Depending on whether or not you’ve put all your indie publishing eggs in the Kindle Select Program or not, you may see Amazon as the Great Liberator or the Great Satan. If you’re trying to run an independent brick-and-mortar bookstore—first of all, I applaud you and wish you nothing but success!—then Amazon is the Devil. If you’ve given up on so-called “traditional publishing” Amazon has made it so easy to self-publish that surely they are like unto Moses, leading his people out of bondage to the pharaohs of New York publishing.

And then this happened . . .



Introducing Kindle Unlimited

Now, when you enroll your title in KDP Select, your title will be included in Kindle Unlimited—a new subscription service for readers in the U.S. and a new revenue opportunity for authors enrolled in KDP Select. Customers are able to read as many books as they want from a library of over 600,000 titles while subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. When your title is read past 10%—about the length of reading the free sample available in Kindle books—you will earn a share of the KDP Select monthly global fund. For July we’ve added $800,000 to the fund, bringing the July fund amount to $2 million.

All books currently enrolled in KDP Select with U.S. rights will be automatically included in Kindle Unlimited. KDP Select books will also continue to be enrolled in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) available to Amazon Prime customers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Japan where authors will continue to earn a share of the KDP Select global fund when their book is borrowed. KOLL borrows will continue to be counted when a book is initially downloaded. In the month of June, KDP Select-enrolled authors earned $2.24 each time their books were borrowed.

KDP Select is an optional program for you to reach more readers, and it gives you the opportunity to earn more money. In addition to potentially earning royalties from Kindle Unlimited and KOLL, you can also maximize your book’s sales potential by choosing between two great promotional tools: Kindle Countdown Deals, time-bound promotional discounts for your book, available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, while earning royalties; or Free Book Promotion where readers worldwide can get your book free for a limited time. Plus, you can earn 70% royalty for sales to customers in Japan, India, Brazil, and Mexico.

Visit your Bookshelf to enroll your books in KDP Select, or if you are already enrolled, visit your royalty report to see your results. If you’d like to learn more, visit KDP Select.


Make no mistake, though couched in a sort of “Good news everybody!” message, this is a blanket dismissal of KDP Select indies. The rules are different for you than they are for publishers, and the rules mean you get less money, and I mean less money than the very little you’re already making anyway if you’ve signed on to KDP Select. Amazon doesn’t care about you, indie publishers, and why should they?

And then there was all that hullabaloo between Amazon and Hachette that seems to indicate that Amazon hates publishers, too, so where does that leave us?

Well, I don’t know where that leaves you but it leaves me entirely unchanged either way.


What’s my secret?

I never considered Amazon as either the Great Satan or the Great Liberator, but always knew them to be what they are in real life: a for-profit, publically-traded corporation with a legal responsibility to “increase shareholder value.” Why do people suddenly scurry around in a panic when a for-profit corporation does something designed to increase its own profits? What do you expect from a pig but a grunt?

This new Netflix model they’re trying will either succeed for them or it won’t. I have no idea. But if you don’t want to let them give your books away for whatever mysterious bit of money they may or may not decide to pay you after the other corporations, who have lawyers, take their regular cut (which, frankly, is the only reasonable interpretation of their terms) then one easy solution presents itself:

Don’t sign up your books for KDP Select.

Presto, no subscription service, no mystery terms. And this should actually be really easy, since you shouldn’t have anything except maybe the occasional promo short story in that program anyway. Just because Amazon sells 60-70% of the e-books sold in America doesn’t mean you have to sign up to try to help them close that last 30-40%.

Here’s what I do:

I sell my indie stuff via KDP, CreateSpace, and Smashwords.

KDP becuase they sell most of the e-books, and why wouldn’t you want to have your book on sale at Amazon?

CreateSpace because it’s cheaper, and at least in my experience, they turn out a very nice product.

Smashwords because they’ll sell your e-book (essentially) everywhere else, including for the iPad and Nook.

Selling books in the indie sphere is hard enough already, why sign up for a program that limits you to only some of the market, even if by “some” we really mean “most”? The extra visibility promised by KDP Select appears to be largely if not entirely imaginary. You don’t just get love from a for-profit corporation, people, you buy love from a for-profit corporation. If you aren’t sending a check with a significant number on it to Amazon for co-op placement you’re not getting significant additional visibility, any more than you’ll ever get your indie POD book on the front table at a Barnes & Noble store without, like the publishers of all the other books on that table, you’ve paid dearly for the privilege.

So, yeah, suffering over Kindle Unlimited? Take a deep breath and opt out.

After all, if the Great Liberator just leads you into bondage to a different master . . .


—Philip Athans


P.S.: And if you’re considering signing up for this as a way to get “exposure” and don’t care about the money then all you’re doing is “exposing” yourself as someone who doesn’t think your work has any value. If you really believe that to be true, please don’t publish it. Instead, keep working at your craft until you feel you’ve got something to contribute. If you feel you do have something to contribute, then it’s unfair to you and the rest of the author community for you to give your work away for free, and no one has the right to ask you to do that in exactly the same way you don’t go into a grocery store and expect they’ll give you free food for “exposure.” And again, a freebie short story to try to draw people into your novel? Yes, get that in the hands of anyone willing to read it, just like they pass out free samples of food in grocery stores. But free novels? NO!



About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
This entry was posted in Arron of the Black Forest, Books, E-Books, horror novels, how to write fiction, indie publishing, POD, Publishing Business, Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels, SF and Fantasy Authors, The Fathomless Abyss, transmedia, Traveller, Writing, writing advice, Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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