Some of you have already read my previous post, expressing the KDP Select formulation in terms of the Prisoner’s Dilemma–as well as the update on that post, which was the result of Catana, one of my writer friends, pointing out that the Kindle Library only allows for one book download per month. The basic recap, for those who have not read them, is that with the one book per month limit for Amazon Premium members, it seems pretty clear that for an author like me: 1) whose price point is below a certain threshold, and 2) who isn’t particularly high profile as a writer, opting into KDP Select–and thereby having to go exclusive with my listings and remove them from Smashwords and all its distribution outlets–probably isn’t worthwhile (conceptually it’s upsetting to have to do anyway, but my hypothesis was that even at the level of revenue, it wasn’t worth it). Most Amazon Premium members, in order to make their membership worth it, would more likely use their “free” signout on someone far higher profile, whose books are significantly more expensive. I know I would.
I also decided to test this, by enrolling several of my contemporary romance novels, published under a different pseudonym, which I hadn’t gotten around to listing on Smashwords. I was just curious to see how they did, and since they were already exclusive by default, I wasn’t losing much. I also figure that for those of you who are wondering how well this might have worked for you, I can at least provide some kind of baseline.
So, the basics: I enrolled four books. Three of them were 50K word contemporary romances at $1.99 each. The fourth book is a 3 in 1 bundle of the individual books for $2.99.
ASIDE: Those of you familiar with the royalty scheme at Amazon (books priced at $2.98 and lower, as well as books priced above $9.99, only provide the author with a 35% royalty off the cover prices, while books in the sweet spot range between $2.99 and $9.99 provide the author with a 70% royalty) will note that I’m getting exactly the same royalty by selling all three books for $2.99 as I am for selling each book at $1.99–even though the reader is paying double. I wanted to see to what extent people would go for the half price value bundle versus the individual books (fyi, they mostly go for the value bundle, which sells about as well as An Immodest Proposal, my top seller as Kathryn Anthony, but I still do get the occasional single sale).
I enrolled them on the date of my previous post or thereabouts–namely, around the 10th of December.
So–what kind of big buck$$$ did I rake in as a result of enrolling these books into the KDP Select, exclusivity deal that prevents me from listing them elsewhere? How many eager readers downloaded my indie-priced books for free, thereby making me eligible for some as-yet unknown portion of the KDP Select Fund pie?
Exactly zero, to date. Yes, that’s right. As was speculated, presumably the combination of indie pricing and low profile meant that there was no run on the Premium Lending Library to acquire copies of my 3-in-1 blockbuster bundle, nor for any of my other books. So, I’m off at the unpopular kids’ table in the cafeteria, with no narrow little sliver of the pie to taste–and laughing my head off at this particular development. Yes, laughing. Because this makes the decision laughably easy–easy as pie, as they say. No need to go exclusive with the rest of my catalogue. There’s no point, my indie and self-published friends, unless your books are far more expensive (I’d guess $5.99 or higher might make it a tempting deal for people to sign you out from the library–though this pricing might affect your actual retail sales) or your authorial profile is meteoric–or both.
As an additional consideration, the added visibility and accessibility that is provided by being listed via Smashwords at a variety of distribution outlets is not to be underestimated if, like me, you are a low profile or starting indie author. As well, the multitude of formats on Smashwords itself, and the coupon system that allows you to provide readers with discounts, and also provides an easy way for reviewers to get a free copy of your book in their choice of format, are worth recognizing as valuable tools. Non-exclusivity also provides other choices, such as crowdsourcing/microfinancing to fund projects, in return for different bundles of books and other goodies, for different donation levels.
They say that you build a career one book–and one reader–at a time. I would agree. And, given that many people to whom I mention my books during in-person conversations want choice in download format, Smashwords has been really key, because it provides that choice.
Something to consider, before clicking that “enroll” button in KDP.
(p.s. I will keep the contemporaries enrolled for the moment–at some point I may decide to list them elsewhere, in which case I’ll take them out of the program. But, for now, they’re providing a useful baseline for the KDP Select fund. If anything interesting happens, I’ll be sure to post an update.)