KDP-SelectFor many authors, both traditionally published or self-published, the new KDP Select program launched by Amazon recently poses quite a few questions. While there has been a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of the program in the literary blogosphere, the main discussion point has been about the exclusivity that Amazon demand for inclusion.

In my situation I have ten books currently published. Most are available in both paperback and ebook, but a couple are available only in ebook format. However, all of my books are available through all the major online retailers and even some offline retailers who now also sell ebooks. So if I was to sign up with KDP Select, I would have to remove my ebooks from the likes of Apple, B&N, Sony and Smashwords. I would even have to remove my books that I have available from my own websites. Amazon’s idea of exclusivity is total. Under their terms and conditions, I would not even be permitted to offer promotional copies or even sample chapters on my own websites and blogs. Any book promotion I use myself must have a direct link to my book’s page on Amazon.

While this exclusivity sounds very monopolistic, bordering on draconian, there is no denying that Amazon delivers the bulk of my book sales revenue. Certainly not all, but a healthy percentage. So, do I drop all my other revenue streams and give Amazon 100% sales rights to my books?

Well, perhaps. The other side of this coin is a marketing and promotional opportunity. With this program comes 5 days out of every 90 days when you can select to have a book available for free. Is this good I hear some ask? Well, it is not normally possible to offer any book for free on Amazon, and there are times when it makes good sense to have a free book promotion. Firstly it helps a book’s ranking, finds new readers who may well buy other books and it also would work well if you use pricing layers. By this I mean having a book or two at $0.99 and others at say $2.99. Or perhaps a series of books where the first of the series in cheaper and may benefit from some free promotion to attract readers to later, more expensive books in the series.

One more point for me is that Kindle Prime, which is the client base that can access and borrow books available via KDP Select, is very much a US centric program. So what about my readers and potential readers who live outside the US? Well, so long as Amazon is servicing their country, (there are many countries that they are not however) they can still buy my ebooks as opposed to free lending offered by Prime membership.

If they have an iPad, Nook, Sony or any non-Kindle compatible reading device – well, sorry, bad luck.

But lastly, in a press release from Amazon a few days ago, the December 2011 sales data was released stating that each ‘borrow’ of a an ebook earned $1.70! Needless to say that for publishers with $0.99 ebooks on sale this will be very difficult to resist.

‘With the $500,000 December fund, KDP authors have earned $1.70 per borrow.’

So in a ‘toe in the water’ approach, I have published a new updated and revised version of my book ‘Vandalism of Words’. The new title, The Vandal, will only be available on KDP Select so hopefully it will give me some indication of how it all works. Depending on how this book goes, I’ll see if it may be worth adding more of my books to the program.

I’ll keep you posted.




Amazon KDP Select – Yes Or No?
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47 thoughts on “Amazon KDP Select – Yes Or No?

  • 17/01/2012 at 3:10 pm

    I put my 99 cent novella in the lending program. So far, it still sells at a decent rate, and it hasn’t had a single “borrow.” I don’t know what to make of this. We’ll see how it does when it’s free for 5 days.

    • 17/01/2012 at 3:20 pm

      KDP Select will take time to settle I think Diana. From Amazon’s report it would seem borrows were a low percentage against sales in December. It will take a few months to to see how it works out.

  • 17/01/2012 at 3:25 pm

    I’m an indie author and opted for KDP Select on January 1. My first 24-hour free promo generated 6000 downloads. Sales have been stead at about 50 per day ever since. This compares with the 400 total copies of the paperback edition I’ve sold since July. To me, this alone makes it highly worthwhile. Besides, my B&N sales were going nowhere before.

    KDP Select might make the most sense for indie authors like me who have no major bookstore distribution and few other ways to gain such broad exposure, but for everyone, I’d say it’s worth a shot even just for 90 days. If you don’t like it, you can always stop there!

    • 17/01/2012 at 3:28 pm

      That’s great news Sharon. You might just tempt me to add another book or two to KDP!

  • 17/01/2012 at 3:52 pm

    Thanks for this post. I’m in the process of creating an e-book version of my non-fiction book and you’ve really made me consider releasing it on KDP. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  • 18/01/2012 at 3:51 am

    Philosopically, I’m against free books at any time, so that makes the Select program hard for me to swallow. Also, with only one book published so far, I don’t see a spin off to sales for my other books that aren’t published yet. The exclusivity bothers me. And I worry that if all or almost all authors sign up, what happens to publishing, self or traditional?

    I think this Select program holds huge implications and only in hindsight will we know if it was brilliant or a disaster.

  • 18/01/2012 at 5:20 am

    Derek, I’m giving this one a Big ‘Yes”!

    I’m throwing eBooks into the kdp Prime program like logs onto a beach bonfire!
    I have four of my ten titles in the program and so far the results are warming my enthusiasm for the program.

  • 18/01/2012 at 12:15 pm

    I am glad I found time to read this article. I am enrolled in KDP Select and very happy about it. Having spent a lot of money trying to promote my books without getting anywhere, I have found this new platform to be the most effective. The Lending library is good, but i agree with Sharon. The most effective are the free days because they increase visibility.

  • 19/01/2012 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks for presenting a balanced view of KDP, especially for those of us getting closer to the time when we’ll have to make such decisions. This is why we love you

  • 19/01/2012 at 4:47 pm

    Just a follow up on my KDP experiment. One thing is for sure, KDP can certainly give away a lot of books on the selected ‘free’ days. Whether this translates into sales is another thing.

    I have added my book Louis to KDP to see how it performs. As this book has had a good record for making regular sales over a long period on Amazon, I’ll be interested to see if having it enrolled in KDP will make any difference. Louis will be free for three days including today, so I’ll waiting to see how this will affect sales for the following week or two.

    I’ll post again after the free period finishes, with hopefully some real sales data to report.

  • 24/01/2012 at 4:18 am

    Thanks Derek, great KDP info.

    I had 2,054 sales that turned out to be free last December and 8 borrows.
    But then I’m a newbie so readers would be testing my work…I guess.
    The book is set in Australia, Aussie characters and dialogue, (no real ockerism) certainly the tone and humour are typical of Australia, especially with the men in the story. I maybe doing them a disservice, but I’m not sure US readers will understand it that well. I’m locked in with KDP until March 10 and I’ll be looking for an Australian e-book site. If anyone knows of such a place I’d love to here from you.

    • 24/01/2012 at 7:52 am

      Thanks for sharing your info about KDP Select Louise. I’m still astounded at Amazon’s use of English. ‘Free Sales’ just not NOT collocate in my language. Giveaways, lost income or freebies yes but sales?

      I’ll be posting more again later today about KDP Select. I’m yet to be convinced that it is not taking authors for a ride while Amazon make a killing.

  • 24/01/2012 at 5:52 pm

    I don’t believe for a second that the Select program was designed to benefit authors. Amazon is out to make money, so what is their motivation. Free books = more Kindle purchases? Free books = ??

    • 24/01/2012 at 5:55 pm

      My post tonight starts me thinking your formula may well be correct Darlene. A bit early in my experiment, but the number of free books downloaded in the first couple of days was rather staggering.

  • 24/01/2012 at 7:45 pm

    I’m a believer. My publisher offered my first novel, Snarky and Sweet, as a free book on Friday and Saturday. I worked like crazy spreading the word. 14,000 downloads later, my book was in the top twenty free Kindle ebooks.

    Now off the free program, the book is selling well. Hard to say how sales will continue but I’m thrilled with the results. For now, I’m on three bestselling lists and one of them is for books, not just ebooks.

    What a fabulous way to launch a book!

  • 30/01/2012 at 11:29 pm

    Derek, the Amazon KDP program is a no-brainer for me.

    I want people to read my books, and I want my Amazon ranking to increase, oh and I want to make more money as an author. KDP does all three things for me.

    I sold a tiny handful of my books on Apple and Smashwords so it was easy for me to remove them from there and go to KDP.

    In my first day of the KDP promotion there were 1,753 downloads of my book “Creating the Perfect Lifestyle” which took my book to the 150th most popular book on all of Amazon. After the promotion it sold better than before (at $8.97), and is still selling multiple copies a day. Then I get to add $1.70 per borrow – and I am making hundreds of dollars a month MORE than I made before going on KDP.

    I am launching my book “How to be an Amazon #1 Bestseller – and Make Money” in late February where I will be outlining all of the results of my last two years of research on launching an ebook.

    Oli Hille
    Amazon #1 Bestselling Author

    • 30/01/2012 at 11:39 pm


      Congrats! That’s great info. KDP is very easy to use; I’m going to give this a try as a ‘test run’ with some poetry and then make a very serious effort with KDP when it comes to publishing my novel.


  • 03/02/2012 at 5:45 am

    Thank you Tara! My book “How to Become an Amazon #1 Bestselling Author – and Make Money!” is coming out on February 25th.

    If you are interested click in blue above where is says “Oli HIlle”.



  • 03/02/2012 at 2:31 pm

    After another try, I have come to realize that KDP ‘free sales’ does not always produce results. Amazon claims to promote the KDP books on the days of ‘free sales’ but it either doesn’t or there are too many books to promote that many go unnoticed. The first time it worked for me because I told friends to spread the word and get the books for free. The second time I did not advertise. I just wanted to see if Amazon actually does any promotions. Only two books were sold, and one of them was to my friend. So, my earlier post was premature. It seems exciting the first time, but you need to give away thousands of books before you start to realize any money, and even then you don’t know if the actual sales will gain momentum or not. I am not sure if that is the way forward for me, but I can’t speak for everyone.

    • 03/02/2012 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks for your feedback Suzanna.

      I’m still waiting to see what the results are from these ‘free days’. Although I understand the logic as far as promotion is concerned, I’m still skeptical about how free books convert into sales. As yet, I’m unconvinced that this works.

      I’l also concerned about the huge number of websites that are popping up now that use an RSS feed of these free books listed on Amazon each day.

      But I’ll wait until I have concrete sales data from Amazon before I publish a full updated post.

  • 03/02/2012 at 11:03 pm

    Following up on my experience with KOLL and KDP — At the very beginning of this Amazon trek, I joined Shelfari, I got so bamboozled by the whole thing I just put the cover, title and author up. I received an email from them last week asking if all the info was correct, there was a list of character names and place names etc. I went into Shelfari and discovered 17 people have my book to read. As a member I could check out what they were reading besides mine. Some have over 400 books on their shelves TO BE READ. These people must download as many as they can when the free book offer is presented. God only knows when my book will be read and when or if they bother to review it. There is no point to any of this promotion stuff for the author — none whatsoever.

    I’ve sent Author Central an email saying that there should be a limit on how many books a member/reader can download.

    I’ve SOLD (not amazon free sold) 7 books that’s also an issue, I’ll probably never see the royalties for those.

    • 03/02/2012 at 11:18 pm

      Thanks for the info Louise.

      I have been seeing a similar thing to some degree on Goodreads too. What worries me the most though is the sudden increase in websites ‘pushing’ these free books on Amazon KDP by linking an automatic RSS feed from Amazon. This can only promote ‘harvesters’ of free books who just collect free offerings and will rarely bother to read any books.

      It really smells of the ‘well it’s free, I’ll download it’ mentality. Hardly likely to increase real sales.

      I’m still trialling 3 books on KDP Select and while it’s clear the ‘free book days’ make for hundreds of downloads, I am yet to see any measurable increase in real sales. I am also yet to see the mystical ‘borrows’ by Prime members that Amazon keep sprouting about.

      All in all, a less that inspiring experience so far.

  • 03/02/2012 at 11:32 pm

    I’m probably more cynical about it than you are at this stage. And harvesters of free books…I’d probably call it something else. And I don’t suppose it’s in Amazon’s interest to stop that from happening…if they even could.
    I also noticed that on Goodreads. 20 have my book and 8 have read it. And it has been quite a while since someone has has reviewed it since the initial downloads.

  • 04/02/2012 at 2:27 am

    Louise, I firmly believe the Select program is a way for Amazon to make more money at the expense of authors. As I said before – free books= more Kindle sales and the more of those little gadgets they sell, the richer they are.

    I think the Select program is bad for all authors.

  • 04/02/2012 at 2:46 am

    Thanks Darlene,

    Judging by others who have responded, there maybe a lucky few who have benefited from the program. There are thousands of us who haven’t had that privilege.

  • 04/02/2012 at 2:49 am

    Early on I thought the Select program would have huge impact for authors, either being a brilliant strategy or a disaster. Now, I’m thinking it’s a disaster.

  • 08/02/2012 at 9:26 pm

    @Darlene – you are so right! The whole program is in the interest of Amazon, ultimately. Besides, people don’t cherish what they get for free. They hardly read those books, and you may not even get the glowing reviews you were hoping for. I opted in for a few books, but not doing it again, ever!

  • 08/02/2012 at 11:24 pm

    Deborah, thank you for posting your comments. You’ve helped me know that my decision to not opt in is a good one for me.

  • 08/02/2012 at 11:57 pm

    More to my experiences,

    20 readers have my book Finding Veronica on Shelfari. That’s all very nice, the problem is they all have hundreds of free books added to the shelves. One has 1,344 Books To Read. How, if ever, will that person get to read my book, and review. I believe too that many just sit there on the shelves and are never looked at again, because next time there’s a promotion they have thousands more to choose from. Derek called it book harvesting. Their should definitely be a limit on downloads. At the moment there isn’t one, a reader can “harvest” as many as they like.
    Perhaps the authors who had better results already have a following?

  • 09/02/2012 at 12:03 am

    Man, Louise, that’s terrible. When I first published my book on Createspace and Amazon, I thought I had a chance to build a reading audience. Now I think that chance is long gone.

  • 09/02/2012 at 12:45 am

    Never long gone. I’m locked in till March 10 and then I’ll add my work to smashwords etc.

    I still believe in my work, I just have to find an audience. Since my story has typical Australian humour, characters and setting, it may not appeal to a wider audience.
    I don’t know. Australian and UK reviewers have given it 4 and 5 stars. I take heart in those.

  • 09/02/2012 at 2:12 am

    Like you, the people who have read my book really like it. But, how to get more readers????

  • 09/02/2012 at 2:41 am

    Suzanna pointed me to this post, as I’d just posted about KDP Select on my blog. If I may, I’d like to offer a few comments from the perspective of someone who’s now making his entire living from self-publishing novels, and who’s been publishing on the Kindle since early 2008.

    I guess the first thing is managing your expectations about KDP Select or any other program. It’s a tool, and it will work better in some situations than others. It’s also a very codependent tool, in that you need a marketing strategy tied into that or any other type of promotion you do to let people know about your book – and that it’s free.

    And so someone snags your book for free. “I’ve basically just lost a sale” isn’t the right way to look at it: you’ve potentially gained a reader. Sure, somebody may take a while to get to your book, or maybe they’ll never read it. But some sure as heck will. And if they like it, they’re going to come looking for your other books.

    The technical term for this is a “loss leader.” My most useful loss leader has been Empire, the first book of my In Her Name series. I’ve given away over 30,000 copies in the last year, and if I could double or triple that, I would in a heartbeat. Why? Because a lot of people who do wind up reading it go on to buy the others in the series, and take a gander at my other books, too. That’s been a direct factor of putting (and keeping, on and off) every book in the series in the top 100 of the science fiction list, and one of them’s spent a combined total of a few months in the top 10 over the last year.

    That brings us to another issue: if you only have one book, don’t expect to sell a million copies up front. That’s the lottery mindset, and you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Use your first book instead to start building up your readership, so that people will want to read your next book, and the one after that. That’s where you’ll really make your money: you have to take the long view.

    And that means that things take time. I published my first novel in 2008, and in the first month back then it sold 3 copies. Right now it’s selling around 40 copies a day; at its peak, which it’s reached a couple times, it sells over 100 a day.

    When I first put it in Kindle Select, readers grabbed 10,000 copies in two days, and the “updraft” of that when it went back to paid status shot it from a rank of around 12,000 (it had fallen a looong way!) up to a peak of around 280 in the Kindle store. That was over New Year’s, and it’s still hanging in there around 2,500 or so. And guess what? Over Valentine’s Day, I’m going to give it away again.

    “But that didn’t happen with mine!” Okay, but consider this: I’ve been doing this since 2008 (and that doesn’t include the four years I spent writing the first book before Kindle publishing was a possibility), so figure the better part of eight years that I’ve been gaining readers. I now have over 20,000 followers on Twitter and almost 1,500 fans on Facebook. I sold or gave away a total of about 150,000 books last year, which had skyrocketed from maybe a thousand the previous year. And when I do a special like a KDP Select freebie, I leverage social media like crazy to get the word out.

    While you need some luck, success mainly takes time, patience, and perseverance. A lot of people get frustrated because things don’t happen quickly. They don’t see an ever-rising sales trend (reality check: what goes up, even WAY up, will eventually come down). They have a tough time getting reader or blog reviews. They expect programs like KDP Select to explode their sales, when maybe their readership and marketing reach just isn’t quite ready to start translating those freebies into sales.

    Anyway, this author stuff has wheels within wheels, all turning at different speeds. It takes time to get everything meshed and moving in the right direction, and even then it’s sometimes a bumpy ride.

  • 09/02/2012 at 3:28 am

    Congratulations Michael,

    And thank you for your post.
    It’s true, I was hoping for better results. You won’t like it, but I wish Amazon had put a limit on free downloads to make sure their customers at at least read what they have…hopefully. Is there even a time limit…this book you have downloaded for free will be available to you for 2 months, after that, like mission impossible the book will be obliterated….or turned into gobbledygook, numbers, symbols etc.

    I’m working on the last draft of my second book and hope to have it ready by mid March.

    • 09/02/2012 at 4:17 am

      Louise, I suspect that even if Amazon did put that sort of pressure on the reader, the results would be similar to what they are now: some readers will read it right away. Others will read it in a week or month or so. Other readers will toss it into a big pile and will never get to it.

      You see, since the book was free to begin with, it’s not going to matter much to most readers if Amazon zapped it off their Kindle after X amount of time or not. The reader’s not invested in the book, so they’re not going to care. If the reader is someone who just likes to gather and sample freebies, they’ll continue to do so – they maybe just won’t have so much of a TBR pile. But it’s not going to make them read any faster. There will still be a ton of other books out there for them to try.

      Another thing to consider is this: if Amazon felt that such a strategy would help sell more books, they would do it. But they’re not, because loss leaders – when employed as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy – generate greater overall sales.

  • 09/02/2012 at 9:21 am

    Thanks for adding your constructive thoughts to the discussion Michael.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that it takes time, and a lot of hard work to build a presence and a readership.

    This is where I believe some authors have missed the point of KDP Select. As you say, it’s a tool and used well, it could be beneficial. But expecting it to miraculously bring in book sales without building some form of market presence first will only lead to disappointment.

    Giving away free books can work if there is planning and reasoning behind it. Using it to create a loss leader makes good sense. But the key is for it to lead to creating sales for other books.

  • 09/02/2012 at 10:01 am

    If I were borrowing an shook a month it would not be a 99 cent one, but a more expensive shook, so while a $1.70 a borrow sounds great, you have to entice readers to want to borrow your book. Not to say thus may not be a great thing for some authors but I have a larger fan base through Nook so am giving this a miss. Plus the “free for so many days” only goes so far. There have been so many free books the last weeks that I quit even looking at them, let alone downloading. I can only read so much. Good luck though and hope it works for you. :-)

  • 09/02/2012 at 1:43 pm

    Glad you joined us, Michael. I agree that it is a lot of hard work and I agree that most of the people will probably trash the books, but some will read them. I don’t mind if people don’t read my books. I have some friends who bought my books but have never read them because, as they say, they are not readers. I gave books to people who promised to review them but never did. All that is okay because we can’t control what people do. What concerns me is giving away massive amounts of books and not seeing any result in sales. An author friend of mine (who has been successful with KDP Select) told me that maybe my subject matter is the problem. If more people are interested in light romance, they will gravitate towards that instead of my book about modern slavery in a war zone. Maybe we should also consider that the type of book we have written has something to do with the results that we are seeing, regardless of whether people love them after they read them. Just a thought.

  • 09/02/2012 at 4:42 pm

    Suzanna, I think my book (Embattled) would be like yours – they don’t fit in the usual genres that seem to be so popular right now. No vampires, no zombies, no serial killers. I’ve picked up a sample of yours as it intrigues me.

  • 09/02/2012 at 5:07 pm

    Thank you so much, Darlene. Yes, I think we have the same problem. I just read your short summary. Very intriguing. It is my kind of book. I can’t wait to read it. I should be able to get it the first or second week of March. I committed to reading and reviewing three books. I just finished one. I have two more. It takes me two weeks to read a book as I read at night. I am looking forward to reading and reviewing yours. Thank you for telling me about it. I just looked for you on FB, but there are so many people with your name. If you want to, you can send me a request.

    • 13/02/2012 at 8:16 am

      Yes Louise. I’ve read this and a number of other similar reports about the ‘Book War’. It seems to me that self publishing writers along with high profile authors are being asked to ‘choose their team’. And there is clearly only one answer to that.

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