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December 24th, 2013 at 8:49 am

Amazon vs. Indie self-publishing sales platforms

With an indie, as soon as you upload the file, you can sell it. With KDP, you’ve got to wait until it appears on Amazon.

Web designer and writer, Paul Jarvis has self-published three books and has sold close to a total of 10,000 copies. With two of the books he used Gumroad and Sellfy which are indie sales platforms (digital goods e-commerce services). His latest book was on Amazon’s KDP Select platform.

 

 

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Paul Jarvis: My first two books were sold as PDFs and promoted exclusively on my own website. While they were added to Amazon (using BookBaby), I put zero effort into promoting them there. The thought was that I may as well get 95 percent of the sale (minus transaction fees) through indies, since Amazon was only paying out around 70 percent to authors. The main reason I used KDP for the third book is because I hadn’t used it before, and have a penchant for experimenting (which is actually a topic from the latest book). I talk/write a lot about self-publishing so I wanted to make sure I understood every major angle.

Time

Obviously with an indie, as soon as you upload the file, you can sell it. With KDP, you’ve got to wait until it appears on Amazon (and it takes longer to appear in global Amazon stores too). For my book, it took 12 hours, which isn’t bad. But as I’m also selling the paperback, that took another 24 hours to show up on Amazon and 72 hours to “sync” with the Kindle version (so you can see both the Kindle and paperback version on the same page). Currently, this doesn’t happen automatically either – you have to actually contact Amazon to connect the two versions (they are fixing this in the future). Basically, there’s lots of waiting for Amazon, so in future, I may submit the paperback and Kindle versions a few days before I announce the book is launching, which is a simple and easy remedy (even if you’re impatient like I am).

Price

This brings up a fundamental difference between Amazon and pricing via indies. If you’re selling your book on your own site, you can offer “packages” where you sell your book for a higher price, but include extras, like videos, interviews, audio, etc. This can work to your advantage because it can allow you to sell your book at a much higher price, if it comes with supplementary items. Nathan Barry, Sacha Grief and Danielle Laporte do this and make more than typical self-published authors, because they’ve turned their books into more of a packaged product than just a book.  They package audio, video, additional files and more into their book sales to sell different packages/tiers. You can really price your book based on whatever you’d like, give it away for free or charge hundreds for it. There is no average or “industry standard” for pricing books that are sold as part of larger products. It comes down to whatever your audience feels is valuable for what’s packed into the content. With Amazon, you’re bound by their pricing limits for lowest price and highest price (using KDP it’s $2.99 to $9.99). More importantly though, your book is placed in a marketplace with other books, so if your book costs much more than similar books, it may not sell as well. Similar to pricing books using an indie, the price really comes down to the perceived value your audience feels they’ll get from it. With my experience (since I have books for $1, $17 and $6) is that the lower the price, the more people will buy the book. So if numbers are what you’re after, lower is better.

Payment

On the incoming-money-to-you side, Amazon’s one-click is killer awesome. People can buy your book by clicking a single button—no need to enter payment or personal details (since they already did that at some point since most people have bought from Amazon). The trust factor with Amazon is fairly high, so people are less averse to giving credit card info them. Their mailing address and credit card are already saved in Amazon’s system for the most part, so payment is fast and easy. For an indie, most now have a small modal window that appears on top of your website to collect personal and credit card information. It’s simple and flows nicely, but it’s definitely not a single button click. And the trust factor may be lower if they aren’t sure of the payment system or aren’t 100% trusting of your website. The IRS also requires Amazon to collect 30 percent of your royalties if you’re not American (this can be avoided in some countries with tax treaties with the US—read this) They pay out monthly, for the previous month. For Sellfy, the money (minus their fees), is deposited instantly. For Gumroad, it’s weekly. Both transfer right into your PayPal account. It’s quick, painless, and their fees are around 5 percent, plus PayPal fees, which are around 3 percent. Compared to Amazon, you get a much higher percentage using an indie.

Customer details

The biggest drawback of selling through Amazon is that I don’t know exactly who bought my book. I can’t see their email address. I can’t even see their name. They’re just a number and a royalty percentage in a spreadsheet.

Whereas with Gumroad and Sellfy I can see who bought what, and both services save those email addresses into a mailing list or export as a CVS file that I can import into any other mailing list program. They make it very easy to stay in touch with purchasers. The one idea I’ve had so far is to link to my mailing list on the last page of my Kindle (or paperback book). It’s not 100 percent conversion, but at least it’s something.

Previews

Amazon is great for showing the first few pages of a book right in a browser, and the final page of that preview is the buy button—no downloads, no plugins, just a popup window where you can read content. For indies, you have to link to a separate preview file and include a link to buy it at the end, which is a few more steps but still fairly easy. You could also create a plain-text preview for selling on your own site. The added bonus of creating your own preview file is that you get to specify length and content, whereas with Amazon, they pick where the preview cuts off.

Updating your content

With an indie, you just re-upload the book file(s) if there are changes and it’s instant. With Amazon KDP, it can take up to 12 hours to appear. The big kicker is, for the paperback, if you’re using CreateSpace, your book goes offline for a few days while Amazon reviews the updated files. There’s currently one missing word in a sentence in my book, and I can’t update the paperback because I don’t want my book to disappear from Amazon for three to four days.

Via The Next Web

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