Home > Writing > Picking Sides in Amazon vs. the World

Picking Sides in Amazon vs. the World

Amazon’s new KDP Select program allows Amazon Prime members to download books for free. Or free in a sense that they pay their monthly Amazon Prime membership then get to read as many books as they can handle. It’s not so different from a public librar, with the exception of the library being funded by our tax money instead of a direct contribution.

But on the other end theirs a lot of talk and concern. Writers are afraid that Amazon is trying to corner the market with KDP Select. To which I say, “Yeah, they probably are!” They won’t succeed at monopolizing the ebook business, but they will almost definitely pull in additional market share because of it. The concern on the part of writers is that Amazon demands any book enrolled in their KDP Select program be withdrawn from all other retail locations for 90 days. Only the ebook versions, not print books, but for many of us that’s the lion’s share.

Some authors don’t like it because it takes pricing out of the mix. All books in the KDP Select are essentially priced the same – free. The way an author gets paid at the end of the month is based upon how many times their book was borrowed. The available funds are split evenly between the total number of borrows for that month, giving a price / borrow number. Then that number is multiplied by the number of times an authors book was borrowed. That’s their royalty. That means if you’ve got a book selling or $9.99 and I’ve got a book selling for $2.99 via regular Amazon Kindle ebooks, but both get borrowed 100 times in KDP Select, then we both get the same amount of money. For those $9.99 writers who sell a lot of books, I’m betting – hoping, even – that they don’t jump on board. The fewer writers that take advantage of it the better the chance guys like me with books on the best-selling lists who aren’t controlling the #1 – 6 spots will get noticed.

To that end, I’ve enrolled two of my books in it. New Beginnings and The Colony. Those are the first two books in my Vitalis series, with the third and fourth books due out in early Q1 of 2012. As a data point, a couple of hours after I set New Beginings to be a part of this program I had one copy borrowed! Woohoo…and then nothing since.

But here’s another interesting data point with some reasonably accurate numbers to consider.

Month to date paid sales for December:

Amazon -534

B&N -1

Smashwords – 1

Pretty impressive, isn’t it? I know other people with more success on these platforms, but I’ve been focusing on Amazon because that’s where the majority of readers are. I do have friends with Nooks and I don’t want to leave them behind though, and Smashwords distributes to Sony, Kobo, Apple, and others. For me the revenue coming from those channels is unpredictable and never enough to worry about, so I don’t even bother forecasting it.

I’m testing the waters with KDP Select. If it works out well for me or if I get people asking I’ll be convinced to migrate more stuff over. For now what I’m doing is working great. The thing about publishing is that it’s a constantly evolving beast. Just five years ago selling ebooks in volume was unheard of. Now the traditional publishing world has been upended. Will KDP Select herald in another new age filled with new opportunities? I don’t know, but I’m poised to jump in if it does and make sure I get to ride the wave! Don’t fear change, my friends, embrace it. The alternative is obsolescence and a soup-kitchen.

Vitalis Book 1 - New Beginnings

Vitalis - New Beginnings, on Amazon

The Colony, book two in the science fiction series, Vitalis

Vitalis - The Colony, on Amazon

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

  1. December 10, 2011 at 09:15

    Great insight. I’ve got similar ridiculous one-sided percentages from my sales channels, but I’m hesitant to go all-amazon all the time for 90 days right now because I have only one book currently. It is available in print, so going Select would only shut out people who insist on reading it on a non-Kindle device or app. I think it works better for people who have a bunch of material out there, so you don’t end up shutting out people on other e-reader platforms from reading at least some of your material.

    The flip side is that early adopters in e-book tech seem to have an easier time of it. Everyone has a book out these days, and in a few months if KDP Select does well, there’ll be a ton more people on it. So perhaps today is the day to just jump on board and catch the initial low-hanging fruit.

  2. Diane Farr
    December 10, 2011 at 16:37

    You should be aware that anyone enrolled in Amazon Prime can borrow one book a month. And although there is no “due date,” you can’t borrow another until you’ve returned the first one. So whoever borrowed your book can’t borrow anyone else’s until January.

    I enrolled one of mine the day KDP Select became available — I didn’t have it anywhere else yet anyhow, so I thought I’d try the experiment. So far, everyone has figured it was better to buy it for 99 cents than borrow it!

    Diane Farr

  3. December 16, 2011 at 09:45

    Great insight into KDP. I’m interested to hear how it goes; be sure to keep us posted =)

    • December 16, 2011 at 09:48

      Well it’s been a week or so thus far and I’ve had 4 borrows on 1 book. That’s little more than a data point, but it’s something.

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