This is the eighth entry in a series in which I detail the entire experience of self publishing my book. The goal is to offer tips and strategies so you can learn from my successes and mistakes. This week: the ins and outs of eBook distribution, the best pricing strategies for your book, and whether or not you should choose Kindle Select.
eBooks were already a major force in publishing before COVID-19 hit. Now, they’re more vital than ever. With bookstores and libraries closed, retailers are reporting record eBooks sales. So, if you’re looking to sell books in this trying time, it’s vital that you publish eBooks and that you get it right.
BookBaby makes this whole process very easy. They offer worldwide eBook distribution for just $299, which lets you sell your eBook in 170 countries and over 60 stores. I’ve covered some of the process in other articles, so let me just give you the quick outline, in case you’re coming into this series in the middle.
Before you upload your manuscript to BookBaby, read this article about Amazon optimization that addresses metadata, which is the descriptive information that will help readers find your book. This is rather important in determining your book’s success.
Conversion is included with your eBook distribution package. I briefly went over eBook formatting in Part 6, but it’s a very simple process. You send them your manuscript, answer a few questions about the kind of interior design you’re looking for, and they send you beautiful eBook proofs. Bada-boom.
One thing to keep in mind: don’t approve your eBook proofs until you are absolutely sure you know when your release date will be. The minute you approve your proofs, your release date is set. You can change other aspects about your book’s metadata (price, description, keywords, etc.) but not the release date. (Give yourself plenty of time! BookBaby recommends setting your release date 120 days out from when you place your order. Trust me, you will need this time to properly market your book.)
Once your proofs are approved, BookBaby sends your eBook files to Amazon and all the other retailers. Amazon is like clockwork. They will have your book up on their site available for sale (or pre-sale if you have set your release in the future) in just three days. Other vendors are less consistent; they may take anywhere from a few days to up to two weeks to get your book up on their sites.
In my case, for example, I have still not approved my eBook proofs (even though they are perfectly fine) because I’ve signed an audiobook deal, which gives my publisher a three-month exclusive. The audiobook is coming out mid-June, so my eBooks will come out October 1st.
eBook Retail Pricing
One of the toughest decisions you’ll face when ordering eBooks is what you want your eBook’s retail price to be. There is no easy answer here, as every book is different, but I’ll break down some of your options and what they might mean in terms of your royalties.
A few years ago, it was very common for people to sell their eBooks for 99¢. eBooks were newer then and the industry’s philosophy was that, unlike with printed books, there is no physical product to print, shelve, ship, etc., therefore eBooks should be much cheaper than their physical counterparts. Also, the thinking was at 99¢, readers would be more willing to take a chance on an unknown title. It’s a strategy that worked for many authors and one that’s still used today.
However, now that the format has matured and readers are more comfortable with it, authors and readers alike have realized that the value of books lies in the content, not the medium. Many authors feel that charging 99¢ devalues their content.
According to Patrick Aylward, my BookBaby Publishing Specialist, a good range for most eBooks is somewhere between 1/3 and 2/3 of your printed book price. If you’re not also publishing printed books, consider somewhere in the $4.99 – $9.99 price range.
What price should you choose? Do some research. Find out what price other authors in your genre are selling their books for. I chose $7.99 for The Dragon Squisher, which seems to be in line with other YA fantasy titles.
Once your book is released, you can change your price at any time via the MyAccount dashboard on BookBaby’s site, so it’s not like you’re making a life-long decision. But it is a marketing decision, so spend time considering your options and make an educated choice.
For authors, eBook royalties are where it’s at, for your royalty rate is much higher than with printed books. However, it’s important to keep in mind that your retail price will affect how much money you take home.
Amazon has a tiered royalty system. If your retail price is between $2.99 and $9.99, they will pay you a royalty rate of 70 percent. (For books in this price range, Amazon will charge you a delivery fee of 15¢ per MB, which for most text-based books is just 15¢).
Outside of that range (below $2.99 or above $9.99) Amazon pays 35%, but there is no delivery fee.
(By the way, BookBaby takes zero percent of your royalties. So, if Amazon pays you 70 percent, every penny of that goes to you.)
With BookBaby, the way payment works is the retailers pay all your royalties to BookBaby, you set a threshold on your dashboard, and once you reach that threshold, BookBaby will make a direct deposit the following Monday. Keep in mind that retailers have 90 days in which to pay BookBaby, so it can take a while to get your money.
I mentioned at the start of this post that BookBaby makes your title available for sale in over 60 stores. That’s the default setting. However, you can choose KDP Select, which means that for your book’s first 90 days, it will only be available for sale on Amazon.
So, why would you choose this option?
Well, KDP Select offers certain advantages. First, it makes your title available for free to all Kindle Unlimited readers and available in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. What are these two things? According to Amazon:
Kindle Unlimited is a subscription program for readers that allows them to read as many books as they want. The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a collection of books that Amazon Prime members who own a Kindle can choose one book from each month with no due dates. When you enroll in KDP Select, your books are automatically included in both programs. Your books will still be available for anyone to buy in the Kindle Store, and you’ll continue to earn royalties from those sales like you do today.
By the way, you can actually earn royalties for books that are “purchased” for free through this program from something called the KDP Select Global Fund. How that’s calculated is rather confusing. (It has to do with how many pages of your book people read. You can learn more about it here.)
By choosing KDP Select, you can even make your book available to anyone for free for up to five days. (They don’t have to be five days in a row. You can, for example, set up “Free Fridays” or other promotions.)
So why limit your number of vendors to just Amazon all so you can give your book out for free?
Well, having your book available for free is a quick way to generate a ton of downloads, which can lead to lots of reviews. The more downloads and reviews your book gets, the better your Amazon search ranking, which will lead to greater sales down the road. (Not to mention the extra number of word-of-mouth sales you can gain from all those readers who downloaded your book for free.)
Should you choose KDP Select? It depends. If you have a marketing plan and are prepared to take advantage of these free downloads, then yes. Also, if you have a series, before your latest sequel drops, it might make sense to re-release your older titles on KDP Select so readers can get caught up for free.
I can share something about giving away free copies of your book from my own personal experience. Two years ago, Audible published a book of mine called Rivals! Frenemies Who Changed the World. It garnered some great reviews, but didn’t sell particularly well. In advance of the release of its sequel, Audible made the first book available for free for one month as part of its Free Audible Original program (similar to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program) and suddenly my book became the #1 bestseller on Audible. Granted all those sales were free, but that generated sales of the sequel as well as subsequent monetary sales for the original.
So, free can be an amazing sales boost if you’re ready to take advantage of it. If you don’t have a marketing plan, then you’re just throwing money away.
As for exclusivity, Amazon owns 60-70% of eBook sales worldwide, so making it available only on their site isn’t that big of a sacrifice.
Also, it can give you more of a reason to communicate to your readers on social media. When your 90 day KDP Select exclusivity is up, you can announce “My book is now available on Apple Books and elsewhere!”
I have chosen KDP Select for my book. When it launches, I’ll be sure to update this page with details so you can see how I did with it, and I’ll share any lessons I’ve learned.
Important! KDP Select will automatically renew for another 90 days unless you log on to your BookBaby account and switch it off. My advice: do this on day one so you don’t forget.
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Stay tuned for more adventures in self publishing. Still to come: printing, print on demand, and more. Comment below if you have any questions about any part of the publishing process or if you feel like I left something out. And keep an eye out for my humorous YA fantasy novel, The Dragon Squisher, coming this Fall.
Read the rest of the series:
My Self-Publishing Experience. Part 1: Placing An Order
Book Marketing and Social Media Promotion: My Self-Publishing Experience, Part 2
Book Editing: Part 3 Of My Self-Publishing Experience
Amazon Optimization: My Self-publishing Experience, Part 4
Metadata Optimization For Your Book: My Self-Publishing Experience, Part 5
How To Get Cover Design And Formatting That Fits Your Story: My Self-Publishing Experience, Part 6
How I Landed An Audiobook Deal: My Self-Publishing Experience, Part 7
(Follow me on Instagram at authorscottmccormick!)
Tell your book’s story with metadata
Can You Make Millions Selling 99¢ Books? Amanda Hocking Did.
Four Elements Of Strategic Income From Your Book Sales
How to Reach Your Book Sales Goals This Year
Your Book Needs A Pre-Sale Period To Be Successful