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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

KDP Select: What Do Authors Think?

I'm a hybrid author.

I suppose that means a few different things. After completing my first novel, I embarked on an agent search--and you probably know the length of eternities between each agent reply. In order to keep my mind (and my inbox) busy, I wrote and submitted short fiction and poetry. Eventually, my short work was available in both print and electronic formats (and even a podcast or two).

My first novel was published traditionally by a small press (the team of which became my book's best friend). I'm also self-published as well: last year I created anthologies of my previously-published short stories and published them through both Smashwords and Amazon's KDP.

So, yeah. Hybrid. (And, considering my reliance on technology, I suppose I'm even the plug-in kind.) Although I'd only been writing "professionally" since 2008, I've tried almost everything at least once and, if I hadn't tried it yet, I'm probably seriously thinking about it.

I'm grateful to be traditionally published because honestly, it's a lot less work. I'd rather spend my time writing than publishing, if I can. Plus, I really value the relationships I've created with my editors. I like myself okay but, when acting as my own editor, it's just not the same.

However, there's a project in my WIP folder that I have set aside to become my first previously-unpublished story. I did the right thing by hiring professionals to edit and proof it, and am working with a graphic designer for a cover. Then there is the matter of how I'm going to publish it.

My gut was pressing me toward the KDP Select program. I'd have the same ease of publishing I experienced when publishing my anthologies and I had a rudimentary understanding of the payout structure, the whole exclusive-for-ninety-days thing, and the heralded glorious free day promotions. I figured once my other projects simmered down, I could take my time and really look into it.

This week, one of my publishers notified me that my July release is going on KDPS. Due to the 90-day exclusivity period, they've decided to put it up on Kindle early so that the three month period is over before they release and sell it on the publisher's website.

When I say "put it up on Kindle early" I mean "in the next few days.

Of course, I panicked. I have a book release this week and never knew about it! Kind of feels like a couch-bound cardio workout when you get news like that. After a moment of frantic emailing and texting, I took a big swig of Irish Breakfast and got to work researching what I thought I had months to do: the KDP Select.

Amazon puts it all out there right on their website. What I wanted to know was more personal: what do other authors think of the Select program?

Hitting the Books Blogs

When I sat down to begin my intense research, the first article I found was How Amazon's KDP Select Saved My Book. You would think with a title like that, it'd be a good article. Well, let me tell you: it was exactly the sort of feedback I'd hoped to find. Here was an author whose sales had flat lined. The KDP Select program turned out to be an AED*, resurrecting sales and downloads and sending them heavenward. Best of all, David Kazzie describes what happened after his free days. He still enjoyed an immense success with the program. His sacrifice for the exclusivity? Pretty much nothing. He'd sold only one copy on B&N leading up to that so it was a no-brainer.

Ok, that's one author's opinion. Although it's the one I wanted to hear, I figured I better keep reading. That's when I came across this post on the Huff Po. In Amazon: To KDP Select, Or Not? Jim Kukral surveyed several authors. There wasn't unanimous agreement, but enough positive response to make me feel good about my (and my publisher's) decision to go KDP Select.

There has to be a dark side to all this happy sunshine, right? I appreciated Victoria Strauss' article The Fine Print of Amazon's New KDP Select Program because it explains the payoff structure. This article was written in 2011--and I have yet to compare it word for word, number for number to the current guidelines--but it still breaks the main sections down and explains what it all means for the author.

Plenty of good reason she wrote this for the Writer Beware website. It's not a dark side, per se, but a serious one--authors enrolling in the KDP Select are signing a contract and every author had better understand what they are signing.

It's also important to remember how important promotion is to the success of your KDP Select's free days. Those free days are the program's sweetest plum and can be a huge missed opportunity if not promoted right. Author Kirkus MacGowan wrote about what he would have done better in his article My Experience with KDP Select. I think that is what is causing me the most amount of anxiety: the constraints of my day-job are absolutely the largest obstacle to my promotional activities.

And The Beat Blogs Go On

I am fairly confident that I can keep right on finding article after article on the pro's and con's of the KDP Select program.  I'm also fairly confident that the KDPS is still a great way to launch (or re-launch) a book.

Maybe I've failed to mention one of the most important aspects about the whole thing--for me, anyway. It's a chance to get my book in front of thousands of people. That day job I mentioned? I'll probably work there until I keel over, so it's not like I'm counting on KDP to be my one way ticket to economic stability.

Rather, it's my one way ticket into thousands of e-readers. That's what I want--my book loaded into a Kindle, waiting for the moment a person spies the cover graphic and dives in. I want my work to be on bookshelves, real and virtual. I want to be a click away from a hungry reader.

KDP Select promises me that opportunity. Now, it's up to me to make it work.

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. Visit Ash's blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com for news on her urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde (Pink Narcissus Press). Book Two "Blood Rush" will be released May 14, 2013, the same day her urban fantasy novella "Stranger at the Hell Gate (The Wild Rose Press) goes free with Amazon's KDP Select.


David Kazzie said...

Great post, Ash (and not just because you cited my post!)

Ash Krafton | @ashkrafton said...

Thanks, David.

I always appreciate well-written articles that give us a personal insight the way yours does.

Thanks for showing us the details writers need to see. Publishing isn't always sunshine and royalty checks so your good fortune is great news for the rest of us.

Unknown said...

My name is David Rozansky. I've been a professional writer since 1988, and I own & operate Flying Pen Press. For the most part, KDP Select has been very useful, but we've noticed that it only is as good as an authors platform. If the author has a sizable fanbase, the sampling generates a lot of buzz for the book.

However, we've also seen situations where a novel has fantastic success in a giveaway, but not a single copy sells in print or Kindle in the weeks that follow. Our analysis of why: those books where the author engages readers generate positive buzz, which drives more sales, but readers of silent authors remain silent themselves.

I now recommend that Kindle editions include a way to contact the author (like Twitter or a blog), and encouragement of conversation about the book (such as a #hashtag or an Amazon review), to make the most of the sample period. And for goodness sake, converse with the new readers.

Good article. Thanks.

Keep 'em Flying,
David A. Rozansky, Publisher
Flying Pen Press
flyingpenpress.com & @DavidRozansky

(Our current KDP Select free book is Wildlife Wars bu Terry Grosz, through April 1, if you want to track a project's actual progress.)

Sarah P said...

So glad you wrote this one, Ash. Bookmarking now...