KDP Select Doesn't Pay

by Aaron Dennis 6 months ago in advice

Publishing Advice

KDP Select Doesn't Pay

Kindle Direct Publishing Select, which I'll be abbreviating as KDPS from this point on, is Amazon's ebook publishing platform with a twist. Real quick, just to clarify, KDP is the regular platform, which also publishes paperbacks, and if you choose to publish your ebooks through KDP, you can also publish them everywhere else you choose. If you enroll in Select, you're giving KDP exclusivity; you cannot publish your ebooks anywhere else.

Why would you do that? Why would you ever limit your distribution? Can you imagine if Frito Lay only distributed through Walmart?

Supposedly, authors publish to KDPS because of the global annual fund paid out for something called Kindle pages read, which are pages read through Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owner's Lending Library. The short explanation is that some readers have subscriptions, which allow them to download and read—or borrow—ebooks for free, but the accumulated pages read end up accumulating money, which Amazon disburses among writers whose ebooks have been read—money that comes from Kindle subscribers. If you don't enroll your ebook in Select, you can't get paid for pages read...

Does it matter? Well, buckle up a second, we're going to do some rough math.

The Global Annual Fund for July of 2019—all the money accrued from all ebook pages read from every writer's every book—was 25.6 million dollars. That means that 25.6 million dollars was spread out over numerous authors, and it sounds like a lot of money is being earned.

If you so much as Google Should I enroll in KDP Select? You'll find a 50-50 split saying either: Learn how I made $2,000 a month with KDPS, or you'll see something saying that KDPS has gone way downhill, and here’s the truth; there is no money for you on KDPS.

The above is a screenshot of my progress with Amazon since January of 2013, which was when I was first published through an independent press. The numbers on the right-hand side of the graph indicate roughly how many writers that are published through Amazon—1.8 million.

If there are 1.8 million writers published through Amazon, and all of them have at least one book enrolled in KDPS that means that out of that global 25.6 million dollar fund, authors are averaging $14.20 a month, which is derived from dividing 25.6 million dollars by 1.8 million writers. Naturally, writers towards the bottom end of the scale are earning zero dollars, but—as some writers will claim—the 1,000 top-selling authors are earning the vast majority, a majority comprised of more than $2,000 per month.

That leaves 1,799,000 writers to split 25.4 million dollars. If you're wondering where I'm getting my figures, I want you to consider that even Stephen King has some self published ebooks. You don't think Johnny the indie steampunk writer is competing with King, do you? No, Johnny is definitely not one of the top 1,000 writers enrolled in KDPS.

So, out of that 25.4 million dollars from July the remaining authors are averaging $14 every month, and truthfully, I'd say that most writers, 1.7 million of them, are likely earning $1 a month if anything at all.

Now, look, I'm being totally upfront with all you prospective writers, novice writers, and veteran writers who aren't doing well; the numbers I provided above are rough estimates designed to give you an idea of what's going on with KDPS, but it's a damn close idea.

Is exclusivity worth $14 a month? Will you get that $14 a month every month with your first ebook? How many ebooks will you need to write and publish exclusively to KDPS to make that $14 a month? How much more could you be earning if you were just straight selling ebooks at $.99 a pop through Barnes and Noble and Apple Books on top of KDP?

On a side note, when I was originally independently published, I sold decently through Amazon, but most of my sales were paperbacks. I eventually pulled all of my titles from that publisher (who traded owners twice in five years and is now out of business) and rewrote my books. I self published through CreateSpace, which is now just called KDP, even though they publish paperbacks.

This republishing of books is denoted by that first dip in my author rank on Amazon, but don't forget that I sell paperbacks through Barnes and Noble as well.

For a time, until about January of 2017, which is when you see that big, dragging dip in my author rank, I also published my ebooks with KDP and enrolled most of them in Select. Unfortunately, I had nothing but problems with KDP—and I've explained all this in another article—so I pulled my ebooks from Amazon and published through Smashwords, which also distributes through all ebook retailers like Barnes and Noble and Apple Books.

Now, there's a big rise in my author rank in January of 2019, but I didn't publish any ebooks through KDP, so that rise in rank is all from print copy sales, so I will say that you can definitely sell books through Amazon, but I suggest you publish your ebooks elsewhere, or at least keep them out of KDP Select, and here's another reason why.

A few days ago, in August of 2019, I went out on a limb to see if anything had changed with KDPS. I published a new ebook and enrolled in Select, so that I can see just how much can be earned from KU and KOLL pages read today.

Never mind what the ebook is about, you can take a peek at it on Amazon by clicking here.

If you do click the link, you'll see that you can read it for free if you have a Kindle subscription, so I'm supposed to get paid for whatever pages are read every month... right? Well, the "pages read" will only count once the "start location" has been set by KDPS.

Unfortunately, as you can see at the bottom of this screen shot, the start location of the book has not been set. When will they set it? I can't set it. I've read that it doesn't matter, that the pages read will still accrue.

No, they won't. That was one of many reasons I originally pulled my ebooks from Amazon. I had something like 12 ebooks all enrolled in Select, and I knew people were reading them because I was getting reviews, but I never saw the pages read accrue.

Twice, I managed to contact someone working for KDP, and I had them correct the issue, but after calling them month after month, I just pulled my ebooks; the $47 odd dollars I earned through KDPS just wasn't worth the headache.

I pulled my ebooks completely, published through Smashwords, sold many through Barnes and Noble and Apple Books, and have been very happy with that decision. However, just to see what would happen with this new book, I figured I'd give it a go.

I mean, ya' never know, right? Maybe, they've worked out the kinks? Not likely...

I already regret my decision, but I'm officially locked into the KDPS enrollment for 90 days, after which it will renew if I don't opt out; don't worry I'm going to opt out.

Publish through Amazon if you like. Publish your paperbacks and ebooks. I don't recommend you enroll in Select, and I'd also like to say that KDP in and of itself has some issues. You may not experience those issues; it's just one of those things, like how one McDonald's always screws up your order but not your friend's.

Anyway, thanks for reading. I hope I've shed some actual light on the real life cons of KDP Select. Good luck. Drop by my Editing Services and Free Resources tab to read more articles like this one.

Aaron Dennis
Aaron Dennis
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Aaron Dennis

Creator of the Lokians SciFi series, The Adventures of Larson and Garrett, The Dragon of Time series, and more.

See all posts by Aaron Dennis