If you’re a self-published author, you will know about KDP Select, and you will know that there are entire volumes written about its benefits and pitfalls.
If you’re just starting out writing your book, you may not care about such down-the-road issues, but you should be familiar with KDP Select anyway. Why? For the simple reason that when you have uploaded your file to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform – which no newbie author in their right mind would bypass – you will have to decide whether to check the “KDP Select” box.
What is KDP Select?
KDP Select means this: You give Amazon exclusivity for 90 days, meaning you will not publish that same book on any other digital platform. Every 90 days, you can either renew KDP Select for another 90 days, or let it expire. In return, what you get is this:
- Your book is automatically available in Kindle Unlimited, a monthly subscription service much like Audible or Netflix, and the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, which lets Prime members download one Kindle book a month for free. Not only does this get your book in front of more readers through various lists they can browse on their devices, it also gives you an additional piece of the pie. Every month, Amazon reserves a so-called Global Fund for the Kindle Unlimited program, paying each author a share based on some complicated algorithm that determines how many pages of his or her book have been read. Don’t dismiss this source of income – there are months where my unit book sales don’t look particularly flattering but the check from Amazon is an oh-so-pleasant surprise, all because of my KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) numbers.
- Every 90-day period, you are allowed to enter your book into a “Kindle Countdown Deal” or a “Free Book Promotion.” Countdown Deals allow you to reduce the price of your book temporarily (for up to 7 days) while still earning your regular royalty (normally, you can only earn a 70% royalty for books over $2.99). Free Book Promotions allow you to give your book away for free up to 5 days every Select period (they don’t have to be consecutive 5 days). Such promotions get your book in the hands of new readers that might otherwise not have bought it, particularly if you use book promotion sites like BookBub or ENT Reader to help promote your deal. I will talk about these sites in more detail in another blog post.
The Select – yes/no debate can get very heated among indie authors, with each standing their ground defending his or her choice to “go select” or “go wide,” the common term for making your book available across various platforms such as Kobo, Nook, iBooks, etc.
What Should You Do – Select or Go Wide?
My counsel is this: If you are just starting out as an indie author, with only one book that no one knows about yet, do KDP Select. Here is why:
- It’s the best way to make your book available to a large percentage of the market without a lot of work (this is where Amazon being dominant works hugely in your favor), and if you use the tools described above to give away discounted or even free copies, you may earn some much-needed reviews. To sell more books, you absolutely need a strong review foundation, and the faster you can get the first few, the better.
- As a brand-new author, you may not yet have a good marketing platform, i.e. an author website with a blog, a mailing list, a social media following. It takes time to build those, and while you are busy with that, let Amazon do some of the work. Their marketing might is unsurpassed. During the last holiday season, through no doing of my own, my book sales more than quintupled, just because Amazon had ramped up their machine leading up to Christmas. You can’t rely on it – just as suddenly my sales dropped back to normal after Christmas – but you can make the most of it.
- Going wide creates extra work, because now you have to upload your book to many different platforms. Each time you make a later change, you have to remember to make it everywhere, or soon you will have different version of your book floating around. You can make it easier by using Smashwords or something similar, which covers a range of platforms. But still, Smashwords is a bit harder to use than KDP, in my opinion, and some authors prefer to upload individually to each platform because it gives them additional control. Starting out with just Amazon is a good way to understand self-publishing from the ground up, without becoming frazzled and overwhelmed. Since leaving KDP Select is as easy as unchecking that box after 90 days, I would absolutely counsel to be in it while it makes sense and while you have no plans to go wide.
Once you’ve built your own platform, gained a bit of a following, and written a second or even third book, the picture is slightly different. Amazon is still a big player even then, but you may need to start thinking of the world beyond Amazon, especially long-term. This is where going wide will make more sense than limiting yourself to one retailer. You may even experiment book by book, i.e. keep one in Select while going wide with another.
To follow this last argument in more detail, read Joanna Penn’s excellent article on The Creative Penn. She has gone wide, while I haven’t yet, so you’ll gain more insights there.
I also recommend Book Launch Checklist for more advice on publishing and promoting your book.