The literary world is in an uproar. Again. Amazon, the company that publishers love to hate, is trying to steal all the–wait for it–self-published books. I had to do a double take at this Huffington Post piece by Mark Coker, the driving force behind Smashwords, to believe what I was reading–especially the bit when he compares indie-authors to farmers during the Irish Potato Famine.
Amazon wants books for its lending library for its Prime customers, and it has put together a big pot of money, $500,000 per month, to be split among the authors whose books are borrowed through the Amazon library. The big catch: your books can’t be available for electronic download anywhere else. And it’s a three month commitment. Paperbacks and hardcovers aren’t part of this exclusivity clause, those you can still sell anywhere. We’re just talking eBooks here.
I like Mark Coker because he has been an ardent supporter of indie-pubbed authors and has worked diligently to get their work up on as many platforms as possible. I certainly don’t blame him for decrying a marketing tactic that is clearly aimed at undercutting his business.
But I think he’s wrong to worry that indie-pubbed authors will abandon Smashwords wholesale. What’s more likely is that authors will launch a book with Amazon, choosing KDP Select, but will drop out of the program after the three month period ends. It’s not a lifetime commitment here, and authors will want to see their novels available for the iPad because it’s the coolest device ever invented, let alone all the other eReader platforms.
Coker has some good points about losing sales rankings if you pull your novels, which is why I’m not enrolling Vampire Road in KDP Select. It took months for this novel to appear in the search at B & N and others, something Coker has promised to try and speed up, so I won’t be pulling it out of Smashwords now that it’s finally available everywhere.
But the prequel, The Book of Bertrand, will launch on Friday (if the editor and cover artist deliver on schedule) and there is absolutely no hope that Smashwords can get it to the other platforms before Christmas. I know because they gave all us indie-pubbed authors a November something deadline for Christmas distribution.
Amazon says they’ve been selling a million Kindles a week for the last couple of months, and some of those will be going to Kindle Prime members, who are going to want to borrow a book because they’ve blown the budget on Christmas, so why not get The Book of Bertrand in front of them?
But now for the big secret: Summer of Bridges, my anthology of coming-of-age stories, the ones that were first published in Storyteller Magazine, turned out to be a perfect candidate for KDP Select. While I love these stories, I hadn’t got around to loading the anthology onto Smashwords, so I figured I’d enroll it in KDP Select to see what happens.
Someone borrowed it the very next day. Now this anthology hasn’t been selling well, I figure because they’re short stories and they’re very Canadian. The very name of our country induces yawns from most other countries–not a bad thing. But here’s the surprise: the sales ranking on Amazon popped up as if it had sold a copy.
Which got me thinking: the higher the sales ranking, the more I sell. Any chance that I can pump TBofB’s sales over the Christmas to New Year’s buying week is a good thing, especially if I also get a piece of a $500,000 pie to boot.
I also think that the most money to be made from the KDP Select program will be in the early days, when Amazon’s still fighting to lure authors into the program. Remember that the money is split between participating authors, and a lot of authors will be reluctant to pull down work already for sale elsewhere. I bet the biggest pay outs will be in December, January and February. After that, word of mouth about good payouts will cause a stampede, and then the payouts will drop when they have to be spread to more authors.
It’s good to be ahead of a stampede, but you’d better run fast.