In just a few short years, Amazon has become one of the most powerful players in the publishing world. If you’re book isn’t available on it, you will lose out on sales. I don’t necessarily agree with this, but unfortunately, at this moment in time, this is how the world is. If you’re working with a traditional publisher, the chances are that they will make sure that your book is available through Amazon, but what if you are an independent publisher or are self-publishing a book?
There are a surprising number of options for getting independent or self-published book available on Amazon, each of which will be suited to different circumstances. Some of these are well-known while others may be less familiar.
The first, and probably the best known, is Kindle Direct Publishing. This allows anyone to publish an e-Book and have it on sale through Amazon’s Kindle store. It is relatively straight-forward to do, and you can simply load up your manuscript as a word-processing document and it will be converted into the Kindle e-Book format. This makes preparing your manuscript for publication relatively easy since you don’t need to worry about things like page layouts and cover designs, although you do need to make sure that you have formatted it correctly. You can also set the price to pretty much anything you wish (although the royalties you will get for each sale will vary with the price you decide upon). In terms of a financial return, since you do not need to pay for any books to be printed, there are no real upfront costs and the royalties will be between 35% and 70% of the price that you set for the book, giving a reasonable return per unit sold. However, this ease of publication means that books that are only available as e-Books through Kindle Direct Publishing have developed a reputation for low editing standards and for being of poor quality.
The remaining options all involve selling printed books rather than an e-Book. For the self-publishing author, this can often seem a frightening prospect and many are put off by tales of having to pay upfront for large print runs that then spend the rest of their lives cluttering up your spare room. This is an out-dated point of view and because of advances in digital printing, this is no longer the case as even print runs as short as 50 to 100 books can be done at a reasonable per unit cost. The main issue here is that you will need to know how to do things like page layouts and sorting out your cover design. In most cases, you will also need to sort out things like ISBN numbers and bar codes. This means it is not for everyone. However, if you go down this route, how do you then get your book on sale on Amazon? There are three options here. These are becoming an Amazon vender, becoming an Amazon seller and using Amazon’s print on demand service (called CreateSpace).
Selling books as an Amazon vender means that you supply Amazon with copies of your books that they then sell them on. The easiest way for a small publisher or a self-publishing author to do this is as through the Amazon Advantage programme. However, in order to be eligible to join this programme, you will need to be registered as a publisher and have your own ISBN numbers. Your books will also need to have machine-readable bar codes. This shouldn’t put you off. ISBN numbers can be obtained from your national issuer, such as Bowker in the US and Nielsen in the UK, while bar codes can be generated using a free online services such as the Online Barcode Generator. The terms used by Amazon for its Advantage programme are very inflexible and can seem very harsh. For example, in the UK, they will require that books are supplied to them at a 60% discount on the cover price and that the seller pays for postage and packing both to supply them with any books ordered and for any that are returned. Books will typically be ordered by Amazon a few at a time. This means that if you are working with short print runs (i.e. less than a few hundred books), you may struggle to make any money on any sales unless your book has a relatively high cover price, which in turn may put people off buying it.
Selling books as an Amazon seller is different from selling them as an Amazon vender. As a seller, you will sell your books via the Amazon marketplace direct to the buyer. While you still have to pay up front for your books to be printed, you do not need to pay for them to be shipped to Amazon, or sell them at a 60% discount. Instead, all you pay is a fee to Amazon whenever a book is sold (click here to find out what they are). In addition, you can charge for postage and packing (albeit at rates set by Amazon). This places you in much tighter control of the selling process and you can control the price that it’s sold for. Since you also get a larger proportion of the money from each sale, you are more likely to make a profit from any sales that you generate. However, when viewed on the Amazon website, your sales presence will be tucked away under the More Buying Choices option at the right hand side of the page, meaning that some people may miss it.
The last option for selling physical copies of your book is CreateSpace. This is Amazon’s print on demand service. While you still need to worry about things like the page set up for your book and the cover design, you don’t need to pay any upfront printing costs (with the exception of paying for a proof to be sent to you if you select this option). In addition, if you wish, CreateSpace will provide you with an ISBN number and generate the bar code for you. CreateSpace books will be available to purchase direct from Amazon, or you can set up your own e-Store through CreateSpace. You can set the cover price to whatever you wish, and CreateSpace is very clear upfront as to the amount of royalties you will receive per sale, meaning that you can set your price based on what you would get. The royalties themselves vary depending on exactly what sales channel you select (and there’s a range available meaning that your book is available through more sales channels that just Amazon itself), but whether selling through Amazon itself or your own CreateSpace e-Store, they are quite reasonable. However, if you’re based outside of the USA, you will find you have to do a few bits of fiddly paperwork or Amazon will hold back 30% of your royalties to pay US tax on them.
So these are the options for getting a book on sale on Amazon. While they undoubtedly make it easier for self-publishers or small publishers to make their books available to a large audience, I am still uncertain whether this is actually a good thing for publishing as a whole, or for writers. Part of me worries that Amazon has too much power and that it exerts too much control over those who wish to sell books via their store. Another worries that they will gradually push other publishers and book sellers out of the market, and that will only increase the power that they have other the whole industry. Finally, I think there is potentially an issue with the whole Amazon business model. Amazon only seem to care about the number of books and not necessarily the quality of the books themselves. This is because they make the same money selling a million copies of one book, or one copy of a million books. As a result, there is the potential for the market to become flooded with poor quality books, making it all the more difficult for the high quality ones to receive the recognition that they deserve. To some extent this is what has already happened with e-Books sold via Kindle Direct Publishing, and CreateSpace may go the same way, although because it is more complicated to produce a printed book (even a print on demand one), this may act as a kind of quality control filter. I guess, as with many things involving Amazon, only time will tell.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.