I often see people asking online whether Amazon's KDP Select program for authors is worth getting into. The standard answer is "give it a go and test". However, before you join up to their program, you should understand exactly how you are likely to be positioned in the program. This page may help you to take some of the guess work out of your decision making process.
There is also a calculator provided on this page to help you crunch your numbers.
I have included an addendum, after receiving some feedback, that discusses my experience with the program and what helped me with deciding what to do next.
Amazon offers a subscription service to its clients. In return for the subs paid, their clients can download ebooks. Authors of these ebooks have to agree to allowing their ebooks to participate in this program. They do that by opting into the KDP Select program. In doing so, they also agree to Amazon being the exclusive provider of these ebooks for a 3 month period. This service only applies to ebooks.
So, how does the author get paid? Amazon calculates the number of pages (called Kindle normalised pages) based on the word count of your book. The author gets paid a royalty for each page that is read once by the reader. The amount paid can vary slightly as it is dependent upon the fund allocated by Amazon but seems to average about $0.004 per page read.
For a detailed explanation of the program, its pros and cons, including other information authors should be aware of, I refer you to this blog on Publishdrive. You should ensure you are familiar with this. (I have nothing to do with this outfit. It is just that the article was pretty comprehensive and worth a read.)
The following chart shows what you earn based on pages read and assuming that each page read results in a royalty to you of $0.004.
The vertical axis shows the earnings and the horizontal axis displays the number of pages. The more pages read, the more you earn.
The reason I have put this chart up is so that you can visualise your earnings process. But that's not the whole story.
You can now compare the royalty earned from a sale with the royalty earned from pages read.
Here's a practical example - assume that the royalty from the sale of a book is $2. Track your way up the vertical axis to $2 and then across to the line, then down to the number on the horizontal axis which is 500 pages. This number is the breakeven point where what you earn from sales equals what you earn from the KDP program.
If the number of pages in your book is less than 500, you are effectively offering your book at a discount to Amazon subscribers. The greater the gap, the greater the discount.
Similarly, if you are on the other side of 500, you effectively earn more from the program than you would from a sale.
However, you should bear in mind that there is no guarantee that someone will download and read your book just as there is no guarantee that someone will buy your book. But this is something you should factor in when deciding whether to join the program or go wide.
Use this calculator ONLY AS AN INDICATOR as results may differ in reality.
I've created a calculator to help you work out the numbers for your book. It assumes that the payout is $0.004 per page from the program (which seems to be the case on average). Just enter two values (your royalty from the sale of one book and your book word count) and the calculator will figure out the rest. The word count used for this calculator is 200 words per page so round your input to the nearest 200 by clicking the up/down arrows.
KDP Select vs Sales
|Book Word Count||Sale Royalty (1 book)|
|KENPC Pages||Breakeven Pages|
If the KENPC pages for your book (based on your word count) is less than the Breakeven pages, it indicates that your book will be offered at a discount in the program for the royalty amount stated.
If the KENPC pages for your book (based on your word count) is greater than the Breakeven pages, it indicates that your book will be offered at a premium in the program for the royalty amount stated.
NOTE: There is no guarantee of a sale and there is no guarantee of a download in the program. Also, be aware that even if a reader downloads the book, they still have to read it and these calculations assume that the reader reads the whole book.
There are a lot of pros/cons described in various articles and the above could be regarded as just one further consideration. However, in my view, it can all be distilled down to a couple of simple things.
First, Amazon has a large customer base and it provides the opportunity for accessing that base. Some people have benefitted from this while others have not. Amazon promises you nothing other than access to its subscriber base. Everything else, especially marketing, is up to you.
Secondly, many writers are writing shorter books and this is a recognised trend particularly in the ebook market. However, Amazon also recommends pricing between the "sweet spot" of $3-$10 range especially if you want to score the 70% royalty payment. This also means that many of these books are likely to be offered at a discounted price to Amazon subscribers if the author chooses to opt-in. Amazon insists on exclusivity for a 3 month period and will likely squeeze the royalties depending on the size of the book and its price - this is the present price for inclusion.
Either way, it is still up to the author to do all the marketing as exposure is not guaranteed. Whether you choose to give it a go or not, you should know what you are getting into.
For me, I did choose to give it a go and, at the time (and possibly like many who opt-in first time), I didn't have a proper appreciation of this as I hadn't really been able to distill this down to a purely business decision. Did I benefit from the program? No and that was irrespective of marketing. The downside was that my ebooks were locked in for 3 months with nothing to show for it. I should point out this is not the experience for everyone and there are many who have found opting in to be a good experience and the exposure can be extremely valuable. As such, I don't want to discourage you because of some sad story. Even though KDP Select hasn't worked for me, it did give me material to write about so it's not all sad.
So, would I do it again, opt-in that is? In a perfect world, probably. However, purely from a business perspective, Amazon just doesn't offer me enough incentive to tie up my assests for 3 months at a time - I now expect more than just an opportunity in return, especially as their program will squeeze my royalties and I still have to handle all my own marketing. Although Amazon does have a large market share, it's a good thing that the world is presently still much bigger than them. In addition, Amazon customers don't just subscribe but also buy so opportunities are abound.
Bottom line is that whether you choose to give it a go or not, it's better to fish in this pond with your eyes open. Being able to distill things down to just a couple of things has helped me reduce the guess work and make it easier for me to chart a way forward.
Consistent with the theme of this article, I highly recommend this video on youtube by the guy behind Smashwords. Click Here To View. It is worth noting his comments/perspectives from 1.42 onwards in relation to whether you should go exclusive or go wide. At the time of this writing, I am not involved with this distributor but am thinking along similar lines. If you're here, you are probably on a similar journey so I hope to point you to things I have found useful.
Just something more for you to consider in your deliberations.
Thanks for stopping by and hope you found this page useful.
Don't forget to check out my other writings on my website and my books are available from the Amazon bookstore here.
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