Amazon is one store/publisher/distributor well on its way to taking over the world. And if you think that was a joke, you aren’t paying attention.
Amazon began as a haven for self-published writers, giving them a platform to reaching millions of readers when most other outlets would not even recognize them as “serious” contributors. Indies used to be a great big joke, just losers who couldn’t get a publishing deal. Until they kinda sorta took the world by storm and showed traditional writers that it ain’t so bad on this side of the fence. But I digress.
There are a few things you need to know about Amazon and how it works, whether you want to self-publish or not.
1. Amazon is open to everyone, but not everyone is treated equally.
Amazon’s business model is to make money first and worry about its business partners second. Therefore, it provides perks and advantages to its exclusive members, at the expense of non-exclusive ones. If your book is in KDP Select and/or Kindle Unlimited, congratulations! Your books show up higher in search results, are recommended more often, and you have access to things like limited time offers, including setting deep discounts or marking your book as free for a limited time. If you are published through Kindle Worlds, even better! Amazon will put you above even KDPS and KU members, because they get a piece of the action.
2. Amazon’s exclusivity can hurt you.
It’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket. When you sign your book up for KDPS/KU, it means you get to enjoy more perks, but it also means you cannot publish your eBook anywhere else. The minimum time frame for this is 3 months. That means your book is locked in for that time and you can’t pull it out. Some authors have said that the system automatically renews, so if you forget, or don’t disable the option by a certain time, you are locked in for another 3 months.
3. Amazon now has about a 40% share of the eBook market.
Almost half of all eBooks sold around the world are sold by Amazon. What this means is that if your goal is to reach the highest number of potential readers, you have to publish on Amazon. However, if you publish there exclusively, you shut out 60% of your potential readers. You really want to be in both places. Now, take a moment to appreciate the pure evil genius that is Amazon’s exclusive subscription service:
Readers pay a small monthly fee for access to millions of titles they can read as fast as their eyes will move across the page. They become used to that luxury, the excess supply of books, and that can make them less inclined to shop outside of that environment. How often have you seen people post on social media that they will not read an author unless they’re in KU? How likely are those readers to stray from that plan? Not very. Perfect customer retention plan. This then forces authors to go where the demand is, which forces them to put some or all of their titles into KDPS/KU to reach those isolated readers and hopefully attract them to buy other titles that aren’t in KU. Perfect contributor lure. Now think about the readers who buy their books through another outlet but are still fans of those authors. Now there are books they can’t get to, unless they sign up with Amazon and start a subscription. Perfect way to use authors to drive more customers to the program and increase market share. All Amazon had to do was set it up, and the system keeps self-perpetuating.
4. Amazon still depends on Indie authors.
You will rarely see a book from a Big 5 publisher in KU. eBooks are a necessary money maker for them to offset the small and sometimes negative margins of print publishing, and they will not willingly cut that income down by 60%. Therefore, what you see in the KU catalog are mostly self-published books, and those temporarily listed by small, independent publishers.
NOTE ABOUT SUCCESS AND FRAUD IN KDPS:
There are plenty of success stories for writers in KU. It’s part of the irresistible lure of the program to see people making more money off page reads than they believe they would through regular sales. The truth is, it’s no easier or harder now to break through in KDPS/KU than it is in other outlets. The rules of supply and demand still apply. The more authors flock to KU, the more books readers have to choose from, and the higher the possibility of any one particular book getting lost in the chaos. Another thing to keep in mind is that authors in KU are paid out of a set fund, which means the more authors, books, and pages read, the smaller the royalties per page read.
Lastly, fraud is prevalent in KU with unscrupulous people taking advantage of the system by beefing up page counts, manipulating the book’s format, and publishing dummy books to boost their page read numbers and therefore their payout. This is significant in this particular case, because of the set fund. KU is a closed system, with only so much to go around, and with some people taking more than their fair share, it leaves that much less for the rest. Just something to keep in mind.