Dear Amazon,

Recently you sent me an email, telling me about your new Kindle Select Program. It was an email brimming with promise, but all too quickly did I see through your marketing ploy, I’m afraid.

You are truly asking me to give you my books on an exclusive basis for the privilege to forfeit potential sales so that you can lend them to your Prime customers? What’s in it for me?

Oh, yes, I recall, you mentioned something about $7,500 a month… no, that can’t be right. I don’t even make that in sales.

Because 500,000 divided by 7,500 makes 67, what you are so tastefully proposing would give exactly 67 authors the chance to make that kind of money. Will I be one of them? Will you make sure that I will be one of them? No, you will not. Of course, not. What am I thinking? You’ll throw me in the pot with everyone else, as usual. Just like you never took an interest in my success in the past, you will take none whatsoever in my doing in the future, so why should I support an effort that serves the sole purpose to grow your bottom line? Most of the time you don’t even respond to emails when they touch upon a subject you’re not comfortable with.

Even if you did not major in Math, the way I did, it is easy for anyone to tell that your math is broken – very broken.

To split $500,000 between all participating books may sound like a lot, but it is not. Here we are, six hours after you opened the doors to authors to enroll, you already have 15,000 books in your Lending Library. That means that each book will make an average of $33 per month. We both know what will happen in the next few days. The Lending Library will swell to over 100,000 titles and we will be looking at an average of $5 per book. That’s not a whole lot. In fact, it represents two real sales. Not quite the way to make a living.

What’s worse is that we have to take into account that bestselling books sell about 500-1000 times more than midlist titles, which means the potential revenue for the average book will be a few cents. Now, explain to me again, please, why I should be a part of this program? I am giving up potential sales, I am giving Amazon exclusivity for 90 days for the privilege to earn a few cents every month?

Sorry, Amazon, but Homey don’t play that.

To top it all off, I would have to explain to all my disgruntled readers why they can no longer get my books on other retail sites for their Nooks, their Kobos, their iPads. I wish they had all the sympathy in the world for my desire to fatten Amazon’s bottom line with my hard work, but let’s face it, in reality they will be upset with me. The result will be that I am actually losing readers in the long run over this. But it may affect you, too, because you know how people feel about corporate greed. I know, I know, it’s an overused buzzword, but it still works every time to get people up in arms.

You may not know this, but in the business world, if you want something exclusively, you usually have to sweeten the deal. A lot. Companies are typically receiving big fat checks up front to make their products available exclusively to a retailer. It is the way the free market world turns. I mean, after all, you expect me to give up stuff to make you look better. So let me ask you again. What’s in it for me? To become part of a convoluted Lending Library that decreases in value with every new book that is being enrolled?

You may think, all Kindle authors are amateurs and don’t know a scheme if only the verbiage is enticing enough, but I will tell you that I saw right through you. Your mentions of $500,000 and $7,500 figures are nothing but a carrot — ooooh big numbers. It has to be good.

I am sorry to disappoint, but I’m not a donkey. I can do math and I can see clear.

I can’t blame you for trying, of course, but I think you have been making a few serious mistakes lately that indicate to me that you have lost touch with your author base. Perhaps my friends were right. Perhaps you were luring all of us authors to your Kindle platform only so that at the right time you can strangle the life out of us in order to grow your own bottom line and to make your board of directors happy. I am not sure I would like that. I am not on your board of directors, but perhaps we can change that. With a little bit of goodwill on your end, that should be feasible, right?

Write back soon and let me know how things are going,
Guido Henkel


Addendum – 12/9/2011:
As of this morning, the Kindle Lending Library is over 35,000 titles thick. That means the average revenue for each book is now $18 and it keeps plummeting very quickly! Those were only the first 24 hours. I have no doubt that after the weekend we will be looking at 100,00 titles in the Library — all of them devalued, all of them no longer available to Nook, Kobo and iBookstore readers. How can that possibly be good business?

Oh yes, there is the lure of “Free” – you can make your book free for a few days and it will undoubtedly result in millions of downloads, catapulting your name in the ranks of a Dean Koontz, Lisa Jackson or Stephen King. I think people should watch “The Incredibles” a little more, because there’s a lesson to be learned. In the film the superheroes fight a villain who plans to give superpowers to ever man, woman and child in the world, but here’s the crux of the matter, as Syndrome, the villain himself states – “Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super… no one will be.”
To put it in plain Kindle language, if everyone is offering their book for free, it is once again disappearing in the glut and no longer special. Already, this morning there were a whopping 2400 new free books on Amazon. Do you really believe these will all see the phenomenal download numbers of the past? Think again. There is no gain in this.