If you’re a KDP Author and you’re wondering whether you should put your book in KDP Select, you’re not alone.
It’s a complicated decision, and you could be leaving money on the table either way.
KDP Select gives you some special Kindle promotional tools, and enrolling your book is free. But, of course, there’s a catch:
You have to enroll for a full 90-day period, during which Amazon has the exclusive right to sell your ebook.
In other words, you can’t sell your own ebook on iBooks, Kobo, Nook, or anywhere besides Kindle for the next 90 days.
But as long as the ebook is in KDP Select, you can’t sell it in a digital format anywhere else. And you can’t take it out of KDP Select until those 90 days are up. Until then, you’re stuck.
So, is it worth it?
Like most decisions in life, it depends.
Plenty of Authors have made a ton of money from their self-published book. Some have used Amazon KDP Select, and some haven’t.
You can’t make the decision for yourself until you understand everything you might be missing out on—as well as all the benefits you could get.
Framing the KDP Select Decision for Non-fiction Authors
Before you make ANY marketing decisions about your book, stop for a minute, and think about why you wrote it.
- Who you wrote it for
- What change you want to help them make in their lives
- What you personally intend to get out of it
These goals should frame every decision you make about your book.
It’s especially important when it comes to KDP Select because the program is targeted at self-published writers (usually fiction writers) who need to make money on book sales.
Notice that I didn’t say “Authors.” I said “writers.”
What’s the difference? Professional writers make a living by writing and selling books. They don’t do anything else. Writing is their job. The more books they sell, the more money they make.
In fact, it’s the only way they make money.
But a non-fiction indie Author is different. You have a separate, primary career, and chances are you wrote your book to help you in that career by:
- raising your visibility
- increasing your demand
- attracting specific customers or clients
- gaining instant credibility & prestige
- expanding your media connections
- launching a speaking career
- building awareness of your products or services
Whatever your own goals for your book, you need to think about them and how you’re really going to make money with your book when you consider the pros and cons of the KDP Select program.
What is KDP Select?
The Amazon KDP Select program is an option for Authors in Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). If you enroll, it gives you (and your book) access to:
- Kindle Unlimited
- Kindle Owner’s Lending Library
- Kindle Countdown Deals
- Kindle Free Promotions
- Increased royalties in Brazil, Japan, India, and Mexico
As I already mentioned, your ebook has to be exclusive to Kindle as long as it’s enrolled in KDP Select, which is a minimum of 90 days. Once you sign up, you can’t take your book back out until those 90 days are up.
If you do enroll in KDP Select, Amazon will automatically renew that enrollment until you opt out. To do that, go to KDP Select Info and uncheck the enrollment box, then click save.
Remember, you can still sell your print book in Barnes & Noble (for example) and your audiobook on Apple’s iTunes.
You just can’t sell the ebook in Nook, Apple books, Google Play, or anywhere else except Kindle.
Is it worth giving the Kindle store that exclusivity for 90 days?
Getting higher royalties in Brazil, Japan, India, and Mexico won’t matter to most Authors. I’ll walk through the other programs one by one.
What is Kindle Unlimited?
Kindle Unlimited (KU) is a program that lets readers pay a membership fee each month to read as many free books as they want from the KU library.
If you put your book in the KU library and someone reads it, you get paid based on the number of pages they read (or “page reads” in Amazon lingo).
In most cases (and for most Authors), you get a lot less for one read than you would have if they bought the book. That might sound like a loss, but most KU readers wouldn’t have bought it.
So that read becomes a little extra money—and one new reader.
But here’s the catch: people tend to value things based on how much they paid for them (which is why I wrote a whole post on pricing your book).
So what you gained in “reads” you might lose by taking a hit to your perceived value.
That’s why you always have to go back to why you wrote your book.
Think about letting people read your book for free:
- If your primary goal is to raise awareness for a consumer product or service, those extra readers might help you reach that goal.
- But if your main objective is to raise your perceived value and attract wealthier clients, then letting people read it for free is more likely to hurt you than help you.
And then think about being exclusive to Kindle:
- If you’re trying to reach a LOT of readers and you don’t care who they are, being in KU is usually a net advantage. You gain more readers by being in KU.
- But if you’re trying to gain prestige, attract wealthier clients, and build media connections, your book needs to be wherever they want to find it.
Going back to your goals will help you make the right decisions for your book.
What is Kindle Owner’s Lending Library?
Amazon Prime members who own a Kindle can read books in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL) for free. So the pros and cons work a lot like the pros and cons of KU.
Being in the program has a chance of getting you more readers, but at the cost of exclusivity and perceived value.
This is different from being in Kindle Book Lending, which is available to every KDP Author, whether or not your book is in KU. The name is similar, but it has nothing to do with Amazon Prime or the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.
Kindle Book Lending lets people who own your book lend it out to someone else to read for 14 days. You can sign up or opt out for that at any time on your book’s pricing page in the KDP dashboard.
What are Kindle Countdown Deals?
Kindle Countdown Deals let you set limited-time promotional pricing for your book. Changing the price is something you can always do, but countdown deals have several advantages:
- They show readers the usual price next to the discount price, so they can see how much they’re saving
- They show readers a countdown clock, adding time pressure to the sale
- They run automatically once you set them up, so you don’t have to keep changing the price
- They let you set tiered pricing over time, so you can start with a huge discount and slowly raise the price over a few days
- You get to keep your 70% royalty even when the book is below $2.99
- There’s a dedicated Amazon page that promotes Kindle Countdown deals, helping potential readers find new books
These are all significant advantages if you only care about book sales.
But deep discounts and countdown clocks tend to be associated with cheap products, so if you care more about prestige than cheap sales, I wouldn’t recommend them. Especially for a relatively new book.
What are Kindle Free Promotions?
Normally, KDP Authors can’t offer free ebooks. The lowest price KDP allows is $0.99.
Kindle Free Promotions let you set your book for free.
But here’s the thing: most self-publishing Authors should NOT do that—not even to get your book into more readers’ hands.
Why? Because people will download it for free, and they won’t read it.
Most of those readers are just downloading every free book they can get their hands on. People love free stuff.
But tomorrow they’re going to do the same thing with even more books. And more the day after that. The vast majority of them will never look at your book again.
Even if you’re running a BookBub promotion to increase your sales over a short timeframe, we don’t usually recommend offering your book for free.
The only reason I’m bringing it up is this: if you ARE going to set your book free for a BookBub promotion, Kindle Free Promotions are the only guaranteed way to do that as a KDP Author.
You can ASK Amazon to set your book free during your BookBub, and they MIGHT do it. But you have no guarantee that they will. And if they don’t, your BookBub promotion won’t run.
All that said, I don’t recommend free BookBub promotions, and I don’t recommend Kindle Free Promotions to anyone.
So this isn’t a benefit to you at all.
Is KDP Select the Right Choice for You and Your Book?
Here’s the bottom line:
If you wrote your book to raise your prestige and attract wealthier clients, I don’t recommend KDP Select. Instead, try to get your book into the hands of the influencers and media who reach your best readers.
If the best thing you could possibly have is a steady stream of new readers, consider KDP Select and Kindle Countdown Deals. But don’t offer your book for free.
If you’re interested in both of those things (you want a steady stream of new readers but you don’t want to hurt your prestige), work on building your media connections, and use pricing strategies to thread the needle.
For help creating a broader book promotion plan, read my top 19 ways to promote your book.