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KDP Select is Amazon's side program for ebooks that can offer different services to authors and publishers. However, these come at a price.
When you use Kindle Direct Publishing to make your eBook available for the Kindle on Amazon you are given the option to join the "KDP Select" program. Amazon contends that KDP Select will "allow you to reach even more readers and gives you the opportunity to earn more money". If you choose this option you are required to make your book exclusive to the Kindle store during the 90 day period that you are enrolled in the program. You cannot even sell the eBook from your own website.
You can earn 70% royalties rather than 30% for sales to customers in Japan, India, Brazil, and Mexico.
Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service that lets customers read as many books as they like, and keep them as long as they want. Any customer can choose whether to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. They don't have to be Amazon Prime members, but they do need to pay a subscription fee. KU may help readers discover your books by making them available through Kindle Unlimited in the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Brazil, Mexico and Canada.
As a result of a recent change authors will now be paid based on the number of pages read by members of KU that have borrowed their book. There is a pot of money specified by Amazon that will be divided based on the number of pages read. Since this is a recent change it's difficult to assess what type of income an author might receive from this. However, we feel that in general cookbooks are probably not borrowed and read like novels or non-fiction books. So for cookbook authors we don't know that this is a real benefit. For additional information on KU we suggest you read this article.
With an Amazon Prime membership, Kindle owners can choose from thousands of books to read for free once a month, with no due dates. This is similar to the KU program above where as an author you can be paid for the books people borrow from the Lending Library. The Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL) is in the US, UK, Germany, France, and Japan. Once again the amounts for cookbooks we suspect would be relatively negligible.
Choose between two different promotional tools. You can only choose one of these two tools during any 90 day period:
Kindle Countdown Deals is a KDP Select benefit that allows publishers to run limited-time promotions on their books, which can help earn more royalties and reach more readers. Customers can see the regular price and the promotional price on the book's detail page, as well as a countdown clock telling them how much time is left at the promotional price. The idea of this deal is to leverage the scarcity psychology of sales. People see a good deal and that it's going to end soon and therefore are forced into a decision, hopefully to purchase.
Amazon has a "Kindle Countdown Deals" page that may carry your book on it during the deal. You can have the deal last up to seven days and all books sold under the Kindle Countdown will count on the paid list helping to increase your ranking.
If you are in KDP Select you can make your Kindle book available for free for up to five days during the 90 day period. You may wonder, "Why would I want to give my book away for free?" The greatest claimed benefit is that it can help you broaden your audience by allowing readers to try your book for free.
There may be some validity to this but we are not sure how large a factor it really is. There are a lot of folks out there who simply watch the free lists and download everything they can - rarely ever accessing them. Conversely, if you announce your free giveaway to your email list and fans they will probably download and use your book. Unfortunately, as one of your fans they would've probably been fine with purchasing it.
Early on the free promotion was a great way to increase the ranking of your book since at that time the books given away free counted. However, now there is both a free list and a paid list, so the books given away free will normally not affect your book's ranking at all.
Sometimes in discussion of the free promotion you may hear the term "free-promotion bounce back". This describes a phenomenon that once the free promotion stops that the volume of sales will continue at a high rate for a while longer. With the new way in which the free books are accounted for this phenomenon is not what it used to be and typically has a minor impact on sales long-term.
Perhaps the authors who benefit most from the free promotion are ones that are writing a series of books. They could use the strategy of making the first in the series free in hopes of selling later volumes once they have hooked their readers. Or give the third volume away in hopes of selling volumes 1 and 2.
This strategy may also work for cookbook authors who have multiple books in a similar subject. We did a three day free promotion when we launched the Modernist Cooking Made Easy: The Whipping Siphon book. We had several other books on Amazon at that point in time and felt that individuals that received the book for free would consider purchasing other books with complementary content.
We would suggest authors with only one book not use the Free Promotion capability if it is a monetizing book. Once someone receives the book and reads it, even if they like it there's not much they can do that will benefit you financially in the long term. For viral or marketing books, the Free Promotion capability can help drive traffic and readers to your blog.
As we mentioned in the first paragraph in order to enroll in the KDP Select program you need to agree to exclusively sell your eBook through Amazon. This can be a hard pill to swallow if you have some meaningful sales on iTunes, Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, BookBaby and your own website. On the other hand if you have few readers then building an audience on Amazon before branching out to other venues might be an excellent choice.
There are a few interesting downsides to exclusivity. Although Amazon may be the biggest player in the US and UK, there are large numbers of potential readers scattered elsewhere on the planet. By giving exclusivity to Amazon you may not be able to address the rapidly growing emerging markets.
Having lived through the recent economic chaos we believe that any company, at any time, can be vulnerable to a downturn. The way to handle that in the stock market is through diversification. We believe it may make sense to use the same strategy as we pick publishers for our eBooks. Amazon could make one "simple" change in their process which could have a very negative impact on our income. For that reason we are selling our books through as many formats and channels as we can. Right now the volume on those channels is very small but we're confident that over time it's possible to build a reader base in those channels as well.
I hope you have gathered from this article that there is no "correct" choice of whether to go with KDP Select and take advantage of the free book promotion. It really depends on your particular circumstances as well as your book and the goals of your book. One solution may be ideal for one of your books while an alternative solution may fit another just perfect. We encourage you spend some time online studying your options so that you can make this important decision wisely.