Pros and Cons of Self Publishing Your eBook ONLY on Amazon (at least initially)

I’ve a new rule — if I have to explain the same thing more than twice to different clients in the same week — I’m writing a blog post to refer to in the future, so here we go!

Where you want your eBook to be sold is an important decision: it determines which formats you need, and it also controls which promotions you are able to do.

There are two main eBook Formats

  • Amazon — MOBI
  • the rest — ePub.

The standard for eBooks is something called ePub.  Most eBook retailers and distributes use it including:

  • Wheelers
  • New Zealand libraries (via Overdrive)
  • Whitcoulls (via the Kobo store)
  • Barnes & Noble (Nook)
  • iBookstore (Apple).

Impressive list right? There is a significant player missing:


Amazon uses their own format called MOBI. (I’m simplifying here — they have several variations — but let’s not go there).

When formatting a book, I find it easier to create the MOBI and then make the amendments for the ePub — the ePub rules are stricter than the MOBI rules and it needs to pass a validation test.

So there is an extra step and extra cost involved in getting an ePub as well as a MOBI eBook version. But given that so many websites want ePub, it’s a no-brainer, yes?

No. It’s not.


Amazon offers a program for self-published author’s called Kindle Select , and it offers three key benefits for writers:

  1. 70% royalties for sales made in Japan, Brazil, Mexico, and India — otherwise you’re only get 35%. (For most English-writing authors this probably doesn’t make much difference. India is a huge potential market for English writers — but is not a big eBook market, yet).
  2. Prime customers (Amazon’s program where customers in US, UK, Germany, France, and Japan get free shipping in return for an annual payment) — can borrow your book. Book borrows are paid out at about $2/borrow — so if your book is priced at around $2.99 it’s the same payout as a sale. This can be very worthwhile for some books — mainly fiction.
  3. Access to Free Book Promotion Days and Kindle Countdown Deals. I’ve talked about the value of free days here. This is the main reason most authors use Kindle Select. 

What′s the Downside of Kindle Select and Amazon Exclusivity?

You can’t sell your eBook ONLY (doesn’t affect paperback books) elsewhere for the 90 days you go exclusive, duh! For MOST authors, they will sell more books on Amazon compared to all the other outlets combined. But not for all. Here’s some scenarios where you may not want to go this route:

  • you want to directly sell your book via your own website direct, rather than just linking through to the Amazon pages i.e. you have a large following on that website already
  • you want to actively sell your book via New Zealand eBook outlets, or to have it available in eBook form for order via New Zealand indie bookstores (who mainly use Kobo).

For Most Writers — Try  Going Exclusive First

That’s our advice. You’ve nothing much to lose, and quite a lot to gain.

  • you can still sell paper books where ever you want
  • New Zealanders can, and do, buy eBooks from Amazon
  • you get a chance to get your book selling on Amazon at a level which means that it will keep selling
  • you can always spread out to other eBook formats later because you’re only locked in for 90 days
  • you save on service fees because you only need the one format.

Now you can do it the other way around, remove your books from other retailers to go exclusive with Kindle Select. However it can take weeks, even months, to do this. It’s easier to go exclusive first, not the other way around.

What’s your experience? Do you sell most books on Amazon? Kobo? More eBooks than paper, or the other way around?

 Image © bplanet/

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