Ah, the great publishing debate. Amazon or going solo? Both have their charm, yet also their share of misery. Allow me, your intrepid blogger, to shine a bleam, a paltry glimmer of light through this pea-souper of a fog, with an entertaining exploration of publishing profits and perils!
First off, let me clearly state for the record that, as an author, Amazon has been very good to me. They provide a smooth and easy (and almost entirely free) route to getting a book published. I still enjoy healthy sales and a steady revenue stream from page reads (KENP via kindle unlimited).
But...there is always a but in life, isn't there? Let’s begin with margins. Or, should I say, lack thereof? While Amazon offers a massively wide readership and a flagship storefront, it comes at quite the cost - an eye blisteringly, whopping, sixty percent.
After that mighty cut, measly royalties remain. We're talking cents on the dollar here, folks. Hope you weren't planning for that winter home in Miami! Amazon dictates price points and promotions with all the benevolence of a tyrant king. But at least tyrants provide castle lodging and feasts! Amazon just nabs your earnings as you're left to your own peasant devices.
I see lots of writers on forums claiming that when you reach a certain number of reviews, Amazon takes note and begins to jump in to help. Untrue. Amazon only takes note when you start generating revenue for them—and quite a lot of it. It took me nearly three years for Amazon to start inviting me to participate in kindle deals.
Selling directly means that I get to keep that 60%, I just have to pay for printing. That gives me a huge amount of flexibility. I can run price promos, discounts, bundles, and giveaways even. Lone wolves keep every hard-won penny. But generating sales proves about as easy as convincing an iguana to take a bath. Which, if you were wondering, involves an excessive amount of startlingly aggressive hissing.
But selling directly means I have to do everything. Website design and support, advertising, marketing, book covers, social media engagement, order fulfillment, and organizing book promotions.
Did I mention three of my books have huge Christmas discounts at the moment?
All of this ancillary activity, when what I really want to do, what I am supposed to be doing, is...writing.
Fulfilling orders yourself turns your humble home into a warehouse. Hope you weren't fond of free space or sanity!
Recruiting readers proves endlessly more tricky than that crafty fox outside trying to break into my bins. And don't assume you can pay someone to handle this dirty work for you either! As a little guy, most of your budget gets sucked up by even the most modest advertising attempts.
So who wins this great publishing predicament? In truth, neither path proves wholly perfect or profoundly pestilent. Amazon offers easy access to an avalanche of book buyers, yet minimal monetary returns. Self-publishing grants you the grandest of profits per purchase, but garnering such purchases challenges even the savviest marketers.
For me, at this point in my writing career, a strategic combination works best - I use Amazon to gain initial readers, sales, and reviews and then attempt to transition to direct fulfillment and marketing once I have established an eager audience.
I choose to simply accept both routes’ ridiculous rigors and celebrate every single sale. There is something very special about seeing a direct sale, and even better, a request for a signed copy. I love the thrill of running up the stairs to print a label and put a physical book into a box that will soon find its way into the hands of an eager reader.
I guarantee my hissing iguana will never know such satisfaction...now excuse me while I don some gauntlets and go coax him into a bath.