My take on the Evil Evil Empire of The Deep Dark Amazon

When I decided to release Sense Memory as my first foray into this new and exciting frontier of Independent Authorship, I took a long time deciding how I wanted to put my foot forward.  What color sneakers, brand, size, would I opt for comfort, class, or soles that would tone my butt?  Okay, enough extended metaphor.  I settled on KDP Select.  Figured I’d try it out and see what happens.

The first thing I found was a vast network of people who seem to loathe Amazon for their “predatory” business model and who take real issue with the format of the Kindle’s eReader.  Neither of these things bother me, for several reasons.

First, Amazon is a business.  They want to turn a profit.  Plain and simple.  They are not in a humanitarian industry, their mission statement has nothing to do with saving the world, or even making it a better place.  Although, I do have to say that Christmas shopping has become infinitely less cutthroat in my family and for that I say, “Thank you, Online Market Retailer!”

I have no illusions as a writer choosing to list my book on Amazon first.  I will not get the profit margin that I want, but I am certainly making a higher percentage per sale than I EVER would with a traditional publisher.  I trust in the idea that Amazon wants to make money.  If my book doesn’t sell, they don’t make any money off of me.  So it is in their best interest to help my book sell.  Which brings me to the Select aspect of KDP.

The “demon” that people see in the Select program is the stipulation that your book be sold EXCLUSIVELY through Amazon for each 90 day period in which it is enrolled.  Again…not evil, good business.  I, as a business, would have no interest offering free advertising tools to my clients if my competitors were likely to benefit from that advertising.  Again, not in the business to make people “feel good,” in the business to “make money.”  And the more money Amazon makes, the more money I make.

So, what is the draw?  Why would an author agree to sell in only one of multiple possible market places?

  1. Free days.  A great marketing tool to spread the word about your new book, foster a larger number of reviews, reach an audience who might otherwise never have heard of you, and rise quickly in the rankings making your book more visible to browsing customers.  You get FIVE to use at any point during the 90 day period.
  2. Amazon Prime Library.  Anyone with an Amazon Prime account can download your book for free and you still get paid out of an Amazon Global fund.  For the first period, I actually made more on the “library borrows” than I did on sales.

Okay, sounds cool.  So, what are the drawbacks to the draw?  Well…

  1. Free days.  If you don’t advertise the hell out of your free day, including listing with multiple “free kindle books” websites plenty of weeks in advance, tweeting till your tweeter is about to fall off, and begging all of your friends to share your tweets and facebook posts to the point where they’re ready to unfriend you for life, you will only see a cute little bump in the “free” rankings.  The next day, your normal rankings are…well…normal again and you’ve made one additional sale that you probably would have made anyway.  
  2. Exclusivity.  Once you use your first free day, you’re stuck in the program for a full 90 days.  But really…just be patient and jump out of the program when your time is up.

Alright, got it…But it helps right?  Well, yeah, if you have certain things in place.  Namely, several books available.

Where I see KDP Select really working is in advertising the release of a new book that is part of a series.  If I am able to download a free book that is, say, book three of a thriller series, I am way more likely to buy books one and two so I can feel like I scored with this free download.  To build an audience helps, or to solicit more reviews can also be a great goal with this program and will definitely help in the long run.

My Plan Now…

… is to use my remaining days, lose my friends, break my tweeter, and build as big of an audience as possible.  Then, finish my next book and release it ASAP so that I don’t lose potential secondary readers.  Then write and release the third, fourth, and fifth.  In thirty-five days when my Select is done, Sense Memory will be available everywhere through Smashwords, and I’ll have a print version available.

So while I know that there are major detractors (honestly, almost all of the people I’ve spoken to who loathe Amazon’s KDP Select have either been writers or aspiring writers, so any readers who are simply…well, readers, please weigh in) out there, I DO think that KDP Select has its place.

If you use it right, then it is no longer using you!

Go Write!