It would seem to be an easy question to answer; would I, in exchange for several juicy benefits, give Amazon exclusive rights to distribute my book? Given that I don’t use Smashwords due to quality control issues and given also that every major distributor except Amazon hates us dirty foreigners/indies/dirty foreign indies all to heck, why wouldn’t I go with Amazon exclusivity?
Well, for one, because exclusivity often leads to complications. In a certain sense it’s a bet; Amazon is currently the biggest name in e-book distribution, but will that continue? What if something changes? What if the KDP terms are altered (pray I do not alter them further), what if royalties are cut in half? I don’t personally see Amazon coming out behind in any e-retail fight, but who knows what the future holds—and what they might decide to do should they achieve that elusive monopoly. I have a certain amount of trust in Amazon (or, to be more specific, in Amazon’s business sense; they know not to mess with a good, profitable thing), but things could always change.
Right now I certainly can’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to exclusivity because this is all still very much speculation based on rumour, although it’s a pretty solid one as far as rumours go. I don’t know the details of the contract involved or what Amazon might offer, and so a lot of questions are raised. Would this exclusivity be for a set length of time, or could one ‘opt out’ with a certain amount of notice? What, exactly, are they offering—the ability to make your books free whenever you want (attractive), the option to make a product page for your books before they’re released and take pre-orders (very attractive)? What if (as is rumoured) some manner of special promotional options were included (extremely attractive)? Does exclusivity extend only to other retailers, or would it prohibit selling through my website—or even giving away books for free? What if I offered ePub versions of my books through my website as a free download with a donate button nearby (as I have tentative plans to do), would that conflict with ‘exclusivity’? What if a situation came up like I had earlier this year, with Power Play not being available to buy (for two freaking months), would I be allowed to offer it as a free download, as I did then?
Lots of questions, but of course no answers. As mentioned, this is all based on speculation which is in turn based on rumour. Pointless? Well, I believe it’s good to start thinking about these things early. It’d be a big decision to make, perhaps one of the biggest as an indie author; do I want to trust Amazon to be my sole distributor?
As things stand I think my answer could be ‘yes’, but it really does depend on the terms of the exclusivity contract and the bonuses offered. With that said I feel that the benefits for myself could easily (and heavily) outweigh any negative points. There’s another aspect to this too, one I mentioned right at the start; as things stand, Amazon really is the only major distributor that does us indies any favours at all—from the ease of use and openness of KDP to the mysterious Amazon algorithms working in our favour (without ‘also boughts’ I doubt I’d have even the few sales I enjoy), there is the sense that they have a certain amount of respect for us (or at least for the money we bring in). I do feel an odd sort of loyalty to The Mighty Zon for that; for the opportunities Amazon has given me.
Although with that said if this does all come to be and I am faced with this choice, my decision will be based on reason rather than emotion. I’ll read the contract, consider the benefits, consult with my learned peers, think things over, and only THEN will I click “YES YES TAKE MY INDIE SOUL GIVE ME THE SHINY TOYS YES”.
As a final thought, pairing this rumour with ANOTHER rumour, that Amazon may allow formats other than Mobi (most importantly ePub) to be sold through the Kindle store, well … that would make things look even more attractive. In any case it looks like 2012 is going to be a very interesting year. Very interesting indeed.