Amazon has just announced a new program for Kindle authors called KDP Select, apparently designed to encourage authors and publishers to enroll their ebooks in Amazon's lending library and to limit competition. Here's the pitch from Amazon:
"When you make your book exclusive to Kindle for at least 90 days, it will be part of the Kindle Owners' Lending Library for the same period and you will earn your share of a monthly fund when readers borrow your books from the library. You will also be able to promote your book as free for up to 5 days during these 90 days."
Amazon says they have set aside a royalty fund of $500,000 in December, 2011, and at least $6 million for 2012. Each author or publisher's share of the monthly fund is based on their enrolled titles' share of the total number of ebooks borrowed across all participating titles in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. In other words, authors and publishers will be compensated when their ebooks are borrowed through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, which is available to members of Amazon Prime.
Amazon says that they will promote the ebooks in the program to their Amazon Prime members and also allow participating books to be listed as "free" on Amazon for up to five days of each 90 day period. This free promotion is an attractive incentive for many authors, since independent authors cannot offer their ebooks for sale on Amazon for less than 99 cents.
Think strategically about when to schedule your five free days. You may want to do them all at once to build momentum, spread them out, or time them coordinate with other promotions or holidays.
Some authors have asked why they would want to give away their books. Free ebooks are a promotional tool. For example, a novelist might give away their first book free to get people interested in the other books in the series, generate reviews, and get people talking about their work. A nonfiction author may give away an ebook to promote other books, products or services that they offer.
In addition, getting an ebook onto the Free section in the Kindle bookstore gives it a lot of visibility. And if you get lots of free downloads of the book, it should make your book rank higher in search results and give it more visibility when the price returns to normal.
If you are considering enrolling in the KDP Select program, I urge you to read the terms and conditions so that you fully understand it. The agreement is for 90 days and it automatically renews unless you opt out.
This program requires that ebooks be available exclusively on Kindle – that means you can't sell the ebook through your own website or any other retailer. Also pay close attention to section 5 of the agreement, which states in part:
"If you don’t comply with these KDP Select terms and conditions, we will not owe you Royalties for that Digital Book earned through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Program, and we may offset any of those Royalties that were previously paid against future Royalties, or require you to remit them to us. We may also withhold your Royalty payments on all your Digital Books for a period of up to 90 days while we investigate. This doesn’t limit other remedies we have, such as prohibiting your future participation in KDP Select or KDP generally."
Some authors and publishers will find this program beneficial, but many in the publishing industry are concerned about the anti-competitive nature of it. Whatever you decide, just be sure you fully understand the program before joining. You can choose KDP Select for each indivdual book, so you might want to experiment with one of your books before deciding to enroll others in the program.
If the vast majority of your revenue comes from Kindle sales, there may not be much downside from pulling your ebooks from other ebookstores to experiment with KDP Select. And you can cancel after 90 days.
P.S. A number of authors have reported a boost in book sales after participating in the free ebook giveaway through KDP Select. Check the comments on this post to learn how author Matt Patterson has found the KDP Select program to be beneficial to him.