Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
This is the final segment of a series of posts by Casey Brown, Emerson College publishing graduate student and an author who has self-published through Amazon’s CreateSpace. To learn more about his experience, see the first and second installments of this series.
Almost immediately upon publication, several friends, mostly those overseas in the military, asked about the possibility of a digital edition. While I plan to take an ebook publishing course this upcoming fall at Emerson College, I currently have no idea on how to create an ebook. Thus, once again, I turned to the Evil Empire, er, I mean Amazon, for a solution.
Specifically, I created an account with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). As with CreateSpace, the actual process was free and easy. Within an hour, I had uploaded my book’s interior Word file (their converter works best with the Word file rather than a PDF) and front cover for conversion (oddly enough, they do not convert the back cover). The conversion and review process itself took just minutes, as KDP does not have its own employees review the book the same way CreateSpace does.
Royalty rates through KDP
KDP has two royalty options: 35 percent and 70 percent. For the higher royalty, a Kindle edition must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99 (I’m assuming KDP identified this range as being some sort of sweet spot, based on Amazon’s abundant sales data), but it will incur delivery costs of $0.15/MB. In addition, KDP mandates that Kindle editions at the higher royalty rate must be priced no more than 80 percent of the hard copy price (if there is one). As my book’s hard copy price was initially $9.95, the Kindle edition could be no more than $7.96. Because that fell within the $2.99 to $9.99 range, and because my delivery costs would only be $0.05 per copy (my book’s file size is only 0.3 MB), I chose the 70 percent royalty option. That choice resulted in a royalty of $5.54 per Kindle edition sold in the United States. Unlike the hard copy, I specified that KDP was to set the Kindle edition prices for the United Kingdom and Europe based on the American price: £5.08 and €6.36, respectively.
With the book’s files uploaded and the pricing and royalty rate selected, the Kindle edition went live. The fact that one of the earliest Kindle sales occurred via Amazon.fr (France) was a pleasant surprise.
DMCA and Kindle
Of minor note, it should be mentioned that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) Notice I had erroneously received did not affect the Kindle edition—the publisher never specified it in their warning. Thus, while hard copy sales of my book ceased from May 1 until May 16, the Kindle edition was still available for purchase—eight copies were purchased and downloaded during this time.
Astute readers will just now be figuring out why I raised the price of my hard copy to $12.45. After the DMCA Notice was withdrawn and I had determined to raise my book’s price a small amount, I first raised the Kindle edition price to $9.95. I then raised the hard copy price to $12.45 so that the Kindle edition remained at 80 percent the cost of the hard copy. This allowed me to continue to earn 70 percent royalties for Kindle edition sales. In the United Kingdom and Europe, the Kindle edition is now priced £6.19 and €7.70, respectively.
To date, I have sold 19 Kindle editions of my book. To celebrate, I once again treated my girlfriend and myself to a nice dinner. (Once again, I am no longer rich as a result.) In the fall, I will explore options for making the book available in other digital formats.
Both CreateSpace and KDP were free and easy to use. In fact, I found CreateSpace so easy to use that I used it to create another proof of concept book for one of my classes last semester. That 664-page book, which has a trim size of 6 x 9 inches, would have cost me $55.56 for two Espresso Book Machine copies at the Harvard Book Store (price includes one $15 setup fee; I would have printed copies for myself and my professor at the same time). The same book cost only $11.02 per copy via CreateSpace before shipping.
As a result of my experience with CreateSpace and KDP, I would have to recommend them for any author looking to publish a book that is not expected to sell thousands of copies, or one that doesn’t require the might of a traditional house’s publicity department (and, based upon recent author complaints, it seems that fewer and fewer of their books are getting any decent publicity at all these days).