Today someone asked me what I thought about Amazon's new KDP Select program, a program that has an exclusivity clause that prohibits participating authors from selling their ebooks anywhere else. After sending him my thoughts on the matter, I realized something: I had enough for a blog post. So here is my answer to his question of whether I was tempted to enroll and what I thought about the program...
I’m happy to share my thoughts on KDP Select, though I’ll warn you, they’re very “strong”.
First, I think this is a ballsy move on Amazon’s part to try to monopolize the industry. From a business perspective, it’s not necessarily wrong, but they won’t make a lot of people happy.
I am definitely against aspects of this new “program” of Amazon’s, but it's compelling all the same. I think they’re using much higher numbers and authors won’t be too pleased when they realize how little they’ll actually make from it. That’s my prediction anyhow. It sounds good at first glance, sharing a pool of money, but at what cost?
The exclusivity clause is a big red flag for me. Amazon is asking authors to put all their “eggs into one basket.” It’s obvious they’re hoping to weed out other ebook retailers like Smashwords. They want the monopoly. But this is a huge risk for authors who blindly follow Amazon. Once they’re “in” and bound by exclusivity contracts, Amazon can basically do what they want and those authors won’t have any choices. They could raise ebook prices, put ebooks on sale etc.
The automatic renewal poses a serious problem as well. If it isn’t timed properly, authors who do want out will find themselves locked into another term.
I think new authors, especially the very young or very old, may be drawn into this “program” without realizing the full effects and risks. That bothers me. I’ve already seen on forums where authors have blindly signed up, not realizing until it’s too late that they won’t be able to sell anywhere else. It’s amazing how many writers don’t read the fine print—or understand it—or question it.
I don’t think the increased numbers came necessarily from Smashwords. Many writers who dealt with Smashwords and KDP probably thought it was a good idea. Some probably thought it worth checking out or experimenting with. Then again, who’s to say the increase came from authors in this program? Amazon often makes “deals” with publishers and it wouldn’t surprise me if they held back a large number of titles so it would appear that authors are “jumping ship.” Nothing Amazon may do would surprise me.
Amazon is a huge company. There’s no way around that. I have a Kindle and love it. I also have a Kobo. I have friends who have Sony ereaders. With KDP Select in place, readers with Kobo, Nook or Sony ereaders won’t be able to get the same content, unless these ereaders can download a Kindle app, which some don’t.
As for the free ebook option, it’s a short one-time promotion opportunity that probably won’t do much good for the average KDP author. If Amazon allowed unlimited free ebooks, that may draw in more authors. Many would like to offer a free ebook, just to get people interested. But even if they had that as an incentive, it wouldn’t be enough to entice me to cross over to the “dark side”.
What would entice me? If Amazon stopped their greed campaign long enough to remember that authors deserve respect. And KDP Select shows zero respect for authors and their rights by making us sign any kind of exclusivity contract. Amazon needs to learn to play fair. They don’t have to have it all. There’s room for Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks, B&N and more. And readers deserve the choice.
Ok, I’m climbing off my soapbox now...well, you did
For more information on KDP Select, please check out the following:
P.S. Authors: Do NOT enroll your books until you understand all of the risks and conditions.
KDP - K
UPDATE: January 6, 2012
I thought I'd clarify a few things: I still don't agree with the exclusivity clause; I think Amazon should remember that not everyone owns or wants a Kindle ereader. But I AM glad that this exclusivity is short-termed. This allows authors to test the waters. Those who see great results may stay in the program; those who don't will leave.
Anyone who knows me knows that I've always been a risk-taker. I don't shy away from taking the plunge into uncharted waters, but I do my homework and investigate everything carefully. I like to be informed.
I know there are pluses to this program. That's always been a given. If authors are paid more, that's great. If a book makes a top 100 list, and sells thousands as a result of this program, even better.
I never said Amazon was stupid. :-) Though I don't like or agree with their tactics, this program is something to be tested. Since it's a short-term (3 months), there's less risk. My biggest concern is alienating readers who don't own a Kindle. But as an author trying to get my name out there among an overcrowded pool, I've decided I WILL test these waters, but only with one or two of my titles.
Always do your homework and read the fine print. Then if you think it'll work for you, take the risk.