To KDP or not – that is the question!


A blog piece by Jim Kukral at the Huffington Post on the subject of KDP Select gave me food for thought and I began researching other points of view on this very popular means for indie authors to sell their books.
As Mr. Kukral points out, there are two very strong sides to this issue. I think the big question is “making money” versus “building an audience”. Many of our B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree authors take advantage of KDP and utilize the opportunity to give their books away for free for a limited time. They get a bit of boost in sales and make a bit of money in the process. The question is – does this actually build their audience? As this article states, those who seek out free book downloads are not particularly loyal readers and may do little talking about or reviewing of books. I do not know the statistics, but I wonder how many authors who take advantage of KDP actually build a big following?
Sales on Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony eReader and other means of reading eBooks arguably do not match the sales that does. On the other hand, by placing their book on a site like Kobo an author is competing with far fewer books in his/her genre and it only takes a couple of serious readers to start great word of mouth.
We are finding that our applications for readers at indieBRAG increasingly specify that they have an eBook reader other than a Kindle. Because the vast majority of our book nominations are only available at, the authors of these books lose out on reaching these other readers.
I would love to start a discussion on this dilemma: whether an author should commit to exclusivity on KDP and thereby obtain thousands of downloads to readers who MAY not become loyal fans―or―make their book available to the other online book sellers who have a far smaller audience.

Please check out Jim Kukral’s thoughts-

15 responses to “To KDP or not – that is the question!”

  1. Shawn Lamb says:

    I’ll take it one step further – don’t rely only on e-book sales. Go out in public to widen one’s market and build a stable, loyal audience. I’ve found more readers off-line at events then online by giving away free books. Readers what to get to know the author – so don’t just be a name on a book.

    For the record, I’m not on Select and never will be. I’m not a fan of limiting myself to Amazon, rather have ‘gifted’ a few e-books at my choice.

  2. Sinclair Macleod says:

    I resisted KDP select for a long time but decided to use it on my terms. I have added a short novel to the list, while retaining full distribution through other retailers for my longer novels. There has been a definite revival in my sales figures after only one free promotion. I think if you view it as promotional tool and manage it in a way that suits you, it can be effective.

  3. S.M. Starkey says:

    Geri – You invited me to comment on this thread when I asked for input on KDP at IAG. Thanks for the invite, and I hope this gets posted by a new applicant that DOES NOT OWN A KINDLE. I had Kindle for PC but moved and have not downloaded it to the new location, as yet. KDP Select would do well to widen it’s offers to the Prime users and working to increase sales for Indies by simply offering everything over $4.99 as a barrow one time and a discount price for all under $4.99. It would increase sales, enjoyment and profits, and not disturb the faithful of the Best Seller’s List on any level. I don’t think it is about Indies abandoning the KDP Select opportunity (that is very restrictive, indeed), but possibly lobbying Amazon to modify its rules, restrictions and regulations. Frankly, I can see that as a plus for the Kindle market. Taking that a step further and allowing universal formatting for all digital readers would have tremendous advantages for all markets, in my opinion. After all, if you go to a B&N bookstore and order any book from any publisher, they will order it for you. A Universal reader format would be helpful for educational facilities, as well. Restrictive markets do just that. Seems almost antiquated in current trends for markets.

  4. Geri says:

    I agree- loyal fans want to meet you and make that personal connection. I believe it was John Grisham that sold his books out of the back of his car at state fairs and gained a loyal following!

  5. Geri says:

    I suppose you are using these outlets to your best advantage. I think each author has to determine what is most effective for each of their books. I read- can’t document where- that of free books downloaded, fewer than 10% actually read it. You then have to, perhaps, consider 1/2 of those love it and 1/2 of those tell anyone about it. It is better than nothing but not exactly building a loyal audience. A bit disappointing to those authors who think that 15,000 free downloads will lead to a best seller!

  6. Geri says:

    I am so glad you decided to join the conversation! Welcome.
    I am sorry that amazon is so restrictive and feel that KDP is an attempt to expand that restriction. I have no experience with ereaders other than Kindle but it did surprise me that 2 of the 3 winners of our Kindle/Nook giveaway chose Nooks! We seem to be getting an increasing number of readers who have ereaders other than Kindles. As this number grows, I would encourage our authors to expand distribution to these other devices. When these readers are looking for a “Romance”, we have fewer to give them which is actually good for those authors who have the expanded distribution. This brings us back to the question of expanding sales or building an audience-

  7. S.M. Starkey says:

    One Indie author reminded me of the International market distributions through KDP Select. He is correct. That is a huge advantage. I have a novel set in So. Colorado that has had limited US sales, but it is popular in Germany!

  8. Geri says:

    That is another discussion I would like to have!
    We are working on a blog about the international market. I hope you will stop by when it is up and give us your thoughts-

  9. Cynthia Washburn says:

    I’m not sure why the other winner also picked a Nook, but I know that I did it because I was lucky enough to receive a Kindle for Christmas and wanted to be able expand what was available to me. Plus, I have a large BN library left over from when I used to own a first gen Nook.

    More than that, though, I like that I can load epubs from other bookshops and publishers on my Nook. While the Kindle might have the largest selection, they don’t always have the best prices and I hate that the format is proprietary unless I want to go through the trouble of converting via Calibre. I have to believe that most consumers don’t. My other dirty little secret is that my library is HUGE and dividing it up amongst a few devices makes is slightly more manageable.

    I will agree that offering free books might not be the best way to attract readers – I pretty much grab anything that looks like it might interest me when it’s free, but I’ve probably read about 5% of the free offerings that I’ve download. Now, out of those 5%, I’ve gone on to buy just about everything that the author has written for at least half of them, but it’s really hit or miss as to what will catch my fancy enough to actually read the book at that particular moment.

    To tell the truth, I’m more likely to read a bargain book – I grab it because it’s on sale, but I tend to actually read those because I paid for them.

  10. Harmony Kent says:

    I am a new Indie author and have just published my first book onto amazon in kindle format – I unwittingly went with the KDP select program, and am now regretting it – as I cannot do anything with my book elsewhere. It is keeping it incredibly limited, and as per the comment above, it is drowned in its genre with 1000’s of other kdp releases. As soon as the three months are up I intend to change it to non select status and publish elsewhere in other formats. I am writing a second book now, and hopefully will have much more idea about publishing it and getting it out there by the time it is finished. It seems strange to me that Amazon ask for you to give them sole distribution rights for three months, and then fail utterly to market the new book. Likewise, I am unsure about the free promos on Amazon as I too have read stats that say that most people who download free books don’t actually read them. Also, the format of the free promos on Amazon is very restricted. I would be interested to hear your comments on this point of view.

  11. Plum McCauley says:

    John Grisham sold his books out of the back of his car? What an amazing idea! Hearing that makes me inclined to set up a table somewhere and sell books!

    As for KDP Select or otherwise, I just finished my final enrollment with them. I’m not going to re-join. I think it’s too limiting, and I’ve had no success with free promotions. When I had a free promotion for my middle grade novel “It All Started with a Bicycle” I gave away over 700 books, and six months later I have not had one review from it. I think that people download free books just because they’re free, and in fact, may not ever read them!

  12. Geri says:

    I just read recently that the benefit of “free” has passed. I do think people out there just download everything free and then never read them. This article said that less than !% of the downloads get read and only a small fraction then respond. I also think it may be a mistake in today’s market not to sell on other sites such as B&N- they aren’t as big but a sale is a sale! Recently we were at an event with one of our authors and she sold every book she brought with her and said next year she would bring more. I think this goes to the fact that selling in person means many more sales. Colleen hoover- one of the most successful romance writers- is everywhere. She meets up with all her fans and does so many appearances wherever she can. I think that is a great way to start the much desired word-of-mouth.

  13. Jane H says:

    John Grisham said (in a video that is no longer available) that he went door to door selling his books. Do you think we could get away with that nowadays and not get arrested for not having a license to sell, or somebody not call the police on us – unidentified people going around house to house?

  14. Geri says:

    Door to door? Not likely -but I guess in a way that is what Facebook is. But I do know that even to many of their users it becomes a bit intrusive when author do nothing but promote their books. That is why it has become necessary to be creative. We have found that no matter how you sell your books on line or in stores, personal appearances like book signings really are very successful. Readers who attend such events enjoy that ability to “know” the author.

  15. Geri says:

    I think that perhaps the effect of “free” books has passed its peak. I have heard of some books getting as many as 20,000 free downloads and out of that getting only a couple of reviews. Free books work best when you have a series which entices a reader to buy the next book.- this seems to work particularly well for Romance novel. A “sale” or bundling books seems to work better. This gives you something promote and get new attention.

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