Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kindle Select: A Potential Monopoly?

It has been one hell of an interesting week with the launch of Kindle Select, a new program for indie authors where they can give Amazon 90 day exclusivity of their titles in exchange for a piece of a mysterious pie and the opportunity to promote their titles for free for up to 5 days.

I've been lurking on the forums and listening to peoples' experiences who took this plunge with both feet, and the more I watch, the more concerned I become.

I mean, obviously Amazon isn't creating this program out of the goodness of their hearts, so there must be a reason why they created such a tempting program for indie authors.

From what I've heard from folks who used their free promotions this past weekend, some benefits for Amazon have become apparent:

  • Amazon doesn't let you opt out more than once! 
    • When you sign up for Kindle Select, you get 72 hours to opt out and change your mind. However, if you opt out once, you don't get that same window the next time you sign up. You're in. For 90 days. PERIOD.  They also make you forfeit your opt out window if you have your book go free during that timeframe. 
  • The non-compete clause means no bundles, and probably no excerpts.
    • If you have a short story in their program, you have to unpublish any short story bundle or anything with an excerpt of that story from all other sites.  Doing #samplesunday on your blog? Well, you've got to erase all of that, too, or potentially forfeit any earnings.
  • The "Free" game has changed.
    • It used to be that when your book or story went free on Amazon, it zoomed you up in the ranks. This meant when your story went back to paid, you'd still be at whatever ranking you earned as a free book.  If you hit the Top 100 for your genre, you could get a lot of exposure, and a lot of sales.
    • From friends of mine who went free this weekend, I heard of people going from the Top 20 in their genre, to falling instantly back down to their previous rank when it went paid again, down to 1 billion.  The game has changed. Amazon may have tweaked their algorithms.
All this is to say, AUTHOR BEWARE!

I had one title in this program because I got excited like everyone else, but I've since pulled it.  I don't want Amazon to get a monopoly over indie authors, and I certainly don't want to be part of a program that promises a promotional tool and delivers something else entirely.

It feels very predatory the more I learn.

What do you think?  Any experiences with Kindle Select, good or bad?


Bradley Convissar said...

I'll say the same thing I've said on a dozen other blogs I commented on about this subject: I personally have nothing to lose. My sales on Smashwords (and their associates Apple, Kobo, Sony, etc) and BN are relatively flat, so why not try it. I did two days free, now lets see if that translates to any more sales. Of course, it probably won't happen right away, because people sometimes take months to get to the free stuff on their Kindle. but I'll have to wait and see. As for the Prime program, again, i need to wait and see. But i'm tired of hearing people say, "Oh, bad Amazon, trying to make a monopoly. How evil of them." Well, until BN stops cowtowing to the Big 6 and stops burying Indie and finally offers some sort of program to help promote us, I owe them nothing. Amazon may be doing this to make money, but you know what? They help me get my books some exposure out there and they deserve my business. People should stop whining about the monopoly issue. Don't like it, don't sign up. But BN, they done nothing to earn any loyalty from me, and the lack of sales compared to Amazon shows that they don't care about helping Indie writers get exposure. Because they don;t have the clout of Amazon and they don't want to piss off the Masters. Okay, I'm done.

Rebecca Knight said...

Bradley, thanks so much for your candid comments :). I love the passion!

I do agree with you that the other retailers need to step it up if they're going to compete, and I really think if they do, it will be a great thing for authors.

Right now Amazon's 70% royalty rate is the best in the biz. But what happens if B&N raises theirs to compete?

Well, one thing that will happen is that I'll be smiling, but other than that?

We'll see what happens!

Bradley Convissar said...

For me, it's not necessarily about the percentage. it's about volume of customers and exposure. I have two books for free both on BN and Amazon. The two combined, over a two month period, were picked up 1200 times on BN. The same two books on Amazon? 50,000 times combined in 3 weeks. Now, many, if not most, of the people who downloaded it won;t read it. they pick it up b/c it is free. But look at the exposure difference! I signed up for the select and put one book in. It was free for two days, which helped it's exposure. And now I've sold a dozen of them- not loaned, but sold- in the past two hours because of the exposure. I do truly believe BN is being leaned on by the Big 6 to keep Indie's down while propping up the traditionall published books. The Big 6... why do books take a year to a year and half after completion to be released? because of time tables and competeion from similar books both interanlly and externally. And now everything is being thrown into chaos because Indie authors can release quality trilogies in a year and a half instead of three years. And BN... the tradional publishers are in competion with Amazon, so all they can do is lean on BN and Sony and Apple and keep indies down. So we see almost no internal help in regards to exposure. So... within two hours of a free download, I ahve now sold twice as many copies of a book than I did in two months on BN. For me, the choice is obvious. Liek it or not, Amazon dominates the e-Book market. And you know what? if someone who owns a Nook reallllly ants to read my Amazon exclusive, they can download the Kindle app to their phone, tablet, PC or Mac and read it.

Anonymous said...

Bradley, your arguments come down to the same basic thing I hear from everyone who's considering Kindle Select: "What's in it for me?" In my opinion, it's a bigger issue than that. It's about a healthy marketplace and treating ALL my readers with respect, not just the ones who own Kindles. I don't honestly think it's very considerate to tell your readers they have to read off their phone or PCs.

I have a response when I see that someone's a Kindle Select participant (and it's easy to tell since their book is free to Kindle Prime members). I don't buy their book. If that person is trying to limit the way I can access a story for their own greed, then they aren't getting my money. There are too many other good books out there and not enough time (or money) to read them all. By participating in Kindle Select, an author has just made my book buying decision a lot easier.

Rebecca, thanks for posting this. I'm with you in the "worried" camp. :)

Bradley Convissar said...

I'm sorry, i can not agree. Selling books is a business, unless you are happy with it being a hobby. if an author finds that BN, Apple, etc do little to nothing to help get our faces and books out there while Amazon has put together a wonderful program o make us more accessible to millions, I know where to put my eggs. It is ridiculous to stick with a program that gives you nothing. if I told you I had one, ONE, BN sale every month, would you still tell me it was my duty to keep my books listed there?

Bradley Convissar said...

Everything an Indie author does is about gaining exposure and gaining readers. And yeah, like any business, sometimes you need to alienate a few to get the attention of the many. Sucks, but that's the way it is. And if places like Apple and BN give NO, ZERO, ZILCH incentive to stay with them, then why? Let's give an example, and then you be honest with me

Let's say an author has a book that's sold at Walmart and Target. Now let's say that at Target, your book is on the bottom shelf, buried behind OTHER books, where very few people, if any, will actually find it, let alone buy it. Now let's say Walmart tells us that if we sell the book exclusively through them, they'll put it up on the end cap once a month. And keep it exposed where people can easily find it. And maybe put it in ad once in a while. I know it is not a perfect analogy, but its close enough.

I'll say it again... for an Indie author, the second most important thing next to writing a book is getting it seen, getting exposure, getting people to read it. If people can not even find my books on BN, Sony, etc because those sites are soooo busy only pushing Big 6 books, if my books are practically buried there, what's my incentive to stay? So one or two people can buy a book a month? Really? Let's be blunt. That is NOT a good business decision. Of course I love writing, but I want people to read what I write, so everything has to be a business decision.

So yes, I am willing to sacrifice a handful of sales on other sites to gain greater exposure at Amazon. And in one day, I sold more copies of a single book than I sold on BN all year for all my books combined! SO I signing up one book for kindle select, I reached more eyes than I reached in a year selling everything on BN. Again, it's all about exposure. Look, no one can make everyone happy in life, and, once again, if a Nook owner wants to read something there are ways. Did we all forget about paperbacks?

Anyway, that's it. In all honesty, at the risk of sounding rude, if a handful of readers snub my book solely because they are offended by the fact that it is in the select program, I'll live with that. Because many more people have been exposed to my books BECAUSE they are in the select program. If you want to be angry by people like us, direct your anger where it belongs: the other eBook sellers who refuse to promote us because of Big 6 pressure and who absolutely bury us in their search engines. They're their owns that have made the Select program look so good to so many of us.

Bradley Convissar said...

One more thing, and then I am done. This whole thing may be about greed on Amazon's end, but NOT from the writer's end. It is not about money. It's about gaining an audience. Yes, the more people who like your books, the more money a writer will make. But that's not greed; that's loving writing so much you want to make it your full time job, not a hobby. Most Indie writer are just looking for that little toe hold, just trying to sneak a foot in the door so maybe their book will be the next big thing. I guarantee you, most, if not all, authors who chose to participate in the program are not rubbing their hands together and mumbling "money, I nee money." No, they are jumping at the chance of getting some exposure so may, just maybe, they'll be lucky enough to make a livign doing what they love