Being Discovered (Part 3)
Facing the steep challenge of getting readers to notice our books even exist, the question of participating in KDP Select is one most independent publishers struggle with. On the one hand, Amazon offers some help to authors struggling for visibility – if we make our e-books available exclusively through Amazon’s kindle store. On the other hand, that means not offering our e-books through other online outlets, like Apple’s iTunes, Barnes and Noble’s website and more. It’s a trade-off, and no one really knows which works best.
A book enrolled in KDP Select is available through the Kindle Online Lending Library (and writers receive a royalty whenever anyone checks out one of our books) as well as through the new Kindle Unlimited subscription plan (which also pays a little something when that book is read.) It also gets a ‘KDP Select’ badge, though it’s hard to see how that would help a great deal. More importantly, Amazon exclusive e-books can be offered free for five days out of each quarter, and can also be discounted for limited periods of time (so-called ‘Countdown Deals’.)
How much those promotional tools help is debatable. Some self-published authors swear by the program, others have tried it with limited or no results – there’s no way to know how many more readers you might reach. And although it seems that around forty percent of e-books are purchased at other retailers, it’s impossible to know how many readers might be missed by a book being absent from the virtual shelves of those other stores.
I love Amazon, but clearly lots of people shop elsewhere. And while those people might be willing to head over to Amazon to pick up a book by a favorite author, that doesn’t help an indie writer who’s trying to connect with those readers in the first place. If my books aren’t available where a particular reader likes to browse, chances are that much slimmer they’ll ever find out my book exists. So the trade-off is making a book somewhat more visible on Amazon while making it invisible everywhere else.
Some indie publishers think that makes sense, that having better access to such a big pool of readers will help them reach more people overall. Whether that’s true or not, it’s looking at your readers in terms of numbers, and there are other considerations besides how many books you can sell – like making them easily accessible to as many of the readers who may be interested as possible. So it may take more time and be less lucrative, but I’d rather not shut the door on a potential purchaser who loves their iPad or their Nook for reading books.
Fortunately, Amazon doesn’t require exclusivity for me to sell my e-books through KDP (without the ‘select’) – and they even allow a book to be enrolled in the Select program for a limited period of time. And that’s the only way it would make sense to me, to use Select to launch a book initially on Amazon alone before distributing through the other outlets. It might be worth it to try reaching more readers who shop the Kindle store. Because if you’re one of the readers who’ll really appreciate my work, then I want you to find me. However long it takes.
Part 4: Reaching the Right Readers