Amazon’s announcement last week that it was changing the payment terms for KDP Select, the program used to supply books to Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, has caused any number of traditionally published authors and legacy industry pundits to decry the change.
John Scalzi, for example, focused solely on the fiscal aspects and wrote:
This is a bad situation for the authors participating — bad enough that ultimately the minutiae of how the money is allocated is sort of aside the point, because the relevant point is: You will never make more for your work than Amazon wants you to make. And yes, just Amazon, as the work KDP Select authors put on Amazon are exclusive to Amazon.
So, yeah: By page, or by percentage, KDP Select authors on Kindle Unlimited still can’t make more than Amazon says they can. That sucks, and that’s the long and short of it.
That’s not true, or at least it is not complete. It ignores the impact KDP Select has on the rest of the Kindle Store.
When KDP Select launched in late 2011, I disliked it because I didn’t think it was wise for authors to give Amazon an exclusive and accept a variable payment. But many authors saw it differently, which is why the number of titles in the program continues to grow.
After reading Scalzi’s post, I asked a few authors why they were in the program, and they said that they saw a net benefit to their revenues.
Scalzi complained about the payment terms for KDP Select, but what he missed was that authors might be putting their titles in the program for other reasons. For example, multiple authors have reported that an ebook’s loans in KU can help boost that ebook’s position in the Kindle Store’s rankings. This can result in increased retail sales.
If an author is already generating most of their revenue from the Kindle Store, it could make sense to submit a single title to KDP Select and see if that boosts their sales. Sure, they have to give Amazon exclusivity, but that might not matter if the ebook is not selling elsewhere. And KDP Select does only require a 90-day commitment.
While Scalzi might have nailed his argument when viewed strictly in terms of the money from KDP Select, that is not the case when you take a step back and realize how one part of the Kindle Store affects the others.
In the larger view, KDP Select can be a net positive.