Saturday, March 16, 2013

Thoughts on KDP

Yeah, I know I'm late and missed my 10 PM deadline, but at least I made it before Sunday.

For those of you who don't know, Rising Tide is self-published on Amazon using the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program. The actual act of publishing using KDP is not only free but also ridiculously easy.  I s'pose that is why there are so many self-published books on the market right now.

Once your book is written (no big deal right?) it is simply a matter of creating an account, formatting your document, and uploading it to Amazon's servers. Formatting, admittedly, can be a challenge; but there are a lot of great resources out there that make creating a professional looking e-book easy as pie (this was my go to resource). One thing to keep in mind is that you have to be prepared and willing to give up that awesome title font you chose for your chapters or that perfect spacing, because e-readers snag those options away from the author and hand them over to the reader. An e-book's format, by nature, must be basic so it can be easily adjusted when the reader bumps up the font size or adjusts the viewing options.

My mind was completely blown the first time I uploaded Rising Tide. Really? That's it? If it weren't for my own editing errors, mistakes and inadequacies as a self-publisher, I dare say it would be indistinguishable from a professionally published e-book.

When publishing with KDP you basically have three options:
  1. 35% Royalty with no Distribution Charges and a $.99 minimum price;
  2. 70% Royalty minus Distribution Charges and a price between $2.99 and $9.99; and
  3. Option 1 plus KDP Select Enrollment
When I first published Rising Tide on Amazon I selected Option 2, as my book is relatively short and the file size based distribution charges were minimal. If my book were a Stephen King style epic or a cookbook with large, colorful pictures designed with the Kindle Fire in mind, Option 1 would probably be the better choice.

Back in January, I shifted over to Option 3, reduced my royalty rate and enrolled in KDP Select.  KDP Select is an additional service offered by Amazon to help promote your book. It might be free, but everything has a cost.

To be eligible for Select you must agree to make your book exclusive to Amazon for 90 days. The agreement requires you to pull all digital copies from the internet including your own website or blog. And there is no cheating, I forgot to pull my copy from Barnes and Nobel and received a nasty email from Amazon informing me that they had found it and if I continued to break the terms of my agreement, they could permanently remove my book from Amazon, revoke my usage of KDP, and/or recoup funds from books sold. No small threat to a gnat like myself.

Pulling my book from Barnes and Nobel and Smashwords didn't really bother me since most of my sales had been through Amazon anyway. What did freak me out a bit was that for 90 days I would lose control over my own work. I have found that my staunchest supporters and fans who have been actively contributing to expanding my readership, are those from the early days; those who I personally emailed a promotional copy. I like having the ability to hand a copy of my book to anyone I please, anytime I please.

Just to prove my point, for the next week I will send a free PDF, MOBI, or EPUB to anyone who +1 this post and tags me, my book, or either of my blogs in one of their posts.

If I hold my right to do as I please with my work so dear, why would I possibly enroll in KDP Select? What does it offer? That is the million dollar question and, quite honestly, the jury is still out. So, I will share with you what I do know and what I have learned.
  •  You gain entry into the Kindle Owners Lender's Library. Amazon Prime members pay an annual fee to get free 2-Day shipping on Amazon fulfilled items (I am a member and love my two day shipping). Bonus perks of the membership include access to free streaming videos and free books in the Lender's Library. Each time your book is borrowed, you receive a percentage of the Select pool (it is currently worth $1,000,000). In 90 days, I did not lend a single copy and, therefore, received no benefit from this part of KDP Select.
  • You are given 5 free promotions to use during the 90 days. This was effective in getting copies of my book loaded onto a large volume of readers' Kindles. But I am uncertain how effective volume is in relation to my overarching goals of getting positive feedback, reviews, and increased readership. 
Amazon makes buying a free book too easy. With a single click it is done and loaded. How many people buy a book because it is free and never end up actually reading it? What good is a promotion that sells my book to hundreds of people who never even look at it?

I have far more confidence in the promotions I have run through more manual channels, such as the offer above in which I send a copy in exchange for some small token of publicity. Those promotions, though the volume was far less, resulted in valuable personal interactions with my readers.
  • I have noticed an uptick in full-priced sales the week after a promotion and this leaves me a bit on the fence about KDP Select. 
I have decided I will not write off the Select program yet, but I will take a break from it. So let's see if we can get some sales going through other sources. I hope to have Rising Tide up on B&N and Smashwords by the end of the week.