prize nomination for one of my books actually discourages Kindle readers. Even if it takes time by word of mouth, I’ve got to keep sales building through other outlets.

    Let’s keep Smashwords and all the other platforms strong and healthy. It’s good for building audience share worldwide and it might help keep Amazon honest.
    Not that we’ll ever know…

  17. Thought I would throw out my percentages, just in case they are useful to anyone:

    Amazon: 50-65% of sales, with an odd month coming in at 70%.
    Elsewhere: 50-35% everywhere else (with that odd month 30%, and one very odd month were Elsewhere was 70%), with the majority of sales from Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and ARe (Xinxii is a total bust for me). For those channels that provide country stats, most of those sales come from countries other than the US, so I do have a good worldwide audience.

    I have some stories that sell on one platform and not on the other at all. I have some stories that sell in one country, but not in others. I never know what the mix will be, even month-to-month.

    Going exclusive with my catalog would be a big mistake. I can’t afford to lose the percentages that sell elsewhere. I can see writing a specific story to lead into a specific series, with the plan to pull it at the end of 90 days to distribute world-wide, but I would have to think hard about it (and I would NOT pull something already selling all over the world). Especially with the changes in algorithms. In Select’s heyday I was really considering it, but not so much now.

  18. I always find it a bit sad that all these discussions focus on sales numbers.

    I haven’t published anything yet, but I cannot imagine that when I get to that point, actually having the opportunity to publish my own work to reach out to readers, that I could ever deliberately choose to cut off any potential readers.

    Sure, I know that authors deserve to make a living and so sales are important. But if making a living was all I cared about then writing certainly wouldn’t be my career of choice. I’d like to make money too, but reaching readers is still more important to me.

    • Sales numbers are not abstract: they mean readers. 3000 books sold means 3000 more people get to read your book.

    • Writing is not charity. It’s no coincidence that the writers with the most readers have also been the writers with the most moolah.

    • I’m not here to make friends: I’m here to make money.

      I’d rather give away the occasional book as a loss-leader/promo/charity thing than sell a book for less than the market will reasonably bear. That teaches readers that books are cheap. My books aren’t cheap. They’re worth what I charge for them. If you (not Ms. McCabe, the generic “you”) can’t afford it, please accept my sincere wishes that your financial situation improves, and in the meantime I hope you’ll enjoy some of the free ones.

      The free ones, by the way, are subsidized by your paying compatriots. I release a free story after every month that I break my previous sales record. 🙂 So people who want free books would be well-advised to try to get other people to buy them.

    • We all care about readers, which is why I go with Select. For me, it helps readers find my books through various methods. When my books were available on other sites, while technically available, they might as well have been invisible. Readers didn’t find them. I have had dozens of readers email me because they got my first book free. One sweet woman said she got my first book free, and is on a limited budget and depends on the free books, but broke her own rule and bought my second book. I was so touched, I gifted her the third. This was back in June. I just had a reply from her about the third book. Turns out she didn’t know about the gifted book and had already bought it, but wanted to thank me. I told her that she should feel free to use it on any book on Amazon. Now tell me how that is cutting off readers? She never would have read my first book if it hadn’t been free via Select.

  19. I’m one of those who have had success at the other venues. I’ve sold over 85,000 books over the last 18 months, 2/3 to 3/4 at Amazon. Some months at Amazon have been amazing (April/May). But like many people, both in and out of Select, my sales at Amazon in September fell off a cliff and are down by more than 1/2 compared to August.

    The search engines at BN, Kobo, and Sony, are laughable and these places make it nearly impossible to find my own books, much less anyone else’s. I don’t know why my books sell outside Amazon when other’s don’t, but I’m grateful because in September, there was no drop off at BN and my sales will be 1/3 my Amazon sales all by themselves.

    What I want to say about this long term strategy is that it took 18 months to build up to where my books are at BN. If your plan is to come out of Select, try Smashwords and other retailers for a month or two and see how it goes, and if you sell very little, to put your books back in Select, probably you shouldn’t bother to come out of Select at all.

  20. The best written book in the world will not sell if it is unknown, even if it is available on all Internet outlets. KDP has allowed authors to showcase their books in front of the “store.” Exclusivity for 90, 180 days or the entire year is not so bad. 90% of my book sales sold on Amazon. I’m out of KDP now and my book “Arboregal” is available in all other outlets. I think starting on KDP for a period of time is the best alternative. By the way on KDP certain seasons are good, like around Christmas and spring, work days are better than weekends, and placing the free promo for a day or two at the time works best.

  21. I think everyone has different beliefs, strategies, and goals with what they want to accomplish for their writing.

    When Select first started I didn’t think it was a good idea because of the exclusivity. My mindset has changed since then. The next work I complete will be entered in Select.

    My strategy for using Select is to have no more than one book in the program at a time. I plan to publish more work before the three months exclusivity period and those works will be published on all platforms. This will give me more flexibility than putting all of my work in the Amazon basket. The strategy should offer me plenty of advantages:

    # Ability to make work free on Amazon (A tactic I haven’t been able to use)

    # Ability to gain additional exposure for all of my work on Amazon (If someone reads the story in Select, they can discover my other work on Amazon, which they will have to purchase since its not in Select)

    # The only work that will be exclusive at any time will be that one story in Select.

    # I will have work available on other sites at the same time I have the single work on Select. Readers who want the story in Select will still have other works to read. After three months time, they will be able to read the story that was in Select. After more work is published they will have even more choices on what to read outside of Select.

    # As a side note, whether the effectiveness of Select has been diminished isn’t that important. The ability to have options on how to proceed is. Over time, I think small increases in readership that Select may provide will help in many areas. So even if it’s not as effective as it once was, those small increases in readership will help.

  22. I’ve run now two of my books through the 90 day Select program, primarily to promote my series and get some exposure. One of the books had minimal results. The second, knowing more of what I was doing, had better results, but nothing gang busters about it. Obviously others have had better results with it, and others worse. But knowledge of how to best work the free promotions seems to be key as to whether it creates any better sales.

    But, as far as sales overall, my numbers are probably similar to others. The biggest percent comes from Amazon, but there have been quarters that Apple or B&N has come close to matching that.

    So, by pure numbers, if Amazon were to close its doors today, I would lose over half of my book sales. But it wouldn’t be the end of indie publishing for me for two reasons.

    One, I’d still have sales through the other channels, which while not as much currently as Amazon in most cases, isn’t nothing to sneeze at either.

    Two, if Amazon closed down, a huge percent of people who bought ebooks there would seek them out in the other retail outlets. Whether the resulting increase of my book’s sales at places like Apple and Kobo would totally offset the loss of Amazon is doubtful, I’m sure it would still be a big percent of the loss at Amazon. So I don’t think it would be a total loss.

    Ebooks aren’t going away. If Amazon drops the ball, someone else will pick it up, and people will still want ebooks and look for them elsewhere. It’s too late to stuff that genie back in the bottle. Amazon may have opened it, but it doesn’t have the power to close it.

  23. Timely post. I’m planning to epublish 4 titles this week. I mentioned this here a few weeks ago. They’re gay erotica/romance short stories (@6k words). They’re proofed, and the cover design is ready, plus there are great blurbs. I even have a crappy web site under the nom de plume, Elias True. My goal now is to be discovered, obviously. There are three more shorts in the pipeline under this genre, plus a novella in a month or so. To get the most exposure for this I would:

    – go with KDP select for all? Or one title? Or none? I don’t mind exclusivity at this point if it helps build the name/brand/titles. It’s only 90 days. I’m not sure the lending library would be helpful for 6K word short stories, but maybe it would.

    – have a loss leader at .99 and the others at 2.99?

    – hit up some web sites that review this genre?

    First time epublisher, and I woke up today feeling overwhelmed. FYI, I’ll be epubbing two novels under my real name in about a month.

    • This is only my opinion, mind. I haven’t used Select yet and none of my titles have ever been free or priced below 3.99 (granted, the stories are longer than you say yours are).

      If you’re launching and are hoping for a big initial push, don’t forget AllRomanceEbooks. I make 50% of my gay erotic romance sales there. If you want more eyes on your work, it only makes sense to go to a place where romance ebooks are the focus. Their ability to let the author upload different filetypes for their books (I can’t remember if I mentioned this to you last time – but I’ve only ever sold in PDF, MOBI, and EPUB, so it may not be worth your trouble to convert to any other filetype, but if you happen to have an HTML file that you work from, it couldn’t hurt to upload that too) means that people who have different e-reading devices would be attracted to it. Their “stamp” program means that voracious readers may prefer purchasing from there, because they can earn free books that way.

      If you’re going to be launching with multiple titles, it wouldn’t hurt to put the one you think is your “best” or “hottest” or most “you” (whichever way you want to represent your work, essentially) into Select so that people are more likely to look at your other titles and purchase those. So, what I mean is, you’ll have three titles to put up on all etailer sites and the fourth that’s most likely to attract people after their KOLL borrow or free download to purchase your other available works would go into Select.

      As for “loss leaders” – I’d wait a few months to figure out which of your titles sells the least and then make that title your loss leader. It means you benefit by selling more of a poorly selling title (ideally, anyway) and the readers benefit by getting to sample your work at a lower price if that’s what’s going to convert them from browsers to buyers. Of course, you could certainly just decide to make the story with the smallest word count your loss leader if you want to launch with one instead. You’re in a rather good position with being able to make a decision like that, in my opinion.

      ETA: Oh – I think you also asked about what to do with your next releases. In any case, I personally suggest you only launch with Select and then put them up on all platforms after 90 days are up. If you’re going to release multiple titles per 90 days, it might help for you to have some statistics to work from to decide if Select-first launches help sales overall or not. You might earn more than 50% elsewhere in a month, so overall, it may make your more money to ignore Select. But you won’t know until you have data and the data will ultimately be unique to you.

      Again, I remind you that I’ve only been publishing since March or April (I’d have to check my notes) and have fewer titles than you’re going to launch with. (The last few months have been awkward for me and affected my writing time.)

      My experiences are not necessarily going to be yours, because for one, you’re writing shorter stories and for two you seem like you have a speed at writing that will mean you’re constantly releasing (when, again, I haven’t been) and more likely to be found and/or written up in “New Release” blogs and so forth. And for three, our writing styles or even sub-genres may not match up. (So if I’m writing about geeky college boys awkwardly falling in love and you’re writing about hot sweaty cowboys – even though they’re both gay erotica/erotic romance, they’ll appeal to different readers regardless. 😉 )

      Good luck! I hope you’ll exceed your own expectations!

      • Great suggestions, thank you! I’ve just sent off four titles to a formatter (would rather pay for this) today. Looks like I’ll have all four titles up on multiple sites, barring any tech glitches (still not sure about the different formats, MOBI, EPUB) before the end of the week.

        • If you’re paying for the formatting, hopefully they’ll provide alternate formats as part of their service. Otherwise, there are free conversion software programs, such as Calibre, that can do it for you, but you’ll have to double-check their quality with as much eye to errors as you would what you’re paying for.

  24. I’ve nothing concrete to add to this thread – first book(s) don’t get self published on Amazon until end of November.

    But I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for their input – this comment thread is a gold mine of information.

    Thanks to all who’ve posted!

  25. I’ve been a self-published author now for a year and a half. When I first got started, I wouldn’t have blinked an eye about joining a program like KDP Select. For almost the first year, Amazon made up somewhere in the range of 97-98% of my royalty income.

    But the longer my titles have been available in other outlets, the more that is beginning to change. Amazon still makes up slightly over 70% of my royalty income, but Barnes and Noble now makes up over 10%, and iBooks is not far behind them, and I’m seeing more growth in other avenues as well.

    If I were to limit myself to only distributing a title through Amazon, even for a span of only three months, that would affect my income more than just a little bit. I can’t imagine that I’m alone in this trend I’ve seen with my own sales.

    I want my books to be available in as many different formats as I can get them in. I want them available in as many different outlets as I can get them in. I don’t want to limit myself in any way, because there is no telling when a certain book might take off at a certain retailer.

    • That’s my experience — minimal sales from non-Amazon sites (I go through Smashwords), but incrementally becoming better. Not to mention that one Smashwords sale of a 99c story is equal to about 3 Amazon sales of that same story — and usually nearly 2 Amazon sales if through one of the other ebook-sellers that Smashwords distributes to.

      My B&N sales now are what my Amazon sales were some months ago. Only time will tell if they’ll creep up to match the Amazon sales!

  26. I had an extremely positive response to KDP on the first book in a series. The sales were languishing, so I pulled it everywhere, enrolled in KDP, and threw it out free for five consecutive days. As a result, 28,000 downloaded the book worldwide. It pushed sales on the second book in the series to over $10,000 the next month, when before I was lucky to make $50-$100. The second book in the series has been my best seller for the past four months, although I’m not making nearly the killing I did in May.

    I have kept that one book in KDP and offer it free once during the 90-day stint. It pushes sales for me, gets people interested in my four other fiction works. I may be sacrificing my one book to some people, but for me, it was well worth the pull elsewhere.

    • This is exactly my goal. Since I will have four titles out at one time, this week, one can be with KDP and the other two can be just on Kindle. The thinking is, the free title on KDP will drive people to my other works (I’m that confident that it will).

  27. A little off topic, but can anyone suggest the best format for a web site that promotes the book but does nothing else? I was going to use WordPress for my pen name web site, but they don’t support email. I think that would be important, to develop an email list of readers. I just want this site to have the covers, blurbs and maybe something about me, and allow people to contact me, and that’s it. WordPress seems geared for blogging.

    • Larry – are you talking about a ‘wordpress.com’ blog or a wordpress blog on a self hosted domain name?

      And whichever wordpress site you are talking about – you can build static pages just as easily as ‘blogging pages.’

      Adding contact forms and email is pretty straightforward too…Wordpress IMO is the best CMS (content management system) for setting up a new web site. (I have several websites and a much older site that is more traditionally built with static HTML – and I wish I could convert that static HTML site to wordpress, but there are too many pages. It’s a nightmare!).

      • I’m using wordpress on a site hosted by ipage. I’ll take another look at it. When I uploaded the template I became frustrated, but patience is not my strongest trait.

    • Something like 80% of the professional bloggers use wordpress. I use wordpress for my site (see link in my name line). If you want really low site costs .. get an old pc (5-10yrs or newer will work) and load up ubuntu(server) with LAMP package and install wordpress. Then $10/year for your URL and you’re in business. The other route is wordpress.com and pay for premium so you get the additional features.

  28. I recently posted on this issue:


    I sell twenty times the number of books through Amazon during any given ten day period than I sold on all other sites for all my self-pubbed books (ten books) combined over a six month period of time.
    Math-challenged that I am, I’ve done the math and leaving KDP Select would be cutting off my nose to spite my face.

  29. I’ve been enrolled in Select since it first became available to me early last December. I have never bothered to try to use its “free days” option, however; I joined simply to make my debut novel, HUNTER, available to Amazon Prime members.

    And it has worked just fine for me. To date, Prime members have borrowed my thriller, via the KOLL, over 5,351 times. That represents a hefty chunk of income. It also represents a lot of new readers, many of whom will be early buyers of the sequels to HUNTER.

    What decided me to “go exclusive” with Kindle Select was failure, after months of trying, to get significant sales traction on Nook, or on any of the platforms serviced by Smashwords. As Sarah Woodbury said above, the problem is that the websites of Amazon’s competitors are far less customer-friendly. Until they improve, they’re unlikely to generate the kind of sales numbers that I get each month just from Amazon Prime members.

    It strikes me as poor reasoning to say that going “exclusive” via Select is somehow depriving people from the opportunity to buy your book — not if you are reaching more customers through Select than through all other competing platforms combined. Looked at this way, “going exclusive” on Select has provided me the opportunity to reach more people, not fewer.

    Try this thought experiment. Suppose you were offered the opportunity of guaranteed total sales to one million readers — but only if you agreed that all those customers would be buying within the state of Ohio…and nowhere else.

    Would you take the deal? Do you really care where you get a million readers for your books? If so, why?

  30. I’ve been self-published for 15 months, with a single espionage thriller out for 14 months, joined by a sequel a month ago. My books sell well on Amazon at the ‘making a living’ level, but not anything like the 20 to 1 ratio others seem to be experiencing. For some strange reason, Nook sales have always accounted for 30 to 35% of my sales, and there were a couple of months when Nook sales exceeded Amazon sales. Also, Nook users are some of my most enthusiastic readers. For that reason, I’ve never considered Select. FWIW, I can’t figure out why some books do well on B&N and others don’t.

  31. I’ll try to keep this post in tl;dr format.

    – My pen name is writing (contemporary) gay erotic romance. (So when I say “I” I do mean this pen name and not “C. R. Reaves” since I’ve not published under that name yet.)
    – I’ve been published since Spring this year (March or April).
    – I have roughly 60k words published under this name.
    – I earn roughly 50% of my sales at Amazon and 50% of my sales at AllRomanceEbooks. (I’ve only ever made ANY other sales through Smashwords direct and it was only 2 or 3 sales.)
    – I’ve earned about 300 USD, plus some in Euro and Pounds (though I can’t remember what my earnings were for those two payments I think it translated to less than 20 USD each, so about an extra 40 USD from international sales through Amazon).
    – I’ve never used Select or made any of my stories free.
    * I say “about” and “approximately” because I’m too lazy to go into my files and look the information up and I haven’t added together total sales in awhile. It may very well be higher than mentioned.

    It is absolutely not worth it to me to remove my titles from all venues in order to go into Select.

    It might be worth it to me to debut a new title through Select, and I might do that next year once I have a few more titles launched. (I hope to double my published wordcount by the end of the year, which means another two titles.) But until I have a minimum of 5 titles, I don’t want to do it because I want to see what it does to the sales of the previous titles and let those previous titles all develop a sort of baseline without new releases or Select.

    It also gives me time to get over my disgruntlement over the Kindle India deal.

  32. I haven’t started indie publishing yet, but I’m with a small e-primary press that markets through the same online vendors indie publishing writers use. I write m/m romance.

    My experience, doing this since 2007 and having published a dozen e-books of various lengths through my publisher, is that Amazon is a very minor market for me. It’s bigger than B&N, through which I sell almost nothing. My major outlets are my publisher’s web site (which is great; I get the most money per sale there), Fictionwise, and ARe. I sell a bit through Rainbow eBooks, and have one or two or three books up through Kobo and Sony and other misc. vendors, but I don’t have number breakdowns on them. I assume that if there are zero ratings or reviews after a year or more, I’m selling little or nothing through a particular site.

    Since my second novel came out in July, my Amazon numbers (on both novels, but particularly my first; it’s like people are seeing book two in the series and are buying book one in response) have picked up considerably. This is great, but it’s still not a lot. I have to wait to see what my royalty statements look like for the next two quarters (it can take an extra quarter to get third party vendor data) to see whether my sales are picking up in general, or only on Amazon. If I’ve just been “discovered” on Amazon, then that’s great and Amazon has become a significant vendor for me. If my sales are picking up all over, in proportion, then Amazon (despite generating more money) will remain a minor outlet for me. Before August, I’d have said that Amazon cold close down and I’d barely notice the dent in my checks. Now, I’d be losing a small chunk of change, but it’s still nowhere near most of my book sales.


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