Jamais Plus Free! or: Wait, Am I Going Steady With Amazon?

Just received an email that Amazon has made a special KDP Select option available on its Kindle Direct Publishing platform, which what many authors–including me–use to publish our work for Kindle. Which is awesome. I know a lot of corporate publishers, literary agents, retailers, and authors are wary of Amazon, its continued growth, and its possible dominance, but for many of us–again, myself included–it’s been uniquely empowering.

The new Select option is interesting; authors who agree to digital exclusivity with Amazon can both make their books available as part of Kindle’s new Lending Library and take advantage of free promotions.

I decided to try it out to see what I could see. I went ahead and enrolled “Jamais Plus: Explorations in the Curious Case of the Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe”, while at the same time increasing its “normal” price to non-promotional level (and taking advantage of that free promotion). “Jamais Plus” is a choose-your-own-adventure noir, a twisting-winding throwback to the adventure novels so many of us grew up on, in which C. Auguste Dupin investigates the death of the man who made him an infamous detective. It required substantial and specialized coding to make it work on Kindle, and it’s sort of even more a reading experience than a story.

In addition, it’s not available anywhere else, because I coded it for Kindle. I haven’t even considered trying to make it an ePub (though I have considered making it an app).

I’m not yet sure how I feel about it. I like the designator that appears next to it in searching, as it looks almost highlighted, and it’s nice that it’s got a nice bold “Free for Prime members!” tag. I’m well aware I’m doing some free advertising for Kindle, but then again, I wouldn’t, wouldn’t I? I love Kindle.

I don’t mind digital exclusivity for “Jamais Plus,” though I’m not sure how I feel about digital exclusivity in general. My resistance is simple: I’m a firm believer in making stories accessible to as many readers as I can.

On the other hand, though I believe it, I don’t quite practice it that well.

Out of eight books on Kindle, only three are available on Barnes & Noble (Entrekin, Meets Girl, and “Struck by the Light of the Son”). On the other hand, there’s a reason for this; my sales on Barnes & Noble’s site have been so negligible as to be basically irrelevant.

That’s not really true, as no sales are irrelevant, but the only reason more than 99% of my sales haven’t come through Amazon is because my work with Lulu skews the data.

Still, even though I might not sell many books right now, writing and publishing are about the long game. Though it’s accounted for the vast majority of my own sales, according to this article discussing B&N’s unsuccessful search for a buyer:

The Kindle has 67% of the e-reader market in the U.S., followed by the Nook at 22%, according to a February report from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) Amazon also generates 58% of e-book sales, followed by Barnes & Noble’s 27% and Apple at 9%.

Nook hasn’t caught on among independent authors in the same way Kindle has, but still, going exclusive with Amazon seems to ignore a full 27% of the market. The Apple data is skewing, given that apps for both Kindle and Nook are available for iOS.

These numbers will change this month. Especially with the Kindle Fire, which is going to beat the Nook Tablet quite handily, I think.

So what do authors get in exchange for hitching their rides exclusively to Amazon?

To be honest, the payment system, which assumes a single large slush fund of which authors receive a portion based on books loaned, may be getting the most attention, but I think–especially for independent authors–that bit’s largely irrelevant. Mostly because if I were a Prime member, and I got to borrow one book, every month, for free, without other limitation, I’d borrow a really high-priced book, not something selling for a few bucks. So the important question for me isn’t going to be whether it’s necessary to have my novels on B&N.

I’m not sure.

More important is the access to free. Up until this new program, the minimum price independent authors could choose was 99 cents. Couldn’t go lower, unless using some other-handed tactics. The most common was using Smashwords to distribute the book free through other retailers (like Apple and B&N and Sony and etc.) and hoping Amazon price-matched your book to free. Results were spotty at best; Amazon price matched at their discretion. And I know; I tried. Entrekin is free on Smashwords (in any format you want) and elsewhere, but remains a buck on Amazon.

As a limited-time promotional tool, free is valuable. It’s an exchange for exposure over profit, but I think, used judiciously, it can be effective.

That said, I’m not sure how useful it is in a long-run. I’m not sure, for example, how many readers who got the book free from Smashwords went on to read other work.

Still, I may consider it for other work. I guess I’ll just see how it goes.

Edit to add: Due to a slight scheduling snafu, “Jamais Plus” will become free at midnight 12/10 rather than 12/9. Honestly, I totally simply clicked the wrong button. Totally my fault.


%d bloggers like this: