The reasons are many, but at the top of the list is the requirement of exclusivity by Amazon. Although Amazon offered Prime Lending and Free Book Promotion in return, neither really created the volume of sales that made exclusivity anywhere near worthwhile.
Another reason is the change Amazon made to their weighting of free ebooks during promotion days, which reduced the benefit of giving books away. Additionally, Kindle free book promotion has become a new industry with literally hundreds of sites benefitting from authors giving their books away for free. Some even ask for payment to promote titles. While in the early months I gained some sales ‘bounce’ after a promotion by giving away say 5,000 copies, in recent months I found I could only achieve this same ‘bounce’ with heavy promotion via external sites for these free days and hopefully gaining 15,000 downloads. Spending this much time and energy on giving books away is just plain silly, when my focus should surely be on marketing and promoting my books for sale.
The Prime Lending Program was also disappointing for me as it became clear that it was only my more expensive titles that were being borrowed. As my royalty averaged about $2.00 for a borrowed title that had a list price of $6.99, it meant a loss of about $2.50 in royalty for me on each unit. Titles priced at $2.99 or lower were hardly ever borrowed and as most of my titles are at around this price, I saw little benefit from Prime Lending income.
There was another element of Amazon exclusivity that I began to understand was a negative but only after quite a few months. It was that the vast majority of my book reviews were naturally appearing on Amazon only. While this was of course logical, I have become increasingly wary of Amazon reviews and the lack of control that Amazon use in monitoring their reviewers. It takes just a quick Google Search to discover that paid Amazon reviews have become a lucrative industry with offers to post 5 star reviews, positive comments on negative reviews, and even to post negative reviews on competitive items. While I can’t avoid this, I believe other book sites and retailers may offer some balance in book reviews I may receive in the future.
While I know Amazon will probably stay my main income stream for book sales for some time yet, I do like the fact that Smashwords pay on global sales and don’t divide royalties by geography. It is a very annoying part of Amazon’s royalty payments system that payments are made by ‘store’. This means I receive separate monthly cheques from US and UK, (because Amazon do not offer EFT to me here in Switzerland), but I do get EFT payments from sales in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. But all separately.
Another reason to return to Smashwords is that because of my location, I cannot publish to a number of sites because they are only available to US residents. Barnes and Noble being notable in this regard. With Smashwords, their distribution offers the widest possible network of ebook retailers for me.
It will take some months for all my books to exit KDP Select, but during this time I will be able to prepare all my titles ready for publishing on Smashwords again and take the opportunity to check each and every base file and improve the quality of my books. While it will be a long process and a lot of hard work, I am looking forward to returning to Smashwords and to having my books available again on iPads and Nooks or whatever e-reading device or platform readers use.