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Say No to Exclusivity

8 Jul 2012

I still see a lot of writers jumping on board the KDP Select program where the book is exclusive to Amazon for three months and I cringe. While Amazon puts forth some BS about not allowing writers to make a book free unless it’s enrolled in the KDP Select program because of operating costs, I think it will cost authors in the long run…even the ones who say 90% of their sales are at Amazon and don’t think they have anything to lose.

I enrolled Before Dawn in KDP Select and endured three months of lost sales at B&N and Apple that I’ve yet to recover, not to mention a lot of e-mails from irate readers who have no desire to shop at Amazon. It wasn’t fun and I don’t recommend it for ANYONE. Sure, when I started self-publishing, my sales were 90% at Amazon, but over the last quarter, my Amazon sales tanked but were offset by growing sales at B&N and Apple. Had I been exclusive to Amazon for that time, I would’ve pulled in a few extra hundred dollars in royalties monthly instead of a decent four figures month after month. While it’s not enough for me to get my soul back from Big Business, it’s going to help pay for my sister’s wedding and then some.

Moral of the story: Like in investing, exclusivity sucks and patience will pay off. Digital self-publishing is a long-term strategy. With today’s technology, you don’t need your book to make a big splash in the first month because, theoretically, your book can be in print forever (which could suck if you’re tied to a traditional publisher that’s only paying you 8% royalties) and will eventually find an audience. You may never become a J.A. Konrath or a Bella Andre, but you could earn a nice income to support you if your tastes aren’t extravagant. (My tastes are extravagant, but I have Freedom 45 to make happen.)

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 Jul 2012 8:50 AM

    You know how you asked whether more posts on self publishing how-to?

    This is why more posts on the topic is very much necessary.

  2. 8 Jul 2012 9:22 AM

    There was a time when I would have agreed with you. But after a great start on Smashwords, my sales there suddenly dropped like a stone — with three novels published. No distribution sales, and now, not even sample downloads. I decided that unless I was going to be satisfied with two or three sales a month, it was time to try KDP. That was four months ago, and my books have been selling slowly but steadily on Amazon, while Smashwords has simply died for me.

    I’ve read a great deal about the pros and cons of Select and decided that the only way to use it properly is to publish your book on KDP *first.* I also learned, from a few people who’ve been using the program for some time, that the advantage of Select is mostly in borrows, which pay you, maybe more than you’d be making as an obscure writer still building a fan base, not so much in the free days. More recently, another writer mentioned that because of the borrowing system, you’re going to be noticed more than you might otherwise.

    So, as an experiment, my next novel will be published via KDP Select. Once that period is over, I won’t sign up again, and will add the book to Smashwords. Why bother with Smashwords at all? Because it makes sense to have the widest distribution possible. Just because it’s not working for me right now, that doesn’t mean it never will.

    So rather than reject Select altogether, it makes more sense to figure out the best way to use it.

    • 8 Jul 2012 6:41 PM

      Actually, I did enroll Before Dawn in KDP Select first–and a lot of readers were not happy they had to wait three months to read it if they didn’t want to buy from Amazon.

      Also, where I can, I publish directly with retailer, which gives me a lot more control and I don’t have to give 10% to Smashwords. B&N has been a steady performer for me and Apple has really started taking off. When Kobo finally launches Kobo Writing Life (BTW, Kobo, the end of June deadline has come and gone), I’ll open an account with it as well. While I think Smashwords is great and what they’re doing for writers is great, they are short-staffed so updates are slow and they couldn’t fix a simple categorization issue I had with Apple. I had one price update that took over 6 weeks to update! For a control freak like myself, that was unacceptable.

      What I see on the author loops with other self-pubbed writers, both RWA PAN and non-PAN members, is that exclusivity hasn’t paid off for most of them either, especially if they write a series. You lose a lot of goodwill with readers when your actions tell them they are not as valuable to you as an Amazon customer. And exclusivity for three months is a lifetime to a loyal reader.

      The B&N Nook First program, however, is only for one month and has resulted in amazing sales for most authors because B&N actually does a lot of promotion for the Nook First titles whereas Amazon does next to nothing for KDP Select titles until a book reaches a certain threshold. Of course, if I ever use Nook First, I would have to do a promo at the other retailers to make it up to my readers.

      All in all, I just don’t think the benefits of KDP Select outweigh its drawbacks.

      If KDP Select works for you, that’s great. But for me, the one title I enrolled in KDP Select is my worst-selling title both in quantity and dollars (and I included the borrows), even three months after taking it off KDP Select.

  3. 8 Jul 2012 6:58 PM

    I can definitely see your point about a lot of issues, but since I am selling at Amazon and Smashwords has failed me, I’m probably not going to tick off any fans. And, as I said, it will be my first time using Select, and if it doesn’t work, I won’t do it again. I’m also waiting for a price change among Smashwords retailers. I raised the price of a novel on KDP and SW, but Amazon set it to the old price, and heavens only knows which retailer still have that price and how long it will take to change it. I tried B & N’s Pubit and did practically nothing in sales. I’m probably going to try out Kobo’s new platform, if they ever get it off the ground. I agree that going with the retailers has its advantages, but I hoped SW would make life easier than going that route.

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