What to expect when you’re publishing on Amazon Kindle Store – AC de Fombelle | Guest Post

A few weeks back I told you about Google Play Books and why you should get your book there. Maybe telling you to publish your book on Amazon is preaching to the choir but it’s still good to know what getting your book on the Kindle store entails: Where will your book be? What’s the best way to publish on Amazon? (hint: it’s not necessarily KDP!) What are you getting your book into? etc.

Whoever you are, publishing house — independent or not, author — self publishing or not, there are many ways you can get your book into Amazon. Here is a bit of information to help you figure out what to expect from this retailer.


Getting actual numbers on publishing seems to actually be impossible. There are many reports, statistics, and graphs but whenever you try to figure out global sales number, it turns out there is always something missing: indie publishers are not counted, only books with ISBNs are involved, eBooks aren’t counted, a big publishing group didn’t give their number, only one country’s stats are shared, etc., etc. However, there is something everyone seems to be sure about: Amazon is selling the most. So yes, getting your book on Amazon when you’re serious about publishing seems to be a given. We keep saying “take your book to your readers, don’t wait for them to come to your book”. Well, by the looks of it, a big chunk of your readers are on Amazon.

Although, as stated above, I don’t have actual worldwide reports on all book sales, whatever their formats, I can share a few numbers with you:

As of July 2016 there were 4.6 million e-books available on the Amazon Kindle Store in the US.

The authors earning website shared a very thorough report on eBooks in the US here where you’ll find details of Kindle’s shares (their latest report — from October — is available here). You’ll be able to read there that “As of mid-January 2016, Amazon’s US ebook sales were running at a rate of 1,064,000 paid downloads a day.”

That’s just Amazon US (Amazon.com) and yes that’s more than a million downloads a day.

Still on the North-American market, here is a quote from one of their articles:

Amazon makes up a higher percentage of the total US ebook market than the oft-cited 65% figure: when indie books without ISBNs are included in the statistics, Amazon accounts for 74% of all US ebook purchases and 71% of all US consumer dollars spent on ebooks.

To give you a bit more worldwide visibility, here are our numbers: This the distribution of StreetLib transactions between the top 4 retailers among our partners from October 2015 to September 2016. Please note our catalog isn’t distributed equally to each store as our users choose whether to go to all stores or only some. The pie charts below can give you an idea but aren’t a precise account of shares between partners for the exact same catalog.

This means the average 65% stated above mustn’t be too far off reality. This means Amazon successfully provides books to readers in today’s market conditions, this means that readers buying books online are most likely to go on Amazon in the first place, this also means that Amazon is number one.

Getting In

To get your books into Amazon, you can:

  • As a Publishing house, contact them directly and negotiate with them the condition of your catalog’s distribution
  • Go to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) as an independent author, independent publisher or just publisher.
  • Go through a third party distributor such as Pronoun, Publish Drive, and, of course, StreetLib (that’s us, in case you missed it)

Each possibility has its perks.

I’m not going to detail each here. First, because it’d be too long a read. Then, because I’d rather tell you about my conclusion on which choice is the best: go through a multi-channel distributor and, more specifically, through StreetLib. You may see the bias in this suggestion (once again, StreetLib is us) but actually I really believe it’s the best solution you could go for. And if you read my post on the death of Marketing you saw I consider selling something and truly be convinced of its value to be a necessary combination.

  • Going direct to Amazon doesn’t necessarily mean earning more royalties, even though we have a 10% share in your book sales: we demonstrated it in the past here and it’s still true.
  • Going to one single place who’ll manage different formats for different stores, distribute to said stores, and then bring back one single invoice and sales reports from all these stores is a huge time gain and effort loss.
  • Wider is Wiser. Limiting oneself to one bookstore as many downsides. My colleague Giacomo tells you all about it here:

Because our success depends on our users success (cf. our business model), all our moves have to support our publishers’ successes.

I’ll let you do (as you should) a benchmark of all potential solutions to get your books on Amazon, and I’m sure you’ll end up sharing my opinion. 😉

World Wide Web dot Amazon dot not quite

As you read above, we are all about breaking barriers and crossing borders for books.

You may feel like for websites as big as Amazon, their reach, impact and use is necessarily worldwide. The Amazon website does reach a whole bunch of countries but they actually don’t distribute eBooks everywhere.

As of October 2016, Amazon Kindle Store had 14 localized website reaching about 20 countries officially.

· US Kindle store: USA and selected other countries (where they may apply a surcharge on eBook prices)
· UK Kindle Store: United Kingdom
· DE Kindle Store: Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Switzerland
· FR Kindle Store: France, Monaco, Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg
· ES Kindle Store: Andorra, Spain
· IT Kindle Store: Italy, San Marino, Vatican City, and Switzerland
· JP Kindle Store: Japan
· NL Kindle Store: Netherlands
· BR Kindle Store: Brazil
· MX Kindle Store: Mexico
· CA Kindle Store: Canada
· IN Kindle Store: India
· AU Kindle Store: Australia and New Zealand
· CN Kindle Store: China (restricted access)

In all these countries, you’ll get the full Kindle Store experience with no abnormality. But there are a great many people who aren’t in these countries. There are 195 countries in the world today, that’s a whole lot more than 20.

If you are outside of these 20 countries, you’ll be sent to Amazon.com (the US Kindle store) where you may have exactly the same experience as visitors in the US or see the same books but different prices (not just dut to currency differences or to publishers’ requests) or you may see a completely different catalog (again, not due to publishers’ requests).

Here is a look at Amazon’s Kindle Store in Gambia (thanks to Mark Williams again, who’s sharing his experience)

This is a screenshot of what I see as a Gambian reader when I go to the Kindle store on Amazon.com There are just seven titles shown and these are actually sponsored links, so not downloadable. (…) We can change our country-settings on Amazon by inputting a US or UK address, for example, but if we haven’t got a US/UK bank card we will still be blocked when we try to buy.

The same applies to many countries across the world, including most of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Expatriates in Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Thailand can use the Kindle store if they have pre-existing EU, UK or US Amazon accounts and have EU,UK or US credit cards, but anyone signing up to Amazon from these countries and using local payment will be blocked from downloading.

Just to underline this once more: this is not about territorial rights defined by publishers. This is All Kindle ebooks, whoever the eBooks come from.

Then, for other countries, Amazon gives full access to the Kindle catalog but applies an international surcharge — usually called whispernet surcharge — of $2. Two dollars is a lot if the eBook originally costs 2.99, or should actually be free. Try downloading a free ebook in Argentina, Malta or South Africa and it will cost $2. None of this surcharge money goes to the author or publisher.

As soon as there is a dedicated Kindle store (such as Amazon.it, or Amazon.jp) in a country/territory the surcharges are dropped.

With great power comes great responsibility… but mostly power

There have been many feuds in the publishing world involving Amazon, there are tons of Amazon boycotts and thousands of people deliberately choosing not to go the Amazon way. It’s not only a case of “number1-bashing”. There are many arguments pro and against and you should decide on your own which camp you want to be in, or if you even want to be in a camp.

Whatever you decide, you should always keep in mind that, at least for now, Amazon is as much a key player in publishing than it is one player with all the power. Anybody will tell you the same.

Everybody actually already has told me the same:

It is the role of publishers associations to stand up for our ideal of an open, competitive, online bookselling environment; where authors can publish themselves or partner with the publisher best suited to develop and market them, where consumers have a choice between different retail channels and even ways of consuming content, and where publishers can be assured that the value they add will be compensated by the consumers who benefit from it. The book industry is right to be wary of Amazon. The firm has its own strategy which is not bound to any third party’s survival and its deep pockets mean it can maintain low prices to dissuade competition.  – JENS BAMMEL, IPA Secretary General (source)

There is no official or definitive guide to Amazon’s ebook distribution. Essentially it is whatever Amazon decides it will be at any given time. – Mark Williams, indie author

When it’s about Amazon, it’s about a single player that has the power to do LITERALLY whatever they want, without any need to justify or even explain what they do. As for now, we’ve to consider it as a matter of fact. While hoping for better times to come, of course. – Antonio Tombolini, StreetLib founder and CEO

It doesn’t mean Amazon will manipulate the publishing industry, lead it to its ruin to make a fortune and crush the last pieces of book lovers with avid eyes and an evil laugh.

It only means Amazon can do what it wants, whatever it is. It may help books, favor readers, authors or publishers. Or not. As I said above, Amazon is as much a key player as it is a powerful one. You need to decide whether you want to give that power to someone or not.

Have your cake both ways and eat it too

Unless you wilfully avoid publishing on Amazon, you may feel a bit on the fence as you may have realized Amazon is both a great way to reach many readers but also not really reaching readers everywhere as easily as you had expected. You may also be hesitant to trust one single company with the publishing fate of your book.

This is where multi-channel distribution is your best bet.

You can enjoy the benefits of having your books on Amazon and still widen your reach.
You get to go where most readers seem to be but you also go find the numerous readers Amazon don’t reach.
You truly stay independent with no exclusivity, the choice to spread books wherever you want, not subjected to one single entity.

And, with StreetLib, there is a big cherry on the cake: You can also sell your books without going through a third party! You can get your own online bookstore in no more than 5 minutes!

Anne-Catherine de FombelleBIO

I’m AC de Fombelle: book lover and tech aficionado, working for the thrive of StreetLib internationally (which really means working for the thrive of books). I write, scribble, rhyme sometimes and tell stories. Here and there you will find me, publishing blog posts and always happy to converse and answer the needs of StreetLib’s community. I love cinema and am always on the move.

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