adieuParting is such sweet sorrow it is said, but I tend to believe that a little bitterness and spite is usually more likely to be involved, and from what I can tell, I think I’m receiving doses of these right now.

One year ago I joined Amazon’s KDP Select program, and although not an unsuccessful year, I decided to exit the program in October and return to non-exclusive publishing. There were a number of reasons for this, but mainly because I felt uncomfortable with one publishing platform having exclusive rights to my books and in doing so, it went against what I believe being an independent author and self-publisher represents.

So with my decision made, I unticked all the boxes on KDP on 25th October and removed all of my books from the KDP Select Program and readied myself to wait until each book had ended its three month term and then set about publishing on other platforms, in addition of course to keeping all my ebooks on Kindle under their standard KDP model.

But then something strange happened.

For the last two years my ebooks have sold steadily on Kindle. Not in the volume of top 100 books, but always a few copies at least each day with some days better than others. This was the case with Kindle before I entered KDP Select and also during my year in the program.

But since the 25th October, when I clicked those little boxes, my daily sales on Kindle now average almost zero. I say almost zero as Kindle have in fact reported that I have sold one ebook sold since 25th October. ONE!

As with anything that Amazon do, it is always a secret and asking them a question never results in receiving an answer. Only a copy and pasted message telling you to read their terms of use. So all I can do is speculate about what has happened.

So here is my wild speculation based on my simplistic anecdotal evidence.

When you leave Amazon’s KDP Select Program, expect to be punished for doing so and forfeit any Amazon cross promotion of your books. Expect your books to disappear from ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought’ and from Amazon promotional emails. Expect your books to fall in ranking overnight as if shot by a torpedo, as happened to mine. One book went from a mid 20,000 ranking to 300,000+ in two days. Expect to be given a little dose of bitterness and spite when you leave. But don’t ever expect to know why. It’s all a secret.

It seems to me that Amazon have taken the attitude that you’re either with us or against us, which was a quote that related to a war. So it’s apt. Amazon are fighting a war, and I seem to have received a shot across my bow, warning of the consequences of my leaving their exclusive program.

Of course I could be imaging all this, and my sudden drought of any Kindle ebook sales, (well, bar one copy in over two weeks) could simply be a result of me losing popularity instantly on the night of 25th October and that readers have just had enough of me from that exact date. Yes, that’s probably the most logical reason, now isn’t it?

Amazon – You’re With Us Or Against Us?
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20 thoughts on “Amazon – You’re With Us Or Against Us?

  • 08/11/2012 at 2:20 pm
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    Interesting. I never thought it through that far but my stats look the same a yours – zero sales after I removed my books from KDP Select. It certainly makes me wonder. Couple that with the disappearing reviews and it looks even worse.

    • 08/11/2012 at 2:38 pm
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      Thanks for confirming that I’m not alone Yvonne. It’s still very odd though, isn’t it?

  • 08/11/2012 at 5:23 pm
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    I have no doubt the effect is real, but I think it might just be a simple loss of visibility from no longer being in the lending library. I’m sure some customers rely on that listing even when they’ve used their borrows for a month. I pulled ‘The Black Ships’ at roughly the same time that you were pulling some of your titles and I also saw a dip in sales, starting the very next day. I figure it’s because it’s no longer in the lending library. The only saving grace may be the fact that the second book in the series is still in there, so folks see it and decide to pick up the first one.

    I’ll be putting that second book into Smashwords next month, so maybe I’ll see if another drop happens. I have a novella that ties into the series that I could enroll to test my theory.

    • 09/11/2012 at 10:27 pm
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      Hmmm… Woke up this morning to find an email from Amazon recommending some SF titles. Right there at the top was ‘The Black Ships’ which I had pulled out of select a few weeks ago. It certainly wasn’t tailored to match my personal shopping habits because I’ve already purchased the book in order to check the formatting on my kindle, which would have eliminated it from the email – why recommend a book I’ve already bought?

      We’ve both seen a drop just after pulling books but it may just be the slowdown that has the KDP boards buzzing. It could also include a small loss of visibility effect from leaving the lending library which I’m sure might lure some authors back into the fold.

      With Apple moving into more markets, it’s certainly time to get our work back into the iBookstore.

  • 08/11/2012 at 6:32 pm
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    Wow. Just. Wow. I suspected this when my book sales stopped dead when I took them all off KDP Select, but I haven’t seen anybody voice this before. Scary, scary stuff.

  • 08/11/2012 at 7:11 pm
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    I did KDP Select this spring, when I released my novel. I let it run its 90 days, then made it available elsewhere. My sales petered out by fall and I figured I’d try KDP Select again, because I half suspected the flip side of Derek’s theory: That going on KDP Select would boost my visibility within Amazon. Alas, this has not seemed to happen. When my 90 days runs out this time I will probably never again try KDP Select.

  • 08/11/2012 at 7:18 pm
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    I’ve never been in Select. But I too experienced a nosedive in sales from mid-September. Now to be fair, I was around in Sep 2011 too, and both years there was a drop-off at the end of the summer. But this year’s fall was spectacular!

    Sales picked up again in Jan 2012, so I’m waiting to see if the same happens again in early 2013.

  • 08/11/2012 at 7:33 pm
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    This isn’t my experience. In fact over the last couple of days Amazon have recommended 4 of my books to me, all of which have previously been on KDP Select! I now have some books on Select and some not – I haven’t discerned a difference in sales between them.

  • 08/11/2012 at 8:12 pm
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    This is interesting. I had unchecked the ‘automatically re-enroll’ box even before I ran my free promo this week; currently, my book is not showing up in the ‘Customers who bought this also bought’ section …

    For experimental purposes, I’ve re-checked the box and will now see what happens.

  • 09/11/2012 at 1:30 pm
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    Thanks for the warning, Derek! I unticked the automatic re-enrol box a few days ago and doubt I will ever use it again. I can’t see any benefits to the KDP Select programme. It seems we’ve been conned into promoting the Kindle with our inclusion in the lending library.

  • 09/11/2012 at 3:16 pm
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    There’s no doubt that Amazon is pushing Select very heavily, but the drop in sales might have other causes than Amazon “punishing” dropouts. As Andrew Claymore said, the books may now be less visible. More important, the last couple of months have been bad for a lot of people, who experienced unusual drops in sales, starting in September. My books have never been in Select, but have been toddling along with modest sales. October dropped into the worst month I’ve ever had, and November is shaping up the same way, so far. Possible reasons: the presidential circus, and people waiting and/or saving for the holidays.

    As always, it’s guesswork, and it’s easy to lay all the problems on Amazon’s shoulders.

    • 09/11/2012 at 3:41 pm
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      I agree with you Catana. It’s impossible to know what caused the sudden drought of sales in my case, but one thing is for sure. It happened overnight, and precisely at the time I un-enrolled all of my books from Select. The only added information I have now is that it has only affected sales from Amazon US, as my Amazon UK sales are still going along quite normally.

      As with all things Amazon, there is no way to know, but as my sales were very steady from January through to 26th October, I just must say that I have a feeling in my bones about this.

  • 09/11/2012 at 6:18 pm
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    Your post and all the comments interested me greatly. I have never been on Kindle Select and sales of my four titles have never been brisk. November has been nothing so far. I have never seen my books promoted in any way by Kindle. I wish I had a magic bullet. Maybe some of my books are just too long or too literary in tone, or maybe the subject matter doesn’t appeal! It should, though! People don’t know what they are missing! (And I’m sorry to have to say, Derek – putting one of them on Whizbuzz netted me nothing apart from blog views, which I’m grateful for, of course.)

  • 10/11/2012 at 10:58 am
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    I’m not finding the same. I withdrew all but one of our books from Select a while ago. October was brilliant for us with A Vested Interest book 1 constantly in the top 10 technothrillers in the US. The one book in Select – Blood of the Rainbow, by my wife, Shelia Chapman has had really rotten sales but it does appear to have brought new readers to the other books. That’s why I left it there. UK sales are dire though – can’t figure what went wrong there.

    I’ve been watching the sales figures carefully for the last month and have reached the conclusion that Amazon’s sales rankings and sales figures bear little relationship to each other. Why, for instance would a book which has had no sales suddenly shoot up 20,000 places in the rankings? Why also would two books with identical sales and prices have widely different rankings? One thing I have noticed is that where two books have identical sales the more expensive one gets a better ranking.

  • 11/11/2012 at 8:23 am
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    I’ve never been in at kdp select because for that request for exclusivity.

    But my sales dropped in an abyss by the end of September.. An experience shared with many other German authors.
    Now that you worte this post I had a look and found, that my books aren”t any longer in some “bought-also”-loops, they’ve been since a year or so.
    This is particularly true for amazon.de, where, in addidtion to select, the lending library has been installed recently
    So now I think: Amazon has changed its algorythm, punishing *all books”that aren’t exclusive.

    We, who want to serve all potentialreaders, even those without a Kindle, are considered second class by Amazon.Makes sense to me.

    Well then, I go fprward and push promotions for Kobo, iTunes and the other places.

    • 12/11/2012 at 8:52 am
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      I think you maybe right Annemarie. Amazon have made it clear in the past that they want to dominate the ebook market, and with KDP Select and it’s exclusivity clause, it’s intentions were clear. Whether they are punishing those who exit the program now is impossible to say, but I for one am very happy to be out and back to offering my books to all readers, and not just those who happen to own a Kindle.

  • 11/11/2012 at 9:57 pm
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    Thank you, Derek for a very interesting post… and thank you to all of you who added comments. It definitely makes you (or should I say, me) wonder. Will definitely keep my eyes wide open concerning this subject… Thank you.

    Best wishes,
    Bellanda

    • 12/11/2012 at 8:38 am
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      Very happy to see you on my blog Bellanda. :))

      Oddly enough, since I posted this article, I still have yet to see one single book on the US Kindle store since late October. But, I have sold books on the UK and FR stores. Really odd. The other strange happening is that one book I have for free on the US store (free due to Amazon’s price matching) is being downloaded at its normal rate of about 250 per month.

      But as there is no way of finding out why this is happening, I can only speculate that Amazon US are not happy with my move out of KDP Select and have put me in the ‘sin bin’ for a while. :))

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