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All In? Thoughts on Exclusivity

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All In? Thoughts on Exclusivity

A lot of people I roll with debate the merits of going "all in" with Amazon for their titles (in other words, being a Kindle Select member) vs. having your books on multiple platforms. Here are my thoughts (for whatever they're worth):

First and foremost, since Kindle Unlimited came into being, a huge number of indies have taken hits. The metrics of how KU works and how/under what circumstances authors get paid has meant that a lot of people have lost 50% or more of their Kindle income. And, of course, you are automatically enrolled in KU when you go KDP Select.

Kindle IS 70% of the e-book market... in the US. However, overseas there are other outlets (like Tolino and iBooks) that are bigger. This means that if you want to expand beyond North America, Kindle is actually NOT your best bet.

For me, I saw this coming a year and a half ago. I saw Scribd and Oyster hit and knew that Amazon was going to take action to curb this possible "Netflix model" of bookselling from cutting into their market share.

More important, I think diversification is necessary. First of all, the old adage about where to put your eggs is true. Any time you are making an investment (and your writing is an investment!), most legit advisers will counsel you to spread the money around. If you put it all in one basket, you risk serious breakage if that basket falls apart. Diversification spreads risk.

Beyond that, I do not want Amazon to end up being the only fish in the sea. What happens then? If Amazon eats up the ebook market completely, then what is to stop them from saying, "New rules! Authors now get 10% of the book price! And nowhere else to go, so either take it or go out of business."? If Amazon gets into a deathmatch with Google, iBooks, Nook, Tolino, etc., and comes out the last man standing, then OF COURSE I'll go only with them. Or with Apple or Google or whoever wins that apocalyptic battle. But until then, this is anathematic to MY investment in a free market... and the best possible rates for authors because of competing distributors who all want my business ("my" business meaning authors in general, since my business alone is nothing to them).

And believe me, if Amazon wins - or any one company - this WIILL happen. Amazon is not author-friendly. It is MONEY-friendly. This isn't because they're awful people. It's because they're a business, and businesses have to think about return on investment, not people's feelings.

So I began diversifying a year and a half ago - before that I was exclusive to Amazon. My income took a hit. But I began marketing and making headway. When KU hit, my income dipped, but not nearly as much as those who were Select. And my income from other streams continued to rise. I'm on ALL the major platforms - Scribd, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Tolino, Google Play and Google Books. And while none of them match my income from Amazon, when they add together they are about (wait for it!) 30% of my income. And that is exactly the market breakdown (Amazon 70%, the others splitting the remainder). And my income overall has now gone up and continues to grow as readers in other markets discover my work.

Yes, this took a while to build. Yes, it was extra work.

Yes, I'm glad I did it.

Amazon MUST NOT become the only provider. And I'm glad that if that egg breaks, I've got others to work with.

One last thought: if you're making major money (thousands? hundreds? whatever "major money" is to you), then by all means the idea of taking a hit on that for a year or so is daunting. But if you're making $5.00 a month for a title, what would it hurt to put it on the other outlets? You may find an audience on Nook that you didn't have on Amazon. Something to think about there.

My two cents. Obviously other people may disagree, may find themselves in circumstances that show what a dipola I am and how much I don't know. But this is what I've got so far, and the world as I see it now.


Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally bestselling novelist and screenwriter. You can find him on Facebook at, on Twitter @mbcollings, or you can sign up for his mailing list here.