More and more, Amazon and Amazon companies are encouraging or requiring authors and publishers to use them exclusively. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) offers free ISBNs, KDP Select allows for extra marketing options, and ACX will allow budget-restricted publishers/authors a chance to get an audiobook created and produced for free in exchange for 50% of the profits. All of these options give authors opportunities that they would otherwise have to work harder for, but in exchange, they require that you agree to work with them exclusively. Let’s take a look at them one by one:
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP): Free ISBNs, But With a Cost
This enticing offer “gives” a free ISBN to an author wanting to publish. But when you read the fine-print on the KDP site, you will see the following statements: “This free ISBN can only be used on KDP for distribution to Amazon and its distribution partners. It cannot be used with another publisher or self-publishing service.”
What a lot of self-publishing authors don’t realize is that by using an Amazon/KDP provided ISBN, your book will be tagged with an ISBN that belongs to Amazon. Even though the book and imprint will be registered at Bowker, Amazon owns that ISBN, and you cannot take the book to another service or make it available for distribution outside of the Amazon platform. You do not have distribution rights. Amazon owns those.
Amazon Exclusive Options Mean Limited Book Distribution
ACX Audiobooks and Audible
ACX audiobooks produced by ACX in exchange for a higher profit share are not offered outside of the Amazon properties. That means that yes, your audiobook is available at Audible, but NOT available through any Apple properties and NOT available to the library or bookstore markets. Libraries spend almost 24% of their budgets on audiobooks and the numbers are increasing.
KDP Select is a program where the publisher or author that uploads a book to KDP agrees to NOT make the ebook available anywhere else for at least 90 days. This 90-day exclusivity deal means that your ebook is not available at libraries either, nor at Barnes and Noble (B&N) or on Kobo (the largest overseas ebook distribution and sales platform).
Amazon Nonexclusive Options
ACX and KDP do offer publishers/authors nonexclusive options. KDP can be used simply as a printer/POD option with an ISBN properly purchased from Bowker or another legitimate ISBN provider. ACX will allow outside produced files a more profitable share and not require exclusivity. (But producing an audiobook is not inexpensive…) KDP suggests but does not require signing up for KDP Select, which requires a 90-day exclusivity contract.
In both cases, the benefits of agreeing to exclusivity are attractive. They save you money and give you a higher level of exposure. Amazon seems to be everywhere…so why wouldn't you just save the trouble and go for it?
Changes in the Publishing Industry
It was not that long ago that the entire publishing industry was bowing before the altar of B&N and Borders. Amazon was a new idea that could have gone either way. In hindsight, it is easy to see Amazon’s potential, but at the time? We really had no idea how far Amazon would go.
The publishing companies that adore Amazon’s money today were falling all over themselves to give the bookstore chains everything they asked for. Just a few years later, those same publishers were lamenting as Borders declared bankruptcy and B&N cut their purchases by over 50%.
A few years ago, Bookbub would consider promoting ebooks that were exclusive on Amazon. No longer. Do you really want to miss out on the opportunity to get into the biggest ebook promotion venue? Because you cannot get accepted by Bookbub until you are available across a number of platforms.
And the lesson we can all take from this?
Limit or Avoid Exclusive Deals
Don’t put any part of your business into an exclusive deal. Putting your eggs into the Amazon basket may make sense today: after all, Kindle is over 90% of the ebook market. Audible has a huge market share of audiobooks. Why not save time and give Amazon your business?
Because Kindle, Amazon, and Audible are NOT the whole marketplace. Libraries, bookstores, gift shops, Big Box chains, Apple…do you really want to ignore every other retail option? What about the international market? The US is only a small part of the world; there are ebook, audio, and POD options all over the globe.
Whether or not you believe that Amazon will always be the monolith that it is today, there are still plenty of reasons to distribute your books to all the venues available. IngramSpark provides the broadest online book distribution, including Amazon, chain bookstores, indie bookstores, and libraries. You never know what opportunities might change your life. So, don't turn your back on potential book sales.
This post was updated on 2/14/2019 to reflect the consolidation of CreateSpace and KDP. It was originally posted on 9/21/2017.