Early Evaluation of KDP Select Program
Wow. It's been two months since I checked in with Amazon rankings, and saw how indies were doing. In October, my survey showed that while traditional presses still dominated the top 10 in most genres, indie published books owned over 50% of the top 200 Amazon ebooks in romance, fantasy, mystery, thriller, science fiction, and horror genres. It was an amazing coup for indies, at the time. Powerful movement to the top seats across the board in fiction.
I went back last night to peek, and was floored by the results. Here's the survey of the top 20 ebooks on Amazon in many genres. I'd welcome folks pointing out anything they see which I might have missed.
2 major press publications; 2 small press; 16 self published; 17 available on the Kindle Lending Library (KLL).
7 major press publications; 13 self published books; 10 books on KLL. Incidentally, the ONLY AUTHORS in the top 20 fantasy books who were not self published were George R.R. Martin and one book by Stephanie Meyer. With six of the seven titles all by one author (single books and a collection of his books), it's not as good as it looks for major publishers.
2 major press publications; 2 small press published books; 16 self published books; 11 books on KLL.
A bright point for major publishers - 6 major press titles in the top 20; two small press; 12 self published books; 11 books on the KLL. This last is very important - all of the KLL books were self published, which means only one self published book made the top 20 without being in KLL.
A few things stand out here. First, that indie (by which I mean self published) dominance of ebooks has extended. Where once indies were largely excluded from the top 10 but dominant in the top 200, they now control a majority of the top 10 in many genres, and the top 20 in all genres surveyed. That's a dramatic change. In this, the biggest sales period of the year for print publishers, to see indies simply step in and take over such an overwhelming majority of the top seats is unprecedented.
How did it happen?
If you go back to the numbers above, you'll quickly see that the majority of the indie books which made the top 20 were enrolled in Kindle Select, a program which lets writers trade exclusivity on Amazon for entrance into the Kindle Lending Library. There's been enormous debate over whether such a move is worthwhile to indies. Now the early evidence is in - and is strongly in favor of getting at least one book into KLL.
KLL loans out one book per month to all Amazon Prime members with Kindle devices. Those loans count as "sales" for purposes of Amazon Ranking placement, which means if a couple hundred people borrow your book, your ranking will go up very fast. This in turn creates more visibility for the book, which radically boosts overall sales, spurring the book even higher. KLL board are fairly consistently outperforming other Kindle books across the board right now, as a result. In addition, the author is paid a percentage of a monthly pool of money, based on units loaned.
So the initial numbers, at least, are in. KLL and KDP Select are boosting sales of indies in a very dramatic, very visible way. Coupled with continued insistence by major publishers on charging $10-15 for ebooks, this has accelerated the trend toward indie publishers gaining greater market share. This is bad news for the publishers, who are using the higher prices to help keep print sales alive while transitioning to digital, and who have been working hard to keep their books out of the Kindle Lending Library. They might still be successful on both counts; but their moves are having the side effect of ceding most of the ebook market to competitors.