Four Lessons Learned About Publishing on Kindle Select—It Ain't No Magic Bullet

Well, folks, Andrés Cruciani of Toho Publishing here once again, and because our company is only three months old, we continue to hit milestones.

First, in order to better understand KDP Select, a program that makes books available to subscribers of KDP unlimited (like Netflix but for books)—drumroll please—we launched our second "book"!

Ok, so, a few things.

First, it's not actually a book. It's a seven-page short story (which we highly recommend reading!). Now, it happens to be a super fascinating short story about a young scientist who believes you have to suffer in order to achieve greatness, but that's beside the point. :) The real point is that the "book" is super short. (In fact, did you know that the shortest so-called book you can publish in paperback on Amazon is just 24 pages? More like a flyer than a book, but then you get to say: I published a book! Wow!) (There was a time when this was actually was a tremendous feat. For better or worse, it ain't no more.

Second, again, the reason we published our second ebook was really to learn how KDP Select works—because if you're going to publish your book on Amazon, publishing on Select or not is going to be a decision you'll have to make.

Question(s): What's the diff? Why doesn't everyone publish on Select?

Well, the main pro to publishing on Select is that Amazon then makes your book available to Kindle Unlimited customers, and you then get paid based on how many pages of your stuff they read. Supposedly they also promote your book a bit more (Countdown deals have their own Amazon page).

Another pro is that Select enables you to offer two different promos:

  • Kindle Countdown Deal—they let you cut your book price in a way that allows customers to see the discount they're getting (yup, most everyone loves a discount).

  • Free Book Promotion—they let you give away your book through Amazon for free (because what better way to gain a fanbase than by literally giving away your goods for nothing?)

But the big con (yes, read that as a pun) is that you can only then sell your ebook on Amazon. They have exclusivity to the content—for ninety days. Now, this might not be a big deal to a first-time author or to anyone who just wants a place where people can buy their book, but if you're looking to build your own business, this might be a problem for you. I mean, if you're trying to build an online business, you'll probably want to sell your ebook on your own website (to get a bigger margin and collect emails), but you won't be able to if you're in Select.

Question: Soooooo, should I publish my book on Select?

That is the exact question we're trying to answer, and the reason we put "The Scientist" on Select. It will take us, perhaps, a month or longer to really be able to answer the question, and we basically put the story up there as an experiment. That said, we've already learned some lessons about Select (even though the book literally went live while I was sleeping last night).

KDP Select Lesson #1: It takes time.

See, if we'd never put the book up on Select, we never would have learned that in order to set up one of the promos, you actually have to have been on Select for 30 days. So, when I tried to set up a Free Book Promotion this morning, I couldn't.

[Question for a future date: If I had listed my book as ready for preorder (something you can do on Amazon), do thirty days of that count toward being on Select?]

KDP Select Lesson #2: You still need to market.

Now, based on the zero sales so far, it's clear that this is no magic bullet. Of course, it's only been a few hours, but still, we're talking about Amazon. This is one of the biggest, most amazing, most monstrous entities the world has ever seen. And in a few hours of putting a good on one the biggest marketplace in the history of humankind (though apparently it still pales in comparison to the Dutch East India Company of olde), the platform itself sold exactly zero copies. That means, we still have to do much of the work.

KDP Select Lesson #3: One "book" at a time.

Given that (even though putting "The Scientist" up was an experiment) we'll still need to market the book ourselves, it's clear that (at least for the moment), we can only publish one book at a time—and we're going to have to decide just how often it is that we put books out. Marketing a book, we're learning, is a tremendous effort (if you want to actually sell copies). Now, anyone can put a book out there. But can you put a book out there well? Can you publish a book and actually move, say, 10,000 copies? What about a million?

KDP Select Lesson #4: You still need reviews. You still need sales.

Another reason to wait before publishing books in succession is that, at the moment, "The Scientist" is sitting out there quite lonely—zero purchases, zero reviews. I mean, who wants to be the first one to buy a book? The whole point of reviews is to provide social proof (hey, I like this thing, so you will like this thing too!). Having zero sales and reviews is social proof that no one cares. Not a good position to be in!

Well, that's about all the lessons learned so far. For more lessons, check in at a future date. For now though, it's time to going back to editing Ross Boone's book, tweaking our Amazon ads (one day soon there'll be another blog post about that), fixing up our accounting, and emailing people individually to buy copies of THE FATHER. Good times!

Andrés Cruciani is the founder of Toho Publishing. He’s a writer, editor, and teacher, and we’re publishing his first novel! You can join him on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, YouTube, and Instagram.

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