Earlier, I have shared my thoughts about Amazon’s KDP Select program, both concerns and positive experiences, but back then the program was still in the beginning stages. Now, the program has been up and running for 5 months and the negative effects are slowly starting to show, while the positives are on the track back.
My concerns, when Amazon first announced the release of Select, were focused on the requirement of exclusity.
To sum up the KDP Select program, it gives the authors using Kindle Direct Publishing(KDP) the opportunity to enroll their books in Kindle’s Lending Library, allowing Kindle Prime members to borrow their books. Each month all enrolled authors get a share of a monthly fund, depending on how many times their book was borrowed.
It also gives the authors a chance to make their book free for 5 days every 90 days period(A thing authors can freely do on retailer sites like Smashwords), which is a powerful promotion tool.
It all sounds like a great deal, but as with everything else, there is a catch. To enroll in the program, Amazon requires you to agree to sell your book exclusively on Amazon for a period of 90 days. Which means that not only can’t you sell the digital form of your book on places like Barnes and Noble, you can’t even sell it on your own website. To say it simply: Amazon owns you for 3 months.
Being the good little capitalist I am, I balked at the sound of that, but it was completely understandable that many authors didn’t hesitate with signing up for the program. After all, most indie authors have most of their sales(If not all) from Amazon’s Kindle Store and it was no loss for them to take their book down from any other retailer.
And in the first months it did indeed seem like the Select program was a God-sent gift to help indies promote their books. By making their book available for free for a couple of days, many authors(Myself inclusive after I caved) experienced hundreds or even thousands of downloads of their books.
Some might think it’s a self-destructive thing to do if you want to sell your book, but it’s actually a fantastic way to be seen. Not only may someone who download one of your books for free like it enough to actually pay for one of your other books, your freely downloaded title will also be shown in hundreds of places under the “Costumers who bought this also bought:” section that is shown underneath each book. That’s a great way to gain visibility.
In those first months, many saw huge bumps in their paid sales after having run such free promotions, because their book suddenly showed to a lot of new potentiel readers. The program was praised to the skies in the KDP author forum and most swore they would re-enroll after their 90 days were up.
They don’t anymore.
Like with many other things, the program’s success seems to have died down and given backlash. Thousands of authors have made their books free, making the market overflow with free books. So why should readers pay for books when they can get them for free?
Not only has readers had the chance to fill up their Kindle’s with free books, it seems many are actually waiting for particular books to be free, instead of paying to get it immediately. Some authors even experience getting mails from readers, who have downloaded the first book in a series for free, asking if the next book will also be available for free at some time.
Doesn’t bode well, does it?
Many authors have no realized this and are pulling their books out of the program and re-uploading them to other stores. More and more authors on the KDP forums are complaining about their sales having crashed to the ground after the Select program was set into motion, even authors who used to make a living from their books. Books doesn’t seem to be borrowed through the Lending Library too often anymore either. After all, why should Kindle owners pay $79 every year for a Prime Membership that allows them to borrow one free book every month, when all the books are free at some point anyway?
The KDP Select Program might have seemed like a great opportunity in the beginning, but I fear that it has only had negative effects of the market in the end. My hope is that Amazon will soon realize this, and either cancel it or change the details on free downloads to prevent readers to go only for the free books.