Thursday, December 8, 2011

Amazon - Author Friend or Foe?

There has been a lot written lately about the way that Amazon is treating authors, particularly those who have self-published their books. I am fond of saying that Amazon does not play nicely with others in the publishing sandbox. The pricing structure is skewed towards Amazon even if you go through CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon. And if authors don't go through CreateSpace they may find themselves in the position, as I did, of Amazon listing their book with a 5-8 week delivery date. In our world of instant gratification, people are not going to order a book with that kind of delivery attached to it. Lynn Serafinn wrote an excellent blog post on this subject, and you can find it here.

I had just finished reading Serafinn's post when a beeping noise alerted me to a new email in my inbox. Coincidentally it was from Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which is Amazon's vehicle for getting an author's ebook ready for sale on the Kindle. My ebook Keys to Unlocking House History was first formatted for ebook readers through smashwords.com, but I also set up an account with KDP to ensure that the ebook would be available on Amazon. Consequently I receive emails from KDP, and this one was notifying me of a new option called KDP Select. Basically the new service has to do with the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. If you haven't heard of the Lending Library yet, Amazon Prime members can borrow at no charge one ebook book per month with no due dates. To date the books had been limited to those from traditional publishers.

But now Amazon is reaching out to self-published authors. This is hardly surprising since most new ebooks are being produced by self-publishers. (And perhaps because the 6 major book publishing companies have refused to have their books available in the Lending Library.) To entice authors Amazon has set up a fund of $500,000 for December and at least $6 million in total for 2012 that will be shared by authors who enroll their books in the Select program. Here is how the email describes the calculation of payments:

Your share of the monthly fund is based on your enrolled titles' share of the total number of borrows across all participating KDP titles in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.  For example, if total borrows of all participating KDP titles are 100,000 in December and your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn $7,500 in additional royalties from KDP Select in December.  Enrolled titles will remain available for sale to any customer in the Kindle Store and you will continue to earn your regular royalties on those sales.

Now here is the catch - you must make your title exclusive to the Kindle Store for at least 90 days. Traditional publishers who are participating in the Lending Library are not required to make their titles exclusive to Amazon, but self-published authors must in order to be in this program. Amazon's email to me stressed that I will have access to a new set of promotional tools, reach a broader audience and be given a new way to earn royalties. And here is the kicker - KDP's Terms and Conditions (which can change at any time at their discretion, and did change on December 8, 2011) state that all digital books are automatically included in the Kindle Book Lending program. So if you have a KDP book you are in the Lending Library whether you want to be or not. But the only way you will be paid for having your book there is if you remove it for sale from all other markets, including your own web site. Good deal or not?