Should You Put Your Books in KDP Select? (#12)

Posted by in Prose on Fire

There are generally two camps about KDP Select:

a) the group that swears by it
b) the group that hates it

I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t believe in full exclusivity and will never put my business at risk that way. All my books are currently multi-retailer and I’ve built decent income using that method on every single platform—iTunes, Kobo, B&N, Google Play, and even Smashwords, now that Scribd and Oyster are partnered with them.

That said, I’m not going to ignore KDP Select and the cool benefits authors are getting from it. I don’t really fault Amazon for yielding their market power to get exclusive content, and while I would probably never pull my current series from other retailers (that’s just a shitty thing to do to your customers, IMO), I am currently work on several Kindle exclusive series that will launch in the next year.

There are still a few things that KDP Select authors are doing that completely baffle me right now:

1. Some authors aren’t writing series that are specific to KDP Select.

I see tons of authors who have $5+ books in KDP Select even though the borrow rates is hovering around a steady ~$1.60. To me, it doesn’t make sense to take your current content and stick it in KDP Select because it’s not optimized to do well in KDP Select.

If I had to guess what does best, I would say short stories, novellas, and serials. You don’t get credit for your borrow unless someone reads at least 10%, which incentivizes you to write shorter pieces (hitting the 10% mark earlier).

Furthermore, it’s a subscription service with unlimited borrows to its members. You want to have as many parts to a story as you can get away with. You want to be seven seasons of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, not some random romantic comedy standalone. You’re getting paid by the episode. A serialization makes sense.

I do sort of understand wanting to experiment with KDP Select while it’s newish and the getting is still good. That requires using the assets you have already. But the long-term strategy IMO is to create something specific for this type of binge-reader, who’s going to happily go through your episodic 20-part story because he or she is paying the same thing no matter what.

2. Some authors aren’t using KDP Select to build their readership.

Joining KDP Select with no plan to leave KDP Select seems like a bad business move. I am happy to do exclusivity for a year if I’m getting a benefit from it, but I’ll be using every trick in the book to build my email list as best I can at the same time. And I’ll be pulling those books to push them to other platforms as singles and bundles under a new pricing scheme after a year in Select.

I think Sean said it best: (Paraphrasing) if you are relying on one source for your marketing and you’re screwed if that source changes the rules, it means you haven’t *really* figured out your marketing.

KDP Select is not my full marketing strategy and I would never want that. Amazon is simply another audience that I want to leverage. I think of Amazon the same way I would think of another author’s website—yes, I’ll give you exclusive content for a bit, but only if I can capture a percentage of your audience that makes it worthwhile to me. If that means writing an extra series and going exclusive for a bit, so be it!

KDP Select is also not my only source of income—and I’m 100% willing to lose money if it means I can reach new readers that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. To me, it doesn’t make sense to look at KDP Select as a money grab, though I know some authors do. My main goal is more long-term—to move those readers over to my personal email list as much as I can. Like Netflix users, I expect KDP Unlimited users to buy outside of their subscription when they really want something (even if this duality takes years to achieve—Netflix is a subscription in a more mature market, after all).

I want to be the one they really want, no matter where I’m published or how they’re buying. Ideally, I’d love to move them to buy direct, even!

3. Some authors aren’t leveraging other subscription services.

KDP Select isn’t the only subscription service in town. Oyster and Scribd pay much better than Amazon, and while they don’t have the same huge audiences, it would be stupid to ignore them and their growth in the marketplace. While you should have a series (preferably a serial) in KDP Select, you should also have a series (or serial) that’s non-exclusive, so it can go through Smashwords and libraries (a sort of subscription on its own).

Yes, if you can absolutely only do one of the two, KDP Select *might* be the best option… but it also might not. And if you’re thinking long-term, why one or the other? Why not leverage the subscription model in every form its currently available to us?

What do you think? Am I missing something about KDP Select? As you can see, I am speaking with pretty much zero experience in KDP Select, so maybe I’m seeing everything without enough context? I’m here to learn more and understand these motivations/strategies—really.

If you’re curious, here’s what I’m launching for KDP Select:

1. I have a project at Sterling and Stone that’s experimenting with the serial format. It’s under my pen name and I don’t control most of the details on it, so I can’t say how this will play out. Of course, S&S has a pretty good marketing arm that’s getting stronger each year, so I have high hopes for it!

2. I have a project that is a murder mystery for young adults. A bit of Pretty Little Liars meets Serial, if you will. That’s under Monica Leonelle. Each episode is short, some parts as few as 10k words, but it comes out every week and provides new details and evidence about the murder each time.

3. I have a fantasy space opera project that’s in the vein of Star Wars and Game of Thrones. It’s epic, but also still geared toward women (as ALL my content under both pen names tends to be). This one is under both pen names because it’s completely an audience grab. I figure, if I’m writing this new series, might as well help both pen names and aim for marketing rather than sales. This will come out every two weeks.

All three are serialized stories in very different genres, launching in the first half of the year, so I’m hoping that they each help me ramp up my audience, that they cross-promote one another, that they convince Unlimited subscribers to give the rest of my catalogs a shot, too. I’ll report back this summer with an update on how it’s going and which assumptions I got wrong and right!

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