I recently published a short book on Amazon using their Kindle Direct Publishing platform (KDP).
Self publishing is becoming more popular so I wrote this post to talk about the pros and cons of self publishing on Amazon… The pleasant surprises, the frustrations, the things I didn’t find out until it was too late.
Here’s everything you need to know about Amazon self publishing…
It’s incredibly easy. You can write and upload a Word document as your eBook and it’ll look fine on Kindle and other platforms. If you want to get a bit fancier with formatting you can upload an HTML file (you can quickly save your Word doc into HTML with one click, so Word is still viable!)
It’s cheap. No publisher fees. No printing costs. You can even create a print version of your book based on the eBook version, with a service called CreateSpace. Overall you’re looking at very minimal costs of $20-50 for cover design (a good cover is SO important for sales, more on this later), $20-50 for a proofreader or editor, and that’s about it for getting your book out.
You can start earning money quickly, and if you price your book between $2.99 and 9.99, Amazon gives you 70% of the cut. Not a bad deal considering they let you use their technology to publish your ebook, and then help you promote it on their massive eCommerce platform with millions of regular visitors.
I actually started writing a longer book, the basic concept being how to navigate a “Career Change at Any Age”. I got about 6,000 words into it, out of a goal of 20,000 or so, and decided it was WAY too much work for something that’ll sell for less than $5. I’ll likely turn this concept into a video course in the future. But my point here is that one of the negatives at least in my perception was the limited up-side. You pour a ton of work into something that’ll sell for so little, if you can even get it to sell at all (continue to the next point to see what I mean).
It’s hard to get your book noticed at first. It’s hard to get those first one or two book reviews or break into the top rankings. This is why promotion matters so much. If you plan on writing a book on Amazon do not make the mistake of thinking the project is complete once the book is finalized. That’s only 40% of the battle. Marketing/selling is the other 60% and you need to be prepared to either do this or pay somebody to do it for you. Otherwise your book WILL NOT sell.
I already mentioned limited earnings potential, let me explain. Except for a few of the absolute best selling authors, mainly in fiction, and all of whom are offering multiple books in a series or collection, you’re not going to earn a ton from your eBook sales on Amazon. You might earn a few thousand dollars a month after an initial burst during the marketing of your launch. And that’s optimistic. That brings me to my next point also.
From what I’ve heard, sales fade fast. Amazon favors newer titles. If you look in some of the best seller categories you’ll notice that the vast majority of books listed near the top were published recently. I’m talking VERY recently. October, November etc (I’m writing this blog post on December 14). This is good because it gives you a fighting chance as a new author, but it also means your success might be short-lived unless you follow up with another title soon.
Formatting was easier than expected. I uploaded a Word document directly into Amazon and had very few issues with formatting, if any.
Editing the actual content is harder than I thought and more frustrating. I should have hired an editor from the start. Lesson learned.
Relatively speaking, non-fiction or self improvement ebooks like mine are just a tiny piece of the self-publishing ecosystem. On various eBook websites you’ll often see 10 or 15 book categories and non-fiction is just one. Sometimes it’ll be two but that’s rare. Whereas fiction will be divided into romance, sci-fi, mystery, horror, fantasy, and so many others. And each of those categories has a ton of books and a ton of readers and followers.
Based on the pros and cons above, I’d say that if your only objective is to share information you know and turn that into revenue, you’re better off looking into consulting, coaching, or creating a video course that you can sell for a much higher price point than an eBook.
However, if you have some spare time and believe that being able to point to the fact that you’re a published author on Amazon will help boost your credentials or career, then it’s worth it.
Self publishing on Amazon is also worth it if you can use the clicks and views that your eBook receives to boost another venture. Do you have a newsletter or email list? Put a freebie into your book and offer it in return for an email signup.
So overall it was worth it for me to publish my short e-book on Amazon, but I’m glad I stopped writing the book I originally planned – “Career Change at Any Age” – because it would have taken months and would not have been worth it in this format.
After choosing a shorter topic to write about (self improvement quotes and tips), I’m happy to have something up and selling.
This process of self publishing on Amazon will also give me experience launching, marketing, and selling a product… which is extremely valuable. I didn’t have this experience previously.
But self publishing a book on Amazon is not a “home run” play by any means. The highest paid authors on Amazon have a series of books and have spent years building that up. And the highest paid authors on Amazon KDP tend to be fiction writers, too.
So I’m glad I did this, but don’t expect a follow-up book anytime soon. A video course is more likely.
Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.