Writing, life, politics

To KDP Select, Or Not To KDP Select… That Is The Awful Moral Choice

Below emphases in all quotes, mine:

What is KDP Select?

KDP Select is an optional program for you to reach even more readers and gives you the opportunity to earn more money. If you choose to make a book exclusive to the Kindle Store, which is a requirement during your book’s enrollment in KDP Select, the book will also be included in Kindle Unlimited (KU) and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL). [snip] In addition, by choosing KDP Select, you will have access to a new set of promotional tools, including Kindle Countdown Deals (limited time promotional discounting for your book) and Free Book Promotion (readers worldwide can get your book free for a limited time).


When you publish an ebook, the most important decision you have to make is probably whether or not to join Amazon’s KDP Select programme, where – if you agree to sell your ebook exclusively on Amazon’s Kindle store – you get access to a whole bunch of promotional goodies.

How much will being exclusive hurt you in terms of lost sales elsewhere? Probably not much.

During a round-table discussion Tim said “I do a have a concern that Amazon’s dominance is causing problems. We estimate Kindle has a 95% market share of e-book sales in the UK and this is having a damaging effect… Consider the struggles of Barnes & Noble and the Nook platform, the problems of the established Txtr in Germany, and the decision here of Tesco to pull out of Blinkbox Books.”


That’s the UK, but I suspect the US is similar. And 95% is what I would call a near-monopoly position. Let’s put it this way, if being on KDP Select increases your Kindle sales by a mere 6%, then it will have made up for the sales you lost by going exclusive. Will it help you make more than 6%?

The importance of a launch for your book in the Kindle store can not be overstated. And it’s not for the reasons you think i.e. your book being read by a bunch of old fans and discovered by new ones. A book launch is important because you need to get as many downloads as you can—at this stage it doesn’t matter if it’s actually read or not—so that your book will be favourably indexed by Amazon’s algorithms. I have it on good authority that if this favourable indexing doesn’t occur, your book will languish in the bowels of the Kindle store forever, never to be found by anyone. The only way a book can recover from a non-launch (so I’m told) is to unpublish it and relaunch it with a new cover and a new ASIN.

So what’s the best way to launch your book? Lots of downloads (hundreds, thousands) in the first few days it is released; however, unless you are an established author (I’m not) with a gigantic email list (don’t have) this is difficult to achieve. The only other way to do it is to make it free, and you can only do that if you enrol your book in Kindle Select, where you are allowed five free days per quarter for each book you have enrolled. You also have to let readers know it’s free, and that means spending money (not much if you don’t want to) on promoting it.


I think at this point I’ve dropped enough dots that it’s almost an insult to the reader to join them, but forgive me if I go ahead anyway. The deal that Amazon are offering, a few extra tools in return for offering them a monopoly on your book, would not make sense were it not for the fact that they have a near monopoly position in the ebook market; by offering such a deal, and having huge numbers of authors accept it, they help cement the near monopoly position that makes that deal worthwhile.

So going with KDP Select is a no-brainer, right? You’d have to be an idiot to turn it down?

Well I’m an idiot.

I’m a Kindle user myself, not on Amazon hardware, but on my iPhone using Amazon’s free Kindle app. But I just don’t feel comfortable with telling readers who’ve bought non-Kindle devices that they can’t legally read my books, at all, ever, in ebook form. So in addition to being on Kindle, I’ve made both Game Night and If Pigs Could Fly available on Smashwords. Readers can purchase them there in a variety of DRM-free formats, but Smashwords also distribute them to the other major ebook platforms, including iBooks, Nook, and Kobo.

In the short term, this decision will undoubtably hurt me. In the longer term, I’m hoping that good old-fashioned word of mouth buzz will help me catch up. And either way, while I fully respect everyone who made the decision to go with KDP Select, for now, this is a decision I feel happy with.


* * * * *

IfPIgsCouldFlyCover-FrontOnly-MediumIf Pigs Could Fly is available in both paperback and e-book format, from all leading outlets.


Amazon UK (£1.99): [link]

Amazon US ($2.99): [link]

Smashwords (£1.99 | $2.99): [link]


Amazon UK (£6.99): [link]

Amazon US ($9.99): [link]

If Pigs Could Fly should also be available on iBooks, Nook, and Kobo within a few days of its publication.

“West Kensington Paranormal Detective Agency. Doctor Ravinder Shah speaking. No case too weird, no problem too bizarre. Strangeness a speciality. How can I help you?”

London Social Worker Rav Shah moonlights as a paranormal detective, aided by one of his clients and a Border Collie he rents by the hour. It was supposed to be a bit of fun: a search for truths out there; a quest for a life more interesting than the one that fate, destiny, and personal apathy had granted him.

But then a case involving a Yorkshire farmer and a herd of flying pigs leads him into a world darker and more dangerous than he’d ever dreamed.

The truth is indeed out there.

And it’s got Rav square in its sights.


  1. Henry

    One question that might help you to wrestle with your conscience is how much those extra tools do for your book.

    I’m publishing my five-part fantasy as a single volume in Kindle next month and will sign it up for the exclusive Amazon deal. The volumes will still be available separately but not on Kindle. The exclusive deal is only for the omnibus edition.

    If it is the path to authorial megastardom then I’ll let you know. But I suspect it won’t be.

    • Jonny Nexus

      Hi Henry,

      That was something I’d considered, but I don’t think you’re allowed to do that. I read a more detailed answer somewhere else, recently, but I think the key bit is this form the FAQ I quoted from a above:

      “All content made exclusive to Amazon in KDP Select must remain for sale on our site only; it cannot be available for free or for purchase in digital format anywhere else, including publishing the content of your book on the web, including on your own website, blog, etc. However, you may choose to make up to 10% of your book available on other sites as a sample.”

      The point here is that they’re not referring to the *product* (i.e. the book) but the content. So you can have the first three chapters downloadable for free on your website, say, but that’s about it.

      In your case, 100% of the content would be available for purchase elsewhere, albeit in five separate products. The product (the omnibus) might be exclusive, but the content would not.

      • Henry

        You have just given me the incentive to switch to US spelling for the Kindle version.

  2. Diane Lee

    Firstly, I was chuffed to see my post turn up on your blog, Johnny! I always hope that what I write about self publishing is useful to others. Secondly, since writing this post, I followed up with another (3 contradictory truths about self publishing) and I have elected to take my books out of Kindle Select, mainly because “free” just doesn’t shift books anymore like it used to. I’d rather put the effort into building my author brand and developing my website(s) than stressing over the number of downloads that may or may not have occurred on my free days. It’s not like they converted into sales of my other books! I’m increasingly uncomfortable with Amazon’s big brother tactics, and while I won’t remove my books from their shelves (at this stage) I won’t be doing anything to help their business model either. I working towards the best outcome for me, which is to sell to readers direct from my website.

    • Jonny Nexus

      Hi Diane,

      Firstly, thank for for the post. I’ve very happy that you liked me quoting from it! For the benefit of everyone else, this is Diane’s follow up post:


      It’s good to know that I’m not perhaps hurting myself as much as I feared by going down the KDP Select route. I think in life generally, there are no magic short cuts, and this is maybe one of those times.

      Of course, having said that, I would still love to be able to do a countdown daily deal. 🙂

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