Many years ago, aspiring authors had to spend weeks or months writing a book proposal and sample chapters. Then you might contact a bunch of literary agents to see if they would be interested in pitching your book to major publishers.
Most would grumble that your idea would not be likely to make a lot of money, or that it sounded “more like a magazine article than a book.”
At this point, you might abandon the project or if you were really persistent, send your proposal directly to publishers. If they didn’t ship the package back to you unopened, they would either send you a form rejection letter or make you a lowball offer that’d be barely enough to buy breakfast cereal.
However, in the last decade or so, various tools for self-publishing have taken down these barriers for authors who prefer to go it alone. One of the most dominant and major platforms is publishing on Amazon. Anyone can do it. Anyone can become an author. And it has now become an equal playing field.
Most independently published authors fall into one of two camps: Those selling books on their own website using an e-commerce tool and those selling only through Amazon.
Self-publishing on Amazon
Amazon’s suite of services for independent authors makes it possible for me and many other authors to bypass traditional publishing companies. It gives us the tools to create and sell digital books; print and sell paperback copies on demand; add author pages and even market books.
Here are following Amazon services, all of them free to set up, that every independent author needs to know about:
Kindle Direct Publishing
This service, known by the shorthand KDP, enables indie authors to sell the digital version of their books on Amazon.com (or other Amazon country websites). There’s no charge to upload the file. Authors get royalties of 35% to 70% of the sale price, depending on whether the book is sold on KDP or through another Amazon service called KDP Select.
Unlike most other digital retailers, KDP uses the format known as “mobi.” This is simply the file format for digital books that Amazon uses, and it works on all Kindle devices. You can upload your book on Amazon using other formats as explained on the Amazon site, including ePub, which is the most popular one (that’s what Apple uses), and others such as HTML, Doc, and RTF.
By using this service, you tap into Amazon’s marketing muscle. To do that you must give them an exclusive on your digital book for 90 days. In return, KDP Select pays higher royalties (closer to the 70% mentioned earlier) and allows those books to be part of the lending library for their Prime Members. Authors get paid a percentage of the total amount Amazon Prime members pay for each book lent out.
KDP Select also gives you the option to make your book free or discounted for up to five days, as part of your promotional campaign. During that time, it appears on sales pages on Amazon.com, which drives more people to it.
This is Amazon’s print-on-demand service for indie authors. It lets you sell a paperback copy of your book either on CreateSpace.com or directly from Amazon.com. All you have to do is upload a PDF based on their specifications and set how much you’d like to make. (They give you a base price; you make the public price something over that.)
You don’t pay for book printing – you simply collect a commission whenever it sells. You’re in charge of the price and associated commission as well. When you upload your book, Amazon tells you what their costs are — $2.50 for example, for a 150-page book. From there you can price your book at anything higher, say $9.
Under that scenario, for each paperback sale, Amazon keeps $2.50 and the shipping costs that it charges the buyer, and you keep $6.50.
Authors design (or can have Create Space design for an extra fee) a cover and upload their content in PDF format. Once it’s uploaded you can download or physically order a “proof” copy or view it directly on their website. That way, if you need to make changes, you can do that before it’s made available for sale.
Amazon Author Central
Whether your book is published by a traditional publisher or you are an independent author, Amazon lets you create an author page. You can add your biography; your photo; editorial reviews; and your blog’s RSS feed (so it grabs new articles). It’s even possible to share upcoming speaking and book-signing events and show your latest tweets.
Every Amazon page for your book links to this enormously useful marketing tool, so it cross-links other books you have published, too. On your author page, readers can even sign up to get email notifications from Amazon when you release new books.
Having an Author Central page doesn’t require using other Amazon services. All that’s necessary is that one or more of your books is for sale in any way on Amazon. From there it’s simply a matter of letting Amazon know that you’re the author and following the prompts to set up the page.
Consequentially, publishing on Amazon isn’t hard at all, if you follow the steps, adapt to the procedures and identify the best most effective mode/medium of publishing for your particular needs. Everyone’s self-publishing needs are unique and different, so choose the model that works the best for you.
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