When I began publishing back in 2014, I had made my books available on all platforms. The idea was to reach as wide an audience as possible and get onto readers’ Nooks, Kobos, iPads, iPhones, and whatever else I could.
Eventually sales stagnated and I grew impatient. Amazon is, and has been, the eight-hundred pound gorilla in the middle of the room. Kindle has brand recognition and the most amount of readers. I myself own a Kindle, like a hell of a lot of others and I love it to death. Before I broke down and bought my Fire HD tablet, I had the Kindle app on my iPhone and on my wife’s iPad. Amazon virtually owns the ebook market, especially in the US. At that time, it made sense to align myself with the big guy and enroll in KDP Select.
For indie authors and small presses that sell exclusively on Amazon, there are certain luxuries available through Kindle Direct Publishing if you enroll in their KDP Select program. This allows readers to borrow your books through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, and for you to be paid for each page read. You can do countdown deals and offer free promotions, which is pretty great. Lots of indie authors have had much success with their KDP Select enrollment. I did not.
In my estimation (and your mileage may vary), KDP Select is awesome for authors who can continuously churn out new releases on a regular basis, or who already have a large virtual footprint with a large catalog of titles available. If you’re publishing six titles a year, it may be best to target Amazon readers specifically. I’m not one of those authors, and have time and money to only publish once or twice a year. And at this point, the virtual shelf space my name and titles occupies is fairly limited.
There were periodic spikes in sales and borrows, especially around the release of two fairly high-profile anthologies (The Cyborg Chronicles and CLONES, specifically), but those trailed off rather quickly and my Amazon sales dashboard has, over the last few months, become a rather disappointingly flat line.
I’ve also become a bit less than enamored with a few of Amazon’s business decisions, as both a reader, customer, and independent author-publisher. KDP Select is fairly easy to game (there have been instances of authors producing phone-book sized titles that are mostly ads and junk in order to increase the page count), and authors compete against one another for whatever bonus Amazon has set aside to those who generate the most pages read. The monthly payout per author varies and can go higher or lower depending on nothing more than the whims of Amazon.
I’m also not thrilled with Amazon’s easy-to-game review system and its enforcement to ensure legitimate reviews are posted. Too often, I see reviews on various books from people who have clearly not read the material, and even admit to such in their reviews. Check out virtually any traditionally published title, and you’ll find one-star reviews because the customer disagrees with the publisher’s price (like this recent review for a Kindle Worlds Legacy Fleet title from the Sisters of Slaughter, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason). Or one-star reviews from readers with a bone to pick over an author’s inclusion of homosexual characters or other progressive politics, as was the case with Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars title last year, or because readers hate whatever they’re gonna hate, and they have an agenda, and they blame the author or publisher for not producing material suitable to their preferred echo chamber. Those reviews all get posted, and yet legitimate reviews can get pulled if Amazon finds out you are a reader who follows an author on Twitter and Facebook, and decides you’re in cahoots, legitimately or otherwise. There is also the specter of being banned by Amazon. A few months ago I listened to an episode of The Horror Show with Brian Keene with an erotic horror author whose work had been de-listed and banned from Amazon.While this may never happen to me, or many other authors, I also do not want to risk keeping all of my work for sale on a single site that could, one day, make it all disappear and lock me out just because.
All of these are factors for why I think it’s time to diversify once again. Dwindling sales and corporate practices are, for me, two good reasons to launch wide again, wherever possible. However, I will still be exclusive to Amazon for at least one upcoming title, which will be set in a new Kindle Worlds series (more on this in the coming weeks), and I expect the anthologies I’ve been involved in to remain exclusive to Amazon for the foreseeable future, as well. It’s also entirely possible that I may one day sign, maybe, with a publisher (or publishers) that sell exclusively on Amazon. The rest of my titles, though, are now available on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks, in addition to Amazon. When I can diversify, I will, simply because I prefer to not keep all of my eggs in one basket.
I will say that in the course of spreading my works out onto these various sites, I’ve already earned more than I did throughout the last few months of my KDP Select period. Granted, this may not last very long, but the hope is that I increase my discoverability and widen my footprint by being more accessible to an increased set of readers.
I’ve also released my first audiobook, Revolver (Audible | iTunes), further diversifying not just where my books are available, but how they can be enjoyed. Hopefully you’ll check it out. If enough listeners snag a copy, and if I’m fortunate enough to turn a profit, this could help pave the way for many more audiobooks to come. I’d love to work with Revolver’s narrator, Patricia Santomasso, again, and if you’d like to hear more of her reading my words, we need your support. But, if you’re a non-Kindle reader and non-audiobook listener, you can find links to your preferred bookstore at the pages of any of my solo titles listed right at the top of my homepage.