Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Report On Amazon's KDP Select Program

I thought I take a few minutes to report on my experience with Amazon's KDP Select program, and some thoughts on my goals as an author.

In case you don't know, Amazon's digital publishing service, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), began a "select" program last November for authors. In exchange for an author agreeing to sell their ebooks only on Amazon, and allowing Amazon's Prime members to borrow their ebooks for free, Amazon sets aside a pool of money it divvies up between the authors whose books are borrowed, based on how many borrows the author had that month, and lets the author give their ebook away on five separate days in a three month period. (How's that for a masterfully-constructed sentence?) An author cannot even sell his or her ebook on their own web site, but the agreement doesn't apply to print books.

Amazon has captured about 60% of the ebook market in North America, down from about 80%. They've faced competition from Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and a few other small-time players. Their biggest rival, for ebooks, is the Nook from Barnes and Noble, which has about 27% of the market. Amazon's KDP Select program is obviously a ploy to recapture some of the market share they lost.

Normally I wouldn't give such a anti-competitive move a second thought, until I took a look at my sales. But before I get into that, let me first explain my author business plan.

I'm in this for the long haul. My goal is to retire from my day job and write full time in 2013. For me to do that, I need to build a lot of momentum in 2012. If I'm not able to retire completely by 2013, I'll at least practice part time. To build the momentum I think I'll need, I plan on publishing two Grant Starr thrillers this year. I'm almost 80K words into the first so I think my chances are good.

With that in mind, I don't care much that my sales were flat in 2011. While I would have loved for my book sales to be bringing in thousands a month, I'm not disappointed they haven't because I know they will, eventually. And then they'll pay forever.

Back to my sales: I made so little on Smashwords that they don't have to pay me. I made no sales on the Nook at all, and as far as I know I made nothing on the other sales avenues Smashwords uploads to. iBooks is one and Kobo is another. What little royalties I'd made by the end of 2011 came from Amazon. So it was kind of a no-brainer to me. I'll try the KDP Select program for three-to-six months and reevaluate.

I had my first free promo days in January for Canals. I had about 1,200 downloads and sold about $100 worth of ebooks after the sale. Not a lot, but I'll be getting my biggest royalty payment ever from Amazon. I've received one review so far from the promo, and it was good: 4 stars. I don't expect many of the free copies to be read.

Today was the second day for my The Mighty T free promotion. My biggest surprise is, I've had almost as many downloads from the UK as I have in the US. In fact, as of about 5:00 p.m. PST I think the UK is ahead. They've all gone to bed by now so I think I'll end up with 903 UK downloads. And it made to #1 on their free list for Action/Adventure. I'm pretty happy about that.

The US stats are sitting at about 900, I think. It's difficult to tell because today is March 1, and the stats for the US reset to zero today. Oddly, they didn't for the UK. Maybe I'll hit 1,000 tonight, maybe I won't. I'd be lucky to get 2,000 total downloads.

So far only one copy of my books has been borrowed; not enough to breakfast at Del Taco.

Hopefully I'll see some nice follow-up sales for The Mighty T over the next week or two, longer than that would be nice. We'll see. I'll report via comment on how it goes.