Amazon KDP Select: Good, Bad or Ugly?

N00B VIEW: Amazon's Kindle Direct Select Publishing 
PART I


Just trying to wrap my head around all of the twists and turns in publishing of late usually leaves me with a swollen and aching brain. Things are moving that fast!

I know, I know. Just saying things are moving quickly in the publishing world makes me sound crazier than that ONE guy, from that ONE giant Southern state, who thought he could be President. (Silly Hillbilly, politics are for quasi-sane people.) Alas, it is unfortunately true, friends. Major changes to how words become books and writers become authors are happening daily. 

Why? Pretty simple really. In a night of careless frivolity even the Bieber could admit to, reading and technology hooked up and made a crazy touch-enabled, instant download, content devouring, everyone-is-doing-it lovechild. That child quickly grew into a monster known as electronic reading and, knowing only a monster could properly care for another monster, Amazon adopted it. 

Here we are millions of downloads later, and we're nowhere near seeing the end of all of it. Don't mind telling you, as a publishing newbie that's scary as hell. So, in an effort to help other newbies (a newbie brain-trust we shall be!), I'm starting another new 'feature' on my blog called the N00B VIEW

Each N00B VIEW will take a look at different aspects of what's going down in publishing, mostly as it pertains to the new guys and gals. I hope to make it plain-speak, or as plain-speak as I'm capable of making it, and angle-free. I've got no ax to grind. Or, as Coolio might say, "If you got beef, eat a pork chop."


Maybe we can figure it out together? Maybe we'll all go blind from eyestrain and the robots will read to us out of the goodness of their tiny tin hearts? In my bleak book, a win either way.

This is part one of two articles examining Amazon's new book lending program (think Netflix for books) and what it means for authors. The second article will run right here on Monday, mostly because I thought we needed to have a little history lesson on the and the post just got too dang long.

Let's get started!

AMAZON - BULLY OR PUSHY BEST FRIEND?

Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say Ni at will to little old authors. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred.

Amazon has been called many things by many authors. Savior. Greedy, sharp-toothed, dirty greedy bastards. You name it. Honestly? I think they've earned every slur AND every complement. 

In one respect, Amazon almost single handedly took the publishing game out of the exclusive, corporate, freaking huge hands of New York publishing by pushing the Kindle and ePublishing. In the same move they put the game in the many grimy hands of the little people (see readers and writers--US). Yay Amazon!


Even before things got all techno-wild, Amazon was delivering paper books to your door at PRICES SO LOW THEY MUST BE CRAZY!! Consumers and fans of capitalism rejoiced!

On the other side of things big box stores, bean counters at Simon and Schuster and local bookstores moaned.  You see, here is the paradoxical female dog of it all: You can rarely accommodate everyone in business endeavors. If consumers are happy, businesses are probably losing money. If businesses are happy, consumers are left feeling fleeced. Not always, but usually. 

Before the Kindle ever caught fire, Amazon held a few too many cards for the tastes of many people in the publishing industry. Already a global giant in the paper book retail game, Amazon began acting as publisher as well with the eBook craze. Then, last year, they really peed on the campfire when they announced they were getting into paper book publishing as well. The tug of war between Amazon and traditional publishers began in ernest.

You can understand the dilemma faced by the trad pub folks: Your largest retail vendor is also trying to run you out of business. (Amazon denies that last bit, by the way.) They need their books to be sold on Amazon, but they also don't want Amazon (now a competitor in their business) to dictate terms.

Meanwhile, traditional publishing ex-pats and DIY authors flocked to Amazon to take advantage of the opportunity. Never before had an author been able to get her work in front of millions of consumers without signing 'Hurt So Good' contracts and/or mortgaging their creative properties. The filters were off, so to speak, and lots of previously struggling (or non-existant) authors started making money. Good money, and in some cases GREAT money.

However, a few nervous nellies (AKA - skeptical authors and agents) were cautioning about Amazon being the cow with the golden teat. (Okay, I just made that up, but it sounded like a cool name for a cautionary tale.) Once Amazon held all the cards, they said, they'd get all heavy handed and cut the purse strings. It would no longer be an open market, and you'd publish on their terms or not at all. Just like the old way of doing things, but maybe at an even higher cost, with even fewer people who really 'love' books in charge of things. 

Hogwash? Many thought so, until Amazon announced the Amazon Kindle Owner's Lending Library at the end of last year. The Kindle Direct Publishing Select (KDPS) agreement for independent authors soon followed. For the first time, Amazon began using words like 'exclusivity' and other nasty terms that make the ears of the artistically free bleed. 

So is it a good deal for authors or not?

HOPE YOU'LLL JOIN ME BACK HERE ON MONDAY FOR PART II AND AN IN DEPTH LOOK AT THE KDPS PROGRAM!

~EJW~

*UPDATE* I inadvertently left the word "SELECT" out of the title of this post and the references I made to the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program. Please note that Kindle Direct Publishing differs from Kindle Direct Publishing Select and that (for the purposes of this discussion) my intention was to discuss KDPS. I apologize for any confusion, and really (REALLY) appreciate the folks who pointed out my omission. 

29 comments:

  1. As someone who is pretty much planning on self publishing this year, I am really interested in this series. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good for you M.J.! I'm all for whatever accomplishes the goals and aspirations of the author. If that means going indie, great. If that means traditional, great.

      Hopefully we can learn some things together?

      EJ

      Delete
  2. I don't like monopolies, but I also buy lots of books from Amazon. Ugh, what's a girl to do? They are the big guy with the big stick in publishing right now.

    AND, just to freak your freak a little more, a local bookstore in Denver, The Tattered Cover, just announced it is now doing Print on Demand books in house. You tell them which book you want (I'm assuming self-pubbed) and they print it. I haven't seen it for myself, I only read about it, but wowzer. What a world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's an awesome program! Sounds similar to what the Harvard Bookstore did a couple of years ago (?) with POD. I really think that's the future of print media. Just makes much more sense than filling warehouses full of paper that might or might not get sold. Know what I'm saying?

      Delete
  3. KDP poses a dilemma for all publishers and self-publishers. The borrowing thing doesn't seem to be worth the exclusivity clause. But the freebie days are huge. My publisher put one of my books on KDP, and it got 2500 downloads on its first free day, and even after the period was over, it's continuing to sell better than my others. But Nooks and Kobos are also increasing in market share. So what seems to work is--put a book on KDP for one 90 day exclusive period, then get it out to all the other outlets ASAP.

    LG-That bookstore POD stuff is awesome. It may keep bookstores in business, and it's fantastic for self-pubbers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Check back Monday, Anne. I found some good stuff on what authors are actually making as part of the program that I'm going to share. Early returns are surprising, and I'd love to hear your take...

      My gut says you're right about doing it on a trial basis, or if you have a large enough catalogue of work, perhaps keeping a story or two as part of the program on a rotating basis.

      Delete
  4. I have no idea if it is good. But Amazon does sell books. Perhaps the future will have only three companies, Amazon, Wal-Mart, and McDonalds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great. So we'll get lots of free shipping, cheap sweaters and fat? The future is going to be awesome!

      Wait, how is that different from NOW?

      Delete
  5. My publisher stated it won't do KDP Select because of the limitations. Since I tend to buy almost exclusively from the iBookstore, I appreciate that stand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think they're alone, Alex. A lot of people are taking a stand against it. Only time will tell if it makes Amazon flinch or not.

      Speaking of iBookstore, I think Apple is about to blow the lid off of it from the Web rumors I've read. I'm excited to see what they do with it!

      Delete
  6. I love that image, EJ. The Terminator has a new face, and it is Kindle!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Norma! I've gotten a lot of mileage out of that old Photoshop job! : )

      Delete
  7. Do you mean KDP Select? Because KDP is what everyone uses to publish on Amazon and Select is the exclusive bit. I was a bit confused.

    I think the key to remember here is that Amazon is giving you the option of whether or not you want to publish there as well as other places or just there for an incentive. It's just an additional choice.

    Amazon is a FAR cry from being a monopoly. But I think the reaction of the publishing industry to Amazon highlights how much of a quasi-monopoly the big publishers together have been for a long time. They're basically running a cartel and they don't want anyone else coming in on their turf. Why should we look askance at Amazon for actually giving them meaningful competition? Oh, right, because the big publishers told us to.

    Amazon hasn't done anything but run a smart business that makes customers happy. They aren't stopping anyone from doing the same, unlike big publishing, which is trying it's hardest to keep their industry to themselves. Not friends of the free market, in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I would think that a lending situation like a Netflix library would help authors and their bottom line. Let's say I borrowed your book for a dollar and read it and told five people how great it is but they would have to either borrow it for a dollar or buy it for five on Kindle or for ten or more in paperback. Financially, I see where this is good for all writers but I still don't like the control aspect you mention and the legalese. Yikes. Artists who don't want to sell their soul can always find another way to print their books, while spending their weekends at festivals selling them in person.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am definitely interested to see part 2. I have been asked a few times about KDP and what I thought. I'm always skeptical of things like this . . . well, I'm skeptical of pretty much everything. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have gone the traditional publishing and self-publishing route, and I'm still going both. I'm opting not to sign up for the lending library BECAUSE you have to grant Amazon exclusivity, and I want to be able to make my books available through other retailers.

    I'm looking forward to seeing this series.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right on, Laura. Insisting that authors remove their books for sale from their own websites while being loaned out on Amazon is not a blatant strong-arm hold being thrown by this monopolizing giant? Can't believe that so many authors are voicing apathy about this topic.

      Delete
  11. I'm morally opposed to Kindle Select. At this time a few authors signing on isn't a big deal. But when Kindle gets so much power they can tell you that you can't sign on with them unless it's only with them, it won't be so rosy.And that's where I see this heading. They'll starve out the competition, and then they can set prices and royalties wherever they want them.

    When I hear authors signing on, it's always based on what's best for them. I think that's short-sighted. People have to look at the health of the marketplace and the over-all good of the self-publishing community.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I totally agree with this "I think they've earned every slur AND every complement."

    Now I'm a little confused by your reference to KDP and exclusivity. KDP doesn't require exclusivity AT ALL but KDP Select DOES. KDP Select being the new lending program that pays whenever one's book is lent out.

    I'm not sure where this idea came from that when you sign up with KDP, or Kindle Direct Publishing, that you lose certain copyright privileges. I had a long email discussion with an author who swore that she was limited in where she could sell her books because of the KDP contract. That's absolutely not the case. However, KDP Select, the new lending program does require you to pull your ebooks from every other online venue if you sign up. You can't sell them anywhere but Kindle, not even on your own blog or website.

    Now I'm going back to read all the comments to this post....Great topic!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Good question. I'm still trying to wait out the storm and see where it goes. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Well, hopefully by April, Secondhand Shoes will be out there and then the first book to the Contessa and Arthor Series: Vampire Chocolate. I will go with the flow.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm a brand new author, so am admittedly green...Yet I'll make two observations in my limited experience. The "big" publishers are out for me. Too many fingers in the already reduced pie, from a desperate industry swirling the drain.

    KDP Select..No chance in hell I grant Amamonster more control. Will be interested to see Part 2, as to why we should limit our exposure on a "hope" it will pay off, with no guarantee. Always one sided in this deal...

    My paperback was on for 3 weeks before they slashed my price. Not sure why they even have us set our price (which I researched heavily first) if they were going to arbitrarily set their own price without checking with me. Interesting I have sold 150 books on my own from my site and in person at the original price. So..The vendor I chose to do business with (and used their CreateSpace to publish with) slapped their own customer in the face by under cutting me. If you pay someone to mow your lawn, do you dictate the terms of service on YOUR yard or does the lawn boy? I hired Amazon to be one of my vendors, and now they are under cutting me immediately, can do this any time they want, and now want exclusivity on the eBook. Well I want a trip to Italy for 6 months and someone else to pay for it.

    My book came out sooner than expected so I wasn't up & running on promoting. I am now, and it seems they shot themselves in the foot. I guarantee more business will come their way, and they could have had the higher percent, had they given me a few months to "prove myself" as if THAT'S something they should judge. Not pleased, could you guess? It would be silly to ignore them or try to boycott BECAUSE they are so big, but I won't hand them a blank check either. I SELF published so I had control. AmaMonster doesn't see it that way. They didn't get where they are by being nice, fair or admirable. As an author...Apple & Amazon didn't get rated number one for service to their sellers.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wonderful feedback on this for sure, gang! I think all of you make some valid points both for and against the idea.

    I apologize for the the mixup in the wording; you're dead on about the 'select' portion. It is the distinction between the program that requires exclusivity and not. I'll make sure I edit this, and really appreciate those of you pointed it out!

    EJ

    ReplyDelete
  17. Excellent post, E.J. It sure does seem to be moving quickly and changing so fast. Personally, I love Amazon. It's been very good to me. Fluttershy is too cute. I'd never seen that clip.

    ReplyDelete
  18. WANT to bury head/sand. WILL read/press on. Thanks (truly).

    ReplyDelete
  19. Great post that left me wanting more. I'll certainly be checking back. I am always curious about what's going on in e-world, but it's just so hard to wrap my mind around it sometimes. ugh. Thanks for trying to make it a bit easier on all of us. :-)

    <3 Gina Blechman

    ReplyDelete
  20. It's something I'm starting to look at more closely.

    ReplyDelete

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.