Should you self-publish exclusively on Amazon? That is the question many authors consider whenever they put a book out.
Which side of the fence are you on?
The benefits of exclusivity
Here are my thoughts as to why you should consider exclusivity with Amazon, which basically means that you cannot publish a particular work anywhere else BUT Amazon for a 90 day period when you opt in with the checkbox on the KDP publishing page.
KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited
The KDP Select help page describes the benefits to opting in as:
- Earn your share of the KDP Select Global Fund amount when readers choose and read more than 10% of your book from Kindle Unlimited, or borrow your book from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Plus, earn 70% royalty for sales to customers in Japan, India, Brazil and Mexico.
- Choose between two great promotional tools: Kindle Countdown Deals, time-bound promotional discounting for your book while earning royalties; or scheduled Free Book Promotion where readers worldwide can get your book free for a limited time. [Note: you can still make your book permafree if you publish on multiple platforms, pricing free and then reporting the cheaper price to Amazon.]
- Help readers discover your books by making them available through Kindle Unlimited in the U.S. and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) in the U.S, U.K., Germany, France, and Japan. Kindle Unlimited is a subscription program for readers that allows them to read as many books as they want. The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a collection of books that Amazon Prime members who own a Kindle can choose one book from each month with no due dates. When you enroll in KDP Select, your books are automatically included in both programs.
Ease of changes
One of the big pains when you go direct to all platforms is the timing of price changes for sales. You can schedule a price change on Kobo and iBooks, but Nook can take a few days and Amazon’s speed of change vary between 4 – 72 hours. Similarly, if you want to change back matter or fix a typo, you have to do it multiple times. Of course, you can use services like Smashwords, BookBaby or Draft2Digital and update once for all platforms, but I prefer to publish directly for the extra metadata fields I get on the various platforms.
If you are exclusive to Amazon, you only have to manage one site and one set of changes.
The drawbacks to exclusivity
There are several reasons why you shouldn’t be exclusive to Amazon.
Global growth of digital markets. Don’t miss out!
Amazon may be the biggest player in the US and the UK, but there are other retail stores and devices that dominate in other countries.
Germany, for example, is possibly the next big market for ebooks, and Amazon has 40% of the market. Apple iBooks and Tolino, an ebook reader and associated stores that are run by a group of German publishers, have the rest. I have found that my sales on the other German platforms match Amazon almost exactly.
My sales in Canada primarily come from Kobo, and both Kobo and iBooks break sales down into 50+ countries. We haven’t even got started in the massive Asian markets yet!
The Compound Effect
I’ve found that by going direct to iBooks, Kobo and Nook, I have started to grow an audience there, and my income ticks up every month as their ecosystems discover my books. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy is a fantastic book that describes how little actions taken every day can add up over time to massive change, or massive impact over years. You can’t expect to load your books up on Kobo and expect them to sell straight away, you need time in that market.
Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, says in his post on exclusivity that,
“It can take years to build readership at a retailer. Authors who cycle their books in and out of KDP Select will have a more difficult time building readership at Amazon’s competitors.”
I have seen the Compound Effect on my blog, my online platform and my book sales over the last six years. I know things take time to build, and a few hundred dollars a month now may grow if I stay my course.
Independence and possibility of disruption
I’m an independent author, so I don’t want to be dependent on any single income stream.
I love Amazon as much as the next indie author, as much as the next Amazon Prime junkie and happy customer, but in early 2008, I was laid off, along with 400 other people in one day from my department.
Few people saw the Global Financial Crisis coming, and we all had to adapt. Change is inevitable, so I choose to spread my bets amongst the retailers as well as selling directly from my own site.
In Jeff Bezos’ interview with Charlie Rose in Dec 2013, Jeff said that at some point, Amazon itself would be disrupted. He just hopes it happens after he is dead!
I think about the future of this business a lot.
I’m 39, and I am not just building for the next year, I’m building for the rest of my life and hopefully leaving something for my family when I’m gone. As Amazon continues to rise and rise, we see the push back of many different industries against their domination. Who knows what the next 5 years will hold?
Conclusion: My personal choices around exclusivity
One of the best things about being an indie is personal choice, but of course, this can make it harder as well. I can’t tell you what to do with your books, I can only say what I do myself.
- For anyone with one book and no platform, exclusivity seems to be the best way to get your book moving, at least in the initial period. I helped my Dad self-publish his historical thriller, Nada, last year, and put that in KDP Select. There was no point in going with the other platforms when the majority of his sales would be Amazon, and he had no intention of doing any ongoing marketing for the book. Free books allowed us to get the sales started and get some reviews.
- For translations, in a new market, with little ability to do other forms of marketing, exclusivity is also a good idea. I’m using KDP Select for my Spanish and Italian books, and the free promo days have enabled us to get the algorithms moving and get some reviews.
- For an established series that you are building over time, using more than one site is my personal choice. The compound effect will mean that over time, as I add books onto the platforms, and reach readers one by one, my sales will grow on the other sites. I also like spreading my income streams so I am not dependent on one platform for my livelihood. That’s why the vast majority of my English language fiction and non-fiction is on all the major platforms.
- Trying new things is important! For this year’s NaNoWriMo, I’ll be writing a stand-alone novella that I will put on KDP Select in order to try out Kindle Unlimited. As a reader, I love the idea of KU. I already utilize borrows on Prime and I consume a lot of books. I also love to play with the available options we have.
So basically, when you have multiple books, you can adopt multiple strategies. Fantastic!