Amazon Puts the Screws To Indie Authors by Boyd Lemon

Author Boyd Lemon

Electronic readers, mainly Amazon’s Kindle, and the ebooks they spawned have been a boon to Indie authors who could make a little money while providing their readers with a bargain. An author can publish his book in electronic format on Kindle without any cost. For example, my book, Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages, has sold about eight times as many copies in the Kindle format as it has in the print version with about the same profit per copy on both. The ebook cost the reader one-third or less of the cost of the print version.

It occurred to me sometime ago that Amazon in all its corporate greed would figure out a way to eliminate this benefit to Indie authors and turn it into more profit for Amazon. Last week Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing announced a scheme that does just that.

They call it KDP Select. Here is how it works: The author is solicited to join KDP Select, which, if you join, means that Kindle will offer to “loan” your Kindle book to any member of Amazon Prime for free. The reader pays a fee to be a member of Amazon Prime. The author receives no royalty when the Amazon Prime member borrows it because it is being “loaned” for free. The loan is forever so it really is not a loan; it is a giveaway. What does the author receive? A “proportionate share” of a fund that KDP states will be $6,000,000 annually. Of course, the bulk of it will go to the best selling, famous authors. We Indies will get pennies. Worse yet: who is going to buy our Kindle books, if they can borrow them for free simply by paying Amazon a small annual fee? Only somebody that just has to have your book, of course. There goes our Kindle sales. So we are forced to join. Amazon makes out like a bandit, as usual, because they get the annual fees from millions of Prime members, and pay out I am certain far less to the authors of those free loaners. That is the way Amazon is going to stop Indies from making anything but pennies–by forcing us to give away our books. No one will buy if they can borrow for free.

The only way to stop this outrageous attempt to stamp out Indie authors is to refuse to join KDP Select. Do you, as an Indie author trying to get your book out there so people will read it, have the courage to not join and see your sales plummet? I don’t. I want people to read my books.

Boyd Lemon-Author of “Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages,” a memoir of the author’s journey to understand his role in the destruction of his three marriages, helpful for anyone to deal with issues in their own relationships.  Information, excerpts and reviews: http://www.BoydLemon-Writer.com.

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23 thoughts on “Amazon Puts the Screws To Indie Authors by Boyd Lemon”

  1. My biggest problem with Kindle Select is that it pits authors against each other. If my book is borrowed, that costs you money. Until recently, your book being sold and read would either help me, as an author, or have no effect on me. Now, your book's success comes out of my pocket. We become competitors fighting over a single pile of limited cash.

    This is not a good thing.

  2. Boyd, this is one of the most important decisions facing indie authors today. Is KDP Select the light at the end of the indie tunnel or an oncoming train? Thanks for this excellent piece! 🙂

  3. Good point, Noah.

    Thank you Stephen. As I indicated, I'm afraid this is not the light at the end of the tunnel, but Amazon's way of closing off the tunnel so that they get most of the light.

  4. Thanks for the clarity and the anger in this helpful post.

    As of now, I am NOT joining Kindle Select. They also require you to list ONLY with Kindle, not through B&N or smashwords or any other outlet.

    1. Yes, Jane, thanks for pointing out that you must list only with Kindle, another reminder of their corporate greed. I hope that nobody thinks that Amazon tries to help indie authors. They care only about their own profit, and I suppose if I were a stockholder that is what I would want them to do. That's capitalism at its best or worst, depending on your point of view.

    1. Thank you, J.D.

      Boyd Lemon-Author of "Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages," a memoir of the author's journey to understand his role in the destruction of his three marriages, helpful for anyone to deal with issues in their own relationships. Information, excerpts and reviews: http://www.BoydLemon-Writer.com.

  5. I faced this same type of monolopy in my professional career. The point being to corner the market, and then get rid of everyone and hire people for minimum wage. I see that happening here. Once the market is cornered, and there's no where else to go–Amazon can pay the Indie authors a 1 percent royalty and we can take it or leave it. Or better yet–we can all be FREE forever.

    Yes, I share your anger. I did not join Select, nor will I.

  6. My pet name for them is AmaMonster! I agree with you Linda…I had that experience elsewhere too. Thanks for the post Boyd. Hi Steve! Where's that Marcia?!

    I'm a brand new, hot off the press Indie. I'm not joining Kindle select. I am on Kindle, Nook, and on my way to Apple & Kobo…Maybe Sony. I already compromised my virtue for survival by using CreateSpace, although only as a printer. I had my formatting, website, trailer, cover, editing, etc done by other Indies or local sources.

    I hate the lending program. They may as well put a nylon over their monitor, a gun to our head, and call it what it is…Stealing. The Karma is that the greedy so & so's should enjoy it now, because someplace bigger & badder will come along & squash their ass some day. I'm sure Apple would like to do that, but it'll probably be a baby upstart. None of that helps us…Except to know what goes around, comes around.

    1. Yes, Kim, I too believe what goes around comes around. Some day they will get theirs. I applaud all of you who are resisting join KDP Select. I just don't know how long you can hold out.

      Boyd Lemon-Author of "Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages," a memoir of the author's journey to understand his role in the destruction of his three marriages, helpful for anyone to deal with issues in their own relationships. Information, excerpts and reviews: http://www.BoydLemon-Writer.com.

  7. I'm not happy about it either and I haven't joined it.

    I think it's unfair for the ebook marketplace and other sellers such as Smashwords and B&N etc. It's looking monopolistic. I was surprised how many authors have enlisted to be honest. Many are putting one book into kdp to 'see how it goes'. Alas, most of my sales are on Amazon but I still don't want to sign up! I can see the books of those who have joined storming up the rankings while they are being offered for free. I hope we aren't all 'pushed' into joining just because everybody else does. It's sort of a case of principles vs easy marketing.Hoping I don't have to eat my words and join!

  8. Just so you know – rankings are calculated on downloads, and are not registered as 'sales' if a title is offered FREE.

    Being the cautious wait-and-see person that I am, I am biding my time. No doubt there will be plenty of opinions in a couple of months. I can't see why holding off is 'courageous', Boyd. Nothing I do seems to affect my sales – they simmer on regardless.

      1. It takes courage to say "No" to a powerhouse like AmaMonster. Is the absence of ethics in Amazon's strategy in question? What is there to "wait and see" about? They want self-published authors to give their Ebooks away for free (under the guise of "lending") and at the same time, require the author to take that book down from every competitor's website AND FROM THE AUTHOR'S OWN WEBSITE (so the author loses both sales and momentum), and why? So that Amazon will receive money from "prime subscribers" AND sell more Kindle Fire e-readers. Amazon is using YOU, the author to sell their Kindle Fire, and to sell their prime subscriber program. This is not rocket science. It shocks me to learn that any author is willing to cooperate with this program. Is your book for sale on your own website? If not, why? If so, how can you consider giving Amazon exclusive rights to LEND your book out, let alone sell it?

        Another rotten scheme AmaMonster came up with this Christmas season was the subject of an article in the New York Times. Amazon has asked that their customers go out "window shopping" at brick-and-mortar stores (those selling any and all products, not just bookstores), use that merchant's time, leased sq. footage and sales personnel to help that buyer decide which product to buy), then scan the bar code for that product, walk out of that store and order the product from Amazon at a better price.

        Words used by the public at large in response to this request include "creepy" "disgusting" "borderline stealing" but I wouldn't call it borderline.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement … maybe if I put a little more water in and stir the pot it might loosen it up … wait, am I talking about my books or the oatmeal I had for breakfast this morning?

  9. Since the post and all the comments have been anti KDP Select, I thought I might throw some water on the fire. I haven't joined and I'm not sure if I will, but lets look at this a little differently for a sec.

    With all due respect Boyd, and I do respect you and have been following you since our LinkedIn exchanges a year ago,your pieced stated, "the bulk of it will go to the best selling, famous authors. We Indies will get pennies."

    The last I checked, that is happening whether or not you are involved in a lending program. The bestselling authors are the ones that make money and in comparison, with the exception of about 5 – 7 Indie Authors, we are making pennies. Granted, my additional income stream is nice due to my writing, but by no means am I coming close to the level of my "real" job, especially with only 1 title available.

    According to Amazon the calculation for payout is as follows: For example, if the monthly fund amount is $500,000 and the total qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles is 100,000 in December and if your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn 1.5% (1,500/100,000 = 1.5%), or $7,500 in December. Let's put that into other terms…

    If you have your book borrowed 50 times in the month with the same 100,000 borrowed titles the calculation would be 50/100,000 = .0005% or $250 in December. Put that into comparison of having sold 50 eBooks, which would put you at $105.

    So, unless your moving thousands of books per month, this may not be such a bad idea.

    Conversely, if you are selling most of your titles via Smashwords, then it this definitely is not the way to go, as its an exclusive for eBooks. The program does not exclude hardcopy, only eBooks.

    Noah had a good comment about pitting authors against authors, if someone borrows my book, it would cost another author money. In some respects, that is what happens anyway. When a buyer (not a fan, they'll buy anything you put out), but a browsing buyer, they might find your title, click it to buy and be done for the day. You've just cost another author the "chance" to be bought because they've just made their purchase and are no longer looking for another title.

    Again, let me reiterate, I haven't signed on, and I'm not sure I will, there are too many ?'s at this point. Amazon claims that there will be a minimum of $500,000 in the lending pot, how do we know that won't change. Additionally, what if there were 1,000,000 borrowed titles and you came in with your 50, then your payout would only be $25 for the month.

    It's a great discussion and something to watch for sure. I'm tempted to try it out, only a 90 day commitment is required, because I've only sold about 4% of my total books through Smashwords. I wouldn't have much to lose on the non-compete. Sorry guys, I guess my comment has become more of a blog post!

    1. Thanks, Jim, for your valuable comments and calculations. I think you are right, to be certain, we will just have to wait and see, but, as my piece indicates, my feeling is that it will be bad for indie authors. I hope I'm wrong.

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