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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.