self-publishing on Amazon

Self Publishing on Amazon: 20 Pros and Cons

Self-publishing on Amazon

Self-Publishing on Amazon has taken the publishing world by storm. A lot of aspiring authors who have not had the chance to work with traditional publishers have opted to self-publish. Amazon has become a household name as a self-publishing platform as it offers an easy way of getting books published.

What is self-publishing to begin with? As a business leader or entrepreneur wanting to write a book, the thought of self-publishing may have crossed your mind. Perhaps you do not want to go through the tedious process of sending out book proposals. It can take a lot of your time reaching out to publishers and literary agents. Or you do not have the luxury of time to exert effort in getting a book deal.

Self-publishing is a viable option for you. You can publish our book on your terms, and you get to make all the decisions. 

What is self-publishing?

The term self-publishing started with Dan Poynter in 1979 when he published The Self-Publishing Manual in 1979. His book was the first-ever book published from a word processor and was made available digitally. He also pioneered fax-on-demand which is the very first iteration of print-on-demand.

Self-publishing means publishing a book without the help and funding of a traditional publisher. Upon finishing a manuscript, the writer has to take care of the editing, book layout, typesetting, book cover, printing, distribution, and marketing. This does not mean the writer needs to do all the legwork though. Nowadays, one can hire editors, typesetters, graphic artists for the book cover, and get the book published on online platforms. The most popular among these platforms are Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes and Noble, etc.

Thanks to technology, self-publishing has encouraged thousands of aspiring writers to become authors. 

One of the main reasons why self-publishing has become so popular is because traditional publishing is insanely competitive. 

Pros and cons of self-publishing

Before we talk about self-publishing on Amazon, it would be best to learn the pros and cons of self-publishing. What should you expect if you were to self-publish your book? Find out what works best for self-published authors. Furthermore, get an idea of the challenges that will you face in completing the entire book creation process by yourself

Pros of self-publishing

The beauty of self-publishing is that you have maximum creative freedom and control over the book creation process. Furthermore, you get to earn a bigger share of the profits from book sales. Also, some authors feel a greater sense of self-achievement from publishing their book on their own, without the help of a publishing house.

Creative control

With traditional publishing, there are a lot of decision-makers and gatekeepers involved in the book creation process. From the content of the book, the book cover design, the title, and even the intended audience of the book, the writers need to align with the management in almost every step of the process. With self-publishing, writers answer to no one but themselves and may enjoy total autonomy in the book creation process. There are instances wherein writers need to work with graphic designers and editors. However, at the end of the day, the writer has the final say in all of these.

Higher royalty rates

Royalty rates in traditional publishing range from 7 to 25 percent. More than that, the cash advance that they receive most of the time will get deducted from their royalties. Some publishing houses offer bonuses but these are mostly limited to highly grossing best-selling books.  With independent publishing, writers can get as much as 60 to 70 percent of the net profits. With the same amount of book sales, an independent author can earn as much as 3 to 10 times compared to getting a book deal.

Longer Shelf-Life

Traditionally published books usually have a shelf life of one to two months for books. They only stay longer on the shelves if sales are continuous and bookstores turn a profit. For new authors, this may come as a disadvantage as they are yet to establish their names and build a strong following. On the other hand, digital books remain indefinitely on platforms like Amazon, making it favorable for authors who need more time to get their names established through their marketing efforts.

Faster production

Upon finishing a manuscript, it can take months before the book gets published when it goes through the traditional publishing route. A book has to go through a long and tedious process before it gets out there. While this is okay for some authors, some writers are eager to get their book out there after spending months or even years getting it done. How fast can a book be made available in the self-publishing route? In less than 24 hours, a book can be uploaded to digital platforms and be made available via print-on-demand services.

Opportunity to get noticed

As stated earlier, traditional publishing can be insanely competitive, and newer authors will have a difficult time getting a book deal. With self-publishing, aspiring best-selling authors can get their first book published at their own pace, market their book, build a mailing list and grow their audience, and become an underground hit with enough popularity to get noticed by traditional publishers. It can be a stepping stone for future lucrative book deals.

Cons of self-publishing

Expenses

As mentioned above, a writer will have to cover all of the costs associated with the book creation process. While it is cheaper to design the book cover yourself, self-edit your manuscript, and do the layout yourself, it is advisable to hire professionals who specialize in these areas. Book covers are essential in marketing a book as a lot of people do judge books based on their covers. Self-editing is prone to human error as writers are so used to their writing style. Furthermore, for authors who want to distribute physical copies of their books, printing is very expensive. 

No support system

Traditional publishing houses have a team of editors, proofreaders, graphic designers, typesetters, and project managers to take care of the book creation process. All a writer needs to do is finish the manuscript. Some even provide writing coaches to help writers write better manuscripts and finish their work on time. With self-publishing, you are basically on your own. You can hire editors, ghostwriters, graphic designers, coaches, and printers to get the job done, but you are always at risk of hiring the wrong person. Also, as discussed in the previous section, hiring a support team can be quite costly.

Print distribution challenges

Major bookstores often have exclusive deals with traditional publishers. Because of this, self-published authors find it difficult to penetrate physical bookstores and are often limited to digital marketplaces and print-on-demand services.

Less popularity

Traditional publishers offer a certain level of prestige and authority to the authors that they associate with. They offer an author platform with a wider reach and visibility. While self-publishing has become a household name, traditionally published books still have a bigger market share. Self-publishing can be a profitable venture and some authors have made a name for themselves but there are still a lot of self-published authors who are yet to be successful, let alone earn enough from their published works.

Self-Publishing in Amazon

Amazon, by far, is one of the biggest online retailers not just in the US, but around the world. It is a household name and has one of the biggest market shares in online shopping. For this reason, many authors have opted to get their books published in Kindle Direct Publishing.

Pros of Self-Publishing in Amazon

Given that majority of self-published authors have chosen KDP as a platform, here are some advantages worth taking note of.

Higher royalties

KDP lets you can choose between 35% and 70% royalty options. To qualify for the 70% royalty option, the list price must satisfy KDP’s list price requirements. Aside from that, the author must satisfy other requirements such as minimum list price for the physical book and availability in certain geographies. If requirements are not met, authors are entitled to the 35% royalty option.

KDP Print on demand

It is very expensive to have your book printed. Furthermore, self-published books have limited physical distribution options as most bookstores have exclusive deals with traditional publishing houses. KDP gives authors an option to print their book on-demand where printing costs are subtracted from their royalties. This works for most self-published authors who have a limited budget and are unable to shoulder the costs of printing hundreds of copies of their books.

Audiobook format is available

Audiobooks are becoming more and more popular. According to The Spoken Word Audio Report by Edison Research, audiobook listening attained an all-time high reach in 2020 with 54% of the US population has listened to an audiobook at least once. The continuous increase of audiobook listeners offers an additional revenue stream for self-published authors by publishing audiobook editions of their published work through Audible.  

Immediate availability on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon offers the Kindle Unlimited subscription service for readers who want to borrow and read books instead of purchasing individual titles. Readers can borrow as many as 10 books at a time. Amazon pays authors for pages that customers have read. This creates another revenue stream for authors who published via KDP.

Offer your book for free for five days

Authors can offer their book for free for five days during each 90-day enrollment period. While this does not generate income for the author, it is a good marketing strategy to get readers to download the book and recommend it to their friends and family. 

Ease in tracking books sales

Authors get access to a Sales Dashboard where they can see units ordered and royalties earned for the past 90 days. You can customize reports with marketplace filters like format, title, time period, and author. 

Bigger market share

According to Magnolia Media Network, Kindle still has the biggest market share compared to Nook, Apple iBooks, and Cobo. With a 67% market share, authors who published in KDP have a wider reach. With KDP, you may have a better chance for higher sales conversions

Royalty Rate Revision

Authors can revise Royalty rates even after they have published their book. This gives an author some level of flexibility in income generation. If the 70% royalty plan does not seem profitable due to printing costs and VAT, the author can choose to change it to the 35% royalty rate.

Amazon can promote your book for you

With Amazon Ads, Authors can create custom ads and target readers most likely to buy their book. You can set a monthly budget, as well as a cap to set the maximum amount that you are willing to pay for if someone clicks your ad.

You can publish short books

Short books are typically 50 pages long. If you are looking to publish a short book, KDP allows short-form content publishing.

Faster royalty payments than traditional publishing

Amazon pays royalties from book sales every month. Although there is a delay of 30 days after the first month, the two-month wait is still a lot faster if you were to publish a book traditionally. Most publishers calculate and pay royalties every six months. 

One-click purchase

Cart abandonment is not much of an issue with Amazon, as 1-click purchase minimizes the steps a customer has to take when purchasing a book. Kindle Unlimited and audible also features 1-click access which increases the chances of customers to pick up your book.

Cons of Self-Publishing on Amazon

While there are a lot of advantages to self-publishing on Amazon, authors should take note of the disadvantages of getting their books published through KDP. 

Kindle Unlimited may revenue

While Kindle Unlimited may seem like an additional revenue stream, it could affect potential sales. Instead of readers purchasing your book and paying the full price, they can borrow your book instead and Amazon will only pay you on a per-page read basis. 

100% exclusivity

Amazon demands 100% exclusivity in all ebooks enrolled in KDP. This means open publishing on other retailers is out of the question. At the same time, Amazon has the biggest market share so if you are thinking of self-publishing, it would be best to have a clear understanding of your target audience. 

Content sharing limitations

The self-publishing contract with KDP limits the amount of content and author can share outside of Amazon. This means that authors are can only share 10% of each of their book’s content on their website, blog, and other online platforms. Sharing more than 10% is a violation of the agreement and may merit penalties. Therefore, if you have previously published parts of your book in your blog, you would have to take down your blog post to comply with your KDP contract.

Paid-only reviews

Only customers who purchased the book can leave reviews. So if an author took advantage of the free book offering for 5 days, those who downloaded the book will be unable to leave positive reviews. Furthermore, only Amazon users who have accumulated $50 worth of purchases can leave reviews on books that they purchased. 

Authors should remove previous listings

Authors should remove previously published listings outside of Amazon before they launch their book in KDP. Again, this is regarding Amazon’s 100% exclusivity. The downside here is that authors need to opt out of their existing revenue streams if they want to launch their book via KDP.

70% Royalty option exclude delivery costs

Amazon deducts delivery costs from monthly revenues in the 70% royalty option. This means authors need to plan their pricing well if they want to turn a profit. There are instances wherein authors earn less with the 70% royalty option due to the high delivery fees.

No direct marketing opportunities

The customers who purchase books through Amazon are Amazon’s customers. Compared to building a landing page or a funnel that captures leads that can be used for newsletters and other marketing campaigns, self-publishing in Amazon offers very little data on leads and people who purchased your book.

A tremendous amount of competition

There are millions of authors on Amazon. While there is an insane amount of competition in getting a book deal from a traditional publisher, there is, on the other hand, a tremendous amount of competition in getting books sold on Amazon. Authors may need to spend some cash on Amazon Ads if they want their book to reach their target audience. 

Authors still need to do all the work

Amazon is only a channel to sell books. It does not offer any services such as editing, proofreading, graphic design, marketing, etc. Before authors can self-publish on Amazon, they should have already edited and proofread the manuscript and created the book cover design. Amazon only offers formatting services

Alternative to self-publishing on Amazon

Aside from traditional publishing and self-publishing, there is a third option – hybrid publishing. Hybrid publishing is right at the middle of traditional and self-publishing. 

In traditional publishing, authors get paid to publish their books. In self-publishing, authors finance their books. Whereas, in hybrid publishing, authors still finance the book creation process, but enjoy the perks of working with a team with the same caliber as that of a traditional publishing house.

A hybrid publishing company like Leaders Press will get your book written, edited, published, and launched into a best-selling book. All an author needs to do is sit down and answer questions in a series of interviews. The rest will be done by a professional team of writers, editors, graphic designers, typesetters, librarians, and marketing specialists.

This means that hybrid publishing is a lot less work than self-publishing, is less competitive than traditional publishing, and creates better income opportunities compared to both models. 

Should you self-publish on Amazon?

At the end of the day, aspiring authors need to weigh the pros and cons of using KDP as a self-publishing platform. One major factor to consider is Amazon’s exclusivity clause. Open publishing poses a wide audience but given that Amazon has a 67% market share, authors need to maximize their reach different platforms which comprise the remaining 33% of the market.

Creating a website to sell the book is another viable option but at the end of the day, it could entail costs. A website or landing page alone may cost hundreds of dollars. More than that, there are marketing costs to consider such as online ads, the cost of email marketing, and all the other tools needed to sell the book.

On the other hand, despite Amazon’s disadvantages, authors need not worry about any of the technical concerns of building their eCommerce site for the book. Plus, some authors earn a decent living in just selling books through Amazon.

The value of self-publishing

Amazon may be a good stepping stone for first-time authors who are having a hard time getting noticed by traditional publishers. With a book that has made a decent amount of sales under your belt, and an author platform that has a substantial reach, your authority and credibility increase which in turn can help strengthen your book proposal for your next book.

Finally, there is an option to work with a hybrid publisher. If you are finding it difficult to finish your manuscript, and you want to get published with the same prestige as that of a traditional publisher, working with a hybrid publishing company could get you closer to your goal of getting your book published and becoming the next best selling author in the business non-fiction genre.

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