My KDP Debacle

After reading several IU posts on KDP Select, I decided to give it a try. The novel I used was going to be a re-release of my first book, Project: Dragonslayers.

I figured this was a good idea, since there are currently 2 more books in the series, and I also have a back catalog of other novels and a bunch of short stories. My thinking was if I gave this book away it should help drive sales of everything else. Yeah, right.

I enrolled my book 23 November. About a week later, Amazon sent me an email stating they had found the book on Sony. I explained that it was a first edition and that I had taken down all other versions (that I could find!). Their letter read:

“Please note that digital content that is available elsewhere is not made eligible for KDP Select by adding or removing additional book content, adding a bonus chapter, author’s commentary section, introduction, illustrations, making minor language edits, or changing the book’s cover art, title metadata, etc. We reserve the right to determine the types of Digital Books that we accept in KDP Select.”

I sent an email to Smashwords and asked them to check. They sent me back a nice email explaining that it can take up to 2 weeks to have a book removed from a distributor site, but they would send another email out to make sure. During this time, KDP did not remove my book from Select. I went on and set up some free days: 15 Dec, 25-26 Dec, and 1 Jan.

Up until 15 Dec, I didn’t have ONE, nadda, zilch, zippo, zero download from an Amazon Prime member. Heck, I didn’t even SELL a copy! Wow, this was disheartening. I wondered if I shouldn’t even bother. This was getting me nowhere. When I had the book listed at $4.99, I’d sell a copy every month or two. My Amazon sales, in general, stunk. Meanwhile, on Barnes and Noble, my novels (except Dragonslayers) were selling well. I was baffled.

On the 15th, the first free day, I had a couple of the large eBook sites list the book. I figured I needed all the help I could get. When I checked my “sales” on the morning of the 15th, I had 21 free downloads. Better than a kick in the pants, my grandma always used to say. My hope was that those readers would like the book and come back for more. We’ll see…

At the end of the first day, I had 507 free downloads. This also resulted in two sales of the sequel Dragonslayers: Mind Games and one of Project: Dragonslayers. I was quite pleased. The eBook websites had given me postings, which I’m pretty sure led to that number of downloads. I also posted on Facebook and Twitter.

Then that evening, I got another email from KDP—this time I was being kicked out of Select because they found my book on Barnes and Noble. I sent them an email back telling them I had contacted Smashwords and they said up to 2 weeks to have it removed. GAD! And because I also publish on Pubit, I went in and checked to make sure it was off sale—which it SAID it was. I sent BN an email with the link and asked them to take it down.

Now I was up a creek without a paddle. It was 16 Dec, just 8 days from Christmas, and my next 2 free days (25-26) were getting closer. All I could do was hope BN would take the book down. I even went to all the other Smashwords sites and checked—it was indeed down. Panic was setting in. I’d done quite a bit of marketing to announce the book being free those days, and I didn’t want to disappoint readers. That’s the fastest way to lose customers if you don’t deliver on your promises.

I suppose I should interject a personal lesson from this: if you plan on putting a book up, and have it listed elsewhere, make sure at least a month or more before you do KDP Select, you take it down from all other sites—and monitor to make sure it’s down. The KDP Nazis are watching!

Now it was really getting down to the wire. Finally, after I don’t know how many emails to BN, I got the following on 18 Dec:

Kathy,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’re working with the necessary teams to investigate and address this issue as soon as possible.

Sincerely,
The PubIt! Team

And that was the last I heard from them. The book continued to be stuck in “processing” status for over a week! And it still appeared on the site. I emailed Amazon and PLEADED for them to take me back. All I got was this on 23 Dec:

Hello,

I’ve re-reviewed your book and confirmed it doesn’t meet our KDP Select content guidelines.

In order for your book to become eligible for KDP Select, it must be exclusive to Amazon in digital format. Books are considered exclusive to Amazon when we have the exclusive right to sell and distribute the content of your 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, the content of your book in digital format.

Here is where your book, Project: Dragonslayers (2nd ed) (Dragonslayers Saga) (ID: B0066DL8Q0), is available:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/project-k-rowe/1113023232?ean=2940013578388

Please copy and paste the entire URL above into your web browser to see where we found your book. You can do an online search for your book to discover which, if any, other sites may also be offering it.

Your book is not eligible for KDP Select at this time; however, it will still remain for sale in the Kindle Store and will be eligible for re-enrollment once it complies with the KDP Select requirements. Upon making your book exclusive, please reach out to kdp-compliance@amazon.com so that you can re-enroll it into the program.

Check out this page to learn more about these guidelines:

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=200798990#eligibility

Thank you for your interest in publishing with Amazon KDP.

Adam B
Amazon.com

What was I going to do? I had several more eBook sites going to be promoting the book. How could I get it to readers for free? I knew the sites would give the link to Amazon- how could I covertly steer them to Smashwords to get the book for free? My “Plan B” was this—I inserted the following into the book description on Amazon:

“Due to a computer malfunction on another site, Project: Dragonslayers was removed from KDP Select. If you would like a free download, go to smashwords.com and type in the title in the search box. The book will be free from 25 Dec to 1 Jan. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

I hoped the KDP Nazis wouldn’t find it, so I didn’t just insert the direct link to Smashwords. That surely would have gotten me busted. Fingers crossed this would do the trick and folks would find it and go there. I also Tweeted and posted the Smashwords link on Facebook, and even Stage32.com. I didn’t want to disappoint readers. Heck, it was a free Christmas present!

So what have I taken away from all this? I will NEVER do KDP Select again. In doing more research, that juicy global incentive fund—yeah, you only get a cut of that if someone borrows your book from the lending library. Since I have not had a single book ever downloaded from the lending library, I won’t get a cut of that fund. Personally, I think that’s a bit of a sham.

Now you have my whole story. Yes, I learned a painful lesson and won’t repeat it. All I wanted to do was to promote my book to a large audience and what did it get me? Major headaches. I hope anyone else thinking of doing Select will take every precaution necessary to prevent what happened to me. I thought I did, but evidently not.

Author: Kathy Rowe (K. Rowe)

K. Rowe is an experienced and prolific multi-genre author. She draws from over twenty years of active military service, stationed at various bases around the U.S.A. and in Europe. She retired as a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. Kathy now lives in eastern Kentucky with her husband. Learn more about Kathy from her blog, and her Amazon author page.

48 thoughts on “My KDP Debacle”

  1. So sorry you had such a bad experience. Mine wasn’t great but because i am a bit of a cynic I went the KDP route before putting my books on Smashwords. Even so, I’m not sure it was worth the wait.

  2. (Advance warning: I broke a bone in my foot and am on Vicodin right now. If I sound a little rough here, that’s why. I wouldn’t ordinarily post to the Internet while on pain meds, but this is important.)

    Kathy, you got very lucky.

    When you sign up for Select, you are agreeing to a set of terms. It is your legal obligation to live up to those terms. In this case, you failed to follow the terms of the contract. You put up a book for a program which requires exclusivity that you hadn’t verified was exclusive.

    It’s not Amazon’s fault. Amazon would have been in their rights to shut off your KDP account. Technically, they could have done so. They didn’t. Ensuring your book meets the terms of the Select contract is YOUR job.

    This is a business, guys. You CANNOT afford to enter into contracts with companies without understanding what they mean and what your obligations are. In other words, you need to actually verify for yourself that the book is no longer available on any other retailers before putting it into Select.

    I don’t believe KDP Select is a good program anymore. It was, once, a powerful boon to some indies. That hasn’t been the case for quite a while. I don’t feel that losing other markets is really worth the slim boost those free downloads now give. The algorithm has been altered: freebies count for VERY little now in terms of boosting visibility. You literally have to give away something like 5000-10,000 copies to see much movement in actual sales once the free event is over.

    1. Yes, lesson learned. And I had checked and it was gone. Don’t know how BN managed to get it back up, but best laid plans were sabotaged. Not going down that road anymore.

  3. i did my first ebook Shattered Dreams: Poems, Chants and Short Stories, co-written with JD Couch on KDP last year and there was never a peep or a toot…the whole 3 months…i really think it is a waste of time to even bother with it; plus it freezes you from other platforms during that time, and only my first day of free downloads really generated any downloads the other two days were dribbles.

  4. How awful for you, Kathy. Sorry that you had such a bad experience. KDP is picky. You have to google your title first to make sure it’s not being sold anywhere else besides the main outlets. I was amazed at the places my book turned up. I found it on a site about traveling to Egypt, and on one about planning a wedding! It’s a paranormal suspense novel. No idea how either site got hold of it.
    And it’s not just where the book is being sold, either. You can’t have an excerpt that is more than 10% of the book anywhere, even your own website or blog.
    Your advice is good: start at least a month before you plan on joining KDP, IF you do.

  5. I had a similar problem but it wasn’t Amazon or BN at fault, but the Smashwords distribution channels. Since then, I’ve removed my books from Smashwords and list them individually on Amazon, BN, Kobo, etc and the books are listed/delisted within 24 hours instead of 2-3 weeks.

    1. Actually Smashwords was very helpful. They emailed me and explained that it could take up to 2 weeks to get the book down. It was BN that was the problem. Even though I unpublished the book from my BN Pubit account (and it SAID off sale)- it still appeared on their website. By the time BN even BOTHERED to get back to me, it was too late and KDP had kicked me out. It finally took BN until the 27th of Dec to get the book down. By then, Plan B had been enacted. At least KDP didn’t catch me on that one- but only resulted in less than a down downloads.

  6. I did try KDP select when it first came out and had minimal success. The lesson you learned was difficult, but I have to say the fault was Smashwords, not KDP Select. I have had major issues with getting updated version of covers through to the premium distributors through smashwords – forget 2 week, I had one distributor still listing my books after 5 months and multiple emails.

    I do sell more on Amazon than any other distributor, but I don’t know that I will ever go exclusive with them again. Despite the problems with data, Smashwords is the only place you can put you book up for free without any restrictions.

    1. SW was helpful, and I can’t ding them. BN was the issue. And yes, I like to be able to put up a book for free, and Az and BN won’t let you do that. I actually make more from BN than Az, but not going to burn any bridges if I can help it. Any $ from selling a few books helps.

  7. Thanks for sharing your experience and I’ve tweeted the article.

    Personally, I’ve never been interested in enrolling in Select because I see it as giving too much power to Amazon. I also believe in competition and getting your name and work seen on as many sites as possible. Also, I don’t want to alienate any readers who have preferred sites to buy other than Amazon, I’m always asked if a new release will be available on Apple as well B&N etc and I always answer ‘yes’. I have excerpts on many writing sites too, which is more than what is allowed with Select, but it drives sales.

  8. Honestly? Free promotions help spread the word about your novels, but the practice has gotten SO out of hand it’s killing indie publishing, They just don’t want to buy the cow when they can get the milk for free, OK? This year I propose a NEW indie revolution—campaign to get your titles downloaded to EVERY indie bookstore, every library and every aggregator you possibly can. When amazon keeps changing the rules, i.e.WHEN you might get the royalties they actually own you? Now 60 days out–I’m betting they change it to 90 days before they post a first quarter loss–it’s time for self pubbers and indie presses to do some hard thinking about how and where to market their titles elsewhere,

  9. Hmmm, I hear you, Kathy, and I haven’t had, quite, as bad an experience but I did the same thing at about the same time and managed to slip through; however, the results more or less were fairly inconsequential in the scheme of things, and so I don’t think I’ll be doing the trip again.

    Thanks for sharing, Kathy. I wish you all the very best for 2013, have a great literary year!

  10. Great information! Sorry you have had such a bad time with that. This publishing industry is a strange beast for sure. We are exclusive with KDP but have good response with freebies but hardly any borrows. The algorithm must be so slanted or there are not a lot of Amazon Prime members being informed of the books? Trying to figure out all the silly SEO’s now and find that the social marketing takes up lots of time. I think that for every book downloaded for free, Amazon should give you $1.00 for us allowing them to list it!

    1. Hey, I love that idea! I’d have $507 in the bank! Borrowing seems to be a non-existent thing. No wonder they can offer such huge pots of $$, if no one gets books borrowed, no one gets a share. Quite the racket.

      1. Of course Amazon is going to make mega bucks…but at whose expense? The author out there believes that going through KDP will make the “fund” available to capture. Where is their obligation to support the author? Instead of all of these books being offered for free…they should offer them for $1.00 and that dollar goes directly to the author. It is a giant ponzi scheme or something in favor of Amazon. However, the upside is the exposure the book gets. I just think the author is the one not getting anything in return. Of course, if people can get them for free, what is the point in buying? I have read different comments from readers that they have thousands of books in their Kindle and can’t even begin to start reading them all. It costs mega dollars for making the book available for sale and writing it originally! There should be some kind of incentive for the author…I don’t know exactly what that would be. Maybe opening up the market for the Prime members so that we can have exposure there somehow!

      2. Doesn’t quite work like that. 😉 If even one book is borrowed, that book gets the entire pot. So if one Kindle user borrows one book and that’s it for the month, that lucky author gets the ENTIRE month’s pot.

        What’s actually been happening is writers are getting about $1.50-2.00 per loan. So you can divide the pot by that number and get a good idea how many loans are actually being made each month. It’s a couple hundred thousand per month.

        The KLL loans strongly favor higher priced ebooks though. If you are choosing one book to borrow for free, which would you choose: the one for $9.99, or the one for $2.99? 😉 Most folks use their one borrow a month on a higher priced book.

        1. Wow…that is incredible information!! We have been wondering why we don’t get more borrows. Could it just be the pricing? Wow…great information. Do you have a blog that I could reference for that information? Thank you so much!

  11. Kathy, my sympathies. Sounds like you had an absolutely awful experience.

    I think KDP Select works best (or used to work at all) when you make your book exclusive to them *first*, without publishing it anywhere else. That’s what I did with “Seized” and had no trouble. The downside, of course, is that your book’s launch date will be three months later on every other platform than at Amazon — which doesn’t matter to a Nook owner, maybe, unless they’re a big fan of yours and are waiting your new book. Way to annoy your fan base.

    I’m a member of Amazon Prime, and I can tell you that Amazon does *no* special promotion of the book lending feature to Prime members. Also, you have to have an actual Kindle in order to be able to borrow a book, which cheesed me off before I bought myself a Kindle a couple of weeks ago. But really, borrowing indie books doesn’t make much sense. Why borrow a book when you can spend a couple of bucks and own it? It’s not like it’s taking up shelf space – if you hate it, you can just delete it.

    1. Interesting. No one ever mentioned that Az doesn’t give any special promotion to borrowing books. No wonder I didn’t have a single borrow the entire time– probably no one heard of it! And I do have a Kindle, but prefer to use my Kindle for PC (yeah, I’m lazy). So that probably would have made it a bummer for some folks. Thanks for the info.

  12. I to went through the same exercise with Smashwords. I don’t blame KDP or Smashwords, my culprit was B/N. I found out when calling them, that in order to have a title removed in a timely manner is to contaact their author email and not the general help email. It was removed within 24 hours. But it took (like you said), two weeks to get to find the right contact.

    I have had limited success, but then, it’s better than none. I have since listed one title with Wise Grey Owl. I like this site because when you click on your title, you get see how many people looked at the title and actually clicked to check out the book.

    Best of luck with future sales.

    1. Lois, don’t forget that KDP and the Select program are two very different things. 😉 I don’t generally favor the Select program, myself. But writers are strongly recommended to use KDP – most writers earn 90%+ of their income from the Amazon retail platform.

  13. Thanks for sharing the story of your disaster encounter with KDP. Sorry it was so awful. I’ve just enrolled on it – not expecting much to happen now. Haven’t done my free promotion yet. Will let you know but am not holding my breath!

  14. What an experience, Kathy! This is one of the reasons that one of my small Presses, a cooperative, doesn’t wish to go that route. I also feel that by offering our books in many other venues, we stand a chance of gaining greater exposure: hence sales.

    Blaze McRob

    1. Agreed, Blaze. Just wanted to try ant see if it would help my sales. Naw, not really. So I will stick to my BIG 3: Az, BN, and SW for my ebook publishing. That way no one can say that I didn’t cover their ereader platform. As for print, I make that available too. But the majority of my sales are ebooks.

  15. Kathy, thanks for the head’s up. My latest, “Why Are People So Stupid?” is on KDP Select, but I had uploaded to Smashwords to check my formatting first. Silly me. I checked, and they had made it available for sale on a limited basis. I guess Amazon didn’t find out. I’ve since unpublished it there, although I sold more copies than on Amazon.
    FWIW I gave away 200 copies for free, sold 2 copies and loaned 1. Not a real good output/income ratio. As soon as my three months is up, I’m going out into the big, wide, net.
    Thanks also to Jeff for the tip about Wise Grey Owl. They look good.

  16. Oh dear. I am sorry about your experience, but I think the lesson needs to be something different than never use KDP Select. Instead, it needs to be, make sure you read all the Amazon information, forum discussions, blog posts, about any strategy before you try it. KDP Select will do nothing for your book if your book isn’t visible in any categories that people browse in. If you just have the book in KDP Select and do nothing else–you are simply losing books that you might have sold elsewhere.

    What it does is give you a method of getting that book visible–doing free promotions–since when the book is free it will show up in the category free lists.

    For example, if you have a hard-boiled mystery, chances are without promotions it is not going to be found among the 8000 others on this category. But, if it is free, it will be on the list of 40 or so free books–and therefore visible–the first step to people buying your book.

    But If your promotions aren’t planned well in advance, if you don’t go out and sign up (and maybe even pay a small amount) for the various sites that advertise free Kindle books, if you don’t go on the 20 or so facebook sites that list free books daily, and if you don’t do your own promoting-through blog posts, tweeting, etc, the chances are that your downloads won’t be large enough to translate into showing up on the top 100 of the category for your book after the promotion is over–again your book is invisible, to sales or borrows.

    However, if you do all the above work, and your book is in the right categories, has a great cover, snappy description, decent price, etc, there is a very good chance that you downloads will be enough to get you into the top of one of those category lists for a few weeks afterwards. This is when you get sales, and borrows.

    Even with the new algorithm,, my post christmas promotion (6000 downloads of my first book, and 24,000 of my second–which I had used BookBub to promote) did put these two books into the top of the historical mystery category, and I have sold over 300 books and had over 500 borrows (and my books are only 3.99) in the past 2 days. This won’t hold up for long, I will have to do subsequent promotions to keep it visible, but this is probably more books sold than I would have gotten in an entire year on the other sites.

    I know this doesn’t work for everyone. But I would hate for authors who have books that Amazon readers respond well to (genre books) , or whose books aren’t selling well elsewhere, to not even give KDP Select a try because of the negative experiences of other authors who didn’t really understand how the process worked, and therefore had unrealistic expectations and disappointments.

    1. Oh, I’d contacted quite a few sites that list free ebooks well in advance. I was “sure” I had the book down in enough time that KDP Nazis would come across nothing- that was a mistake. BN was my sticking point- they took their sweet time in removing it even though I unpublished it, and Smashwords removed their copy. I did post on FB in numerous free ebook sites, I tweeted, messaged, even some emails to let folks know when it was going to be free. Really, had BN been more timely, this whole experiment would have gone off much better.

      If anything, I was relaying that if you plan to do this, REALLY verify that your book is down on all other sites before even thinking of doing Select. Since this was a 1st vs 2nd edition, that also caused problems. Yes, had it been a “new” release, I would have had no problems. But it was also mentioned in a post above that Prime members are rarely notified of books that are free. So KDP isn’t helping authors much on that level.

  17. What a nightmare for you 🙁 You poor thing.
    I have avoided KDP Select. I don’t like their exclusivity clause. So far, I’m glad I have. The free promotions are awesome, but thankfully Smashwords lets you do those too 🙂

  18. Yes, had I not had the other version floating around, the experiment would have gone better. I did read all the “fine print” and despite thinking I could pull it off, the hair still stood up on the back of my neck. I’ll continue to publish through KDP, but I don’t think I’ll do Select again. It just didn’t give me the sales boost I was hoping for, and I love doing free on Smashwords- they are a great site and need some love.

  19. Kathy, thank you for sharing this post and your experience with KDP Select and B&N. This is valuable information and I, too, have found B&N to be very slow in responding. Personally, I don’t go the route of exclusivity because I only have two ebooks available right now (series books) and I didn’t think it would boost awareness. I have found the more visibility I have the better. I love the fact that I can get an instant coupon on Smashwords to give free ebooks when readers “Comment” to me on FB. Hugs to Smashwords!

  20. Thanks for sharing this valuable information. I have a print book, Hiding in a Cave of Trunks, that is doing amazingly well. I couldn’t do the conversion to Kindle myself because I paid someone to format in inDesign—which KDP doesn’t accept without a free downloadable conversion —so I eventually paid CreatSpace $70 to convert and am still waiting for word that it’s done. I was going to use Select, but am doubting the success more and more. I’m considering Bookbaby to upload everywhere—more expenses, but there’s no option. I have no intention of studying inDesign, but will never give someone control over my work again.
    I’ll continue to follow this story, and wish you luck, whatever your future publishing decisions.

    1. Why pay anyone to format??!! If you download Mobipocket (free) and then you input a Word 97-2003 doc (not Word 2010). It will format into Mobi (Kindle) for you. Just remember that when you have a scene break (where you would normally put double spacing between scenes) you must “Insert Space After Paragraph” and that should make your mss look good. It may take some trial and error (start with a short story first) but when you get the hang of it, you’ll never have to pay anyone to convert again! — This coming from someone who offers formatting and conversion services— We’re all Indies, we need to help each other out.

      http://www.mobipocket.com/en/DownloadSoft/ProductDetailsCreator.asp

      Best of luck!

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