As a new self-published author, there are so many things to learn, research and try. One of the big ones is deciding whether to go exclusive on Amazon or not. This was a tough one for me, and I’m still not sure if I’m doing it right or wrong. It does come down to so many factors, which you must weigh up and, in the end, go with what seems best for you.
On first glance, Amazon exclusivity seems to be the obvious choice. Amazon has the lion’s share of the market in the US, and is quite strong in other regions. But on the other hand, other platforms (such as Apple and Google books) are on the rise, so locking yourself into one platform might not be the smart approach. It really depends on what you want to achieve, and where you expect to get the bulk of your sales from.
My plan from the start was to “go wide” with my distribution. I would publish on Amazon, but I also wanted to be able to be picked up by bookstores and libraries, as well as other book networks. You would normally do this by uploading your MOBI eBook file to Amazon, and then your other formats to other platforms, perhaps using a service like Draft2Digital or Smashwords to aid in global distribution.
As I said, that was my plan, but I messed up with the eBook. I think I got it just right for the paperback, though.
When you publish your eBook on Amazon, you are given the option to opt in to KDP Select. KDP Select is a special Amazon program that grants exclusivity to Amazon for three months at a time. It’s meant to give you access to promotions and supposedly increase the visibility of your book to readers (primarily through its subscription service, Kindle Unlimited). Personally, I don’t think it did much for me, though your mileage may vary. If you write to market – produce a book that is right on trend at the moment – it is likely a great option for you. If you have a bit more of a niche style, then maybe not. Or maybe so. Like I said in the opening paragraph, I still don’t know if I made the right choice!
If you choose to opt in to KDP Select, you’re locked in until the three month period is up. This exclusivity means you cannot publish your book (including making it free or selling it on your website) anywhere else but Amazon. There are some allowances for the purposes of editing and reviewing, so you seem to be able to offer advanced reader copies or review copies, but no one is 100% clear! For this reason, I did not put out a call for reviews, which meant I missed the possibility of having a bunch of reviews lined up for when the book launched. That’s a whole article in itself, so I’ll write something about that later!
The KDP Select promotions available are making your book free temporarily, and doing a price countdown. I thought you’d be able to do both during your KDP Select period but it turns out you can’t – it’s one or the other. Think carefully about which is the best option for you before you commit. I did discover that you can run a promotion in both the US and UK marketplaces during your KDP Select period, though, so this is quite handy.
The primary benefit for KDP Select, it seems, is being included in Kindle Unlimited. But again, this hasn’t done much for me. I’ve had a total of 12 page reads, equating to about 8c in royalties. Could I be hobbling my reach and sales by tying myself to Amazon’s apron strings in this way? I really don’t know.
An important thing to note is that KDP Select is just for eBooks. You can do what I did and publish your paperbacks and hardcovers with IngramSpark (or some other print on demand service) and you won’t be tied to Amazon’s exclusivity.
Lately, I’ve been reading and researching about Amazon vs wide distribution and I’m still not sure what’s right for me. I had decided that once the first KDP Select period was up, I’d decline to renew and would distribute on Smashwords. I was this close to doing it, when I backed out, worrying that it would be hard to return to KDP Select if I wanted to. From what I’d researched, it can be quite difficult to retract your books once they’ve been wide, so that you can go back to KDP Select. If Amazon finds them anywhere, they will likely cancel your listing.
My next KDP Select period comes up for renewal in January. In the meantime, I’ll read and research more and see what I should do. Maybe wide is best. It’s a gamble I guess. But I’ve not got much to lose really. KDP Select is sort of like private health insurance… the longer you stay in, the harder it is to get out. I’ll report back later on whatever I decide to do – and we’ll see what difference, if any, it makes.