The Value of Amazon’s KDP Select for Taboo Authors

Lot’s Cave has always been dedicated to helping authors with various publishing strategies. Right now, the big question in the market seems to concern Amazon. Do you publish with Amazon? Is exclusivity worth it? Are there options for authors writing taboo content?  The questions can seem endless to an inexperienced or new author. Perhaps the main question though has always been is KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited worth it? Well, let’s take a constructive look at answering that question for you!

When it comes to Amazon, answering if you should or should not opt for exclusivity is complex. Every author’s catalog is different, and therefore, a strict yes or no answer isn’t really possible. What we can do however is take a look at factors universal across all catalogs. A little math is involved, but for authors, that shouldn’t really be a problem. Because Lot’s Cave focuses primarily on taboo content however, we’re going to focus mainly on the value of Amazon’s KDP Select program for taboo authors.

The first step to deciding whether or not KDP Select is right for your catalog entails knowing what you stand to make on outside sites. For example, Lot’s Cave pays out a 75%. This means you would make a $3.71 royalty on eBooks that retail at a $4.95 price point. For books retailing at $2.99, you would stand to make a $2.24 royalty rate. On Amazon’s site, books receive a 70% royalty. So books at $4.95 would get $3.47 in royalties, and books at $2.99 will get $2.09 in author royalties. Keep in mind, these are estimate amounts for example only.

Once you’ve calculated the royalty rate you stand to make, you’ll need to calculate Amazon’s page reads and its corresponding amount. This can be a bit complicated. Amazon determines a book’s individual number of page reads. Because of this, the amount can vary even within the same word count. So, how are you supposed to determine the number of pages within your book? Well, an estimate will do. For every 250 words, count one page read. So, for 5,000 words, your book would have 20 page reads. A book at 40,000 words would likewise have 160 pages.

Page count is important to estimate how much enrollment in KDP Select would benefit you. Amazon’s KDP Select program pays out by the number of pages a reader actually reads. So, the amount you stand to earn for your book is determined largely by its page count. The actual value of your page reads is always fluctuating with each month. To calculate an estimated value, let’s go with the current, $0.00403 a page. At that amount, you can get an idea of how much your book would earn for a single ‘read all the way through’ royalty rate. In this case, a book at 20 pages would earn $0.08 for every reader that reads the complete book. For an author with 160 pages, the rate would be about $0.65 in royalties.

Now, with all that calculated, we can start running what if scenarios. If you’re a new author, chances are you won’t know how many readers will or will not read your book. Unfortunately, that is a necessary step in determining whether to go exclusive or not. So, how do you then figure it out? Well, again, the best thing to do is estimate potential sales. How many books do you estimate selling on each site? Authors will sell differently in different storefronts. Which stores then do you want to specifically target? Thankfully, the answer to these questions can be narrowed down a bit for taboo content.

Let’s say you’ve written an incest themed 5,000 word short story retailing at $2.99. You want to know whether you should publish the story ‘wide’ as is or rewrite the story as a pseudo incest version and ‘go exclusive’ with KDP Select. To calculate this, we can make some assumptions. First, let’s say you’re going to sell ten books your first month in each storefront you publish to going wide. Since incest content is limited, let’s say you only hit three sites, Lot’s Cave, Smashwords,  and Excitica. Here’s the breakdown of royalty information:

  • Smashwords – $2.54 ($2.99 X 85%)
  • Lot’s Cave – $2.24 ($2.99 X 75%)
  • Excitica – $1.79 ($2.99 X 60%)

Remember, we’re estimating ten sales per storefront. So for our ‘going wide’ potential income we’ll make roughly $65.70:

  • Smashwords – $25.40 ($2.54 X 10)
  • Lot’s Cave – $22.40 ($2.24 X 10)
  • Excitica – $17.90 ($1.79 X 10)

Now, we need to calculate our Amazon earning potential. To do this, we need to fairly consider the surge in potential customers Amazon’s storefront represents. To do this, let’s say we get a four:one interest in our book. So, for each individual sale in our going wide example, we’ll count instead, four full books read. We can also add to this a slight amount of corresponding sales. Since we can only estimate, let’s say Amazon’s storefronts leads to five books sold for the month, due to the participation in KDP Select reducing the incentive of customer sales. This still reflects a little over 10% buy rate in comparison to our page reads. We get the following breakdown:

  • Amazon Book Sales – $2.09 ($2.99 X 70%) – Total:  $10.45 ($2.09 X 5)
  • KDP Select Page Reads – $0.08 (20 pages X $0.00403) – Total: $3.20 (40 X $0.08)

After doing the calculations, we can compare our totals. Going wide, we could potentially earn $65.70 for our efforts. Calculating our Amazon KDP Select potential we see we could make roughly $13.65. The difference between these amounts is quite alarming at $52.05. If you have no readers preferring a particular storefront going into this, at the estimations we calculated, you should certainly go wide with your short incest story. Doing so, you’ll roughly make $50 more, and you won’t waste time rewriting your story to comply with Amazon’s Terms of Service.

But, what if you’re not writing shorts? What if you’re writing a novel? We can run the same exact calculations. This time, our totals will look roughly like this (keeping our same sales rate estimates for each store):

  • Going Wide – $108.90
  • Amazon Exclusive – $43.35
    • Sales – $17.35
    • Page Reads – $26.00

As you can see, in this example at least, the exclusivity just doesn’t seem to balance out the loss. The difference between going wide and exclusive is a total $65.55. This is a big difference. Please keep in mind though, these are only estimates. Rates will vary highly for authors, especially those who already have a published catalog. This is simply an example to help anticipate whether KDP Select is a good option for certain authors or not. In fact, let’s look at a situation where KDP Select’s exclusivity may be beneficial to authors. In this scenario let’s assume you wrote a 100,000 word book instead of that 5,000 or 40,000 word one. The retail rate this time is $9.99. Your experience might look something like this:

For Smashwords, Lot’s Cave, and Excitica, the book is a bit longer than average. Since you’re a new author as well, customer interest is slightly lower at that price point. Let’s say you sell five copies per storefront this time. You get a total of $109.85:

  • Smashwords – $42.45 ($8.49 X 5)
  • Lot’s Cave – $37.45 (7.49 X 5)
  • Excitica – $29.95 (5.99 X 5)

Amazon’s storefront will perform much differently in this example. This time, readers have a benefit to read a book in KDP Select over purchasing it. So, we can expect a higher interest in the book. Where we had 40 full books read in the previous example, we can increase that to, say, 50. This is a huge boost from the five books sold in each storefront going wide. Meanwhile, the buy rate will still continue to be slow. However, Amazon has a wider customer base, so let’s increase our initial five books sold to ten. Our calculations for Amazon will look like this:

  • Amazon Book Sales – $6.99 ($9.99 X 70%) – Total:  $69.90 ($6.99 X 10)
  • KDP Select Page Reads – $1.61 (400 pages X $0.00403) – Total: $80.50 (50 X $1.61)

So in this example, we can see the totals reflect a difference in favor of  much longer works. The going wide amount of $109.85, is close to the Amazon amount of $150.40. Still, we can see the potential in more dynamic amounts. Authors who put in the time to write longer works can easily gain an Amazon exclusive audience within a matter of months. For some, the investment is worth it. But, for the majority of new authors, a 100,000 word work can seem a bit daunting. This is understandable.

For authors wondering whether or not they should try going exclusive, it helps to run a few what ifs. This is much easier than the current trend of pulling a catalog, running it wide, watching it sink or swim, and then perhaps putting the catalog back. Why go through all that effort just to see? Why not simply consider your customer buy rates, your page counts, and the royalty potential of each book. In the end, you might just be thankful you did! Just think, all that time you spend uploading or rewriting could be spent writing an entirely new book to publish instead!

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