KDP Select: Here’s What to Know Before Enrolling
Last Updated on February 17, 2021 by Mileva Stankovic
Amazon is the biggest market for English language books in the world today. As such, it will almost inevitably play a huge role in your writing career. The question is: how much do you want to commit to Amazon and its services?
Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP, is Amazon’s own self-publishing platform and contributes to a whopping 80% of ebook sales in the US. Among its many features for authors is KDP Select, the book promotion program that offers incredible tools to boost your sales — but also comes with some trade-offs.
With all the different services for authors out there, it can be difficult to hack your way through the self-publishing jungle.
To help you out, here’s everything you should know about KDP Select before you decide if it’s the right fit for you.
What is KDP Select?
In broad strokes, KDP Select is an Amazon program that gives authors access to promotional tools for the duration of their enrollment. In exchange, authors agree to only sell their ebook in the Kindle Store, giving Amazon exclusive sales rights of the digital file until the end of the program.
Print rights remain untouched, but your ebook can’t be sold anywhere else while you’re on KDP Select.
What are the pros of enrolling?
Signing away exclusive sales rights for any format of your book is a big commitment (even if it’s not forever and you can unenroll after 90 days). To make up for that, KDP Select offers a number of advantages for authors to make up for potentially missed opportunities through other vendors.
Those benefits include:
1. Kindle Unlimited inclusion
Arguably the biggest pro of KDP Select is Kindle Unlimited — a subscription service that offers readers, as the name suggests, unlimited access to all ebooks in the KU library. If you opt in to KDP Select, you will automatically gain access to millions of readers via Kindle Unlimited.
This is incredibly helpful because, while it’s easy to become a writer these days, it’s much harder to gain visibility. For some genres in particular, like romance, you’ll be hard-pressed to rank well without being on Kindle Unlimited.
Simply being on the platform increases the chances of readers coming across your book! And since it’s part of an ongoing subscription payment, they have nothing to lose from picking up your work.
Also, though Kindle Unlimited is a subscription-based service, authors still make money on it based on how many pages people have read per month. Even if readers only sample your book, you’ll be paid for the pages that they did read.
It’s a win-win: readers don’t pay extra to try out something new and you get paid even if they decide it’s not for them. (You can anticipate your costs and earnings with these Kindle calculators.)
2. Kindle Countdown Deals
Another benefit of KDP Select is the opportunity for authors to discount their book for one week out of the 90-day program. Not only is this a great way to attract readers, but authors will also continue to earn 70% of the royalty price per page even if the price drops below $2.99, at which point it would otherwise convert into a 35% royalty (without KDP Select, that is).
3. Kindle Free Promotions
Beyond simply discounting their books, authors can also offer their books for free for a 5-day period over the 90 days (although not in the same 90-day period as a Countdown Deal).
While this may seem counterintuitive if you want to make money, it’s another fantastic way to promote your book and increase your visibility, which may be more lucrative in the long run.
To sum it up: KDP Select makes it easier to get noticed by readers. Enrolling once in the program can be a great way to find new readers and these readers are, in turn, much more likely to check out your previous work or any new titles you’re publishing.
(Check out these tips on how to write faster to give your new fans what they want, what they really really want!)
What are the drawbacks of enrolling in KDP Select?
It won’t come as a shock to you that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The drawbacks of KDP Select are all related to exclusivity — and when you’ve spent so long planning your novel and putting so much effort into writing it, you’ll want to think carefully about placing all your eggs in one basket.
Removing yourself from major competing platforms such as Apple Books, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Google Play, as well as hundreds of other smaller retailers, will affect your sales for a few reasons:
1. Amazon is not as dominant outside the US and UK.
Retailers other than Amazon represent a fairly small portion of the US and UK markets, which might make it seem like it’s not worth the extra effort to go wide. However, Amazon dominance is not guaranteed across the board.
There are plenty of regional markets where other vendors have high stakes. Kobo represents a high percentage (25%) of the Canadian ebook sales, for instance, and Tolino’s stake in Germany is even higher.
The key thing is that Amazon dominance is not universal. Even if you’re writing in English, concentrating on the US market by limiting yourself to KDP could mean losing a significant amount of readers worldwide who are reading in English from outside English-native markets.
2. A wide presence can lead to a less specific but wider audience
Another major limitation of KDP Select is the difficulty of building a wide base for your online presence and author brand. Amazon might generate the bigger audience, but it also has tougher competition.
Your best chance of success on Amazon probably lies in specific and narrow branding — which can limit your readership. Turning towards other retailers might allow for a farther-reaching branding strategy.
3. Other platforms have human-led curation
Amazon’s lists are based on automated algorithms, while other platforms usually have human staff designating top visibility spots. Your reach might be smaller to start out, since this is more based on reputation than algorithms, but you may also stand a better chance of grabbing the attention of new audiences beyond your immediate niche.
Once you have built a strong reputation, this can be more reliable than algorithms which could change overnight.
While it can be much harder for new or self-publishing authors to generate a solid stream of sales in the short run, if you’re looking to establish a strong personal brand, going wide might be the ticket to securing a fanbase beyond the algorithms.
How do you know if KDP Select is right for you?
Unfortunately, there’s no right answer to whether you should or shouldn’t use KDP Select. It all comes down to your specific needs and circumstances (and perhaps also your philosophy). Still, here’s a quick summary to help you decide which side of the fence to land on.
Choose KDP Select if you:
- Were already planning on only selling through Kindle Store
- Mainly want to target readers in the US and UK
- Have noticed that bestsellers in your niche tend to be on Kindle Unlimited
Consider going wide if:
- Your target audience is outside of the US and UK
- Your genre isn’t very well-represented on Kindle Unlimited
- You want to invest in a patient marketing strategy which is less concerned with immediate success and more concerned with long-term stability
Ultimately, there’s no “correct” way of promoting and selling your writing — it will all come down to knowing yourself, your product, and your audience. Make sure to research your market and ask yourself what you want to get out of your work. Whether you go with KDP Select or not, this information will hopefully help you make a confident decision.
This article was brought to you by Desiree Villena. Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She’s very passionate about indie publishing and hopes to help as many writers as possible achieve their dreams!