Wednesday 24 September 2014

Thoughts on Kindle Unlimited, KDP Select, and being exclusive to Amazon

Kindle Unlimited has launched in the UK! Why is that good news for readers? For £7.99 a month, subscribers will get unlimited access to thousands of Kindle ebooks. That includes every KDP Select title plus a good selection of others as well.

So: great for avid readers, but what about authors?

There's been a lot of debate about this. Some worry that it will dilute author royalties, and others object to the fact that all titles enrolled in KDP Select are automatically put in KU whether the author likes it or not.

For my part, I knew this was coming so I have had a chance to think it through. My two most recent titles are already exclusively available on Kindle, and reports of increased sales from other authors have encouraged me to continue the experiment ... for now.

However, the great thing about being an independent author is that I can review my policy and make alterations at any time. If the time comes when being in KDP Select and KU no longer serve my needs, I'll change things.

Here are my books currently available on Kindle Unlimited:
Crowley's Rival
The Atholl Expedition

The exclusivity question

I am extremely wary about being an Amazon-exclusive author. I know for a fact that some of my readers don't have Kindles and don't shop on Amazon, because they've contacted me to say so. The Only Genuine Jones remains available on many digital platforms.

However, the bottom line is that OGJ has sold abysmally on every platform except Amazon Kindle.

Sales on Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and Sony stand at twenty two to date. Combined. That's twenty two sales in almost two years. I have yet to see a penny in revenue from Smashwords (my non-Amazon distributor). Compare that with thousands of sales on Amazon — who, incidentally, are far more user-friendly than Smashwords — and I think you can see that exclusivity starts to look a little more attractive. You also have to consider the fact that free promotions on Kindle require exclusivity. Amazon won't give you access to that promotional tool if you publish electronically on Kobo, Nook, or elsewhere.

I don't believe in regular free runs — they can do more damage than good, both to the book and the market as a whole — but it's a valuable strategic tool to have in your arsenal. Removing the ability to do a free run ever is a big deal.

So it comes down to this: sign up to Amazon's exclusive KDP Select programme and exercise greater promotional clout, or publish widely on platforms that may never make you a single sale. When you put it in those terms I think you'll agree that it's a difficult decision. Frankly it's no wonder that so many authors are now exclusive to Amazon.

Fundamentally I don't like the idea of being exclusive to a single vendor. It goes against the grain. But for now I find myself moving in that direction for practical reasons, because Kindle is quite honestly the only competitive ebook platform left. Nook is dying a slow death by a thousand cuts and Kobo is to all intents and purposes dead in the water. Sony announced their decision to suspend sales of ereaders some time ago. Like it or not, Kindle rules the roost.

If the market changes then I'll gladly publish more widely, but for now you'll be able to enjoy all my titles (apart from The Only Genuine Jones) as part of a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

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