Reconsidering KDP Select

I recently read an article by Hugh Howey wherein he discussed his considerations around going all-in with Amazon. I won’t go into every little detail here (that’s why I provided the link), but it got me thinking (again) about my choice to opt-out exclusively.

I spent nearly all of 2012 in Select and I made a decent amount of money from the borrows. I’m sure I also garnered new readers (some of whom said so in the reviews). I sold incredibly well, but that was back in the good ‘ol days, during the Kindle Gold Rush, so to speak.

I opted out in 2013 and have been out ever since. I’ve also watched my sales plummet, though I think that has more to do with a cooling market than opting out of Select (I hope so at least).

I’ve been reconsidering Select for the past six months or so, especially after they added Kindle Unlimited and Countdown Deals. Part of what KDP Select exclusivity brings is a collection of discovery tools. Kindle Countdown Deals, Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL), Kindle Unlimited (if the customer has signed up) and Free Promotions. I also suspect that Select books are given better visibility, but that’s conjecture on my part.

Kobo does allow for free promotions and price-reductions, which is great. B&N doesn’t really do crap for indies, but I suspect that’s because they’re still in bed with all the big publishers. By all appearances their Nook platform is slowly dying and could go away altogether before too long anyway. Apple iBooks doesn’t really do much for indies either and it’s a major pain in the ass to upload directly to them (I use Smashwords).

So I asked myself…if Amazon is providing all these tools, what are the other guys offering? Simply being “not Amazon” isn’t really enough. I feel like these vendors need to do something to convince independent writers to distribute through them.

That said, I’m leery of going all in with Amazon for every title I have. Also, I think I’d piss off more than a few people if I yanked my Badlands series from the other ebook vendors. People who started that series on their Nook or iPad should be able to finish it there, without having to jump to Amazon.

I decided to land somewhere in the middle. As I’ve posted before, non-Amazon channels account for as much as 38% of my sales now. But…of those non-Amazon sales, 99% of them are in my Badlands series. My other stand-alone books sell virtually no copies on the other platforms.

So now that I have a decent little backlist, I opted in four of my six titles: a stand-alone horror novel, a collection of short stories, a novella and a stand-alone short story. These haven’t sold jack outside Amazon, so I figure I have nowhere to go but up. These lagging titles will now be eligible for Kindle Unlimited borrows as well as KOLL borrows.

I scheduled two books with Countdown Deals and the remaining two with free promotions. This gives me an efficient and cheap way to promote them. More importantly, I can test out Select again after being out of it for so long and see if it can still push a title up in the ranks.

By opting in only my lagging titles, I can test out Select without affecting sales of my best-selling series. This mitigates my risk and doesn’t really penalize readers (as much). My two Badlands novels are still available everywhere. Book three should be out later this year and I plan to opt it out of Select as well.

I’ll be watching my Amazon sales closely over the next 90 days. If I see huge spikes in sales, I’ll know the move was worth it. I’ll also be watching my sales of the Badlands series on the non-Amazon platforms to see if those sales drop. Could be that I’m penalized for de-listing titles (hopefully not).

As much as I want to make my books available on all platforms,  I also want to reach as many readers as I can. That could mean Amazon is the place for that, to the exclusion of Kobo, B&N and Apple. I won’t know until the data rolls in.

I’ll post updates as I go. I’m interested in seeing where this experiment takes me and my books.

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7 thoughts on “Reconsidering KDP Select

  1. TAWilliams September 21, 2014 / 1:05 pm

    Great post!

    After careful consideration I actually decided last week to opt back into KDP Select. While I wanted to get my books on other platforms I couldn’t ignore what I was getting from KOLL & Kindle Unlimited.

    My 1st book is only .99 cents but it has been averaging over 200 borrows a week. So I’m getting $1.50 + a borrow for a .99 cent book. And while my 2nd book is $2.99 which means for each borrow I’m getting slightly less per book than if I sold it, it’s still getting the book in a lot of people’s hands.

    I’m interested to see how signing up for Select helps out your other titles. Definitely keep us in the loop!

  2. Brian J. Jarrett September 21, 2014 / 3:57 pm

    Holy cow! 200 borrows a week is incredible. Even during my peak I was only getting maybe 30 borrows per month (via KOLL, before KU). Back then I had one novel and a short story collection (the novel did all the selling). You’re killing me right out of the gate! 🙂 Congrats!

    I’m pricing higher these days, so I’m expecting to sell fewer copies while earning more per sale. But sales are still much slower than they used to be. Still trying to figure out what’s causing that.

    I think you’re making the right decision staying in Select. At this point I’d say don’t mess with a good thing.

    I’ll update as I go. Maybe Select will give me back some of the visibility I’ve lost since dropping out. We’ll see.

    • TAWilliams September 21, 2014 / 4:19 pm

      🙂 Thanks!

      Kindle Unlimited rolled out early July if I remember correctly and I wasn’t registering many borrows through KOLL or KU but in August it really started to pick up and this month it has gone crazy. I just checked and on 9/1 I had 100 borrows in a day both books combined & today I’m currently at 60 combined.

      I was skeptical of Unlimited at first (still a little weary of the $/per borrow) but based on this month I really think it is showing a lot of promise. That’s why I’m interested to see how your back catalog does. It seems that readers signed up in KU are either willing to take more chances or are just consuming at such an alarming rate that it’s benefiting unknowns like myself.

      • Brian J. Jarrett September 21, 2014 / 7:42 pm

        Seriously…you’re killing it. Those numbers are awesome. I saw book one is ranking at around 900. That’s terrific. I think the best I ever ranked was around 1900 or so (and I was selling pretty well then). You’ve caught some lightning in a bottle there, so enjoy it! (And make sure you’re writing the next book!) I picked up a copy of book one myself, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. That TBR pile of mine is huge.

        I’m thinking along the same lines as you. Although I’ve been doing this for three years I’m still pretty much an unknown. I’m hoping that if I get some exposure to my backlist with no-risk borrows it’ll push more people toward my other books, both in and out of Select.

        The real gamble here is my Badlands series. That series sells okay on the other platforms, so I’m leery of pulling it. Without a guarantee that Select will work wonders I’m risking pissing off more than a few readers.

        That said, I sell all my books DRM-free, so they could be purchased from Amazon and converted to ePub with Calibre. But not everyone wants to (or knows how to) do this. I look at Joe Konrath and Blake Crouch and they’re killing it in Select (all their books are opted in). Makes me wonder if they’re not onto something.

        Is it worth stranding some readers to gain significantly more? Maybe. Or maybe I opt all my books in and offer a free “advance review copy” to my non-Amazon readers so they can finish the series, if they ask. As I understand it, I’m not violating Amazon’s rules, provided I don’t sell the book. It’s just a free “review” copy.

        Decisions, decisions. There’s a lot to consider. This is why I like to think out loud on here. We’ll see how it goes.

        Take it easy.

  3. J. A. Cipriano September 22, 2014 / 4:51 pm

    I’m glad I read your post and Mr. Howey’s post. I’d been trying to decide what to do with Kill It With Magic and decided to go with Select because it seems like the only upside to everyone else was them saying “we’re not Amazon.”

    That’s like buying a mac because they aren’t Dell or Microsoft or buying a PS4 because it isn’t an Xbox. Who does that?

    • Brian J. Jarrett September 22, 2014 / 9:18 pm

      Kobo offers free days and price reductions, plus a 70% royalty on any price book (no $2.99 to $9.99 window). It’s a good start. I’d love to see them offer more for indies, Select-type benefits without exclusivity would be awesome. They’d be one-upping Amazon.

      With iOS 8 Apple might become a more dominant force. I heard rumblings they might have something cool to offer indies. I hope it’s not that bundle promotion I read about. Seems pretty weak.

      B&N is pretty much just coasting into oblivion.

      I’d love to see these guys make a bigger effort to snare the indie ebook market (which is around 25%, last figure I read). Until then, Amazon is making the biggest indie outreach with Select.

      Although it costs us exclusivity, it’s only for 90 days.

      Still tossing around whether or not I should go all in. Right now I think I’ll keep my two Badlands books out while I see how things play out with my other books.

      Good luck with your book(s). I hope Select continues to work out well for you.

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