Wrong Enemy

The other day, I had an author inform me that they would not be publishing on Amazon.  After I picked my jaw up from the floor, I had to ask… Why?!?  It is their opinion that Amazon has all indies bent over a barrell.

First, Amazon offers indies a service.  It’s actually a pretty good service and relatively fair.  Yes, royalties differ based on prices and locations of sales (so do royalties of traditional published authors based on locations and prices… they might be getting 12% of all sales in the US and Canada, but only 9% in the UK and it could be a hell of a lot lower in any country that requires the book to be translated into another language; for example, an author I know makes a whooping 2% royalty rate for books/ebooks sold in Spain).  So, I only make 35% on my ebooks sold in India.  The fact that ebook is available in India and sells at all is pretty astounding.  I’ll take my 35% and run.

Second, royalty rates for indies and traditionals are comparable.  I’m going to be generous and pretend that Clive Barker’s publisher is paying him an astounding 20% (there’s no way that’s really happening, just FYI… I don’t even believe Stephen King and James Patterson are making 20%).  His latest ebook is $14.99 and we’ll pretend that he get’s 20% of that.  Every ebook earns him $3.00.  I make 70% in the US on Amazon sales.  That means my ebooks priced at $3.99 are making me $2.80.  If for some insane reason I decided to price my books at $14.99, I’d be earning $10 and some change every time someone dared to buy my ebook (which they won’t at that price… I’m not Hugh Howey or Clive Barker).  In India I’m only make 35%, so I’m making $1.40 roughly.  However, chances are good, that Clive Barker’s 20% was cut too and he isn’t getting $3.00 out of Indian sales either.

Third, Amazon is just one of many publishing services available to indies and they aren’t the ones giving us the biggest shaft.  Enter Google Play.  Android has become very popular and so has Google Play and it’s a good place to have your books, but you need to watch your prices.  Google Play discounts them the moment you hit “publish.”  That means my $3.99 book is discounted and I don’t know how much unless someone tells me (it was $3.03).  Then I get my royalties from them and I’m only getting $2.02.  I’m only earning 51% of the expected retail price of $3.99.  However, since it’s been discounted, I’m actually earning 67%.  Still sucks.  The solution was to up my prices on Google Play.  I upped them to $4.99 on Google Play only so that I can actually earn $2.81 an ebook, in the US.

Fourth, there are exchange rates.  You can leave them or adjust your prices for every country on the planet to make sure you are still getting what you think you should be getting.  But they fluctuate and you’ll be making changes often.

Fifth, Amazon has issues with free ebooks.  But, so does Barnes & Noble.  You can still make an ebook permafree, it just requires a little help (I use friends and readers to do this).

Sixth, if you aren’t publishing on Amazon at all… well, there’s no real way to live off your work.  Amazon accounts for more than half of most indie author sales.  They have a huge market and the Kindle (and Kindle App) are still the most popular way to read ebooks.  I have a Kindle, but I use my tablet to read ebooks.  I have all the apps installed, but I mostly use the Kindle reading app.  Why limit yourself?  Not including Amazon is as bad as only publishing on Amazon…

Leave a comment


  1. This is why I like reading your author posts – you put it all out there with common sense – I think indie authors should publish on every freaking platform available – you need to be your own trumpet horn and play loudly – there are a ton of books being released daily and you need to be available to readers in whatever format reader they have and actually use! I think it’s the human condition to blame the retailer who is the biggest in the market for the problems in the industry when they really need to take at the industry rulers (traditional publishers) and the fact that they haven’t changed their business model in over 100 years and still aren’t really dealing with the ebook industry in the right way


    • Then you are going to love tomorrow’s post, which expands on one of these points and basically tells authors not to be asshats.


  2. Thanks for posting this look at Amazon. Very helpful for new indie authors to read.



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