Top Five Things Kindle Doesn’t Want Authors To Know

I recently published a book on Amazon Kindle, and was fortunate to have it become a #1 bestseller in two music categories. Along the journey of Kindle self-publishing, I was given an unexpected education – or, to use the vernacular of the day, I was “schooled”.

Just about everything I had planned for my beautifully designed, interactive and educational multimedia book had to be scrapped. What was left in the fallout was a ghost of what I had imagined, and the “royalties” ended up being equally transparent (see #4 on this list).

Although I may have some professional bias as a founder of a competing self-publishing platform, I honestly found myself shocked by the process and policies of publishing to Kindle, not to mention the morass of technical impediments which forced me to brush up on MSWord formatting, HTML and XML coding.

I still use Kindle to my advantage, alongside my products on Revizzit, but knowing the road ahead makes for a better plan at the outset.

Here are the top five things I learned that Kindle doesn’t really want us to know:

1. These Are Not Your Customers

Amazingly, in this age of online marketing and social media, Amazon – and Apple, for that matter – think that the people who buy your ebooks are THEIR customers, not yours. They will not share the customer info with you – not even a name, let alone an email address.

This means that not only are you responsible for the marketing of your book if you want to make any sales at all (read #5 on this list for more about that), but it also means that your customers remain anonymous to you when you are ready to market your NEXT book, depriving you of any of the benefits of customer relationship value. You’ll need to pay premium advertising to reach your existing customers, just like you will for new leads.

2. Multimedia Is No Longer Supported

Amazon quietly stopped supporting audio and video in Kindle books.

Although it is still listed in Section 6 of the Kindle Publishing Guidelines, starting on page 51, there was a small requirement in section 6.10 to use an Amazon PLAY icon on the page, which was available on request.

When I requested this for my Kindle book (which had been intended as a music instruction book WITH audio) this is the response I received from Kindle Direct Publishing:

We currently don’t support multimedia in the content or description of your KDP book.

I understand that it is available in Kindle Publishing guidelines, however, this is not applicable to KDP books as a Kindle books are available on all the devices and inserting multimedia will not be compatible on older services or applications which will result in poor customer experience.

However, we’re continually working to expand our supported formats to reach a wider audience, and we’re excited that you want to offer your title. I’ve forwarded your concern to our technical team for as we make future improvements.

I’m unable to promise a time frame for this to happen and I’d request your utmost support and patience while we make improvements to our program and implement more changes to better the customer’s and publisher’s experience.

We look forward to providing continued support to you and we wish to hear from you in the future as well. Thanks for your understanding.

3. No Leveraging Your Content (advertising, affiliate links, etc)

In the mobile gaming world (ironically run by these same media giants) they understand the power of leveraged content. Most games are not made profitable by the price tag alone, but rather by ingenious in-app purchases, upgrades and, of course, advertising. This allows them to sell the lead content at a much lesser price – or even free – than they would have if they depended on title price alone.

But when it comes to the digital book publishing world, they seem rather intent on getting in the way of anything that would help authors become more profitable – even if by helping authors make money, they would benefit themselves through empowered sales of Amazon products and services.

According to KDP Terms and Conditions, section 5.1.2:

“You may not include in any Digital Book any advertisements or other content that is primarily intended to advertise or promote products or services.”

Surely, they didn’t mean that we cannot even include their own Amazon Associate links? You know, to help them sell products on their own network and generate some revenue for Amazon (and a pittance for us, as affiliates). After all, Amazon is the largest affiliate network in the world – and Amazon Kindle books are about topics that, more often than not, lend themselves to other recommendations, right?

In a follow up email to clarify this illogical condition, I was informed that:

I understand you’d like clarification on whether or not members are allowed to include their Associate links in Kindle books; I hope I can help.

Associate links can only be used on approved websites and are not permitted to be used in e-mails, newsletters, Kindle books, or in any off-line manner.

For more information on our participation requirements, please review the Associate Operating Agreement…

I stand corrected.

4. Size = Expense; Price Determines Royalty Tier

This discovery was the one which almost completely derailed my project on Kindle – so read carefully!

For starters, there is a distribution fee charged for your books if they qualify for the 70% royalty. This was important in my case, as I had a graphically intense, 300 page book that was about 50mb in size.

KDP charges $0.15/mb for each book they deliver, so my book would have carried a fee of about $7.50 per copy. Ouch!

Which brings us to our next problem: Pricing limits.

To qualify for the 70% payout, the book needs to carry a retail price between $2.99 and $9.99.

Let’s do some math… $9.99 x .7 royalty minus the $7.50 delivery fee = I owe Kindle fifty cents for every book sold. Uh… what else you got?

If we “choose” the 35% royalty (yes, that means Kindle keeps 65% of our book sales) they waive the distribution fees. But the book needs to be priced as such:

USD List Price Requirements for

Minimum List Price

Maximum List Price

35% Royalty Option

• Less than or equal to 3 megabytes

$ 0.99

$ 200.00

• Greater than 3 megabytes and less than 10 megabytes

$ 1.99

$ 200.00

• 10 megabytes or greater

$ 2.99

$ 200.00

In this model, my book (which includes a $35 software companion product) sells for $16.99, in order to generate slightly less than six dollars in revenue. My goal wasn’t to make money per se, this was more of a lead generation project, but the revenue generated will be used to continue advertising the product. At this price point, the book + software package is still a good deal for the customer, but the price is actually higher than I intended for my purposes.

Another thing – just because information is digital, that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. What’s with the $200 cap on the pricing? If a book can support sales of $500, or $1000 dollars or more per copy, then why isn’t that acceptable? There are many niche industries that can support products at that price point, with loyal customers happy to purchase them. Just ask Tony Robbins.

5. Most Authors Make Little Or No Money

While this is not directly Kindle’s fault, there is a perception that their “reach millions of readers worldwide” claims imply that you will generate some sales. According to Forbes, the truth is, the vast majority of authors will sell less than 250 copies of their book, ever.

In his report on Author Earnings, Hugh Howey contends that less than one-third of the top genre bestsellers earn more than federal minimum wage for their book sales, per year. Again, this is not to point out some failing on the part of Amazon, but rather to dispel the notion that the act of publishing to big marketplaces is enough to create sales. Yes, your title can now be found in a search on Amazon, which can help – but how do you get your title to appear in those search results in the first pages where the shoppers are? They are ranked by sales and reviews, so again we are faced with the root of the problem – getting people to discover our book exists in the first place.

At the end of the day, those that know how to market their books will win, regardless of the platform.

So… why so strict?

I’m sure for many authors it is unclear why Amazon and Apple feel the need to regulate the content in our books. After all, books that suck (whether it’s the content or user experience) will find their own way into obscurity through dismal sales and reviews. As a people, we are free to publish books about anything we like – why do these retailers feel the need to set up these imposing guidelines?

The answer is because they are retailers. By that defining fundamental business model, Amazon and Apple are legally responsible for the content of your book – because they are selling it, not you. Therein lies the rub… it’s not really self-publishing after all. They are the publishers and distributors, and it’s their show.

If you want to run your own business, make your own rules and earn more profit, I suggest taking a look here at what we offer at Revizzit.

It’s time digital self-publishing offered more tools… and less rules.


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