What’s in a Novel: How do you decide where to publish? The advantages and disadvantages of Amazon

For anyone who started following in the last six weeks, you might want to visit this page. For a few months now, I’ve been doing periodic posts of a behind the scenes look at what nontraditionally published authors do with their books to get them written, edited, online and in your hands…er…on your eReader.

Today I was going to talk about each platform we authors have to use to publish and list the advantages and disadvantages of each, but after just the first one, I had more than 1,500 words and decided to stop for the day, so I’ll have to break them up individually. If you’re strictly a reader, you might want to read just for the sake of your own curiosity or you might even learn a trick or two.

Amazon . com–

This is the most obvious place since it has the most popular eReader in the world, the Kindle. It’s said that 43% of all ebooks sold happen on this site alone. This number is actually a down a little as they had a larger percentage when they were the only viable eReader, but now that other contenders are here to play, their numbers have come down. That’s not to say they won’t once again own a larger percentage, and even at 43%, that’s still a HUGE piece of the pie, almost half of all ebooks sold happen right there. Which makes it an extremely important platform to be on.

Advantages:

  • Sites in the US, Canada (new), Japan (new), India (new), UK, France, Germany, Italy and even those in countries I haven’t mentioned have been able to buy via their .com site
  • Name/logo recognition–the words Amazon and Kindle are words that book lovers across the globe know
  • Website Promotion via Also Boughts–if enough people buy copies of your books, there will be boxes halfway down the listing page that says: Also bought. This can range from 1 to 32 “pages” of books that Amazon has kept track of that were also bought by the same account that bought your book. This is FREE promotion for authors as 1 to 150+ in theory could be listed, which means in turn, YOUR book is being listed on all of those books as an “also bought”. Another form of this is when someone buys a book, 4-8 books will show up in their “thank you for the order window” that might also be yours.
  • Website Promotion–Author Page–each author gets an “author page” set up by Amazon. This allows for your blog to stream, your twitter accounts to stream, a short bio to be posted, a list of  public events such as book signings you’ll be attending, as well as links to all of your books. This page gets visited A LOT by potential readers who want to see what books you have out without leaving Amazon to go to search out your author website. You can get to this author page one of two ways: 1. in the search bar on Amazon type in their author’s name who you want to visit their page. Usually it’ll be the second listing with the first listing being one of their bestselling books. 2. when you see that person’s name as a hyperlink, either under their book title or further down on the listing page where it says to visit their author page, click it.
  • Best Seller Lists–most online bookstores have these, but you have to either hunt for them OR just type in a keyword like: historical romance, then sort by best selling. At Amazon, they have every category broken down to the top 100 best sellers. A lot of people search these lists for book suggestions, I’ve never personally done so, but some do.
  • A fair, competitive commission split. Most people call it a royalty rate, which is fine. But as it was pointed out to me recently, there is a difference between a sales commission and a royalty rate, and in this situation since you as the author and publisher are selling your book directly through Amazon and not TO Amazon to get a split, you’re actually getting a sales commission.

Disadvantages:

  • Their ever-changing-alogirithims–every few months Amazon will change how they decide to promote your book. You could be sailing high one day only to have them decide that they’re no longer going to be promoting books based on the number of sales over the last month, but only the best sellers over the last day. If you had a bad day the day before, sorry, but today might even be worse. There are many theories as to how Amazon decides in which order books are “presented” to potential buyers be it on the also boughts page, the recommended for you boxes, how books move up the best sellers lists, what books they send to inboxes to recommend to potential buyers, etc. Amazon has a way of deciding this that they keep a huge secret. Then just as some genius figures it out, Amazon changes it again. The best strategy on this is to take deep breaths and say I’m rolling with the punches. There isn’t much else to do. It just means you have to market a little differently to get your edge back–just in time for it to change again!
  • It’s been suspected, and all but spelled out, that they play favorites. Books enrolled in the KDP Select program (more on this later) receive more visibility. They’re the first ones to appear on the list when you do a broad search (meaning by keywords, not by a specific title or author name). They’re also more likely to be featured on the front page or given better “real estate” on the also boughts listing–this is actually an advantage to some, but I see it as a disadvantage to those NOT in the exclusivity program because it hurts your visibility.

Real quick on the KDP Select–this is a program done by Amazon where their prime members can “borrow” one book per month free to the borrower and in turn, on that borrow instead of receiving a sales commission, the author is given a dollar amount based on total borrows for the entire month divided by money Amazon delegated for the “pot” that month.

Advantages:

  • Possibly more money–authors get to sell books for a commission cut AND they get to make money off people who borrowed it.
  • Free book promotion–authors get 5 days per 90 days to make their book free in hopes of getting their name out. Whereas those not in KDP Select can’t set their book unless the book is price-matched which isn’t always a guarantee
  • In some countries KDP Select books are now receiving a higher sales commission than those not enrolled

Disadvantages:

  • Exclusivity–your book has to be exclusive to Amazon for 90 days (per term, you can keep enrolling it or take it out). This means you’re giving up all the potential sales at other outlets in hopes that the amount you make per borrow will make up for the sales lost elsewhere else. This also means that it will be at least three months before you can even get the book to your entire fan base. You know, those who use nooks, kobo readers, iPads (there is a Kindle app, I know, but some people like buying from iBooks), those who buy on Smashwords, etc. There’s a huge part of your own immediate fan base you cannot satisfy if you do this. Some won’t mind and will wait, others might forget who you are altogether. I do know if someone wants a book bad enough they’ll wait, but I don’t like the idea of asking someone to do that. I don’t think it’s fair to those who’ve been with you and supported you the entire time.

Speaking as a businesswoman, my biggest (actually only) beef with KDP Select is the exclusivity. I understand why they require it: it’s appealing to their readers to be able to read something that can only be found there, and better yet, it could be read for free. But for me the idea of cutting off a % of your people who already read and enjoy your books or the even larger % who could potentially find you isn’t worth it. Nor is becoming ensnared in having to reenroll after the 90 term because it’s hard to get reestablished elsewhere while losing visibility on Amazon.

As a disclaimer I’ll add, there have been many people satisfied with the results and if you ever put out a novel and KDP Select is still around, it might be something you find advantageous. I personally didn’t think it’d be in my best interest so I opted not to. That was my decision and I’ve learned to roll with the flow in regards to the consequences, such as loss of visibility. An example of my own loss of visibility is, my last three books all came out after KDP Select came into existence and all three of them haven’t performed as well at Amazon in their debut month as any of the ones before them. In addition, there was never a slight lull at the beginning with any of them followed by a sudden upswing as there was with two of the six that preceded them. They all started slow and either stayed steady there or had a change only when I manipulated the price. This isn’t to say that other platforms haven’t compensated for this, because they have, but I’ll cover that later. I’ll also admit the book content in these last three books could have also played a part. Heroes with aspergers aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, nor is the Georgian or Post-Revolutionary War periods, but that wouldn’t have effected things to the degree I’ve noticed.

My point on this is that my visibility by NOT being in KDP Select was seriously slashed. I have people still write to me and tell me they had no idea I’d ever put out the fourth book in the Groom series and it’s been out for ten months.

The great thing about digital books is there’s no shelf-life or expiration date, visibility might be hindered today, making one think outside the box to catch notice, but that book and hopefully more by that author will be there and be ready to be discovered when it is. It’s just more of a trial and error for the author.

All right, this became much longer than I had intended. If you ever decide to skip traditional publishing and sell your novel yourself, Amazon is an awesome channel to use. Does it have it’s drawbacks? Of course. They all do. Hopefully though this gave you a little more information about your options if you’re interested in publishing via Amazon, as well as from a reader’s stand point a better explanation of why there are some books at Amazon that you can’t find for your nook or other ereader somewhere else, as well as maybe why you’re not finding new releases by authors you’ve read and enjoyed in the past. A trick to get around this is to either occasionally check their Amazon author page that I mentioned earlier to see a list of their books, visit their website from time to time, or if they have a sign up for new releases (like I do on the side of my blog and on my website) put in your email address and then you for sure won’t miss a release date.

 

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5 comments on “What’s in a Novel: How do you decide where to publish? The advantages and disadvantages of Amazon

  1. I don’t believe in exclusivity. It’s not fair to my readers who don’t buy through Amazon. And what if Amazon does something to mess up my sales, then I wouldn’t have the other vendors to fall back on. Sometimes, my sales on Barnes and Noble pick up and exceed Amazon for awhile. I wouldn’t have those sales if I wasn’t on B & N in the first place. Depending on one venue is scary.

    • Rose Gordon says:

      I don’t believe in exclusivity, either. I don’t think it’s fair to my fans. Also, as you mentioned, sometimes Amazon’s numbers fall and thankfully B&N and the other outlets are there to pick up the slack. I don’t understand why people hate B&N so much, they’ve almost always been a good avenue for me.

  2. Marlena H. says:

    I’ve been hearing a lot about the pros and cons of Amazon lately in my research. It’s a little scary. Personally, the KDP Select program doesn’t work for me as a reader. Whether it works for me as a writer or not, I don’t know, but the more I hear, the more I am inclined to believe it doesn’t work for me as a writer either.

    Thank you for this and I look forward to what else you have to say on the subject of the various distributors.

    • Rose Gordon says:

      You’ll have to decide what’s best for you. If you want my 2c, I’d say to stay way from KDP Select. Amazon itself is a wonderful place to use to sell your books, but exclusivity really hurts your potential reach. (Plus, some of my sweetest fan letters have been from people who read my books on their nooks.)

      I have lots to say on this topic and if I don’t cover all your questions you’re alway welcome to email me.

  3. Karen Miller says:

    I was reading another author’s blog post where she talked aobut how KDP actually hurt her, because she said it limited her exposure, the free days caused people that were not her target audience to buy her books then in turn gave bad reviews hurting future sales. I thought it was instersting reading about how she would never do it again after her one experience.

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