Books written by Ray Sullivan

Thursday, 20 October 2011

How to self publish books - part six

I didn't plan this part of the series, but I've been made aware of an outrageous practice by Amazon that needs to be advertised.  I'm not going to go into the nitty gritty of the subject - that's amply detailed in David Gaugran's excellent blog entry here - I just want to make those who have followed my series aware of something I'd previously not understood.

Basically, when you publish with Amazon you determine a price for your book starting at $0.99 upwards.  As I've explained in earlier blogs in this series, Amazon puts the book out on its various sites worldwide, adding local taxes such as VAT (Valued Added Tax) where applicable.  For books priced between $0.99 and $2.99 they pay the author 35% royalties and for anything above, 70%.

So far, so good.  Except for those readers purchasing e-books outside of the US, UK, France and Germany.  For many such persons, it appears Amazon are charging an additional $2.  This makes affordable books such as mine quite pricey; mainstream authors selling their ebooks at hardback prices (despite no manufacturing, transporting and/or storing costs involved) even more ludicrously overpriced.

As David points out in his blog, the authors don't share any of this $2 surcharge.  It's almost as though Amazon are applying a private tax.

When Gutenberg invented the printing press he started a process that democratised literacy and  knowledge.  Ebooks are a continuing part of the process he started; this surcharge would appear to be counter to that ethos.

So, what can we do?  Well, if you have a Kindle and you aren't affected by the $2 surcharge then there's no reason why you should shun Amazon - their whispersync is an insidously easy way to buy and manage your ebooks, especially if you have multiple devices set up to synchronise such as a Kindle, a smart phone and a netbook.  Fair dues where they're justified.  But if you, or your friends or family, are affected by the surcharge then please look for other channels to buy your books from.  Smashwords provides access to many of the books that are available on Amazon, in a format suitable for your Kindle. OK, no whispersync, meaning you have to download to a computer and transfer, but no surcharge either. 

If there are books you want to buy that aren't featured on Smashwords, then try to track down the author through their website or blog and urge them to parallel publish their books on Smashwords.  Send them a link to this blog, or David's original, to explain why they should.

Once you have purchased books from Smashwords that you could have bought from Amazon, then send Amazon an email explaining what you have done and why.  The more emails they get, the better the chance is that they'll cease the surcharge.  After that it's up to you who you purchase from, the whispersync is always going to be a draw but you may feel that Amazon have let you down.  It's your choice.

Authors, of course, should publish through both channels.  If you are an author who only publishes on Amazon then you should also publish through Smashwords.  Apart from Smashwords giving you access to many other markets including the Apple market, they pay much better royalties than Amazon do at the cheaper end of the price spectrum.  To me it's a no brainer from a business perspective.  If you only publish through Amazon then you're handing over a monopoly without any reciprocal benefits.  However, given the $2 surcharge, there's the moral argument as well; none of us individually are going to make Amazon play ball, but collectively, if we let Amazon realise that there are choices for the consumer, they will realise the commercial sense of dropping the levy.

So in conclusion, if you are an author, publish in as many channels as is possible (noting that Smashwords gives access to multiple channels on top of its own).  If you are an ebook reader affected by Amazon's surcharge (or know someone who is), use Smashwords!

I can be followed onTwitter - @RayASullivan

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Amazon (for Kindle owners) and Smashwords (for access to all other formats and access to Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Sony and many other good ebookstores.

Now on WH Smith!

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