I’m leaving KDP Select, and here’s why

My term in KDP Select expires tomorrow, and I’m declining to renew it in favor of going wide. This is not a hot-button topic for me the way it is for many who’ve had to adapt their strategies because of Kindle Unlimited. I released my first (currently only) book after the program launched. I have no idea how different my sales chart might look if Kindle Unlimited were not a thing.

But my hunch is: not much. I’ve had precisely four borrows since my release. Now, I’m not taking the world by storm; my sales rank tends to fluctuate between 100k and 700k in a given week. (Funny how one sale can shoot you up 500,000.) But I can still say that four represents a pretty small percentage of my total readers to date.

And at least two of those were from people I know, versus people who found the book via browsing. Which means KDP Select, whose main benefit is supposed to be increased visibility, has increased mine by: 2. And I think that’s mainly because my book is actually really without hyperbole not visible to most KU borrowers. Not because it’s a magic stealth spy ninja book, although that would be cool. I think KU appeals most to a specific audience of very high volume readers in particular genres–mostly, I suspect, romance.

ebooksmallThose are not my readers. Their eyes are going to go whooshing past the thumbnail to your right without ever really seeing it. I don’t get the benefits, and there are many, of writing for that audience, but I also don’t face the same challenges. (As a side note, I think this is important to remember if you frequent forums where a lot of the indies write romance, and you don’t. What works for their genre does not necessarily work for others.) For a lot of indies, KU is a lose-lose situation. If they’re in it, they make considerably less for a borrow than a sale. If they aren’t, a not-insignificant percentage of readers will simply borrow something else and pass them by entirely.

In my case, it’s more of a whatever-whatever situation. I don’t think KU, or KDP Select, makes a big difference either way. (I also did a Kindle Countdown deal at 99 cents that did okay, but I can’t say whether I’d have had an equal number of sales at the same price point with the same promotions, without the Countdown label.) But the only way to find out for sure is to go wide and see if I can sell more than, you know, four, through other retailers over the same period of time.

And that’s really my takeaway: there’s no reason not to try stuff. KDP Select runs in three month terms. If you’re going to succeed in a small business, you have to play the long game. Three months is not the long game.

So I’ll see how it goes. I’m also knocking the price down to 99 cents at the same time, so as to have a nice low entry point into the series. (The next book comes out in about 3 months.) If those changes end up not working for me, I’ll reverse them. In, like, less than five minutes. One of the advantages I have over the traditionally published is agility. But it’s only an advantage if you use it.

9 thoughts on “I’m leaving KDP Select, and here’s why

  1. It’s well worth trying the other platforms – it isn’t as if you burn your bridges by doing so. As you say, you can always go back.
    I have 2 novels out; different sub-genres of fantasy, and each is the opener of a series. I have one in KDP and one not. To be honest, I don’t find much difference in sales between them. I do get half a dozen borrows per month on the one in Select, and the benefit that during the Countdown sales I still get 70% of that 99c, instead of 35%, but quite frankly on the basis of numbers sold, I really don’t find much difference either way.
    I keep thinking about taking the one out of Select and seeing if it sells better elsewhere, but the incentive to tinker just isn’t there right now. I’m focussing on getting the next book written instead.
    Keep us posted on your results – always interesting to hear how these things work out differently for different people (and genres).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for this perspective. It’s interesting to me that you have one in each and aren’t seeing much difference, which is exactly my theory of how it’ll go for me. (I also write in a sub-genre of fantasy.) But I’m not a big seller at all, so I’m not sure how much I can extrapolate from my results. I think when I have more books out it’ll be easier to get a feel for it.

      Mostly I just want to go as wide and inexpensive as possible with book 1, in hopes of netting a few more readers before and during the release of book 2.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, and that’s why I’m focussing on getting the next book out. Most advice is that you really shouldn’t worry about marketing until you have at least 3 books out, and you probably won’t be making a decent income until you have 10.
        That’s going to take me a few years.

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  2. Both of you make interesting points, here. I’m not in KDP Select because of the borrowing, though. I’m in it (for the time being) because it’s a great place to launch something new, with the free 5 days each time. My feeling for me is, until I’m ready to spend a great deal of time formatting and setting up books to sell in other venues, I should stay. When I find myself with time to do that, I’ll probably move my older books out to a wider selection of “stores.” And I’ll probably continue to launch through KDP Select. But as both of you say, none of this is carved in stone, so far, and we can switch around to see which strategy works best for our books.

    Just as an aside, I get a lot of borrows every month. Maybe it’s the romantic suspense genre, but I’ve been happy with KU, so far. But then, I’m not a power seller, either. Yet. 🙂 Jen, I’ll be interested in finding out how you do as you cast a wider net. Fingers crossed that it works out well for you, and you can give us some insight into the process. Good luck!

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    • until I’m ready to spend a great deal of time formatting and setting up books to sell in other venues

      FWIW, I uploaded the same Word doc I used to generate my MOBI (minus the link to the Amazon review page of course ;)) to Draft2Digital today in, oh, ten minutes tops. It looks more-or-less the same as my Kindle book. No effort at all and I can get it out to the other retailers from there with a click or two as soon as I’m sprung from Select. They take 15%, but as I’m knocking Ghost down to 99 cents anyway, the difference between making 35 cents per sale and making 30 cents per sale isn’t going to change what wine I can drink, you know?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m so ignorant about these aspects, I don’t even know what Draft2Digital is. ?? I’m guessing a place that will generate a file you can use with multiple vendors…Smashwords, Nook, etc? Whatever it is, when I’m ready to move my first book into a wider base, I’ll sure want to know about it. Ten minute jobs make me HAPPY! 🙂 (If you shared this one before, I missed it, but then again, I’ve missed a LOT over the last 4 weeks, with this stupid flu. I’m still playing catch-up, but I’ll get there.) As always, Jen, you give me TONS to think about.

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        • D2D is a distributor similar to Smashwords, so a one stop shop to get your books out to iBooks, B&N, Kobo, etc. (They actually just announced a partnership with Tolino for distribution in Germany. Not that I’ve ever sold a book in Germany.) They charge a commission, but it’s easier than managing accounts/formats with every retailer. They’ll do Amazon & CreateSpace as well, but I’m going to keep managing those separately.

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  3. Good luck, Jen. I think KDP has its uses, but when you’ve only got a couple of books out, it can be very restrictive. I hope you see an increase in exposure as you reach a wider audience through other platforms.

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