The Exclusivity Dilemma

Amazon often dominates my thoughts these days. Like many other authors, because of Amazon’s KDP self-publishing program, I now have readers and I’m able to make a small living. So I’m deeply grateful to Amazon, even loyal. As an author, I’m also entirely dependent on the company. If it kicked me out of the KDP program, I’d have to go back to freelance editing, and I would write far fewer novels.

Yet, I don’t want to see Amazon become a monopoly or have it be the only place my books are available. I want readers to have choices. Still, to survive financially, I may have to climb on board the Amazon train and let go of the idea that I’m an independent author.

Two issues are on deck for me right now. First, is the lending library that everyone’s buzzing about and some are calling predatory. Amazon called me two weeks ago to pitch KDP Select to me personally. Surprised by the contact, I assume it’s because I have ten books on the market and sold quite a few on Kindle last year.

My only concern was the exclusivity issue, but in the end, I decided to enroll two of my standalone thrillers. Which means I had to pull those books from all other e-readers. I wasn’t making enough money on them from any other sources for it to be a financial decision. My hesitation was based only on my commitment to give readers full access to my books.

But the promotional opportunity Amazon offered—a five-day giveaway of the books—was hard to resist. The exposure could be invaluable. Right now, The Suicide Effect is being downloaded in record numbers. Because I have nine other books for new readers to buy, this could turn out well for me. I’ll know in the next month or so.

The other issue is the possibility of becoming an Amazon-published author. I have two thrillers in submission to Thomas & Mercer, with the hope that Amazon will buy the rights and republish them as T&M titles. If that happens—and I hope it does—those books would then be sold exclusively by Amazon. The benefit to me would be Amazon’s incredible marketing machine, which would expose my entire body of work to thousands of new readers.

So my commitment to full access for readers is eroding. After last year’s run-up in sales, followed by the inevitable decline when the Amazon algorithm dropped me (as it eventually does), I came to the conclusion that Amazon already owns me…if I want to be a full-time novelist. The struggle to resist is futile.

So I’m tempted to simply get it over with and put all my books in the lending program and give up on selling them anywhere else. I believe I’ll end up there someday anyway. It wouldn’t change my finances enough to worry about, but it would make me feel guilty about denying my books to readers who don’t do business with Amazon.

What do you think?

6 Comments
  1. I get 80% of my short story ebook sales through Smashwords. Wouldn’t make much sense for me to pull my titles and lose sales from Smashwords for a promotional program on Amazon that doesn’t guarantee me better sales there.

  2. I think its a tough call. I can see benefits to doing the lending program and I see the pitfalls too. My business brain tells me not to put all my eggs in one basket, but that basket currently dominates the market.

    I think what will be interesting is how the Nook Tablet does this Christmas. They are putting a lot of marketing dollars behind the product. James Patterson and that woman from Glee doing TV commercials (and they are good commercials) could generate more interest in the device. They are expecting to sell a lot of them this holiday season. Going to be interesting to see what happens.

  3. I don’t know, LJ. This whole thing makes me nervous. Really nervous. It’s like Amazon is saying, “Hey, indie authors, would you be so kind as to help us cut our competitors’ throats?” But once they’ve killed off all their competitors–with our help and full cooperation–whose throat will they cut next? This program might seem harmless and tempting right now, but we might be kicking ourselves someday for putting the knife in their hands.

    I agree with Mark Coker’s take over on Huffington Post: in the long run, it’s in our best interests to have a varied and vibrant ebook marketplace with mulitple outlets for our work. This new program works against that goal. I’m saying no.

  4. I also received a call and decided to enroll three of my six books into the program. One book is being steadily borrowed, the other two are not. Because Amazon is offering me the chance to promo my books for free for 5 days–and they’re only asking for an exclusivity commitment of 90 days–I think this might be a good thing for independent authors (emphasis on might). However, I’m not expecting much. I’m looking at this as a business experiment. I’m waiting to see how things shake out at the end of the first 90 day period before labeling the lending program good or bad.

  5. I’ve only started reading The Sex Club. From the little bit I have read, I have added the entire Det Jackson series to my Amazon wish list for Kindle. While I understand the hesitation to “put all your eggs in one basket,” just about every book in my household and every recommendation to friends through the “word of mouth” advertising, pushes to Amazon. I even heard a Best Buy store clerk pushing people to kindle and away from Nooks because of the belief that the brick and mortar stores are going away. With the HUGE collection and virtual library of the lending program, I can’t say that I would have found your writings anywhere else other than on Amazon as that is now the sole location for reading interests and book reviews. What better advertising can you get from that? Not much in my opinion. Many people agree that if it’s not found on Amazon, and there are no reviews on Amazon, the product is not worth purchasing. Stick with it, and thanks for the great reads.

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