What I Learned Self-Publishing an eBook on Amazon: Pros and Cons

By Biron Clark

Published:

Freelancers

Biron Clark

Biron Clark

Writer & Career Coach

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…

Pros of Self Publishing on Amazon:

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 the 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.

Cons of Self Publishing on Amazon:

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 upside. 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.

Things That Surprised me About Publishing on Amazon:

Formatting was easier than expected. I uploaded a Word document directly to Amazon and had very few issues with formatting.

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.

The Verdict: Is It Worth it to Self Publish a book on Amazon’s KDP Platform?

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 in 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

About the Author

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55 thoughts on “What I Learned Self-Publishing an eBook on Amazon: Pros and Cons”

  1. Thanks for sharing. Another pro is that you can purchase paperback Amazon books for about $3-$4 a book, which is relatively cheap. Some printing companies want a lot more for printing your work. This saved heavily on expenses. At least $100 or more.

  2. I had my book Denham Hall published by Publicious about 2 weeks ago. I see it advertised on Amazon. Where do I get information on Amazon marketing my book and the costs involved..

  3. Hi. I’ve just finished writing a non-fiction book and waiting for it to be printed. I have my ISBN no. from my country. Can I still upload my book on Amazon and I have my own book cover?

  4. Hello,
    I was looking into publishing a children’s book that I wrote. I was wondering if you think it is a good idea to publish on amazon ebook or if I should look elsewhere. Let me know what you think,
    Thank you

  5. Hi – this was helpful. does amazon also print books for you that you can ship to your house and sell to other stores?

  6. Thanks for for your valuable insight. I was looking for best option of publishing my book online (fiction), when I saw your appraise.

    I have noted some points to take along in my search.

  7. Absolutely incorrect information about how much you will spend. Editing and cover art that is worth anything will be hundreds of dollars.

  8. I found this article useful. I have found that there are a lot of rogue publishers out there.
    Kindle will be fine for me. I’m not writing for financial gain, but would gain satisfaction from people reading my work.

  9. Great article! Lots of helpful information contained therein. Glad I happened upon it. Thanks for sharing your lessons learned.

  10. Your article was quite nice but very limited, no offense intended. Does Amazon control where else you can publish the work? How important is the cover? If you have drawn your own cover then what? How about the blurb (right?) and title–do you have any specific pointers? What is a good length for a non-fiction book–a dictionary of phrases, for instance? What about B&N and universities? How important is an agent? If Amazon produces the hardcover version can I then sell this to university (and other) bookstores on my own? How? Thank you.

    • Hi Kevin, no offense taken. There are whole books and courses on how to self publish on Amazon. Of course an article will be pretty limited.

      You’d have to check Amazon’s current terms of service for your first question.

      The design and quality of your cover is super important.

      You sound pretty serious about this, which is great! But in order to really have a comprehensive view of everything involved, you’re probably going to need to either piece together info from 5-10+ articles or youtube videos, and/or invest in a course that just walks you through everything step by step (I don’t think that’s necessary, though, if you’re willing to gather bits of info from various places).

  11. Ebook royalties are 70% for maximum price point of $9.99 but you get 60% royalties for paperback and can sell at any price. You did not mention that.

    • Thanks for adding that info. I don’t have any experience publishing a paperback on Amazon, so I didn’t cover that here. I’m only familiar with e-books.

  12. You mention a good cover is SO important but then you mention a cost of $20 to $50. I have literally done hundreds of covers but not at that price point. Please research design fees before you quote pricing. This is one reason why people expect the moon but aren’t willing to pay for years of professional experience. You can buy a cover design for that price but I bet you wouldn’t want it on your book.

  13. I appreciate what you have written. Thank you. about the website that you are asking in this ‘leave a comment’ are you saying that I need a website in order to publish on Amazon?

  14. TERRIFIC article, but you never gave a definitive answer. Are you trying to say ” Better to publish short books on KDP than long books.” You ambiguously mentioned “Marketing 60%.” That’s a big percent to throw around. Bottom line. Is it better to use KDP or truly ” SELF PUBLISH”? Sincerely GLEN

  15. Hi Biron. Thanks for the information. I am a new writer. I am writing a very short book. It’s on my journey through cancer. This may sound strange but I’m not looking to make money. My only hope is that this book would help another on their journey. I am however looking to reach people.

    I have been approached by a company that has the phrase self publish in it but the reviews I read say t may cost about $3500.

    So here’s my question. Amazon or a company? if I charge it’s only to pay back for publishing. Thank you for your help.

    • Paying someone $3500 to publish for you isn’t exactly what I call self publishing. The whole point of Amazon KDP is that you don’t need to pay any companies for help.

      You can choose which route to take, but you don’t need to pay a company thousands of dollars just to release a small book. I’d publish it myself and then invest some of that money into marketing to help get the word out about the book once it’s launched.

      Good luck!

  16. Thank you I found this post most insightful. I’m basically putting together a short ebook for someone else who wishes to ‘translate’ the life of a Chief Mountain Tour Guide in the first person. This has provoked some veery good questions … much appreciated.

  17. Hi Biron;

    I’m also a self-published author on kdp and have produced a video series. I’m trying to figure out how to market my videos. Do you think that promoting the series on my FB author page with a link to PayPal and then delivery via DropBox might work? Or can you suggest a better way? Thank you.

    • Hi Judy, did you come to figure out the best way? I have 2 children’s books ((Picture books)) that kdp printed and are sale on Amazon. I would rather just have kdp print them for me then sell them on my own via website. I have a blogging website and I really don’t want to create a website but I guess I might have to if I want to do e-commerce on my own. Let me know if you discover an easier way. Also, reviewers are major on Amazon. you need 4-5 stars from lots of people before customers will buy. I wonder if some people pay for good reviews, that wouldn’t be fair. If you want to chat, comment back. Best of Luck!

  18. i enjoyed your honest approach to publishing on Amazon. I am now rethinking that i could make some short videos of the information and still sell my book on Amazon.

  19. Is possible to both publish an e book on Amazon and simultaneously publish it as a hard copy with a private printer?

    • I believe so, yes. You’d have to check Amazon’s policies (which are always changing), but last I checked – this was possible.

  20. If you get an ISBN number on Amazon and then decide to go traditional/agent/publisher route, does the ISBN transfer over? Or if you get an Amazon book number can you/should you get a new ISBN with a new publisher?

    • I’m not sure, Stephen. That’s something I’d ask a publisher. I only self-published on Amazon and never went with a traditional publishing route.

  21. hi thanks for this. how are you able to market or advertise your book if you publish with amazon as i thought i read you cant promote it anywhere else? its just you mention having to market it a lot yourself to get it somewhere. thanks sally

    • I think you can definitely promote it – on social media, on a blog/website, with ads (ads directly on Amazon would probably perform best). There are lots of ways. But the main reason people list a product on Amazon is that the website already has a massive audience – far more than you could reach through your own promotion. But it’s still competitive and hard to get noticed on that platform if your book isn’t selling well.

  22. Thanks for advice. I self-publish under Neva Bell Books on Amazon Kindle. Really easy, but does take knowledge of Amazon Kindle. Learning so much from articles like yours. Thanks!
    Neva Bell Books.

  23. My impression is that sales depend on how well you can market your product. Amazon provides a platform, but your on your own to get the word out and keep your message fresh

  24. I have a children’s book I would Like to try on Amazon, would you know how well children’s books fare ?

    • I’m not 100% sure, but I’m guessing they would do very well. I assume this would be fiction? In general, if you look at the top-earning self-published authors on Amazon, almost all are fiction writers. Very few are writing about business topics, entrepreneurship, careers, etc.

      And also – the top earners seem to write series of books, not just one. So if you had some success with your first book, I’d look into turning it into a children’s series. Good luck!

    • Hi, Ellen! I too would like to advertise my children’s book with Amazon. Where did you find your illustrator? I’m thinking about using an online illustrator (fiverr.com)

    • Hi Elleen,
      I was also considering publishing a children’s book on Amazon. I was wondering if you had any success with yours and if you would recommend it to me. Let me know,
      Thank you

  25. I don’t understand why self publishing your book isn’t a home run to make tons of money. If your book is relevant enough and its marketed correctly, how come ONE great book can’t sell hundreds of thousands of copies, if not millions. In terms of anything specific stopping that from happening, I don’t see any built in roadblocks that would stop a great booking from grossing a large sum of money. Where am I misguided at?

    • Hi Roland – great point. There’s nothing about the system/model that limits what you can earn. You’re completely right. In my experience, though, unless you’re Tony Robbins or someone, your book won’t stay on top of the Amazon rankings forever. It’ll peak, and then slowly fade.

      Also, the extremely low price point of most Amazon books is one limiting factor.

      I’ve been selling various things online (all digital products) for years now, and my experience is that it’s easier to get $10,000 by finding 100 people who will pay $100 for something, versus finding 1,000 people who will pay $10 for something.

      Still, Amazon does provide the massive audience you’d need to make a lot of money with such a low price point. There’s nothing inherently stopping you, like you pointed out.

      I just know most people sell well for a year and then fade. And the 6- and 7-figure entrepreneurs I know are using their Amazon books to build authority, lead people into a bigger product or service (like a coaching service, a course, etc.)… not as a main source of revenue.

  26. FYI- I’ve removed my ebook from Amazon. It wasn’t making sales anymore and wasn’t related at all to my current projects/business ventures.

    I’m still glad I self published an ebook on Amazon. It gave me my first experience of selling ANYTHING online. I learned how to write bullet points for a product, how to launch something, how to get customer reviews for a product, how to network, and so much more.

    So… still a valuable experience that I’m thankful for, but I no longer have any books listed for sale on Amazon KDP.

  27. Brilliant. Thank you SO much for sharing this feedback. It was exactly what I was searching for, needed and peace of mind I was desiring. Much success to you on future ventures, friend!

  28. Thank you for the advice and help with your article. I have been a writer for decades and have recently had the opportunity to pursue writing a novel of fiction. I am having fun and my family and friends are super supportive. They have also been encouraging me to try to have my writing published. Your input about good vs bad for e-publishing on Amazon was very helpful. My daughter in law sent me the link. Just wanted to say thanks.

    • Thanks for letting me know. I’ve removed it from Amazon recently. I need to update the blog post, thank you!

    • Was it easy to remove from Amazon? Are you able to publish going the traditional route after trying to sell on Amazon?

    • Hey Christina – yes it’s easy to remove from Amazon, and you can definitely sell/publish elsewhere after this. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t work for Amazon so don’t take this as legal advice, but based on everything I read and my memory of this process, it was very easy.

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