Kindle Direct Publishing: Is it The Right Choice?

Kindle Direct Publishing is basically Amazon’s platform for self-published authors. If you are planning to self-publish, it’s currently the most viable option for you to get your writing to readers and to make the most money. 

What Publishing Services Does Amazon Offer?

Amazon does publish a very small number of authors each year in the number of about 200. However, self-publishing through Amazon is a different ballgame. Kindle Direct Publishing doesn’t edit or manage your book, the marketing, or any other aspect of your book. It’s the e-book equivalent of there being a large store somewhere that says, “You bring us a product already in packaging with labels and price tags and pretty pictures on the box and we’ll slap it on a shelf. If people buy it, we’ll give you 70% of what they pay and keep 30%.” It’s obviously a little more technical than that, but for all intents and purposes, that’s the deal.

Do I Need to Be a Technology Wizard to Figure It Out?

Nope. As long as you have grandma/grandpa-level skills, you should be fine. Amazon made the process intuitive and simple. The only way it gets complicated is if you have some really specific formatting needs. In that case, you would probably want to be passingly familiar with html. Otherwise, just type it in your word processor of choice and plug it in when you’re done. Easy as that.

Pricing

The simple version is that you have two royalty options: 35% and 70%. You might wonder why anyone would choose to keep 35% of their profits instead of 70%, but each royalty option has pricing and size requirements.

If your book is over a certain size (3 MB = $0.99 and 10MB+ =$1.99) you are forced to set your price above a certain point. Beyond that, it would make sense for most authors to choose the 70%. One of the only reasons to choose 35% over 70% is if you have a problem with some of the conditions of the 70% agreement. The list of terms you agree to is relatively benign, with perhaps the exception of agreeing to a digital delivery fee. This is a fee Amazon tacks on for each megabyte of data you’re “delivering” to readers. The fee breakdown is as follows:

Amazon.com: US $0.15/MB
India: US $0.12/MB
Amazon CA: CAD $0.15/MB
Brazil: BRL R$.30/MB
Amazon.co.uk: UK £0.10/MB
Amazon.de: €0,12/MB
Amazon.fr: €0,12/MB
Amazon.es: €0,12/MB
Amazon.it: €0,12/MB
Amazon.co.jp: ¥1/MB

That means if a book published in the US is 13.26 megabytes or larger (that’s really big for an ebook), then you will pay more than $1.99 in transfer fees. Thus, it would make more sense to publish that particular book at the 35% royalty rate if you were interested in the $1.99 price point. Of course, if you thought it could sell for more than $1.99, you could just increase the price by more than 35% and the 70% would still make more sense.

Whew. I’m bad at math and that was mildly confusing. Just remember that 70% makes more sense in the majority of cases. If your book is loaded with pictures or extremely long, and you’re set on selling it at $1.99, then and only then would it matter to you.

For a better idea of how large an e-book is, check out these.

Screen-shot-2009-11-16-at-10.58.04-AM
Photo Credit – Safaribooksonline

This shows the average size of e-books in megabytes. If your book has little to know pictures and is average length, it will likely be around 1 megabyte or $0.15 in delivery fees per purchase.

Final Thoughts

Kindle Direct is a great opportunity, but it could also serve as a little false hope for many. The truth is, there’s a reason publishing companies still exist and they probably will continue to exist. They do the leg work: marketing, editing for audience, book covers, blurbs, sending out advance copies for reviews, etc. If you choose to self-publish, you have to understand that you can’t just throw your book on the internet and expect anyone to read it. I don’t care if you wrote the next Song of Fire and Ice, there’s a good chance it will get buried and never read.

Think of it this way. Your book is like a seed that you’ve been nurturing and building (pretend you can build seeds for the sake of my metaphor here) for months or years. When it comes time to plant it, you had better take the time to turn the soil, fertilize it, check the weather, and carefully plant it. It might even be a good idea to water it afterwards.

Good luck out there.

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Why You Should Forget Traditional Publishing

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If you’re writing a book right now, one of the most important decisions in your future is whether to publish traditionally or to self-publish. The good news is that the choice may be easier than you think.

Unless you’re an extremely young writer, you grew up in an era dominated by traditional publishing. The dream was to have your book “on the shelves”, to stroll down a brick and mortar store and see it right there with your name in bold letters. Why? Because you were only a successful writer if your book was in stores. After all, what other option was there?

The New Reality

Electronic book sales are quickly outpacing physical book sales. This fact alone underlies the majority of advice I’m about to give. To understand why, let’s take a look at why traditional publishing used to be essentially mandatory.

  1. Books cost money to print. It could cost tens of thousands of dollars to print as many books as you expect people to buy. So if you didn’t have a big publisher to put the money forward and did it yourself, you could stand to lose a lot of money if fewer people bought your book than you projected. Also, if you went cheap and printed too few, you might not have the resources to quickly restock before demand for your book fell off.
  2. Advertising is expensive. Big publishers used to be one of the few ways you could manage to get the word out about your book unless you were willing to sink your own money into advertising.
  3. You can’t just grab 20 copies of your book, slap price tags on them, and put them on the shelves at bookstores. Publishing companies have deals worked out to get your book on shelves, but you don’t have that kind of weight to throw around.
  4. Publishing companies have internal resources to handle things like designing a cover for your book that will appeal to readers, edit it for the obvious but also for your intended audience, and make suggestions that come from their experience in your genre.

Okay, so if you’re planning to self-publish, the bad news is that the above is still true. The good news is that little factoid I dropped earlier changes everything. What if you didn’t have to predict sales of your book and print them ahead of time? And more, what if there was a type of book store that didn’t have to worry about physically holding your book? What if you could even market your own book with a little time and effort?

You guessed it. You can! Seriously, though. I can’t overstate how huge the e-book revolution is for new authors.

Why You Don’t Need A Publisher

If it’s not clear why e-books are such a big deal when it comes to self-publishing, let me break it down.

  1. E-books do not cost money to print. There’s no predicting sales and calculating the risk of printing too many versus too few. You can literally upload your work to a digital bookstore like Amazon or Kindle Direct for exactly zero dollars and collect money for every purchase. Pure profit! 
  2. Advertising can still be expensive, but the social networking age gives new authors more ways to market their work for free. My own blog, for example, is a platform that I hope will market my own work. You can use sites like Reddit, Twitter, Digg, etc to build interest and a small following for your book by posting a few chapters or collaborating with the community. You can guest post on blogs about writing in exchange for shout outs for your book. You can give your book away to reading lists to have reviews from day one of your launch. The possibilities are only limited by your creativity and willingness to put in time.
  3. Amazon only stands to benefit from having your book on their site. Even if you only sell ten copies of your book, they still earned a profit. You don’t need any muscle or influence to get them to put it on their site.
  4. You can again turn to social networking for cover ideas. There are enough tutorials out there and software that even a novice could design their own cover. I wouldn’t advise this, by the way. But if you’re going for the zero cost method, it’s there. Alternatively, you could likely find aspiring artists who would be happy to design a cover for free in exchange for the chance for their work to be seen and generate interest for themselves.

The Numbers

The facts are clear. Electronic books are getting more popular, which takes away the relative monopoly publishing houses had. But just how much more popular are they?

trade-pub-author-earnings-split

Photo Credit: Authorearnings – The Data Guy

I recommend reading the entire article from authorearnings.com, but here’s the takeaway: author earnings from fiction e-books were 28% higher in 2014. A quick look at the rest of the data in the article indicates that 2014 was just a point along a rising trend. Even big name authors are earning more money from their e-book sales than print sales, and the gap between the two has been increasing.

10k-earners

Photo Credit: Authorearnings – The Data Guy

Keep in mind that this data was only about 1/4th of the way into 2014, meaning you could almost triple the figures seen here to see that the indie publishing group is still growing. It’s also worth noting that the trend was the same for authors earning 25k, 50k, and 100k+ per year.

Final Thoughts

Traditional publishing still offers some great advantages if you’re able to land a deal. However, publishers will need to quickly catch their business model up to the changing times. The current trend of publishers expecting new authors to do most of their own marketing and handling of auxiliary tasks involved in getting their book pushed out will likely need to fade. If publishers want to entice authors to pass up the quick, easy, and profitable route of self-publishing, they need to make the cut they take seem worth it to an author.

Until then, self-publishing is far less time consuming, far more doable, and far more potentially rewarding.