Amazon.com announced the Kindle Direct Publishers Select program on December 8th; at least, that was when I got the email. The email itself is typical KDP email, bland and featureless but the message it delivers sounds enticing. Let’s examine it in a little more detail.
On the face of the offer, you get to promote your book on Amazon.com for free for an unlimited number of 5 day periods throughout the time your book is enrolled in the KDP Select program.
Your book gets a share in a fund allocated by Amazon.com for all Select participants. At the end of each month, your royalties equal a percentage of the fund based on how many times your book was borrowed while enrolled in the KDP select program. (Note that your book is automatically listed in the Kindle Lending Library for the period in which your book is enrolled in the program.)
It sounds like sure money and exposure, but is it really?
Amazon.com requires your eBook to be listed exclusively with them and no where else on the internet. That means, you remove it from your blog and any other distribution websites and blogs where you have it listed.
Imagine if your eBook was being promoted through a network of blogs and websites and imagine that you miss one listing. What then happens to your commitment to the KDP Select program then? Amazon.com can delay payment of royalties on all your books listed with Amazon.com. Further, they could require you to repay them any royalties they have already paid you as well as prohibit you from participating in Kindle Direct Publishing program on a whole.
Exclusivity also means that if you are accustomed to being listed in Apple, Nook, Kobo, Sony or other book stores, you lose that exposure and access to those markets, as well as their potential income. That, of course, compared to a projection of how much money you stand to make off the KDP Select program would be something each individual author would need to calculate for themselves.
And let’s not forget the anti-competitiveness feel of the whole deal. It seems rather shortsighted to cast all your lot in with Amazon.com alone. What happens to your eBook if it is rejected or even banned? You’ll have to begin again with promotion and marketing. And to possibly complicate the issue, battling a bruised reputation borne out of withdrawing from competitor websites.
The Lending Library
Participation in the KDP Select program means your book, while still listed for sale, will also be listed in the Kindle Lending Library; that gives each Amazon Prime member the opportunity to borrow your book for free once a month. Your share of the fund is determined by the number of times your book is borrowed for the month.
“Your share will be calculated as the number of times that the Digital Book has been borrowed during the month as a percentage of the number of times all KDP Digital Books have been borrowed, multiplied by the fund amount we establish for that month. This share is your total Royalty for borrows of that Digital Book through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Program. For example, if the fund for a particular month is $500,000, your Digital Book is borrowed 1,500 times, and all participating Digital Books are cumulatively borrowed 100,000 times, your Digital Book will earn $7,500 ($500,000 x 1,500/100,000 = $7,500).” (KDP Select Terms and Conditions)
$7,500 sounds like a nice windfall, but that is assuming your book gets borrowed 1,500 times in a month. Be aware that each Amazon.com customer can only borrow one book per month. So that 1,500 borrows means 1,500 people have to see your book and borrow it within a month.
It’s a program that seems lucrative and hard to resist on the surface, but when you dig deeper into the terms and conditions, you realize there are a few aspects of that could turn out to be your detriment in the long run and frankly, I am a little wary. It sounds suspiciously like Amazon.com is trying to control the market and even so, the benefits are wonderful only as long as a number of prerequisites are met.
As a Kindle owner myself, I’ve come across about five eBooks that are in the Kindle Lending Library since it was launched. I have borrowed one and noted one other as a possible borrow in future. And while my personal experience doesn’t reflect the wider community, it does cause me to wonder just how much exposure the Lending Library is going to give authors.
Without seeing figures, I can only speculate whether the program is actually going to prove rewarding or not; but what I can say is that jumping on the band wagon without examining the details thoroughly would be shortsighted.
Rather I would suggest, as others have done repeatedly since the launch of KDP Select, that each person considering this program do their homework thoroughly. Read the terms and conditions thoroughly and be sure you understand what it all means for you.
Ask yourself the following questions:
What slice of income are you losing by removing your eBooks from other bookstores?
Just how much exposure do you get from Amazon now?
How likely is that exposure to increase being included in the Lending Library?
Think long and hard about giving over complete control to Amazon.com for the distribution of your eBook and whether that is something you want to do.
And if you do decide to opt-in, be completely sure that you can access all the listings for your eBook elsewhere on the web and be able to remove them before enrolling in KDP Select.
Finally, remember that you must opt out of the KDP Select program yourself because any eBook you enroll in the program will auto-renew its participation at the end of each 90 day period.