[What Luke J. Kendall has learned, so far, about self-publishing]

Friday, 24 April 2015

A piece of luck

Soon after my first post, I had a bit of luck.  Back in February, I happened to have signed on with MeetUp so I could attend a talk on SVG during the W3C meetings they were holding in Sydney.  While registering with MeetUp I noted some other areas of interest.  In that way I discovered via a MeetUp email that on Wednesday night, a couple of places were still open on Ms Lama Jabr's Kindle Direct Publishing workshop for authors and publishers in Sydney.  The meeting covered how to create and optimise your KDP and author account.  Lama runs small workshop sessions covering many related areas.  I met some nice people, and learned a lot: I'd highly recommend her workshops.

So, what did I learn?

I won't try to cover everything, but here are the things that stood out, to me.

  • Amazon have a well-thought-out system designed to support authors and independent publisher through their KDP programme, and they have the major market share in this area (maybe 75% of the eBook market).
  • The terms and conditions seem quite reasonable, and they offer some choice about how you want to do things.  Lama recommended learning the terminology Amazon use – since I have not yet done my homework in this area, treat the terminology I use here with some caution!  Amazon offer the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) option, and also the KDP Select.  The key differences are:
    • KDP does not require you to grant Amazon exclusive epublishing rights, whereas KDP Select does.  But this exclusive-rights period runs for only 90 days, although it automatically renews after 90 days (unless you, or Amazon, choose to terminate it at the next renewal date).

    • Pricing: You have two royalty options for each of your Digital Books: the 35% royalty option, and the 70% royalty option. For books priced $2.99 - $9.99 you earn 70% royalty (70% is eligible for books sold to customers in certain countries). For books priced below $2.99 and over $9.99 you earn 35% royalty.
    The Select programme makes your book eligible for some additional marketing benefits, like:
    • Your book will appear in Kindle Unlimited in the US, UK, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Brazil, Mexico and Canada and the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL) in the US, UK, Germany, France, and Japan: which can help readers discover your book.
    • Periods where the book can be offered at a lower price to improve your sales - you have two promotional options: Kindle Countdown Deals (time-bound promotional discounts for your book, available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, while earning royalties); or Free Book Promotion, where readers can get your book free for a limited time (5 days every 90 days).
    • (I think) occasional recommendations mailed out to people based on how you've tagged your book (you know, those Amazon emails that say “We thought you might be interested in the following Hot New Releases...”).
    • Earn more money - every time your book is selected and read past 10% from Kindle Unlimited or borrowed from KOLL, you’ll earn your share of the monthly KDP Select Global Fund. You can also earn a 70% royalty for sales to customers in Japan, Brazil, India and Mexico.
  • You can offer a print edition, too, by using Amazon's CreateSpace facility to prepare a version of your work suitable for printing; these are then printed on demand for those people who prefer to hold a real book in their hands, smell the paper and heft the weight.
  • KDP provides good facilities for you to see how your sales are going, check your royalties, and more: a whole 'dashboard'.
  • When you create your KDP account, you're basically starting the initial marketing period for your book: you provide the electronic version of your work, and give Amazon the right to sell it for you.  Treat this as the moment your book is launched: have your marketing plan worked out and set it running.
  • After you've created your KDP account it's very important to create your Author Central Account.
  • You don't need a US bank account or tax file number.  When you register with KDP (by linking it to a genuine Amazon account you've used to purchase stuff and have linked to a legitimate credit card), you provide your Australian Tax File Number.  Because Australia and the US have a reciprocal taxation agreement in place, I think Amazon must provide the necessary tax information to the US and Australia governments, so that you are taxed just once, by the correct government, in the normal way.
  • Put some thought into the keywords you use to tag your book: you want the right readers to find your book (i.e. the ones who are interested in what you've written about

Some friends and I were recently discussing how poor most online booksellers' search facilities are: the more search terms you provide, the worse they perform: instead of narrowing the search, they widen it!  (“Searching for Kim Harrison, are you?  Here, I'll show you every book with a Kim or a Harrison anywhere in the title or author fields” or “science fiction, martial arts, and romance, eh?  Then you must be interested in all my SF titles, all romance, and every self-defence manual we stock”).  Google does it right; Amazon does it pretty well, too.

I think I've rabbited on enough for now: suffice it to say that I learned a lot, and discovered some more 'homework' to do.

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