Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Carrot/Stick of Amazon's KDP Select Program

Amazon has a big carrot/stick going with KDP Select.

This was my experience in Select:

1) 70% royalties in a lot of territories.

2) Lending library royalties.

3) Fewer sales got me higher on the charts.

4) Better visibility.

5) Fantastic customer service, the few times I had to contact KDP support.

This has been my experience, leaving Select:

1) 35% royalties, no matter what my price, in more territories than if I had stayed in Select.

2) No longer in the Lending Program, (obviously).

3) Lower visibility.

4) Price changes only reflected on my US page, and not on my other pages. So, even though I ran a big sale, it had no effect on my overseas numbers, because the price didn't change there.

5) Price changes may not be reflected period. I lowered my price for a sale, but I was not able to return it to its regular price. Instead, they're using what should be my price as the crossed out price, and are continuing the sale. Even though my price is back up to normal at all other venues.

(Note: Even after I pulled it out of distribution at the other channels and placed it back in Select, even after emailing KDP repeatedly, I am still unable to raise my price back to normal. My sale ended on Thursday. It's now Tuesday).

6) I have one book that was made perma-free in the US, but continues to have its regular price in all other territories, so the UK ad I bought for it is worthless.

7) My KDP account became oddly glitchy. Sales showed up and vanished, number counters ran forward and backwards, and my royalty percentages changed without my input.

8) When I contacted KDP customer service, I kept getting routed to India and nothing got resolved. All I got were rote responses.

9) Running sales promos costs a lot more money.

10) You need more sales to hold onto your ranking level. Yes, I do think they've either got two different algorithms going, based on whether you're in Select or not.

Thankfully, one of the advertisers I worked with gave me a connection to an actual Amazon person in the US to try and get this all straightened out. I don't know what the outcome will be. But I have to say, it's very tempting to go back into Select, where I won't have all these problems to deal with.

If you want to leave Select, this is what I would do:

1) Try to get a 1-year cushion in your bank account, just in case.

2) Try to have at least one full-length title in Select when you pull the rest out.

3) This is the time to start keeping even better records. Chart your sales and regularly check your royalty percentages. Take screenshots of your KDP sales page, especially if your sales go up. Try to time/date stamp everything somehow. If there's a glitch, and you need to contact customer service, not only will you be routed to India, you will be put in a "prove it" position, and you have to be able to cough up physical proof.

4) Don't just check your US product page if you're changing your prices. Check all Amazon territories. As soon as you notice something is off, contact KDP immediately.

5) Compile e-mail addresses of Amazon employees that you've interacted with in KDP customer service. That way, you can contact them directly instead of going through India and the rote responses first.

Why I think this is happening:

Honestly, I don't think Amazon is trying to screw you if you leave Select. I think they just stop caring about you, if you leave Select. And since none of the other retailers care about you at all, there's no one to pick up the slack.

I also think that Amazon is having software problems on one of their servers, and that server is the one that's dealing with non-Select accounts. Fun, fun, fun.

As indies, we feel a responsibility to our readers to have our books available everywhere. Unfortunately, other than Amazon, the other distributors don't really feel any responsibility to its indie authors. And Amazon only really seems to feel responsibility towards indies who are in Select.

At least, this has been my experience so far. But who knows. Now that I'm emailing someone at Amazon proper, instead of Amazon India, maybe things will change and I will completely change my mind. We'll see.


  1. I'm interested to hear how this turns out. I've had pricing issues that were hard to resolve, as well.