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E-Book Sales and Amazon: The Good and the Bad

Amazon: love it or hate, if you’re an author and want to increase e-book sales, you MUST use it.  Whether you’re an author, a publisher, an agent or a book marketer, whether you are publishing an e-book or a paper book, Amazon is necessary. But, while Amazon has allowed independent authors to flourish, its success has also made it more difficult for the new independent author to make a mark in the ever-growing world of book publishing. ISBN registrations jumped 21 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to Bowker, the company that issues these numbers. Recent estimates are that over 2 million titles are published each year.

Amazon and E-Books
While Amazon is often cited having a 65 percent share of all U.S. e-book sales, according to the website, 74 percent is a more correct approximation, when indie books without ISBN’s are included. (Amazon allows authors to publish e-books using only an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). The majority of that final 26 percent of sales is shared by Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo US bookstore and GooglePlay Books. Also according to, these four sites “take in 32% of all author income generated by ebook sales.”

Amazon has stacked the deck in its favor by offering the KDP Select program (Kindle Direct Publishing) which increases an author’s percentage of royalties from 30 to 70 percent if the author publishes only on

According to Mark Coker, founder of e-book distributor Smashwords, who was quoted in The BookLife Report, “Amazon has not made anything easier for indie authors’ bottom lines with KDP Select, which requires participating authors to publish e-books exclusively with Amazon and allows titles to be eligible for Kindle Unlimited—a program that provides unlimited books for readers who pay a monthly subscription fee.” Coker is also critical of Amazon’s shift to paying authors for number of pages ready rather than numbers of books sold.

Working the System
I like to root for the underdog, and Amazon certainly is not the underdog in the publishing world. I also agree that Amazon’s methods of payment are Byzantine and are weighted to pay authors the least amount possible. But reality is that if a reader wants to buy an e-book, almost three quarters of the time she is going to buy it on Amazon. I’m rooting for the true underdog in the publishing world: the author. Right now, an independent author’s best shot at cracking the code and gaining recognition and sales is to use Amazon. That means authors should:
1. Sign up for KDP Select
2. Learn how to use the Amazon categories and ranking systems to increase visibility
3. Take advantage of the many e-newsletters out there promoting e-book deals
4. Keep a close eye on e-book sales trends and changes in Amazon’s program

Right now, KDP Select is still one of the best ways for authors to earn money on e-book sales. But that may not always be the case. To learn more about Amazon and e-book marketing, come to the Fifth Annual Winter Writers’ Weekend, March 3-5 in New Hope, PA. Author Melissa Macfie will hold a workshop on “E-book Promotions: Improve Your Rank and Your Sales.”

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