About KDP Select

A hot topic in indie publishing is Amazon’s KDP Select program and the frequent changes to it.

For people who don’t know what KDP Select is, here is the short explanation: books enrolled in KDP Select are available to download for free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, but Amazon requires them to be exclusive to Amazon, and therefore not be available on the other eBook retailers, such as Apple or Kobo. Every enrolment is for a period of 3 months after which the author can choose to stay in KDP Select or pull the book out and go wide.

The program has many vocal supporters and detractors. In this post I will try to explain how we at Ladylit feel about it and our future plans with it.

We have participated in KDP Select with many books since pretty much the start of KU, when authors got paid a fixed amount for every borrow where a reader read more than 10% of the book. This was quite beneficial to us, as at the time we mostly had shorter stories and the payout for a borrow on those was about the same as for a sale. When Amazon changed their payout scheme to a per-page-read last year, this was not the case anymore, but this was also the time when we started to publish more novel-length books. And as these were longer, the payout for a completed read in KU was higher than it was before, closer to what we make on a sale. So we continued putting new full-length titles in KDP Select.

Amazon has always been our biggest source of sales, and the potential sales on other platforms definitely did not weigh up against the extra income from borrows and the added visibility being in KDP Select gave us. Amazon does make books that are in KDP easier to find for consumers, so it’s not just a matter of whether the income from borrows will be more than what the book could sell on other platforms. Amazon is a search engine and visibility is key to any book’s success, so if Amazon shows your book to more people, you’ll sell more copies.

However, we are very aware that with Amazon being such a big portion of our income, we are at their mercy in a way. If all of a sudden they decided to lower the royalty rate they pay authors, we would definitely suffer. We realise that if we want to be successful in the long term, we have to build an audience on the other platforms as well, especially on Apple and Kobo as they have such a global reach. Which is why we have started taking some titles out of KDP Select and offering them for sale widely on other platforms.

OIAL_NEW_180x288The first major one went wide at the end of March, Once in a Lifetime by Harper Bliss. This book came out about a year ago and is still a steady earner for us, but the amount it earned monthly from borrows through KU was not that significant anymore. Not enough to compromise our livelihood if we were to lose it. And because it has been out for a while and still sells enough copies every month, it does have some visibility on Amazon. So we decided to take the plunge. It has only been wide for a couple of weeks so we can’t say yet whether the sales on other platforms will make up for what we’re no longer earning through KU. However we know there is an audience for our books on other platforms as we’re asked regularly by readers when certain books will be available to them on Apple or Kobo. So this is just the first step to building that audience. We have a list of other books that will also be going wide in the next couple of months.

Our current policy regarding new titles, and what we plan to keep doing for the foreseeable future, is to enrol them in KDP Select when they come out, for at least one or two cycles (so three or six months). We have seen with the last couple of titles that this gives the book a lot of visibility, gets it more reviews early on and makes the book attractive to Amazon. After these first three or six months, we plan on taking the books out of KDP Select and go wide with them, hopefully gaining new readers on the other platforms with every book.

We’ll have to wait and see to know if this plan works out the way we want, but we are confident that going wider than we currently are is the way forward to ensure our long-term career in this business.


Harper goes serial and why we love KDP Select

Fool for Love Ladylit is proud to publish Fool for Love, Harper Bliss’s first novella in the brand new High Rise series.

Here’s the blurb:
Betrayed by her long-term girlfriend, Alex moves into The Ivy to share a flat with her friend Nat. When she meets their neighbour Maddie, a jaded expat who’s had about enough of Hong Kong’s demanding life style, both Maddie and Alex are forced to reassess their warped view on love.

This new title is novella-length, meaning 23.000 words of lesbian erotic romance goodness. Fool for Love is free until Saturday on Amazon, so go grab your copy now!

The next High Rise novella will be released just before Christmas.

Why is Fool for Love only available on Amazon?
Once again, we’ve opted to put our latest release in the KDP Select program. This allows us to do a big promotion off the bat, by giving Fool for Love away for free the first five days. I wish I could say we’re only doing this out of the goodness of our own heart, but publishing is a business just like any other and, business-wise, KDP Select has been very good for us.

The first book we put in was Learning Curve which, as a result, has been in Amazon’s lesbian best sellers list since the beginning of August. Quite a feat for a short erotica story. Summer Heat and Younger Than Yesterday followed the same pattern, soaring into the top 20 a few days after their release date, and remaining there until now. (In fact, Younger Than Yesterday has been holding steady on number five the past few days.)

In all honesty, we never expected this kind of immediate success. We believed, like with many good things, it would be a slow build, with sales increasing after every new release, but KDP Select blew all of our expectations right out of the water.

I’m not saying that every book put into KDP Select will be a success. A few other key elements need to be present for a book to work. It needs to be good, for starters. (You may think this is a no-brainer, but, sadly, it’s not.) You need an attractive cover and, last but not least, you need to publish in a competitive category.

Erotica as a genre has been doing astonishingly well in the aftermath of Fifty Shades of Grey and I believe Harper’s books are filling a certain void in lesbian erotic fiction. All too often, lesbian erotica is written by men posing as women, resulting in the same old tale of a young straight girl discovering the joys of lady-loving with her roommate/best friend/other generic partner. Harper writes stories about real lesbians (and the occasional straight woman) and her characters don’t just meet and dive into bed together. They actually have conversations and… chemistry.

Add that to what KDP Select can do for a book, and the last three Harper Bliss stories have been very successful. But what does KDP Select do for a book exactly? Here’s our experience.

It makes your book visible
This is probably the single most important advantage. Thousands of new books get released every day. When a few thousand people download your book for free, it will very quickly make an appearance in the ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought’ lists, which is of vital importance.

It makes your book lendable to Amazon Prime members
Prime members get to lend one free book per month, but the publisher still gets paid for every borrow. Even better, Harper Bliss’s last three short stories have been consistently priced at $1.99, but when someone borrows it we get royalties as if the books were priced at $2.99. With the difference between the 1.99 and 2.99 price point being 35% in royalty rate, this is very advantageous for lower priced titles.

These are the main two reasons why we love KDP Select and will take advantage of it as long as it’s available. Don’t worry if you’re not an Amazon fan though, we plan a first High Rise Omnibus by the end of the year (which will be available from all retailers) and a second one, including a paperback edition, by March 2013.

Still haven’t downloaded Fool for Love? What are you waiting for?