Lessons from Self-Publishing : Amazon’s KDP Select Exclusivity

Hello all!

It has been almost a month now since I’ve published my first book Legend of Nariko: Mark of Silverfrost on Amazon.ca. As this was my first book I tried to be as thorough in my research of Kindle Publishing as I could, mostly due to my own paranoia and caution (you don’t want to put up your hard work without ensuring that it will still be yours). After fumbling through Kindle Publishing, I’ve learned a lesson that I think would be valuable to all interested in self-publishing through Amazon as well.

The first thing you see before you publish your book is the option to enroll in Amazon’s KDP Select Program. KDP Select offers your work to be included in Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL) and Kindle Unlimited (KU) in exchange for being exclusive to Amazon as the only digital distribution for your work. Kindle Owner’s Lending Library is a feature that allows Amazon members to borrow a book for free once every month which can be a pretty effective way of expanding your audience. Kindle Unlimited is a paid service that allows members to read as many books for as long as they want for a monthly subscription fee. Now I have yet to fully explore these features but in theory they sound like programs worth being a part of to gain a larger audience. The only thing to be wary of is the exclusivity.

Being part of KDP Select means that at no point during the 90-day period can you distribute your book through any other channels online. At first this sounds reasonable as it is a free program to be a part of and the benefits of a larger audience does sound more appealing, however the exclusivity has its drawbacks. The biggest (and really the only) problem I’ve encountered is that you can not email review copies to reviewers for feedback during the 90 day period. It falls under the concept of digital distribution as Amazon Customer Service has explained to me.

“If you have digital content available elsewhere, you cannot make it eligible for KDP Select by adding or removing additional book content (e.g. bonus chapter, author’s commentary, illustrations etc.), creating a book compilation or different edition, publishing it in multiple parts or varied format, making minor language edits, or changing the book’s cover art, title’s metadata, etc.

All content made exclusive to Amazon through the KDP Select program must remain for sale on our site only. You cannot make it available free or for purchase in digital eBook format anywhere else, including publishing the content of your book on your website, blogs, etc.”

I’ve looked across different forum posts on the matter and everyone else that I’ve seen has also been given the same answer. Customer Service has told me that you can email Professional Reviewers for the purpose of editing and proofreading. This has made it a bit challenging for me to get reviews and feedback as I can not simply email copies to reviewers. One of the ideas that has been discussed on Amazon forums is that you can always gift copies of your work to reviewers for feedback through Amazon’s store page. Now a problem with this is that the gifting service for Kindle eBooks is currently only available in the US.

Exclusivity with Kindle also runs into the problem of people’s misunderstanding of Kindle eBooks. When I first published my book it came to my attention that most people I’ve talked to believe you can only purchase the eBook on a Kindle E-Reader. I still remember how the first thing so many people said to me was that “I’d love to buy it, but I don’t own a Kindle.” Thankfully there is a Kindle App on the Google Play Store and the Apple Store. It’s a small issue but has come up enough times that I feel its warranted warning others about this misconception.

All this being said, I’ve found that publishing on Amazon is surprisingly straight forward and easy to do, you just need to be wary of what the exclusivity of KDP Select really means.

– Raphael

2 thoughts on “Lessons from Self-Publishing : Amazon’s KDP Select Exclusivity

  1. Exclusivity only applies to the 90 day period starting at the time of publication (and possibly renewed as often as you want after that). Note that, before you hit “Publish,” you can do whatever you want with your book, even have it for sell on other venues. One way around the problem above is to send out ARC copies prior to publication on Amazon (hence the name Advance Reader Copies).

    Truthfully, I’ve not personally heard of Amazon bringing the hammer down on any author for sending out a few ARCs. For putting the book up for sale somewhere or free, sure … but ARCs? Nope.

    I can understand wanting to abide by the letter of the law, though.

    1. Thanks for the response!
      Unfortunately I was not aware of the restriction until after I had published and wanted to send out review copies. But you make an excellent point regarding ARC copies and how that can be a workaround the systems.

      Truth be told, as a new author, I do fear the legal hammer of the terms and conditions (first time I’ve ever read a terms and conditions in full).

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