Dear Amazon… here’s what I think of your Kindle Select program

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.


61 Replies to “Dear Amazon… here’s what I think of your Kindle Select program”

  1. John H. Carroll

    I agree with you wholeheartedly on this Guido. I have too many readers with iPads, Nooks, Kobos and other platforms to just set them aside. Plus I have a lot of international readers who have to pay an extra $2 surcharge to buy from Amazon. 🙁

    P.S. Please don’t say homey again. It’s not pretty. 😉

  2. Jason Kristopher

    Disclaimer: 95.26% of my e-sales come from Kindle. That’s not an exaggeration, that’s actual daily sales tracking numbers. So going exclusive to Kindle doesn’t have the same impact for me as it does for others.

    That said, I fail to see how more exposure of your product will lose you sales.

    1) Customers can only borrow one book at a time, and only one per month.

    2) The book will still be purchasable in the Kindle Store, as always.

    3) You have the option to make your book free for up to 5 days out of each 90.

    Now obviously, #3 will lose you some money. But I think we’ve all seen how making a book free can boost its downloads inordinately. And that is a HUGE plus: getting the book in front of as many people as possible in as short a time as possible as easily as possible should be the mantra of every publisher, self or otherwise. And really, it’s only 5 days. If you space them out, you can ride a continuous wave of building publicity.

    Clearly, I’ve set my expectations differently than yours. I’m expecting to use this tool to broaden my reader base (notice I didn’t say buyer base) so that more people will know about my books. If they’ve already borrowed a book, maybe they’ll check mine out anyway and see that it’s a good deal and buy it.

    For me, it’s a promotional tool, not a moneymaker. I’m not expecting to get a big chunk of that pie. I’m using it, like all the other tools in my marketing toolbox, to get the books in front of people’s faces.

    What happens after that is up to them.

  3. Guido

    Jason, I think you will find that you will be very disappointed in the long run.

    The appeal of free books was great while it was a novelty. That was the only reason why it got so much attention, why these books got so many downloads. As of today, free books are becoming the status quo on Amazon. With it, you lose the novelty effect, with it you lose the impact they once had. Free books will no longer work as a way to build readership. It’s the same that happened to that stupid 99 price point. It worked at first and then every Tom, Dick and Harry priced their book at 99 cents and all it did was create the expectation in readers that eBook have an intrinsic value of 99 cents and not a whole lot more.

    While the book may still be for purchase in the store, why would people? I am a Prime member – been one for many years. I know that starting today, I will probably lend books instead of buying them. Why should I spend money on a book I can get for free?

    I understand that some writers are not in this for the money, but those of us who take this seriously and do this for a living have to look out for sales. It is not acceptable for me to give away my content for free, especially only to benefit someone else.

    Every which way I look at this, it’s a losing proposition and I have no doubt that in time you will feel the same way. It pains me to see how authors are willingly becoming part of the scheme to destroy eBook sales altogether.

  4. Candice

    I was not a math major, but I am a homeschooling mom, so I’ve had to master all the basic math operations. I can add, subtract, multiply, and divide, so it only took a quick skim of that Amazon email to know that this deal was a no-go for me. Without the need for exclusivity, I may have opted-in simply to help build my audience.

    I don’t yet have the kind of sales that would send readers searching for me by name. While most of my sales happen on Amazon, I don’t know if that will always be the case. I have 4 works going live before the New Year, and they will be available across platforms.

  5. R.E. McDermott

    Hi Guido, and thank you for a very clear and pointed post. I tend to agree that the ‘Select’ deal doesn’t quite add up and makes Amazon appear predatory. And in my own position, with a single title out, and with roughly 25% of current sales via B&N, there’s no way I would participate in the program as presented.

    Having said that, neither am I quite ready to assign the title of ‘Evil Empire’ to Amazon. I can’t forget that the 35/70% royalty scheme started with them, and no matter what they do, they are still more ‘author friendly’ at this point than any of the major publishers (at least in my opinion). Admittedly, they’ve adopted such an approach because it’s in their own best interests. I think treating authors fairly continues to be in their best interest and I think they’re smart enough to know that (again, my opinion).

    They stubbed their toe on this a bit, especially the way they rolled it out, and I believe there may be significant push back. (I’m pretty sure you’re not the only one that’s done the math. 🙂 That doesn’t mean it can’t morph into something better than what is currently being presented. And as Jason said, there may be promotional possibilities.

    Personally, I plan to take a ‘wait and see’ approach. If I had multiple titles, I might be willing to enroll one or two as a test. However, I obviously can’t take that risk with only one book and significant non-Amazon sales.

    Anyway, great post and thank you for providing the venue for discussion.

  6. Monique Martin

    It’s true that a Prime Member who reads a book a month could never buy a book again, but I would imagine most Kindle owners read more than that.

    • Guido

      Monique, I am not sure about this. It usually takes me about a month to read a novel. Most people have very limited time and not everyone is a speed reader. In addition I am not sure why it would be limited to one lending a month. I don’t recall seeing that anywhere. Is that part of the Prime Lending arrangement? That you can lend only one book a month?

  7. Lindsay B

    You tell ’em, Guido. 🙂

    I’m not really sure why people are convinced this will help with exposure. With tens of thousands of people signing up, I think it’ll just be another place for your books to languish in obscurity unless you already have a solid fan base, and if you do…well, you don’t really need this, do you? People are buying your books when they come out.

  8. Monique Martin

    Guido, I tend to think the majority of people with dedicated readers do read more than one book a month, but I don’t have any data to back that up. It’s just based on the people I know who might not be the best sample.

    Yes, the LL is limited to one borrow every 30 days, I believe.

    • Guido

      Yes, I just checked. It is limited to one book a month. Still, I think for many, many readers that will be sufficient. I have no data to back that up either, though. 🙂
      In the meanwhile they can grab on of the thousands of free books that suddenly become available as part of Amazon’s exclusivity deal. The result is the same. Books are read and no money is being made.

  9. Wolf Baginski

    Amazon and the Kindle look even worse for authors outside the USA.

    The Kindle operation is entirely in the USA for tax purposes, so I am expected to sign up for the US income tax system, as well as face paying income tax where I live and work. And the paperwork for dealing with that double taxation would cost me more than I ever expect to earn from any of my work.

    (It is the same for their Print-on-Demand service.)

    It is, I suppose, an honest enough deal, but Amazon self-publishing operations seem to be a bad deal for the buyer (close to vanity-press quality levels), and intensely parochial in their dealings with the authors.

  10. Jeff Rutherford

    Jason, it’s interesting that your sales are so heavily weighted towards Kindle. How are you selling on other platforms? Direct or via Smashwords? I sell eBooks via BN, Apple, Amazon, and Kobo. Amazon is third in overall sales for my titles, BN is the clear leader.

    It’s just interesting that your sales are overwhelmingly on Kindle.

    FYI – I agree with Guido’s post 100%. I find it mind-boggling the number of authors who are pursuing exclusive deals with Amazon’s publishing imprints. Two years ago those authors would have scoffed if you had suggested that they sign a publishing contract guaranteeing that their books never appear in independent bookstores or Barnes & Noble stores. Many readers are choosing ebook devices other than Kindle, and I want to make sure those readers can easily buy my books.

  11. Selena Kitt

    “Many readers are choosing ebook devices other than Kindle, and I want to make sure those readers can easily buy my books.”

    – As long as you make your book DRM-free, they can still buy on Amazon and still read it on iPad or Sony or whatever. Calibre is a free program and converts anything.

    I’m doing this – although like Guido, I did the math and it doesn’t add up. For the Hunger Games-type authors and even the Konraths of the world, it’s going to be VERY lucrative. There’s no gamble there.

    For me, it’s a gamble. I have 60ish titles, so I listed ten. And they’re not my biggest sellers either. I know I’m putting my money on the table and hoping to make it back, but I know I may never see it again.

    But it will be interesting to see what happens with it. Just another new twist in the road!

    -Selena Kitt

  12. April L. Hamilton

    I’m in the same boat as Jason. I can count on ten fingers the total quantity of ebook copies I’ve sold through channels other than the Kindle store over the past THREE YEARS, and I signed up for Select. I’d suggest the same move for ANY indie author or small publisher whose sales are dominated so overwhelmingly by the Kindle store (I’m talking 90% of sales or more). Each author or publisher needs to make this decision based on facts, and it needs to be a business decision. For some, like Jason and me, Select is the smart move. For others, it won’t be. Anyway, a few things seem to be glossed over here –

    1) Offering your book in the LL doesn’t remove it from sale, as you observe, but you go on to assume virtually no one will buy it if it’s available for free in the LL. The LL is only open to Prime members, and only to the tune of one book per member every 30 days. Believe it or not, not everyone who shops at Amazon is a Prime member, and there are a lot of Prime members who are not Kindle owners.

    2) Given that all my indie Kindle books are priced at $2.99 (the “sweet spot” espoused by many leading indie authors, such as Joe Konrath), even if I only end up making $2 per month on each lent copy, that’s still as much or more than I’d have earned on actual sales of the those copies.

    3) Surely you’ve heard of Kindle Reader apps? As it happens, most people who read ebooks on anything other than a dedicated ereader device do so in the Kindle Reader app, and purchase most of their ebooks through the Kindle store. This is simply because the Kindle store is a far superior browsing and searching experience than using Apple’s iBookstore or even B&N’s Nook store (which has a lesser selection of titles and higher prices to boot). As for Sony’s ebookstore—given Sony’s total lack of promotion for its ereader this holiday season, it seems pretty clear they’re no longer backing this product very strongly. It’s not for nothing that Amazon owns greater than 70% of the ebook market. Signing up for Select will NOT cut everyone who reads ebooks on devices other than the Kindle out of the sales equation. I’ve even seen blog posts about people installing the Kindle Reader app on their Nooks!

    4) Bottom line: participating in Select only stands to increase my monthly income. I get paid whether a copy sells or is lent, and can now promote my books as being part of the Select LL—something Kindle-owning Prime members see as an act of generosity to the readers. I was preparing to release my latest book as Kindle exclusive for its first couple of months anyway, long before this Select opportunity came along, to take advantage of the 70% royalty option. I wasn’t selling enough through other channels to make opting for the less-restrictive, 35% royalty option worthwhile anyway. There are probably many others in my same situation.

    Again, it’s a business decision each of us needs to make, free from emotion or talk of any “evil empire”. Either it’s a good move or it’s not. Simple as that. =’)

  13. Robert Nagle

    The free promotions is a big benefit of enrollment in this program. A lot of kindle freebie sites simply republish the freebie ebooks of the day (which can provide a lot of promotional bounce). To list ebooks as freebies is not easy in Amazon — especially for an indie. (you can do it through smashwords and then match price, but that is extremely cumbersome). I have my concerns about the program, but the ability to have some days to list the book as free is probably the only reason I’d consider it.

  14. Jim Kukral

    If you get 90%+ of your sales from Amazon, it’s worth considering. Time will tell. I for one am going to try it.

    Jeff Bezos has been channeling Sam Walton, because Amazon is becoming the new WalMart.

    If Google did the same thing, and said, we don’t want you to have your site listed in any other search engine besides ours, would you do it? I’d say yes. Because any other answer is a bad business decision.

  15. Lonnie L. Jones

    It’s the same in the music business. They want us to sign away royalties on songs WE wrote and music WE created. Who gets the royalties? CORPORATIONS, called labels; non-writers and non-musicians! The whole copyright piracy notion is a farce. It’s not artists who lose but the corporations. The artists have already lost to the corporation long before anyone hears the music.

  16. FamilyManFirst

    Guido, please go read that announcement again. You got the math right but you set up the problem wrong. Amazon is going to take the $500,000 and divide it by the number of *borrows* made in December, not the number of eBooks or authors available in the Lending Library. If 100,000 *borrows* are made in December then you earn $5 for each borrow of your book in December. If only 50,000 borrows are done in the Lending Library in December then you’ll earn $10 for each borrow of your book in December. If 500,000 borrows are done in the Lending Library then you’ll earn $1 for each borrow of your book in December, and so on. The division and multiplication is done by borrow, not by author.

    You may still dislike the program for various reasons. However, you shouldn’t spread misinformation like this.

  17. Guido

    I never said anything to the contrary. There is no misinformation here at all. Either you don’t want to understand what I am explaining or you do not understand the very basics of statistics.

    I’ll make it simple, so that the kids in the back row get it too, hopefully.

    When I say a book earns an average of $5, it means in this context that assuming all books lend the same number of times, each book would earn $5. That’s why it is called an average.

    Once we factor in the actual number of lendings, it will skew the results, as I pointed out, and “hot” books will earn more, thus diminishing the amount of lesser lent books.

    An example: Let’s say, there are two books in the Lending Library. Yours and Joe Konrath’s. Theoretically – or as an average – each book would earn $250,000. Again, that is the theory of averages.

    In practice it will look more like this, that Joe is lending his book 499,999 times and you lend yours once in the same amount of time. This means that we now have 500,000 lending transactions.

    $500,000 / 500,000 transactions = $1 per transaction

    Now we are no longer averaging. We are calculating. And the result looks horrible for you, because you are making $1 while Joe is taking home $499,999.

    In a hit-driven scenario like books, the midlist author will always makes less than the average suggests, and the hot authors will make a whole lot more, because they will lend about 500-1000 times more often than you.

    The next time, you try to discredit information, make sure you understand at least the basics of what it is you are trying to discredit.

  18. KR Jacobsen

    I just finally got around to looking into this program today, and between your sentiments and Mark Coker’s, I’m in complete agreement. Maybe if I had a short story or something I didn’t care about and wanted to use strictly as a marketing tool to open a world to my other stuff it’d be different. But for now, HA! No way.

  19. rowena cherry

    Ah, but what happens if a book club with its own dedicated account joins Prime?

    I’ve heard that book clubs are allowed to share one membership and one credit card, and all members of the book club with that Amazon Prime account are able to each read and keep a copy of every single e-book that bookclub collective buys, or borrows, or picks up free.

    Would that skew the calculations?

    • Guido

      Oh boy, now you’re opening a whole different can of worms, Rowena. THAT is always a problem, even for sales, because they can purchase one copy and make it available to all their members. I’m not sure if there is a limit how many Kindles can be activated on any account, but in theory they could swap them in and out at will.
      Naturally, every time you have many people having access to your book with one single transaction it will inevitably skew the calculations, because you’re never being properly paid for it. At the same time I do not think there is any practical solution to this.

  20. LJ DeLeon

    You want an exclusive on my books, pay me upfront first, treat it like an option for a movie. On the otherside, If a lot of authors keep signing up for this deal, I should have some great sales at all the other on-line bookstores.

  21. Derek Haines

    I agree with Guido. However, I think the real danger in KDP Select is in the little mentioned ‘free book promotion’ that is being offered to every author who signs up. By free, Amazon means that a book can be offered for free for 5 out of each 90 day period. Not lent, but given away.

    Now even at 35,000 books already enrolled, that means (if my maths are correct) that there will be around 350 books available for free on any given day. Of course no royalties are payable on these downloads.

    So if KDP Select attracts another 35,000, that will mean 700 free books each day. And on and on we go. So why would anyone buy an ebook with so many books on offer each day for free?

    If you want a particular book, just wait until it’s free. Logical.

    I have held the belief for some time now that Amazon are hell bent on reducing the price of ebooks to support Kindle sales. This just convinces me further.

    • Guido

      I completely agree, and I think I mentioned that above already. Even though free lending is limited to one a month, if I need more books, I just get one of the thousands that are now free.
      There is this misguided illusion among authors right now that with the free promotion comes their shot at glory, but that’s just silly. As I wrote in my Addendum, “Free” used to work because it was unique. With thousands of free books now flooding Amazon’s deck, every free titles will become as invisible as it was before, and what’s worse is that these free books completely erode what little price structure was left in the market.
      First we had the moronic 99 cents books, now we have the free books. We no longer have to talk about the race to the bottom, because it is over. By dangling a ridiculous carrot in front of authors, we have now officially hit rock bottom.

  22. Nancy Beck

    Totally agree with you, Guido. Why should I put all of my eggs in one basket? That’s the first thing that came to my mind.

    And now with the “slice of the pie” withering down to mere crumbs…tell me again why I should have opted into this?

  23. S.M. Boyce

    It’s always good to see debates like this. I’m glad everyone’s taking it seriously.

    I covered this a short while ago, too, and there’s still a good discussion going. Check it out if you want:

    I really think that this would be such a better option for authors if it wasn’t for the exclusivity. Even if we were offered another option, with maybe fewer royalties, we could use it as a promotion tool. But to completely cut off my other distribution channels just isn’t in my best interest…nor do I think it is for most authors.

    S.M. Boyce
    Author of The Grimoire: Lichgates
    “Once you open the Grimoire, there is no going back. You will be hunted. You have been warned.”

  24. A.Rosaria

    I fell in the trap, however I used a short story that I had only published on amazon and only gotten 1 or 2 sales for. I thought it couldn’t hurt, but it can. I should have made the e-book available to the other distributors, now I’ve to wait 3 more months before I can do that.

    For those who fell in the trap, I advise you to deselect the auto apply option. If you do nothing you’ll be chained to Amazon for 3 more months.

    I put my short story for 3 days for free and 200+ went away for nothing. It got me thinking. It cost $0.99, 99 cents, less than the coffee many buy in the morning, and still people think it too much to pay for. Is my work, my struggle to become better, worth nothing? I’ll still give books away for free, but not on amazon, but on smashwords. I prefer to feed the competition, lest that one stays, because once there is no competition anymore, Amazon will stop being honest.

    I think we writers sold ourselves short by pricing ourselves to cheapness.

  25. John

    First off, I completely see your point of view and understand that Amazon’s new program isn’t for every author. I decided to give it a go, putting only the first book of my sscience fiction series into the program, thinking every person who was new to the series that liked it would buy the others. Honestly, my combined sales of the first two novels seemed to hover right below 100 sales per month before I took the plunge. A month later, the same two novels pulled 456 buys and nearly 30 borrows. This is not including the sales which came in for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day(which I offered the first book for free). We are talking 456 legit buys.

    The truth is, how much income does the average author pull in from places like Kobo or Smashwords? I understand that every single reader is important, but at the same time, it is what it is. Kindle sales account for 90% or more of just about every author’s ebook sales. I understand a lot of people hate Amazon or even view them as a greedy company. The only difference, in my opinion, between a greedy company and any other is the greedy company knows how to make money. Do you honestly think for a moment that if Kobo or Barnes & Noble understood how to corner the market as well as Amazon, that they wouldn’t do it?

    For that matter, you have even admitted that you write primarily for the income. Nothing wrong with that. Would you turn away more money if an idea was brought to you that would make it almost overnight? The only people I have seen complaining about this new program through KDP, are the people who least benefit from it. Paper publishing houses, Amazon’s direct competitors and authors who can’t understand Amazon’s thinking.

    If you are on the fence about this program, this should make it simple. Amazon has been at the front of every single turn since ebooks first launched. They have made it to the top of the ebook world because they know what they are doing. If used wisely, free days can mean much more than simply giving books away. Sure, a lot of people will blindly jump to the $500,000 a month number thinking they will grab a lot of it, which is laughable. Still, a huge increase in sales is a great thing. It would have taken my Nook, Kobo and Sony sales a year to reach the same number that I saw in a single month. I’m sorry for the readers who may be left out in the cold with non-Amazon readers, but maybe it’s time for them to step up.

    Lastly, bashing 99 cent books is just silly. I don’t choose to price mine that low, but to each their own. Readers are not robots, programmed with the same mindset as the rest. Some of them will pay $5 and up to grab established authors and titles. Other readers scour the Kindle Store for cheap ebooks. That’s just the way it is. Pricing your book is simply putting it in front of a particular crowd of customers. If you aren’t selling books, you either need to find a different price point or admit that you are selling trash and start back at square one, because I promise you that there are a lot of success stories selling for the same price.

    Just my two cents.

  26. Guido

    Glad it works for you though I am not sure I see the connection you make between getting into the Select program and your increase in sales prior to making them free. Be that as it may, good that you have better sales.

    I’m still working on convincing myself that I am selling trash, as you put it. Sadly success/sales is not nearly as cleanly defined as you try to paint it, but you may find that out for yourself some day, perhaps.

  27. Taylor Andrews

    Wow, this is certainly the foremost discussion on this issue I’ve found in the past three weeks since I too received my e-mail offer to participate in Kindle Select.
    My view as an author screenwriter, on the obvious, publicity is easily found there, yes you will gain exposure no doubt, but to what end?
    On the other hand, common sense says that there are only two things on this planet that do not lie…death and math, they are both exact and succinct in their outcome right?
    Therefore, the math may serve well for those launching as I am presently, yes it may transform into some level of following or readership. However the inevitable math strikes back in it’s eventuality, this free or lend thing, smells like death to any economist, yes promotion and exposure work but once market saturation is achieved, we by doing so and participating in this, may very well kill the market we all strive to make product for.
    Taylor Andrews.

  28. A.Rosaria

    Does it benefit us by giving one party a horde of cheap/free e-books and by doing so cornering the market and killing off the competition?

    What is happening is that consumers are being conditioned with the idea books should be free or dirt cheap. It’s not evident right now, but a trend is being created. Once a large group is used to free and cheap they wont easily go back to paying more. Of course I can be wrong, but think about who is benefiting most.

    I see Amazon trying to get a market who pays Amazon a subscription (steady income) to access produce Amazon didn’t make for “free”. The overhead for Amazon lowers (Royalty cost) and the margin goes up. (probably).

    The competition can’t keep up. Amazon gets exclusive right on a large amount of books. Amazon has lower prices and a larger library of free books. Amazon has a lending option. The competition will lose market share and most probably succumb.

    A lot of writers will indeed earn more initially, but as the competition disappears their sales will dwindle accordingly. Like I wrote before this, the consumers will get used to the low price point and free books. The group waiting for when the books get posted for free(promotions) will grow. Less paying readers, means less writers earning enough to make a living.

    I think it’s in the writers benefit to support more competition and don’t enable any company to gain market share in a way that will not benefit us in the future.

    In a free market this will eventually correct itself by a competitor arriving and drawing in disgruntled named writers, but we do not live in a society with free markets. Markets are heavily regulated, so an unhealthy system can stay much longer than it should.

    I’m not saying it will be like this, but there is a big chance it will.

  29. Thomas Kaye


    After reading about KSP as I was learning how to upload my ebook to Amazon, I immediately googled “problems with Kindle Select” and found your post. Thanks!

    I needed to check with The Crowd because I couldn’t believe Amazon was offering such a crappy deal! Oh, and the $7,500 figure was an immediate red flag!

    I want to get my name out there, yes. But I am writing to make a living writing. I’d prefer to gain “name recognition” from actual book sales. I can’t tell you how many “free” ebooks I have on my computer that aren’t worth the bytes used to create them. So if I do all I can, put in all the effort necessary to create a product worth reading, is it unreasonable for me to expect some form of payment?

    Perhaps if I were a novelist writing a series I would feel different. Or if I was using one introductory book to promote another. But I understand Amazon doesn’t allow in-book cross-promotion! Nor links to website! What’s up with that?

    Their draw is they are the biggest and so I will publish to them. But I’ll be damned if I’ll limit my other sales venues!

  30. Brenda Coffman

    If you go to the library, you can borrow a book for free. On KDP Select they can only borrow your book, they can’t keep it if they want another one. There is always going to be some type of free distribution of your work, whether it’s through the local library, or people lending their Kindles.
    I think Amazon is just offering another way for you to market your book. Publishers give free copies out, why shouldn’t you be able to when you self-publish?
    I only offered my book for free one day. It was my choice, not Amazons. That one day lead to more exposure and more reviews. I sell my book for $2.99. I worked too hard to let it go for 99 cents, but one day of free distribution boosted my sales and helped grow my product. I might do it again, I might not. It’s nice that Amazon let’s you have the choice.
    Isn’t that what self-publishing is about, having a choice? If you don’t like it, don’t do it.

    PS. I’m not sure about the average customer, but I read 2-3 novels a week.

    • Guido

      2 – 3 novels a week is certainly not average. Most people don’t have that kind of time, nor do they have the ability to speed-read. For the average person I would think one or two novels a month is probably feasible.

  31. E. Shelman

    I can tell you that I earned over $600.00 last month alone for loaned books – and clearly, I didn’t lend as many as the big boys. At the same time, my sold books – yes, the same books – increased in a major way. This DID provide additional income, and so far, I’m happy. I do NOT like withholding my book from KOBO, Nook, Sony Reader, etc. That part sucks. But as with other writers, MOST of my sales are Kindle, anyway. I’ll see if I want to re-enroll the books, but at this point I’m happy. (Made about $1.70 per lend.)

  32. Jimelle

    I’m late to the party here, but as I read through all of the comments, I got to thinking about ‘real world’ consequences of the Amazon Select Program. I’m enrolled, by the way, simply because I planned to be exclusive to Kindle anyway.

    I think the KDPS program is great for authors who list their books at a lower price, because Prime members who borrow will borrow the expensive (for amazon) books, books that they may have to pay $10-12 to buy. That leaves their ten bucks free to buy maybe 3-5 mid-priced titles – like mine. I have no problem with that.

    As for the free promotions, my sales and the sales of many in the authors’ forums didn’t take off until they hit the top 100 in the free categories. Great books like Story Time and Cellar Door and The Corny Handbook (mine:) wouldn’t have seen the light of day in the sea of books there.

    Just my $.02

    • Guido

      That is very much my observation, too. Going free is still no guarantee for paid success. Of course ,everyone wishes it would, and some success stories prove that it is possible, but there’s also a lot of stories of authors who essentially lost out completely by going Select.

  33. Matt

    Just wanted to chime in with a couple thoughts regarding the Prime lending library part of the discussion. I agree that the advertised $7,500 is not realistic, but though your math with regards to the average that each available title will make is correct, the average is not the number that is relevant to an author in this case. Instead, the amount of royalty paid per lend is the relevant number.

    The money an indivudal book recieves is determined by calculating the percentage of total lends that book recieves for the month which is independent of the total books available for borrow. Also, the only people who can borrow books are PAID Amazon Prime users. None of the free promotional accounts get this perk. Each prime member can borrow only one book per month so the ACTUAL (not average) amount of money authors get for each borrow is dependent on the number of paid Prime members who choose to borrow a book that month and is not related to the number of available books.

    My wife has two self published books that she chose to enroll in KSP two months ago and she makes MORE for each borrowed book than she does in royalties for a purchased book. She has one introductory novel in a series for 0.99 and the other for 2.99.

    In February, each lend, regardless of book price, earned her over $2 in royalties and the amount she earned per lend actually went up from the first month to the second so the deflation you predicted with an increase in available books is not happening, or at least not yet. (On a side note, yes, she makes double the cost of the 0.99 book when someone borrows it. I have no idea why someone would borrow a cheap book when they could borrow an expensive book as others mentioned before, but I’m not complaining!)

    She is currently “lending” 10-20% as many books as she is selling each month so this is a nice additional chunk of profit that likely would not translate into sales if she were not in the KSP and outpaces what she was making from the other outlets she had to abandon by 100 fold. Additionally, her sales numbers, excluding the lends, have actually grown faster (although still fairly slow in the big picture) than they were growing before she entered KSP although I obviously can’t say that is due exclusively to being part of KSP.

    Anyway, just wanted to share our experience with KSP and the lending. It has definitely been a good for her.

  34. Susan David

    Here’s something no one has addressed yet. I joined kdp select program and uploaded one ebook. I chose 2 of my free days thinking that the program would give me at least the $1.70 authors were getting from Prime members borrowing the book, as they did last month. What I didn’t realize was this; my book, when free was downloaded by 1377 people; only 2 people who were a Prime Amazon member downloaded the book. I spent days marketing as well as paying for marketing to get the book out. I did not receive a dime for all those ‘free’ 1377 books. That many people go to read my ebook & when pay day comes, in 2 months wait, I get all of $3.40. Only 7 people after that purchased the book and I got no reviews, even though it’s a great book no one responded. So what was the point? Well, amazon sold a lot of kindles. I learned a great lesson. I feel stupid, why didin’t I realize before that the ‘freebies’ they were speaking of HAD to be from Prime members ONLY, not from people who just downloaded for free who were NOT Prime members?

  35. Mark

    As in many things, I think Kindle Select is a tool. Use it correctly and it could help someone in the long run (or short term). Use it incorrectly and you’ll bomb.

    You’re math is most likely correct. I’m not going to check, but the math isn’t the only consideration. There’s other factors that might help you decide to try the program. It will work for some and it won’t for others. If it works for you, good. If it doesn’t, you tried it; now move on. And for others it isn’t worth trying at all.

    If you are selling well elsewhere, don’t do it. If you are happy with free coupons via Smashwords, don’t do it.

    However, there might be reasons to try it. If your book sells well on Amazon (and you have the choice about the free days), try it and see. If you’re not selling anywhere, try it (it won’t hurt). If you are interested in using the free promotion to boost your rankings within Amazon’s algothrithm (some say it works for them), try it.

    You aren’t signing a contract, not in the long term. If it doesn’t work, take it off. It’s only 90 days. For someone not making any money to start with, it doesn’t matter. It might work.

    I understand your concern about all the free books, but I can also see where this might make the self-published crap a little easier to identify. Or maybe not. Time will tell.

    As you can tell I am on neither side of the fence. Still watching to see what happens. My guess is that a few will make a lot of money, a few more will make decent amounts, and the rest MAY benefit from the free promotion. In any case, I haven’t heard horror stories yet, but it is too soon to tell.

    • Guido

      Well, by now I’ve heard of countless authors who decided to pull their books out of Kindle Select because they realized that giving away books for free is, perhaps, not exactly what they wanted and that they literally ran the values of books into the ground – FREE is the new 99 cents, and 99 cents was bad already. So, within a few short months we pretty much managed to destroy the book industry and any hope to really make profits from it—unless you are one of the best-selling authors, which is not all that much different from the traditional publishing model where a handful of authors made riches and the rest made very little. Only now, those who do not make it into the big time will have to give away their books for free in order to be read. Not a very attractive prospect, and part of the reasons why I am no longer writing.

  36. Matt

    Susan, I don’t think you read the terms very well. When you make a book free, you are agreeing to receive NO royalties. That is clearly explained. You receive a cut on BORROWED books. You can enter the KDP Select program and NEVER give your book away for free. You can keep charging whatever you want and you are allowing people to borrow it (for which you receive payment which has been over $2.00 per borrow for each of the past 3 months) in exchange for being exclusively on Amazon for 90 days.

  37. Rose

    Be honest , it doesn’t work for the buyer either. One can only purchase one book a month. Why pay $79 a month toward a free book I might like or might not like. I don not watch the videos or movies so it definitely does not work for me. Now I do purchase free books alot. But I also buy a lot of books from that author if I like what I am reading.

    • Guido

      It is actually $79 a year, not per month. As a Prime customer myself, it work perfectly. I do not use it for media, though – or rarely so. For me the huge benefit comes in the free two-day shipping. I am ordering a lot from Amazon and getting everything shipped for free so quickly is definitely worth the $79 per year expense.

  38. No

    Making a book free is very good if the book is actually good. But Amazon know it’s not. We are talking self-publishing here. 99% is pretty bad. So you are only helping them sell more kindle devices, helping their monopoly be stronger.

    You, the authors do not care you are killing publishers and retailers and you also do not care you do all the work of publishing related jobs like editing, proof, cover and book design, etc (you do it yourself for free or pay for it). When Amazon will get full control of the market (they already have because stores can’t compete), they sell the kindle without profit (other reader manufacturers can’t compete) and all writing will be a useless commodity, people will not buy media or books. They will just read all they want for $5 a month or so and authors will get very little money. Actually, everyone except best-selling writers will get virtually nothing. Then, it will be hard to survive if your not on the top and we will have a nice little system you “self-published” authors created.

    Didn’t you learn anything from self-publishing in the traditional publishing? What it really is? How much money one can actually make? What they actually do and who has the short end? Why did not believe that this company, Amazon, who is also “cutting the middleman” would be any better? You are getting a share of the profit from cutting the middleman, but they do not do the job of the middleman, you have to do it yourself, you have to invest in it for free. Don’t you get it? Amazon found new victims to carry their business, because traditional publishers were not total idiots.

    The big publishing companies could simply kill Amazon when they saw it coming by not selling through it. But they are greedy also, they believed it was just another retailer. It’s a media monster that needs to be stopped. The funny thing is that law will eventually stop amazon, first in europe, then in usa and other countries. It’s bad for everyone. It’s killing taxes, jobs, local and national economies. Major discount stores are like that, monopolies. We should know better. They are not creating jobs, they are drinking the blood of entire industries. One point of sale, and armies of puppets creating the content or product and offering it for very little compensation or even for free. Congratulations guys!

    This article shows how the powerful use greed to control us. You would make millions on Kindle because Amazon arranged so that a handful of Kindle authors would get heavy marketing, publicity and sales to boost the Kindle opening. Now this. Earn $7,500 a month, sounds like a scam doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

    Simple truths:

    The market will not grow because a new way to read appeared. We are still sharing the same pie in small pieces.

    Getting into the same bucket with 10000000 worthless writers is not the best way to show you are good. The very fact that you are putting yourself in this position shows you do not believe you are good or perhaps you are lazy. If you were good and you persisted, someone would pick the book up eventually. If not the first, the second or third. One always get discovered sooner or later.

    But forget about traditional publishing. It will be dead in five years. It can no longer react to the monster Amazon is. I congratulate the successful writers who were not lured by Amazon. They know it will kill writing as we know it. Think Hollywood in the book business.

    If you believe amazon will keep doing this for only 30% (or 65%) of the pie when they are a monopoly, think again. They are taking 70% for doing retail sales. In paper books they are selling for 15% or so and doing a lot more. Don’t you writers feel exploited? Greedy people do not really care about the families of those who run bookstores, 300,000 publishing companies operating at 5% profit or loss, those who drive tracks and work in warehousing, those who work in bookstores, those who design, edit and proof read for a living. They will do everything themselves and offer it to Amazon, their “publisher”. They big guy will form an empire and they will have a position in it. Right. You have no advantage over any other Kindle writer. You are all in the same position. Nobody will gain except amazon. It’s an an alliance, it’s just exploitation of your lack of common sense. By publishing on Amazon, you are killing everyone that cared about this industry, everyone that invested in the production of your books. And you hope the Walmart of book retail sales will care for its suppliers and treat small ones right. Unbelievable.

  39. Jo

    Thanks for sharing. New author of short stories here. I put my two very short stories on Amazon KDP and my first check was for 37 cents! I know, I know, I can hardly stand the prosperity. I read where I was to make more per page read. I don’t see that. I expected more as according to the numbers, the total pages read were over 100. I did sell one book as an online read. So I am excited to get the $2.78 from that one. OK so I am a bit sarcastic. My bad, as obvisously I disn’t follow all the paths of explaining by Amazon and the various long descriptions. Needless to say, I am very dissappointed and will be opting out of that awesome KDP select BS.

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