Amazon, Author Tools & Resources, eBook Publishing

Should You Enroll Your Book in KDP Select? The Basics

Several people have asked me whether I think enrolling their books into the KDP Select Program is a good idea. Like most things in life there is no one answer for everyone, and it really will depend on your situation – your sales, your books, your publishing model, your audience, your long term strategy.

Yes I’m all about the Strat!

Without one, what are you doing?

It’s good to know the pros & cons in order to decide what’s best for you. But please, please, please DON’T jump on the bandwagon because everyone else is doing it. What’s your ultimate goal in publishing? Short term sales or long term sales? Finding readers or making a decent living? Whatever your strategy is, make sure it’s forward thinking: i.e. it won’t harm you in the long term. Is it wise to cut your ties with B&N, Smashwords, iBookstore? If your sales say otherwise, don’t give it all up for a greedy couple of hundred bucks this weekend. I’ll say it again. Have a strategy! 

As you most likely know by now, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is their digital content publishing program. By enrolling in the KDP “Select” program, it allows you to lend your book through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library to anyone who has Amazon Prime membership. Authors earn a per-page-read royalty for books enlisted in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library program, based on the KDP Global Fund.

One of the attractive features of the KDP Select program is that you can set your book free for 5 days out of 90 hence which is otherwise not allowed on Amazon ($0.99 being the minimum price). Later this week I’ll talk about what happened when I listed one of my books as free in January.

The Pros of KDP Select

According to the Amazon KDP Select homepage, here are the pros of enrolling your book into their KDP Select Program:

“Reach a new audience”

“Help readers discover your books by making them available through Kindle Unlimited in the U.S, U.K., Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, India, Japan, and Australia.”

–> I won’t argue with this one. Reaching a new audience means more reviews, and potentially higher rankings since “borrows” counts towards your sales in the ranking system. If you set your book as free you might increase your ranking significantly too. 

“Earn higher royalties”

“Earn your share of the KDP Select Global Fund when customers read your books from Kindle Unlimited. Plus, earn 70% royalty for sales to customers in Japan, India, Brazil and Mexico.”

–> December 2011’s KDP Select Fund was $500,000, January 2012’s was $700,000, February’s is $600,000. With more people buying Kindles each month, the slice of the pie is getting smaller.
Since we don’t know how many KDP titles are participating, and are not told what the fund for the next month is until the last minute, it’s a little worrying. The December figures look pretty good though: on January 12th Amazon released a press release stating that authors reportedly earned $1.70 per borrow for that month.

“Maximise your book’s sales potential”

“Choose between two great promotional tools: Kindle Countdown Deals, time-bound promotional discounting for your book while earning royalties; or Free Book Promotion where readers worldwide can get your book free for a limited time.”

–> While previously the only way to set your book to free on Amazon was to lower the price elsewhere, say on Smashwords, and then alert Amazon of the competition (a slightly dodgy, and not exactly accurate way of going about it), KDP Select now let’s you set the price of your book to free for up to 5 out of 90 days. This does not mean that you get any royalties, simply that you benefit from the added exposure that comes from having a free book. 

Recap of the Pros: added exposure, better ranking, puts you into the ‘Customers Also Bought/ Viewed This’ line, hopefully some new reviews.

Yes, but can I make lots of money through it?

According to Amazon, the total earnings for the top ten authors on the KDP Select Program exceeded $70,000. Now us average selling authors always need to hold our horses when hearing these Kindle millionaire stories.

Sure it’s nice to dream, but when making important decisions on such things, it serves us far better to think about how an average seller might fare in such programs and what pricing our book as free might do in the long term.

My reason for going free. 

I’m using KDP Select to sell a short guide for $0.99 in order to find readers for a second book. This short guide is helping me to promote a book that I hope to get more sales on, and I don’t really mind if I make money from this $0.99 guide or not – that’s not the goal of it.

My main book is a 60,000 word wedding guide that sells for $3.99 and $14.95 in paperback. I refuse to lower the price of it, but since eBooks are selling so cheaply these days, even finding new readers to fork out $3.99 is more challenging. In order to find new readers who would hopefully like my writing style and therefore be willing to shell out $3.99 or $14.95 for the paperback, I needed to draw them in with a cheapie, or a freebie. I therefore wrote a 10,000 word guide that sells for $0.99, and while in itself it’s a valuable resource, it also serves to spread the word about my main book. If I were to give away the same thing for free from my website, I doubt I would get the same exposure that Amazon affords me. [edit: 3000+ downloads over 2 days]

If you can publish a short guide, or short story in your genre, it might well be worth your while submitting into the KDP Select program in order to grab your readers’ attention in the first place. Readers will take a chance on a $0.99 book if it’s by an author they are not familiar with, but you’ll never get rich on $0.99 price points.

The Cons of KDP Select


In the small print of the KDP explanation, they ask that you publish exclusively on Kindle. Or in their words:

“When you include a Digital Book in KDP Select, you give us the exclusive right to sell and distribute your Digital Book in digital format while your book is in KDP Select. During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or a book that is substantially similar), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.”

This may or may not be a con for you depending on your current sales patterns. Since all of my sales seem to come from Amazon (I don’t publish on Smashwords and B&N lands me a sale once in a blue moon), I wasn’t at all upset about taking the book off sale there for a few months.

(What does concern me more is the bigger picture; the monopoly that Amazon is potentially causing and I agree somewhat with the argument that Amazon isn’t exactly playing fair here.)

Book lending

Lending books isn’t really selling books and we don’t know what one borrow means in terms of royalties. It’s all a bit like going to market expecting to sell apples for a $1 each, and then selling a bunch but being told you won’t find out how much you’ll make on them until next month. Would you do it? Is the uncertainty unfair? Or perhaps it’s better than selling no apples at all (unless you could be selling them over at the Barnes & Noble/ other digital retail store market).

Be wise, don’t jump in.

Next week I’ll be talking about what happened when I enrolled my book into the KDP Select program for 3 days over the weekend of January 27-29th.