Thursday, September 06, 2012

Why KDP Select doesn't give a true picture of B&N sales


*disclaimer Yes, I work for B&N in the evenings for extra cash. My opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my employer.

I've seen some posts across the blogosphere about Kindle Direct Publishing Select, the program through Kindle publishing which allows authors to have free days (usually next-to-impossible on Kindle unless you manage to get a free price price-matched) and allows books to be lendable to Prime members, etc. in exchange for the book being available exclusively to Amazon customers and their family of e-readers. I think it's innovative, and I've heard various comments on one of my main hangouts, Absolute Write, about its usefulness.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on it, in any way, shape or form. I don't plan to self-publish and haven't learned much about the different options beyond my own sheer curiosity. If you're looking to find out about the ins and outs of KDP Select, you can do so on the KDP Forums, or (my preference) on a neutral site like Absolute Write or Backspace.

But I have seen one thing lately that has made me scratch my head.

As mentioned above, I work part-time at B&N. I find it a useful job for what I'm doing with my writing because it keeps me with one foot in the book industry, keeps me thinking about my own books professionally, and, most importantly, gives me access to lots and lots of free reading. Great job perk. So, of course, as a result, my e-readers are B&N e-readers. My comments, however, are as a nook owner, and not as a B&N employee (though part of the reason I am the former is because I am the latter).

I've noticed a trend lately that I find interesting, because I realize I contribute to it. KDP Select authors, who have tied their books exclusively to the Kindle platform for the first 90 days after release, finish with KDP Select and then are inveitably disappointed in their nook/Sony/Kobo numbers by comparison. Some use this as a reason to either keep their future books on KDP Select, or even to revert back to KDP Select with their existing title.

Part of this is simply market: Kindle dominates the e-reader market (and even the e-reader app market) and as such, the majority of buyers for any book will buy it on Kindle. But there's another factor at play in those lower non-Amazon numbers as well. Here's how this goes for me:

Scenario A:
1. A book I'd like is on KDP Select, which means I can't buy it for 90 days.
2. I might add it to my to-read list on Goodreads. But that's a long list, and there's no guarantee I'll remember to buy the book.
3. I remember to buy the book when it comes out on nook. Maybe. 80% of the time, I've totally forgotten about it, and/or am on to other things by the time it's available and am no longer interested.

Scenario B:
1. A book I'd like is on KDP Select, which means I can't buy it for 90 days.
2. I think I'd really like it, and well, hey, the author is doing KDP Select so she can offer it for free, right? I'm frugal after all. So I lurk on the author's blog to see when the free day will be, and I download it. I can only read it on my computer and my phone that way, but hey--it was free, so that's okay. I promise myself  I will pay for a copy when it's available for nook if I like it.
3. I have a free copy, and then when it's available for nook, I realize I didn't like it nearly enough to pay for a second copy. So I don't.

Scenario C: 
1. A book I'd like is available for nook the day it's released and/or is available for nook when I hear about it.
2. I buy it.

In the first two scenarios, I probably would've been a sale. But since I couldn't pay money for it, I didn't. And thus a surefire sale of the book turns into one B&N sale that doesn't come to fruition.

This is not to say that KDP Select is a mistake, by any means. As I said, I've seen many authors use it to great effect. But after 90 days, the non-Kindle market is substantially diminished anyway--either because they've forgotten about the book, or because they may have grabbed it for free. So when someone looks at their post-KDP Select numbers and says, "Gosh, it's just not worth it, only a handful of people bought," remember that a much larger handful might've bought it for their non-Kindle e-readers right away...

...it's just that now we've forgotten all about it. 

Image (c) seanbonner, via flickr,and made available under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license

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