In his 2018 lengthy letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos included a surprising statement. Buried deep within the text was this statistic:
“over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties in 2017 through Kindle Direct Publishing.”
Say it out loud: Over 1,000 indie authors made over $100,000 just by selling self-published books on Amazon! This is groundbreaking news. Never before in the history of literature have so many authors made so much money selling books on their own through one retail channel. Some have hailed this announcement as proof that indie authors are taking over the publishing industry. Publishers beware, because authors are no longer dependent on you to sell books and make a living.
But, are indie authors really that independent? By definition, independent means “free from outside control and not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence.” Yet, Amazon sells nearly 50% of all print books and over 70% of all e-books in the U.S. Plus, their market share is growing as competitors like Barnes & Noble continue to falter.
I would argue that indie authors aren’t really independent. Instead, the former dependence on traditional publishers has been shifted to depending on Amazon for survival. Currently, Amazon offers a host of incredible benefits for authors who self-publish through their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) service:
- No cost to upload, publish, and sell e-books on Amazon.com
- 70% royalties received on books priced $2.99 – $9.99
- Additional income from page reads via Kindle Unlimited service
- Easy to convert e-books into paperback versions for sale
- Direct access to Amazon’s incredible advertising system
- Extra marketing assistance from Amazon’s algorithms
Authors who are willing to do the work themselves can reap an extraordinary payoff from Amazon. Every day, more authors are considering the idea of eschewing publishers to pursue success through Amazon KDP. I’ve lost count of the authors who personally shared with me their frustrations about poor publisher performance, lack of effective marketing, low royalty rates, etc. Many of their complaints are valid.
Just remember, though, there’s no such thing as an “indie” author. In reality, ALL authors and publishers are now dependent on Amazon. That dependence could get ugly if Amazon decides to change their terms or remove the KDP benefits listed above. Authors could see their income plummet overnight. If that were to happen, how do you truly survive as an independent author?
1. Build your own email list
2. Create additional revenue streams
From my perspective, the real indie author is someone who knows their readers and can make income besides just selling books through Amazon. First, he who knows the reader owns the book sale. When you build a big email list, you know your readers and gain more influence over the buying process. Authors with big lists can drive readers to any desired retailer or sell books directly from their own store. For example, J.K. Rowling sells her Harry Potter e-books on her website at Pottermore.com.
Second, authors who learn how to generate income in multiple ways develop more control over their livelihood. There are numerous avenues for any fiction or non-fiction author to increase personal revenue, such as public speaking, paid webinars, video courses, coaching services, movie rights, novellas, spin-off products, etc. Frankly, there is little money in books. But, a good book can lead to a lot of new ways to make money.
Are you a truly independent author? Or, are you an indie author dependent on Amazon or a legacy author dependent on your publisher to survive? Build your email list and diversify your income. Then, if someone asks if you’re an indie author, you can answer with confidence: “Yes!”
P.S. – My Book Marketing Master Class is specifically designed to help authors build their email list, reach a wider audience, and create new sources of revenue. If you write books as a full-time or primary source of income, you’re a perfect fit. The one-to-one Master Class instruction teaches you how to sell more books and make more money for the rest of your career. It’s a small investment that yields dividends for years to come. Every author who goes through the experience is blown away by how much they learn.
Call me at 770-887-1462 or contact me to take this premiere one-to-one instruction.
By the way, if you work at a publishing house, I offer a modified version of the Book Marketing Master Class where I teach marketing and editorial personnel how to sell more books on Amazon and other retailers. Contact me for details.