Saturday, December 10, 2011

KDP Select, aka Amazon lending library

Having been put in the "stir" by the L.A. Times, and since every writer with an opinion (which is basically all of them--which is why we are writers) has to chime in on KDP Select*, here's my take:

1. More books for more readers.
2. Chance for writers to meet new readers.
3. Chance for readers to meet new writers.

Risks? Sure, but mostly for authors. This could signal the downward spiral of the value of ebooks, which could lead to fewer people bothering to write them and eventually fewer new books for people to read.There's the possibility a writer choosing Amazon exclusivity will alienate fans in other markets, but the author can opt in and out of the program every 90 days. That should give anyone truly interested in the author a chance to buy in the non-Amazon markets. Plus paper copies will be exempt from the exclusivity requirement.

Those who are screaming that Amazon is taking away the hard-earned freedom of indie authors, I have to snort coffee through my nose. Indies earned nothing (unless you were one of those who succeeded selling paperbacks out of the trunk of your car). Indies were just sitting there, largely either unpublished or cast off by the industry, when Amazon created a huge market and then let them in it. Amazon created the device, the market, and the audience, and Amazon's success forced other competitors to open up to indies and offer excellent compensation and terms. Any author who claims Amazon is "the enemy" is not working from facts but from emotion.

Every single move Amazon has made resulted in MORE money for all participating writers, MORE ebooks for all readers, and MORE opportunity instead of a monopoly (if you follow me at all, you know I'm a contrarian and I see huge, huge opportunity in the other markets now, which of course will have to do something to counter Amazon's big move.)

As The Dude says, "There are a lot of angles to this thing," but it looks like everyone wins for now. Who knows what the future will be, but did we ever know that anyway?
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*This is basically a lending library for anyone who is enrolled in the Amazon Prime program. You can check out any book in the library for one month.

26 comments:

R.E. McDermott said...

Scott, I tend to agree, at least to the point of adopting a "wait and see attitude." Amazon was the only one that invited indies to the party on anything like a level playing field, and I think some folks are being a bit too quick to paint them as an 'evil empire.'

Just my opinion,

Bob

author Scott Nicholson said...

Everyone who leaves the party means more clam dip for me, Bob!

Lisa Grace said...

Thanks for being the voice of reason in the Amazon slam-down fest. I enrolled one book (not all of them) for one reason--visibilty. How are the readers going to discover a great little paranormal series that doesn't use vampires or werewolves?
Amazon is going to promote the prime lending program to every buyer of eBooks. Thank you Amazon.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Amazon brought a lot of readers to a lot of writers. That scares some folks. Good luck!

Rejean Giguere said...

I'm also using a 'wait and see'. All my current books are available across all venues. I'm not going to spend the time and energy to take them down just to be able to put them in Amazon's Select service.

I have another book in editing right now. When it's ready (hopefully by the end of the month) we should have more data and more information on how this will work. I decide then if I am willing to give Amazon a 90 day exclusive.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

I agree with you 100%, Scott. At first I thought the exclusivity was a deal-breaker. But then I realized that 95% of my ebook sales are by Amazon. In my best sales month yet, I made $6,800 from my Kindle books and around $200 from B&N and all Smashwords stores combined.

So even though I would prefer to have my ebooks available from every store, as you said, without Amazon there wouldn't be an ebook market. I put all eight of my books in the Kindle Lending Library, with a ninth to follow in a few days.

J. R. Tomlin said...

The "Amazon is the spawn of satan" attitude from authors who have done nothing but profit from the company opening publishing up to us makes me shake my head.

I put one of my novels in the Select. IF I decide it's not working for me, guess what. In 3 months I can take it out. Whew, those are sure tough terms.

Not!

author Scott Nicholson said...

Good thinking, JR. Amazon could kick everyone out at any time and many authors would be whining about their lost "entitlement." Good thing many of them were never in trad publishing...

Adam Pepper said...

With enemies like Amazon, who needs friends!

Fred said...

Do you worry about the massive influx of free books impacting your sales? I think that's my only real concern with Select, and it may not even be valid.

I know that I picked up five free novels today alone, which will fill my reading time for at least a month and, assuming I read them all, means that's a month where I'm not going to be buying anyone's book (except for the new Koontz coming out shortly). When I finish those, unless one of them was so good I have to go buy something else by that author, I'll probably look first at the free stuff.

As one of the authors who will probably be overlooked by people like myself checking the free offerings, that concerns me a little. :)

KR Jacobsen said...

I've had something of a change of heart in regards to Select. My initial reaction was one of "no way," but I now see that it's a (potentially) great promotional opportunity. While I only have one book to my name (working on a couple more right now), it doesn't make sense for me to grant Amazon exclusivity. But what about a tie-in short story or novella? Makes perfect sense.

I'm curious to see what the overall impact is to authors. The "pot of gold" is the least interesting of the possible benefits (unless you happen to get a large portion of it, of course).

Thanks for a sensible post on it.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Rejean, I would guess the "data" would be a bunch of wild assertions and the good ol' "personal experience inflated to a universal truth" in a month. I would guess it would still be too new to tell a whole lot.

Robert, you have some titles to work with--don't forget there will be huge openings in the other markets as people exit...

Adam, they only love you out of their own self-interest, but I guess that's the nature of love.

Fred, there are thousands and thousands of free books streaming by all the time. Some people ONLY get free books. Is that the audience you want? But it doesn't matter enough to worry about, because what you do individually is not going to stop other authors from making their books free. It's all in whether you are comfortable joining them or not.

KR, if I only had one title or three titles, I'd either go all or nothing. Again, I say test the wind and go hard opposite what everyone else is doing. I am playing both sides against the middle myself.

Adam Pepper said...

Indeed that is the nature of "love" where business is concerned. "What can you do for me?"

Amazon will never have a true monopoly. There are way too many other power players in this game. However, I do expect them to continue to exert their power, but I havent seen any concrete reason to believe this is a bad thing for authors.

author Scott Nicholson said...

The only true indie is someone who is selling only from his or her website (leaving aside the web service, domain structure, payment processing service, etc). I don't know anyone doing it well enough to make a living, although maybe some exist.

I don't see it as "exerting power" at all--it's simply a great idea--a very obvious and natural idea. Yet again Amazon is the only one bold enough to take the next step!

M.P. McDonald said...

I haven't understood all the anger either. I see this as an opportunity on both a personal level, and for Indie authors in general. The other places like BN, Apple and Smashwords will have to do something to woo Indie authors back if they want to keep us. Maybe they don't want us? We'll know soon, I guess.

Henry Baum said...

It really seems like you're cheerleading a monopoly. "Everyone wins for now." Fine, short term people have their book lended. Long term, there are fewer ereaders b/c other venues can't compete with the number of titles, and then Amazon holds all the cards. It's the perspective that's tanked the economy: profit now, who cares about the future?

JAMES BRUNO said...

While all three of my novels have been Kindle paid genre bestsellers, they have sold squat via other platforms (B&N, Smashwords, etc.) So, I'm willing to give it a shot. The way I look at it, I've got little to lose. So far, Amazon has been very good to me and also very responsive with my queries, troubleshooting, etc. Five minutes after signing up, a Prime member borrowed one of my titles. I'll decide after 90 days whether it was worthwhile and whether or not to renew. It's nice not being treated like chopped liver as an author.

author Scott Nicholson said...

MP, I doubt BN would have ever opened to indies if Amazon hadn't. They have a big incentive to plug the Big Six books that feed their brick and mortar and pay for shelf placement. Now indies are essentially a free revenue source. Win win.

Henry, I simply believe a monopoly is impossible for digital content. Even if every market shuts you down, you can sell from your own website. Selling on Amazon is a generous privilege, not a God-given right, and I'd never tell anyone to be beholden to one person (or entity) for their happiness. In fact, these moves inspire me to become even more self-reliant, not more dependent on any one entity. Amazon will never have a monopoly any more than Wal-Mart will. It may hurt some folks, but tiny springs always bust through the rock. Nobody gets promised anything. Even the next breath is not ours to claim.

James, Amazon customer service is legendary--sure, they make mistakes, but despite the market dominance, it is built on a consumer-oriented model. Heck, customer reviews and habits are pretty much shaping their entire store. Good luck.

Swands said...

I decided to enroll three of my ebooks today. They are slow sellers most of the time so I think it will serve as a good way to judge whether or not going exclusive will matter. Having some of that Amazon promotion power could really be a benefit as opposed to having un-promoted works available through other venues. If it's available but no visible then what's the point? And like you said, you can opt out.

Henry Baum said...

A monopoly is not necessarily 100% share of the market, it's most of the market. So authors can sell from their website - this is the consolation? That would be a terrible place to be for indie authors. This move makes people exactly more dependent on Amazon. The only people who will be able to unload a huge amount of books off a personal website are authors like JK Rowling. So your response sounds nice, but it has little relation to the reality of selling books.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Good luck, Steve, I hear the library count is over 70,000 so I don't know how much visibility there will be. Although I am sure lightning will strike some people. If you feel you have nothing to lose, why not?

Henry, I don't know what to say. Even if writers pull out of Amazon, we're still better off than we were three years ago. I just don't see this as a sign of the apocalypse, and I can't do a darn thing about what Amazon does and doesn't do, and, frankly, I don't really care that much--it's actually kind of fun to roll with the punches. I went through the trad industry when it was skinning writers alive and very few were having any success--but I never felt New York "owed" me a book deal or an audience or any incentive to write.

What is the reality of selling books, or the reality of anything? I'd say it is a moving target. Twenty years ago, the reality of selling books was you had to have a publisher who would put you in bookstores. Ten years ago it was get in stores and sell your paper books on Amazon. Right now it is sell digital books. I just don't understand this widespread belief that Amazon owes indie writers something, or that Amazon has to act in the best interest of anyone but itself. I hope it works out well for you, but I don't think any of us can "blame Amazon" if things don't roll exactly the way we want.

And if Amazon dumps out all the indies, we're STILL way better off for all Amazon has done. Personally, I am grateful.

Henry Baum said...

I think you're misunderstanding what I'm getting at. "...or that Amazon has to act in the best interest of anyone but itself." This is my point - Amazon doesn't care. And if indie writers aren't careful, Amazon could become the behemoth that traditional publishing has become.

I love KDP and I'm grateful to Amazon, but they do some stupid things too. This, to my mind, isn't in authors' long-term interests. Competition among ereaders is good for authors, and if authors ditch the Nook and Kobo for Kindle-only, this will kill competition. That usually doesn't have a good result for customers.

author Scott Nicholson said...

I don't think "indie writers' as a group will ever act in a single manner, so it's pretty much the Wild West. I hope it works out for all of us.

author Scott Nicholson said...

And I have seen my sales INCREASE in the other markets since this happened. I actually believe it will stimulate competition and cause other ebook markets to come up with cool plans, and will also reward those who diversify and take creative approaches. And it draws attention to ebooks in general. However it turns out, all of us will be better off than we were three years ago. Good luck!

JAMES BRUNO said...

UPDATE: I enrolled all three of my novels. Since offering my thriller Permanent Interests as a freebie this morning, over 5,000 people have downloaded it, advancing it in popularity to #1 in the Political Fiction category, #2 in Spy Tales, #4 in Thrillers, #23 in Fiction, and #32 among all book genres. This is a two-day promotion, after which my other two will go freebie, sequentially, for 48 hours each. Whether this translates into higher sales afterward is an open question. It behooves us all to share our experiences.

Amazon has been very good for this author. All three of my books have been paid genre bestsellers. By contrast, I've sold few via B&N, Smashwords, Google, etc.

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