In this world today there are two types of people. The first group loves Amazon. The other believes it is the spawn of the devil. Sure, it’s impressive that this digitally based company will sell you anything, anytime, anywhere. Who wouldn’t be, its reach is simply amazing. But the thrust of this article is more refined and targeted – I’m talking books here.
All my books (see left and right) are available on Amazon both digitally and in paperback (through Createspace), so I have a vested interest in their operation. It is a store, plain and simple, they have things I want, I can buy them, and then they are shipped to my door. It is the perfect retail operation for an agoraphobic that spends their days looking through narrowed window blinds for the UPS truck.
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), is actually very cool. It allows me, the author and publisher of my work, to directly sell to the customer, whether in the United States or Patagonia. I can post my book and access my market in less than 24 hours and can adjust my message hourly if I want. I can revise covers, fix typos, and even serialize my work. It’s all mine, all the good and the bad. I have actually more control than I do in a bookstore.
You, the author, determine the royalty rates (which vary depending on the ebook sales price), and you set the price. And it translates the dollar price into euros, pounds, and even yen. They send you the royalty check on schedule. How cool. This has made some writers very rich, and others disappointed. For most of us the numbers posted on the Reports schedule are never as good as we hope. That is the toughest part of writing – financial satisfaction.
Having a specific location where you can send your reader has changed the whole direction of the publishing industry. Before, in the pre-Amazon era (PAE), books were found in three locations, the bookstore, the library, and when you borrowed a friend’s copy. Not much else. So marketing was critical, and still is. Now, with a web site or blog, I can send my readers to my book’s site, they can peruse my author’s page, read the first chapter, see other books I’ve written and read reviews. I don’t have to have hundreds of copies in boxes, Createspace prints and mails in one day. And reviews, posted right there, are critical to the author and the book’s placement in Amazon’s readership firmament. (BTW, if you have read one of books, pleeeeease post a review, very simple, just click and throw out a few words, kind or not, thanks – more reviews = more clicks).
There are other portals that place the book in front of an audience; Mark Coker’s Smashwords is one that I use as well. KDP supports Kindle, that’s obvious. Smashwords gets your ebook into most of the other formats and sales locations, B&N - Nook, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords own ebook service. Again every one of these is free to post, royalties vary somewhat, but all are easy to use.
If there is one disappointment, it is Amazon’s KDP Select (kdpselect). This is a lending library that Amazon runs where, after paying a monthly fee, the borrower has unlimited access to millions of ebooks through their Kindle. But the publisher/writer can’t market the ebook through any other distributor while it’s listed (minimum 90 days). I thought it would help kick the book off, now I’m not sure. Rentals have been minimal, and I wonder what I missed on Smashwords. So I’m pulling it next month and finally posting 12th Man For Death on Smashwords.
All of this is a learning process, and requires the author to market their work from digital ebooks to face to face book readings. The life in the lonely writer’s garret creating wondrous fiction is over, some days I feel more like a politician than a scribbler – all glad-handing and kissing babies.