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December 22, 2012 / benrovik

More KDP Select talk

From LJBOOKER in the comments:

“No one seems to be mentioning the fact that the bestselling books that are in Amazon’s select program are not exclusive, like, for example, the Harry Potter books. Those are for sale at Barnes and Nobles Nook store. It seems that there are two sets of rules. Only the indie authors have to give up their rights to sell elsewhere. This way Amazon gets to brag ‘exclusive’ books, while undercutting the other stores with free popular books. And those free bestsellers are getting all the funds in the pot. This whole promotion is about putting everyone else out of business. Has no one else noticed this?”

  • “Bestselling books… are not exclusive”

That’s an important point. J.K. Rowling is clearly not an indie author, nor are her books exclusive, and yet they’re free to Amazon Prime subscribers.  Ditto with Suzanne Collins and the Hunger Games books.  They didn’t have to pay in exclusivity to get included in the library.  On the contrary, Amazon pursued them and paid (through the nose, I’m sure) for the licensing rights to add those books to the lending library.  They want the Lending Library to look attractive to land more $79/year subscribers to Prime, and acquiring the licenses to those bestsellers is the best way to do it.

  • “Only the indie authors have to give up their rights…”

It’s undeniable that Amazon created the Lending Library to get a competitive advantage over B&N and the other publishers; “Putting everyone else out of business,” as LJBOOKER said.   It’s a clever scheme for them to make money.  It’s not designed first and foremost to help indie authors out of obscurity.

Though of course it’s to Amazon’s benefit if a 5-day KDP Select promotion is what lifts an indie out of obscurity and into best-seller territory. That author is likely to feel a debt of gratitude to Amazon (legitimately, I’d argue) for giving his/her career that sudden oomph. When the book garners crazy sales while locked into exclusivity, Amazon wins; and if the indie author decides to stay in KDP select afterwards because of gratitude and reciprocity , Amazon continues to win.

But nobody’s holding a gun to the author’s head and making them stay in KDP Select after any given three-month period is up. The promotion could be just that– a promotion– which ends like any ad campaign might.

  • “Amazon gets to brag ‘exclusive’ books”

Hmm!  I don’t think this is a point they emphasize too much, actually.  In the FAQ on the Kindle Lending Library , intended for Amazon Prime customers, they boast how they have “thousands of books to borrow for free, including 100+ NY Times bestsellers.”  I haven’t seen Amazon say that a big advantage of the Lending Library is that it has indie titles you can’t find anywhere else.  Exclusivity is just the currency Amazon happens to want indie writers to pay in to access KDP Select’s promotional tools.

That said, publishers like Smashwords rightly see it as an attack on them.  An author who is exclusive to Amazon deprives Smashwords of traffic and sales.  Amazon’s definitely not sitting on its laurels when it comes to courting indie writers; they want to stay as the place where indies first publish and reach most of their audience.  (The KDP login page recently became even cuter-looking, by the way, with a homey stick-figure intro video.)

  • And those free bestsellers are getting all the funds in the pot.

Interesting– do you know this for sure?  Does J.K. Rowling get a piece of the same pot as the rest of us every time a Harry Potter book is borrowed?

Because I’d think it depends on which program these bests-selling books are participating in, since there are two.  There’s the Kindle Lending Library– the big collection of books Amazon Prime users can get for free.  And then there’s also KDP Select, a special program through which (indie) authors uploading their books through Kindle Direct Publishing can enroll their books in the Kindle Lending Library in return for a 3-month period of exclusivity.

So the Lending Library is a bigger thing than KDP Select alone.

I mean, since clearly the big best-selling authors haven’t been required to be exclusive to Amazon, they’re playing by a different set of rules.  That could easily mean they’ve got their own pot of money too.

In the tiny bit of research I’ve done, I haven’t been able to figure out of those big bestsellers are also drawing from the same fund that determines how much indies make per borrow.   Amazon’s terms of service for KDP Select says the fund applies to “all participating KDP titles.”   So is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone a KDP title?  Or is it a Pottermore title?  I don’t know.

Here are some numbers about KDP borrows for each month of 2012.  So, for example, in November 2012, there were 368k borrows of books in the Lending Library, and each time one was borrowed Amazon paid its author $1.90.

If (say) 50,000 of those borrows were of a Harry Potter book, and they are subject to the same pot as everyone else, J.K. Rowling personally took $95,000 of the $700,ooo monthly pot.  That makes the pot the giveaway to bestselling authors that LJBOOKER is implying it is.

That said, if an indie author got 100 borrows from Amazon Prime customers–who have a borrow they need to use or lose every single month– and those were customers who wouldn’t have bought their book otherwise, that’s still $190 that the promotion of being in KDP Select sent their way.

Of course, did being exclusive to Amazon cost that author $190 in sales at every other ebook retailer in the world?  What was the opportunity cost of closing out those markets for 90 days?

If an indie author is selling well through Apple and B&N and Smashwords, then KDP Select is probably a bad deal; especially if they’re established enough that the free promo days aren’t helpful, and, as the commenter suggests, the KDP fund disproportionately goes to the best-selling authors who don’t need the cash.

For my purposes, at this moment, making one of four titles temporarily exclusive to Amazon in the hopes of drumming up business and visibility for the rest of the series seems like a reasonable thing to try.   And as for the KDP Select Fund, it seems plausible to me that Suzanne Collins has her own arrangement and isn’t dipping into it with each copy of Mockingjay that gets borrowed.

Anybody have additional info on this?

Thanks for keeping the discussion going, LJBOOKER!

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