Early Evaluation of KDP Select Program

Wow.

It’s been two months since I checked in with Amazon rankings, and saw how indies were doing. In October, my survey showed that while traditional presses still dominated the top 10 in most genres, indie published books owned over 50% of the top 200 Amazon ebooks in romance, fantasy, mystery, thriller, science fiction, and horror genres. It was an amazing coup for indies, at the time. Powerful movement to the top seats across the board in fiction.

I went back last night to peek, and was floored by the results. Here’s the survey of the top 20 ebooks on Amazon in many genres. I’d welcome folks pointing out anything they see which I might have missed.

 

Genre Breakdown

Romance: 

2 major press publications; 2 small press; 16 self published; 17 available on the Kindle Lending Library (KLL).

Fantasy

7 major press publications; 13 self published books; 10 books on KLL. Incidentally, the ONLY AUTHORS in the top 20 fantasy books who were not self published were George R.R. Martin and one book by Stephanie Meyer. With six of the seven titles all by one author (single books and a collection of his books), it’s not as good as it looks for major publishers.

Science Fiction

2 major press publications; 2 small press published books; 16 self published books; 11 books on KLL.

Thrillers

A bright point for major publishers – 6 major press titles in the top 20; two small press; 12 self published books; 11 books on the KLL. This last is very important – all of the KLL books were self published, which means only one self published book made the top 20 without being in KLL.

 

Analysis

A few things stand out here. First, that indie (by which I mean self published) dominance of ebooks has extended. Where once indies were largely excluded from the top 10 but dominant in the top 200, they now control a majority of the top 10 in many genres, and the top 20 in all genres surveyed. That’s a dramatic change. In this, the biggest sales period of the year for print publishers, to see indies simply step in and take over such an overwhelming majority of the top seats is unprecedented.

How did it happen?

If you go back to the numbers above, you’ll quickly see that the majority of the indie books which made the top 20 were enrolled in Kindle Select, a program which lets writers trade exclusivity on Amazon for entrance into the Kindle Lending Library. There’s been enormous debate over whether such a move is worthwhile to indies. Now the early evidence is in – and is strongly in favor of getting at least one book into KLL.

KLL loans out one book per month to all Amazon Prime members with Kindle devices. Those loans count as “sales” for purposes of Amazon Ranking placement, which means if a couple hundred people borrow your book, your ranking will go up very fast. This in turn creates more visibility for the book, which radically boosts overall sales, spurring the book even higher. KLL board are fairly consistently outperforming other Kindle books across the board right now, as a result. In addition, the author is paid a percentage of a monthly pool of money, based on units loaned.

So the initial numbers, at least, are in. KLL and KDP Select are boosting sales of indies in a very dramatic, very visible way. Coupled with continued insistence by major publishers on charging $10-15 for ebooks, this has accelerated the trend toward indie publishers gaining greater market share. This is bad news for the publishers, who are using the higher prices to help keep print sales alive while transitioning to digital, and who have been working hard to keep their books out of the Kindle Lending Library. They might still be successful on both counts; but their moves are having the side effect of ceding most of the ebook market to competitors.

17 thoughts on “Early Evaluation of KDP Select Program

    1. Kevin Post author

      Awesome, awesome chart, Derek. Really shows well what the data is saying, in very visual terms. If you haven’t checked his link out, guys, take a peek. Very worthwhile.

      Reply
  1. TheSFReader

    “They might still be successful on both counts; but their moves are having the side effect of ceding most of the ebook market to competitors.”

    Yes, and Amazon’s moves contribute to put thoses competitors in it’s own hands.
    Exclusivity for 90 days + financial rewards ->Most indie authors have (or will in a short term) jump ship on the Kindle.

    Reply
  2. E.J. Wesley

    Fascinating stuff, Kevin. I’ve been curious about how the KLL worked for authors (particularly Indies), so thanks for the clear explanation of that as well.

    New to you and your blog. Looking forward to more!

    EJ

    Reply
    1. Kevin Post author

      Glad to have you here, E.J., hope to see you back again. =) I think it’s too early to tell for sure, in the longer term, how KLL will work out. But in the short term…? I think it’s pretty obvious. ;)

      Reply
  3. Stephen T. Harper

    Great post, Kevin. Based on my last week, those numbers are not surprising. I’ve only got one title, released with little promotion in October. Sold very moderately on Amazon, and not at all on B&N. I enrolled in Select about 10 days ago. Did a free promotion Dec 10th and 11th (last weekend) and have been charting on several paid top 100 lists (3 in the US and 3 in the UK) ever since. The select program is fantastic for generating visibility in the kindle store. Besides way more sales, I’ve also had 18 “borrows” since last week. Still unclear what those translate to, but they do count in Amazon’s ranking system, which helps you to reach those top 100 lists.

    Currently I’m down to one list in the tougher US market, but hanging onto 3 lists in the UK with no other promotion. Count me as a fan of Select.

    Also, am I blind or is there no “join” button on your blog. I like it a lot but would love to know about new posts. :) I subscribed to your newsletter, but that’s something different, yes?

    Reply
    1. Kevin Post author

      Glad to hear how well things are going, Stephen. I wonder what will happen with all those new Kindle Fires under Christmas trees, each with a free month of Prime? (And yes, you can borrow a book a month free with the freebie Prime, so potentially two loaners for every Fire being gifted this holiday – and they’ve sold millions so far).

      There’s an RSS button in the right hand side of the top menu bar, next to the Twitter icon. They pop out when you mouse over them. I thought the effect looked cool, but if it’s making the icon hard to spot, then maybe I need to add it someplace else. Thanks for the heads up!

      PS: How long did it take to get the book down from other vendors? And will you retain reviews and ratings when your book goes back up again?

      Reply
  4. JR Tomlin

    Excellent post. Thanks for the analysis.

    I had been struggling for months to get my two historical novels over the 5 or so sales a day level. It took two days of Free one of them to get them into top 100 lists, one to #15 in Historical Novels. It has since dropped to #25 so continued work will be necessary to keep them at that level, but clearly Select works. I have had more than 100 borrows on them which obviously helps the rankings.

    While it’s too bad to have to go exclusive with Amazon, 95% of my sales have always been there anyway, so it’s not that big a loss. If B&N and Apple ever decide they want to treat indies as well as Amazon does, I’ll re-think.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Post author

      I worry about the exclusive not just because of actual sales, but also because fundamentally, it benefits writers to have multiple venues competing to sell our products to customers. Amazon is a giant in the book retail business, and the other retailers are already struggling. Things which hurt other ebook retailers are probably bad for writers in the long run. Balancing that against the obvious short term gains is going to be tricky.

      Reply
  5. Michael Kingswood

    Hi Kevin,

    Nice analysis. One question leaps to mind immediately, though. How many of those indies in the KLL were ranked high before KDP-S started? That would be the key piece of data to have before we can say if being in the KLL really gave them a big boost or not.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Post author

      Unfortunately, I didn’t do a genre by genre breakdown of top-20s in October. I just did top-200 breakdowns instead, because indies were over 50% of every top 200 I checked – but there were very few in any top 10, and not a lot in any top 20.

      So I don’t have precise data for “how it was” – but my recollection is that it’s pretty much flipped around. In other words, if you look at Derek’s chart, in October the green was major publishers, and the other colors were small press and self publishing.

      Remember, those top 20 (really, top 24, the first two pages) matter a great deal, because those are the books most likely to be seen by casual browsers. It’s the digital equivalent of the old brick and mortar paid placements.

      Reply
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  10. Cathy Peschke

    How do you offer your kindle for free for a couple of days?

    By the way, I believe the lending library has actually resulted in more kindle sales for my husband’s books.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Post author

      If you’ve entered the Select program – which is how indies get into the Lending Library – then you get five days every three months for each book in Select where you can offer it for free as a promotion. In general, these promotions are often highly effective. They sell quite a few copies after the promotion is done; they also sell quite a lot more copies of sequels if the book is a series.

      Reply

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