Amazon have announced the continuation of KDP Select All-Stars, a perk for authors who enroll in KDP Select in the U.S., UK, and Germany: the chance to earn bonus cash if you or your book falls in the top 100 for the month of October. The top 10 most-read authors on Amazon.com will each be paid $25,000; the top 10 on Amazon.co.uk will receive £2,000; and the top 10 on Amazon.de will receive €3,000. In theory, an author can be top selling on all three sites, and be paid for each site. Authors who sell in the top 11–100 receive cash prizes in descending amounts. Similarly, if your book (but not necessarily you) lands in the top 10, you will receive $2,500/£500/€750. Titles that fall in the top 11–100 also receive a cash bonus. Rankings are determined by the total number of sales plus borrows on Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) and qualifying downloads in Kindle Unlimited.
This new perk is very alluring, but as with all KDP Select programs, the bigger winner is Amazon:
- Select drives adoption of the Kindle: consumers cannot access KOLL loans through a Kindle app, only an actual Kindle device;
- Select drives membership to Amazon Prime (a requirement of consumer enrollment in KOLL), whose members spend on average 130% more than non-Prime Amazon customers;
- exclusivity of titles draws more consumers to Kindle. Amazon lose money on each Kindle they sell but expect to make their money back (and then some) by selling content, and Select is a clever way to boost those sales;
- as mentioned in my previous post on Kindle Unlimited, KDP Select titles are automatically included in the new streaming service ($9.99 per month), which Amazon are keen to build up; and
- in January 2015, Amazon will lose their consumer sales tax advantage in both the UK and Germany; All-Stars is an obvious attempt to shore up titles before Amazon’s market share is threatened and ultimately eroded by the new legislation, which is intended and expected to shift sales from Amazon to national retailers. (Amazon state they will also pay a bonus for KOLL loans in France and Japan, but no figures or other details are provided.)
As for authors, is this new perk worth it? The program favours authors with multiple titles, since their sales are aggregated when determining sales rank.
It also favours those already in the top tiers, since one’s current sales determine one’s position in the Amazon search results and therefore your exposure. And these are overall sales rankings, not the top 100 in any given category; therefore, the program favours genre writers with a broad appeal. If you write more complex fiction, or non-fiction, your chance of a cash bonus decreases exponentially.
The program also favours authors who sell in these three key markets; you will notice the program does not count sales outside of these markets.
If you enroll in KDP Select but your sales are chiefly outside the U.S., UK, or Germany, those sales are irrelevant.
There is also ambiguity in the wording on the All-Stars page.
First it says, “The KDP Select books and authors that are read the most each month become KDP Select All-Stars”; later it states, “To calculate the rankings, we combine the total number of books sold, plus qualified borrows from KU and KOLL during the month.” However, one can buy an ebook and not read it right away, and a KOLL loan remains on one’s device until one borrows another ebook; again, there is no time limit. So how are the rankings determined, by the number of ebooks read or by sales? These two figures are not synonymous.
The wording also says “books” not “ebooks.” If you have your ebook in KDP Select but you also sell a print version, do those print sales count toward your ranking? If so, then the program favours those with a print version as well as an ebook. If print book sales do not count, and I suspect they may not, how is that fair? Amazon are still getting their exclusivity through KDP Select; why would print sales not be eligible in determining sales rank?
Amazon are also silent on the issue of sales during the month. If you put your book on sale and take out an ad to drive traffic to Amazon, thereby pushing up your title’s sales for the month, do you still qualify for an All-Star ranking? In the absence of anything to the contrary, one would assume so; are we now going to see even more “sales” on ebook titles by authors hoping to temporarily inflate their numbers? And if everyone is employing the same strategy, how will that dilute your efforts?
So far, the details on KDP All-Stars are so sketchy that I am left with more questions than answers.
In The Global Indie Author and in a previous posts (see here and here) I have looked at the problem of the exclusivity that KDP Select requires. It is my opinion that unless you really have a shot at reaching the top 100 — you’re already popular in the UK or U.S or Germany, and you write genre fiction — you can achieve just as much on Amazon outside KDP Select as in it.