When it comes to self-publishing, Amazon is one of the biggest beasts out there.
After all, Amazon is arguably the most successful company on Earth. And it started out selling books.
Amazon also has the Kindle E-Reader working in its favor. Not to mention the fact that the Kindle app can be downloaded for almost any device or system out there.
So we know Amazon is a major player in the self-publishing world. But is it worth your time?
You are probably trying to weigh up the pros and cons of self-publishing on Amazon. This is a choice known as ‘staying narrow or going wide’.
Today, we’ll take a balanced, unbiased look at the pros and cons of publishing on Amazon.
Self-Publishing On Amazon – Pros
Let’s start on a positive note. The pros of self-publishing on Amazon! And there sure are a heck of a lot.
Before we delve into them, I want to clear one thing up. Many people believe that self-publishing on Amazon stops you from sharing your books anywhere else. This is actually mistaken.
There are some specific programs which require exclusivity to Amazon. But that only applies to the specific books that are enrolled in them.
For example, imagine you have three books published on Amazon. One is in the exclusive programs. Two are not.
While you would be forbidden from sharing your exclusive book anywhere else, you’d still be able to share the other two.
So, with that said, let’s check out some of the biggest and best reasons to give Amazon a try for your self-publishing needs.
There’s no getting away from it. Amazon is one of the biggest and most important companies on the entire planet.
Amazon is to shopping what Facebook is to social media.
They have unparalleled reach. They offer specific Amazon bookstores in countries around the world.
The crazy thing about Amazon is it doesn’t just reach a ton of people. Although of course it does that. It reaches a ton of people in buying mode.
You might go to Facebook to kill time and see what’s going on with your friendly and family.
You might go to Google to find information without the intention of having to pay for it.
However, chances are, if you’re browsing Amazon you’re looking to spend some money.
And Amazon make it so, so easy to do. People have accounts with Amazon that typically log in automatically. There are options like one click purchase and same day delivery. It truly is a buyer’s paradise.
By self-publishing on Amazon, you benefit from the incredible number of buyers they are able to reach.
Amazon’s Advertising Options
Have you heard about Amazon Advertising?
It used to go by the name ‘Amazon Marketing Services’. It’s still essentially the same thing.
When you use Amazon Advertising, there are some killer features that make it epic and worth your time:
- Show up next to the books you desire. You can specify which books you’d like to show up next to. For example, if you have a work from home book, you bid to show up next to Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week.
- You only pay when someone clicks on your ad. Unlike some ad services, you aren’t charged for impressions, only clicks. This means that it’s easy to work out a conversion percentage and scale up your ads accordingly.
- It’s easy to target the keywords you want, and to create different campaigns with different ad copy so you can test and optimize based on what is working well.
- It’s relatively inexpensive to get started.
Overall, Amazon Advertising is one of the main reasons that you should seriously consider the Bezos Behemoth for your self-publishing platform.
Amazon’s Exclusive Programs
Probably the most controversial aspect of publishing on Amazon is its exclusivity requirements.
As discussed earlier, simply publishing a book on Amazon doesn’t require exclusivity. However, the KDP Select program does.
It’s a special program from Amazon. When you enroll your book in KDP Select, you will experience:
- The ability to offer special free promotional days and countdown discount deals on your work
- A better royalty rate when your book is available in the library for Kindle Unlimited subscribers
- Higher royalty rates in some of Amazon’s foreign markets
However, while your book is in the KDP Select program, Kindle must be the only place where the ebook version is available.
You are still able to offer print, audio, or other formats of your book elsewhere. Only the ebook is exclusive to Amazon while involved in KDP Select.
Amazon’s Author Platform Options
One of the best reasons to self-publish on Amazon is its platform building options.
This is a serious pro which weighs heavily in Amazon’s favor.
So how exactly does Amazon help you build your author platform and brand?
You can create a profile for Amazon’s Author Central service. This is effectively a hub for you as an author on Amazon.
You can display all your titles in one place, share content from your author blog, and people can even subscribe so they know when something new is happening with you.
The problem with a lot of companies and services in the self-publishing world is the question of whether they will fade away or not.
So many services seem to be almost fly by night, and the internet is littered with abandoned author blogs.
Amazon, on the other hand, is going nowhere. It’s an insanely rich and successful company. There are millions and millions of Kindle devices out there.
If you choose Amazon, you can be sure you are making smart bet on a horse who will be in the race for a very long time indeed.
Amazon’s Format Options
Another reason to self-publish on Amazon is its format options.
Amazon makes it super easy to offer your book in multiple formats.
The bottom line is it couldn’t be easier to create Print and Audiobook versions of your work. These are all available on a single Amazon sales page so that any traffic you drive to your book’s sales page will be exposed to all of the formats on offer.
Self-Publishing On Amazon – Cons
We promised to make this a balanced look at the pros and cons of publishing on Amazon.
Therefore, it’s important to show both sides of the coin.
Is Amazon an excellent choice for self-publishing?
Is Amazon perfect?
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons self-publishers feel that Amazon comes with its fair share of cons as well.
All Your Eggs In One Basket
As we’ve discussed extensively, there’s no requirement to publish on Amazon and Amazon alone.
However, many authors choose to stay narrow and stick to Amazon. This is often due to the advantages of the KDP Select program.
Often, publishing only on Amazon goes very well – right up until the moment it dramatically doesn’t!
If you get banned by Amazon for whatever reason, you risk losing it all over night.
There are horror tales out there of authors losing six-figure monthly streams overnight. Yikes!
If you stay on Amazon’s good side, you should be alright. I’d always urge you to build multiple revenue streams, however, so if the worst happens, you won’t lose it all.
Amazon Is Known For Being Strict
What some examples of why you should be cautious about putting all your eggs in the Jeff Bezos basket?
Look no further! Caution – these stories may keep authors up at night:
- The story of Jason Cipriano who had all his books pulled from Amazon even after selling 143,000 copies
- Legend and overall awesome dude Derek Murphy was kicked off of Amazon over Christmas! Thankfully he eventually managed to get back in
- Michael-Scott Earle got banned from Amazon and then banned again when trying to publish his books through a third party!
The above stories truly illustrate a serious con to Amazon – the potential to lose it all overnight.
If you stay in compliance with their terms, you should be OK It’s not guaranteed by any means though.
Possible Loss Of Freedom
If you publish on KDP Select, you are tied in. That’s just how it goes.
This might not sound so bad, but the rate you receive can fluctuate. So you can sign up while the payment rate is one thing, and be tied in while it declines.
When you compare the reach of KDP Select and other book marketplaces, you may well find it worthwhile to remained enrolled in Select.
However, if you’re the type of author who likes to offer their work in as many places as possible, you might find the loss of freedom a serious con to self-publishing on Amazon.
Susceptible To Changes In Payment Rates
One of the most frustrating things for many authors about Amazon is the fluctuation in payments.
Without delving deep into the topic, books that are available to Kindle Unlimited customers are paid on the basis of KENP read.
KENP stands for ‘Kindle Edition Normalized Pages’. Basically, when you publish via Kindle, your page count is converted to what Kindle considers a ‘normal’ page based on the amount of text and visual content you have on each page.
The amount of money to be paid out to authors through this program is on a ‘pot’ basis. However much money is in the pot for that month then gets divided up between the number of total pages read.
This can make it difficult to consistently predict income from month to month. Many authors also feel the payment rate is unfairly low.
Self-Publishing On Amazon – How To Weigh The Pros And Cons
You now have a good understanding of the different pros and cons that come with self-publishing on Amazon.
But how do you apply this information to make a decision for your own author career?
As I’m sure you can guess, there is no single choice that is suitable for every author. It’s a personal decision that depends upon an author’s objectives, experience, and aims.
I’ve included a few questions below to help you reach a suitable self-publishing choice for your own situation.
How much do I project I could make on Amazon as opposed to going wide?
It’s time to crunch some numbers! No advanced math required, don’t worry.
By talking to your fellow authors, hearing their income reports, and thinking about your own realistic objectives, it’s time to project how much you might make on Amazon.
Just as an example:
Say you thought you could sell 100 copies per month, and 2000 KENP read.
You’d calculate the royalties you would generate from the 100 copies, factoring in Amazon’s cut, as well as the earnings from the KENP read.
The total from the above would be your expectations for staying exclusive to Amazon.
Next, make a note of all the other stores you would like to sell your book on if you didn’t pledge to be an Amazon exclusive.
For example, you might note down the royalty rates for iBooks and Kobo. Multiply your per copy royalty payment by anticipated copies sold. Add the figure from your Kindle sales, but not your KENP read.
Which number is higher? The first number for Amazon exclusivity, or the second for going wide?
Even if the second number is higher, it still might not be the best choice. You still have to factor in the extra time it will take you to maintain multiple platforms. How much is your time worth?
Ultimately, your choice will be a mix of quantitative and qualitative information. Weigh up both when choosing.
Do I value the particular things that makes Amazon appealing for a lot of authors?
We looked at the financial implications of self-publishing on Amazon above.
There are other things to weigh up as well. Amazon is attractive for more than just its royalty rates.
Another reason for choosing to self-publish on Amazon is the added bonus features it offers. These include:
- Easy to create and sell multiple formats
- Lots of info available about selling your book on Amazon
- Excellent advertising capabilities
- Book cover creation service
Some other marketplaces offer some of the above, but I still feel Amazon does the best job at offering a cohesive and comprehensive package for self-published authors.
Do I want to take the time to learn multiple platforms?
They say time is money, but really it’s a lot more valuable.
You can make money back but once a minute of your life has gone by, good luck finding it again.
It’s important to consider the time costs that come with publishing on multiple platforms.
Think about the following things:
- Creating an initial publisher account
- Uploading your books
- Ensuring the format is right for each marketplace
- Building your on-site author platform
- Marketing on each platform
- Checking your sales data and reports
It might be worthwhile, and even interesting, for you to learn all of the above across multiple platforms.
However, if you want to do the minimum management possible, and instead focus on creating awesome new books, sticking to self-publishing on Amazon might be the best bet for you.
Pros And Cons Of Self-Publishing On Amazon – Final Thoughts
Thank you for taking part in this deep dive into the pros and cons of self-publishing on Amazon.
I truly hope I’ve given you some information and pointers to help you make the best choice for your author business.
One final method that has helped a lot of authors – publish one book exclusively on Amazon and another on the basis of going wide. Compare their performance. This might give you a solid idea of the best way to go.
If you have any thoughts on the pros and cons of self-publishing on Amazon, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!