If you’ve written a book, then your next question is likely this: where should you publish it? The major publishing houses today are pickier than ever before about the titles they’re willing to take to print or make available as an e-book. Thanks to platforms like Amazon, self-publishing takes the modern-day author away from the vanity publisher and into the homes of interested customers.
For authors who are willing to do all of their editing and formatting work, there is zero cost to publish on Amazon. You just prepare the files according to their published standards, upload it, and you’re ready to start selling. That means you can write about anything, prepare it as a file for download, and make it available to billions of people around the world.
Like most platforms, Amazon requires you to enter into a contract with them as part of the self-publishing process. That agreement limits what you can do as an author to promote your work and restricts sales outside of the sphere that is available through Kindle and Amazon.
Because of these potential benefits and disadvantages, all authors should evaluate the pros and cons of self-publishing on Amazon carefully before finalizing any agreement.
List of the Pros of Self-Publishing on Amazon
1. You have access to high royalty numbers.
If you self-publish on Amazon using the KDP Select program, then you can earn up to 70% royalties on your title on sales to customers in several countries, including Brazil, Japan, India, and Mexico. There is a 70% royalty already available throughout most of Europe and the Middle East without KDP Select enrollment. You have the option to choose a 35% royalty option if you want to avoid the delivery cost to customers when they download you title.
2. Your book becomes available on Kindle Unlimited immediately.
Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s e-book subscription service. When customers purchase access to KU, they are permitted to borrow as many books as they want from the catalog, including your book. Customers are restricted to a total of 10 books borrowed at one time. They must return a book to receive another if they’ve reached their overall limit. Authors receive payment for each page of their book that is read through the program now instead of meeting the requirement that 10% of the title be read to generate income.
3. You are permitted to offer your book for free for five days.
During each 90-day enrollment period when you’re working with Amazon, you are allowed to offer your e-book for free for up to 5 days. That gives you an opportunity to reach out to potential customers about your title, creating verified purchases which can then place meaningful reviews of you work up for others to see. Although you don’t receive a royalty when the book is offered for free, this option does give your work a marketing boost when needed from time to time.
4. You’re not juggling multiple manuscript formats at once.
When you publish on Amazon, you’re giving them an exclusive arrangement for the rights to your work. For the next 90 days, you sell your title exclusively on their website. That may limit some of your distribution options, but it also makes your life easier. Because there is only one manuscript to create, you won’t be bogged down in the formatting rules that other publishers require for that platform. You create one manuscript, upload it, and then begin to sell it.
5. You have more access to global markets and selling opportunities.
When you self-publish a book, you’ll quickly discover that most distributors, retailers, schools, and libraries have no interest in contacting you about using your work. You must go to them to generate some sales, which involves a massive time commitment without a guarantee that you’ll make some money. By using Amazon, you’re given immediate access to a global platform that billions of people use on a regular basis. Your future customers can order, then download, your book at their convenience.
6. You are permitted to revise your title at zero cost.
Unlike other self-publishing platforms, Amazon gives you the option to fix errors if you spot them after publishing. You’re permitted to upload a revised manuscript at no cost if you are doing the editing work yourself. They’ll replace the file that is offered as a download once you finish the upload and authorize the changes you’ve made. That makes it a lot easier to present a professional product to your target audience at all times, make updates, or move content around based on the feedback you receive from it.
7. You can have Amazon promote your book for you.
Amazon allows you to purchase advertising on their platform to help your book be noticed by more customers. Through Amazon Advertising, custom ads can be created for readers who are the most likely to be interested in a book like yours. You get to set the budget that you spend each month, along with the maximum amount you’re willing to pay if someone decides to click your ad. There are some eligibility requirements to meet and Amazon must approve your creative work, which requires 72 hours after submissions, before it will be permitted for display.
8. You may have a better chance to generate sales for your book.
Amazon sells more books than any other publisher on the Internet today. The sales on this platform are so enormous, in fact, that customers buy more titles from them than any other publishers combined. That means you’re in full control of the process, from start to finish, while gaining access to the largest customer base in the world that is interested in titles like the one you’ve written. Most authors are able to have their title become live on Amazon with its own listing in 12 hours or less.
9. You’re not required to write an entire book to publish.
If your writing takes the form of short stories more than a full-length novel, you can still take advantage of what Amazon offers to authors. Short-form content sells well at the $0.99 price point, giving you the option to create content or stories that generate profits for you. Although that means you’ll receive 35% of the list price, it doesn’t take long for those revenues to begin adding up. The sales statistics are updated hourly, which means you’ll know how well your book is selling today, yesterday, and historically. That gives you information which can help to promote better sales over time.
10. You receive your royalty payments faster than traditional publishing.
Amazon pays you royalties from your book sales each month. During the first month, there is an initial delay of 30 days where a hold is placed on the revenues earned. That is still faster than what authors receive in payment from print publishers, who would offer royalty payments once per quarter. Some publishers only pay royalties once per year. After you go through the two-month wait, you can be paid monthly thanks to the payment structures offered here.
11. There are minimal technical issues to manage when working with Amazon.
Amazon handles all of the technology issues which may occur after your listing goes live. If a customer struggles to download your book, then they work with the platform’s customer service agents instead of dealing directly with you. Amazon’s engineers make sure the uptime of the site meets or exceeds expectations. The entire transaction is handled by the platform as well, which means you’re not stuck worrying about credit card processing fees or similar issues. Everything is handled through your dashboard for convenience.
12. You’re not forced to purchase hundreds of books.
If you worked with a vanity publisher in the past, then you would often be required to guarantee a specific number of books being sold to get your title into print. For many authors, that meant paying for the books upfront, then trying to recoup the money by selling them on their own through book signings and similar events. With Amazon, the e-books are all handled online, eliminating the investment need to get yourself published.
13. Cart abandonment is no longer an issue for self-published authors.
When customers download e-books from Amazon, especially when using a service like Kindle Unlimited, then they can have one-click access to the title. That eliminates the need to have a shopping cart, which increases the likelihood of having your book purchased. Each additional step a customer is required to do to make a purchase reduces the chances that money will come your way. With this structure, accessing your work is easier than it has ever been before.
List of the Cons of Self-Publishing on Amazon
1. You are required to provide 100% exclusivity.
When you self-publish a book on Amazon, you’re required to give them 100% exclusivity over your content. You are not permitted to offer your title for sale with any other published. Publishing with another provider is not permitted. No other retailers are permitted either, which means you can’t work with your local bookstore to generate sales. The agreement lasts for 90 days, then automatically renews unless you decline to enroll after one of the periods ends. This does not apply to print books.
2. There are limits to the content you’re permitted to share.
The self-publishing contract through Amazon limits the amount of content you’re permitted to share anywhere online. You’re permitted to offer up to 10% of the content from the book to others, including on your website. Anything more than that is a violation of the publishing agreement. If your book involves content from your blog, then posts would need to come down for you to stay within the agreement.
3. You won’t receive any exposure outside of Amazon.
There are book titles that sell better on other platforms. That rules of geographic benefit have always applied, including for print titles within specific book stores. When you choose to publish on Amazon, you won’t get any exposure on other online stores for at least 3 months. Then you’ll need to take down the book and self-publish on the next platform, then continue that pattern until you find the best location of your publication. There’s no way to cover all online sales locations when you self-publish unless you work with a provider who has licensing agreements with everyone.
4. Any previous listings for your book must be removed.
If you’ve been trying to sell your e-book on other platforms before Amazon, then you must take them down before letting your KDP version go live. There can be delays with other stores of up to 72+ hours when sending a request to remove a listing, so this timing must be considered when working on this type of project. If you have a retailer who doesn’t want to remove the listing, the process can become very tedious over time.
5. Your sales may go through Kindle Unlimited.
You will be paid a commission of up to 70% for your books that sell directly on Amazon. Many readers will access your work through their Kindle Unlimited subscription, however, which means your monthly revenues are at the mercy of Amazon’s revenue sharing algorithms. You do not have any control over the pricing mechanisms when your book is offered through the subscription program.
6. There are specific structural components that you may need to follow.
Authors have had their books removed from Amazon for simple reasons, like having the Table of Contents placed at the back of the book instead of near the beginning. This issue is due to another algorithm issue. Scammers went to Kindle Unlimited as a way to gouge customers, so Amazon implemented automation to enforce their terms and conditions, quality notices, and other control issues. Unless you follow their publication standards to the exact letter, there is always a risk that your book could be removed from sale.
7. The 70% royalty offered doesn’t include delivery costs.
Amazon determines the number of megabytes (not gigabytes) of your book to determine what the download fee will be. The current average on the platform is about 2 kilobytes per page, including internal images and your cover image. That limits the use of internal images when uploading because your costs will be high. The limit is 50 megabytes on the platform, which means a sale in the U.S. of a maximum-size book comes with a download fee of $7.50.
Even a long fiction book could have a $1 fee (or more) on Amazon. That cost must be built into your pricing mechanism to ensure you’re able to make a profit on each sale.
8. You may be required to collect sales taxes on your sales.
Although most states in the U.S. don’t require authors to be a licensed business, there are some exceptions. Washington State and Alaska are the two most notable geographic locations where authors who sell their own work must hold a business license to be legally selling their work – even though it is done through Amazon. That means you’re also going to be collecting sales tax and paying business and occupation taxes (or something similar) when you file taxes each year. To ensure you’re not running afoul of local laws, you must contact your local taxing authorities for a ruling before you upload your book.
9. You’ll need a new ISBN for each additional version of your book.
When you self-publish your book on Amazon, a specific ISBN is associated with the title. Because this platform requires that your title be an exclusive agreement, you must assign a new ISBN each time you go to a different platform. You can avoid that issue by purchasing you own ISBN to provide Amazon, but it may not be movable. A single ISBN today costs $125, but if you purchase a ten-pack, you’ll pay $250.
10. If you leave Amazon as a platform, your reviews leave too.
When you list your book on Amazon for sale, it is given a specific listing which includes the reviews you’ve been able to generate for your title. If you choose to move your book to another platform, then the listing you created may disappear from Amazon’s search mechanism. That means you’re forced to essentially start over with your title whenever you decide to move on. If you have a significant number of positive reviews for your book, you are almost forced to stay with Amazon because your next set of customers won’t see what other people think or feel about what you’ve written.
11. The 70% royalty is restricted to specific pricing groups.
If your book is published at a list price between $2.99 to $9.99, then you are currently eligible for the 70% royalty. For authors who price their e-book at a lower cost, then the 35% royalty automatically applies. You’re also limited on the pricing structure for books which are more expensive. Although those royalties are higher than they are in traditional publishing, you don’t have anyone representing your work either. You’ll earn less if your book is priced at $2.50 than you would at $2.99.
12. You’re still going to be doing all the work on your own.
Books on Amazon are not going to sell unless they are presented in a professional manner. That means you’ll need to create a professional cover by hiring a graphic artist if you can’t do the work yourself. Most authors benefit from having a professional editor go through their manuscript before publishing. You could opt for a premium subscription through Grammarly to help with the work. When everything is considered, you should budget at least $1,000 to get through the design and editing phase of your book.
13. You are in charge of all your marketing.
This change in the publishing industry applies to everyone, including mid-list authors who have made their way through to one of the big publishing houses. You are going to be paying for your own promoting and marketing. If that isn’t a strength of yours, then you’ll need to hire a publicist to do the work for you. The costs of this effort vary, but it can mean that you might be lucky to break even on your first few titles if you haven’t been a published author in the past.
14. There are no direct marketing opportunities available to you.
Because the customers who purchase (or borrow) your book from Amazon are their customers, not yours, there are no good opportunities to do some direct marketing. You’re relying on the platform to contact interested customers, send out emails, and do on-page marketing for your title. If there is a hiccup in the mechanisms or algorithms involved, you’ll never know about it. Although some people will eventually find your social media or website, the numbers are much lower than if you did all the work on your own.
15. You’re dealing with a lot of competition.
You are not the only author thinking about self-publishing on Amazon right now. Because it is the largest publishing platform of its type in the world today, there are more writers working with them too. Current estimates place the number of authors currently on Amazon in the millions. In 2016, Amazon released an interesting statistic: only 40 authors were able to make six figures or more with their titles. That is despite the fact that over 30% of the best-selling titles on the platform each week are self-published. Almost 40% of readers in a 2015 survey said they NEVER read e-books.
The pros and cons of self-publishing on Amazon are essential to consider if you’re trying to create a profitable venture as a writer. Although the platform is easy to use and handles sales for you effortlessly, there are some administrative requirements you may need to fulfill on your end. You’ll also be stuck in a 90-day agreement, which means your options are limited if someone wants immediate access to the rights.
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