While nearly everyone has heard of Amazon, fewer people know about all of its free services that benefit independent authors. If you self-publish your work, make sure you’re aware of these programs and tools that can maximize your book’s impact.
Selling through Amazon is common among independent authors. Amazon is the largest online book retailer, and people trust it: millions of buyers have their credit card and shipping information already saved on their accounts (hello, one-click-to-buy!).
The downside of selling on Amazon is authors don’t get access to customer information (like name and email addresses) and the royalties are lower than selling directly through an author website using services such as Gumroad, Sellfy or PayPal.
If you’re willing to give up the above for a potentially higher sales volume, then here are the five main services at your disposal, for free, to get your book onto Amazon.com as an ebook or paperback.
KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) is a way for any indie author to sell their ebooks on Amazon.com (or other Amazon country websites). Authors get 35% or 70% royalties, depending on the ebook’s list price and where it’s sold.
KDP uses the mobi digital format, which is different from most other digital retailers, which use ePub. Your ebook needs to be formatted specifically for their platform, but they accept and convert Doc, ePub, RTF and a few other formats. If you’d prefer to convert the file yourself, free apps like Calibre or Amazon’s KindleGen convert from Doc, HTML and ePub to mobi. Scrivener users can convert directly into mobi using the “Compile” function.
Formatting your ebook perfectly can be a headache, but here’s a good resource.
After uploading, use Kindle Previewer to see the final version of your ebook before it’s published, so you can go back, make changes and re-upload. For more advice and resources, check out this post or the massive KDP community forum.
A lot of authors and readers aren’t aware that you don’t need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook. They work and read well on any tablet (like iPads) or smartphone with the Kindle app. My personal favourite way of reading ebooks is from any web browser on my computer, using Amazon’s Cloud Reader.
While authors can upload ebooks to KDP and still sell the same ebook anywhere else on the Internet, Amazon also offers KDP Select for authors who agree to 90 days of digital exclusivity. In return KDP Select pays higher royalties for sales in certain countries, adds your ebook to the lending library for Prime Members, and gives you promotional options to make your ebook free for up to five days or discounted for up to seven.
The promotional options are the best reason to use KDP Select, and why I use it. When your ebook is free or discounted, it appears on sales pages on Amazon.com — which drives more people to buy it.
Other websites also promote free or discounted Kindle ebooks to massive audiences; Bookbub is the largest, with over two million subscribers. While Bookbub and other larger promotion websites aren’t free, it can often be worth the price to put your book in front of a much larger audience. There are also lots of smaller, free Kindle discount promotion websites; here’s a good list.
Most indie authors see huge sales days when their ebooks are discounted and massive download days when those ebooks are free. These results often lead to higher-than-usual sales on the days right after promotions (when it’s back to regular price), as well as a bigger audience for future ebooks.
CreateSpace is Amazon’s print-on-demand service for indie authors. It lets you sell a paperback copy of your book either on CreateSpace.com website or directly from Amazon.com. All you have to do is upload and set the book; they’ll take care of printing and shipping. You don’t even pay for your book to be printed — you simply collect a commission whenever it sells.
You design a cover (or have CreateSpace design one for an extra fee) and upload your content in PDF format. Once it’s uploaded, you can download a “proof” copy, view it directly on the website, or even order a physical copy. That way, you can make any necessary changes before it’s published.
CreateSpace also lets you link a digital or Kindle version of your book to the paperback, which allows purchasers to choose their format on the same sales page. It takes a bit of work to set this up, but it’s free and easier after you’ve done it once. I didn’t think print was worth it for years, but as soon as I started offering paperback copies of my ebooks through CreateSpace, I noticed that they made up 10% of my sales.
If you’re not familiar, Amazon Associates is a service that pays you for linking to products on Amazon.com. It uses a tracking ID in each URL to identify who directed the buyer to the site.
Use this link when promoting your own books and make an extra four to eight percent on each sale – it’s not against the rules. That’s money Amazon would have kept otherwise! You also get commissions from anything someone buys on Amazon.com if they got there from your initial link.
On average, I make a few hundred dollars each month from my affiliate account, because every time I link to my books from my website, newsletter or social media, I use Amazon Associates URLs.
Amazon Author Central
Even as an indie author, Amazon lets you create an author biography page that attaches to your ebook’s sales page. You can share your background, your blog’s RSS feed (so it grabs new posts), upcoming speaking or book-signing events, and even your latest tweets.
Your Author Central page appears on every book sales page on Amazon, so it cross-links other books you’ve published. If someone clicks over to your author page, they can even subscribe to you and get emails when you release new books.
Have you used any of these services as an independent author?