Picture this: you have just finished uploading your book to Amazon KDP and are getting ready to “go live” and introduce it to the world. It’s likely taken you months, if not years, to get to this point–choosing a cover, finding an interior formatter, wading through the comments from your editor. Now, the moment of truth is here.
As you navigate through the steps of setting up your title in Amazon KDP you see an option to enroll your ebook in KDP Select. When you enroll your ebook in Kindle Select you can participate in things like Kindle Countdown Days and Free Book Promotions to attract new readers. Sounds pretty good, right?
Well, you might want to think again.
While KDP Select might seem like a no-brainer, and there are tons of “experts” out there who tout its advantages, we’ve found that enrolling in the program doesn’t always make sense for everyone.
In this article, we’ll explain our reasoning, and hopefully give you some clarity about whether or not KDP Select makes sense for you and your book.
What is Kindle Unlimited?
Kindle Unlimited is a program launched by Amazon in 2014 for readers who like to consume a lot of books every month. They can choose to pay a flat rate of $9.99 a month and have access to thousands of ebooks “for free” they can download to their Kindle. Only books that are enrolled in KDP Select are available to Kindle Unlimited users for free. They can still choose to purchase your ebook if it is not included in the Kindle Unlimited universe.
Enrolling in KDP Select means granting Amazon exclusive selling rights to your ebook. That means if you are planning on selling your ebook through any digital platform other than Amazon you cannot enroll in KDP Select. While there are no restrictions with Amazon KDP, this one tiny decision to make your ebook exclusive with Amazon can have big repercussions on your royalties and abilities to market your book outside of the Amazon kingdom.
What are the benefits of enrolling in KDP Select?
First and foremost, ebooks enrolled in KDP Select can take advantage of Amazon’s free marketing services such as Kindle Countdown Deals and free book promotions. Many authors use these tools to drop the price of their ebook during a fixed period of time to drive sales.
Second, KDP Select makes your book available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers – of which there are close to 3 million. Kindle Unlimited subscribers tend to be voracious readers who like to read as many books as they can in a month, and for many book genres it’s almost impossible to rank high on Amazon without making your book available to KU readers.
Also, ebooks enrolled in KDP Select will be eligible for a higher royalty earnings (70%) across several global markets, including Brazil, Japan, India and Mexico. If you’re not enrolled in KDP Select you can only earn 35% on those same sales. So if your book launch will be global, you might consider the program.
Finally, as a member of KDP Select you’ll be able to earn royalties from the number of pages readers read of your book through the Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) Read program, which we’ll explore below.
So how do you earn royalties off Kindle Unlimited downloads?
This is where the KENP program comes into play. This is probably the biggest selling point for KDP Select because you can earn royalties based on the number of pages read per month by Kindle Unlimited subscribers. At first glance that can seem like a better way to earn royalties than traditional ebook sales but you’ll want to take a look at the math first. (Here’s an article that will help understand how royalties are calculated for different formats and platforms).
It’s important to note that you will still earn traditional royalties off the sale of your ebook by non-Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscribers who will still have the ability to pay full price for your ebook. The difference here is that KU subscribers can download the book for free, and instead you get paid for the number of pages they read in a month.
This is a cumulative amount. So for example, if one reader reads 200 pages of your book, or 200 readers all read one page, you are paid for 200 read pages. Amazon sets the rate for pages read every month depending on the size of its Global Fund. While the rate can fluctuate, it’s typically still lower than your royalty rate for regular ebook sales. On average, KENP pays between $0.004 and $0.005 per page read. That means if you have 1,000 pages read in a month, you are looking at between $4 and $5 in royalties.
If you have a 300-page book for every reader who finishes your book you earn approximately $1.20. If you sell your ebook for $9.99 (which we highly recommend doing), your royalties through Amazon KDP are: 70% of retail cost – delivery cost = $6.93. That means you would need about five or six KU readers to download and read your entire book to equate to one regular ebook sale.
Given that math, your success with KDP Select will depend on a couple of things:
- Knowing your audience
- Determining what’s more important to you: readers or book sales
- The availability of Kindle Unlimited
Who is your audience?
It’s important to know your audience when deciding whether to enroll in KDP Select. The majority of KU subscribers are fiction readers. Romance, fantasy, science fiction and mystery novels tend to receive the most downloads every month. This makes sense when you think about the type of person who would be interested in a KU subscription. These are typically voracious readers who want to consume several books a month, one after the other, to get their money’s worth. They’re not reading 1,000-page autobiographies; they are most often reading fiction–particularly genre fiction.
If you’ve written a fiction book in a genre that usually performs well on KU or is widely available on KU (think romance novels, which are the most popular KU downloads) it would be a wise move to enroll in KDP Select since you already know that’s where your readers are. And, 63% of KU readers purchase additional books outside of the program, so if you have a fiction book series one marketing tactic might be to enroll one of the books in KDP Select to capture readers who then might be interested in purchasing your other titles.
Are you after readers or book sales?
If your goal is just to reach more readers then you should strongly consider enrolling in KDP Select. We know that KU subscribers are avid readers, and many of the readers who would download and read your book “for free” might not have found or purchased it without browsing Kindle Unlimited. That means you can gain readers – and subsequently KENP royalties – without selling your book to them.
One more advantage of KDP Select is that when a Kindle Unlimited user downloads your book for free, it still counts as a book sale. Because the more books you sell the higher your ranking on Amazon, these free downloads could really start to add up. If a high sales ranking is important to you, it’s worth checking out. All KENP page reads also count towards an ebook’s sales rank, though at a much smaller percentage.
The bottom line is you’ll gain more readers by being enrolled in KU, particularly if you write fiction.
The limits of Kindle Unlimited
Even though Kindle Unlimited has been around since 2014, it’s not widely available in every country. If most of your readers are in the United State or UK, then enrolling in KDP Select won’t hurt. But if you’re trying to reach a wider audience where Amazon doesn’t reign as supreme then don’t limit yourself to KU’s reach. While Amazon may control over 80 percent of the market share, the other ebook platforms are continuing to grow and have strong footings in other countries. In Canada, Kobo controls over 25% of the ebook market, and in Australia Apple Books controls about 30%. Amazon has only about half of the ebook market share in Germany.
When you limit yourself to Amazon and KU, you are missing out on these additional markets and readers across the world.
So is KDP Select worth it?
When it comes down to whether or not to enroll your book in KDP Select, it’s really a personal choice based on your goals, your book, and your readers.
The enrollment period for KDP Select is only 90 days. That means you can enroll your ebook (provided it’s not being distributed anywhere else) and after three months look at your sales data and see if it’s worth it for you. If you have more than one book, enroll one of them in KDP Select to see how it does.
Just be advised that Amazon will auto renew your book into KDP Select, so you will need to manually uncheck it from your Amazon KDP Account if you do not want to re-enroll for another 90 days.
It’s important to remember KDP Select only affects the ebook version of your book. You can still distribute paperback, hardback and audio copies far and wide.