Business, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Publishing, writing

Should Authors Go Exclusive With Amazon in 2017?

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Amazon’s KDP introduced their Select program which allowed authors who published through them to give away books for free on their site if they signed a 90 day exclusivity agreement.  Thinking 90 days wasn’t much of a commitment, many authors agreed to it.  Fast forward to 2017, where Amazon is selling over 30 million books and nearly one million of those books are free on any given day flooding the market.  The numbers alone have authors questioning whether going exclusive with Amazon is even worth it anymore?

Your Goals Matter

No matter what the latest marketing tricks are at the moment they mean very little if you haven’t a clear definition of where you want to go.  It’s vital that you ask yourself before you sign any long term contract, why am I doing this?  Do I wish to…

  • Make money
  • Get more reviews
  • Build up an email list
  • Sign with a traditional publisher and go hybrid
  • Become an influencer in a chosen field
  • Build a publishing company
  • Republish a back catalog of work
  • Build a career as an author

As you can see there are a myriad of reasons why people self-publish and many of them don’t require you signing an exclusivity contract.  For example, if you want to sign with a traditional publisher then it might not be wise to lock your work up for any period of time.  If interested, a publisher may insist you take down the book and you can’t do that if you’re only 10 days into your 90 day exclusivity agreement.

Why Ask For An Exclusive?

It’s not uncommon for retailers like Amazon, to ask for exclusives, most retailers do.  It gives them the competitive edge because they offer something their competition doesn’t.  However the manufacturer or vendor (in this case you), usually gets something in return like favorable product placement in exchange for the temporary inconvenience and loss of profit.  Yet with Amazon, there is no such negotiation and instead of favorable product placement, books that are put into the Select program are put on a special list away from the paid books when they go free.  This is the reverse of favorable product placement since the paid books are the default page that shoppers are sent to.  It’s great for Amazon, who gets exclusive content but bad for indie authors who get relegated to a nebulous tab.

Amazon's KDP Select Program

The Psychology Behind it

Lots of authors believe that exclusives are done because retailers and publishers are greedy and though that’s debatable, retailers actually do it because it works.   It’s been proven that products which are available on a limited basis create a scarcity mentality in the minds of shoppers.  It triggers the buy impulse when customers believe this opportunity may never come by again.  Exclusives also make customers feel a sense of appreciation because the retailer is offering them this valuable product making them feel part of a privileged group.

Yeah, But Why Free?

In retail the competition is fierce, these days customers are much savvier and do their research before making purchases.  If they find a product at an online retailer at a cheaper price, that’s called showrooming and it forces brick and mortar stores to match that price or even beat it.  This is how Amazon kills the competition after all, what’s cheaper than free?  Even other book retailers like Barnes & Noble can’t compete with this and have begun positioning their business away from books.

Exclusivity Vs Expanded Distribution

Believe it or not, many startup companies claim exclusivity as the secret ingredient to their success.  However, it’s not the only ingredient, exclusivity should be part of a deeper marketing strategy.  Authors should be leveraging this exclusive period to collect reviews or email addresses for their lists.  Don’t just sit on your duff during this period, there is still work to do —plan the next move.  Ultimately that should mean branching out to other retailers like Kobo, Apple and Barnes & Noble.

 Authors Remaining Exclusive: A Thought

There are experts who used to advise indie authors to remain in the KDP Select program permanently.  They proposed that indies use one book as a loss leader and forgo immediate profits for long term ones.  They suggest that authors use their free book to collect email addresses and sell the next book.  However this may not be a good idea today because several indie authors now report their downloads dropping after the second or third time around in Select.  So going exclusive with Amazon will work but only for so long.  Today, we have no choice but to make our books available everywhere you possibly can because the old tricks don’t work anymore.  Another thing we indie authors have to consider is the inevitable fact that sometime in the future another company will knock Amazon off its perch and wouldn’t it be nice if all our eggs weren’t in one basket?

Book Promotion, Marketing, Writing Business

Noise Trade: Letting Others Decide Your Book’s Worth


Noisetrade began as an indie music site where up and coming musicians could give away their work for exposure. However there was a twist, unlike most freebie sites, customers could tip artists. It was sort of a pay what you can thing.  Recently, Noisetrade got into the book business, and indie authors like Hugh Howey, are all onboard.  You see, all the cool authors are doing it but should you?

The Good, the Bad, the What?

According to the site, authors upload their ebooks and readers get to download it for free and if they (the readers) feel moved, they’ll tip you.  Noisetrade only takes a 20% cut and that’s how they make their money.  However, most people won’t tip at all and when they do, you might be able to pay your Netflix subscription with it.  At least that’s what I’ve been told.

Another point brought up by several authors is the permission issue. You see, when people download your book, they must give an email address. You are then sent that person’s email address via NosieTrade.  However you, the author, may still need to get their permission to email them or you could be spamming because it was NT that originally collected the data and not you.  It’s all contained in this line on the website, “Author/Publisher shall comply with all laws and regulations applicable to user data collection, data disclosure, and data use practices. Unless agreed to otherwise, NoiseTrade and Author/Publisher shall jointly own all user data collected from the Services”  In other words, you may need to send readers an opt in form just to make sure they’re cool with hearing from you.

Why Even Bother?

Noisetrade is being used by authors to build up their email lists or to amass a following for a book series. It’s no secret, free books are the most marketable because there’s no risk on behalf of the reader. Though I’m not a believer in giving things away for nothing, I do believe in a fair trade. If Noisetrade can get you a few reviews or new subscribers then why not? With a well rounded marketing strategy, NT can be an asset to any indie author’s book just like NetGalley or

You can be Featured on Noisetrade for a Price

To be featured on their site you will need $250 which is a lot of money considering the site is new to the book business.  But if you want to take a chance you can email Joel Rakes: at and he’ll hook you up.

Honestly, you don’t need Noisetrade or any other site to giveaway your book. Many authors especially nonfiction authors, are giving away their books and using the pay what you can tactic on their very own websites.  However, if you want to spread the word about your book, you might want to expand your reach to where the readers are.  But since this is a new site there aren’t many authors who can vouch for NT’s effectiveness in moving books.  I encountered one author on the Kboards who claims she’s only had 50 downloads in a month and that was with promotion!

The Takeaway

It’s hard to say if Noisetrade will become the next KDP for indie authors, because it’s just too early but it is an avenue to consider if you got a free book to offer.  Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with paying for promotion because it probably won’t give you more exposure.  At least not $250 worth.

Okay, there you go, another promotional hack to add to your arsenal.  Next week, I’ll be discussing book clubs, how to find them and how to approach them.


Ethical Bribes For Indie Authors

Image via Pixabay

Recently, I saw a contest where a blogger gave readers $60 to leave a comment.  This blogger was calling it a contest however, I didn’t agree.  What I saw was bribery.  But no matter what I thought, it was effective.  As I thought more about it, most contests are bribes anyway: do X, get Y.  With authors our X’s are generally, book reviews, or social media followers.  So how do we get what we want without looking like shady?

Contests That Don’t Work

Free eBooks are passé since Amazon started their KDP program, these days everyone and their mother is giving away free eBooks.  For example, Guy Kawasaki author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur said he gave away 200 eBooks in exchange for a review and only 40 of these people actually responded.  That’s about a 20% rate and he’s an online celeb!

Also, stickers, postcards, bookmarks and anything small and cheap rarely gets a huge response.  I once saw a Facebook admin begging people to enter a contest for a bookmark.  It was pretty sad!  I don’t understand, why authors have a contest where the postage stamp is more expensive than the prize?

How to do it Right!

Naïve authors have upped the ante by giving away freebies like gift cards, hardback books, and even Kindles, only to get screwed by not demanding something in return before the payday.  I’ve seen many authors complaining about how shady people are and how hard it is to get anyone to support their book.  One author gave away a free hardback of his new book to whoever would review the book on Amazon.  Guess what?  The winner took the book and never delivered on their end of the bargain.  His mistake: not getting the winner to do something BEFORE he ponied up the prize.  This way we all win.

Creating Prizes

To stand out from the crowd, and not be the typical author giving away ebooks or gift cards, try creating other products like t-shirts, posters and even cell phone cases with your book’s cover or quotes.  There are sites like Cafepress and Zazzle who help you do just that.  However, you have to be careful when using pictures of your cover unless, you’re certain that you own 100% of the rights to the image/art and not just a temporary license.  This will ultimately save you a trip to court.

Contest Ideas

Just so you don’t end up like that Facebook admin who was begging for entries to her book mark contest, here are a few contest ideas that will benefit you and your contestants.

Need a review?  Here’s a spin on freebies: give away a free ebook then tell contestants that when they review it, they’ll get a signed hardback or gift card.

Need likes on you Facebook page or retweets?  Ask people to share or retweet a carefully crafted post you’ve created featuring your book’s details and give away a t-shirt or swag pack.

Want more blog traffic or comments on your posts?  Ask a moderately difficult question and whoever answers it correctly, gets a gift card or a poster.

Awesome Contests That Delivered

Not long ago, there was a fantasy author who used a treasure hunt to promote his book.  The prize: a golden wand worth thousands.  Keep in mind this was sponsored by his publisher, one of the NY big six.  However, he was the one who set up a website with a message board where he moderated as one of the characters from his books.  Interesting eh?

Another author held a Twitter contest where readers had to retweet a post and with each RT, she would donate x amount of dollars to a local charity.  P.S. she ended up owing this charity a few grand.

Promote the Crap Out of it

Don’t forget to shout this from the roof tops if you want maximum results.  You can use social media, blogs, and podcasts to help raise awareness.  Some authors have even used online ads to promote their contests.  Again, this is your contest, and your rules.

A Final Word:

I wouldn’t be doing my job unless I told you to not pin all your hopes on contests.  There are people who scour the internet looking for contests as though it were their profession.  They’re often called, “sweepers” people who enter sweepstakes or (contests) with no regard for the prize at all.  So don’t expect to make fans out of these people.  Your objective is to get people to do something for you such as, review your book, or like your Facebook page.

Now it’s your turn, have you had any contests to promote your book?  Let us know what worked and what didn’t?