Indie Authors Have Some Hard Choices To Make

by Neeks

It’s hard enough these days to decided how to publish.  But those that decide to go the self-publishing route now have one more option to look at: KDP Select.  According to marketwatch.com, and in their words; “Amazon.com, Inc. announced yesterday that KDP Select, a new option featuring a $6 million annual fund dedicated to independent authors and publishers.  Here’s how KDP Select works: if a KDP author or publisher chooses to make any of their books exclusive to the Kindle Store for at least 90 days, those books are eligible to be included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and can earn a share of the $6 million fund.

Authors and publishers can enroll a single book, their whole catalog or anything in between.  The monthly fund for December 2011 is $500,000.  KDP Select launches today, and 31 of the top 50 KDP authors have already enrolled 129 titles.  These authors include J. Carson Black, Gemma Halliday, J.A. Konrath, B.V. Larson, C.J. Lyons, Scott Nicholson, Julie Ortolon, Theresa Ragan, J.R. Rain and Patricia Ryan.”

Indie authors need to be careful about where they choose to e-publish. Here is a very informed article about the new KDP Select (Kindle Direct Platform) by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords.  Amazon Shows Predatory Spots With KDP Select. Granted, it’s by one of the competitors, but he brings up some important points, and I quote:

Terms and Conditions

1. For the time your book is enrolled in the program, you cannot distribute or sell your book anywhere else. Not Apple, not Barnes & Noble, not Smashwords, not Kobo, not Sony, not even your own personal blog or web site. Your title must be 100% exclusive to Amazon.

2. If you violate their exclusivity terms at any point during the three-month enrollment period, or you unpublish your book to remove it from the program so you can distribute your book elsewhere, you risk forfeited earnings, delayed payments, a lien on future earnings, or you may get kicked out of the Kindle Direct Publishing program altogether.

3. Your enrollment, and thus your liability to Amazon, automatically renews every three months if you neglect to opt out.

– – – – – – – – – –

What does this mean for the author? Well, unless already well-established (read “big seller”) at Amazon, it means drastically reduced marketing options for your book. Yes, you can opt out after three months, then re-list your work at Smashwords, or Barnes and Noble, etc. – but after three months of being gone your book will have lost any rank it previously held with those other publishers, reducing the overall possibility of it ever seen by customers. I suppose one option might be to list it at Amazon for the three-month period and then opt out, leaving you free to promote it at other sites.  In the life of a book, three months really isn’t that long a time.  Six million dollars in 2012?  There are plenty of authors opting in too.

Most of the Indie authors I know aren’t going the self-publishing route by choice – it’s the only way for them to get their books out there.  It sounds reasonable that they would then want to list their books in as many places as possible, in order to increase visibility.  They have their books listed at Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Amazon and other places too.  If they want to put a book into the KDP Select they would have to take the book down from all the other sites first.  KDP is exclusive.

There are a lot of comments after the article, and I believe it would be worth your time to read them. There are lots of compelling pro’s and cons.  Have any of you ever self-published? What’s your take on this?

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16 Responses to “Indie Authors Have Some Hard Choices To Make”

  1. I see this as a very cynical ploy by Amazon to corner even more of the market. Let’s be blunt here: if you’re an unknown indie writer, you’re not going to sell many books, but you can take comfort from knowing that you’ve done your level best to get your book out and visible in as many places as possible. With Amazon’s striaght-jacket Select, you’re not going to see any of that 6 mil – because that’s going to the big-hitters, same as always – and after the 3 months you’ll be fraught with indecision at which way to turn next. Maybe for new writers with a new book it MIGHT be an idea to try it to confirm that Select won’t earn you anything, but the sales pitch to current indie writers defies belief: spend hours deleting your books and undoing all your hard work for a minisclue chance of being lucky and getting a couple of dollars. I would never recommend to any indie to act negatively and reduce the visibility of your work.

    I’ve got a better idea: buy a lottery ticket. The financial result will be the same and you won’t reduce your visibility.

  2. I’ve published two books on Smashwords — by choice, not because I tried to get a publisher and failed or even wanted to. I guess we read different blogs, because most of the indies I know about also publish by choice, because they want to maintain control of their work. And the majority of them, like the ones you mention, aren’t about to sign onto this gamble. What will be interesting is when the ones that do sign on with Amazon’s new program start reporting back.

  3. Thanks for this article. I need all the info I can get as I get closer to a publishable manuscript.

  4. I hadn’t even heard of KDP yet. Thanks for bringing this up. Just makes me more confused. 😀

    I also can see Chris and Catana’s point. I think self-publishing is a really great way to keep control over your work. And deleting your books from every other site? That sounds… well it sounds bad, especially if you have a rapport on that site.

    I don’t know what I think of this, exactly.

  5. Chris, after 3 months you are free to opt out and then go ahead and list your book with any other site as you would have on day one. No indecision necessary because the choices are still the same. However. I believe I would want to list my book in as many places as possible at the outset, including my blog and the local paper and anything else I could think of. KDP will prevent that.

    Catana, straight up, I’ve never published a book. But if a major publishing house Was interested in publishing and distributing something I wrote it would be pretty hard to turn down. Can you explain what you mean by maintaining control? Because I haven’t done it, I don’t understand what you lose.

    • Neeks, I’d have no problem at all turning down a contract. Terms for authors are very unfavorable these days, unless you have a potential bestseller.

      Not every indie author defines control the same way, but it generally means being able to keep your book out there as long as you want instead of having it go out of print or having the ebook withdrawn by the publisher. It means setting a price that people are willing to pay instead of an inflated price that has to cover the publisher’s expenses. It means not having to revise a book to suit the publisher’s idea of what the public will pay for. It means keeping most of the money for yourself, not having to settle for crappy covers, or depending on most publisher’s non-existent promotional efforts. And more.

  6. I had no idea that the publishing houses would limit the amount of time a book is available. Withdrawing an ebook seems kind of senseless, I mean, it’s an electronic file, right? What room is it taking up anywhere? I agree about the inflated prices too, that’s bad! No two ways about it, the business isn’t what it used to be.
    Ottabelle, you are right this is confusing, and the more I get into it, discouraging as well.

  7. Very informative post, Neeks. And I’m learning more as the thread goes on. This whole publishing question has me tearing my hair out, that’s for sure. But it’s helpful to have this info regardless. Thanks!

  8. Neeks,
    I think there is, or will be, indecision. Amazon’s sales pitch with this leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Let’s say after the three months I’ve got royalites of $100? I’ll wonder if I won’t have got more with my book available in other places. Should I then hang on in case my book does better in the next three months?

    What you can absoultely bet on with this is that after the first three months, Amazon will wheel out one or two lucky indie writers who’ve made a fortune with them – “Look!” Amazon will say, “See this guy here? Three months ago he was a strugging indie, just like you, and now he’s famous thanks to KDP Select. The next one could be you!”

    Only problem is, like in a lottery, it won’t be you. Meanwhile Amazon keeps your content exclusive.

    I have two full-length novels published* on just about as many places as possible and the reason is simple. Imagine two people, very good friends. One says to the other: “Hey, I’ve just read this really great book on my Kindle, it’s called X and it’s by Y.” But the friend has only an i-phone. He trusts the friend’s judgement, wants to buy the book, but when he looks in the i-bookstore, it’s not there. Amazon’s only objective with this can be to attempt to control content, that’s all there is to it. I wouldn’t let them.

    *Disclaimer: I have sold less than 100 copies of my books on all platforms, so in fact I may not have a clue what I’m talkng about 🙂

  9. This is a great post Neeks, bringing up some interesting points regarding self publishing. I have to admit, as I haven’t actually gone down the publishing route, I had to read this a couple of times to make sure I got my head round it all. It does seem a bit crazy to limit your options like that, I mean not even being able to put it on your own blog? If it was me I would want to put it everywhere I could!

    I really am not the best person to be commenting on this as I haven’t published before, but for me I would feel like I was trapped by their exclusivity. Or would I be worrying too much?

  10. I don’t think I would want to do it either. But. Keep in mind, that we now have to question our decision no matter what it is. Should I have gone with a varied platform? What would I have sold had I gone with KDP? Can I definitively say that I would have sold only ten copies so whew, it’s a good thing I went with the varied platform? The indecision isn’t exclusive to KDP.
    One thing we need to find out is that if, after the three months, we decide to pull our books from the lending library, is it still listed with the normal Kindle Store? Does it lose any rank? I’m unable to determine that from Amazons Terms and Conditions page (All of this applies only to the digital form of your book too, you are still free to promote and sell the written work).

    The way I see it, it’s already a lottery. Who is going to hit it big next, will it be me, you? In the end what will count, picking the right publisher, having a niche, cover art, marketing – or is it just the blind luck of a lottery? Who is going to see that book and who are they going to tell about it?

  11. Eek. Yeah, I guess it’s good if you’e self publishing some things and want to go at the same time… or something. Anyway, I’m sure there’s a method that could capitalize this, but I’m not sure what it is! Possibly completely unknown authors. In any case, time will tell how this is going to do.

  12. The more I hear about the whole self publishing thing the more confused I get. I used to think people only self published if they couldn’t get a publishing deal but now I realise that there is far more to it than that. I have been reading up on the subject for a few months and it seems to me that self publishing is a very appealing option in many ways. There is far more authorial control and although you would have to do all the publicity and marketing for yourself it appears that that’s becoming more of a normal state of affairs even if you’re signed to a big publishing house these days. If I did choose this route, however, I would be very hesitant indeed to limit myself to one option. I can’t see how it can make any kind of sense at all. If you have a product to sell you need to get it out there and push it on every available marketplace. You can still sell it on Kindle, but exclusively? I don’t think so. Too many other places that could result in more sales, surely? I do shop on Amazon a lot and I have asked Santa for a Kindle myself! Still, Amazon does worry me. It seems to crave exclusivity in everything and is beating off the opposition with a big stick. I can’t tell other authors what to do and wouldn’t want to. Everyone has to make up their own mind. For me, however, I wouldn’t sign up to KDP. I was always taught not to put all my eggs in one basket and Amazon is a bit of a basket sometimes!

  13. Wow…if 5k authors sign up, which is very likely, that’s only $100 per author, if equal sales about. If you’re on the low end of that, you may get only a few dollars.

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