Forgive me if you’re not a writer because this will only be partially interesting to you (if at all).
If you haven’t heard, it’s all the rage in the last couple of days. Amazon, well-known and loved (I suppose) for its ease of allowing folks to publish, is endeavoring to make it easier for books to reach a broader market. How? By allowing authors to enroll their works in the KDP Select program that allows Kindle owners to “borrow” books from Amazon’s library. (We’re going to ignore the inanity of attaching physical world ideas to a digital world.)
There’s a few problems with this, but for those who don’t know or for people who would wonder what Amazon is offering authors to entice them, here it is: money. $500k to start, with a $6m allocated for next year. Yes, that “m” means million, as in, $6000000. That’s a lot of money, right? Here’s the catch: you only get a percentage of the pie.
Well of course you didn’t think Amazon would give all of it to one person, right? But to earn anything beyond a few pennies (admittedly, the numbers remain to be seen), you have to have your book “borrowed” more than pretty much everyone else. Here’s where we begin to discover why I won’t be participating in this, and why you will still have to buy my books (Kindle loaning and piracy aside): I’m never going to have more books borrowed than Stephen King. Or Dean Koontz. Or Stephanie Meyer. Or James Patterson. Or… and so it goes. I’m fine with that, but if that’s the case, that means I’m not going to see much in the ways of compensation for making my books available for free.
Ah, but I get to promote it for five days every 90 days. Hooray? So does everyone else. While it’d admittedly be more promotion than I’m doing now, that’s a temporary situation. I somehow doubt five days of promotion, along with the others thousands of people who’ve signed up (27000 signed up the first day, or so I’ve seen claimed), is going to do much.
Besides, one also has to grant Amazon exclusivity of the book for 90 days. That means no selling at Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and on and on. I don’t sell exclusively on Amazon, and I’m not going to grant them exclusivity.
There’s a couple smaller catches that go with the exclusivity thing, namely that Amazon auto-enrolls your book every 90 days if you don’t tell them not to, and should you remove your book or publish it elsewhere during the exclusivity period, they beat you with a stick (well, they hold onto your earnings, but then that’s really your fault).
Smashwords has a fairly lengthy blog post up going into why this is such a bad deal. Granted, they have a horse in this race because they’re an ebook publisher, but I actually agree with most of the sentiment. Mark Coker is pretty much spot-on in it, but he’d earn a lot more good will by having his damn company accept epubs instead of crappy Word files (hello! Standards!), not that I’m particularly bitter about it (or the time I have to spend making said crappy Word files).