SmashwordsAfter almost a year, I’ve decided to end my enrolment in Amazon’s KDP Select Program and return to publishing with Smashwords and perhaps other publishers. The reasons are many, but at the top of the list is the requirement of exclusivity by Amazon. Although Amazon offered Prime Lending and Free Book Promotion in return, neither really created the volume of sales that made exclusivity anywhere near worthwhile.

Another reason is the change Amazon made to their weighting of free ebooks during promotion days, which reduced the benefit of giving books away. Additionally, Kindle free book promotion has become a new industry with literally hundreds of sites benefitting from authors giving their books away for free. Some even ask for payment to promote titles. While in the early months I gained some sales ‘bounce’ after a promotion by giving away say 5,000 copies, in recent months I found I could only achieve this same ‘bounce’ with heavy promotion via external sites for these free days and hopefully gaining 15,000 downloads. Spending this much time and energy on giving books away is just plain silly, when my focus should surely be on marketing and promoting my books for sale.

The Prime Lending Program was also disappointing for me as it became clear that it was only my more expensive titles that were being borrowed. As my royalty averaged about $2.00 for a borrowed title that had a list price of $6.99, it meant a loss of about $2.50 in royalty for me on each unit. Titles priced at $2.99 or lower were hardly ever borrowed and as most of my titles are at around this price, I saw little benefit from Prime Lending income.

There was another element of Amazon exclusivity that I began to understand was a negative but only after quite a few months. It was that the vast majority of my book reviews were naturally appearing on Amazon only. While this was of course logical, I have become increasingly wary of Amazon reviews and the lack of control that Amazon use in monitoring their reviewers. It takes just a quick Google Search to discover that paid Amazon reviews have become a lucrative industry with offers to post 5 star reviews, positive comments on negative reviews, and even to post negative reviews on competitive items. While I can’t avoid this, I believe other book sites and retailers may offer some balance in book reviews I may receive in the future.

While I know Amazon will probably stay my main income stream for book sales for some time yet, I do like the fact that Smashwords pay on global sales and don’t divide royalties by geography. It is a very annoying part of Amazon’s royalty payments system that payments are made by ‘store’. This means I receive separate monthly cheques from US and UK, (because Amazon do not offer EFT to me here in Switzerland), but I do get EFT payments from sales in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. But all separately.

Another reason to return to Smashwords is that because of my location, I cannot publish to a number of sites because they are only available to US residents. Barnes and Noble being notable in this regard. With Smashwords, their distribution offers the widest possible network of ebook retailers for me.

It will take some months for all my books to exit KDP Select, but during this time I will be able to prepare all my titles ready for publishing on Smashwords again and take the opportunity to check each and every base file and improve the quality of my books. While it will be a long process and a lot of hard work, I am looking forward to returning to Smashwords and to having my books available again on iPads and Nooks or whatever e-reading device or platform readers use.

Back To Smashwords After KDP Select
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21 thoughts on “Back To Smashwords After KDP Select

  • 11/10/2012 at 11:26 pm

    Hi Derek!

    Mate, this is good news, I’m really happy to hear this. Going exclusive with one retailer makes no sense in a global market, regardless of how big they are. It makes even less sense when you take into account the lifespan of the product you are selling. :-)

    Kind regards,

    • 13/10/2012 at 8:35 pm

      It was an experiment Steve. I didn’t just give KDP Select a few months as some have done, but after nearly a year and seeing how diluted the benefits originally offered became, it was a ‘no brainer’ to revert back to multi channel distribution. It is worth saying that in the early months KDP Select did deliver. But it seems Amazon fell out of love with those who feed them.

  • 12/10/2012 at 12:46 pm

    Well Derek, what can I say, except that Smashwords rules. Yep, I’m pretty crazy about them. I feel like a valued customer when dealing with them, and if I have a query, it gets resolved quickly. And I love it that my books are being bought all around the globe from the many different retailers in the Smashwords distribution network. And yes, I love the paypal bit most of all.
    I dipped my toes in the water with Kindle Select with a novella that I wrote especially for Kindle, but have to admit that I counted the days until my ninety days were up. I didn’t enjoy the experience, and I felt embarrassed when I had to explain to prospective readers that they could get that particular title from Kindle only.
    I agree with Steve that it makes no sense to go exclusive with one retailer in the global market.

    • 13/10/2012 at 8:40 pm

      My plan was always to return to Smashwords Niki. As I’ve commented before, the benefits with KDP Select diminished after the first four or five months. The other reason I’m changing back to Smashwords is to get away from the Amazon review ‘trolls’, who infest the free book promotion feature of KDP Select.

  • 12/10/2012 at 7:13 pm

    The freebies reach readers that you wouldn’t otherwise, and that can sometimes be a bad thing. Some, reading outside of their comfort zone, will take it out on you with nasty reviews. They don’t bother with reading the blurb on the freebie, and then give you a low review, citing plot elements that are actually described on the product page, just inches away on the same screen.

    • 13/10/2012 at 8:55 pm

      One of the reasons I am leaving KDP Select Andrew is because of the ‘free ebook trolls’. They really are becoming a damn pain. I hope for more intelligent remarks from readers on other platforms.

  • 12/10/2012 at 10:15 pm

    This is interesting news Derek. I have avoided the Select programme simply because it tied my hands with other formats. I had thought long and hard about the route for getting E-Pub into retailers, Apple being my main goal. For the reason of having to approach each store on an individual basis, I went for Smashwords ( but opted out of Kindle distribution – when it comes).
    The result is that all my books are in the Premium Catalogue having passed both automatic and manual vetting and to my great joy have all passed Apple’s own manual vetting for inclusion in the iBookstore.
    So with one upload I am appearing in major e-retailers worldwide and growing. In addition there is a distribution to the Axis Library programme. The royalty as you say, is global and easy to follow. With a major UK bookseller starting to stock Kindle plus planned Wi-Fi in-store download and technical help, with Barnes and Noble coming into the UK in a big way with major retailers and bookstores to stock them and download from the B&N UK e-store and with another UK bookseller already using Kobo as their e-store, I find that my titles are available in a quite painless way. Smashwords have done all the distribution for me.

    I had recently toyed with the idea of published short stories and putting them through the Select programme but, on balance and with your comments, will stay with my tried and tested strategy which also allows me to publish in Adobe Digital Editions *pdf worldwide.
    I enjoy your blogs and balanced views.
    Rosalie Marsh

    • 13/10/2012 at 8:53 pm

      There have been a few changes in the market since I started my time with KDP Select Rosalie, and I’ve been particularly interested in what B&N and Kobo have been doing. While KDP started out well, it lost its gloss after a few months. I persevered in the hope Amazon would rectify the situation, but unfortunately they didn’t. I’m now looking forward to returning to full availability on all platforms of my books over the coming months.

  • 13/10/2012 at 1:50 pm

    I’m working with these guys for several years now. No hassles, satisfactory sales and great personal service.

  • 13/10/2012 at 9:00 pm

    I’ve enrolled both my books in the Select program, but I only ever intended to have them there for the 90 days. As a new author, I know I need to get in front of readers. Also, I have a sequel coming out in a week or two for my first book, published in July. My hope is that the people who took advantage of the borrow or the free downloads will want to buy the sequel. In theory that should work!

    I’ve never used Smashwords. I only had the books on Amazon and B&N. I did get the second book approved by iBooks, but it took so long that I decided to do KDP Select in the meantime, so I didn’t list it for sale there (yet). I’m a huge Apple fan, but I think their whole book uploading and approval process is WAY behind the others.

    • 13/10/2012 at 9:07 pm

      Save yourself all the bother Jennings and publish via Smashwords. You have all the major retailers and distributors covered in on go. Even libraries.

    • 17/10/2012 at 4:40 pm
      Permalink lists to B&N as well as iTunes store for iBook. One stop publishing to get your book out there.
      Of course your book is listed on the smashwords site as well. Worth looking at.

  • 13/10/2012 at 10:07 pm

    I self published my first ebook on booktango – which is similar to smashwords. They distribute to the major retailers, including amazon, and the author keeps 100% of net…

    I think booktango is going after the inexperienced writer, and providing more of a basic – user friendly publishing process.

    They are a little slow – it took about 3 weeks to be online everywhere, but I seemed to work fine…

  • 17/10/2012 at 3:45 pm

    Derek, I have recently stopped using KDP Select for the same reasons you mentioned. I think the advantage of offering free books has shifted considerably. Last year in the early spring when I offered one of my books free I had over 30,000 downloads, that then led to several months of really good sales. This year, I only had about 3,000 downloads when I offered the book free, and sales after that have been dismal. I really think it is time that we move on to some other way of stimulating sales.

    • 17/10/2012 at 4:07 pm

      I saw exactly the same pattern as you experienced Maryann and I think Amazon had a sudden change of heart after the first few months.

      One other small thing I have noticed since I clicked ‘off’ the KDP enrolment tick box for all my books is that sales have reduced over the two weeks since. It may just be that it’s a natural up and down in my book sales, but I’m left with just a little suspicion that it may be a small Amazon algorithm at work that is reducing exposure to my books in the ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought’ section.

      Only a paranoid little suspicion though. :)

  • 17/10/2012 at 4:56 pm

    Hi Derek
    I have all three of my books with KDP and have been thinking of publishing the next one through Smashwords so it can sell in the different markets. The only time I’ve seen one of my books in the ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought’ section.” is when I’m viewing one of my other books. I was under the impression that when we enrolled in KDP and had our books exclusively with Amazon, that Amazon would help market and advertise our books and that is something I haven’t seen, until today that is. I receive email updates from Amazon for new releases or books I might be interested in and today one of my books was the top one in the email! Yay! But the reason I’m telling you is that , “For The Love Of Sam” is also listed in my email! This is the first time that one of the update emails has had anyone I know listed. Now I’m wondering how many people received the same email as me.

    • 17/10/2012 at 5:00 pm

      Hi Karen. It’s odd, but for some reason I have never received these emails from Amazon. Most of the KDP authors I know do, so I might have been lost in the loop somewhere. lol But nice to know one of my books made it!! :)

  • 18/10/2012 at 3:39 am

    I have now earned over $150,000 as a direct result of KDP Select. That is far more than I’ve EVER earned. And I’ve only ever had one traditionally published title by a crappy publisher that went bankrupt.

    I believe my Select success is a result of figuring out how to leverage my time and promos–something I talk about in my marketing book: HOW I MADE OVER $42,000 IN 1 MONTH SELLING MY KINDLE EBOOKS.

    I currently average about $18,000 a month with Select, and I’m on track to earn over $200K this year–just from Select.

    AND…as a result of my success with KDP Select, Amazon noticed me and put 2 of my titles on special promotions.

    AND…a senior editor at Penguin contacted me to discuss a book deal, which did not pan out, but I have an open invite to contact her again.

    AND…2 literary agents noticed me because of Select, and the chairman of Trident Media. I signed with Adrienne Lombardo at Trident Media as a result.

    None of this would have happened for me this year if I hadn’t enrolled most of my titles in KDP Select. And I’d be back to earning $1200/month instead of $18,000.

    Does Select work?? YES! If you know how to work it. :-)

    Cheryl Kaye Tardif

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