Monday, March 18, 2013

Exclusivity

A few weeks ago I went all-in with Amazon KDP Select, the program that allows you to make your ebook free for a period of five days, and pays you for lends to Prime members.

I didn't make this decision lightly, because I don't like the exclusivity aspect of it. I believe competition is important in the marketplace, and I want to make my ebooks available in as many outlets as possible. In choosing KDP Select I'm missing out on money from other platforms, and I'm limiting my potential fanbase.

In the past, I've played with KDP Select with a few titles, but opted out again after the three month enrollment period. And I've always tried to have the majority of my titles available on other platforms.

I did very well on Kobo in December, making $4k. I like what Mark Coker is doing with Smashwords, but I really think he needs to find an anchor beyond ebook distribution (advertising in free ebooks?) B&N has been disappointing, but I made $14k on Nook last year, which isn't chump change. I've been putting off uploading my ebooks to iTunes because I had to get a Mac (you can't upload on a PC).

I believe I understand why exclusivity is important to Amazon. If authors enroll in KDP Select, and Kindle is the only place these authors' ebooks are available, then fans of these authors need to buy them from Amazon.

This also is the reason for proprietary formats. Buy the Kindle, and the only place to easily get ebooks is the Kindle Store. You can't shop BN.com with your Kindle.

While this undeniably drives consumers to Amazon, I also think there are some other things to consider.

Amazon has the best online shopping experience. If they allowed Nook and Kobo owners to shop on Amazon.com, they'd make more money than they would catering to a proprietary format. Open source always wins. The more people you allow to join, the better you do. I think Amazon should sell ebooks in epub format. If they want to try it out, they could experiment with my ebooks. Then I wouldn't feel like I'm letting down fans who have a different ereader, and both Amazon and I would sell more copies.

Some authors refuse to go into KDP Select because it is exclusive. This means Amazon customers don't have as much selection or choice as they could have.

Amazon spends a lot of energy (which I assume means man hours and money) making sure the KDP Select ebooks are exclusive and aren't available elsewhere. If they weren't exclusive, this energy could be conserved, or used elsewhere.

Amazon is dominating this market, but if they destroy all competition they'll have to deal with government intervention and outcries of monopoly. Plus, on a capitalistic evolutionary level, competition is good. It makes everyone improve their game.

And yet, in spite of my reservations, I went all-in. Every one of my ebooks is now in KDP Select, and has been for all of March.

So was it a good move?

I just checked my 6 week KDP total, which updated yesterday, and I've made over $100,000.

More than ten grand of that is from Prime borrows (assuming $2 a borrow for March). That more than makes up for my loss of sales on other platforms.

But while the borrows are nice, it's my free ebooks that are helping me sell my backlist. My first Jack Daniels novel, Whiskey Sour, has been free for the last four days, and I've given away over 100,000 copies.

That's the most I've ever given away during a free promotion, and I'm really curious to see how high I bounce back onto the paid bestseller lists tonight. The second in the series, Bloody Mary, has earned me over $8k this month, many of those sales in the last four days because of Whiskey Sour being free.

So I gotta say I've been extremely happy about going all-in with KDPS, even though I did it with some reservations.

Now I'll take questions.

Q: Haven't you publicly ranted against the exclusivity of KDP Select? Doesn't going all-in make you a hypocrite?

A: As new data comes in, I adjust my opinions. I'm currently making $2400 a day on Amazon. About 10% of that money is coming from borrows. I have years of data from the other platforms, but I've never earned $240 a day from them, even on all of them combined.

Right now, KDP Select is giving me the opportunity to make more money, and I'm taking that opportunity.

Q: What about your fans who have Nooks or Kobos?

A: My ebooks are DRM free. They can be purchased on Amazon and converted to epub format using Calibre.

Also, Kindles are just $69, less than the cost of three hardcover books. If a reader is willing to wait long enough, they can get all of my ebooks for free because eventually I'll make each title free. So a reader can buy a Kindle, then get my entire oeuvre for nothing.

Q: Aren't you concerned you are helping Amazon become a monopoly?

A: Lots of writers seem to fear Amazon's power. But I haven't seen Amazon abuse its power, and have no reason to believe they ever will. On the contrary, I've seen them treat authors very well. They've made some mistakes (what company hasn't?) but overall they've been a writer's best friend since introducing the KDP program.

That said, Amazon isn't a monopoly. But they are setting the bar high for competition.

If other platforms want to lure me back, they can. They'll just need to do more for me than Amazon is doing. If they don't want to woo me and other authors over to them, or feel they shouldn't have to, then they aren't taking into account the importance of writers--something publishers are also famous for.

How is this any different than having competing job offers? If more than one company wants to hire you, they need to make you a better offer than their competition.

Q: Are you going to stay in KDP Select for another three months?

A: Yes.

Q: But if every writer went all-in like you did, the competition wouldn't survive.

A: It isn't my job to help other platforms succeed. It is their job to lure me to their platform.

Q: Did you hear that Apple and Amazon have patents on selling used ebooks?

A: I've been following that with interest, and I'm not going to get all worked up about something that might happen. I'll wait until there is an official announcement from Amazon or Apple, with specific money details.

But I will say this: watching my peers overreact to this news has been highly amusing. Sometimes I think writers act a lot like gazelle getting spooked at the watering hole.

Q: But what if Amazon becomes a monopoly and reduces author royalty rates to 3% and then sells used ebooks for a penny and then takes over the government and launches a nuclear strike on Canada, our friendly neighbor to the north?

A: That would be tragic. I like Canada. But I'm not going to worry about this just yet.

Q: I don't believe you made $100,000 in six weeks.

A: I don't believe it either. But I did. :)