Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Amazon's new carrot: KDP Select

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 this new “program” of Amazon’s. 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 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.


Unknown said...

Thanks for that, I was about to dive in!

Debra Purdy Kong said...

I'm with you, there. I wrote about the same thing a few days ago, and I'm shocked by how many Kindle authors are jumping in, thinking exclusivity is fine.

Cheryl Tardif said...

People tend to forget that there are a LOT of people who won't shop at Amazon--for whatever reason. So authors who choose to go with Kindle Select have actually narrowed their target audience.

If they were to remove the whole exclusivity thing, I'd try it out with a book and experiment. But I would never give up control of my distribution to one entity.