5 Things to Know When Self-Publishing with Amazon
Time to address an issue about which I am frequently asked. Namely, the intricate process of self-publishing with Amazon KDP…
Readers, fans, and aspiring authors alike all ask me about self-publishing with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (or KDP). I published both of my books this way, after doing a fair bit of research into the pros and cons of independent publishing over traditional publishing, weighing up the costs, and getting some advice from another author.
There were, however, a few things they didn’t tell me too. And so, as I am something of a seasoned veteran with the process, I’m offering some pearls of wisdom in this regard. So the following post (and the video below) covers 5 things you should know or should be advised of before self-publishing with Amazon KDP.
EXPECT TO COVER THE COSTS YOURSELF
So the first thing you ought to know about Amazon KDP is that it is totally free to use. As self-publishing goes, it is also quite easy. You upload your Word document or PDF, fill in all the data about the book, including what paper you want it on; if it has photos or illustrations, should they printed in colour; add your cover art, which we’ll come onto in a minute, and when you’re done, hit publish.
This process does not cost you a penny, but don’t be deluded into thinking you can conduct an entire book publishing project for free. Amazon won’t necessarily cover costs for things like your cover design, the marketing and promotion, or advance copies for events, signings, pre-orders and so on. Like any sort of independent project or business, there will be expenses, so prepare for them.
KINDLE AND PAPERBACK ROYALTIES ARE DIFFERENT
At first, Amazon KDP only self-published to Kindle, so e-book format. However, in 2017 or 2018 they rolled out their beta version of paperback self-publishing, which I got on when I launched Lust & Liberty. So now, there are two publishing options for this service.
It’s worth noting that the royalties – the profit margins – are very different between the two formats. On Kindle, it is quite reasonable: you can choose between 35% and 70% royalty plans, which determines your minimum price. Either way, you can set quite a low cost for your book and make a decent royalty per copy sold. In my case, for example, I sell Sin & Secrecy for £2.50, Amazon takes a tiny delivery charge and their 30% cut, and the £1.60-something left over is mine.
When it comes to the paperback format, it becomes a lot harsher. In my case, the only royalty rate available is 60%, which sounds nice on the surface. You go into that thinking you can price a 500-page book at £10 per copy and make £6 per book sold. Lovely.
Actually no, not lovely. Because you have to factor in the printing cost for each book. That’s another cost that Amazon does not cover. It comes out of your 60% royalty. So a 500-page book that you sell for £10, but costs £5.86 per copy to print, leaves you 14p profit. This is why my paperback versions are priced so highly on Amazon.
GET YOUR OWN COVER DESIGNER
At the start of this video, I know I said that Amazon won’t cover the cost of your cover design. That’s not strictly true. They do have a cover creator tool, with which you can put together some perfectly adequate designs. Play around with stock photos as well if you will – I’ve seen a lot of these around on the Amazon self-published book promotion groups on Facebook. And while these authors may do very well out of these books – I don’t know – the only words that spring to mind when I see such covers are: “amateur” and “tacky”. Especially books that have “Book #4 in the XYZ detective fiction series” written on them. It looks and sounds awful. How many well-known, successful, professional-looking books have that kind of thing emblazoned on the front cover? None come to my mind.
Of all the expenses incurred in the independent publishing business, getting a professionally designed cover is the MOST IMPORANT one. The one that is most worth investing in. I hit the jackpot with both of my designers. Dan Lipski who designed Lust & Liberty’s cover did a fantastic job suggesting the mood of the piece, and he laid the groundwork from which Michał Musiałek took inspiration when designing the cover for the sequel, Sin & Secrecy. And my readers LOVE the covers – some of them as much as the content within. It tips the scale in your favour as an independent author to step up your professional game and engage a proper cover designer. At the end of the day, it’s the first thing your readers will see.
GET HELP WITH MARKETING (UNLESS YOU’RE AN EXPERT)
My main stumbling block in my literary career thus far has been marketing. I did one or two events pre-COVID, but the rest has been all online and social media based. And the results show – the books are not exactly flying off the shelves. And that’s because I did not put much – anything, really – by in the budget for proper marketing assistance.
If marketing is not your strong suit, I highly recommend consulting with someone. If it’s in the budget, pay for some services – even if it’s just to get you started. I consulted with a really good company based local to me in Bournemouth, called Ocean View Marketing. They were a great help and come highly recommended – to find out more about them, check out their website.
ENCOURAGE YOUR READERS TO LEAVE REVIEWS
The last point on the list is more relevant after you’ve finished self-publishing with Amazon.
Reviews mean a lot to an independent author anyway, as they would any businessman with a new product. And on Amazon, it’s no exception. If anything, it’s even more important on Amazon. Reviews are what people scroll down to check to see if a product is worth buying. As an author, your immediate supporters are, or should be, family and friends. So get them to chuck a review up once they’ve read it. The more reviews you have, theoretically the better it should do on Amazon’s listings.
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