Here’s a question that every self-published author needs to ask themselves in 2017: Is it time to leave Amazon KDP Select and diversify? As 2016 came to an end, I asked myself that very question, and here’s my discovery.
I started releasing my serial series Wild Space back in May of 2016. I decided to make them Kindle exclusive, so I signed up for KDP Select or Kindle Direct Publishing Select for those not familiar with the term. KDP Select forces your book to be only available on Amazon’s website for purchase or to be part of their Kindle Unlimited reader program for 90 days. After 90 days, you can choose to keep them in KDP Select or you can pull them out. But during this period of time, your books cannot be available for purchase anywhere else.
I had great success with the first 90 days of KDP Select, however, as I re-enrolled for another 90 days, I suddenly found my sales and page reads falling flat. I tried a few marketing techniques to get them fired up again, but I just couldn’t get the ball rolling again. So I asked myself, is it time to break free from KDP Select and try something new?
In October, I selected to not re-enroll my books in KDP Select. Immediately, any momentum in sales or page reads I had, disappeared completely – even though I had one month left in exclusivity. I’m not saying that Amazon stuck it to me, because I’m a small fish in a big pond – but I did notice an instant loss of sales and page reads when I chose not to renew my KDP Select contract.
Coincidence? Probably. But for the record, I’m not the only person to have noticed this.
As November rolled around, I started to set up my books on Smashwords (for distribution to libraries), on Pronoun (for distribution on iBooks and GooglePlay), on Kobo, and on Nook Press. The second the books came off exclusivity through Amazon KDP Select, I was ready to launch the books on the other platforms and start a new journey. Granted, I had no idea what to expect, but I was ready to go. I set the first book up as free and the rest at 99 cents and I was off to the races in December.
As the new voyage into diversifying my books began, I noticed that my Kindle sales were non-existent but immediately, my Nook sales took off. For every five free books that were acquired by Nook readers, three of those readers came back and purchased the rest of the series. I was shocked at this result. I have read all the reports that said that Nook is dead, yet my Nook sales were doing what Kindle hadn’t done. By the end of December, I had sold more books through Nook than I did through KDP Select.
Now, I’m not saying that this will ring true for all authors, but these are my results. Sales on iBooks, Smashwords, and Kobo haven’t impressed me at all, but Nook sales blew my mind. I was getting solid results.
Another thing I saw was the return on investment.
I set up the first book in the Wild Space series to be permafree and the rest at 99 cents. For those not familiar with the term permafree – permafree is the act of setting your book up on a site that allows you to set your price at free and then asking Amazon to price match the book at free. On Nook, I found that for every 5 free books, 3 readers would return and purchase the rest of the series. On Kindle, for every 15 to 20 free books, only 1 reader would come back and trickle through the rest of the series.
So why is that?
I don’t have sales data to back up my theory, but I believe that Kindle readers are used to snagging free books and most of the time they sit on them – perhaps never even reading them. I’m a Kindle user and I can attest to that. My library is packed with free books I’ve never read.
Meanwhile, Nook hasn’t had the same amount of attention paid to it by independent authors. While Kindle Direct Publishing has soared, Nook and the others have been vastly ignored… which may make it an untapped potential. There are not nearly as many authors giving away their books for free on Nook as there are on Kindle, so the Nook readers find more value in those free books and may very well read them.
Another theory I have is that Kindle readers are converting to subscription based reading and are purchasing far fewer books. When I weigh the difference between sales on Kindle and sales on Nook, I am far better giving up my exclusivity and branching out to other platforms, because my sales on the other platforms are destroying the few sales and reads I was getting on Select.
I’m thrilled with the results I’ve found in diversifying. I don’t miss KDP. I’m finding a new audience that I would have never found had I not taken the chance and diversified.
Is this the right move for you?
I’m not sure. But maybe its time to experiment and find out. If you are exclusive on Amazon and haven’t been impressed with your sales, let your KDP Select expire and branch out for a few months and see what happens. If the results don’t impress you, go back to KDP Select and have the piece of mind in knowing that you are right where you need to be.
When I started my self publishing journey in 2009, I was sold on being exclusive through Amazon, but now I am convinced that every author needs to weigh their options and look at the possibility of branching out to other platforms.
You might just find – like me – that it’s time to see if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. I have found that it is.