Thursday, 8 December 2011

Is this carrot good for indies?

Today, Amazon launched kdp Direct, a new scheme for writers, which dangles a rather huge carrot - dollar signs - to catch attention. Nope I'm not talking about making stew here, but a new book-lending initiative. 

Logging into kdp, Amazon's golden carrot greets me with this:
  • Reach a new audience - Distribute books through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library and reach the growing number of US Amazon Prime members.
  • Earn a whole new source of royalties - Earn your share of $500,000 in December and at least $6 million throughout 2012 when readers borrow your books from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
  • Promote your book for free to readers worldwide - The newly launched Promotions Manager tool will allow you to directly control the promotion of free books.
  • Instant feedback - Check real-time performance of your books in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

But how nutritious is this carrot really and how good is it for me, and my books - and us, our books? Remember how we sought the elusive plot bunnies to write our books in the first place and then we trusted them to various ebook platforms to hopefully sell them to readers, who somehow might actually like them? These platforms have given us budding writers a massive new opportunity to publish our own books and reach audiences - something that wasn't possible before without a publishing contract. And, as indies, we have freedom. We have control over our books. We may not be great at marketing, but we value our books. So... back to this huge carrot ...

Well, Mark Coker has blogged about this today and provided some good insights at 

Mr Coker points out the following factors, which worry me the most:

"Terms and conditions:

  1. For the time your book is enrolled in the program, you cannot distribute or sell your book anywhere else. Not Apple, not Barnes & Noble, not Smashwords, not Kobo, not Sony, not even your own personal blog or web site. Your title must be 100% exclusive to Amazon.
  2. If you violate their exclusivity terms at any point during the three-month enrollment period, or you unpublish your book to remove it from the program so you can distribute your book elsewhere, you risk forfeited earnings, delayed payments, a lein on future earnings, or you may get kicked out of the Kindle Direct Publishing program altogether.
  3. Your enrollment, and thus your liability to Amazon, automatically renews every three months if you neglect to opt out."

So that means no more Sample Sunday promotions or pasting excerpts of your book, which you've spent so much time working on. It means no more selling your book during that period to anyone but Amazon. You are therefore solely reliant on Amazon for those 90 days, and Amazon has complete control of your piece of work. How willing are you to give up that much independence? I worked hard on my books and I'm not sure that I want to surrender that much control. An indie author is just that - independent. I would also feel like I was somehow cheating the other ebook distributors that I have chosen to work with. They're not invisible entities after all. There are people behind these businesses - businesses that have helped me to publish my book. I have some books on publishmybook.ie and the Breakthrough Bookstore, besides Amazon and Smashwords, and the latter's distributors. I like the fact that my books are in these places and supporting small businesses who support me. In this economic climate, where companies are being squeezed, is it fair to introduce something that will have a negative impact elsewhere?

Upon reading the rules of the new book-lending venture, I soon realised that this carrot isn't tasty. It's a big number, and who doesn't like to be offered the chance of earning money by doing nothing, but somehow that carrot got stuck in my throat. It's not for me. 
However, I nearly opted in by accident today because when I went to check my US book page the dashboard had been changed. Basically, where I used to click to view my book pages and make edits there are now new opt-in boxes to this scheme. That could be a bit confusing for some.

For me, the fact that, according to the rules of this book-lending game, you can't even publish your own book on your blog or website during those 90 days... never mind on Amazon's competitors' sites, well... that's a mouldy carrot. I am totally against monopolies and business tactics which, to me at least, appear to be unfair. Competition is a good, positive and constructive thing. Stamping out the competition is just not a good thing. As soon as I saw this new scheme I was disappointed. Amazon has done some brilliant things, Kindle being one of them, and opened up new avenues for budding authors, but this new idea is not one of them. Giving authors the freedom to publish their work - which Amazon has done - is wonderful, but taking it away is not. Writers are people, not money machines. 


17 comments:

  1. A fantastic article, Vickie. I must admit that although the majority of Dave's sales are through Amazon, he decided to SP because he wanted to control. Voluntarily relinquishing it now isn't part of the plan, even with $$$ being flashed.

    I'm sure it will work for some but certainly not for everyone.

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  2. Yup, that fine print gets really sharp just a little ways down. Good post, Vix. :-)

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  3. Thank you for your comments. Most of my sales are through Amazon too. I think Amazon is an amazing company that is doing wonders for indies, but I really think that it should rethink this new idea.

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  4. Great post Vickie. My thoughts on the matter as well. I will help spread the word. :)

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  5. Running off to tweet this - I agree 100 %

    @DorteHJ

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  6. To quote Harry Potter, "Brilliant!" There are too many fine points that could, if interpreted broadly--which one must always do with the law--can bite you where it hurts most. We worked so hard as indies, getting our work out there, publicizing it, tweeting it, blogging it--all the way WE wanted to. Why on earth would we want to take a chance of getting a tiny piece of the 750,000+15,000 already free e-books eligible for 500,000? And FREE? If even half those books go into the program, what will the average indie earn? Not for me and probably not best for most indies. And I would not, on my life, cause harm to Smashwords and their retailers who have been so very good to me for the last 3 years, let alone Gemma at publishmybook.ie. I fear Amazon has gotten so big that they think like Wall Street--and we all know where that gets us!

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  7. Wow thanks for pulling the covers off of that diamond.

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  8. Great blog, Vickie. I think I read somewhere that if you list one of your books, the other works you have on KDP is also excluded from other vendors. Correct me if I am wrong.
    Greta Burroughs

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  9. Hi, thanks for commenting everyone. The exclusivity is what bothers me so much.
    Greta, checking the terms & conditions it says:


    What does it mean to publish exclusively on Kindle?

    When you choose KDP Select for a book, you're committing to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP. During the period of exclusivity, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format other than digital.


    It also says that you can choose to enrol just one book or all of them... (taken off website)


    KDP Select is an optional program. If you choose to take advantage of KDP Select, you can enroll a single title, your whole catalog, or anything in between. Titles that are not enrolled in KDP Select do not have to be exclusive to Kindle.

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  10. As an addendum, if u want to cancel...

    Pasted from website...


    Tell me more about un-publishing my titles that are enrolled in KDP Select?

    You can un-publish your KDP Select-enrolled titles at any time during the term. However, keep in mind that your commitment to the KDP Select terms and conditions, including exclusivity, will continue even after you have un-published your title. In other words, you cannot un-publish your KDP Select-enrolled title from KDP and make it available on another sales channel before the title’s current KDP Select term expires.

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  11. Hi Vickie,
    I agree wholeheartedly with you.

    One of the best things about being Indie is the incredible freedom we have at the moment and the ability to spread our work throughout the world. :)

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  12. Thank you for clarifying the picture for me. I read in Book Junkies that one could opt-out by just not opting-in. Guess I'll do just that.

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  13. As the Scottish hero William Wallace screamed as he was being drawn and quartered, "FREEDOM!" This is why many of us became Indies, for the freedom and independence publishing this way gives us. The carrot looks tasty enough but beware the stick.
    Bob DeBurgh.

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  14. What I have been saying for a long time - independent publishing does NOT mean the Amazon proprietary Kindle platform, which I see, especially with the $0.99 price structure, as little more than vanity publishing to enable Amazon to recoup R&D expenses on the Kindle.

    Putting all your eggs in one basket (production, distribution and retailing) is a trap. Much better to find a way of producing your work and distributing it that includes Amazon, but does not rely on it.

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  15. My understanding that the reader can only get one book a month. The chance is good that well-known authors will be read before any of us lesser known indies will. We could possibly go months without being read even once.

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  16. It's depressingly clear where Amazon is going. As Indie authors we were over the moon when self publishing became mainstream thanks to Amazon in particular. But it is now obvious that Amazon regards independence as a dirty word. KDP Select is not a carrot. It's a prison. By entering KDP Select, you may as well sign over all your rights to your books to Amazon, kill your blog and website, and stop referring to yourself as Indie.

    The killer is though, as Amazon accounts for the majority of book sales for most Indies, where do you go?

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  17. Hi guys, thanks for all of your comments. I guess we all think alike on this one. It's a shame. We all started off on this self-publishing venture full of hope and excitement, so let's hope that none of that wears off and we continue to write, support one another and stay positive. I also hope that Amazon listens and improves some of what it is now offering, and does a big U-turn away from the negative things that are emerging. Thanks everyone.

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Thanks for commenting - have a kitty cool day! :)