Here is the situation. You have written a novel and decided to self-publish the book instead of going the traditional publishing route. Now that decision has been made, there is another one to make, and that is where to self-publish the book, as in what e-reading platform to use. When it comes to self-publishing to an e-reader there are multiple options available on the market, some more popular than others. The one we are all aware of is the Amazon Kindle, which is the most popular e-reader with approximately 70% to 80% of the market share. So, the question really should be, is it worthwhile to publish on any other e-reading platforms such as the Kobo or Barnes & Noble Nook to get that other 20% to 30%?
From a time perspective it is pretty simple to upload the same manuscript to multiple e-book platforms, but all websites are not the same (see I Compare Three Different Self-Publishing Platforms) and in fact it does take some extra work to format your manuscript for the Nook or other e-reader. Plus, there are different financial incentives or restrictions depending on what e-reading platforms you publish on.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) provides financial incentives for authors who publish exclusively through KDP. Amazon offers KDP Select, which provides authors with a higher royalty rate for anyone who publishes their book as a KDP exclusive. Authors receive a 70% royalty payment for sales of their book in all markets, instead of a variable rate of 70% in some markets and 35% in others. But remember, this means you can’t publish your book through other e-reading platforms, losing out on the potential revenue from that platform.
What is KDP Select?
How does publishing exclusively through KDP work? When uploading your book through the website, besides setting a price, one of the questions is do you want to publish exclusively through KDP. If you select yes, you also need to agree that you will only have your book published through them for the following 90 days. At the end of the 90 days you can switch to the regular non-exclusive rate or set it to review automatically for another 90 day cycle. If you are caught publishing through another publisher, you will be switched automatically to the lower tiered option. Other than that, there don’t seem to be any other penalties if you get caught — at this time. If you select not to stay in the KDP Select program after that timeframe the book will switch to the variable royalty rate and allow you to have your book published outside of Amazon. As a comparison of publishing through B&N, you will receive 65% royalty on books listed over 2.99 in all markets, and they don’t require you to publish exclusively with them.
Other self-publishing platforms on the market have differing royalty options, all of which are better or the same as the royalty options offered by Amazon, depending on your decision to go exclusive with Amazon or not. Leading to the question — is that 20% to 30% of the market going to generate enough sales to balance out the lost revenue from receiving only 35% royalty on some sales at Amazon by not choosing KDP Select?
My KDP Select Experience
With my first book, I initially published on Amazon exclusively for the first year. Then when doing the second edition of the book I decided to try out publishing to all platforms. Based on my experience, even after offering it on other platforms, I still make more sales through Amazon even at the lower rate per sale. If I were still publishing exclusively through them, I would make more overall because of the very limited sales I am making through the other channels. In my case I chose Smashwords, which allows me to offer my book on the Barnes & Noble Nook and every other e-reader. Smashwords charges 15% commission depending on where it is sold, leaving me with the other 85%. My personal experience in using multiple platforms is that financially it is better to publish as a KDP exclusive. This earns me more in royalties overall, even allowing for the market loss of not publishing on other platforms. Also, it saves me time and energy in not having to format my book for those other e-readers.
Part of the sales advantage that Amazon has, I think, is because of that first year’s sales being with Amazon and the reviews I have received through that channel helped sales. For example, if you look up my book on B&N you won’t see any reviews for it, which means people are going to be less likely to buy it without the reviews. Any sales I’ve made on other e-readers besides the Kindle have come through Smashwords directly. However, if you look it up on Amazon, you will see the reviews which encourage people to purchase the book. As any author knows, reviews help sales. I believe the reason why I make more sales through Kindle is due to two reasons. The first is market share. With Kindle having such a large share of the market, people are more like to buy books through them. Second is because of the reviews. Amazon is showing multiple positive reviews for my books, which encourages people to buy them. Barnes & Noble not showing any reviews means there is little additional encouragement for people to purchase a copy.
Advantage of Non-Exclusive
What would be the advantage to publishing with other platforms if Amazon is the best choice for money? My opinion and the reason I released my second book on multiple platforms even though I don’t make as much money is to provide more competition to Amazon. I am a believer in competition and not having one company control the overall market. Amazon’s practice of reward and punishment or carrot versus stick for self-published authors means they are preventing competition, giving them a monopoly on the market of e-books. So, if all you are after is revenue per book sale and making as much money as possible, then Amazon KDP Select is the way to go. The majority of e-book sales are made through amazon.com and by choosing to be an exclusive publisher through their platform your overall revenue will be greater than publishing to multiple e-book readers such as the Barns & Noble Nook. Additionally, you won’t have to spend the extra time formatting and managing the book with multiple platforms. If you are the kind of person who believes one company should not have a monopoly on something, then it is worth publishing to other e-readers regardless of the financial benefit of exclusivity.