More and more, Amazon and Amazon companies are encouraging or requiring authors and publishers to use them exclusively. CreateSpace offers free ISBNs and design services for authors, Kindle offers KDP Select that allows for extra marketing options, 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 the publisher/author agree to work with them exclusively.
Amazon Nonexclusive Options
CreateSpace, ACX, and KDP Select do offer publishers/authors nonexclusive options. CreateSpace 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 signing up for KDP Select which requires a 90-day exclusivity contract, but does not require it.
In all three 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?
Amazon Exclusive Options Mean Limited Book Distribution
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 20% of their budgets on audiobooks and the numbers are increasing.
KDP Select and the 90-day exclusivity deal means that your eBook is not available at libraries either, or at Barnes and Noble (B&N), or on Kobo (the largest overseas eBook distribution and sales platform).
CreateSpace assigned ISBNs give CreateSpace distribution rights to your book. Even if your book page on Amazon gives your publisher name, CreateSpace owns the ISBN and you/your publisher cannot take the book to any other book distribution or sales outlets. The ISBN is forever owned by CreateSpace and requires you to purchase your own ISBN to own your book's distribution.
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 novel 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%. And the lesson we can all take from this?
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 the audiobooks. Why not save time and give Amazon our business?
Because Kindle, Amazon, and Audible are NOT the whole marketplace. Libraries, bookstores, gift shops, Big Box chains, Apple…do you really want to wager your book’s future and 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 look to the future and agree with the idea that Amazon is not always going to be the monolith that it is today, there are still plenty of reasons to distribute your books to all the venues available. You never know what opportunities might change your life. Do you really want to turn your back on potential sales?