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The 800-Pound Gorilla: The Pros and Cons of Selling Your Book on Amazon

book marketing Apr 01, 2024

Determining if your nonfiction book should be sold on Amazon isn’t easy for authors. Amazon is an alluring platform with its vast customer base and market dominance.

However attractive, it’s essential to weigh the benefits against the substantial downsides.

So, if you’re considering selling your nonfiction book on Amazon, this article will help you weigh the benefits and drawbacks.

The Pros of Selling on Amazon

There’s no denying that Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla of the book-selling world. With millions of active customers and a dominant market share, listing your book on Amazon gives you access to an enormous potential audience. This can be especially valuable for authors, who often rely on discoverability to reach their target readers.

Ease of Use and Distribution

Amazon’s self-publishing platform, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), makes it remarkably simple to list and make your book available for purchase. The process is streamlined, and Amazon handles the heavy lifting of distribution, fulfillment, and customer service.

For writers who would rather devote their time to crafting and marketing their books, this could be a huge time saver.

Royalty Rates and Pricing Flexibility

Amazon offers competitive royalty rates, particularly for ebooks, which can be as high as 70 percent of the list price. This compares favorably to traditional publishing deals, where authors typically receive a much smaller percentage of the revenue. Additionally, Amazon allows you to adjust your book’s pricing as needed, giving you more control over your earnings.

Access to Amazon’s Marketing Tools

As an Amazon author, you can take advantage of various marketing tools and features, such as Amazon Advertising, Author Central, and the ability to offer promotions and discounts. These can be powerful ways to boost visibility and drive book sales.

The Cons: Navigating the Challenges

As promising as the pros of selling on Amazon may seem, there are some significant downsides that nonfiction authors need to carefully consider.

Lack of Control and Dependence on a Single Platform

One of the most critical issues with relying on Amazon as your primary sales channel is the need for more control. When you entrust your book’s success to a single, robust platform, you’re essentially handing over a substantial amount of influence to a company that doesn’t always have your best interests in mind.

Amazon can significantly affect how well your nonfiction book sells. Their algorithms, search rankings, promotional strategies, and other business decisions play a big role in your book’s success. This can leave you feeling vulnerable and at the mercy of a platform that doesn’t necessarily prioritize an author’s needs.

Intense Competition and Discoverability Challenges

Another major downside of selling on Amazon is the sheer volume of competition you’ll face. With millions of books available on the platform, it’s challenging to make your title stand out and reach your target audience.

Even with the marketing tools and features that Amazon provides, such as advertising and promotional opportunities, cutting through the noise and getting your book in front of the right readers can feel like an uphill battle. It’s easy to get lost in the vast ocean of content, leaving you struggling to gain the visibility and traction you need and want to succeed.

Lower Royalty Rates for Print Books

While Amazon offers favorable ebook royalties, the same can’t be said for physical book sales. As a nonfiction author, you’ll typically receive a much lower percentage of the list price for print book sales on Amazon, often 30–40 percent. This can be a major disadvantage, as printed books still constitute a significant portion of the market, particularly for nonfiction works.

The lower royalty rates can reduce your overall earnings, making it more challenging to generate a sustainable income from book sales.

Lack of Personalized Support and Relationships

When you publish your nonfiction book through Amazon, you’re essentially a tiny fish in a large pond.

As a self-published author, you may find it challenging to build meaningful relationships with Amazon’s staff or to receive personalized support and guidance. This can be particularly frustrating for authors who need more specialized assistance, such as help with marketing strategies, metadata optimization, or navigating the complexities of the publishing landscape.

Not getting enough help and attention can make you feel alone and unsupported when trying to promote and sell your book.

To overcome these challenges, you need to be strategic. To reduce the risks of depending too much on Amazon, diversify using different sales channels, experience other platforms, and stay focused on your target customers.

It’s a delicate balance, but one that can ultimately lead to greater control, visibility, and book success.

Alternatives to Relying Solely on Amazon

While the platform’s broad reach and simplicity of use can be enticing, the significant drawbacks around lack of control, intense competition, and lower royalties for print books are essential considerations.

To avoid becoming overly dependent on a single, robust platform, consider exploring alternative sales channels and diversifying your approach.

Here are some examples of alternatives to consider:

Direct Sales Through Your Own Website

Selling your book directly to readers through your own website gives you more control over pricing, marketing, and the customer experience. This allows you to build a direct relationship with your audience and make more money with each sale.

Independent Bookstores and Local Retailers

Partnering with independent bookstores and local retailers helps you reach readers who may have yet to discover your book on Amazon. These relationships can also lend credibility and visibility to your work.

Alternative Online Marketplaces

Platforms like Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books offer additional sales channels beyond Amazon. While they may not have the same reach, they provide diversification and higher royalties for ebook sales.

Book Fairs and Literary Events

Attending and participating in book fairs, literary festivals, and other in-person events is a great way to connect with readers, build your author platform, and sell books directly.

Subscription Services and Book Clubs

Exploring opportunities with book subscription services and book clubs exposes your nonfiction title to new audiences and provides a reliable revenue stream.

Collaborative Promotions and Cross-Promotions

Partnering with other authors, influencers, or complementary businesses to cross-promote your book helps you reach new readers and leverage existing audiences.

Weigh the Pros and Cons Carefully

Ultimately, the decision to sell your nonfiction book on Amazon is a personal one that will depend on your specific goals, resources, and priorities as an author. While the platform’s reach and ease of use is tempting, it’s essential to consider the potential drawbacks and risks carefully.

If you do choose to sell on Amazon, make sure to diversify your sales channels and explore other options. By diversifying your sales channels and exploring alternative approaches, you can mitigate the risks of relying too heavily on a single platform like Amazon. This gives you greater control, visibility, and, ultimately, the success of your book.

Remember, your primary is to focus on creating high-quality, engaging content that resonates with your target audience. By keeping this in mind, you can navigate the complexities of the publishing landscape and find the best path forward for your work.