to sell books, need to promote them
I have self-published two books as e-book and print-on-demand formats, distributed by Amazon. One was a memoir under a pen name. The more recent one, my debut novel, was under my legal name. I didn't promote the memoir. Only a handful of people read it, whom I told it existed. It never was found under millions of books on Amazon. Let's face it, if no one knows about it, no one's going to buy it, are they? I 'unpublished it' and thought I had deleted the files, then recently recovered it. I am going to edit it, rename it Bipolar Cringe and republish it under my name with more context.
In contrast, my semiautobiographical novel, Pet Purpose: Your Unspoken Voice hit #1 in Amazon Best Sellers in the Biographical Fiction category during a promotion. The promotion was on a shoestring budget and took place around six weeks after release, after I had tested out some options, researched how I might make the best of the free giveaway. Hopefully, some people will leave a review and recommend the book.
Going exclusive on Amazon
So far, I have only used Amazon to distribute my books. I chose not to give distribution rights only to Amazon during the set up, so as not to put all my eggs in one basket, in case they change things in the future. I used my own ISBN for both book formats (free in New Zealand and required in New Zealand for ebooks) rather than KDP issued ISBN (which has implication that one is to stay exclusive if use theirs). I made an administration error though in setting up, which I am still trying to have Amazon fix (listed the supplier of the ISBN - apparently has happened before with the confusing instructions). I enrolled into the KDP Select program, which runs for 90 days at a time. It will auto-renew unless one opts out of it.
With being exclusive to Amazon, I get a 70% royalty on the ebook rather than 35%. They are only really interested in ebooks as they have a library borrowing program called Kindle Unlimited that they sell subscriptions for. Amazon seem to be more focused on selling Kindles and having readers borrow from a library program. They also offer a print-on-demand service. They will print each book as ordered and dispatch directly to the customer, which is makes print books possible for independent authors, with no upfront costs. The books were better quality than I expected - just as good as books in the bookstore.
Other indie authors and bloggers say that Amazon is arguably the largest market for books, and most likely to make the most sales there. The prices are much lower than books in New Zealand, off-set by higher price of shipping with distance. So I had to research and price my book in accordance with the market. Amazon actually raised the price I had set for my ebook.
I needed to set up a Payoneer in the US for royalty payments, as New Zealand banks no longer accept cheques and it's too expensive to wire payments. As far as I'm aware, Amazon don't pay royalties into PayPal.
After research, I decided on a free promotion rather than a cut price promotion. The reason being, so it can be listed on some free directories with subscribers after freebies. Only 5 days of promotion are allowed in a 90 day period. I decided to run the promotion as one block. All went well and I promoted the heck out of it.
However, some of my potential readers contacted me to say they could not download the book. I was mostly promoting via the Amazon US link and could still see the option to use the free app for those who don't have a Kindle and want to read the ebook on any device (I don't even have a Kindle myself). Some potential readers said that link was gone and instead replaced only with an option to get the free ebook (which I make no royalties on during promotion) only if they pay for a subscription to Kindle Unlimited. I did not see anything about Amazon doing this - if anyone could point me to it, I would appreciate it.
This is what I could see on from Amazon US with my book on promotion, free with the 'Read with our free app' link:
A few readers contacted me and said they could not see this. One was in the US and said they could not purchase it without being told they need to sign up for Kindle Unlimited (so not really free as promoted) . Another reader had the same issue looking at Amazon US from Mexico, but could see the option to download with the free app from Amazon Mexico. I looked in some other English-speaking market places. Canada had now changed to Kindle Unlimited. I tried to test the link, but I would not allow me to try purchase and directed me back to Amazon US, where it said I am registered (from New Zealand).
The link for Amazon UK was also now Kindle Unlimited with no option to download with the free app for any device that is not a kindle. I could not see anything in the Terms and Conditions about the free downloads being changed to Kindle subscriptions. I am not sure if this is normal with promotions, but the downloads dropped off drastically after this seemed to change.
Another problem, is that Amazon won't allow reviews unless people make a certain amount of purchases per year. I think it's good how they identify who made a verified purchase and moderate reviews, but some readers have expressed they wanted to leave a review but were unable to as had not met the purchase threshold.
Or Go Wide?
Independent authors can list with competitor distributors to Amazon if they are not in the KDP Select program. If they are not in KDP program, royalties drop from 70% to 35% and one can not run free and discount price promotions.
Authors can list with competitors such as Apple direct or list with an aggregator. The latter might be easier for independent authors. The aggregator takes a small cut for listing the book with more than one distributor, collects the money and then pays out the royalties.
When I researched blogs from independent authors, one of the main concerns about staying exclusively with Amazon was basically supporting what some argue is an monopoly on the market. Amazon has in its terms and conditions that they will price match. So if a promotion is offered elsewhere, they will drop prices to match.
From my research, I would be interested in trying Draft-2-Digital, who charge nothing upfront and pay out royalties via PayPal. I would stay direct with Amazon and opt out of Amazon though Draft-2-Digital, so listings don't appear at Amazon twice. Half of the distributers with Draft-to-Digital won't allow erotic content. Some authors have had success with Apple and Kobo, which one can list direct through or list through Draft-2-Digital.
Those who argue for going wide say they do so mainly for the philosophy of diversifying the market, to avoid a monopoly of one book giant. Going wide has potentially less profit (but not always), but potentially more reach. Reach is my primary aim, any money is a bonus, although it would be nice to achieve a near impossible dream of financial freedom from my efforts. I want to make my books accessible to readers. A few have already let me know they had trouble trying to download through Amazon.
So when my exclusive period with KDP Select is up, I want to try Draft-2-Digital as it fits my objectives to try make my book more accessible to readers. Of course, one can list with an aggregator such as Draft-2-Digital for Amazon too, but it's easy enough to list the book yourself direct with KDP for Amazon, try a promotion and see how it goes. As far as I'm aware, Draft-2-Digital doesn't currently do print-on-demand like KDP does.
Pet Purpose has gone to readers in at least 10 countries and has 5-star reviews. It is a story about having a voice with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), my diagnoses. I writing the sequel, Soar Purpose and a book on how to write and self-publish your story without breaking the bank.
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I am no longer blogging or vlogging as a mental health and disability advocate. The politics of it is too toxic for me.