Monday, September 28, 2015

Amazon KDP Asks Me For My Opinion...

To avoid any Trademark or other rights issues,
I'm posting this picture of Batman enjoying a great novel
instead of the Amazon KDP logo. Thanks for this, Allen!
When I opened my email this morning, I found an email from Amazon KDP that requested that I fill out a survey. The big yellow button was too tempting, so I made some coffee and clicked it.

While Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing platform is definitely a great tool for authors, there are a number of interesting unfair practices and persistent shortfalls that I decided to share with them.

Normally, I would keep my remarks and criticism under my hat out of a real fear of biting the hand that feeds me, Amazon KDP still provides over 60% of my income, but I know a number of Amazon KDP authors are watching their sales slip pretty significantly, myself included. The biggest reason why that's happening is because Amazon is demanding that authors go exclusive with them in order to gain access to Kindle Unlimited readers, who pay $10.00 a month to read as much as they like (awesome program, except for the exclusivity bit), and authors like me who have a lot of readers who are not interested in a Kindle at all would be cut off. Many, but not all, Kindle Unlimited readers don't look outside that program for their books, so non-exclusive authors have very little chance of getting their attention. There are other problems, as you'll see.

My response to: What would you do to improve the KDP Program?

Remove the Exclusivity requirement for Kindle Unlimited. I am getting complaints and hate mail from readers who refuse to pay for my book because they want it in the Unlimited program, and want me to go exclusive with Amazon so it appears there, and I can't do that.

Change the "Prior Six Weeks Royalties" reporting to a report for the prior four weeks. Six weeks is an awkward, useless timeframe that doesn't apply to real world accounting or properly measuring sales over a time frame that fits into any normal tracking criteria.

Add a secondary security measure to book publishing, such as a phone code, or the firm attachment of an author name to an account so fake books are harder to publish.

Allow non-exclusive authors to use free promotion tools that are available to exclusive authors.

Run your pre-order system the same way everyone else does. Everyone else in this industry (iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc...) allows preorders to accumulate but they do not track them as sales UNTIL RELEASE DAY, mostly because the author does not get the sale until that day. Amazon tracks preorders like normal sales, but readers do not get their book when their order is placed, and authors do not get the sale on the day the order is placed, so Amazon is not justified at all in tracking a preorder as a sale because none of the other mechanisms in the retail system are working for that title! Authors also do not get the advantage of seeing a jump in their books' chart placement because all those sales don't apply to one day, like they would with all the other retailers in the industry. For these reasons, I will not be offering preorders through Amazon again, even though I will get more complaints and hate mail for declining to offer preorders with Amazon and KDP.

There is more, but I have editing work to do, and I expect that this whole questionnaire is a waste of my time. Nothing will change, and non-exclusive authors like me will continue to see sales drop, and I'll get more hate mail from Kindle Unlimited customers...

One stipulation for Question 14, where you ask if I would recommend Amazon KDP to other authors:
It is an unfair question with too narrow a scope. While I would warn any of the authors that approach me about the issues with Amazon KDP, and make them aware of their choices and the possible consequences, I would still advise them to publish through KDP because Amazon is a necessary evil in publishing right now. If your book is not there, you are forfeiting a large percentage of your possible earnings, and the majority of the audience still expects your book to appear there. So, when I say "Likely" that's what I mean. If there was an actual choice, I'd advise them to skip KDP, but there isn't.


While posting this to my blog here, I realised I neglected to mention one of the biggest problems with Amazon and KDP right now, so I sent a note to customer care under the heading of "Amazon Problem". Here it is:

So, Amazon KDP requires that the pricing of our book is the same or lower when compared to all other retailers. I have no problem with this.
THEN Amazon discounts our books so you have the lowest price without consulting the author or publisher.
Meanwhile, if I reduce the price of my book with other distributors to match Amazon's adjusted pricing, my book will be pulled because it doesn't match the price I enter into KDP. This is dirty. Can you fix it please?


Thank you for reading. Even though I don't expect anything to come of my responses to Amazon KDP, I still hope that someone over there sees the light and begins to act on the understanding that, by offering the same tools and opportunities to all their authors, not just the exclusive ones, it helps everyone. Customers get the access they want, Amazon will see higher sales overall, and authors will be able to get their books in front of more readers. With fair practices and other improvements in play, Amazon could become the one to emulate with regards to how they treat their authors again. We do provide them with a lot of the products they sell, after all.


[For legal reasons, I have to tell you that I edited some of the above material to make it more readable, but the intent and message remains the same.]


Andrew Bowden said...

When I got that survey I told them the exclusivity clause made them look "pathetic, immature and childish". And I stand by that. Even if they changed it tomorrow, I doubt I would now join. It's devaluing the book market.

Ruth Ann Nordin said...

I agree 100% on everything you said. I haven't necessarily gotten hate mail about not being in KU, but I have gotten the "When will your books be in the program?" I respond, "Never because I want my books available on Amazon and other retailers. Not everyone wants to read with a Kindle or by using a Kindle app, and I respect their right to read on the device of their choice. When Amazon stops their exclusivity requirement, I can get them in. Until then, I'm not in it." I think most readers don't realize we have to be exclusive to in that program.

As for pre-orders, I agree, it's a complete waste on Amazon. I regret putting two in there to test the waters. I won't be making that mistake again.