In my previous post, The Challenges of Self-Publishing: Why So Many Indie Authors End Up on Amazon or iBooks, I discussed many of the surprising and very real challenges to self-publishing an eBook. These barriers to entry drive most exasperated authors to choose either Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or Apple’s iBooks Author.
To their credit, KDP and iBooks make self-publishing super easy. All you need is a Microsoft Word or other word-processing file. These platforms take it from there, generating all the different eReader-friendly formats and transforming your manuscript into a salable eBook in minutes. They handle getting your book available for sale on Amazon or iTunes and all the eCommerce back-end as well—you don’t even need a website of your own.
Sounds great, right? Self-publishing with Amazon or Apple may be easy, but there are significant downsides.
Instead of keeping all the proceeds of each eBook sale, you’ll only get a royalty (technically a commission). Amazon will keep between 30 percent and 65 percent of the price of every book you sell. If you choose the higher royalty option, you’ll be subject to download fees, which can really add up depending on the size of your eBook file. Apple takes a straight 30 percent commission of the sale price of all iBooks sold.
Amazon and Apple effectively set the price of your eBook, not you. You’ll be forced to price your eBook low in order to be competitive with the millions of other eBooks available there, most of which are priced at $5.99 or less. In fact, Amazon not-so-subtly pressures authors to price their books below the $10 price point (often well below it), as low-priced eBooks are the key to selling lots of Kindle devices.
With KDP and iBooks, you’re just another eBook in the sea of self-published eBooks. So your eBook will compete with nearly 1,000,000 other new eBooks on Amazon, and hundreds of thousands on iBooks. How will yours stand out? KDP and Apple are no help to you here. You’ll still need to use a service like BookLife or do your marketing yourself—or both.
If you self-publish with KDP, Amazon has all the power and control. Same goes for iBooks and Apple. Check out self-published author Marcy Kennedy’s great guest post by attorney Kathryn Goldman about the KDP contract. In it, Kathryn highlights a number of concerns you should be vigilant about. (For extra credit, check out Kathryn’s guest post on Marcy’s blog about the critical importance of guarding your copyright.)
You have no control over reviews. And bad Amazon or iBooks reviews can sink your eBook. There. I said it. Every one of us has read a doltish Amazon review that gives an eBook one star because the person’s wifi was out that particular day, or because he or she didn’t know how to resize the text.
While KDP and iBooks market themselves as platforms, not publishers, many of the more frustrating parts and perils of an author–publisher relationship persist. Wouldn’t you prefer to set the price for the book you’ve worked so hard to write, and keep all of the proceeds?
If you build an author website and sell your eBook directly from it, you have 100 percent of the control. You control your message and your brand. You receive every penny of every eBook purchase (less those small pesky PayPal or credit-card processing fees, but that’s sadly unavoidable). You have 24-hour access to site traffic statistics and sales data. You can decide to do a free download period or deliver discount coupons to a particular market and just do it, with no hassle. You can choose to approve (or not approve) reviews that users post to the site.
There are countless articles and services that can help you create your own website, even one with eCommerce. I won’t bore you with them, as I’m sure you possess the Googling skills to find them yourself. But not everyone wants to, and that’s why KDP and iBooks Author are easy solutions for so many people. The vast majority of self-published authors also have day jobs, and after they devote much of their free time to writing, there’s little left over to learn web development or the intricacies of eCommerce.
If this description fits you, and you want the kind of control an author website with eCommerce can provide, a self-publishing consultant may be the answer. They’re experienced in one specific type of web development—strictly author websites. They can handle the whole project, including securing the domain (or not, if you already have one), setting up your eCommerce accounts, designing the site, and copyediting (or even writing) the site’s content. They’re much less expensive than traditional web developers. They can get your website up and running, and enable you to sell your eBook directly to readers, fast. Since they know publishing well, they can provide helpful guidance as you launch your site.
Perrin Davis is a veteran professional book editor and the founder of Three Muses Creative, a self-publishing consultancy. Three Muses offers cradle-to-Kindle (or iPad!) self-publishing services, including all levels of editorial development, consulting, and direct-sales author website creation.