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.
The 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.