Digital Journal had an exclusive video interview with Emily Hill, an indie author and publishing coach and founder of Kindlegate.starts.com, to discuss her experience with the KDP Select Program
, Kindlegate, NaNoWriMo 2012, her coaching business and her interest in the paranormal world.
In the interview, Ms. Hill reveals how she was surprised to see her best selling books suddenly have zero sales in October 2012. She had been selling her books consistently every month and was extensively marketing and promoting her fictional paranormal book series Ghost Chaser's Daughter in preparation for the Hallowe'en season in the KDP Select Program.
The KDP Select program
is Amazon's incentive for authors to sell their ebooks exclusively on the Amazon site for 90 days. The exclusivity means that authors cannot sell or give away their ebooks on other platforms such as Kobo, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Smashwords or even their own website. Another incentive in the program is the ability for authors to choose 5 days within the 90 days term to list their books for free on the Amazon site. Kindle books that are not enrolled in the KDP Select program limits authors' ability to set the lowest selling price for their books to 99 cents. Other perks in the KDP Select program include higher royalties up to 70% for some Amazon networks around the world. Also, Kindle books in the program can be added to the Amazon Prime lending library
which gives Amazon prime members the ability to borrow books for free with certain restrictions which pays authors a percentage from the KDP Select Global Fund
When the KDP Select program was introduced in early 2012, many authors who joined experienced positive results. Some reported on their blogs their Kindle books were downloaded thousands of times during the free days promotions and watched in awe as their Kindle books rose up the best seller list rankings. The higher the rankings meant that their books would have more exposure on the Amazon site based on the Amazon site's algorithm recommendation system. Free book giveaways were being treated as sales which meant that if a free book was downloaded thousands of times, it could push the book up the ranking into the top ten best selling lists competing with popular traditionally published best sellers in the same category.
I joined Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select in February, and ran a free promotion. I was one of the lucky ones. It was early, and the magic hadn’t faded yet. Through KDP’s free promotion, I managed to get my book to a whole bunch of readers, over 50,000 of them the first time around. Since then I’ve been trying to re-conjure the same magic with varying degrees of success. - excerpt from the article Beyond KDP Select, Indies Unlimited
Author publishing coaches like Ms. Hill, recommended to their clients, mainly new indie authors, to join in the KDP Select program based on the success of their own book sales in the program. However, the glow was short lived when Amazon started changing the algorithms
. The changes in the algorithms meant that free book giveaways no longer were equal to a book sale and indie Kindle books began to not appear on the Amazon's website recommendations advertisements.
The Seattle Times reported other complaints against Amazon in the article Amazon sellers complain of tied-up payments, account shutdowns
after reviewing the state records which revealed that Amazon was allegedly holding back payments from some Amazon vendors.
Dozens of online sellers complain that Amazon arbitrarily withholds their payments for as long as three months, jeopardizing their ability to replenish inventories and stay in business, according to a Seattle Times review of state records. - excerpt from Seattle Times
Although the marketing strategies for authors during the early days of the KDP Select program were no longer working, many publishing coaches, like Ms. Hill, stayed in the program, tailoring their approach to book promotion with the changes, understanding that their business model must be flexible to accommodate changes in the market.
Another negative byproduct of KDP Select is that as the program has increased in popularity, there are a lot of free Kindle books out there. Though I don’t have statistics to back this up, knowing human nature and the love for free items, no doubt many people only “buy” books when they are free. - excerpt from the article Pros and Cons of the KDP Select program
Ms. Hill states in the interview that Amazon overall has been very good for indie authors and her books remain in the KDP program which is not to be confused with the KDP Select Program. The KDP Program is non-exclusive and authors can sell on other platforms. The royalties are not as high as in the KDP Select program but with the freedom to sell on other platforms and the large number of people buying Kindle books from the Amazon site, Amazon is still an attractive platform for independent publishers to publish their work.
Her decision to remove her books from the KDP Select program and change her business model started in September of 2012 when the KDP online real-time reporting system started experiencing technical glitches due to Amazon's expansion into the Japan and Brazil markets.
When she checked the KDP sales reports on the KDP site, she was shocked to see zero book sales during her Hallowe'en promotion. This caused Emily to question the accuracy of the sales reports on the KDP site. She started reading the KDP community discussion forum, following the topic thread "Are Your Sales Updating Normally Now?
" which currently has 81 pages of author posts. Other authors started posting that they too were experiencing the same or similar issues with their KDP reports.
Not only did the KDP "frozen screen" issues affect Ms. Hill's books' sales, it was affecting her publishing coaching business. Her whole business model was focused completely on promoting the Amazon platform and the KDP Select Program to independent authors. As the posts in the KDP community discussion forum around the topic "Are Your Sales Updating Normally Now?" grew, Emily decided to take the conversation off the KDP forum and onto the web site Kindlegate.webstarts.com
which she established for authors to share their own experiences and search for answers.
In addition to setting up Kindlegate.starts.com, Ms. Hill proactively removed her books from the KDP Select program once their 90 day terms ended which meant she no longer had to sell her books exclusively on Amazon. She began placing her books on Smashwords.com
, an ebook self-publishing and distribution platform founded by Mark Coker
. Smashwords, although not as big and powerful as its competitor Amazon, has expanded its distribution to other publishing platforms such as iTunes, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and more, attracting thousands of indie authors to add their books.
When asked if Amazon's KDP's reporting system stabilizes, would she consider changing her business model to include promoting the KDP Select program again, Ms. Hill said that she would have to reassess the market and do a thorough analysis before considering it as a viable option for herself and her clients.
In the meantime, while the problems on the KDP Amazon reporting site were brewing, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon was named "2012 Business Person of the Year” in the article Amazon's Jeff Bezos: The ultimate disrupter by Fortune Magazine
on Nov. 16, 2012. Mr. Bezos' interesting personal background was the focus of the Examiner's article 2012 Businessperson of the Year: 10 surprise facts about Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos
. It features Mr. Bezos' childhood experiences and facts about what made him the man he is today.
It is no surprise that as a 3-year-old, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos, tried to dismantle his crib, that as a Montessori preschooler he was so focused on a task that he had to be carried in his chair by his teachers to move him to a new task, that he was “constantly booby-trapping the house with various kinds of alarms and some of them were not just audible sounds, but actually like physical booby-traps” (Academy of Achievement), or that as a high school student he charged his brother and sister to participate in a self-designed summer school program. excerpt from the article 2012 Businessperson of the Year: 10 surprise facts about Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos by The Examiner
In 2012, Mr. Bezos was interviewed by Charlie Rose where he talked about Amazon's latest Kindle and Kindle Fire tablets and how Kindle books can be read on any platform using WhisperSync
Emily Hill is owner of A.V. Harrison Publishing and a member of Pacific Northwest Writers Association and the Small Publishers Association of North America.
Emily Hill, known as The Ghost Chaser’s Daughter, was brought up surrounded by her mother’s Ouija board sessions, flickering candles, and Tarot cards. Emily spent her youth in New Orleans frequenting tea leaves readings and has always had an intense awareness and respect for all that exists on the Other Side of the Grave.
Emily’s first ghost sighting occurred with she was seven years old. Being alone in her house, after her parents had left for work, and as the apparition of her deceased grandfather roamed the house, made her forever aware of things that cannot be explained away in mainstream religious dogma or on scientific terms.
She is currently working on a novel which centers on the history of voodoo and Catholicism in 1850s New Orleans. Release 2013.
To find out more about Emily Hill, her books, Kindlegate, and her author coaching services, go to:
Emily Hill's blog
Smashwords's author page