Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select is a program that Amazon offers where authors sell their ebook exclusively on Amazon (as opposed to just KDP, which is the overall name for uploading ebooks to sell on Amazon). What are the pros and cons of this exclusivity, and what do we recommend you do as an author? Read on to find out.
If you’re looking for information on how to discount your ebook on Amazon, check out this blog post.
Pros of KDP Select
1. One hundred million people who buy into the Kindle Unlimited program can borrow your book.
While Amazon isn’t clear on how many of these 100 million are actual readers, you may have more borrows in Select without a lot of promotional efforts than you would have if you went wide with your books and did the same low-level marketing. It takes several years to build following and exposure on other platforms, but with the Select program, you often will earn some money right away on your books.
2. You get paid on number of pages read for borrows.
Your ebook is available for Amazon Prime members to borrow your book for free, and you receive payment on number of pages read. That means even if a reader isn’t willing to pay for your ebook, maybe because you’re a new author to them, they are probably willing to borrow it for free—and you still get paid! Some authors make a healthy living on borrrows.
If you run a promotion on a site like Book Cave and are selling your book for more than $0.00, then some of your “sales” will actually be borrows.
3. If your regular book price is low (like 99 cents), and your book is long, you will actually make more money on a borrow than on a sale.
4. You can discount your book to free for 5 days in a 90-day period.
In KDP Select, you can easily discount your book to $0.00 for a promotion. If your book isn’t in the program, you have to set your book to $0.00 in other major retailers and then ask Amazon to price match. Sometimes Amazon takes a long time to price match, unless you email them directly and let them know you’re planning a sale, and some authors have reported having difficulty getting Amazon to raise the price again once the promotion period is over. That’s all taken care of with KDP Select, and new readers will find you with a free promotion.
5. Instead of using the 5 free days, you can choose 7 days of price discounting in each 90-day period using a Kindle Countdown Deal.
When doing a Kindle Countdown, you can discount your book to $0.99 or $1.99 (or other price point depending on your regular price) for the entire 7 days, or you can set the price to gradually go back up over a period of several days. Amazon has a page where they list KDP Select deals, so you will find new readers.
During a Kindle Countdown, you’ll still get paid 70% royalties, even if your book is discounted to $0.99. This is in contrast to non-Select publishing on KDP, where you must change the royalty amount to 35% if you want to discount your book to less than $2.99. So for a Kindle Countdown, instead of getting 35 cents on a dollar book, you’re getting closer to 70 cents minus delivery charges, which depends on the size of your file. (Note that you are not charged delivery fees on a book for which you receive 35% royalties.)
6. It’s easier uploading to only one platform. (Though you can choose Draft2Digital or Smashwords to distribute everywhere for you.)
7. There are several ebook promotion sites that will market your Select book as “free on KU” to their subscribers.
Cons of KDP Select
1. You can only publish your ebook on Amazon.
Many readers only download books from Barnes & Noble or Apple. That means you’re missing out on a lot of potential readers, and you are alienating readers who use other platforms.
2. You lose income on other platforms.
By going exclusive with Amazon, you are also cutting yourself off from a lot of potential income. After building a following (this may take several years), many authors make 50% of their overall income on other platforms.
3. You can’t use your book as a subscriber magnet (unless you offer only a preview, which isn’t nearly as effective), and you cannot sell it or offer it for free on your website. Amazon has exclusive rights to the “Digital Book in digital format”, so this includes PDFs.
4. Depending on the size of your ebook and its regular price (above $2.99), the royalties you get for borrows may be much lower than the royalties you’d get for an outright sale.
Readers who may have chosen to buy your book may instead borrow it, and you lose out on that sale. Because Amazon decides what price to give you per page read, you have little control over pricing.
5. If you violate the KDP Select rules in any way, Amazon can ban you from selling on their site.
Even if your violation was on accident, you will have no recourse because they choose who can and cannot sell on their platform.
6. If your book is taken down, you lose all your income.
The online community is full of examples of Amazon taking down books or publishing accounts without warning or apparent reason. Though this is often worked out, you completely lose out on income from that book for a time, and the loss in rankings may hurt your sales long term. Until you can get your book live on a different retailer or sort out the problem with Amazon, you’re out of luck! Do you want all your eggs in one basket?
7. You can’t set a book to be permafree.
A great marketing tactic is to set the first ebook in a series permanently to $0.00, attracting new readers so they’ll pick up the rest of the series once they get hooked on the first one. KDP Select does not allow you to do this—you can only discount your book to $0.00 during the 5 free promotion days. (Click here to see the roundabout way authors get their books permafree on Amazon.)
8. You are competing with the extra million-plus other authors who have chosen to release their books exclusively on Kindle.
9. Some people feel strongly that by giving only one vendor an exclusive, authors are effectively hurting the competition.
Without competition, a company can do whatever it wants to the ebook market regardless of how it affect authors and publishers.
10. The big publishers put their books on all platforms, and many authors feel that publishing exclusively with only one is similar to a vanity publisher rather than a distributor.
11. Some big ebook marketers prefer books that are available on all platforms.
If you’re just starting out and only have one or two books and not a lot of name recognition, then KDP Select may be the route for you. Because readers can borrow your books, more new readers will try out your books, so you can build your reader base and get some reviews with less marketing.
Many authors use KDP Select to launch a new series or a standalone book before switching the book to a wide distribution.
If you have more than a few books out, and especially if you have a series, we recommend going with a wide distribution (using just KDP and selling on other retailers as well). To start building your wide following, you should also set the first book in your series to permanently be $0.00, then promote it regularly on sites like Book Cave and in Facebook and Google ads. This way, you can still reach new readers with your free book on multiple retailers, but then make more money in sales on the subsequent books. Books in a series will generally get you more money if you sell them as a wide distribution than if you sell them in KDP Select. (Especially if you manage to build on the Apple Books market.)
Keep in mind that building a following on all platforms is not a quick fix but an investment in time and effort. It generally takes about two years of successive pushing and marketing to develop a successful following for your books. You will need to create ads that target those readers.
Because we have readers asking for more books on Barnes & Noble and Apple, we at Book Cave prefer to see books that are available on multiple retailers! Even so, we run books on Select because we do have a large Kindle following. We also believe that for the health of the book market in general, a wide distribution will maintain the necessary competition that will encourage vendors to help authors and publishers succeed.
You can, of course, have some books in KDP and some books in KDP Select. Maybe you want to sell a series as a wide distribution, but then have a standalone book that you choose to sell exclusively on Amazon. You can also choose to experiment with the program by putting your book in it for just one enrollment period (make sure to uncheck that box that says “automatic renewal”). But keep in mind that if your books were wide less than two years (or you did no marketing for the other platforms), you won’t have a complete picture of what those retailers can do for you.
What is your experience with KDP Select? We’d love to hear your experiences and suggestions in the comments below.