eBook publishing is a cinch with Amazon’s KDP. Before I go into the KDP option, let me share why I prefer KDP over other services available to independent authors. Many publishing companies are charging authors insane fees to make their books available in ebook format. They often set the book at a high price, but only give the author 7-12% of the commission. Considering that the cost of delivery is only pennies, this is a windfall for publishers. An author friend contacted me recently. She had a book published on one of the vanity press sites, and she wanted to make it available in ebook. Though she had already spent thousands with them, they wanted to charge her $500 to convert it to an ebook.
These price-gouging sites are forcing authors to seek other options, and this type of greed will eventually drive customers who would have been loyal to find other solutions. Some publishing companies are wising up to the changing market. As of this writing, Lulu now offers a $99 package to authors where they will take a complete manuscript and convert it for the author, and make it available for sale through their site, iBookstore, and Barnes and Noble. For someone who isn’t technical, that isn’t an unreasonable price.
There is one problem though, they don’t sell through Amazon. If you read my earlier article, I mentioned that out of my first 1500 books, I sold all but three through Amazon. Excluding the largest book market is not a good move for authors.
Smashwords is another service I used on my first book. Because they take one file and distribute it among all ebook retailers they do business with, this requires the author to format a book according to their strict guidelines. They then run it through what they call ‘the meat grinder’, and the file comes out stripped of all formatting and is scaled down to fit any type of ebook. I didn’t have a good experience with known book sales showing up through Smashwords, so I quit using them.
I haven’t checked Smashwords in a few years, but when I used them Amazon was not a partner. You may want to check to see if this has changed. If you want to use kdp along with Smashwords, you can get a wider distribution of your book.
One of the most important considerations is whether you want to be part of KDP Select. KDP Select requires an author to sell exclusively through Amazon for both print and ebook sales during the enrollment period (90 days). There are a few advantages to the Select program. It allows you to have up to 5 promotional days every 90 days. This allows you to make your book free for 1 to 5 days, and you can divide the five days up anyway you would like. A free promo is a good way to get a book noticed during a book launch or to revive a book that has fallen from public view.
Select also allows authors to do countdown sales. An author can discount a book for a specific period of time, and the countdown timer will show how much time is left in the sale, and what the discounted price is compared to the original price. This puts a sense of urgency in buying a book.
Finally, KDP Select allows authors to place books into the Lending Library. Each month, Amazon puts money into the author pool, and that money is divided as commission to every book that was borrowed during that time. This means that if your book is borrowed 25 times, you will get 25 portions of the money pool that is divided among every borrowed book during that time. When the Select program started, the money pool was around $600,000. As of this writing, it is $1.1 million. An Amazon prime member can borrow up to 2 books a month (you may want to verify that time), and the author gets a commission for these borrows. My experience has been between $2.25 – $2.50 per borrow. Considering my ebook is at 99 cents, that’s a great deal!
The last thing I’d like to mention is book price. You need to decide whether you want to make more commission on fewer sales, or a smaller commission on more sales. I have found that non-celebrity authors do much better with a 99 cent book. People will spend a buck on an author they are unfamiliar with, but won’t spend $2.99 and up. My books have had longevity because of the 99 cent price. Since my books are mostly non-fiction, people who like my books often buy several copies of the print version to share. Each author has to decide what is the best avenue for themselves. Keep in mind that a 99 cent book is limited to a 35% commission. $2.99 and above can be set at a 70% commission. 70% sounds good, but if you can sell thousands at 35% it makes up for only selling hundreds at 70%.
Unlike Smashwords, the KDP publishing system is not a complicated process. The most effective option is to save your manuscript in Word as a Webpage Filtered (.htm). This will create an .htm page for your document and will create a subfolder with the same name as your document. Save the .htm file, the subfolder, and the cover art (if you have a book cover file) into a compressed zip folder/file. Upload that to KDP and you are on your way.
In the next post, I’ll share a step-by-step video where you can see me publish a book on KDP (http://kdp.amazon.com).
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Eddie Snipes 2014