Sometimes I worry about Amazon taking over the world. It’s not a good thing for any one company to have too much control over any kind of market, but you can’t argue with results. For the moment, Amazon pretty much rules the world of self-publishing.
I published my first book, QUEEN HENRY, on Amazon Kindle, Createspace (Amazon’s paperback book service), Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. The book sold far more copies with Amazon than the other venues by a wide margin. I found Smashwords difficult to use and their customer “support” snarky and rude. I don’t plan on ever using them again. Barnes and Noble (Nook Press) was easy to use and their customer support was first rate, but I didn’t sell many copies. (Two. I sold two, so it wasn’t worth the thirty dollars I spent on the special formatting).
I sold a fair amount of paperbacks through Amazon Createspace – more than I expected – and I have been asked to give several talks about my book and have sold some books in person that way. Overall, I’ve sold the most books – by far – on Amazon Kindle. That’s why I decided to publish my upcoming book via Kindle Direct (different than Kindle Select) Publishing, meaning Amazon has the exclusive rights to the book for a set period of time. You can always remove your book from the Direct program after that time period and publish it anywhere you like, so it seems to be worth a try.
Publishing with Kindle Direct means the following:
- You may only sell the digital version of your book through Amazon during the period of exclusivity. You can’t sell your eBook anywhere else, including on your own website.
- Your book is automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited – the program where subscribers can read as many books as they like by paying a monthly fee. It is possible you will lose some money on this deal, though it can increase your exposure.
- Your book is automatically enrolled in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, where users may be able to borrow your book. See earlier comment about money and exposure.
- You will be permitted to give your book away for free for up to five days during each 90-day period of enrollment. You can do one day at a time, all five at once, or anything in between.
After having QUEEN HENRY available on Barnes and Noble and Smashwords for about six months or so, I yanked it from those outlets and enrolled the book in Kindle Direct to see what would happen. The first month or so, two people downloaded the book under the Kindle Lending Library program. As I see it, that’s two more people I’ve reached that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.
I then tried the free giveaway thing for two days. I got 200 downloads and reached as high as #9 in Free Kindle Gay Fiction, which was pretty cool. As a self-publisher, especially a relatively new one, I’m concerned as much with reaching new readers as I am with making money. Therefore, I consider 200 downloads in two days a great success. However, be advised that the free downloads have little to no effect on your paid sales ranking with Amazon. They used to, but the algorithms have changed.
An important caveat – if you’ve had success on B & N, Smashwords, and so forth, and plan on pulling your book in order to try Kindle Direct, you will lose your rankings on those sites. If you decide to put your books back later, you’ll have to start over from scratch. If possible, it may be best to try Kindle Direct first, then you can add the other sites when you’ve done the exclusive Amazon run.
Whatever you choose, remember that it’s only a 90-day commitment, not a billion-year contract. The worst case scenario is that it doesn’t work well for you, and you simply move on to other avenues when the time is up.
Keep in mind that you don’t ever want to rely exclusively on any third party venue, whether it be a distributor like Amazon or a social media outlet like Twitter. If you haven’t already, launch your own email list where you can always keep in touch with the most important people in your writing life – your readers.
As with all self-publishing advice, (which can be overwhelming), there’s no one right way to do anything. If you’re interested in Kindle Direct, or any other business strategy for that matter, weigh the consequences and make an educated decision about what to do.
Do it again.
– Linda Fausnet