Some Thoughts on Amazon, Kindle Unlimited and Exclusivity.

Amazon recently announced the release of their new subscription service, Kindle Unlimited. At first review, it appears to be very similar to Scribd and Oyster (which I enjoy!) (Side note: if you’re an indie author who distributes through Smashwords, make sure your titles are opted in to distribution to both Scribd and Oyster–they’re great services. Mark Coker did a great job of explaining why they’re excellent in his blog post announcing the partnership with Scribd.)

As an indie-author, I am only allowed to participate in Kindle Unlimited if I make my titles exclusive to Amazon—meaning I would no longer be allowed to sell books on any platform other than Amazon.com. This means that readers who prefer to get their e-books from BN.com, Smashwords, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd, or anywhere else would not have access to my books. This rule isn’t surprising: all* new features offered as part of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform since 2012 have required exclusivity.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select was launched in 2011. Most of you likely know what this is, but in case you don’t, here’s the quick and dirty run down: KDP Select is a promotion tool within Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing umbrella. In order to participate in KDP Select, an author must make the participating title exclusive to Amazon.com for at least a three month period. In exchange, the author can take advantage of a number of tools to aid in discoverability of their book for as long as their book remains Amazon-exclusive, including the Kindle Lending Library, Kindle Countdown Deals, Free Book promotions, and now Kindle Unlimited. Rarely talked about, but also true: every* new market that Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program has entered since the creation of KDP Select has required exclusivity in order to earn full royalties in that market. A non-exclusive author can only earn 35% royalties on the cover price of their book purchased through Amazon.id (Amazon in India,) for example, while a book committed solely to Amazon KDP Select will earn a 70% royalty.

I have, all along, maintained my books across platforms. In the spirit of transparency, I don’t mind telling you that the majority of my book sales come from Amazon. However, I don’t feel it’s fair to tell readers who prefer Nook over Kindle (for example) that they can’t get my books. And had I not had my books widely distributed, I never would have hit the top 10 list in my genre in the Kobo store (thanks all you Kobo readers out there!) or been part of the amazing strides being taken at Smashwords.com.

So I guess this is really a big thank you to all of you who have bought my books, be it on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or the Apple ibookstore, or Kobo, or anywhere. And this is my promise to you that I will continue to distribute my books across as many platforms as I can. If you want to support indie-authors in their effort to remain non-exclusive, the best thing you can do is to buy their books and spread the word about their work. Tell your friends about the indie books you love, follow your favorite authors on social media and share their posts, write fanfiction and make fanart. A friend’s recommendation, or seeing others excited about a story can be one hundred times more powerful than any marketing ploy can be in helping great books get discovered by equally great readers.

If you’re interested in learning more, watch this clip of the Colbert Report, where Stephen Colbert and guest Sherman Alexie (both Hachette-published authors) shine a light on how Amazon policies are impacting traditionally published authors. Colbert’s style of infotainment is always a delight to watch, regardless of your take on the issue. I’ve added the book CALIFORNIA (recommended during the clip by Sherman Alexie) to my to-read list.

And visit the Smashwords blog where Mark Coker recently wrote a post about Kindle Unlimited and the impact of author exclusivity.

* while these statements have been researched to the best of my ability, I can never be 100% certain of every instance of anything.

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