Publishing works on Kindle

Amazon Kindle: 10 Tips on How to Publish Your Own E-Book and Get 70% Author's Fee

On April 21, 2011, Amazon opened its German-language Kindle e-book store. According to the online bookseller, there are now over 25,000 German-language eBooks available for Kindle readers, including most of the current bestsellers. The Kindle is also delivered at a fixed euro price from Amazon Germany. However, the dollar price became 1: 1 to the euro price and the device cost 139 or 189 euros (WLAN / UMTS version) when it was launched. Addendum: Since October 2015, the Kindle 4 has been replaced by a low-cost model with touch controls. At literaturcafe.de you will find a detailed review of the affordable entry-level model for 59 euros. We also tested the Kindle Paperwhite, which came onto the German market for the first time in October 2012.

More interesting for authors - and those who want to become one - is the fact that "Kindle Direct Publishing" is now also available in this country and everyone can become their own publisher. There is a whopping 70% author's fee for every Kindle e-book sold. The US author Amanda Hocking has become a millionaire in this way.

We'll give you tips on how to successfully market and sell your own book on the Kindle e-book store.

What is Kindle Direct Publishing?

Put simply: You no longer need a publisher and sell your book directly as an e-book for the Kindle via amazon.de, amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. To do this, you simply upload the book file and Amazon will post the work on the website, take care of sales, payment processing and electronic distribution to the devices for you. The online retailer withholds 30% of the net price for this service, so that you receive a whopping 70% royalties or author's fee - in theory. An incredibly high amount when you know that the author's fee for printed books averages 8%.

Do you already see yourself as a German-speaking Amanda Hocking? Thousands of readers overnight? Do you already read the real estate section of your newspaper?

Amanda Hocking has freely stated that such a success also means a lot of work. It is not without reason that she is now under contract with a publisher. Editing, marketing and rights - you have to take care of everything yourself to avoid unpleasant surprises. We have therefore put together 10 tips and information for you that you should definitely observe in order to offer your work to Kindle users without a publisher.

Tip 1: Clarify the rights to the content

It may sound paradoxical, but authors in particular who already have a publisher for their printed books should clarify whether they even have the right to publish their own work as an eBook. Often, with the author's contract for the printed book, the rights to use the electronic edition have also been transferred to the publisher. Then the publisher alone is allowed to bring the eBook onto the market and the 70% fee remains a dream.

And even if you published with a print-on-demand service provider, you should read the contract again. There, too, there are sometimes clauses stating that the eBook version must also be published by the same service provider. And even those who have unreasonably thrown their money down the throat of a grant publisher can run into a problem. As little as these service providers are real publishers, they often secure the rights to the e-book edition in the small print as well.

If you don't have a publisher yet and you have written your manuscript 100% yourself (and your own name really means yourself!), Then there shouldn't be any problems.

But even a quote from Karl Valentin as a motto in front of the text is not easy. You must also obtain the rights of use for quotations from the owner or the heir. Your protagonist is not allowed to simply quote a poem by Hermann Hesse in the text, because he is not yet 70 years dead and his heirs want to see money. There are no problems with woven-in Schiller and Goethe poems, but there are with a current Dostoyevsky translation, because the translator has the right to do so, even if the Russian has been dead for over 70 years.

And think of the photographer of your cover image too! Again, you are not allowed to simply use a photo without being asked. You must have actively obtained permission. "I asked and nobody answered and objected," is not an excuse.

By uploading your work to Amazon, you must confirm that you have all rights. Because you saw it with our former defense minister: at some point every fraud and every lie will come to light. So clarify the legal issues and put the agreements in writing. Because, at the latest, when you are making really good sales with your eBook, the friend who gave you a photo for the cover for free at the time could contact you and ask for money afterwards.

For authors who already have a publisher, our article "Book becomes e-book: Who does the edited text version and cover belong to?" Should be of interest.

Tip 2: Pay attention to correct spelling

Yes, this tip comes in second place, because although those who are at war with the »Orthogravieh« do not always want to admit it: Nobody wants to read a text full of spelling mistakes. The phrase "it depends on the content" is a cheap excuse. If the form is not right, the content will not be rated positively either. Turn on your word processor's spell checker, but it will overlook many errors. Do you know a German teacher? Then just ask there. In a pinch, you have to hire a professional, which reduces the 70%, but shows why publishers sometimes make sense.

The first 10 pages of the text are automatically a free reading sample on Amazon. So nobody buys the "Kaze in the Sak".

Tip 3: Have the text proofread

A spell check is not proofreading. An editor is not a proofreader. An editor finds logical errors, weaknesses in the plot or in the characters in your novel. He cuts out boring and superfluous adjectives and descriptions. An editor judges from the point of view of the readership - honestly but constructively.

You can find bad editors in your own circle of families and acquaintances. They prefer to avoid open and honest criticism. And don't give your work to anyone who never reads books. You don't let a vegetarian test whether the steak is done well.

Finding a good editor is not easy. Having an editor is just good.

Tip 4: Convert the text to the correct format and choose a meaningful cover

This point may be the most difficult for technical laypeople and people who only type manuscripts and emails on their computers. On the other hand, it is relatively easy with eBooks when it comes to the markup of the text. Since the Kindle dynamically wraps the text depending on the text size set, a manuscript with as few specially set passages as possible should be easy to convert. Title, chapter heading, text, chapter heading, text, that's a simple and good structure. You can even enter them in Word, make the headings bold and otherwise make sure that a break is only made after the paragraphs. Then you can even upload the DOC file to Amazon and it should be converted without any problems.

Amazon accepts a large number of formats, including PDF, for example, but this format is extremely unsuitable because it cannot handle dynamic breaks. Even Amazon warns against the use of PDF files.

Basically, the help texts on Amazon are very detailed and good - and available in German. Read them carefully and, if in doubt, seek advice from an expert.

If you want a technically perfect book in which you can, for example, link directly from the table of contents to the corresponding chapter and jump there, the source file should be a clean HTML file with jump anchors. Here you can even embed images in the text and then upload all files to Amazon as a ZIP directory.

Since Amazon uses an encrypted Mobipocket format, it may even make sense to convert the text into this format with the free Mobipocket Creator so that you can get the best possible impression of the finished eBook on your computer at home.

You will achieve the best results if you convert your Word file in docx format to MOBI format with the free open source program Caliber. The use of caliber is described in detail in our e-book guide and explained step by step.

You upload a cover picture or a cover file separately to Amazon. Here, too, you will find specific information on the file format and size on the help pages.

As far as the motif is concerned, you should definitely consider two things: The cover should also look good and attract attention in the small preview format that Amazon displays in the overview and after the search. On the other hand, the Kindle device itself only displays the graphics in black and white. Therefore, the cover should have enough contrast that z. For example, the title can still clearly be seen from a colored area underneath, even if it is no longer colored. You can also find detailed tips and tricks on cover design in our guide. There we also list the most common mistakes made by beginners when designing titles.

Tip 5: Upload the book file to Amazon

If you have followed tips 1 to 4, uploading the file itself should not be a problem. Customers and readers who already have an Amazon account can also use it for "Kindle Direct Publishing". Amazon asks for all data. In advance you should think about what or under which category you should classify your work. You should also think about meaningful keywords for the content in advance, because you can also enter these to help potential customers to find your book. So what matters are not the terms with which you as an author want to be found, but what readers are looking for. That can definitely be a difference. Already ask your editors and test readers what suitable keywords would be for their work and what they would be looking for to find it.

There is nothing to prevent you from offering your book in all the countries that Amazon suggests. German-language books are also sold on amazon.com.

You do not need to upload a reading sample. Amazon creates this automatically from the first few pages of your work. It should therefore not begin with a 20-page thank you to friends and acquaintances.

Tip 6: Set a reasonable price for your work

E-book prices are one of those things. The publishers want to keep it as high as possible, of course. Amazon was unable to enforce a unit price for bestsellers of 9.99 euros in Germany, analogous to the 9.99 dollars at the start of the USA. The e-books in the Kindle store are cheaper than their printed counterparts, but the discount is limited.

Nevertheless, we advise you to set the price on the cheaper side. However, Amazon reserves the right to intervene in your pricing and adjust the price, e.g. to match competitive titles. So, before uploading, check out what comparable titles cost and use it as a guide.

Please note that you enter a so-called »list price« which, from January 1st, 2015, corresponds to the sales price including VAT. The tax rate used depends on the buyer's country. For sales to customers in Germany, you have to deduct 19% VAT. In contrast to printed books, the full tax rate applies to e-books.

If the price of your book is between EUR 2.99 and EUR 9.99, you will receive an author's fee of 70% of the net price. With a sales price of 2.99 euros, you have to calculate 2.99 / 119 * 100 = 2.5126 to determine the net price. Then calculate 2.51 / 100 * 70 = 1.757 to get your payout amount. At a sales price of 2.99 euros, you will receive 1.76 euros. Depending on the file size, a small "flat rate shipping fee" of a few cents will be deducted from this. Amazon calculates these values ​​for you and displays them accordingly. Never link the euro price to the dollar rate (remove the tick when entering the amount), otherwise you could violate the fixed price. You can enter your own prices for each country shop, for which other country-specific tax rates apply. Read more about this here.

With 565,798 copies sold, you would have earned one million euros.

By the way: You cannot give away your book via Amazon. Amazon does not allow you to enter 0 euros or any other amount below the specified minimum price and you will receive an error message.

Beware of the price trap!

As Sandra Uschtrin thankfully noted in your comment, the supposedly high margin of 70% does not apply to all prices, but only to a retail price between 2.99 and 9.99 euros (as of January 2015). Those who set a price above or below only receive 35% and the majority of the sales go to Amazon. The exact and current values, which also depend on the file size of the eBook, can be found on the Amazon help pages. And then there is the aforementioned Damocles sword that Amazon reserves the right to adjust the price on its own.

In the 70% range, Amazon also charges a small shipping fee per sale. That may seem strange at first, considering that e-books are not sent by post. What is meant are the costs for the download. These depend on the file size of the e-book. In the case of pure texts, this is usually very low, but graphics can quickly inflate the file size. Therefore, consider whether the use of images is useful or necessary.

And there is another trap: the law on fixed prices for books (Book Price Fixed Act or BuchPrG). You can find information on this in a further article on the topic.

Tip 7: Create an Amazon author page

Once your book has been checked and approved, marketing for your work begins. And you should start where you sell: on Amazon. Use all the tools that are available to you. As an author and publisher, upload meaningful additional information at the same time. Create an author page and keep it up to date. Equip this with a self-made book trailer, for example. Make your fans aware of readings etc.

Encourage people to rate their book. Of course, with a note on the author's page - but why not in the book itself? In the book, you should mention your website, Facebook fan page, etc.

But be careful: your friends and acquaintances shouldn't give 5-star positive reviews on Amazon. They can usually be seen through quickly. An e-book by an unknown author that has three great reviews, possibly with phrases like "I devoured the book in one night and couldn't put it down", seem embarrassing. Because everyone can convince themselves through the free reading sample that this judgment might not be quite as accurate.

Tip 8: Maintain your own website and use Twitter, Facebook & Co.

The so-called »social media« have long ceased to be considered an insider tip for marketing. You should take advantage of it, but don't overdo it here either. You shouldn't mention in every second tweet or wall post how great and great you think your own book is. That too is rather embarrassing. Then now and then a subtle reference to a review in a blog. If you have not written a novel but a non-fiction book, you should present yourself with your entries as a connoisseur of the subject. If you have placed a video on your Amazon author page, you should also post it in your own YouTube channel.

If you have a private Facebook account, consider setting up a fan page for your second life as a writer. In this way, you can continue to maintain your private contacts via the existing access while you refer your readers to the fan page. All information about creating a fan page can be found in this article in literaturcafe.de.

But don't just rely on the interactive channels like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook! Unfortunately, it has already happened that these were deleted for reasons that were not known in detail. If you only use Twitter and Facebook for communication, you lose control of your data. Therefore, you should always keep all information on your own website under your own domain. Of course, you can also blog there and do other things that will make your book known.

What an author website should contain would be an article in itself. Therefore a few keywords: reading sample (as HTML text), description of your book, link to Amazon (!), Readers' opinions, vita, dates / readings, press area with free author photos ...

Tip 9: Think about further marketing campaigns and press work

Marketing shouldn't be limited to the online area. Tell the regional press about your successes.There, too, people often want to report on the latest developments, eBooks and Amazon, and look for regional points of contact. Why shouldn't it be you?

Organize readings and of course read aloud directly from Kindle. There are no limits for your creativity!

Tip 10: Don't forget the tax office

Despite the fabulously high margin of 70%, it must of course be pointed out that others also want something from it - including the tax office. You must of course state your income from the sale of eBooks in your tax return.

And make no mistake: the tax investigators have long been online too! If you brag about your great sales figures on Amazon on Facebook or elsewhere, then that could cause some officials to see if these sales are also reflected in your tax data.

Bonus tip: Buy an Amazon Kindle!

This tip also reduces your profit (if it does not even exceed it by far!), But despite the software simulation "Kindle Previewer" that Amazon offers free of charge, it is best to test your book with the original device. This is the only way to have the same feeling of reading your text as your readers.

Read our in-depth reviews and reviews of the Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite.

For more tips, see our e-book for Amazon's Kindle

You can find more tips on creating digital books in our e-book "Amazon Kindle: Creating and Selling Your Own E-Books".

Buy the e-book and be part of the experiment we are about in our Experience report constantly write updates. We also look forward to your Amazon reviews on these titles.

You do not need a Kindle device to read the e-book. Amazon also offers free reading software for Kindle books for mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, Android or desktop PC and Mac). Once purchased, Kindle books can be read on all devices.

Wolfgang Tischer: Amazon Kindle: Create and sell your own e-books - 6th, expanded and revised edition [Kindle Edition] for Amazon Kindle (all models) and the corresponding apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac and PC, 2012. literaturcafe.de.
Buy the e-book for 2.99 euros from Amazon

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Note and addendum: Since January 1, 2012, the reduced Luxembourg tax rate of 3% applies to Kindle books. The price calculation in this article was therefore updated at the end of December 2011.