Home » Apple, Self-Publishing » KDP was my one shot at a lifelong dream

KDP was my one shot at a lifelong dream

14 April 2012

From Jeff Bezos’ annual letter to shareholders, released last Friday:

“Because of Kindle Direct Publishing, I earn more royalties in one month than I ever did in a year of writing for a traditional house. I have gone from worrying about if I will be able to pay the bills – and there were many months when I couldn’t – to finally having real savings, even thinking about a vacation; something I haven’t done in years… Amazon has allowed me to really spread my wings. Prior, I was boxed into a genre, yet I had all of these other books I wanted to write. Now I can do just that. I manage my career. I feel as if I finally have a partner in Amazon. They understand this business and have changed the face of publishing for the good of the writer and the reader, putting choices back into our hands.” That’s A. K. Alexander, author of Daddy’s Home , one of the top 100 best-selling Kindle books in March.

“I had no idea that March of 2010, the first month I decided to publish on KDP, would be a defining moment in my life. Within a year of doing so, I was making enough on a monthly basis to quit my day job and focus on writing full time! The rewards that have sprung out of deciding to publish through KDP have been nothing short of life changing. Financially. Personally. Emotionally. Creatively. The ability to write full time, to be home with my family, and to write exactly what I want without the input of a legacy publisher marketing committee wanting to have a say in every detail of my writing, has made me a stronger writer, a more prolific writer, and most importantly a far happier one…. Amazon and KDP are literally enabling creativity in the publishing world and giving writers like me a shot at their dream, and for that I am forever grateful.” That’s Blake Crouch, author of several thrillers, including the Kindle best seller Run.

“Amazon has made it possible for authors like me to get their work in front of readers and has changed my life. In a little over a year, I have sold nearly 250,000 books through the Kindle and have traded in old dreams for bigger and better ones. Four of my books have hit the Top 100 Kindle Best Sellers List. Also, I have been approached by agents, foreign sales people, and two movie producers, and have received mentions in the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, and PC Magazine, and was recently interviewed by USA Today. Mostly, I am excited that all writers now have the opportunity to get their work in front of readers without jumping through insurmountable hoops. Writers have more options and readers have more choices. The publishing world is changing fast, and I plan to enjoy every minute of the ride.” Theresa Ragan is the KDP author of multiple Kindle best sellers including Abducted.

“Past age 60 and in the midst of the recession, my wife and I found our income options severely limited. KDP was my one shot at a lifelong dream – our only chance at financial salvation. Within months of publishing, KDP has completely changed our lives, enabling this aging nonfiction writer to launch a brand-new career as a best-selling novelist. I can’t say enough on behalf of Amazon and the many tools that they make available to independent authors. Without reservation, I urge fellow writers to investigate and seize the opportunities that KDP offers. As I’ve happily discovered, there is zero downside risk – and the potential is virtually unlimited.” Robert Bidinotto is the author of the Kindle best seller Hunter: A Thriller.

“I leveraged KDP’s technology to blow through all the traditional gatekeepers. Can you imagine how that feels, after struggling so hard, for so long, for every … single … reader? Now, inspirational fiction lovers I never would have reached are enjoying Nobody and my other two novels from the Kindle Store at $2.99. I’ve always wanted to write a Cinderella story. Now I have. And, thanks to Prince Charming (KDP), there will be more to come…” Creston Mapes is the author of the Kindle best seller Nobody.

Invention comes in many forms and at many scales. The most radical and transformative of inventions are often those that empower others to unleash their creativity – to pursue their dreams. That’s a big part of what’s going on with Amazon Web Services, Fulfillment by Amazon, and Kindle Direct Publishing. With AWS, FBA, and KDP, we are creating powerful self-service platforms that allow thousands of people to boldly experiment and accomplish things that would otherwise be impossible or impractical. These innovative, large-scale platforms are not zero-sum – they create win-win situations and create significant value for developers, entrepreneurs, customers, authors, and readers.

. . . .

Kindle Direct Publishing has quickly taken on astonishing scale – more than a thousand KDP authors now each sell more than a thousand copies a month, some have already reached hundreds of thousands of sales, and two have already joined the Kindle Million Club. KDP is a big win for authors. Authors who use KDP get to keep their copyrights, keep their derivative rights, get to publish on their schedule – a typical delay in traditional publishing can be a year or more from the time the book is finished – and … saving the best for last … KDP authors can get paid royalties of 70%. The largest traditional publishers pay royalties of only 17.5% on ebooks (they pay 25% of 70% of the selling price which works out to be 17.5% of the selling price). The KDP royalty structure is completely transformative for authors. A typical selling price for a KDP book is a reader-friendly $2.99 – authors get approximately $2 of that! With the legacy royalty of 17.5%, the selling price would have to be $11.43 to yield the same $2 per unit royalty. I assure you that authors sell many, many more copies at $2.99 than they would at $11.43.

Kindle Direct Publishing is good for readers because they get lower prices, but perhaps just as important, readers also get access to more diversity since authors that might have been rejected by establishment publishing channels now get their chance in the marketplace. You can get a pretty good window into this. Take a look at the Kindle best-seller list, and compare it to the New York Times best-seller list – which is more diverse? The Kindle list is chock-full of books from small presses and self-published authors, while the New York Times list is dominated by successful and established authors.

Link to the rest at Amazon Form 8-K, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission

Passive Guy’s first job out of law school was working for a law firm in Los Angeles that specialized in securities law. He had the responsibility for drafting and/or reviewing 8-K’s for numerous public companies and never saw one like this.

Apple, Self-Publishing

76 Comments to “KDP was my one shot at a lifelong dream”

  1. Makes me want to buy Amazon stock.

    This, “Invention comes in many forms and at many scales. The most radical and transformative of inventions are often those that empower others to unleash their creativity – to pursue their dreams.” is the killer. This is what the establishment most objects to. It annoys, irritates, and scares the elitist, the snobs and those who hunger for power. People who can do for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions are a threat. Not because they hurt anybody, but because they do not need gatekeepers and self-appointed proclaimers of WHAT IS RIGHT AND PROPER for all the stupid, little people.

    • Exactly. And for all the talk of this being a free and entrepreneurial country, the truth is that our society sort of hates that. Case in point: Ever notice how hard it is to get medical benefits unless you work for someone else?

  2. The most interesting part of this to me was that more than 1,000 authors are selling more than 1,000 books each per month. Now if only we knew the total number of authors publishing with KDP. Even if it’s a million, that still leaves a one in a thousand chance of hitting it big. My guess is that’s considerably better odds than with traditional publishing.

    • I agree, and the thing is, there is no one stopping us from being one of those 1 in a 1,000 authors except ourselves. A publisher isn’t going to drop our books, or cancel our promo tour, or get bought out just as our book is published. The TOS for KDP is straight forward and to the point and we can pull our books at any time–although with sales being like they are, I can’t imagine why anyone would!

    • +1

      I attended a writer’s conference last summer and was able to speak with another author who has been extremely successful in his genre (pardon me for not name-dropping).

      He seemed down on the whole e-publishing route, which at the time I was still struggling with. When I asked his opinion of Amazon’s more favorable royalty structure and pointed out the rapidly increasing number of indie writers able to quit their day jobs, he replied that I should be wary of seizing on a few anecdotes and that the whole proposition sounded overly dependent on luck. Success would be a crap-shoot with a great deal of downside career risk.

      Two years ago that would’ve been an entirely reasonable judgment, and was one that I shared.

      My follow up question, “but isn’t that also the case with traditional publishing – if not more so – now?”, was not satisfactorily answered. This was especially confusing as there was wide agreement that mass-market paperbacks (and thus our likely avenue to legacy pubbing) were on the way out.

      Can anyone say “cognitive dissonance”?

      I noticed a decidedly pro-legacy-publishing tenor at this event and do not plan on attending another anytime soon. Every published author was tied to the old ways – and every aspiring author was kissing butt like no tomorrow – fawning over those who’d made it to The Show or held the keys to the front gates.

      I’m not much of a fawner. Spent too much time in the business world, beating my head against the wall to no avail, to just line up for the same kind of treatment as a writer. Real success is rarely found on someone else’s terms.

  3. Wow – nice way to combat the “Amazon is evil” press out there. Yes, yes, of course this is spun in the most altruistic light — but those stories are *true*. 🙂

    “…more than a thousand KDP authors now each sell more than a thousand copies a month,” I wonder if he means on a single title. I sell more than a thousand copies a month, but that’s across 3 titles… and I’m far from one of the ‘heavy hitters’ of self-pub.

    Interesting times! Thanks for this one, PG. 😉

  4. I had a friend figure out that the chances of getting an agent was about 1 in a thousand. And less than a quarter of those who get an agent get a book contract. That was in 2007.

    I would LOVE to see the real numbers on that ‘more than a thousand’ authors thing. I’m thinking it might be a lot more.

  5. One of the things that bothers me is the blind partisanship I see arising from writers who’ve had the doors slammed in their faces by agents and traditional publishers. They demonize traditional publishers and zealously defend Amazon.com against any criticism currently being made against it for it’s (alleged) predatory business practices and labor abuses. Yes, Amazon.com has made it easy for anyone to publish themselves and made ebooks a viable product for the first time. And this has benefitted some writers greatly.

    Nevertheless, no one should be under any illusions that Jeff Bezos is the great benefactor of writers everywhere who is doing this out of the goodness of his heart. Jeff Bezos’ business strategy and Amazon’s policies are formed solely out of his economic self-interest.

    Right now, Amazon may indeed be a haven for many writers, but it’s policies can change overnight to your disadvantage. The bigger and more dominant Amazon becomes as a publisher the less secure you become. Remember, what Bezos giveth, Bezos can taketh away, if it’s to his advantage.

    • No, Bezos is not in this for us, he’s in it for him. However, this press release points out his MO–he sees more profit for him in letting us unleash our creativity. The 30% amazon skims from all self-pub sales is obviously a viable price point for them, and it makes a sweet deal for authors.

      If he takes it away…well. Look at Greece. People do not respond favorably to having their entitlements taken away.

      And 50% fewer authors self-pubbing at Amazon is going to mean he makes less money even if he’s taking 50% of the take from the ones who are left.

      So, while I agree that Amazon should be treated as a business partner, I also think you have to keep what is in their own best interests in mind. And their busienss model is based (by their admission) on a lot of small sales and by being the first place to find what you are looking for. Both of those goals are compromised if he starts changing terms on authors once he gets a monopoly. See, the thing is…by waking us up from the abuse we suffered at trad pub hands…he’s simultaneously made us less likely to take abuse from anyone else. Personally I don’t see how they can change terms and expect to have the same participation they do now, monopoly (vs trad pub) or not. There are other etailers out there.

    • Yeah, and the bogeyman can crawl out from under the bed and eat your toes. Kindasortamaybe. Sometime in the future. If this and that, and under unforeseen circumstances. You have no idea just what a paranoid loon this line of argument makes you — tradpub is already eating your lunch, your toes, and your firstborn, and you’re arguing that you mustn’t take help from the Big Guy, on the ground that maybe someday he might not be so nice.

      Or, to be about 0.1% less confrontational: You have an imagination. Let it work overtime. If you were Jeff Bezos and wanted to screw writers as bad as, say, Penguin does today, what policies would you adapt? Let it all go. Let the full force of your fears emerge. That way the rest of us can take precautions ahead of time, hmm?


    • “Jeff Bezos’ business strategy and Amazon’s policies are formed solely out of his economic self-interest.”

      This is how business works.

      We’re clouded in this country because we live in an environment where lobbyists and legislation make it possible for certain corporations to have unnatural control of their industries. But in a truly free market — not our fake version of it, but in the true version of it — people benefit from businesses that find ways to benefit themselves. And as long as the market is free, there will always be the opportunity for other businesses to arise and challenge, should the current dominant company outlive its usefulness.

    • Ric, I agree with you. As one of the examples of success that Mr. Bezos cites in his letter to Amazon shareholders, I can tell you that, at the age of 62 and unemployed, I didn’t have the option of waiting years for some agent, then a publisher, to get around to publishing me…someday…maybe. Amazon was a financial lifesaver for my wife and me, and I’m grateful to the company for the opportunity it provided me that Legacy Publishing, Inc., did not.

      I love the ridiculous “progressive” criticism that Mr. Bezos is not in this out of the goodness of his heart, but only to better his own economic circumstances. Really, now? So, what are authors in this for: for the altruistic betterment of their publishers, or Mr. Bezos? Or for their own economic self-interest?

      Yes, everybody in the free market is out for his own self-interest. But that’s good, because it is “win-win” self-interest — not gain by one person at the expense of anyone else. Success in the free market is not a zero-sum game, where one person’s success necessitates harm to someone else. Jeff Bezos succeeds financially only to the extent that he provides readers with books they want — books written by authors like me. Likewise, Robert Bidinotto succeeds financially only if he can persuade Jeff Bezos that Bidinotto can write books that those same readers want. In a trading services, we trading partners are dependent upon each other for our mutual success. If we start to screw each other, everyone loses.

      So, what, exactly, is the complaint here? What, pray, would be Mr. Bezos’s incentive to enlist, then screw, writers like me, who supply him with commodities that he needs: books that his readers want? About as much incentive as I have to screw those same readers — or to screw Mr. Bezos, who is providing me with unparalleled global marketing.

      In effect, then, Mr. Bezos and I are business partners who are making each other money. If this is “exploitation,” then it’s mutual exploitation. And my wife and I are loving the financial consequences.

    • If Amazon ever decides to go stupid, I’ll be one of the first to dump them as a place to distribute my work AND take my consumer dollars elsewhere.

      What makes this letter very interesting is that it demonstrates a highly unusual business model. Amazon has set itself up as sort of a giant flea market. It tells the vendors, “Here are the rules. Abide by them. Pay your fees.” Beyond that, it’s fairly neutral and probably as close to a level playing ground as you’ll find with any big business. Even more importantly, the business model allows individuals to figure out how it works. They can pick and choose how they operate their “booths.” People learn. They see how it’s done. They might not have the resources to run a business on Amazon’s scale, but they have them to run on a small scale. Amazon must be well aware that if they decide to go stupid, only the stupid will remain to do business with them. The smart ones will figure out how to set up shop on their own.

      NY publishing has been operating on a closed-shop, master-serf business relationship for so long they are apparently unable to know how to do anything except stand on their crumbling parapets and shout, “Hey, you serfs, get back here! Hey! HEY!”

    • I never get this argument and I’ve seen it a lot lately. Why is okay for a traditionally published author to put all of their eggs in one basket by signing over their rights and sometimes even their ability to write another book? I’d rather take my chances with Amazon, where I’m not locked into a contract and retain full control of my books. If Amazon slammed the door on indies tomorrow, I have no doubt that another outlet would be created to fill the void (Smashwords is already out there as an alternative). Now that Amazon has let the genie out of the bottle, I can’t see anyone stuffing him back in.

    • You do realize you could say the exact same thing about traditional publishers, right? They could choose to do the exact same thing.

      It’s called free market.

    • Let’s turn that statement around a little:

      One of the things that bothers me is the blind partisanship I see arising from writers who’ve *finally made it through the gates manned* by agents and traditional publishers. They demonize *Amazon* and zealously defend *traditional publishers* against any criticism currently being made against it for it’s (alleged) predatory business practices and labor abuses. *not to mention illegal collusion*

      * sections denote where I’ve exactly flipped Mr. Winkler’s allegations. And look, the shoe fits both directions! 😉

      • It’s really amazing what people imagine that I wrote rather than what I actually wrote.

        In the portion of Jeff Bezos’ statement that PG excerpted, Mr. Bezos clearly wants to accrue good will by portraying himself as the generous benefactor of writers. Look at all the testimonials, especially Mr. Robert Bidinotto’s. “Thank you Amazon, you saved my life!”

        I’m not disputing the truth of the writers’ experiences quoted. It’s great PR for Bezos to be doing this, especially at a time when Amazon is under fire in the press.

        I personally find Bezos statement to be as self-serving as the recent attempts by traditional publishers to cast themselves in the role of creators and curators of literary culture. Amazon may currently be of great benefit to some writers, and good for all of you for whom it’s been beneficial, but benefts to writers are merely incidental to its business strategy.

        To state that and also to suggest that it is important for their to be good alternatives has been taken by all but one or two respondents to put words in my mouth and accuse me of being a lefty/progressive paranoid loon who hates Amazon, loves traditional publishing, and believes people should all emulate Jesus, take a vow of poverty and do everything out of self-abnegation and pure selflessness even it results in their own impoverishment.

        The responses go a long way toward proving my point. Don’t dare to speak up among a crowd of Kindle authors and suggest Amazon is the once and future (and only) salvation of writers. If you do, Mr. Robert Bidinotto will burn a giant dollar sign on your lawn before the rest of the howling mob tars and feathers you before burning you at the stake.

        • Hey, I’m a lefty/progressive loon who loves self-publishing because it gives me *control* over my writing career.

          The thing is, a few years ago, when you were screwed by trad publishing, there was almost nowhere to go. Now? If Amazon decides to start screwing authors, I personally believe there IS CURRENTLY and will certainly be continue to be even more competition. In addition to Amazon, I sell quite well at Apple, Kobo, B&N, AllRomanceEbooks, a few sales with Drive-Thru Fiction and BooksOnBoard, and even a couple sales with European site XinXii. Goodreads sells e-books, GooglePlay sells e-books. More will crop up all the time.

          This wailing and gnashing of teeth over “there’s no competition” is a non-issue, if you’re a smart, well-informed author who has taken control of your career. Yes, a *lot* of sales come from Amazon. I’m enjoying that success, while still making sure my eggs are well distributed. 🙂

        • Its a shareholder statement. It’s meant to sound upbeat and positive. All shareholder statements are self serving by intent.

          As to your first argument that Amazon can change, everyone’s well aware of that. Most of the readers here are believers that it won’t. But many of them will abandon Amazon if it does. People like ABeth who’s a regular poster say some of the same stuff you did.

          You might want to reread the subtext you put in your posts though. You implicitly implied that most people who like amazon are Zealots in your first one. And that they are too stupid to get basic realities. That might be why people replied in a less than happy way to you.

          It’s also why Maggie Dana’s post just below didn’t get love. It implies anyone who didn’t get previously published doesn’t know how to spell or basic grammar and, even if their books are selling well, that they are hacks. Rather a broad brush to tar people with. Perhaps not her intention, but thats the implication left.

          • Nice call on the subtext/reactions Wayne. I completely agree. (And will think about what I’m implying in my own posts… hopefully more on the side of open cheerfulness than zealotry.)

            I also think that most of the readers here understand that Amazon *will* change at some point. May be good, may be bad, who knows? (to misquote a Zen story) Fretting about it now is pointless.

        • Mr. Winkler,

          I have no doubt that Jeff Bezos wants to portray his company as a benefactor of writers. That doesn’t even have to be his primary intention, though, for it to be true.

          In a famous passage of his Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith observed that it wasn’t out of saintly love for others that the butcher, the baker, and the banker performed their services for others. They expected to be compensated for them. But the fact that those “benefits…are merely incidental to…[their] business strategy” does not negate the fact that they are benefits to others. Nor does it refute the demonstrable fact that the profit motive — the desire to better oneself financially — has produced more goods and more services for more people than any social system in history.

          Mr. Bezos figured out a way to make tons of money for himself…by making more books (and other products) available to more people, faster and cheaper, than just about anyone else. True, the benefits to authors like me may well be just “incidental” to his “greedy” motives. Incidental…yet necessary. If he wants to make piles of cash, he needs authors to provide him with books to sell, just as we authors need him to market our books. As I said, it’s mutual trade, to mutual advantage. All parties to the transactions are “self-serving,” or no trade would occur.

          What bothers me is your stubborn focus on his alleged motives (which none of us can really know), rather than his actual achievements. Your assumption seems to be that those motives can’t include generosity and kindness. But let’s assume that is true: that he is a greedy S.O.B. with zero regard for anyone but himself.

          Well, so what? Frankly, I have as much concern for Jeff Bezos’s motives as he has for mine: zero. I’m only concerned with what values he’s providing me, just as he is with what values I’m providing him. In other words, we’re both “self-serving,” each in his own way. And, as a result, we are both benefiting from our partnership.

          What confounds and irritates critics of the free market is that the motives of the participants are largely irrelevant in transactions. The market rewards results, not Good Intentions. I suspect this particularly angers those who are short on delivering results, and who must therefore fall back on only their Good Intentions as a gauge of their value. (I am not suggesting that this describes you.)

          I suppose that Mr. Bezos, out of gushing concern for High Culture or “society,” could have started some charity to give away books, instead of launching Amazon. But such a charity, for all its lofty motives, would not have delivered to readers an iota of the vast number of books that profit-seeking Amazon has. If your concern is for the well-being of readers and authors, then surely you must be glad he made the choice that he did.

          Finally, please don’t assume that I believe all authors should self-publish, let alone publish exclusively with Amazon. It may interest you to know that I have been giving presentations to writers outlining the growing number of publishing options that they now enjoy: Big 6, small press, Amazon imprint, “vanity,” self-publishing, and “hybrid” forms of the preceding. Each path offers advantages; each has disadvantages; and each author needs to weigh and compare those factors to decide what option best fits his own circumstances. My enthusiasm for KDP self-publishing is because it has opened for many writers like me opportunities that never before existed. But, it’s not for everyone.

          That said, I must confess that I was captivated by the fantasy you conjured of my burning a giant dollar sign on your lawn. However, rest easy: I’m too strong a proponent of private property rights.



          • “In a famous passage of his Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith observed that it wasn’t out of saintly love for others that the butcher, the baker, and the banker performed their services for others. They expected to be compensated for them. But the fact that those “benefits…are merely incidental to…[their] business strategy” does not negate the fact that they are benefits to others. Nor does it refute the demonstrable fact that the profit motive — the desire to better oneself financially — has produced more goods and more services for more people than any social system in history.”

            This. This ^10.

            There seems to be this conflation in the media and sadly too much of our national consciousness (based on what many of my friends think about these issues) that “making money = immoral” or that people who want to make money are automatically out to dick over their fellows. That is the entire opposite of how the free market works in theory and why it does work in practice. It’s the basic idea of offering something of value to someone else and getting a fair trade (be it in kind or in money) for what you offer. It’s the basic principle driving the specialization of labor, wherein it is more valuable for each person to do 1 thing really well and trade that thing for others, for what they do really well. Yes, we all *could* bake bread to feed our families, but some of us aren’t good at it and others of us don’t want to take the time for it, and would rather pay the baker to do it so we can spend those 2 hours of our day in a more productive work. THERE IS NOTHING INHERENTLY IMMORAL ABOUT TRYING TO MAKE MONEY. Especially not if it is done on the basis of “here is what i can offer you, if that offer seems valuable to you then you are free to take it, and if it doesn’t you don’t have to.”

            I think the problem is that many people are starting to feel like Amazon is a monopoly because so many people take them up on their offer. They fear that soon Amazon will be the only offer. That is not Amazon’s fault or problem. That is the responsibilty of other players to make equally attractive offers.

            All together now…making money is a good thing! A beautiful thing! It enables more people to live more happily and find work they enjoy doing! Long live making money and the free association of business parters who offer mutual value to one another!

            • Anyone who thinks money is evil is welcome to send all theirs to me. ^_^

              (My favorite question for people who think earning a profit is immoral is: So, you work for free, then?)

            • In the immortal words of Gordon Gekko: “Greed works.”

  6. It all boils down to 2 (well, 3, actually) kinds of writers:

    1: Those who’ve gone through the publishing industry’s rigorous mill of submission and rejection, who’ve learned to buckle down and hone their words until they shine (which can often take many years) and end up getting their books published by a traditional publisher …

    or …

    2: Those writers who look at #1 and say, “What the hell. I don’t have time for this. Who cares if I can’t spell or hang two words together. What does it matter if my POV changes mid-sentence? I’m just gonna throw my stuff up there and see what sticks.

    Which books would you rather read?

    Then there’s another writer who’s already been gatekeepered and knows his stuff is good, but for one reason or another (industry trends, downsizing, whatever) can’t get his next book published by a traditional publisher. That writer, whose writing is solid and has passed all sorts of litmus tests, then publishes on his own. And it will probably be good writing, a book worth reading.

    • Honestly? #2. I’ve found far more enjoyment lately from self-published books, (which are often better edited than many trad-published books), since they’re the stories I want to read rather than what some suit in New York *thinks* I want to read.

    • Yeah, right, Maggie. On the other hand, and approaching it from a slightly different viewpoint:

      1) “Writers” who pound keys until they’ve generated a big enough mishmash of Progressive-approved blather, then turn it over to a publisher, where seventeen Harvard-educated editors slave to convert it into something with a semblance of coherence and often fail;

      2) Authors who meticulously go over their manuscript, enlisting the aid of both paid and unpaid editors at all levels, in an honest and often successful attempt to present their work in the best light possible before passing it on to readers they can expect to be extremely critical.

      I know which I prefer. And am.


    • There is a reason, as a reader, why I’m so thrilled that all my favorite mid-20th Century authors are now appearing on my Kindle and Nook. I haven’t enjoyed a “new” author in a couple of decades.

      I also have been looking at some of the new self-published writers. There are some fun things out there. One thing I’ve discovered, adverbs and adjectives. Writers are actually using them again. It’s kind of fun to have the writer “draw the picture for you to imagine” again instead of being terse to the point of dullness.

    • You mean there is no middle ground? We’re either all formerly traditionally published and vetted (so okay) or a bunch of hacks tossing up the first draft and hoping to get a few suckers to buy it?

      Since I wasn’t traditionally published, I guess I’m in the category of hack.

    • The idea of being gatekeepered…okay, maybe. But I stipulate that it doesn’t have to be big-publisher gatekeepers. Could be short story market gatekeepers. Could be small press gatekeepers. Could be having good responses on your blog on free fiction, a nice following. Could be any of a number of different gatekeepers.

      The big publishers? I keep getting, “We love your novel, but we can’t buy it because you have to totally change it because we’ve already got one/it’s too far out of the current market.”

      If their gatekeeper function is fundamentally skewed by the pressure to sell x many books where indies only need to sell y, then it’s useless as a benchmark of quality–what a big publisher considers quality (sells x copies) may not be what y readers consider quality, being more niche. Or not caring whether the book interferes with some publisher’s other titles on the list.

  7. I’m in the middle of reading “Imagine,” about creativity and how it works. Fascinating book. One of the points made is that you are considerably more likely to find solutions to problems if you let in outsiders — that is, those who don’t already have preconceived notions about what will and won’t work. They come at it from all kinds of different backgrounds, and that lack of familiarity is precisely what yields success. No surprise that Amazon is letting in the innovators, and doing gangbusters.

    To Maggie, above, I would suggest that many self-published authors care at least as much about their books as do traditional publishers. I know I do.

    Patrice Fitzgerald, author of the best-selling political thriller RUNNING

  8. As a traditionally-published-author-turned-indie-author who just passed the 100,000 self-published books sold milestone (I just blogged about my achievement this morning), I love to read about the success of independent authors. I agree 100% that Indie Authors offer more diversity that traditionally published authors simply can’t. Here’s what I had to say on that very subject in an interview I gave BigAl’s Books and Pals (BooksAndPals.com):

    BigAl asked, “What do you think indie authors have to offer readers that traditionally published authors don’t?”

    I responded, “Let’s talk crayons. The Big 6 (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) are solid colors, perfect for drawing that rainbow at the end of which sits a pot of gold. The focus of The Big 6 is the gold, so they stick to the bold, well-known colors.

    Indie authors are like the Crayola™ box of 120 crayons, plus the box of neons, and the box of glitter ones, and the metallics, and the watercolors, and don’t forget the markers from bold to subtle. Indie authors offer a much wider variety when it comes to colors. Granted, not everyone is going to like every hue, and some of them won’t be worth the wax they’re made of due to the lack of product control (which includes everything from talent, to editing, to formatting, etc), BUT if readers are willing to take a slight risk, rather than viewing the same (albeit beautiful) rainbow over and over, they can choose from a huge shimmering, iridescent palette.”

    All I can say is…go, Indie Authors, go!

    • Thanks for the plug, Donna. 🙂

      I’ve been mostly listening almost exclusively to the music made by the equivalent of the indie author for in excess of 10 years now, for the same reasons. More variety and my tastes don’t always align well with what sells in the millions.

    • Excellent analogy, Donna and congrats on your milestone.

    • Oh what a lovely analogy, Donna. Congrats on hitting the big Milestone. My sales are steady but still modest but I’m having more fun with my writing than I’ve had in years.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Donna. As one of those authors who sells more than 1000 books a month, I couldn’t be happier with KDP. Readers win because the indie books are generally cheaper and are more diverse, and authors win because we can write and publish what we want instead of whatever happens to be the current craze that all of NY publishing is looking for.

    • Congrats on the sales, Donna, and I like the crayons metaphor.

    • that was a beautiful analogy, Donna. Tha k you for sharing it.

    • Congratulations on reaching an amazing milestone, Donna. I’ve just had my best month in royalties as an Indie. I’m glad the fact that I eat, drink and sleep writing is finally paying off.

      Long may the Indie reign continue, and thanks KDP for opening up the opportunity for us to get our name out there. 😉

    • Donna – congratulations, and an excellent post and analogy. Wonderful.

  9. It is not paranoid to speculate that Amazon may decide to take an increasingly large perecentage of the cover price of any Kindle book they publish (yes, they are he actual publisher) and enact increasingly restrictive terms, just like traditional publishers. Why shouldn’t they?

    Lily LeFevre writes, “Personally I don’t see how they can change terms and expect to have the same participation they do now, monopoly (vs trad pub) or not. There are other etailers out there.” Really, Lilly? Who are they? B&N, who run a distant second to Amazon? Apple?

    Remember when eBay became an overnight business success, and me too auction sites sprang up? Even Yahoo and Amazon got in the game, but eBay remains the dominant auction site. I suspect that that is what will happen with Amazon and ebooks.

    • Sorry, Peter, but you’re wrong.

      Speculating that someday, somehow, off in the far far future, Amazon might take actions that (a) violate every stated principle they’ve put forward, (b) work against their own business self-interest, and (c) very likely would attract the attention of anti-trust regulators, then proclaiming that any sensible person would avoid them on that basis; yes, that’s paranoia, bordering on the schizophrenic variety. If there were some clue, any clue, that Bezos & Co. might even contemplate that sort of thing, you might have some sketchy point. There isn’t, and you don’t.

      Of course it’s very likely induced paranoia, based on the Left/Progressive notion that any and all “bidness” is a Bad Thing which must be closely supervised by angels bureaucrats. That’s another kettle of scorpions entirely.


      • But Amazon /did/ have unfriendly contracts in the past. That’s the thing that concerns me. (Not, I note, panics me; there is a blighted middle ground here between Devil-zon and Halo-zon.) When Amazon was a virtual monopoly on ebooks, their cut from self-published works was 65%, and their contract had… Issues.

        I don’t think it is wise to be blind to the possibility that the first contract was Amazon’s true face, and the much more indie-friendly contract is what they are “forced” to have due to competition. (Again, notice the nuance, if you please. I don’t claim it is 100% True, but those of us who watch with narrow eyes aren’t making this up and we are not “buying into anti-Amazon propaganda.” We are remembering past behavior, and wondering whether they had a change of heart… or not..)

        • It’s always possible they will flip things around. But I suspect indies and self publishing by established authors is now their basis of preventing pressure, by publishing houses. Their own imprints can only go so far, it will take years of hard work and expansion before they could reach the output of even one big publisher congolmerate. I don’t think they realised before how big self-publishing could get, so it was more of an side addon while they focused on vendors similar to eBay’s.

          The key for Amazon, now that they have been burned in the past, is to have more product from multiple sources, so that any one supplier conflict in the future isn’t critical.

        • So, to review your argument: Amazon once had a business practice that didn’t give them much return. Part of the reason for that was that prospective business partners didn’t like the practice much. They changed it to something partners would like better, their business exploded, and they started making money and being able to use the new practice as a way to get into new businesses, also at a profit.


          As soon as they get the chance, they’ll go back to the old way of doing things.

          Once again, the only way you can justify that sort of assumption is to begin with the postulate that business=evil and business people have to keep looking for ways to be evil, lest the other business people in the first class lounge shun them.

          Matthew 6:34: Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

      • For Amazon to gradually squeeze Kindle authors for an increasing share of their per unit sales price is not against their business interests if they think they can get away with it, which is dependent on a variety of factors, most important being how dominant they are in the self-publishing arena.

        I’m sorry that I can’t give the exact day, date, time, latitude and longitude when they might begin to do this. To call my speculation the imaginings of a paranoid loon is idiotic. People speculate or extrapolate future developments in business because nobody is clairvoyant or can predict events with certainty, which is clearly impossible.

        Companies that dominate markets often abuse their position. It doesn’t require flights of fancy to think Amazon may do so. The fact that right now they are advantageous to self-published authors has no bearing on what happens tomorrow. Things change.

    • You know, I’ve never had a drop of alcohol other than a few sips of champagne during wedding toasts that I thoroughly disliked. Yet, I’ll admit that I have a bit of an obsessive personality and I’m addicted to caffeine. (Mmmm… sweet, sweet coca cola.) So it’s conceivable that at some point I’ll pick up some of my husband’s whiskey or have a beer somewhere someday and turn into an alcoholic. I suppose my husband should just sign me up for AA right now, to save time and money.

      And no, if you are using KDP Amazon is not the publisher. Whoever uploads the book to Amazon is the publisher. Amazon is a bookstore that connects authors directly with readers. And most of the world is saying, “Amen!”

    • Peter – You are right, it is not paranoid to speculate that “that Amazon may decide to take an increasingly large perecentage of the cover price of any Kindle book they publish”.

      But, with respect, it is a useless speculation that contributes nothing to any of the arguments about Amazon. The reason for that is because your agent might decide to behave badly any day and your non-amazon publisher may decide to boycott your biggest selling outlet or stop promoting you or refuse to pay you your commission, forcing you to go to court and spend five years trying to get your rights back! Anything might happen tomorrow. So your speculation, though not paranoid, is a worthless one in the grander scheme of things.

      What is paranoid is your, and others, obsession with analysing and interpreting Amazon’s and Bezos’ personal motives completely separate from the actual history, behaviour and business motives of Amazon’s itself, and applying biased and silly what-ifs to them. Nowhere in his above address does he claim that his motives are what you claim them to be. He simply states the facts of what Amazon actually achieves for writers. And readers know what Amazon achieves for them by their personal experience and the obsession that Bezos has for pleasing his customers.

      Amazon is totally free, like any other retailer or any of the other publishers or agent, to change it’s terms and prices and behaviour. However writers are not contracted to Amazon and can move overnight. And despite your trying to gloss it over there are other outlets on the internet that are successful and could easily offer an alternative outlet for those writers.

      Your inaccurate and self serving portrayal of what ‘dominance’ means is also illustrative of an obsession because you inaccurately characterise it as being immune to competition, which it is most certainly is not. Look at SONY, at Nokia, at RIM. Look at IBM. Companies that are ‘dominant’ can move very fast to the list of also rans if they fail to remain competitive and fail to respond to their customers and suppliers. The history of commerce is littered with ‘dominant’ business who followed that path.

  10. If you look around the web, we’re in an age of “user-created content.” The big difference between Amazon and everybody else is that Amazon is letting the users get paid for creating their own content. Just for a minute, compare them to Google (Blogger), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc, rather than to traditional publishing. How evil do they look now?

  11. I was traditionally published with four novels and then went indie. I am currently making ten times what I did as a published author but to me, it’s not so much about the money as the pleasure of having the freedom to write and grow as an author, rather than having to stick to one genre and the guidelines of a publisher. And, of course, the direct contact with readers.

    I loved Donna’s analogy about the crayola. That is precisely why indie authors are such an important part of the publishing industry, giving readers a choice rather than having to stick to what publishers think they should read.

  12. Interesting to read.

    When the first Kindle came out, I threw $1000 into Amazon stock. I figured if I lost it, no big deal. Well, my first stock statement for the end of March says it’s worth $2300.

    I think I’ll hang onto the stock.

  13. Why all the fear of Amazon Monopoly? I see lots prattle about the Kindle being a proprietary format device. Newsflash people. The Kindle Mobi format is a well documented spec which has had several reference implementations since before epub even existed. Anyone can start selling books to Kindle owners. Alas for the poor Nook owners, they would have to buy memory cards first (since the Nook reservers most of it’s memory for B&N only books.) Oh, but let’s encourage everyone to become B&N customers to ward off the Amazon monopoly boogyman. Pffft.

    (Disclaimer: I own a Sony Reader, not a Kindle, and am not an Amazon fan at all. But man, all this Amazon bashing gets on my nerves.)

  14. I just re-Tweeted this article link, I hope you approve.
    I have had my literary effort on KDP for 1 month, so far, no sales, but I’m hopeful.
    I think the problem is the price, KDP have set it at $5.48. How do I get it to $2.99?

    • No problem, Robin. Good luck with your sales.

      Check with KDP customer service people if you can’t change your price.

    • Robin, if you are self-publishing, your KDP dashboard will let you go in and adjust data for all your titles. You should be able to set the price to anything you’d like, starting at .99 cents.

    • Your problem is mass and time–you need more works up, which will take time. Ten is a critical target to hit. Once you get to ten then reexamine your prices. Are you a writer or an author?

  15. The thing that the fearful of the future speculators seem to miss is that we can sell the books on our own. I wanted a series by an indie who is in KDP Select. I don’t own a kindle, so he sold them to me personally in a format that works on my nook. The books came with artwork and everything; beautiful books. The only thing I had to change in the transaction is that I refused to pay $6.00 for a full length trilogy, so I paid him $15.00. Daniel Arenson. Great fantasy books and underpriced, in my opinion. But I’m drifting off topic. The point is, in the (frankly counterproductive) event that amazon goes bad, there are other etailers, starting with ourselves. It’s great new world! So let’s stop being afraid of what might happen. We’ve never been more empowered!

    • But Ramon, KDP Select exclusivity means exactly that. Exclusivity.

      The author took a conscious decision that nook users would not be able to read his books. That includes you.

      Far from being empowered,as you put it, you have had to ask the author to break the terms of the agreement with Amazon to get the books you want.

      If this author is making private arrangements as you suggest he’s leaving himself wide open to being penalized by Amazon.

      Neither readers nor writers can have their cake and eat it.

      • Mark: first, I didn’t ask him to do anything. I just messages him to ask where his book was on the nook, as i couldn’t find it. He told me where it was, and simply emailed me the books to be nice, because we had spoken before. He’s not holding up a personal store front and side dealing anything. It was a favor he did for me that I used to illustrate that we are indeed empowered to make choices. Yes, he is in select, but my point was that we callus easily sell the books ourselves if we chose to.

  16. I consider myself another KDP author success story. My book made it to #1 on Amazon’s Teen Horror (paid) list and stayed there for seven weeks. It was then bumped to #2 by a book called the “Woman in Black”, which was being produced into a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe (AKA Harry Potter).
    I immediately received emails from movie producers interested in my series.
    After five months of negotiation with Elaine P. English (an entertainment lawyer) representing me, I signed a deal. The project is currently in preproduction.
    While I’m not selling a thousand books a month (yet), I’m happy with the opportunity the KDP program has given me.

    In Jeff’s statement he clearly views books as a commodity to be bought and sold. Using the Amazon model of allowing readers access to reading material through a search engine far superior to any other out there, he allows the seller and purchaser to come together with the least amount of gatekeeping. The options based on price are virtually limitless. The search engine makes finding exactly what the reader wants, easy.

    This way of approaching book sales makes the point of who the publisher is—moot.

    If a reader wants a book about a psychic parrot with a red-hat society lady owner who is dating a gator wrestling side-show freak, they can find it and buy it.

  17. I’m glad Jeff Bezos chose to advance this argument, as this aspect of the competition question has been roundly ignored by the defenders of Agency.

    One of the reasons why the large publishers wanted Agency was because it would lead to higher e-book prices. These were essential to slow the changeover to digital.

    Why would large publishers want to do that? Well, it’s simple. In a print world, they control distribution. They control (most of) the slots where books are sold in any volume (chain stores, boxstores, and the co-op therein).

    In a digital world, they lose that control. There is less co-op, there is a much more level playing field for titles not published by the large publishers, and, as a result, much more competition.

    They might like to dismiss self-publishing, but the fact is that when we are given a level playing field (like at Amazon), we eat their lunch. Look at the genres that went digital first – self-publishers are dominating the bestseller lists. That’s a sign of what’s coming to the other genres because all the evidence seems to suggest that the more readers are exposed to work from self-publishers (and small publishers who were largely shut out of the print distro system), the more of it they buy.

    The large publishers cry about competition, but the truth is they don’t want competition at all. They just want the faux-competition between themselves that was the status quo before the digital revolution.

    But those days are gone. Forever.

    • You are so right David. Control is the key word and the legacy publishers have been totally accustomed to their control over the whole of the market for many decades. The cozy regular dinners that the CEO’s of those publishers have been having without any lawyers present that have been referred to in the current DoJ action illustrates how they view the market and their right to control it.

  18. I only published my novel with KDP Select last December.
    In the past 10 days alone I’ve had 700 sales of my single title, at £1.94, bringing in about £1000 income. ($1600 income?)
    This was a novel that had the full support and representation of London literary agents, and a film consultant, and was loved by quite a few editors in London, but publishing houses’ sales depts did not think it would sell in sufficient quantities.
    It’s selling in sufficient enough quantities for me!
    I’ve been invited to be a member of a panel at London Book Fair on Wednesday 18 April, on “How I Went Indie & Why”, to launch the Alliance of Independent Authors.
    I hear a representative from Amazon will be there.
    I must remember to thank him!

  19. Amazon has a very vested interest in keeping authors happy. The deal we have now with Amazon/Kindle might just not be as good as it gets. Consider this: every indie author has the ability to go it alone. All we need is an Internet connection, a way to save our file in .pdf or similar format and a PayPal account.
    There is nothing to stop authors going this route right now. Indeed, if it becomes more popular, so sidetracking the Kindle that so many people have bought, think of the potential drop off in sales for Amazon.
    I foresee a time when indie authors (we need a word for that! ‘inditors?) will be given 80% or perhaps even more of the revenue, just to make sure that the books are available on the expensive Kindle tablet. (remember, there are many tablet readers on the market)
    Amazon will not try to kill the goose, far from it, they will do everything they can to ensure it stays ahead of the true indie authors and that means looking after the current provider/publishers very well.

  20. As a reader I have been so turned off by the high prices of big-6 publisher’s e-books, that I have stopped buying from them altogether. Instead I watch Amazon’s digital deals every day and have picked up some great reads for $.99 or $1.99. If I see a book I really want from the big-6 publishers, I put a hold on it at the public library.

  21. I was really excited to see read those statements. Especially knowing that I am one of the 1,000 authors selling over 1,000 books each month. I have 2 books out and each one of them are selling over that mark. The best part is that I’m priced at a level where I’m also extremely pleased with my income. It may take me longer to hit that 100,000 book level, but I’d rather have the $. Although a large majority of my books have been sold on Amazon, and I know it is their ability to promote their books that has helped turn my books into best sellers, I haven’t done KDP select, and am equally grateful for having the ability to self publish through itunes and Pubit. It has been a great thing for myself and my family. This has been a great article and it’s been so fun reading the comments.

  22. I am an author that has feet planted in both camps. Sort of. I self published my memoir in 2008, and later in 2010 I signed it to the AmazonEncore imprint. I then put out several more Indie titles. Three of my titles have made it to the Top 100 Paid Kindle list, the memoir staying there for an entire month last February! The books have hit many other Amazon best seller lists, too.

    My experiences with Amazon as a publisher and as a printer have been nothing short of amazing. I feel honored to be called an Amazon author, and humbled that they also allow me the freedom to continue to self publish. It’s the best of both worlds and I’m finally able to make a living doing what I love, use my gift of writing to weave a good story while advocating for disadvantaged children.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.