Author Services: KDP Select

In a previous blog post, I discussed my financials. I had several people approach me and ask about January, the first month where all four of my titles were involved in the KDP Select system.

KDP Select is Amazon's exclusive system. In exchange for exclusivity on Amazon, I get access to free book promotions (five days of ‘selling' my book for free) or I get access to the Countdown Deals offering, which allows me to discount my books with a timer attached to them.

It also gets me into the Kindle Unlimited system and the Kindle Online Lending Library system, a way readers can borrow my books without directly paying for them. (They pay Amazon for access to the system, I get a cut of the big pot each month.)

I've spoken about this before, but I've had less than good luck with epub retailers. In the year or so I was with major retailers–actually, closer to two, considering Smashwords's refusal to remove the Eye of God from their distribution for four months–I made less than $50 worth in royalties.

To put this into clear contrast, I made over three times that amount in January alone from KDP Select benefits. So, in the interest of disclosure, epub was a failure for me in many ways, which is why my interest in KDP Select as a viable platform for me as an author. Maybe if I become more popular, epub retailers will become more lucrative for me, but my focus is currently on amazon and acquiring a following there.

Before I dig into January 2015's KDP Select numbers, I want to talk about the KDP Select system in general–this is a service review, of sorts, for the system as a whole.

A long time ago, Select only offered free promotions. Their lending system wasn't a thing back then. There wasn't really a whole lot of good reasons to become exclusive with Amazon. However, the free day promotions were nice. When Countdown Deals was launched, I took advantage of it, and I got decent results for Storm Without End.

The two combined did make KDP Select look pretty nice–but not nice enough. For a while, I went back to non-exclusive.

When Winter Wolf released, I pumped over a thousand dollars into promotions in my effort to break into the epub market at the same time I was promoting the novel on Amazon.

I earned a big bad $16.00 from epub vendors. Amazon was much, much better, earning out $1,300 between Inquisitor (book 1) and Winter Wolf (book 2). Technically, I lost money on my promotion specifically for Winter Wolf. If I hadn't been pushing so hard for epub (which was a miserable failure) I wouldn't have invested nearly as much–but I wanted visibility, and I wanted to try to break into the epub market.

All in all, it was an epic failure. I know a lot of people want epub versions, but if people aren't buying the books, saying epub versions are desired doesn't do any good for the author–except waste a lot of effort, time, and money, as it did in my case.

To put this into perspective, I've had probably 50 comments from readers wanting epub versions. I've had less than a quarter of that number in actual sales.

(That said, if you want an epub version, please buy a copy on Amazon and convert it to your flavor of choice. My titles are all DRM free.)

So, unless something changes for me in the epub front, or Amazon's KDP Select system starts falling flat on its face, I'll probably stick with Amazon. I resumed full KDP Select exclusivity in January 2015–to be exact, I enabled it on the 31st of December to keep things properly segregated.

I understand people wanting copies of titles in their format of choice, but supply and demand rules apply. I can't hold myself hostage to an audience that doesn't support me as an author–or has actual interest in my books. (I totally support taking legitimately purchased copies of ebooks and converting them to the reading format of the owner's choice.)

My opinion is harsh, but I can't spread myself so thin–not for $50 over a couple of years. Maybe if a few zeroes were added in there, or if my audience actually read using epubs, it'd be a different story. (I can count on two hands the number of times people have actually requested epubs and cared enough about the books to acquire them on Amazon and asked me for ARC epub copies.)

This is not to disparage the readers–I know people have their cool fancy epub readers, some of which are waterproof and can go into bathtubs!! At the same time, however, I need to make a livable career for myself.

So, KDP Select has come through for me, where epub sales have not. And that's the name of the game for each and every author trying to make a living wage–go where the audience goes.

Sometimes, I make stupid, stubborn, and personal choices on the books I write. I talked about that in the post regarding my decision to become a full-time author. Requiem for the Rift King and The Fall of Erelith are both series losing me money–but I'll write them to completion, for myself, and for my readers and fans.

So, I'm going to dive into some numbers here to help illuminate my experiences with KDP Select.

First up, January 2015's numbers: (Title, Unit Type, $Royalties, # of Copies)

January $467.90 229
Inquisitor $206.75 112
KU/KOLL Units $97.73 71
Standard $109.02 41
Storm Without End $16.35 9
KU/KOLL Units $8.26 6
Standard $8.09 3
The Eye of God $9.15 6
KU/KOLL Units $6.41 5
Standard $2.74 1
Winter Wolf $235.65 102
KU/KOLL Units $70.94 52
Standard $164.71 50

It's worth taking a close look at these figures. One month's sales is not a trend setter. Historically, February is always a lower month, while January still has purchasing power due to Christmas and people cashing in on gift certificates. February tends to be a lower month for me all around.

KU/KOLL units pay less in royalties, but the numbers of units sold is often equal (or higher) than my standard sales–especially in the case of my urban fantasy series, which include my most popular books.

In short, my income was a bit over $170.00 higher in January than it would have been otherwise. As a general rule, these tend to be extra sales. I did not see a notable increase or decrease in standard sales when I've switched on and off from KDP Select in the past.

Now, not all authors will share that experience. Some are experiencing major losses of revenue due to the new Kindle Unlimited library. I'm not one of these people. My income has increased.

Let me use December of 2014 as an example of why I feel this way. This includes all data from December, but I'll color the things to look at in blue.

December $1,335.33 919
Inquisitor $605.91 717
Free – Promotion $0.00 408
KU/KOLL Units $237.09 168
Standard $368.82 141
Storm Without End $27.02 12
KU/KOLL Units $5.24 4
Standard $21.78 8
The Eye of God $12.24 6
KU/KOLL Units $2.86 2
Standard $9.38 4
Winter Wolf $690.16 184
Standard $690.16 184

If you look at the Standard Units for both Inquisitor and Winter Wolf, they're pretty close. Winter Wolf is 40 higher than Inquisitor, which can be easily attributed to the fact it released in November.

Now, take a look at Inquisitor's sales. Inquisitor has been around a lot longer, was cheaper to purchase in December, and had an equal amount of KU/KOLL Units–a trend that repeats in January of 2015.

Since the release of the KU/KOLL line, sale figures in general have been lower–except when I've been enrolled in the library, where my sales increased. These users are taking advantage of the Kindle Unlimited library. Will this trend continue? I really don't know. I will say this much: preorders for Storm Surge are low, and I know a lot of my readers and fans are taking advantage of the unlimited library. You can't preorder books through the unlimited library. While Storm Surge is not in a popular series, I know of a good number of people either intending to buy the book or check it out in the library when it releases.

Release month will tell the tale for certain, but my general feeling is that as an author, I'll be impacted in general sales even if I wasn't enrolled in KDP Select.

I'm battling against a constant supply of ‘free' books. That's a hard deal to surpass, and I can't blame readers and fans for taking advantage of the kindle unlimited library. There are a lot of really talented authors who are exclusive to Amazon.

So, sure, December is a pretty good indicator that there are a lot of users who are using the new library system over buying titles directly. I suspect that there are also users who stray from the library to get titles from favored authors.

But for someone who is starting out–I don't have that fan base. I'm not really all that popular yet. I hope to be, but I'm not. I'm a realist like that.

I made $577 using KDP Select's new Kindle Unlimited library. Considering most of the year I wasn't enrolled in KDP Select to take advantage of it, or the books it does well in weren't released, that's not bad.

I will be watching it over the months. If the trend continues, and I keep making money in the Select system, I'll stay.

Right now, I just don't have a viable reason to leave it yet. Despite my efforts, epub markets were panning out. Most of my audience, at current, is on Amazon.

Your mileage will vary.

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