A blog about writing and self publishing

Why Exclusivity is Bad (Unless You’re Amazon)

We recently read, with significant interest, a series of articles that author Nick Stephenson began posting regarding experiments in pulling titles out of KDP Select (a program that Amazon runs which encourages authors to publish their titles to Kindle and make them unavailable anywhere else, whether that’s another retailer or selling directly from the author’s own website)

In a post entitled Income Report: Why Exclusivity is Bad (Unless You’re Amazon), Stephenson talks about how exclusivity can be a good thing, but then outlines an imaginary conversation between a breakfast cereal manufacturer and Walmart, in order to illustrate whether or not the supplier is getting a fair wholesale price and actual tangible benefits.

He goes on to make a few conclusions regarding going all in with a single retailer (we’ve captured some highlights below):

The bottom line: exclusivity is a terrible idea if you’re not getting anything in return for it – even if you’re only locked in for a few months. Which brings us around to KDP Select and the much-maligned Kindle Unlimited program.

Signing up exclusively with KDP is working for some people. Well, maybe 100 people. But realistically, anyone not in the top 100 KDP-exclusive authors is probably better served moving on. In fact, those not in the top 50 would probably earn more on other channels than they make in bonuses and borrows.


Stephenson’s Nov 2014 Sales:  More diversified than ever

You can probably see that overall income has stayed pretty steady in the last quarter, overall up roughly 10% – 15% since July while Amazon has fallen from around 85% of my income in July to around 55% of my income in November.

Sales on other platforms (iTunes, Nook, and especially Kobo) have grown from around 5% – 10% of total income up to nearly 30% of total income. It took a few months to get going, but the move was definitely worth it.

None of this diminishes my gratitude to Amazon for making self-publishing a viable career alternative for many, including me. But the rose-tinted glasses can’t stay on forever, right? There are opportunities to be had outside of KDP, and you don’t need to be a slave to the Hot New Releases window to make great things happen.

Don’t get me wrong – dropping my titles out of KDP Select was scary. But, at the end of the day, entrusting almost 100% of my income to one retailer (who can – and have – slashed royalty rates on a whim) was even scarier.

The end result? I’m now in a position where monthly fluctuations from any one particular source of revenue are less likely to spell trouble. My overall income has also increased since the beginning of the year, when all my titles were exclusive.


Stephenson’s blog contains a lot of detailed information that authors will find relevant and useful including recent posts such as: Could you survive without KDP? and Breaking Free Part 2 – One Month Later.

You can read the full and unabridged article here.

Apart from his helpful and data-filled blog posts, Nick also teaches other authors how to find their first 10,000 readers – you can get started with some free video training here: http://yourfirst10kreaders.com and be sure to check out his FREE eBook on the same subject called Reader Magnets.


NickStephenson_AuthorPhotoNick Stephenson is the author of the Leopold Blake series. He was born and raised in Cambridgeshire, England. In a previous life he has worked as a lawyer, marketer, chef, and paid assassin for the UK’s Tax Authorities. If you ask him about it, he will deny ever having worked as a lawyer.


7 Responses to “Why Exclusivity is Bad (Unless You’re Amazon)”

  1. James T Kelly

    I couldn’t agree more. To say I didn’t consider exclusivity would be a lie, but it was never a viable option. In addition to the argument Nick makes (which is an excellent one all by itself), by selling only via Amazon you’re cutting out almost 50% of the market. Surely the secret to success lies in having your work available to as many people as possible, which includes all those Apple, Nook and Kobo readers out there?

  2. David Neth

    I’m glad that he makes the note that a policy change for one retailer won’t make him go bankrupt. My goal (as is, I’m sure, every indie writer’s) is to self-publish full-time. One of the scariest things about that is that I’d be going from a salary (fixed income) to a fluid income and I have no control over it. I’ve worked hourly jobs before and if you’re not making enough money, you work more hours.

    You don’t have that luxury with indie publishing. But by putting your eggs in more than one basket, not only are you increasing your sales to each channel and increasing your credibility (“They’re not listed on Barnes and Noble? Oh, they must be self-published…”) but you’re giving yourself a bit more of a safety net.

    If sales are declining on Amazon, they might be increasing on Kobo or iBooks. You never know which retailer is going to be your strongest. Plus, some authors report that Amazon is the site they earn the least on. Just because Amazon brings in the highest royalties for most people doesn’t mean that’s going to happen for everyone.

    I always love it when authors share their numbers and that’s something I want to make sure I do as I continue in my career. Thanks for the post!

  3. Steve Vernon

    Reblogged this on YOURS IN STORYTELLING… and commented:
    I have got a few e-books in Kindle Unlimited – but way more – (like about forty e-books) – that are available through Kobo, Nook, Apple, Smashwords, Tolino and several other markets – as WELL as Kindle.

  4. Jason

    The problem with Nick Stephenson, he hasn’t done enough yet to make so much noise. Food for Thought yes, but everyone’s results will be different. Test everything that people like this say, and cautiously if book sales are your sole income. The majority of his books are fiction, many very cheap, and some even free. He seems to know little about print and people have to be careful when listening to these wannabe marketing ‘gurus’. When he’s sold a good mix of fiction and non-fiction in multiple categories and marketplaces, over a good period of time then I’ll listen closer.

  5. Saffron Bryant (@SaffronBryant)

    Excellent post. Nick Stephenson is pretty fantastic – his books have helped me see massive increases in my mailing list sign-ups and just generally improve my sales. He’s also willing to give away valuable information for free which I think is brilliant.

    I also agree about the putting all your eggs into one basket concept – it’s much better to diversify. While I haven’t seen massive sales on other platforms yet (1 sale so far here on Kobo… ) I’m hoping that as I pull more titles over that sales will increase and I’ll be able to gain more traction.

    Ultimately, that’s a better option than sitting and hoping that Amazon doesn’t change it’s policies… again… Plus it means more people can read my books, as opposed to just Amazon users.

    Here’s to platform expansion! 🙂


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