Thursday, June 23, 2016

Is KDP Select Right for You?

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy 

Part of the Indie Author Series

One of the choices we need to make when we publish our book is whether we’re going to distribute wide or go exclusive. Up until this point, I’ve always gone wide, but with a new series scheduled for release in November, the idea of going exclusive has been on my mind a lot lately.

Distributing wide means that we’ll offer our book for sale at all the major retailers—Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AppleiBooks, and Kobo at least.

Going exclusive, at this point, means we’re putting our ebook into Amazon’s KDP Select program. Amazon’s terms of service for the KDP Select program state that we can’t sell or give away the enrolled ebooks anywhere else. You agree to this exclusivity for 90 days at a time, and then you can either continue in the program for another 90 days or opt out. In exchange, they offer you some perks they don’t offer to books that aren’t enrolled.

Three important things we need to keep in mind are…

Don’t confuse this with simply publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing. They’re not the same thing. KDP Select is an option for authors who publish through Kindle Direct Publishing, but you can publish on the Kindle Direct Publishing portal without enrolling in KDP select. Enrollment isn’t automatic or mandatory.

We don’t enroll as an author. We enroll each book individually, so we can have some books in KDP Select and go wide with others.

The agreement only applies to the ebook version of the book, so we can still go wide with the paperback and audio versions if we want.

There isn’t a right or wrong choice when it comes to distributing wide or going exclusive with Amazon. The choice will be one each of us needs to make based on our long-term goals, our present needs, and our marketing strategies.

So what do we need to consider when making the choice?


You only have to worry about uploading to one site and updating backmatter in one file.

If you’re putting retailer-specific links inside each book and uploading directly to each retailer, the upload process can become time consuming. Once you have multiple books out in a series, updating the “Other Books by the Author” list can also take an unrealistic amount of time if you have to update it for multiple versions of your ebook.

It can be difficult to gain traction on the other sites, so authors can often make more by going exclusive with Amazon.

One of the reasons many authors give for going exclusive with Amazon is that it’s much harder to gain readers and to “rank” on non-Amazon retailers. In practical terms, this means that the income authors earn from the non-Amazon sites will very often not equal the extra they could potentially make by going exclusive with Amazon due to the special benefits Amazon offers to KDP Select books. Which brings us to…

Books enrolled in KDP Select receive special benefits.

I can’t go in-depth on the list of benefits Amazon offers to KDP Select book, but here are what I consider to be the highlights:
  • Non-Select books will receive only 35% royalties for sales in Japan, Brazil, Mexico, and India, regardless of their price. If you want the 70% royalty in those regions, your book needs to be in KDP Select. And those are regions where the ebook market still has the potential to explode.
  • Books in KDP Select can take advantage of Countdown Deals. A Countdown Deal allows you to sell your book for 99 cents but receive the 70% royalty rate instead of the lesser 35%. This is a huge advantage for authors who want to arrange ads for a 99-cent sale.
Kindle Unlimited – this one needs more than a bullet point so…

Kindle Unlimited can be a major source of income for authors, and it’s available only for books in KDP Select.

Kindle Unlimited is a subscription-based service where readers pay a flat monthly fee for the ability to read the books in KU without paying anything additional for them. Authors whose books are in KU are paid based on how many pages of their books are read. The per-page payout varies per month.

Kindle Unlimited has received some criticism—some fair, some unfair—but here’s why some authors feel it makes going exclusive worth it:
  • Borrows in KU count for increasing a book’s rank and, therefore, its visibility. Since borrows are easier to come by than sales, for obvious reasons, books in KU often have a ranking advantage over books that aren’t enrolled.
    Authors who write long books can sometimes make more from a borrow than from a sale if the reader reads the entire book. 
  • A book set at 99 cents and enrolled in KU can sometimes be a better series starter than a perma-free book because it appears in the paid lists but readers in KU can still read it for free.


The list of pros could make it sound like KDP Select is the obvious choice, but that’s not the case.

Readers who prefer other distributors won’t be able to read your book.

If you already have a fan base on the other sites, you risk frustrating or angering your readers by having titles in KDP Select.

If your book isn’t one that would sell relatively well outside of Select, Kindle Unlimited won’t help it.

KU isn’t a magical sauce that we can pour on our books to make them succeed. If our book can’t sell reasonably well on its own, enrolling it in KU won’t solve the visibility issue because it will still be so low on the lists that readers won’t find it—inside or outside of KU.

You can’t set the book at perma-free.

If our desired marketing strategies include setting a book for free, then we need to keep it out of KDP Select. Books within Select receive a few free days per enrollment period, but they otherwise need to be set no lower than 99 cents. The only way to currently make a book permanently free is to list it on other sites as free and have Amazon price match.

You’re at the mercy of Amazon’s whims.

It’s the old adage about putting all your eggs in one basket. If anything happens to that basket, all your income is gone. Amazon could close your account, or they could drop all royalty rates to 35%. It’s their platform and their choice. If we spend the time building up readers on the other sites, if our Amazon income decreases for any reason, the result will be less devastating.

Scammers have been gaming the KU system, causing major issues for legitimate authors.

This is probably the biggest con to KDP Select. Every time Amazon tries to stop scammers, they end up harming legitimate authors accidentally.

The first time was when authors had their books removed from sale for putting their table of contents at the end of the book instead of at the front.

More recently, though, in their attempts to stop scammers from using click farms to “read” thousands of pages of gibberish, Amazon has been closing the accounts of real authors who haven’t engaged in anything shady. This is worse than having a single book removed from sale because these authors have lost all of their income and the ability to publish any more books with Amazon.

Are you enrolled in KDP Select? Are there any other factors you think authors should consider before making their decision?

Marcy Kennedy is a suspense and speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance fiction editor and teaches classes on craft and social media. She’s also the author of the Busy Writer’s Guides series of books. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at

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  1. I liked this enough to link to it.
    I used KDP to get a book out of my brain so I could move on. If it does nothing else, that will still be enough. Nice article!

  2. You're at the mercy of Amazon's whims.

    Exactly. I've read recent reports of authors having their accounts closed because of click spammers who made stats look suspicious. I'm coasting right now until I decide whether I want to re-enroll.

  3. This was an enjoyable layout of the issues I'm facing now, having multiple books in Select for years and now trying to decide whether to go wide.

  4. Thanks. Really useful information. Wanted to upload a short article to "Give it a whirl." Have more to think about.

  5. Helpful information. I'm considering going exclusive with Amazon for at least 90 days for my first book but not 100% sure.

  6. "A book must be in KDP Select to be eligible for ads run on Amazon. While ads on Amazon aren’t yet as powerful as ads on Facebook, this could be a huge advantage once Amazon works out the bugs."

    To anyone reading this in 2019...Amazon Ads are no longer restricted to books enrolled in Select. Any ebook distributed on Amazon can be advertised.

    1. Thanks! I'll edit the post to reflect that.