Does This Sound Familiar?

Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, has a blog up about Amazon Kindle Select. I pretty much agree with everything he said.

Take a read.

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18 Responses to Does This Sound Familiar?

  1. The Smoker says:

    Hey Dean,

    I, personally, don’t mind the Select program. It has given me measurable gains, but that is probably more because of its place in my overall stratergy. However, I can relate to how Mark is feeling and what he is saying. One thing that nobody really comments on – and really annoys me – is the fact that KDP doesn’t send an email to inform you when your book comes out of Select. That is not acceptable in my mind – I have a lot of books, so I sometimes don’t notice, which is the point from Amazon’s perspective.

    Overall though, I’m not sure where I stand with Amazon anymore. They used to be a solid income earner, but I wonder about the future. I have been popular on my other sales channels for a long time now. Amazon is certainly number one, but the general feeling I am having recently is there is a loss of faith in me in them as a sales channel or even as a preferred sales channel. I have invested a lot of time in creating success there and I have had it, but – long term – I am starting to see them as a potentionally declining sales channel and that other sales channels will be seeing more investment of time and effort from me (especially if they become more accepting of two key concepts that everyone but Smashwords has failed on ‘being accepting of international writers’ and ‘adopting online payment internationally’ <— I mean Paypal and so on.)

    The future is an unknown element these days. I'm excited about where things are going. I'm also very interested in how my relationship with Amazon will change in the future. Will I just see them as a place to dump books (such as Diesel), will they become a moderate player to me, or will they become the powerhouse that I used to view them as (probably because their sales reporting system is/was 'slightly' better).

    The future is going to be quite something. Looking forward to seeing how things turn out for us both.


    The Smoker.

  2. I lurk regularly on a forum that leans pretty heavily into the pro-Amazon column. It’s not unanimous, but the general consensus there is that Amazon is great and that anyone who criticizes Amazon is just guilty of their success.

    I don’t agree with this view, but it’s easy to understand why people have it. Amazon provides a great set of tools to self published authors, with only one exception that I can think of. B&N, Kobo, even Smashwords provide some of those tools, but not all of them. Amazon’s KDP seems to have become the standard by which all the other publishers providing tools are measured.

    Combine that with Amazon’s excellent reptuation for support–this gets a little more hit or miss, but my experience with Amazon has almost always been good when it comes to support (and since I never need Amazon support until after I’ve already had a bad experience, it’s saying something that I come away feeling good). My experience with B&N support has been “average” to “mind-numbingly awful.” My experience with Kobo and Smashwords support has been even lower.

    Combine that with a lot of people claiming that they get almost all of their sales from Amazon anyway, and tools KDP Select provides to give them more exposure to readers, and… well, I find it hard to argue with someone who decides to use it. I don’t like KDP Select (and my basic business model makes me ineligible by default anyway) but the argument the people who use it hear is “you should willingly sacrifice the revenue you’re generating for some hypothetical situation that we haven’t been able to provide you yet.”

    (There are of course people who actually make more money off Smashwords or B&N than they do on Amazon, but I can’t speak to their experiences.)

    Me, I think having as many options as possible on hand where I can sell my stuff is the best environment to be in, because it ultimately means “sell to a bigger audience.” But I can see a reason why some would choose to sell to a smaller audience in an environment that makes your audience more receptive to buying your work. Especially if the smaller audience is still a really large audience.

    All that said, when it comes down to me I just don’t like people telling me I can’t do something, which is exactly what KDP Select does. It tells me I can’t use anyone other than them. B&N doesn’t tell me to not sell at Amazon. That settles it for me.

  3. Desiree says:

    I saw that the other day, and after reading the comments, I was kind of appalled/amused at how people seem so quick to either defend select, or even shift the blame (of failed success? frustration with distribution systems? I can’t actually tell) to Smashwords and the infamous meatgrinder.
    I have heard of “touching the third rail” politically, but apparently Amazon Select has become a third rail of its own…

    I’m glad that you and others are taking the time to address the topic. I recently published my first title (which I am now ignoring so that I can write), and had been seriously considering Select until Kris talked about keeping yourself on as many markets as possible. I even convinced a friend to expand his distribution using that reasoning.

  4. J. A. Whye says:

    So why not use Amazon Kindle Select for 90 days to gauge interest, get reviews, etc., and then publish everywhere else? That 90 days where it’s only available one place isn’t really going to make a negative difference, is it? This thing we’re doing isn’t a sprint, but a marathon…


    PS – Newbie. Probably don’t know what I’m talking about. Won’t be offended at being slapped down. :)

    • dwsmith says:

      J.A., well, honestly it is going to make a large negative difference, actually. Here’s why. (I think I need to do a post about this, actually, just to see how many people I can get screaming at me. (grin))

      Amazon is about 60% of 25% of all books sold at this point in time. And only in the States, GB, and some countries in the EU. That’s it. They are slowly working into India and Japan, but not really pushed yet in either. So their market is not only 60% of 25%, but also a ton less when you think of the entire world as your market. At least the English-reading world.

      So you go out and have a book that gets some traction and a bunch of people want to read it. So Joe-Blow goes home after hearing about your great book from a friend. Joe-Blow grabs his Nook and can’t find your book. So he asks his friend and his friend says, “Nope, you have to have a Kindle before you can read that.” Friend gets angry and won’t read anything else you do, let alone remember to read that book in four months when it gets active on Nook.

      By being exclusive, you push away readers and once a reader is pushed away from your work, it’s damn near impossible to get them back.

      Kindle Select is very, very short-sighted and can hurt in even more ways than I described. The key is make your book always available to everyone who wants it. Period.

  5. J. A. Whye says:

    “By being exclusive, you push away readers and once a reader is pushed away from your work, it’s damn near impossible to get them back.”

    You know, I don’t usually think of myself as stupid, but I never even thought of that. :(

    I’m just getting started in the whole fiction world so I doubt I’ve done any actual damage, but I’ve now gone and turned off the “auto renew” on KDP for my books and will publish them everywhere else as soon as I’m able.

    And I’m glad I asked so I don’t head farther down that (dead-end) alley.

    Thanks for the explanation.


  6. Adam Riser says:

    The average person using Select probably sells only a handful of books a month, and even if this program does net them some new readers, the potential readers they’ve shut out by going exclusive makes such a decision seem incredibly stupid. I can’t imagine going exclusive with one distributor making any kind of sense unless you were already selling thousands of books per month, and only if that distributor guaranteed that you could continue selling those same thousands of books through their channels, which they really can’t unless they sweeten the deal by doing promotion for you–thinking of the writers signed to Amazon’s publishing imprints.

    Learn business folks, learn business.

    • dwsmith says:

      Oh, Adam, I’ve been shouting at writers to learn business here for three years now at least. The writers that learn it will be around in twenty years. The others won’t be. Nature of mother business thinning the herd. (grin)

  7. Ramon Terrell says:

    The thing I’ve been noticing is that a lot of authors get really happy at having big sales so fast with amazon and (possibly) select, that they jump all over it. My sales may only be a dozen or so a month, but they typically are across platforms. Sometimes I have a sales jump, and again, across platforms. One thing I’ve learned in customer service is that good word can be slow to pick up momentum, but negative word takes off like wildfire. People get ticked at you for being exclusive, they are far more likely to scream about it faster.

    I may be naive about this, but I think patience is called for here. Every veteran traditionally published author I’ve met says it takes time to build an audience by simply writing the next book. That’s the route I’m trying. At the very least, in three years if I haven’t sold many books, I’ll have nearly twenty published anyway. Then think about marketing. (perhaps)

  8. Teri Babcock says:

    “So he asks his friend and his friend says, “Nope, you have to have a Kindle before you can read that.”

    I am about to get an e-reader. I was leaning heavily towards the Kindle, mainly because I found the search function on Amazon much more powerful in terms of how narrow I could make the search. The others I looked at made searching clunky and a lot of work because I couldn’t refine the searches enough. And then I ran across this:
    My Dad bought a kindle in the States and has had problems. Like the titles he downloaded in the States, he can’t read when he’s in Canada. Cross-border shopping is the biggest national sport after hockey, so I wonder how many people are running into this.
    Basically, when I buy a book I want it to stay bought. If I buy a kindle planning to travel with it, I sure as hell don’t want to get to India and find all my books are gone because I didn’t buy them there. Or have Amazon delete my books and my account because I bought certain titles from another country’s Amazon website because they don’t sell them in mine.
    So I’ll be looking at other e-readers.

    • dwsmith says:

      Sorry, Teri, if you want a book to stay, you have to buy paper which is actually buying a book. When you “license” a book for any e-reader, it is under the same basic terms and you don’t own it. Sorry. Stay with paper if that bothers you.

  9. H. G. Mewis says:

    You know, I’m glad I ran across this post because I’ve been debating this very thing (again) as I get ready to launch my first book (e and paper) Nov 1. Initially, I had decided months ago to not choose KDP Select. Then I kept hearing about these great spikes of readers downloading authors’ books and starting rethinking this just for a 90 day trial period, even though I in this for the long haul and plan on writing at least a book a year/year and a half. (I already have 6 more in progress) Point being, if I did the Select program during Nov/Dec I could miss out on Christmas sales now on the other sites. Plus I can’t sell on my website. (I really don’t like that, since I already have international followers waiting in line to buy from me personally so they can get an autographed paper copy)

    Then there’s the whole problem of pissing people off after the invaluable word of mouth from my awesome, loyal readers who’ll be buying next week. Why?

    Personally, I avoided the exclusive ereader problem by buying a Lenovo (or you can get a Galaxy tab) and download the free apps on your phone or computer too. Easypeasy. I dislike being told I have to buy only at Amazon (though I love them) or Apple or B/N. I have books from all the shops on my tablet. Muahahahaha! Take that corporations! But not everyone can afford to do that or wants to. Though I can’t imagine why. I have free apps on all my devices and read on all of them.

    But I’m techie and not like a normal customer. So, I have to consider that as a business person and a writer.

    No Select for me.

  10. I think one of the reasons things like Kindle Select is a problem is hard to get across, because it’s kind of like the tragedy of the commons. It’s a big picture thing that is hard to see right off.

    The problem is not that it will hurt or help, the problem is how people are looking at it, the mindset that keeps you from seeing the bigger picture.

    The big picture is this: Amazon Selects is a niche. It’s a small pond. It’s one that is easy to use to sell books, but that just means it’s becoming saturated — and it’s becoming saturated with some genres more than others, and with indies more than traditional. And that makes it an even smaller pond, because most Amazon readers don’t actually use Selects at all. And because of that, Amazon is using internal algorithms to promote the books and authors in Selects more to people who already use Selects — it just comes out in the algorithm that way.

    And that would be okay for many of the writers, because it isn’t full saturated yet, and still a growth industry…. but in the meantime, many of those authors have built all their knowledge and a whole strategy around something that will only have more and more competition, and less and less return. And they will not have built a strategy to get to the rest of the audience. (You hear it again and again from Selects proponents “I’d be happy to flog for sales at those other vendors, but I don’t know how. They don’t give me nice shortcuts like Amazon does.”)

    The thing is that the rest of the world is NOT giving writers and publishers nice short cuts. It takes a long time and a lot of work to build a presence in other areas. It’s a pretty simple process, but there are no steroids involved, and it takes a long time. So if you are going to succeed there, you need to get out and start building your strategy early.

    Now, that said, there are some people who use Selects who see it as the little novelty tool it is, and are using it as a temporary sideline — maybe just doing a few books there, maybe books under a particular pen name, or books written expressly for Amazon. In the meantime, they are still building a presence with the rest of the world. They are aware of the negative impact having one book in a series in Selects would have on that larger audience, for instance, so maybe they put a whole new series there at once so that people won’t get hooked and then screwed.

    The key is not whether you use Selects or not, or even how you use it, but whether you have it in perspective.

    • dwsmith says:

      Camille, sorry just don’t agree with any rational that thinks that Select is a good thing. It is flat not.

      You said, “so maybe they put a whole new series there at once so that people won’t get hooked and then screwed.” So you screw the rest of the world instead?

      I HATE the fact that writers plan for failure. It’s like tracking rejection times. How frightfully stupid is that? Why not figure that everything you send out will sell?

      So people who put things up on Select plan for failure. They plan that their book won’t take off, because if it does and it is on Select, they are going to just piss off thousands and thousands of readers who own other tablets.

      Sorry, Camille, every writer can do what they want, but keeping Select in perspective (as you said), at least any large scale business perspective, means you never use it. For any reason.

      • I’ll be honest and say I’ve never even considered using Select, so my examples are, uh, pretty weak. A lot of people have said (including Kris, I think) that they can see Selects as a limited tool, used right. And I can too, but I just don’t give it enough thought to come up with good examples.

        And I’m not at all trying to disagree with you. I just see the short term “you pissed off readers” argument, sadly, as falling on deaf ears an awful lot.

        I was trying to point out that the benefit itself is ultimately trivial — it’s aimed at a niche.

        Most writers, when they see someone do a special pre-release limited edition paper copy, have some perspective on that. They understand that such a thing has a limited effect, and could piss off readers who don’t want to spend a hundred bucks for an early look at your next book. Or even e-arcs are more about giving an already loyal in-group a special treat. Anybody can see that these are niche strategies for well understood audiences, not shotgun business model for anybody to build a business around.

        People just don’t see that niche factor with Selects.

      • Carradee says:

        But what about using Select for a new title, for only one 90-day round, then moving it elsewhere? Wouldn’t such a temporary strategy be a situation wherein Select’s exclusivity would be okay?

        Or am I missing your point, and you’re just talking about the folks who stay in Select forever and even pull stuff down off other vendors to put it in Select? (I got burned by at least one of those. Had a series on my wishlist, and when I had the cash in hand to buy it on Smashwords… *grumble*)

        Sorry to be flogging a dead horse, Dean, but I feel as though I’m missing something important in what you’re saying, so I’m poking with a stick to try to figure out where the disconnect is. :-)

        • dwsmith says:


          The disconnect is thinking that having a title only on Kindle for 90 days “can’t hurt you.” It can. Again, the thinking of a Kindle-only strategy is writers expecting to fail.

          So let us take a successful book as an example. You put a book out on Kindle only, and it starts to really take off and get word of mouth. So Joe Blow tells his friends about this great book he read that you wrote, and they go to buy it on their Nooks. And, of course, can’t find it. So one of two things happen. They either forget you and your book or get angry at you for cutting them out. Either way, you lose a reader and once a reader is lost anywhere, they are really, really hard to win back. The goal is to win loyal readers one at a time, not make most of them angry.

          And say you have a dozen books out and have fans, and put up your new one only on Kindle, but you have many, many readers with other devices or in other countries waiting to get it and have heard it’s out, but you are cutting them out. So they get angry.

          And so on.

          If you think your book is a failure, then put it somewhere exclusive. But if you think your book has a chance of getting readers all over the world, then put it out so everyone can get it when they want to.

          That’s all I was trying to say.

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