Publishing, regardless of whether you are self-publishing or going the traditional route, is a lot of hard work. While nothing is ever perfect readers tend to expect novels to be as close to it as possible. We expect the novel to have a good story line, no typos, well rounded characters, eye catching cover art is a big plus, and an attention grabbing blurb. The standards readers set for the books they read are pretty high and writers need to work hard to make their novel a masterpiece. I regress, publishing is a crucial part of getting your book into the reader’s hands and one made all the more difficult when self-publishing.
This month Seven has welcomed established indie author David Estes to break down what it means to self-publish. He was very generous in his advice and we have that all here for you. David Estes has self-published since 2011 and has four series (The Dwellers, The Country Saga, The Evolution Trilogy and Nikki Powergloves) a total of 13 books which include Young Adult and Children’s novels under his belt. He is an amazing writer who has made a lifelong fan out of me. 🙂
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of indie authors or self-publishing, the first platform that comes to mind is Amazon. It is a leader as a publishing platform and one of the biggest online retailers. However, for someone looking into selling their books on Amazon, knowing the facts is a must. I think that if I were to look into every reason that this selling giant has been dubbed a monopoly I would be here for weeks. Yet when sticking strictly to the publishing world, it can be spelled out in two words: KDP Select. Kindle Direct Publishing Select is a program where Amazon targets authors looking to publish their novel. In essence it asks for a three month exclusivity contract in exchange for higher royalties and ensures your novel will reach a new audience with the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. When Estes was asked, ‘In your opinion what is the best and worst thing about publishing on Amazon?’ This is what he had to say:
Now that’s a loaded question! But it’s also an easy one. There are a few things that are awesome about Amazon:
First, their reach can’t be beat. They are still in a dominant position in the online (ebook) book-selling market. The vast majority of authors will undoubtedly get the bulk of their sales from Amazon.
Second, if your books are selling and getting good reviews, Amazon will help you. They will recommend your books to readers who enjoy similar ones and they will actually generate sales FOR YOU. This is an amazing thing once it really gets going. It can make or break your book.
Third, it’s really, really easy to publish on Amazon and the royalty rates are awesome if you price your book at $2.99 or above.
However, there are always two sides to every coin. There are some really frustrating things about publishing with Amazon that I’ve recently made very clear to them in a customer satisfaction survey:
First, their KDP Select program is a blatant attempt to monopolize the market, which is totally uncool. They promise nice perks like making your books available in a lending library (which you get paid royalties for) and give you the opportunity to make your book available for free every so often. However, in exchange, you have to SELL YOUR SOUL. OK, I’m being dramatic, but for me, it’s almost that bad. You have to agree to EXCLUSIVELY publish your book on Amazon. Like I said, not cool. It alienates readers who don’t buy their books from Amazon which I’m not down with.
Second, they have very strict pricing compliance rules that have been a royal pain in the butt a few times. They insist that your book must be priced as low or lower than every other retailer out there. I’m all for having my book priced the same everywhere, but it prevents you from doing, say, a Barnes & Noble promotion where you make your book $.99 on B&N for a few days. Uh uh, Amazon won’t allow it. They cry and shake their fists and say you have to include them at the party and make your book $.99 for them too. Of course, they have NO problem with you pricing your book at $.99 for a few days on Amazon but NOT on B&N. Yeah, double standards.
Third, Amazon has really annoying royalty rates for books priced lower than $2.99. It’s all part of their attempt to force Indie authors to price their books at $2.99 or above. The way it works is that if you price at $2.99 or above, you get an incredible 70% royalty rate, but if you price below that, you get a pathetic 30%. That’s frustrating because if I want to do a promotion and drop the price on one of my $2.99 books to say $1.49, although my price has only changed by $1.50, my royalty has gone from $2.09 to a measly $.46. For the most part, I price all my books at $2.99 or above, even if I don’t really want to. Otherwise it’s just not worth my while.
The bottom line, however, is that I can complain about my three big negatives until I’m old and gray and red-faced, but Amazon is still the key to my success. I own a Kindle, I buy tons of books from them, and I will continue to use them as my primary publishing platform.
Estes does an amazing job at breaking down what Amazon is to a publishing author. Now that the truth has been put out there, which is that through their good and bad Amazon is still a boss and a force to be reckoned with, you decide to still publish with them. Again, they are too big in the publishing world to look over. Just be wary of KDP Select. As in STAY AWAY!!! 🙂 But what’s next? When publishing you definitely shouldn’t stop there. That being said, Estes definitely has a criteria for selecting platforms to sell his novels, “My main goal in picking the platforms to publish on is to make my books available to as many potential readers as possible. I don’t like the idea of being exclusive to one platform as it completely ignores the thousands of readers who don’t use that platform and promotes the monopolization of the industry.” His goal is one I think all authors can relate to. He continues on to share with us his publishing strategy:
As a self-published author, I can’t possibly publish on every platform that offers ebooks, it’s just not feasible. Every day there are more and more ebook-selling platforms popping up, each with its own business model. At the end of the day, I’m a writer and I don’t want to spend my every waking moment on the publishing process. Plus, because I publish a book every 2-3 months, I need the process to be as streamlined and efficient as possible.
All that being said, my approach to publishing also needs to ensure I get the highest possible royalties for all my hard work. At the end of the day, this is my career, how I make a living, and choosing the right platforms can have a major impact on my success. There are distribution platforms out there, like Smashwords, that can help a self-published author distribute to a number of other ebook distributors. Through Smashwords “premium distribution” it can distribute to B&N, iBooks, Sony, and Kobo, to name just a few. However, as a fee for their service, they’ll take an extra 15% of your royalty. So not only will B&N take a percentage of each book’s sale price, but Smashwords will too. This can really cut into your royalties in a hurry.
Thus, I highly recommend publishing direct to as many major platforms as you can within your time constraints. Because I sell most of my books on Kindle and Nook, I publish directly to each of those two platforms. Then I use Smashwords’ service to publish almost everywhere else, like iBooks, Kobo, and Sony. However, if you choose to use Smashwords to publish some places, but not others, be sure to “Opt-Out” of distribution to the platforms you’re publishing to directly. Otherwise your book may be listed twice. So I lose a little bit of my royalty by not publishing directly to iBooks or Kobo, but it’s a minimal loss as my sales from those distributors isn’t a significant portion of my overall revenue. For me the trade-off between minor loss of revenue and the time it would take me to publish to iBooks and Kobo myself, is worth what Smashwords takes as the middle man. But if I had more time, I’d definitely consider publishing to a few other platforms directly. Finally, I publish to up and coming Google Books on my own through their Partner Program. It’s incredibly easy and already I’m seeing my sales from Google increasing each and every month.
That covers ebooks, but I also recommend publishing a paperback version in at least one place. That way your readers who don’t have ereaders can still access your books. Personally, I publish my paperbacks through Createspace, which is an Amazon company. That makes all my books available through Amazon as print-on-demand with no upfront cost to me.
The last question I asked of Estes was, “To a writer who doesn’t know their way around the selling platforms what advice would you give?”
There are a few key pieces of advice I would give to writers who are new to navigating the many selling platforms that are out there:
1. Focus on ebooks! That is the place to be, especially for Indie authors. You can offer your books at a better price than big published books and reach a growing market. You’ll also receive MUCH higher royalty rates than by publishing through print.
2. Focus on the biggest platforms because that’s where you’ll get most of your revenue. Amazon and B&N still have a stranglehold on the ebook industry. Although they will both inevitably lose some market share over time, the market is growing rapidly, so the overall pie will be getting bigger too.
3. Be aware of trends in the market. Do your research. For example, Apple and Google have both been pushing resources into their book-selling platforms, which will likely mean growth from them.
4. Take advantage of a worldwide market! Amazon and Barnes & Noble are only available in some countries. Use platforms like Smashwords.com to reach almost EVERY country. I’m selling more and more books in places like Asia, Africa, and Europe through Smashwords.
5. Use the templates provided by the platforms you choose. You absolutely need your book to be formatted nicely for each of your platforms. Otherwise readers will get frustrated with how hard it is to read your books and they won’t come back for the next one or recommend it to others.
When you are new to the publishing world and it is alien to you, there is always someone out there who has done what you are trying to do and is honest, open and giving with their advice. So ask questions. Also, be sure to let us know what part of the publishing process has you stomped and we will tackle it to the best of our and an experienced professional’s ability.
David once again, thank you so much for allowing me the pleasure of working with you and giving aspiring authors all this great advice. As per his words from the guest post listed below, “Read, read, read! Be a reader and a lover of books first.” So readers and writers out there, be sure to check out his novels which can be found on Goodreads and Amazon (and all the selling platforms listed above). To hear more on what Estes has to say about writing, publishing and promoting be sure to click on these sites: Advice For Writers That Are Just Starting by David Estes
Indie Author Advice Series #2 by David Estes
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