Yesterday, Amazon’s Kindle Scout opened for business. Writer Beware has done an excellent job of dissecting the program and its contract, so I will send you over there for the details, and only address the one issue that all Amazon programs are intended to do: build up Amazon’s dominance through author exclusivity.
In the third edition of The Global Indie Author I take the position that authors who give Amazon exclusivity through programs such as KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited are potentially shooting themselves in the foot,
especially in light of expected shifts in the European market (I’ll be blogging about that more in the coming weeks), and such authors are already losing out on potential sales outside of North America and the UK where Amazon have not achieved the same dominance. While many authors may think this inconsequential since they primarily write for and sell to the English-language market, one must consider lost potential sales in countries like Australia and New Zealand, or in India where ebook sales are not dominated by Amazon but by Flipkart with their 80% market share. And if you are an author writing in a language other than English, Amazon and the Kindle format may not be your best option for maximizing sales and distribution.
More importantly, we need other retails players to achieve a balanced and robust industry. A failure of the likes of Kobo, Google Play, B&N, Apple, the host of European national retailers, and the retail players in emerging markets, would be a failure for all of us.
Yet many indie authors, having witnessed comparatively anemic sales on other platforms, willingly give Amazon exclusivity in exchange for the opportunity to enroll in Amazon’s promotional programs. However, the anemic sales on other platforms is a reflection of Amazon’s dominance in the United States, which is where most indie authors focus their marketing efforts, yet this approach ignores the biggest advantage digital publishing gives us: easy access to a worldwide market. The U.S. is the largest market for ebooks, but it is not the only market: my novel, Baby Jane, has sold more copies in Canada and Australia than in the United States. The Global Indie Author has been sold as far away as Pakistan because I did not limit myself to Amazon. And Baby Jane has sold 93% more copies on Kobo than on Amazon because I took advantage of promotional opportunities on Kobo that did not require me to give them exclusivity.
All Amazon indie programs are designed to benefit Amazon much more than they benefit authors (for one example, Kindle Countdown, see here).
Kindle Scout makes a lot of vague promises, and will benefit only a few outliers while demanding exclusivity from thousands of indie authors. As Writer Beware points out:
On the other hand, Kindle Scout seems to occupy an uneasy middle ground between publishing and self-publishing, embracing characteristics of both while offering the benefits of neither. As with a traditional publisher, you must agree to an exclusive contract that takes control of certain of your rights–but you don’t get the editing, proofing, artwork, or any of the other financial investments that a traditional publisher would provide. As with self-publishing, your book is published exactly as you submit it, with no developmental input or support–but you don’t have control of pricing and you receive a smaller percentage of sales proceeds than you would with KDP.
For Amazon, Kindle Scout is super-low risk publishing with the potential for substantial yield–not just from books that prove popular but from the influx of new users to its website. For authors, it’s the usual dilemma: does what you may gain outweigh what you don’t get, and what you must give up?
I would answer “No.” Once again, the biggest advantage falls to Amazon.