Decisions you face when publishing on Amazon (Kindle and CreateSpace)
When you’re ready to publish your book on Amazon, you have several decisions to make, and these decisions are different for the Kindle e-book and the CreateSpace print book. I have published several books myself and have helped several other first-time authors with their books, and the same questions always come up, so I thought it would be good to cover them here.
Before you begin the publishing process, be sure you have all the files ready AND have a well-written synopsis or book description, which should be the same one as on the back cover of the print book, if you’re doing a print version. You can always change the description later, but it’s best to have a good one from the start.
Note: If you are doing a print book, CreateSpace gives you the option of having them generate the Kindle book for you. I’ve never tried this so I cannot say it the results are the same. I prefer to do my own separately. It’s really not that much extra work, and it gives you the experience of doing it all yourself for the next time or if you need to do just a Kindle book down the road. It’s good to learn the process.
KINDLE E-BOOK DECISIONS
AUTHOR NAME: If you are the sole author of the book, only your name goes here. Do NOT… EVER… add your editor as a contributor. You alone are the author. The editor did not write the book or contribute to the content, not even if the editor performed significant revisions. The book is yours. Period. No one names should be there unless you really had a co-author (as I did with Punctuation For Fiction Writers and The Mosaic.
The “editor” designation is used only when you act as an editor of a collection where you are not the author of the content. For example, I am the editor for the Write Well Award anthologies, but I suspect most of you will not be in that position.
Also be sure that you use the exact same author name for the e-book and print book to ensure that Amazon links them properly together under one name.
PRICE: Traditional publishers usually price the e-book like a paperback or hardcover because they think they can get away with it and that readers will pay the higher price. If you, as an indie author, seriously believe that your books should be priced like theirs, then be prepared to learn a hard lesson.
The best prices for e-books fall in the $2.99–$5.99 range. The last I heard, the sweet spot for sales is $3.99–$4.99. Here’s my rationale for pricing:
Above $9.99 and below $2.99, Amazon pays 35%, but in the $2.99-$9.99 range, they pay 70%. Some authors love $2.99. The problem with that price is that you can’t drop it down for a sale without cutting your profit percentage in half. Sure, you’ve heard that $.99 books sell well. That’s false now. They used to sell well at that prices years ago; they don’t anymore. Besides at $.99, but you only make 35 cents per book! And if you price the book too low, it signals potential readers that you don’t value your writing enough or that you’re desperate (probably because it isn’t selling at a higher price, probably because it’s a poorly written book). If you price it too high, your sales will drop off significantly. Many successful indie authors price their books at $3.99–$4.99.
If you have a series out, you might want to drop the price of the first one to $2.99 to entice first-time buyers, but keep the rest in the series higher.
DRM: Always say no to this. Readers hate DRM, and if you choose it, you’ll seriously hurt your sales. If you don’t know what DRM is, look it up and know that it hurts, not helps, your book.
KDP SELECT: Yes or no? This is where you let Amazon have your book exclusively for 90 days at a time. A number of people recommend it because they claim Amazon will promote your book more. I’ve never seen any compelling evidence that it helps much. Chris Keaton wanted to tried it initially for The Mosaic. It didn’t seem to help sales at all.
If you do decide to try it, do it initially, before you put your book out elsewhere. Also be aware that Amazon will automatically put the book in their Kindle Unlimited Program (no choice on your part for that). I strongly advise that you NOT switch to Kindle Select after your book has been placed in other distributors because if the book fails to get de-listed at one of them, Amazon will take your book down until you fix it, which can be a pain. Meanwhile, your book isn’t available to buy.
NOTE: Kindle Select applies ONLY to e-books. You can have your book available in print form at the same time, just not in e-book form anywhere else.
KINDLE MATCHBOOK: If you have a print version of the book available, Matchbook allows you to let buyers also purchase a Kindle version at a reduced price (must be half or less). This is another reason not to underprice your Kindle book. If it’s too low, then your only option for the Matchbook price is 99 cents.
PRINT BOOK DECISIONS
ISBN: You will hear and read numerous articles proclaiming that you should purchase your own ISBN number, and while the reasons may seem compelling, I don’t feel that paying $100 or more for an ISBN number matters. The ONLY time you should purchase your own ISBN numbers is if you plan on having your own publishing imprint or publishing company, or if you plan to publish your print book outside Amazon (where you will need your own ISBN). Just my opinion, for what it’s worth.
AUTHOR NAME: The same rules apply as for the Kindle e-book.
BOOK DIMENSIONS: A very popular print book size is 6×9. Anything larger is, well… too big. You can go smaller (5.5×8.5 or 5×8), but keep in mind that the smaller the page, the more pages, and Amazon charges by the page count, not by the size of the page. If your book is short, you might want to choose one of these two smaller sizes to make the book look thicker. Otherwise, I find 6×9 to be a good size.
PAPER TYPE: Amazon gives you the choice of white paper or cream paper. Cost is the same. Cream looks nicer for some books, and there are arguments both ways.
However, cream paper is thicker. To calculate a book’s thickness, you multiply the page count for white paper by 0.002252, and cream by 0.0025 to determine the spine width for the print cover. Some say that the thicker paper has less bleed through.
So which should you choose? I’ve always used white, but if you have a thin book to start with, in addition to smaller dimensions you may want to thicken it up slightly by using cream paper. However, if you have a thick book already, you probably don’t want to make it thicker. Whichever you choose, be sure your cover designer has adjusted the book’s spine width accordingly.
COVER FINISH: Glossy or matte. I’ve found that a glossy cover has more depth to it. I’ve heard some say that the matte cover colors are less vibrant, and my own experience with Punctuation For Fiction Writers bears that out. The cover of the first edition is a nice blue, but the matte cover had a purplish tint to it and looked flat. If your cover is dark, you likely won’t notice a difference, so it’s up to you. The glossy cover shows fingerprints more easily, but it’s also easier to wipe off. The matte covers also seem to curl more.
You’re not locked in with your cover choice and can change it at any time. If you’re unsure, order two proof copies, one of each to decide for yourself.
PRICE: Typical traditionally published trade paperbacks sell in $14—$16 range, some higher, but they print in bulk. Print-on-demand books are convenient (you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a large print run and hope you can sell them), but they are also much more expensive to print, meaning your profits are less. Print on demand means you’d have to sell your book for a lot more to see great profits. While publishers can get by with pricing books higher, as with e-books, an indie author will be hard-pressed to sell a print book above $15. This means you’ll have to sacrifice profits in order to see more sales, and hopefully those extra sales will more than make up the difference. Pricing your book too high will kill your sales.
The best way to maximize your profit is to keep the page count as low as possible without making the print too small or the page margins too narrow. Where possible I go for a profit of $2.50–$3. Amazon takes 40%, and the CreateSpace site lets you see your profit at any price point you select. But try to avoid going over $15 unless the book is thick enough that readers will consider it worth that price. When it comes to pricing your print books, greed is not your best friend.
I hope I’ve covered all the major decisions. You’ll have a few other things to play with, like categories and keywords, and I recommend doing some online research so that you make some wise choices, especially in fiction.