Like so many others I got the email yesterday inviting me to enroll in KDP Select and potentially earn great profits from letting people "borrow" my ebook. So I took to the writer forums and list on twitter to see what other people w/ more epublishing experience had to say about it. I've seen comment ranging from, "I'm yanking my books off smashword and BN right now!" to "It's all a big conspiracy to cheat indie authors and kill indie publishing." but the general consensus seems to be one of skepticism. The sticking point for most people, me included, seems to be the exclusivity. Maybe it's because I'm an iPad reader and former nook reader, but I don't really like the idea of limiting my readers to one source for access to my work. Yes, I know there's a Kindle app for the iPad and I have nothing against the Kindle as a device (except maybe for the annoying blonde chick in the commercials), but I also want as many readers as I can get. I know that Amazon has an enormous market share, but shrinking my market just seems like a bad idea.
I'm also skeptical of the numbers in the email. Seeing as my book has only been out there for 3 weeks and I've only sold one copy (thanks, Dad:) the idea that an indie like me w/ one little book would ever reach 1% seems just crazy. So I don't expect that I, nor many other new indie authors would be making much of that allotted $500K/month. A commenter on this blog did a pretty good breakdown of the numbers. I may be stretching it, but since The White House is only .99, that means that I already get just .32 out of every book I sell. Sure the potential with KDP Select is there for my little ebook to make much more than that with even 1% of borrows like the email says. But without a traditional marketing and promotion machine I suspect the reality would be more like .oooooo1% and I would end up making less than my measly .32.
In addition to the question of money, there are the pitfalls of the Terms and Conditions. This blog has a good examination of the potential legal issues.
"1 Exclusivity. When you include a Digital Book in KDP Select, you give us the exclusive right to sell and distribute your Digital Book in digital format while your book is in KDP Select. During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or content that is reasonably likely to compete commercially with your Digital Book, diminish its value, or be confused with it), in digital format in any territory where you have rights."
I think the scariest language here is in the parenthesis "(or content that is reasonably likely to compete commercially with your Digital Book, diminish its value, or be confused with it)". Who decides what is "reasonably likely to compete commercially"? Is that to say that if you have one series of YA Paranormal Romance (because after Twilight, doesn't everybody) on KDP Select and another different series in the same genre available on Smashwords that could be deemed competition. And of course if it is, you're done with KDP Select and Amazon will...
"...not owe you Royalties for that Digital Book earned through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Program, and we may offset any of those Royalties that were previously paid against future Royalties, or require you to remit them to us. We may also withhold your Royalty payments on all your Digital Books for a period of up to 90 days while we investigate. This doesn’t limit other remedies we have, such as prohibiting your future participation in KDP Select or KDP generally."
That just sounds scary.
Something else that I think many authors who don't read carefully may get caught by is the Smashwords policy of keeping books that have been unpublished available to the people who purchased before it was unpublished so that they can always get a copy of it. Sure, the book isn't for sale anymore on Smashwords, but people will be able to download it if they have before. How will KDP handle that, will they see it as violating their exclusivity? Given the potential for Amazon to kick you off and keep your earnings, I fear for the few writers I saw on Kindleboards who were "removing" their books from Smashwords and putting all their eggs in the KDP Select basket.
This is not to say that there is nothing in KDP Select's favor.
I spent 11 years working for Intuit the makers of QuickBooks (No, I will not troubleshoot your QuickBooks/Quicken/TurboTax issues) which maintains an 85% share of the small business market. Microsoft once tried to break into that market with a competing program, but users were so entrenched in QuickBooks that the tech behemoth quickly gave up on their competing program and discontinued it in less than two years. Amazon is the Intuit of epublishing. Their market share is so huge, that most successful indie authors make the vast majority of their money from KDP. So, it's conceivable that going exclusively to KDP and embracing anything they have to offer would be to an author's benefit.
It's also good to remember that this is a numbers game. KDP Select has alotted $500K/month to go out to those people who participate no matter how many or few people that is. Since the majority of writers I'm seeing in the forums are taking a wait and see attitude toward KDP Select, there seems to be a lot of potential for the few early adopters to get a lot of exposure and a good share of that money. Naturally, as the months go on and the library grows, that potential share that participating authors can get will be reduced by the number of books that are added. Still, there is a lot of opportunity for those who jump in early (providing their don't run afoul of the exclusivity and non-compete clauses).
Finally, Mark Coker at Smashwords makes some interesting points on his blog about what KDP Select might mean for the epublishing industry as a whole. Obviously as the founder of Smashwords, he's got a bit of an ax to grind, but he has some very good points.