A question I get a lot is whether an author should enroll their book in KDP Select or not. While there are benefits to doing it, there are also limitations. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could end up in hot water.
In this article, I’m not only going to help you understand what KDP Select is, and how it relates to Kindle Unlimited (KU), but also the situations that exist where an author should do KDP Select or go wide into other markets.
In this article, you will learn:
- What is KDP Select?
- What’s Kindle Unlimited (KU) and how the two programs differ from each other
- How much authors are paid in KDP Select
- The pros and cons of KDP Select
- The Secret Advantage to those who use KU
- When you should and shouldn’t enroll in KDP Select
If you feel like you know enough about KU and KDP Select to warrant it, you can jump to the secret advantage by clicking here.
Or if you just want my simple answer as to whether you should enroll in KDP Select based on your situation, you can get my straight answer right here.
Table of contents
What is KDP Select?
KDP Select is a program which authors can enroll their books in to reap financial and promotional rewards. The catch is, of course, that in order to enroll your ebook in KDP Select, you must be exclusive to Amazon. That means you can’t upload your eBook to any of the other retailers like Barnes & Noble or Google Books for example, or on your own website.
Books in KDP Select are available to be borrowed by readers who have paid for Kindle Unlimited.
So Then What is Kindle Unlimited?
Kindle Unlimited (KU) is a program created by Amazon that allows readers to pay $9.99 a month and download and read as many ebooks as they’d like per month. The caveats are that the ebooks they want to read must be enrolled in KDP Select (the back-end of Kindle Unlimited) and that they can only have 10 Kindle Unlimited books on their device at a time. Of course, they can return these books and download others once they’re finished with them.
The Difference Between Kindle Unlimited and KDP Select
You probably noticed that I mentioned KDP Select is the back-end of Kindle Unlimited. Simply put:
- KDP Select is for authors. They can enroll their books and reap the benefits of page reads.
- Kindle Unlimited is a program for readers. With it, they can read as many books as they want in a month.
But what does this mean? Authors who enroll in KDP Select are entered into the program for 90 days whereby they guarantee exclusivity with Amazon. This means that they can’t publish the enrolled eBook on any other platform or retailer. You can’t even give it away for free–the exception to this being that you may give away ARC copies of your book prior to publishing it.
In return, your book is available to Kindle Unlimited readers. For every page read, you’ll get paid a certain rate (the KENP rate)–it’s usually around $0.0045 per page, though this fluctuates up or down per month. Now, that rate might not sound like much, but when you’ve had a million pages read… well, let’s just say it adds up.
Important to remember: each book you publish can either be enrolled in KDP Select or can be pushed wide. Also, KDP Select is only for ebooks. That means you can still publish your paperbacks or hardback books wide, as well as your audiobooks.
Taking the above into consideration, just how much exactly do you get paid for page reads?
How Much Does KDP Select Pay Per Page Read?
On average, you will make $0.004500 per page read. This is based on the average reported over the past 12 months.
Here is a list of the past 12 months (as of this posts's latest update):
But Kindle Unlimited page reads aren’t the only benefit of enrolling in KDP Select. Let’s take a look at what those benefits are.
The Benefits of KDP Select
So, what are the benefits of enrolling in KDP Select?
- Kindle Countdown Deals
- Free Book Promotions on Amazon
- Enrollment Period–It’s Only 90 Days!
- Kindle Owners Lending Library
- Increased Royalties
- KDP Select All-Star Bonuses
- Kindle Unlimited Pages Read
- Secret Amazon Preferential Treatment… Sort Of
1. Kindle Countdown Deals
Books published on Amazon can fall into two royalty rate divisions:
- 35% for books priced between $0.99 and $200
- 70% for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99
As a Select author, you’re able to make use of Amazon’s Promotions dashboard and create a Kindle Countdown Deal for your book priced at $2.99 or above. This allows you to discount your book at competitive rates on Amazon and encourages readers to buy your book. The bonus here is that while your book is discounted from its usual $4.99 price (for example) you’re still privy to the 70% royalty rate. So, your book might be selling at $0.99 for a day or two, but you’ll get 70% royalties rather than 35%.
That's a pretty neat perk.
2. Free Book Promotions on Amazon
Books enrolled in KDP Select can enter into free book promotions. This means you can offer your book free for 5 days in every 90 day KDP Select enrollment period. You don’t have to run your book free for 5 consecutive days, either. You can run it free for one, and then the following month for two and so on.
3. Enrollment Period–It’s Only 90 Days!
I’m counting KDP Select’s enrollment period at 90 days as a benefit because you’re not locked into exclusivity with Amazon for too long of a period. You can pull out if it’s not working for you by navigating to your Select Info in your KDP dashboard for that book, and de-selecting the option to re-enroll.
A little birdy told me that if you’re really desperate to get out of KDP Select before the 90 day period is up, a quick email to Amazon might help you get out of it sooner. Worth a shot if you’re not having any luck in the program.
4. Kindle Owners Lending Library
The Kindle Owners Lending Library is a perk that Amazon Prime readers get whereby they can borrow one book from the library of KDP Select authors per month. You, as the author, then get paid for those page reads at the KENP rate.
Important to note: you only get paid for the first time they read the book in this program.
If you enroll in KDP Select and your book is priced at $2.99 or above, your book will automatically be available in the lending library for 14 days. If you enroll your book in KDP Select and take advantage of the 70% royalty rate, you'll be enrolled involuntarily.
So, technically you can opt-out of being in KOLL, though I don’t see why you would when you’ll get paid at the same rate for it as you would for KU.
5. Increased Royalties
Enrolling in KDP Select affords you a pretty cool advantage–you’ll be able to earn 70% royalties in the following international marketplaces: India, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico. Authors who don’t enroll their books will only have the 35% royalty option available. That means you’ll earn more for every sale in these territories.
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6. KDP Select All-Star Bonuses
Those authors who are particularly successful and get loads of page-reads, are given KDP All-Star Bonuses. These are for authors who rank in the top 100 in the paid Kindle store, so you’ll have to work pretty hard to get up there, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded for it.
7. Kindle Unlimited Page Reads
The main benefit of enrolling in KDP Select is getting paid for page reads. As a fiction author with a following who are dedicated and who are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, you’re bound to make a healthy chunk of change in Kindle Unlimited. Often, these types of authors will see a 70 to 30 ratio of page reads to book sales–I’m not citing this as a hard number, but repeating it as it’s what I’ve been told by author friends who write fiction. This isn’t a blanket statement–not every author will make this in KU.
As stated above, the average payout per page for authors is $0.004577 per page.
8. Secret Amazon Preferential Treatment….Sort Of
A lot of authors believe that Amazon gives books that are enrolled in KDP Select preferential treatment–that those books gain higher ranks because of their association with the program. That’s both technically true and false all wrapped into one.
Let me explain.
Amazon isn’t giving anyone preferential treatment whether they’re wide or in KDP Select. At least, not actively.
As we know, ranking is based on book sales. The more books you sell in relation to your competitors, the higher your ranking. That leads to more book sales and even more visibility.
Here’s the interesting thing: when a reader borrows a book in Kindle Unlimited, that ‘borrow’ counts as a sale to Amazon’s algorithm.
So, books that are enrolled in KDP Select, and thus are available to readers in Kindle Unlimited, get sales as well as borrows. That means it’s easier for them to get higher rankings than those authors who are wide and are only juicing the algorithm through book sales alone.
More borrows equal a higher ranking, which might make it seem that Amazon’s giving preferential treatment to KU books. Really, it’s just the nature of the program.Does Amazon give preferential treatment to KU enrolled books? OMG this finally explains it!Click To Tweet
The Drawbacks of KDP Select
The benefits of KDP Select sound amazing, but there have to be drawbacks to the program. Let’s take a look at them.
Exclusivity to any retailer platform is a definite drawback. While you’re only enrolled in KDP Select for 90 days at a time, that’s still a period of 3 months where you could have been making connections with readers outside of Amazon. You’re not reaching readers in other stores and who read on other devices. The question is, are you seeing enough benefit from exclusivity to disregard a wider reach? We’ll answer that question a little later on.
Less Marketing Versatility
Yes, you can still do Facebook ads and, of course, Amazon ads, but you have less control over how your book can be priced. By this, I mean that you’re not going to be able to set your book as ‘permafree’ while you’re in KDP Select. That’s because the only way you can set your book to free on Amazon is by setting them as free on other retailers and then letting Amazon know that your book is available elsewhere at a lower price. And if you’re in KDP Select, your book is never available elsewhere, so that’s one marketing tactic you won’t have at your disposal.
It’s worth noting that ‘permafree’ is being used less and less of late. $0.99 for the first book in a series is more prevalent.
So, Why Would Anyone Go Wide Then?
With so many benefits to using KDP Select, and even some preferential treatment on the world's largest book market, why would anyone consider going wide? There are both reasons of principle and future marketing components you should consider before making your decision.
1. The Growth of Other Markets:
Amazon isn’t the only book retailer out there. There are plenty of others for you to upload your book to.
While Amazon is the biggest chunk in the market (as seen above) that doesn’t mean the others will stay at such a low percentage of the market share.
In fact, they’re growing bigger every year. Do you really think Apple’s going to sit back and let Amazon monopolize the book-selling business for long? No way.
Just in the last two years they’ve injected money into their platform and have made it even easier to self-publish books. In the past, you’d have to go through a distributor like Draft2Digital to publish to Apple Books–now you can simply log in to iTunes Connect and upload your book and metadata. It’s a neat change that’ll encourage more authors to publish with them.
And it’s not just Apple who are upping their game. Barnes & Noble have been working with me to improve their system, and Google Play just updated their service and it’s looking stellar. Shoot, Kobo even supplies Walmart now.
Speaking of Kobo, they have a program that’s pretty similar to KDP Select and isn’t exclusive. With Kobo Plus, authors can enroll their books and get paid for ‘minutes consumed.’
Because of this growth, marketing wide on Facebook is also easier–you don’t have to set up ads for each retailer. You can use a universal booklink service like Books2Read, and send readers from every platform to the same link, secure in knowing they’ll select their desired platform and purchase your book there.
2. Access to Popular Bestseller Lists
When you’re exclusive to Amazon, you’re unable to make certain bestseller lists. The USA Today Bestseller List, for instance, requires you to sell books on more than one platform to qualify. That means you’re more likely to achieve a bestseller list when you’re wide. Of course, you’ll still have to sell loads of books to reach that goal.
3. Access to More Markets
Going wide means reaching a lot of new readers who might not have heard of your work before. Multiple revenue streams is always a good idea in business–after all, if anything happens to one of your platforms or accounts with one of these retailers, you’ll always have the others to fall back on. That means more reach, and more security for you.
While you might not be selling well on Apple Books this week, you could be killing it on Kobo or vice versa. What’s cool about this is the bigger you grow, the more sales you’ll make and the more readers you’ll draw in.
There are some folks who only shop on Apple or Barnes & Noble and by using KDP Select, you’ll never reach those readers.
4. Author Website Sales
When you’re wide, you’re less dependent on what retailers decide to do with your account or yours books. If Amazon goes down tomorrow (heaven forbid) you won’t have to worry about losing any of your assets. You can sell your books on your author website–although it’s pretty challenging to get readers who are accustomed to buying on their favorite retailers to purchase directly from you instead.
5. Bookbub Deals
Rumor has it that Bookbub is more likely to accept your book for a Featured Deal if your book is available on multiple platforms. That’s because Bookbub has readers who are on their mailing list on multiple platforms.
6. The Principle of it All
The truth is, Amazon is still the big boss of book sales (see the image below). If all authors enroll in KDP Select today, the other markets will fade, and that’s not a good thing. If Amazon had complete control of the market, they have the power to make policy changes on a whim and there’ll be nowhere else for you to go if you don’t like those changes.
So, in principle, it’s probably better to publish wide as it will help the industry in the long-run and provide healthy competition for Amazon.
So, You Want to Go Wide? How Can You Win?
Let’s face it, with all the benefits that KDP Select users get, it can be hard to win. It is true that the cards will be stacked against you to some extent when publishing wide.
So, how does an author win if they go wide?
Well, after talking and working with many authors who have chosen to go wide and succeeded, there is one overarching tactic that they used, that I’d highly recommend you use too:
“Put the same marketing effort you would in Amazon into those other markets!”
Many authors who complain that going wide hurt them usually didn’t do much marketing. They just hit publish and then move on. But, guess what? You’d get similar results if you did the same thing on Amazon. No one just hits publish in Amazon and wins. That’s true for the other markets too.
Here’s a podcast interview I did with two authors, with one swearing that they did better wide, while the other said they only found success after they stopped going wide and went with KDP Select:
So, if you decide to go wide, you need to roll up your sleeves and give those markets the same sort of love you give Amazon. And I’d argue that with less effort you’ll get more results because the competition in those markets (or the number of authors who actually try in those markets) is a LOT LESS!
Here are some market-specific tactics you should employ:
- Facebook Ads directed to fans of those markets: Create ads to fans of B&N or iBooks, or Nook, and then direct them to your type of reader. This ensures your FB ads will gain you, readers, in those markets as well.
- Get reviews: Push to get reviews for your book on those markets with the same tactics you’ve used on Amazon. I’d wager to say that one review on B&N is worth 10 on Amazon considering that the number of reviews on B&N is so much lower.
- Create links that go to your books in those markets: Put them in your email blasts or other marketing efforts so as to give those markets love as well.
So, as you can see, you can win but you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and put in the effort.
One Way to Decide…
There's a tool called Publisher Rocket that will actually give you some valuable data you can use when deciding to enroll in KDP Select or publish wide.
Publisher Rocket lets you look at all the categories and see if they have a strong KU or Large Publisher presence. You can easily see:
- Percent of the top books that are enrolled in KU
- Percent of the top books that are backed by large publishers
What this means is you can potentially find categories that are better for KU or vice versa.
You may find that some categories are better suited for a Wide release, and some are better for KU. For example, in the following screenshot, you can see that this one category of “Muffins” has an extremely low percentage of books from large publishers, meaning it is a prime candidate for a book enrolled in KU.
This doesn't necessarily mean you HAVE to be in KU if you want to target a category that is mostly in KU. But it does mean you might have to work at it harder. Publisher Rocket makes it easier to make an informed decision based on actionable data.
Final Decision: Should You Enroll in Amazon KDP Select or Not?
So, which way should you lean? Toward Amazon exclusivity and page reads or toward going wide and the versatility of appearing on multiple platforms?
What does this mean for you?
Real talk, I hate giving general rules of thumb for anything in the self-publishing business. Everyone has their own unique method when it comes to marketing and selling books. However, if you’re on the fence about doing Kindle Unlimited or going wide, my ‘best practice’ would be to seriously consider enrolling in KDP Select if you’re a fiction author.
Market data shows that the biggest use of Kindle Unlimited is for fiction. ‘Whale readers’ or those readers who love reading stories and can devour book after book, are often readers of fiction and have paid for Kindle Unlimited.
Genres like romance and urban fantasy will benefit from the program. Science-fiction and epic fantasy authors should seriously consider it as well.
For non-fiction? I would say going wide is a better option for you. If I think about my reading habits when it comes to non-fiction, I’ll probably read or listen to a non-fiction book once a day, sometimes even once a week. The learning is done piecemeal and that’s often true for other non-fiction readers.
Remember though, there are plenty of fiction authors who are highly successful after having gone wide–and their focus in doing this has been marketing their books on those other platforms. So, if you’re going to go wide, make sure you put a lot of time and effort into marketing on those other retailers.
So, in conclusion, going wide and reaching new readers can be a gamechanger for your author business as long as you market appropriately, while enrolling in KDP select might be the better option for fiction authors. Which one will you choose?