I had an epiphany the other day. I was chatting via email with a writer friend of mine, and something that this friend wrote caused me to completely stop what I was doing. This friend was lamenting the fact that a favorite author had chosen to offer a story exclusively on Barnes & Noble's Nook. I was suddenly shocked by seeing "the other side" of the KDP Select equation.
Let me explain more what I was thinking. Say there were 6 places that you could sell your ebook (there are more, but 6 comprises the vast majority of ebook retailers in the U.S.). Wouldn't you want to offer your ebook at all 6 of those ebook retailers? Of course you would, because you would miss sales to some of your audience. Yet, with KDP Select (or just making the decision to only pursue 1 of the retailers), you are saying 'those other places don't matter, and I don't care about reaching those readers'. Yes, you really are saying that by your actions. Does this make good sense?
From the perspective of the retailer, it makes great sense. It's an exclusive, something that no other retailer can lay claim to. It's the same idea with a reporter getting an exclusive with a celebrity; no other reporter, television show, newspaper, magazine, etc. has what this one reporter has. It's what they use to help sell more copies, more subscriptions, and the same principle applies to the ebook retailers - they are using it to bring in more people who not only want the ebook from the exclusive author, but they might also want some of the other ebooks that the retailer has for sale.
From the perspective of the author, absent a really good incentive, it makes no sense for s/he to only offer their ebook for sale with 1 retailer. What do they gain? Nothing. That 1 retailer isn't the only game in town, and not every reader frequents all of the ebook retailers. Oh, and the incentive? That really needs to be as big, if not bigger, than the potential sales the author is giving up from all of the other retailers that s/he is not selling at for the length of time of exclusivity with the one retailer. For some, that could be a very substantial amount!
But wait, I hear you say, I can offer my ebook for FREE for a few days! That will certainly mean that I make more sales, more than enough to offset what I would lose by not being on the other retailer's sites. Answer: it MIGHT offset the sales you are giving up from the other retailers. There is no guarantee of this, and there are loads of factors that go into the success or failure of a particular book in KDP Select. And remember, a free ebook is not the same as a paid-for ebook, and it has less intrinsic value than one that you shelled out money for.
But what about the Lending Library? I make money off of that! Yes, you do. But will you have a lot of people scrambling to borrow your book? Unless you wrote the Hunger Games or one of a handful of other books getting a lot of press, it's doubtful. Why? Because the audience that can take advantage of this is limited. Only those people who a) have a Kindle and b) also pay for Amazon Prime ($79 a year) can borrow books. AND they can only borrow 1 book per month. So they have to be very judicious in which books they want to borrow. Hence, your book is probably not going to be among those borrowed, or if it is it will be borrowed so infrequently as to not add up to much. Again, does this offset what you lost out on from not being with the other retailers?
Finally, consider this: if you, like my friend, can't get the new story because it isn't available for your ereader, what is the likelihood that you will go looking for it once it is available, if it ever is? The odds are against you going to find it at a later date. And it is possible that because you weren't able to get it when you learned about it, you will NEVER get that story for a variety of reasons. Also consider that it is possible that the opportunity to ever reach that potential customer may never come around again. You have effectively lost out on ever counting that person as a fan of your work, and now have limited the pool of fans for your future works.
Do you agree? Do you disagree? I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.