Monday, December 12, 2011

Amazon's KDP Select - Author Beware

Last week Amazon’s KDP Select program was announced to authors and small publishers:

"Here's how KDP Select works:

When you make any of your titles exclusive to the Kindle Store for at least 90 days, those with US rights will automatically be included in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library and can earn a share of a monthly fund. The monthly fund for December 2011 is $500,000 and will total at least $6 million in 2012. If you haven't checked it out already, the Kindle Owners' Lending Library is a collection of books that eligible US Amazon Prime members can borrow for free once a month with no due dates.

You'll also now have access to a new set of promotional tools, starting with the option to promote your KDP Select-enrolled titles for FREE for up to 5 days every 90 days."

Sounds like a good deal, right?

Ah, but there’s always a downside and authors need to be aware they are giving up their rights to distribute their books elsewhere.

The Writers Beware Blog had this to say:

"Also important to consider, if you're thinking of participating: you must be willing to distribute your work exclusively on the Kindle. Here is the relevant language:
1 Exclusivity. When you include a Digital Book in KDP Select, you give us the exclusive right to sell and distribute your Digital Book in digital format while your book is in KDP Select. During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or content that is reasonably likely to compete commercially with your Digital Book, diminish its value, or be confused with it), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.
This is a grant of rights and a non-competition clause all in one, and authors need to think carefully before agreeing to it."

Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, had this to say on the Smashwords blog:

When authors enroll a title in the program, they're contractually obligated to remove their books from all other distribution channels.

Wow. Most indie authors appreciate their independence. This rule is quite restrictive.

Impact on authors:
* Forces the author to remove the book from sale from the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords and others, thereby causing the author to lose out on sales from competing retailers.
* By unpublishing a title from any retailer, the author destroys any accrued sales rank, making their book less visible and less discoverable when and if they reactivate distribution to competing retailers.
* Makes the author more dependent upon Amazon for sales. Do you want to become a tenant farmer, 100% dependent upon a single retailer?

Yes, Amazon is the largest online retailer and the Kindle the #1 selling ereader. But B&N’s Nook is tied for second. Apple’s devices are also right behind Amazon’s Kindle. And the Apple IPad accounts for 88% of all tablet sales. 88%!!! Add in the Kobo and all of the other ereaders, and that’s a large slice of the pie you are losing.

Amazon wants to do it all - publish and distribute - and in the end, control. And when one company has total control, it’s not good for consumers, retailers, or the economy.

Authors beware…


  1. I know people with iPads and Nooks buy my books, so I'd hate to see those options eliminated.

  2. I use my iPod touch and mostly buy KOBO books (because I have a cool bookshelf on the iPod for it. Kindle doesn't have one). Rarely do I buy Kindle books. Only if I really want the book and it's not available through KOBO will I buy it. But they tend to be self pubbed ones, not traditionally pubbed. And I don't buy a lot of them to begin with (I have about 5-6 books from Kindle).

    Since there are so many great books available, I would be more likely not to buy an ebook only offered on Kindle, and buy either the hardcopy (I still love those) or a book by a different author.

  3. That's good information, I hadn't heard of KDP yet. Thank you! :)

  4. This is definitely not one of the good ideas Amazon has come up with, at least not for 99% of indie authors and publishers.

    The only authors who will make money on this deal are those who already sell a LOT of Kindle books. Every Amazon Prime member can download ONE Kindle book free each month. How are they going to "spend" their free download -- your $4.99 unknown book or the $14.95 latest bestseller?

    One note of caution about comparing iPad sales stats to Kindle, Nook, etc. The iPad is only peripherally an ebook reader and studies indicate that most ebook read on it are read using Amazon's Kindle app for the iPad. Also, iPad sales have slipped the last month or so while Amazon has sold millions of the new Kindle Fire.

    Remember, statistics are slippery things.

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  6. This is really great information.
    Fine print, Always the fine print. There's a reason it's always in 6pt font.

  7. Stina I still like real books, too.

    Walt, yes the ipad's ereader is minor, but I know several people who have one and read books from the ibookstore all the time. Plus it has apps for all of the other stores. It offers many options, so that has to be noted. And just wait until the new one is released next February.

    Mary, they do like to put the fine print in tiny font, don't they?

  8. Thank you so much for this informative post, Diane. I had no idea.

  9. Wow. Thank you for this post Diane. it is important to keep the 'too good to be true' attitude when reading offers such as this, and pay attention to the small print.

    I use mainly the Kobo app on my Ipad and on my Smartphone. Amoung my peer circle, the Kobo is the most popular followed by Sony. I know that is a very small market sample but I'm sure they would miss out on great reading if authors took up Amazon's offer.

  10. I have a Kindle and I buy exclusively on my Kindle, but I know I have blog followers who don't own Kindle and it would be sad if they couldn't read my book because they had a Sony e-reader.

  11. Good to know! Appreciate the info!

  12. I read that too and said, it's not for me. Why would I want to give up royalties to six other fields just for a shot at maybe having someone borrow my book from the library? That's crazy talk. I would lose money, not make money, and the cut isn't enough to make me try it.

    Thanks Diane for spreading the word.

  13. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. With 99 per cent of my sales on Kindle, if I hadn't already been distributed elsewhere, I'd have to say I'd be tempted.

  14. I'm up in the air about this as I do not have many sales on Smashwords, although I can offer a free download with coupons or make it available for free for a day and do a Twitter blast. The exposure is great. So maybe I would do this for the release of OPENING, but not with BREAKTHROUGH.

  15. I guess if you're going to put all of your eggs in one basket then Amazon would be the best basket to put them in, but still it's kind of scary in a monopolistic power grab sort of way. I'd want to look long and hard at this one, but the experience of other authors might be a deciding factor in making the commitment to Amazon.
    It will be interesting to see where this ends up.

    Wrote By Rote

  16. I read this and my first thought is that is would only be good for a new release, but then most people want new releases to release everywhere.

  17. Lynn, that's why I hope others will realize what they will miss out on.

    Clarissa, that's how I feel.

    Anne, everyone seems so gung-ho, but this program worries me.

    Talli, you might be surprised.

    Stephen, I wouldn't limit your new book to one medium like that.

  18. With all the new opportunities for writers comes new small print :-)

  19. I knew about the restrictions. My publisher is trying it out for a month. We'll see what the results are.

  20. Thanks for the warning. It sounds like a bad deal...

  21. Thanks for pointing out the fine print. A deal like that kind of takes the "independent" out of independent publishing.

  22. Wow - I've never even heard of this - sounds a bit sketchy!

  23. I read books from Amazon and the iBook store on my iPad. I dislike the thought of losing sales from B&N and other stores, but it's out of my hands. Depends on what my publishers decide to do.

  24. I'm glad you talked about this. I was pretty sure it was a no-brainer for me but I like to hear from people more informed about the ebook market.
    I have the Kindle app on my smartphone but I own a Kobo ereader.
    I don't want Amazon to own the world, at least not my part of it.

  25. Diane, this is a good topic for discussion. As I mentioned to you elsewhere, I decided to give the Amazon program a try and will keep everyone posted.

    Wish me luck while I jump in the pool. Hope there's water in it!

  26. Thanks for this post, Diane. Very interesting and food for thought.

    I look forward to hearing from Bob Sanchez about how it works out for him.

  27. This sounds a lot like an episode on South Park, where no one read the fine print on their iPads. Excellent reporting, and nice to meet you via Lee's blog! Julie

  28. I didn't like the language from Amazon either. I also didn't like the fact that they didn't want us to make a release within a 90 day window that might compete with that book. What if a writer was trying to get her backlist up? Shortsighted on Amazon's part, I think--might cut them out of sales, too.

  29. I expect we'll be hearing a lot more about this as authors sign up (or shy away). I don't have any books out there, but the exclusivity clause and loss of independence would make me very nervous.

  30. Thanks for the information, it was interesting to read.


  31. Susan, you don't want to limit yourself.

    Bob, good luck and let us know.

    Welcome, Julie.

    Elizabeth, that is really restrictive.

  32. I was actually looking up all this KDP Select stuff the day before yesterday. The moment I saw the exclusivity part I thought, no.... don't think that's going to happen for me!
    In South Africa, Kindles are still not a big thing, but everyone knows what an iPad and iPhone are. In this country I'm more likely to get customers reading on those devices, so I won't be limiting my work to Amazon.

  33. It's always the small print that gets you and who wants to belong to a monopoly. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  34. I did notice that and it worried me to be exclusive to Amazon.

  35. I'm sure glad there are sources out there to warn writers of these not so shiny deals.

  36. I have a Nook, so would hate not to be able to buy my own book.

    Smashwords is such a great resource, too. I'd hate to give that up.

    So, I have not opted into Amazon Select and doubt I will. It's dangerous, I think, to give one outlet that much power. We need choices & competition. It's best for us.