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Monday, February 18, 2013

The Cost of Exclusivity

A Guest Post by Author Karen Baney

Kindle Direct Publishing’s Select program was announced by Amazon just a little over a year ago as a tool for authors to give away free books and earn a royalty on book lending through Amazon Prime.  Authors flocked to the program as rumors of insane eBook sales success circulated.  Everything was great until Amazon changed their algorithms, no longer giving equal weight to free books.

The biggest kicker in the whole KDP Select phenomenon was a clause that requires the eBook to be exclusively available on Amazon for ninety days.  Since many authors still swear that KDP Select is working for them, I thought it might be fun to present some interesting facts and figures related to the cost of exclusivity.

eBook Market Share

Amazon is not the only eBook retailer out there.  In Jan. 2013, Kobo rose to capture 20% of the global eReader market (1).  Amazon only had 51% of eBook market share in the US as of Mar. 2012 and less than 19% globally (2).  For the same time period, Apple (through iTunes and iBooks) held 24% of global eBook market share (2).  What does this mean for the exclusive KDP Select author?

Exclusivity limits your reach and growth potential on a global scale.  For the KDP Select author, at best, you can only hope to reach 51% of the US and 19% of the global market, or whatever Amazon’s current market share is.  By going exclusive, you’re betting on Amazon’s ability to dominate a market that they are currently not dominating on the global scale.

No Sales with Other Retailers

Many authors pulled books from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and more in order to go exclusive with KDP Select.  Their number one excuse is that they weren’t selling well with other retailers.

Let’s, step back for a minute and ask a few bigger questions.  Were they selling anything significant on Amazon at that point?  Were they advertising for each retailer instead of always posting links to the Kindle version of their books? 

It’s hard to know for certain without running a survey, but in my opinion based on talking to a number of authors over the last few years, chances are they were not advertising at all.  If they were advertising, they were strictly directing users to their own website or Amazon.  They probably had some sales at Amazon, but hadn't really put in the effort to grow sales with other retailers.

Exclusivity limits your income potential.  As of Jan. 2013, 27% of my royalties (over $1,500) comes from Barnes & Noble sales.  After I left KDP Select in May 2012 (except for the first 90 days of new releases), I began deliberately building Nook sales by:
1. Setting the first book in my 4 book series to free on all retailers.
2. Tweeting specifically for the Nook market with direct links to the Nook version on Barnes & Noble.

The results were dismal at first, partly because of the summer sales slowdown and partly because I had to build an audience from scratch again.  In September 2012, things started to pick up.  B&N became about 5 – 10% of my royalty income, even as Kindle continued to grow.  By Jan. 2013, I was completely blown away that during the height of the eBook sales season, B&N made up 27% of my income.  That’s a nice enough check that I would not have made if I were exclusive with KDP Select.

My point?  It takes both time and targeted marketing for a specific retailer in order to build sales.  Without both, your book doesn't stand a chance.  With both, you might start to see some numbers you like.

Consider the Cost

I hope this gives you some solid ideas about the cost of going exclusive with Amazon on KDP Select.  Consider all the factors for your marketing plan.  Perhaps it is time to leave exclusivity behind.

Learn more about pricing, distribution, and the other keys to eBook marketing success in Karen’s new book for authors, 10 Keys to eBook Marketing Success. Now available on Amazon.

Best-selling self-published author, Karen Baney, enjoys sharing information to help authors learn about the Business of Writing.  She holds a Masters of Business Administration from Arizona State University and has worked in various business related career fields for the past 20 years.  She writes Christian Historical Fiction and Contemporary Romance novels.  To learn more about her novels visit her website:  Authors can find tips and information on self-publishing and marketing at:

Connect with Karen on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.


And here's our year of book marketing update:

Day 49

Know yourself.  Be yourself.  Stop whining.
~ Susan DiMickele

This kind of goes back to our quote from Zig Ziglar a few days back. Mindset is important. Know who you are – as an author, a marketer, a person. Be that person. Don’t try to be John Kremer. Don’t try to be E.L. James. Be yourself – and don’t whine about it. It sounds pretty straight forward, but it’s easy to fall into a comparison trap and compare your book sales to that of another author. Or to expect the same results from a promotion that someone else got. Each book and each author are different. My mailing list is different from yours, and your Twitter following is different than mine. The reason this book doesn't include a pre-built marketing plan is because each book and author is different.

Don’t try to be, or expect to be, somebody else. Just be you, and be happy about it.

Marketing prompt:

Look over your list of marketing strengths – the things that you are doing well. Not everyone’s list will be the same. Focus on improving on something you’re already doing well today.

Days to go: 316

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