Monday, May 19, 2014

The Truth About Amazon

I self-published three ebooks at Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) on the 28th May, 2012. The three books are from my Kate Gomolemo Detective Series: Anything for Money, Murder for Profit, and Claws of a Killer. There is a lot of hype around the money people are earning with their books on Amazon. I think it’s time to get some honesty out there so that people enter with their eyes wide open.

First, there are some issues that work against writers from Botswana (actually all African countries) publishing at KDP.

1. Amazon will keep 30% of all of your royalties for United States tax.
2. No matter what price you set your book at, Amazon will add $2 to it. The reason apparently is that it costs more for them to do business in Botswana.
3. Even if you have chosen the 70% royalty option, this only applies when the customer buying your book is living in a country on Amazon’s list. Botswana is not on the Amazon list, no African country is. Therefore, even if you chose to get 70% royalties and you set your price in the prescribed price range ($2.99-$9.99) you will only get 35% royalties on books bought by readers in Botswana, and any country not on the Amazon list and that is most countries.
4. Amazon pays writers in Botswana with foreign cheques, which is a huge hassle.

Here is my experience so far.
1. I have sold 817 copies of Murder for Profit, 690 copies of Anything for Money and 760 copies of Claws of a Killer.
2. Because a lot of those books were sold during promotional periods during the first few months when I attempted to do some marketing, they were sold at no charge. You can set you price at zero to try and get people to download and read in the hope of generating some hype.
3. All the books were priced at $2.99 so I could get the 70% royalty rate but still keep the price low enough to encourage people to buy. Amazon sold them at $4.99 which included their arbitrary $2 charge on each book. So Amazon got the $2 plus their share of the royalties, this is not negotiable.
4. If my ebook was sold in a country where the 70% royalty was working, I made $2.07 on each book sold at $2.99. That’s quite a good royalty actually. This didn’t happen often though.
5. The total money my three books have earned at Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is $81.16 (USD), 10.24 British Pounds, and 13.62 Euros. I have received nothing. Before any money is released, you must reach a certain threshold. The threshold is $100 (USD) and 100 British Pounds or Euros.
6. I was quite keen to do marketing for the first few weeks, but since then I’ve done nothing. So I guess my bad sales are partly to due to that.
7. I think it might be a good idea to sell series like I did in this case. I found in a month if only three books were sold, it was usually one of each title. This led me to believe that one person bought all three ebooks. This may be wrong, but it happened so often I think it might be the case.

From my experience, it seems difficult to make money with KDP especially if you are publishing from Botswana. Yes, perhaps you could make money selling your books this way, but you’d need to really understand book marketing and devote a good amount of time to it.

I think it may be better to put your ebooks at multiple platforms; meaning put them at Amazon, but also put them at Smashwords, Apple Store, and Barnes and Noble for example. Some of these other places offer better deals and in any case, KDP is only for the Kindle readers, so if you only put your ebooks there you’re missing out on other types of e-readers

I do believe self-publishing ebooks can work for people with the will and the right set of skills and, of course, a good book. But, like most everything, it is not an easy way to publish your book, as some people may have made it seem. Yes, putting the book up is not that difficult, but that is only the beginning of the job.

(This first appeared at my column in The Voice newspaper, It's All Write, here)

1 comment:

Sue Guiney said...

Oh yes :-(
I'm glad you wrote about this. Did you see my post on the same subject a couple of weeks ago? They really are the evil empire, but unfortunately, in America, they are people's knee-jerk go-to place to buy books, not to mention ebrything else. It's hard to get American readers to think of ordering someplace else, unless it's Barnes and Noble which has other problems. And so it goes....