Would you believe me if I said I had proof of Amazon KDP being a bully? How about that they are trolls as well?
Well, it happened to me like this: I had a book up which got a DMCA complaint that wouldn’t resolve. You see, you can use DMCA to complain about someone else’s content and never have to give that person a copy of your complaint – so they have to take their content down, or in Amazon’s case, they block it and you can’t do anything about it.
The long and short is that someone at Kindle got a hair up and went to suspend my account over it. I answered right away and pointed out that it was because they left the book in question on their site and it could still be found by the DMCA trolls.
But I got the dirty end of that stick.
The next day, someone else at Kindle reversed it, but I was still guilty as accused. So, as usual, they put their boilerplate threats at the bottom of the email.
Why does Kindle put threats at the bottom of every email?
The answer – they are bullies. KDP has around 60% of the market and they don’t have to take your book if they don’t want to. And if you try to publish public domain works, they can be downright hateful about it.
Sidebar: What made Kindle into troll-bullies? Their own “success.” Yes, there’s the corporate cult in place, which comes down from the top. It’s that take-no-prisoners, scorched-earth policy they have. Besides that, it makes them a great target. I’ve published that one complained-about book everywhere else. But who got the one and only DMCA complaint? Amazon-Kindle. Because it’s an easy target and Google searches will pull up that title there first rather than anywhere else. So the DMCA internet trolls simply have to fire off an automated request to Kindle, and the book is shut down. If it doesn’t disappear entirely, they complain again until that title is removed. (That is the actual strategy: to eliminate the “competition” for a specific book title, which isn’t trademarked.) It’s the mutual troll society. Amazon-Kindle doesn’t have to care. They’ve got 1.6 million books out there, and yours is just one tiny drop in their ocean.
The bottom line is that I’ve finally had enough with these guys. It set me to thinking about what I was actually getting out of my dealings with them. Frankly, I have one book that sells decently, and a lot of other books (about 70, maybe) that don’t. Some have never sold. Which brings up the fact that…
Amazon Kindle is correctly the “Graveyard of Indie Authors”
Out of over 1.6 million titles on their Kindle site, less than 100,000 sell more than one per day. That’s 16 percent. (See http://www.theresaragan.com/salesrankingchart.html)
And the more people publish to Kindle, the bigger that graveyard grows.
Now if you had a book that sold one a day, and you were getting a royalty of maybe $2 per book, what kind of income will that give you?
Yup – $720 a year, more or less.
So you can figure what I’m getting with my book whose sales rank says it’s turning over maybe 5-10 per day. Nice pin money, but won’t support any family by itself. And that is my Kindle star player.
Then when I have to put up with Kindle’s nastygrams in order to do these submissions, it doesn’t really seem worth it.
Here’s the surprise: I make more money on paperbacks and hardbacks.
Meanwhile, neither CreateSpace nor Lulu give me any grief at all about my books, as long as they are technically able to be printed. They trust me from the start. (They don’t accuse me right off the bat of doing something illegal, like the Kindle trolls.)
iTunes, Nook, and Kobo similarly don’t care what I publish there. And they also just accept the stuff I give them. On each publisher, my books sell differently. But only Kindle has that weird review hang-up. (OK, it does affect CS sales, I imagine.)
The point here is that I can help you best with all these books I’m finding if I’m not hassled and stressed every single time I submit a book or revise it.
The Kindle Trolls just made up my mind for me with their last round of bullying. I’m really through with having to fight for the “privilege” of getting books up there.
So if I do find a great PD book, it’s going everywhere except Kindle. It will wind up on Amazon as a paperback and maybe a hardback as well. I’m just not going to fight over measly profits from their Kindle version. (I’m sure there’s no love lost on either side.) What I will do is to offer that ebook to you directly with it’s Kindle-ready version, and pocket something like 97% of the royalties. Members only, of course.
Where I come out with an original work, Lulu is going to distribute it to Kindle for me. So I lose some royalties out of it, at least I’m not losing sleep.
I think that if authors wised up, they’d see how they are getting screwed and would quit their Kindle addiction. There are 1.5 million, 9 hundred thousand Kindle ebooks out there that sell less than one copy per day.
It then makes sense that the average income of most indie authors by survey is about $500 per year. Because most of these have published a single book which never sells, especially on Amazon-Kindle. And people can’t find your ebook because it isn’t recommended because it never sold to begin with. That’s the way Amazon works.
Amazon Kindle is the ebook author graveyard. Cue the funeral dirge, please.
What Turns a “BestSeller” into “Makes a Living?”
You’ll find that all these “bestselling” authors have built up an audience of rabid fans who buy everything they come out with. Takes some time, and some good writing, but it can be done.
Like Amanda Hocking, they don’t just write a bunch of good books. They also borrow other’s audiences until they can get enough of them to join theirs.
This is the lightbulb moment most authors are missing.
And frankly, it’s a point of visiting podcasts as a guest. In Content Marketing, it’s called guest blogging. Hocking got the book bloggers to take up her cause. Steve Scott and Mark Dawson visited the book podcasters. Same approach in all cases. Enough of these visits, with your own opt-in’s and list in place, and you have your own audience.
At that point, you can do the Kindle Review Dance. You know the steps:
a) Give your audience advance review copies,
b) get some of them to put reviews out on the first days,
c) get some to buy it right off.
d) Then tell the rest of them so they can get it during the first opening week, and
e) then raise the price and get some more to keep buying it.
f) So then Amazon starts pushing it and drives the sales even higher.
That’s all it takes to make a “bestseller” on Kindle. Yes, the reviews are all contrived. (Normally, about 1% leave reviews there or anywhere. But this strategy is legal and accepted.)
But what does it take to make a living there?
Well, the honest truth is that you can’t get there from here.
No author I’ve studied makes their income strictly and only from Kindle. No one. Not any. Lots of “conventional wisdom” guru’s say to just get your books on Kindle exclusively and – voila – instant 6 figures.
Nope. Doesn’t happen. Except for the 1% – usually those with lists of rabid, buying fans. Like celebrities. (Cue the zombie march.)
It takes a couple of years to build up your audience to even start approaching 6 figures from book sales. It’s a real grind, but necessary. Learn by doing, not by hoping for lucky breaks.
Let’s crunch some numbers. Smashwords’ Coker has done surveys say ebooks sell the most at $2.99, but produce the most income at $3.99. We don’t know how many 6 figure authors are using those numbers. Mark Dawson won’t run Facebook ads for anything under $4.99. He’s pulling down $500K per year, spending over $100K on FB ads – and making twice that back.
Let’s figure you want to make $100K in a year. In New York and other high-tax districts, $50K won’t even get you out of the poverty zone.
You need $2K per week. Let’s take Dawson’s book price – that’s about $3.50 royalty per book. Just over 570 units sold per week. Or around 82 units per day. Your sales rank needs to be between 1500 to 3000 – meaning that you have that many books which sell better than yours in all of Kindle-land. The air is thin up there, for sure.
That’s just one book to do all the heavy lifting. Most of these guys have an average of 10 before they get any decent income. That makes more sense, as then your average sales only need to be around 8 per day, meaning your sales rank for these are between 10K to 50K.
Now you can see why 84% of all Kindle authors make diddly-squat.
But crunch the numbers for yourself. Come to your own conclusions.
What the guys making real income from booksales are doing.
Their money is made with multiple versions on all possible platforms. By my last notes, Scott was sticking to KDP Unlimited with his ebooks and had given up around $100k per year. But around a third of the rest of his money was coming in from other versions. Print books, audio books, foreign rights. It was only when Scott moved into these additional versions that jumped him into the $300K range.
That’s the model. Get all your books available everywhere possible in all versions possible.
If you’re publishing original books and have a decent audience built up, you can very probably keep making 6 figures indefinitely – as long as you keep producing books they can consume.
If you’re trying this with Public Domain books, figure that you’re going to have to publish a few hundred to do this. The problem is that PD has been commoditized on Kindle so that the bulk of them are either free or very low price of 99 cents.
However, in print, it’s a different story – with the proper approach, one can make those few hundred crank out 6 figures. And those sales are more regular, if “weak” compared to the topsellers.
Having a couple hundred PD books out there, giving you about $2 royalties, you only need them averaging about a sale every other day.
The trade off is about the same. It can take years to build up a backbench using either method.
What most starting publishers don’t know is that to submit PD books to Kindle gets you a nastygram almost every time you do. (Of course they quickly find out.)
Hardcopy versions on CreateSpace and Lulu don’t get that bizarre treatment. These two are only concerned with your technical accuracy so the book reproduces well. They aren’t concerned with what the content is, but expect you to hold up your own end.
Quite a different scene entirely. You aren’t threatened with account closure every single submission.
Meanwhile, as I’ve covered before, print books can bring you in twice or more income for the same text.
For my business model, the current work is converting all my ebooks that sell at all over to print versions. And meanwhile, look for additional PD books which are poorly marketed by their publishers and sell well in paperback despite of it. Adding these to my existing backbench then should take my income up to those six-figures, and perhaps beyond.
While PD publishing requires no audience (it actually works based on the legacy audience of those long-dead authors) I’ll be also investing in audience-building to accelerate that process. That audience will tell me what books they want, giving us both a virtuous feedback loop for the marketing cycle.
All of this is based on those two points from our last episode:
1. Deep backbench – lots of titles selling well.
2. Multiple eyeballs – all possible versions on all possible platforms.
Add to this:
3. Velvet Rope Members
That’s where you get your own audience on board, and give them a membership so you can talk freely with them and give them what they want.
There’s only a few more key points to this system, but I’ve talked at you long enough for today.
This episode should give you the paradigm-shift you need to consider your own marketing plans. The days of the Kindle trolls and bullies can reach their end. But only if enough of us get people to examine the conventional wisdom Kool-Aid they’ve been swallowing.
Bullies get to keep bullying until they are stood up to.
Then they reform, or run.
Of course, this is my trademark end to this episode – steps you can take today to fix things.
For original works:
0. Get an email provider, plus your own domain and web site. I use AWeber and Rainmaker, respectively.
1. Use an aggregator for your ebooks, either Lulu or Smashwords. Make sure they have a Lead Magnet that works to build your audience through the LookInside/Preview.
2. Publish paperbacks through CS and Lulu and get their extended reach options (cost you nothing but proofs.) Ensure they also have Lead Magnets for their own Look Inside/Preview.
3. Publish hardbacks through Lulu to their extended reach.
4. Record your own books into audio and post them to Audible and CDBaby. Also use them as podcasts to attract your audience.
5. Make the podcast interview rounds for your books. And tell people how to opt-in to your membership.
6. Build relationships with your list through give-aways and pre-release offers. (Several good workouts exist on this, such as Dawson’s.)
7. Write more books. Publish. Repeat.
For PD/PLR works:
0. Mainly, these steps are the same, they just take longer. Probably twice as long or more. (Just how fast did you want to get financially independent.)
1. Aggregators won’t ship PD or PLR anywhere, so you have to submit all your books manually.
2. My personal advice is to skip Amazon – it’s way too crowded to be worth anything. Instead, use them to show you where the best prospects are. They publish sales rank data, which gives you clues (see my last episode for this.)
3. Publish all books to as many places as you can, especially hardcopy versions.
4. You might be able to use PD audiobooks (if you choose the right originals) for your podcasts. Otherwise, use the example of mine where I take the 4000 character description and podcast these.
5. The rest is no different. Build your audience and give them what they want.
6. Then find more books, publish them, rinse, repeat.
That’s it for now.
See you next time.
PS. I’m working up the real marketing campaign that any self-publisher can use, so stay tuned.