Indie Authors, Amazon Select and Kindle Prime

KDP Select is all the rage right now with indie authors.  I would’ve titled this post Indie indie author handbookAuthors and KDP Select but KDP Select is not a searched-for term (remember my post about the importance of keywords?).  So what is up with Amazon Select and Kindle Prime?  In its basest form, bluntly, this is Amazon’s way of capturing more business.  But what does the KDP Select program mean for indie authors?

Indie Authors – How Amazon Select Works

Many are calling KDP Select either Amazon Select or Kindle Prime.  Whatever people want to call it, here’s what it’s all about.

For people who enroll in Amazon Prime, along with the benefits you receive with your membership, like free shipping and streaming of videos, you can participate in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.  With this you get:

  • to borrow a book as frequently as once per month
  • there are no due dates – you can keep books as long as you like and return them when it’s time for something new
  • to read ebooks on any Amazon Kindle device

Indie Authors – What Are The Benefits To You?

Amazon says the benefits to you, the author, are (this is directly from their site):

  • Reach a new audience – Distribute books through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and reach the growing number of US Amazon Prime members.
  • Earn a whole new source of royalties – Earn your share of at least $6 million throughout 2012 when readers borrow your books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
  • Promote your book for free to readers worldwide – The newly launched Promotions Manager tool will allow you to directly control the promotion of free books.
  • Instant feedback – Check real-time performance of your books in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

You enroll for 90 day increments.  Great, right?  More money and audience for you.  But the biggest feature for the indie author is the Promotions Manager, better known as the free book program.  This enables you to offer each of your enrolled books for up to five days for free.

But what are the downsides?

Indie Authors – The Negatives of Kindle Prime

The biggest downside is you hear is that you have to be exclusive to Amazon.  You can’t have ebooks enrolled at Smashwords (Mark Coker must be #$%ing his pants about now over lost revenue – his post is worth reading though) or distributed anywhere else, including your own website.  So if you sell a lot of books at Barnes & Noble, or another site, you might want to reconsider Kindle Prime.  The debate is raging as to whether this is good or bad for indie authors (or any author).

Indie Authors – What This REALLY Means For You

Watch this short video for a few tips on KDP Select.

Let me say that I really don’t like Amazon’s tactics – I agree with those that call it predatory, bordering on a monopoly, and risking an anti-trust lawsuit.  But I’m also for trying to build my sales so that I can make a living full-time as a writer.  I also wasn’t selling much through Smashwords.  So the choice was simple for me – give Kindle Prime a chance (thanks to Jeff Bennington for all his help – dude, you ROCK!).  Many indie authors place too much focus on the KDP Select Fund that is distributed to those enrolled in the program.  This is just one piece of the whole Kindle Prime puzzle.

Here’s what I see as the real pros and cons of Kindle Prime for the indie author.

The Pros

  • The chance to offer books for free is priceless (pun intended).  Amazon is a promotions king and being able to offer books for free is huge.
  • You’re not locked in for life.  If you don’t like it, you don’t enroll again (remember, you enroll in 90 day increments).
  • You get publicity on bestseller lists and on Amazon buyer pages (as I showed in the video).
  • You do get paid for books that are lent out.  People poo-poo this as a miniscule amount, but heck, this is still money to you.
  • I’m not positive if I’m correct on this one, but I think that books that are lent out are still calculated in the bestseller list rankings, meaning if your book is lent out a lot, it can help your book to climb those bestseller lists.

The Cons

  • You are exclusive to Amazon.  It’s kind of a paradox – the thing that can benefit you the most is also the thing that could be the most dangerous.  If Amazon succeeds in shutting everyone else out, will indie authors be, as Mark Coker says, akin to migrant farmers, reliant on whatever the boss says.
  • If you’re an indie author who’s not enrolled in KDP Select, forget trying to get Amazon to offer your books for free – why should they when they have plenty of material offered for free from KDP Select members?
  • Tons of indie authors are jumping on the bandwagon – this means more competition.  I’m in a number of Facebook groups and I see free books offered every day now, and on Twitter.  People are blogging about their free books (myself included).  Even at free, it’s going to be harder to get people to download your books.
  • The glut of free books might harm overall book sales.  This is a debate that’s been going on for a while – do offering free books help sales?  Or does it drive down the price of books?  Does it create readers who won’t pay for books anymore?  Because books are free, does it mean they are poor quality books (if this argument continues to gain traction, how will it hurt the indie author)?

Indie Author – My Kindle Prime Experience (So Far)

I enrolled my books shortly before Christmas.  I offered Nephilim Genesis of Evil and This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies for free around the holidays.  Both books downloaded over 2,000 copies (not much compared to others who saw downloads well over 10,000 or more).  I’m not sure why, if it was because I didn’t publicize enough, or the covers were a factor, or if there were other reasons (one I do know is that JA Konrath offered all his books for free at the same time so I was competing against him and Blake Crouch – lesson learned there), but I’m happy with that.  Since that time, the two books I offered for free are continuing to sell well, and Nephilim is staying on various Amazon bestseller lists.  But here’s the real kicker.  My other books saw a jump in sales as well.  This is invaluable to me.  And I know others have had similar (or better) success.

But here are some things to consider if you’re thinking of enrolling (or already have):

  • It’s helpful if you have some reviews for your books (the more the better) as readers can easily see what others are saying about your books.
  • You need to promote your books on your free days.  Again, my thanks to Jeff Bennington, Anthony Wessel with Digital Book Today, and all of you who spread the word when my books are free.  I am in your debt.
  • Great covers help as well.  Remember, people buy on impulse.  Don’t put a book with an amateurish cover out there, it will likely hurt you.
  • Make sure you’re doing the best job you can in the Product Description section of your book’s sales page (see this post for more).
  • If you don’t see a jump in your other book sales (especially if you have more than one book available), it might be time to take a hard look at your writing itself.  If you’re writing stellar books, people will come back for more.  If your work needs improvement, they won’t.
  • Tagging on that previous point, I wouldn’t offer a book for free unless you’re absolutely sure it’s really good (actually you shouldn’t have published it if it isn’t good, but sadly too many do).  Here’s the most important reason why: you are hurting your future sales.  I would hate to see that happen to anyone because it’s so hard to sell books and gain readership.
  • I increased the cost of my books (the specific reason I’ll share in another post) but my books continue to sell well.  I can’t say this will work for others, though.  Nephilim and This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies books have tons of 4 and 5 star reviews, and that helps them a lot.  Bumping up the price of your book after offering it for free might hurt your sales, rather than help sales.

It’s too early to really see how Kindle Prime is going to work out.  I have to wonder what the impact will be as more and more indie authors join.  From what I’m seeing in the last couple of years (whether it’s with blogging, joining Amazon when ebooks were first available, blog hops and tours and other ways for promoting your books), it seems the people who are first in line benefit the most (obviously) but then those benefits quickly diminish as more people try the same things.

What are your thoughts on KDP Select?

Image: pixtawan /

About Renée Pawlish

Award-winning author Renée Pawlish writes the bestselling horror book, Nephilim Genesis of Evil, the Reed Ferguson mystery series, short stories and non-fiction ghost stories.
This entry was posted in Indie Author Handbook, Promoting Your Books and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Indie Authors, Amazon Select and Kindle Prime

  1. I’ll be trying out KDP Select with the release of my newest book, Bigfoot Hunters, in just a few weeks. For me the incentive is clear enough: a good 95% of my sales are through amazon. I sell a few through B&N and maybe one or two through Smashwords. So for 90 days I don’t see this hurting me much.

    The other main advantage I see for myself is focus. The early days after releasing a book are chaotic. There’s marketing, new revisions for that typo on page 20 that you somehow missed, more marketing etc. Being able to work with just one format allows me focus my efforts more tightly. Ultimately this helps because hopefully the book will have built up 90 days of prebuzz before being released on the other platforms.

    The only thing I worry about are the small group of loyal readers I have from B&N. I don’t want to piss them off. However, I’m already working on that. I’m offering a few of them, early (free) sneak peaks of the book in return for a review once it goes live there. So far that seems to be working.

    Personally I’m not bothered by Amazon’s tactics. For those who call them predatory or monopolistic, I argue that there’s nothing stopping B&N or iBooks from doing the same. Like it or not, Amazon is the only massive player in the book field right now (Smashwords and lulu are but lets be realistic as to their reach compared to Amazon) who is really catering to indie authors. I keep waiting for a similar push or incentive from B&N but I don’t see it coming.

    • ReneePawlish says:

      Good points, Rick, thanks. I want to write to B&N and tell them they could take over the market if they’d work with authors more :) Good luck and let me know how it works out for you.

  2. Ju Ephraime says:

    My take on Kindle Select. I can’t wait to get out. I have not seen any free downloads of the one book I enrolled in the program. I do have to say, I’ve seen an increase in sales of my two other books, Temptation to Sin and State of Ecstasy, but then again, I reduced the prices of all my kindle books by $2.00. My sales in print have also shown a slight increase, although not in the thousands, so this author will not be continuing in KS.

    • ReneePawlish says:

      Thanks for your comment. That’s interesting. I’d love to know what kind of success others see so we could have a grasp of whether it’s worth it or not. Did you heavily promote the one book you did enroll? Did you offer it for free?

  3. Sam Richards says:

    Self-publishing is my new year’s resolution, so I’ve been looking into KDP. I think I’ll go with Smashwords instead – a lot clearer and friendlier, and the royalty percentage is higher!

    Follow @tw33t_rpg on Twitter – vote to shape the adventure!

    • ReneePawlish says:

      Hmm, my experience was the opposite, easier to publish with Amazon. The royalty may be different but I hardly sold anything on Smashwords. I hope it works for you, and thanks for your comment.

  4. Just when I think I might have my head wrapped around one thing, there comes something else that I gotta learn too, but that’s to be expected based on the age we live in.

  5. Bert Carson says:

    Great info Renee.
    I’m in the program but haven’t given it a real shot. I had one book on the free list for two days but didn’t bother to tell anyone. In spite of that, it got 475 downloads.
    I agree with you, it’s way to early to know what the program will do for writers but the fact remains, those who don’t play won’t have first-hand knowledge of the outcome.

  6. andy says:

    renee – cool post and timely info, your experiences are in sync with mine, cool to read this and also info from others who have done the freebie days

    feels alot like the wild west in publishing right now, can’t see where anyone has a perfect handle on what KDP select will mean for the future, but i’m certainly a proponent, for now!!

    • ReneePawlish says:

      Yes I agree. It’s hard to say why some people get great downloads and future sales and others do not. I’m sure the things I listed are factors, but so many other things come into play as well. Who knows where it will all go. Good luck to you and thanks for your comment.

  7. Very informative post, Renee. I’m in KDP. I promoted my book for three days after Christmas. Got over 6700 downloads. That really helped my numbers, but what is even more amazing is that since it has gone back on sale in January, I’ve had over 800 sales, nearly 200 borrows. The only advertising I did for the promo was on Twitter and Facebook.
    Needless to say, I am very happy with KDP. (I think I sold less than 10 books on Smashwords over several months. And yes, I was promoting the book then as well on Twitter and Facebook.)
    I do have a question for you. On your video you mentioned a post on using the product description section of Amazon effectively. Can you direct me to that post?


  8. Scott Hunter says:

    Hi Renee – well, so far the KDP Select program has worked fine for me. I sold around 5 times the volume of the novel I nominated for a free tryout, and it has not only generated more interest in that particular book but also in the other novels I have available on KDP. Yes, Amazon are becoming the Microsoft of the book industry, but as an Indie author I have to go with what works for me. Amazon are helping me shift around 6000 titles a month – and that ain’t bad for starters . . .

  9. Bob Mayer says:

    I put my first novel in the program last week. Atlantis rose to #1 Free in science fiction and had over 26,000 free downloads of it. I have seen a marked increase in sales for it and time will tell how much that spreads to other books. I’m working on a schedule now where I will have a book for free on Amazon every week of the year, rotating all my titles through it.

    • ReneePawlish says:

      That’s incredible. I’m in mystery and horror and I think there’s more competition there so I didn’t see as many downloads, but I would love to hear from writers in those genres to see what results they had. Thanks for your comment.

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