Thursday, November 1

Does Amazon KDP Select Drive Away True Fans?

"Turn into something Beautiful" by Courtney Carmody under CC BY 2.0

For a while now Kris Rusch, among others, has been saying exclusivity is a bad thing. I never doubted Kris had a good reason for her opinion but, honestly, I had a hard time agreeing with her and felt there must be something, some aspect of her argument, I was missing. (See: Amazon's KDP Select: The Best Long-Term Strategy?)

There was. In her latest business column, Kris ties her opposition of exclusivity--for instance, Amazon's KDP Select program--in with the notion of 1,000 true fans. Now I understand. And, you know what? It makes sense.

Exclusivity Alienates True Fans

Here's Kris' argument (as I understand it) in a nutshell:
Exclusivity alienates true fans.

What is a true fan?

Kevin Kelly, in his famous post 1,000 True Fans, writes:
The gist of 1,000 True Fans can be stated simply:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.

Exclusivity is to true fans what Kryptonite was to Superman

Kris' point is that restricting your readers accessibility to your books will cost you a lot more than sales, it will cost you true fans.

In order to acquire true fans you need to show them you care about them. Having your books only available through certain outlets, outlets they may be cut off from, is NOT a good way of showing your readers--and your potential readers--you care about them.

Kris writes:
Yes, there is occasionally a marketing reason to be exclusive for a month or two. But only for a month or two and only for one project.

Because to do otherwise pisses off readers. Readers don’t avoid a writer because they get angry at the writer. Readers have short attention spans. If a friend recommends a book at midnight, and a reader can’t find that book online or in her favorite bookstore, the reader might not remember the name of the author or the name of the book a week later.

The sale is lost.
And not just a sale. A potential true fan. Kris continues:
As someone who has fought for more than twenty years to get her books to as  many readers as possible, I find it sad to watch newer writers limit their sales from the get-go. These writers are doing to themselves what I railed at my publishers for doing to me against my wishes and those of my fans.

If you’re thinking about short-term numbers, if you’re thinking about reviews and marketing and “online presence,” then you’re thinking the way that traditional publishers do. And traditional publishers have never been reader friendly. ....

Why follow a model that alienates your fan base when you’re trying to grow your writing business? It makes no sense to me.

Of course, new writers haven’t had the sad task of writing back to fans who can’t find books ...
Kris' article (The Business Rusch: No Reader Left Behind) is a must-read for anyone considering whether to enroll their books in Amazon KDP Select--or any other program that restricts an authors ability to sell his or her books in other markets.

What do you think? Are you convinced that exclusivity is inimical to attracting true fans?

Other articles you might like:
- NaNoWriMo: A Survival Guide
- How To Get Honest Book Reviews
- How To Record Your Own Audiobook: Setting Up A Home Studio


  1. I'm hoping to publish in April. I had planned on signing up with KDP to take advantage of the way it seems to give a push to the algorithm. I'm not expert, but my reasoning is because I don't actually *have* any fans yet. And since it's only 90 days, if readers want to spread the word, it'll be available to them after that. I like reading this sort of thing, it helps me decide which is the smartest path for me. Thanks!

    1. Laura, I like your strategy. Select is great for getting your work in front of readers who've never heard of you. I don't want to put words in Kris' mouth, but I think she would say just don't keep your book in KDP Select for too long. After a few months take it out and distribute it as widely as you can.

      Best of luck! :-)


Because of the number of bots leaving spam I had to prevent anonymous posting. My apologies. I do appreciate each and every comment.