(C)A L Butcher
There are many people who aren’t fans of Amazon for one reason or another, but it has to be said publishing-wise they have a large chunk of the market and should not be ignored. From my own perspective I sell far more on Amazon than it’s competitor, but of course, there are other authors who’ll tell you they sell well on Barnes and Noble, or Kobo.
I lurk on the KDP forums (Kindle Direct Publishing) and every day the same questions/complaints get posted. It never ceases to amaze me that newbies can’t or won’t read the FAQ and TOS and then whine when they get stung for something they claimed they were unaware of. When you log in or sign up the help and terms pages are handily down the left-hand side and thus, easily accessed. They aren’t hard to find.
So here’s a quick breakdown for newbies:
- Read the FAQ and TOS. Really. This is a contract – you agree to it when you publish there. If you don’t like the terms then don’t sign and don’t publish with KDP. There are other sites – Lulu https://www.lulu.com/ for example. They publish to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, I-books and, of course, their own site; Smashwords, Draft2Digital and several others. These sites have their own rules too.
- Payment – make sure you are clear on the terms of payment (which are listed in the FAQ…). No publishing platform is going to pay you the instant you sell that book. If you want that sell from your website – and good luck to you. Amazon’s payment terms are 60 days after the end of the month of sale. So I sell a book in May I get paid at the end of July. The minimum price you can sell your book for on Amazon is 99c (which is about 77p in the UK). For 99c to $2.98 you receive 35% royalties, between $2.99 and 9.99 that goes up to 70% in most stores. Keep in mind, however, any country without its own base store which must use Amazon.com pay out only 35% – due to taxes and transfer costs apparently. So some .com sales will show as 70% and some as 35%. Amazon is not trying to con you. They pay out monthly and with EFT for any amount. There is no minimum. You must supply bank account details. For cheques, they pay out when you hit $100/£100 etc. (per store as these are paid individually for both EFT and cheque) so if you only sell a few now and then in some stores you’ll be waiting a long time. Amazon does not pay to Paypal.For comparison, Smashwords pay out 60% from their own store sales and slightly less from affiliates. They do pay to Paypal but they pay out quarterly for Smashwords sales and the affiliate stores report on different timescales so some appear more quickly than others, which can be confusing.
- If you don’t get paid when you think you should read the FAQ about payment – in case you decided to ignore point 1 and 2. It may be the case the bank details are incorrect (it happens). Check them carefully. You will need an IBAN and BIC for accounts not in the USA, these can usually be found on your statements and are different to your regular account number. If needed your bank can supply them. If your bank account details look alright then check your sales. Orders and sales are not the same – see my next point. If you need to contact Amazon then use the ‘Contact Us’ link in the bottom right of the screen. Give them time to investigate.
- Sales and Orders – KDP issue reports (second tab – the one after Bookshelf on your account page). A lot of people get confused here. There is a graph which shows ORDERS. This covers all your titles in all the stores – so everything is lumped in together. It’s on a rolling 30 days so every day it changes slightly. It looks nice but it isn’t actually that useful. Orders do not always turn into sales – payment might not go through, the buyer might change his or her mind or somesuch. Then we have ‘Month to Date’ report. This shows actual sales. It’s done per store (so Amazon.com, then Amazon.co.uk, then Amazon.de and so on). It also shows refunds, freebies and price matching. This is the most accurate report (usually) and is updated daily (usually). A sale can show up in a couple of hours or a couple of days. There is the prior six weeks report – which personally I don’t see much use for, and promotions – which reports any promotions you have going. It is up to you to tall the payments up. They are produced in Excel so download them and add them up (or copy them into Excel and let that do it. There is NOT a running total of sales. Smashwords does this (which is useful) but their reporting is confusing as the affiliate stores report on different time scales and eventually, the reports of books per store get huge.
One thing that comes up a lot – ‘I know my friend bought the book but the sale isn’t showing up’. Unless they actually show you the sales receipt then you cannot guarantee it was an actual sale. People lie (often with good intentions) and say they have bought the book when they haven’t. They may have downloaded the sample, or are intending to buy it but they haven’t actually done so. I always buy a copy myself when I publish something – if the sale shows up then it’s all working fine. Honestly, if you think Amazon (or whoever) is trying to diddle you out of your money you probably shouldn’t be doing business with them.
- Bad reviews – they happen. Deal with it. Someone somewhere won’t like your book. It will have too much sex/not enough, too much violence/not enough, too much world building/not enough and so on. Some folks say what they think and damn the consequences. Remember reviews are for readers not authors and any vindictive review is going to appear as just that – vindictive. Give readers some intelligence, many will just scan the reviews for ones which have a similar view to themselves, or look for key points. There isn’t much the author can do. Don’t respond, don’t attack the reviewer (at least not in public). Move on. Do you like every book you read? No. I thought not. Amazon’s review policy is what it is. You can’t change it no matter how much you shout.
- Reviews. Amazon has cracked down on reviews as of late. Many authors complain about reviews being removed – there is not much to do about it. If Amazon deems there is a relationship between reader and reviewer then there is a chance that review will go. How Amazon finds out or thinks it finds out is anyone’s guess. Theories are same IP addresses (so living in the same household), facebook friends, and such like. Officially family and friends are not eligible to review your book as it’s deemed a biased review. It is a bit zealous – someone who shares a group with you on facebook or happens to know someone you know might get their review removed. Then again they might not. There’s not really any rhyme or reason to it. Only the actual reviewer can request the review to be reinstated.
- Contacting Support. If you have a problem then us the ‘contact us’ link. You will need to be logged in with the correct email account you originally used to sign up. If not Amazon will not help (after all you could be someone else). Support usually get back to you within 24 hours. Now often the replies are ‘check the FAQ here’ or similar and a bit…vague. If this is the case reply back on the same ticket and ask for clarification. It might take a bit of back and forth so be patient and polite. Getting abusive to the KDP reps is going to get you nowhere.
- If you make changes to your manuscript, such as fixing typos or whatever and reupload it don’t unpublish. Just upload it to the current ASIN and mark it in the edition with a code (I put V3+date) so I can check on the look inside. Readers who have already bought the book will NOT automatically get the update, even if they have the auto update enabled. If the changes are substantial you can ask Amazon to push out the new copy and then readers who already own it can download it if they wish. It’s a pain to do and the changes really do need to be pretty major – new chapters or such like. It’s not worth doing for the odd stray typo. The auto updater not working is a known bug which Amazon don’t seem keen to fix. Oh and don’t bother deleting the book from your kindle and re-buying it. That doesn’t work (trust me on this I have tried). I think I’ve been sent an email about twice for all the books I own stating there was updated content (and both really needed it – one was pretty much unreadable).
- KDP Select. This confuses a lot of people. Basically KDP SELECT is the promotional aspect of KDP publishing. You can easily publish to KDP without being in Select. KDP Select has some strict rules and people how transgress then risk at best having their books removed from the program and at worst having their account terminated.
If you opt to enter KDP Select by ticking the little box you CANNOT offer the digital version of your book ANYWHERE else. So not on your blog, not on Barnes and Noble, not anywhere else. KDP will find out, the big bad Zon check. You are locked into a 90-day term (rolling unless you uncheck the box) and even if you leave early then you are bound by this. I know an author who flouted this and Amazon threatened to close her account unless she removed the books from the other sites until the term expired. What does Select actually offer? Promotional tools. All the advertising such as the 5 days Free, Countdown deals and the Amazon ads are only available to Select. Your book will also be in the KENP program (basically, someone in the Amazon Prime program can borrow your book for a couple of weeks and you get paid per page read.). There are lots of complaints about this new system as authors used to get a percentage of the KDP fund if their book was borrowed – so a 200-page novel would get the same as a 40-page novel. Pages read favours longer books, and is, arguably, fairer. Some authors do quite well on this scheme. Do I use it? Not really. I’ve had freebies for Warrior’s Curse, and a Countdown for Stolen Tower but neither netted much traction. That said I did little to actually promote them. As promotional tools, they CAN be useful – but it must be remembered for the free books many people download them BECAUSE they are free. Reviews are even less likely and many authors and readers believe it degrades authors and their books. (See my guest posts on Mythic Scribes.)
Great Free Book Debate – the Readers
Great Free Book Debate – the Authors
More to follow another day.
4 thoughts on “KDP and Self-Publishing – a noob’s guide”
Good of you to take the time to post this comprehensive resume. I hope people appreciate it.
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Thanks. I spend far too much time on the KDP forums, and it’s always the same questions which come up. It’s not hard or time consuming to read the TOS and FAQ. It would probably save new authors a lot of hassle.
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