The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing on Amazon
Self-publishing has become a way for authors to keep control over their work. Additionally, it allows them to generate a more significant share of royalties than traditional publishing houses.
In fact, the number of self-published books grew by 264% in the last five years alone.
Amazon is one of the biggest online retailers in the world, and as such, many authors choose to go with their easy self-publishing platform. But should you?
If you are weighing self-publishing on Amazon's pros and cons, this blog post is definitely for you.
The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing in General
If you've landed on our page, you are likely already interested in self-publishing. You may have already made up your mind, and you may have already read many articles on our site discussing whether self-publishing is the best move for you.
Still, we can go over the pros and cons of self-publishing in general before moving on to discuss Amazon specifically.
A. Pros of Self-Publishing
Not sure if self-publishing is for you? See if these points sound good for you as an author.
- You get a bigger royalty share
There are many pros of self-publishing. The first is the royalty share you'll get. Depending on what platform you go with, you may pay upfront to get the books created and then reap 100% of the royalties by selling the books yourself. Or, you may have the books printed on demand, a model Amazon uses. With this model, you'll still receive the lion's share of royalties, but Amazon will knock off a little bit for the cost of binding the book or hosting it on its website.
As a self-published author, you're entering into the world of freelancing. But more than that, you're an entrepreneur, or authorpreneur, looking to build your brand and an income stream from your books, which are entirely under your control.
- You avoid the traditional publishing merry-go-round
With traditional publishing, you can spend years getting one novel or book published.
First, you need to search for agents. Most agents are booked and aren't taking on new clients, which means your book needs to wow them before they take it on.
Then, you'll need to work with your agent to mold the book to their liking, which could mean a total rewrite. And that's if you get to sign with an agent at all.
Once your agent is happy with the book, you'll need to submit it to publishing houses. They'll read the manuscript and decide if they want to invest in it, which comes down to a little bit of luck. Most reputable publishing houses only read manuscripts if they come from agents.
You'll have to work further on the book if you're lucky enough to get a deal. This will include making more edits and some that you may not have envisioned for the book initially.
The thing is, you won't have control over many aspects of your book
If you self-publish, you'll edit only the things you want. At the end of the day, with a self-published title, the story is yours entirely. With a traditionally published book, you'll need to make some exceptions for what other people want since they have invested in the book.
B. Cons of Self-Publishing
You should be aware of a few cons to self-publishing before embarking on this journey.
- The market is crowded
This means that without the mark of approval from a reputable house, you won't get reviews or blurbs from big-time authors for free, and you'll have to create book promotions around a marketing strategy to reach your audience. There are several ways to do that: build a solid author brand, set up a social media strategy, set up author page(s), run a pre-order period, and other relevant tactics. You can check out our extensive article on how to build an indie book marketing plan.
- It can get expensive
When you self-publish, you can be your own editor or hire one. This can be expensive and, in some cases, cost-prohibitive to authors. You can publish without one but be prepared for critics to slam your book for grammatical or spelling errors.
- You’ll be more than just a writer
After writing your book, and even before finishing it, you'll have to do the marketing and promotion yourself.
Most fiction authors will have to do this anyway, even if they publish traditionally. Therefore, you may be gaining more by going for self-publishing over traditional.
The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing on Amazon KDP Select
A. Pros of self-publishing on Amazon
If you, too, have asked yourself if self-publishing on Amazon is worth it or have spent long hours debating self-publishing on Amazon's pros and cons, here is what you should consider.
- Amazon is a huge selling platform
Amazon itself is a vast platform. It's trusted and reputable, and you will sell your book alongside those of respected authors. This means you won't be selling your books out of the back of your trunk; instead, potential readers can get them online without you having to distribute them.
Additionally, most self-published authors don't know how to market their books, and Amazon has tons of marketing tools built-in; you'll need to learn how to leverage them.
- Amazon offers print-on-demand
Amazon offers a print-on-demand service, meaning you don't need to buy stock and then try to sell it. This means you can get a copy of your book sent anywhere Amazon operates without you having to get it first physically.
- Amazon offers exclusive deals
As a self-published author, you have quite a bit of control over who sells your books nowadays. You can choose to publish with every major platform, or you can choose to publish exclusively with Amazon.
With KDP Select, you have exclusive marketing features which allow you to make your book free for a limited time.
This is a great way to boost your book sales, as many authors see a marked increase in them after offering their books for free. This is because the book becomes more visible if it becomes a "best-selling" free book for that period. It also provides you a chance to collect reviews and build a community.
KDP also allows you to offer your book a heavily discounted price for a limited period.
- Amazon partners with Audible
Audible is a subsidiary of Amazon, offering you great benefits when self-publishing audiobooks. While this is a whole other topic in itself, as an Amazon publisher, you've got the freedom to tie in an Audible audiobook with your Amazon list prices.
Of course, audiobooks are not exclusive to Amazon, but on Amazon, consumers can get them in a "one-stop shop."
B. Cons of Self-Publishing on Amazon KDP Select
Now that we've given you the perks of publishing on Amazon, let's talk about its downfalls. Amazon self-publishing is easy, but is it profitable?
- If you enroll in KDP Select, you have a limited reach and limited income
If you enroll in KDP Select, your book can only reach so far, depending on your genre. Your friends and family, who may be more comfortable getting your books elsewhere, won't be able to do so. If people don't trust Amazon, or they're boycotting it for some reason, you lose some of your business. However, for some genres, going with KDP Select is a financially wise decision because of the marketing it provides.
If you're supporting yourself on your Amazon self-published books, you only have one source of income, which is often a no-no for a freelancer. Also, Kindle Select payouts via Amazon are getting smaller and smaller as competition grows. Because of this, many authors are leaving KDP Select and looking for better options to ensure that their checks keep coming in and the same rate.
- The 90-day exclusivity clause
When you publish with KDP Select, you have a 90-day exclusivity period in which you cannot sell your digital copy elsewhere. This can dent a launch, especially if you expect to publish everywhere.
- You have content limitations
As an Amazon.com publisher, you cannot post more than 10% of your content anywhere else online. Even if it's in your blog or part of a Wattpad story, it needs to be taken down immediately, or else you'll be violating your agreement. Before publishing with KDP Select, read all their terms and conditions.
- There was a book categorisation glitch
Until September 2022, Amazon KDP authors could select ten categories for their features, and their books would be able to rank in all bestselling lists. Following possible bugs, glitches, or algorithm changes, authors can continue to choose those ten categories. However, their book ranks in only three random categories or, as Amazon puts it, based on customer activity.
This glitch has proven doomful for niche categories, such as Greek & Roman Myths and Legends, which fall under the Science Fiction & Fantasy category–one of those that has seen a severe sale downfall.
This change bottomed out another small niche of Werewolves under the Humor & Entertainment category, Puzzles and Games subcategory. For others, it may ripple to a silver lining as bestselling lists have become more diverse. Books ranking in more than one category are being kicked out, leaving some room for new titles to come forward.
In response, authors have requested to withdraw some of the categories they have initially chosen to be able to control where they are featured. This is a frustrating and financially burdening change for many. Despite some minor tweaks able to tailor the effects, it also denotes the volatility of sales assessment when relying solely upon a single platform.
Is Self-Publishing via Amazon KDP Select Best?
Self-publishing is becoming increasingly attractive to experienced or debuting authors eager to take a hands-on approach to promote their writing and build their audience.
With an authorpreneural mindset and technological advancement, they want to rely on something other than the carved directions of traditional publishing. Instead, they would invest their time and resources in taking the momentum and leaping forward. With transparent access to royalties, their management, and an increasing number of tools available, the sky is the limit.
With this mindset, authors look to book aggregators, such as PublishDrive, as they allow authors to tap into all the major retailers with a simple click while not binding them to exclusivity conditions that may become burdening along the way. Yes, publishing on Amazon is easy. How about reaching 400 stores and 2,5 billion potential ebook readers with a single click?