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Amazon KDP Select: A Love/Hate Relationship

June 17, 2018

     Amazon's business model offering indie authors a platform for publishing their works has opened a new world for both aspiring authors and readers. Until Amazon came along, the only chance an author had at being published was through the large, traditional publishing houses. As any author will tell you, getting your work published through traditional publishers was, and still is, very difficult.

     J.K. Rowling is a good case in point: she was rejected many times before a traditional publisher finally took a chance and published her first Harry Potter book. I can imagine that more than one publishing executive regrets not paying more attention to her after the worldwide success that is the Harry Potter franchise!

     Amazon has made publishing easy, and almost anyone can now write their story and make it available through Amazon's Kindle program. There are now literally millions of e-books that are available to readers that simply would not exist without Amazon.

     One of Amazon's offerings to their readers is a monthly subscription program called Kindle Unlimited. For a monthly fee, Kindle Unlimited members can "borrow" and read up to 10 e-books at a time. When you are done, you simply "return" the e-book and can then borrow another as long as you do not have more than 10 at any given time. This is a great deal for people who love to read e-books.

     The flip side of the Kindle Unlimited program for authors is Kindle Select. This is a program where authors can make their e-books available to the Kindle Unlimited members. Only e-books that are enrolled in Kindle Select are available to be read by Kindle Unlimited members.

     The downside for authors though is that they are only paid by the number of pages a Kindle Unlimited member has read (calculated by the Amazon computers) when the book is returned. Unlike a full sale of an e-book, authors who enroll their e-books in Kindle Select are paid by the number of pages that are read by the borrower. The average per page amount that is paid to the author is $0.0045. That is not a typo - less than half a cent is paid for every page that is read. 

     To put this in perspective, my e-books sell for $4.99 - $5.25 for 290-368 pages; full length novels. When my books sell at these prices, I earn 70% of the selling price ($3.49 - $3.68). The same books pay me $1.31 - $1.66 when fully read by an Amazon Kindle Unlimited member.

     Most authors hate the Kindle Unlimited payment rate and feel it is unfair to them.  Many authors feel that Amazon is the only real winner here,  as they are collecting a monthly subscription from their Kindle Unlimited members while reducing payments to the authors who wrote the books that attract the subscribers. 

     The author message boards of full of indie authors bitching and moaning about how unfair the Kindle Unlimited program is to them. Many threaten to "go wide", a term used when someone publishers their e-books with other online sellers, and pull their books from the Kindle Select program. Other retailers such as Kobo, Barnes and Noble and i-Tunes offer indie authors a platform for selling their books, but their market shares are simply not as large as Amazon's. So what's an author to do?

     Until someone comes along with a disruptive sales model that will knock Amazon out of top spot, there is not much an indie author can do. If you want people to be able to discover your books, you have to get the books in front of the largest audience possible. Right now that audience is with Amazon.

     No one is forced to enroll their e-book with Kindle Select and make it available to their Unlimited clients, but with millions of Unlimited subscribers who only borrow books (they don't buy them - why would they when they have millions of choices for a low, monthly subscription?), neglecting this program is choosing to ignore millions of potential fans.

     Sure, the per book payout through Kindle Select may only be a fraction of an actual sale, but isn't something better than nothing?

 

 

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