The Truth About Kindle Publishing

How To Sell on Amazon

Amazon Kindle publishing is all the rage right now. Everyone’s racing towards it, because if you do it right, you could get a windfall, but there are few speed bumps along the way.

This article gives you the tech savvy you’ll need for publishing on Kindle. I show you the financial reality and give you all sorts of tips, so you can dream about having a best seller tonight.

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First a few mind blowing facts about Amazon and digital publishing…

Amazon is the 5th most visited site in the USA. It’s ranked 11th in the world. It reaches about 6% of all internet users on a daily basis.

There are currently over 18 million Kindles, 400 million iOs devices, and nearly half a billion Android devices that have access to the Kindle reader software. It’s also installed on countless millions of laptops and computers.

As of 2011, digital ebooks outsold traditional books. This trend will only continue. Twenty years from now, the traditional bookstore – as we know it – will be a thing of the past.

Ebooks, although well known in info marketing, are just catching on with the rest of the world. The general public is finally comfortable buying digital books online.

Unlike a printed book, digital has unlimited copies. You’re not restricted to a run of 5K and then go out of print. Digital books remain online, as long as you choose to sell them.

Digital publishing is relatively easy to do compared to print publishing. Pretty much anyone with basic skills and writing software can format an ebook and upload it to Amazon.

It’s dirt cheap compared to print publishing. If your printed book bombs, you could lose 10-20K. If your ebook bombs, all you’ve lost is the time it took to write it. But with the insight from the article below, that’s not likely to happen. ;-)


Publishing for Kindle is easy. It’s basically an HTML document. You don’t need to buy a course to learn the nuts and bolts of putting one of these together. There are plenty of freely available resources for you.

1) Search Amazon for “Building Your Book for Kindle.” You can download a Mac or PC version of this Word tutorial, in Kindle or PDF formats. Amazon provides you with all the “how-to” info you’ll need, because they want you to publish on their platform.

2) Search Google for “amazon kindle publishing guidelines” and download the official 63 page PDF from Amazon. This is the professional guide for serious publishers.

3) Or go to (Which stands for Kindle Direct Publishing) and click on the Getting Started & FAQs. There you’ll find a 50 page website, with everything from formatting to pricing guidelines and tips for merchandising.

4) If none of these float your boat, Jim Edwards has a new 7 Day course on ebook creation. I bought it and went through it. It’s mostly for beginners, but if you’ve never published an ebook, then it’s definitely for you.


For creating the content. Dropping in the graphics. And formatting the text. Just about any writing software will do the trick.

1) Most people on the Windows platform use Microsoft Word. The Amazon tutorials are based on this software.

2) Almost all Mac users have Apple Pages installed. Go search for the “Pages sample epub document.” You can download it from Apple and use it as your template.

3) Scrivener (Mac & Windows) is elegant writing software. It can be used to research, write, edit, compile and export in .epub .mobi .pdf and plenty of other formats.

Just follow the rules on the KDP site for formatting, graphics, paragraph indentation, etc, and you’ll be fine. Make a cheat sheet, or print out the guidelines, so you can have them all at a glance.

There are a couple of other useful software tools, that are freely available from Amazon. They are “Kindle Previewer” and “KindleGen.”

Go search for “Kindle Previewer” and you’ll find both on the same web page at Amazon. KindleGen can be used to convert your document into .mobi format. Kindle Previewer software emulates how books display on Kindle devices and applications.


Amazon lets you choose either a 35% or 70% royalty. The 70% option is only available in USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany and a few others.

You’ll need to check Amazon for the full list. If your country is not on the list, you automatically get the 35% rate.

To get the 70% royalty, your book cannot be a public domain work and it must be priced from 2.99 to 9.99. If you choose a 35% royalty, your book can be priced from .99 to 200.00.

That means you’ll get paid more for selling your book at 9.87 than you will for 17.95, because titles over 9.99 payout only 35%. You’d need to sell your book at over 20 dollars, to make more than you would selling it for 10.

Yes, you read that right. But you may want to read it again. ;-)

Out of that 70% royalty, you’ll end up with about two dollars per sale from your 10 dollar book. Here’s the math, at least for where I live.

Book Selling Price 9.99
Your 70% Royalty = 6.99

Minus the following items…
– affiliate commission (.50)
– sales tax if any 10% (1.00)
– .15 per MB delivery charge (.30)
– Federal 30% withholding tax (3.00)

So selling a book at 9.99 leaves you with 2.19. That .19 will go into admin, so I’ll just round it down to two bucks a sale.

That 30% Federal withholding tax is mandatory if you’re a non USA publisher like me. But even if you’re an American resident, you still pay 18 – 30% tax on income. So it will disappear one way or another.

If you’re a foreign publisher (Canada, UK, EU, etc.) and you don’t want to pay the mandatory 30% tax, the IRS makes it easy to get USA tax number. All it takes is a phone call and they’ll give you a tax number that you can use right away.

The shocking reality comes a couple of weeks later. In exchange for opting out of the 30% withholding tax, the IRS wants you to file 15 years of back tax returns.

The tax returns can be zero. They just want proof that you’ve had no prior USA activities. But just to hire an American accountant to do those 15 years of returns would be a major expense.

If you’re only making two dollars a book, it’s going to take a long time to pay off the accounting bill. And keep in mind, once you start filing, you have to keep on filing for the rest of your life. It’s not a one time thing.

If you have a best seller, it may be worth it, as it means a dollar or two more per sale. You’ll need to decide what’s best. Do you want to give up a mandatory 30% withholding tax? Or do you want to file an American tax return every year.


If you choose the 70% Royalty Option, “You must further set and adjust your list price on Amazon, so that it is at least 20% below the list price in any sales channel for any physical edition of the Digital Book.”

That means, if you sell a printable PDF of your book for 10 dollars, you have to sell the Kindle version for 8 dollars on Amazon. It must be 20% less than anywhere else.

If you want to sell your product for 20 dollars through Paypal and Clickbank, but for only 9.99 on Amazon, that’s totally fine. But you may want to include some other bonus to justify the higher price.

Plus this nugget… “By ‘list price in any sales channel,’ we mean the suggested or recommended retail price or, if you sell your book directly to end users, your own sales price, for an edition of the book available outside of our Program.”

This means that you have to be careful, not to discount your work too much. For example, if your normal price is 20 dollars, but you have a line through it and have it on sale for 10, you have to further discount it on Amazon to 8. 20% less remember?


Can your outsource the writing? Yes, certainly. Can you outsource the cover, the layout and artwork? Yes, of course.

You can outsource, or farm out anything you want. But… and it’s a BIG BUT, only if you have “expertise” in the field.

For example, let’s say that you know flyfishing inside out and consider yourself an expert. You know which flies to use, along with when and where.

You know how to read the water. You can cast and fish in several styles. You know which bugs hatch at what time of year.

You love flyfishing but might be too busy with your day job, or other projects, to get around to writing it. But since you’re a flyfishing expert, you could get a very good book written and edited on the subject, because of your expertise.

However, if you don’t know anything about flyfishing, and the writer you hired turns out to be wrong, how will you know? People like me – who know flyfishing – would read your book, know that you don’t have a clue, and will leave you a terrible review.

That would be devastating, because those reviews on Amazon are everything. They are the number one reason why people buy a book or not. They want social proof that other people are reading the book and enjoying it as well.

So the bottom line is, if you’re not an expert on the topic, don’t fake it. Only outsource on topics you know.

Now, a few other things when it comes to production…

You’ll want to have a full color cover that also looks good as a thumbnail. Most covers have a photo, or illustration, along with the title in large type, that fills at least 30% of the total cover.

Put keywords in the book title, subtitle and description. You want to appeal to the emotion of the reader, while inserting your keywords and synonyms at the same time.

Treat the description like a meta description for a web page. You want to try and sell the click, or in this case further interest. You want to entice the casual browser to click on the listings and come read your reviews.


Hopefully you have some kind of readership, or followers already and they can help get the word out. If you don’t, that’s ok too. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Start by using the Goobert method. In a nutshell, it means subscribing to Google Alerts on your topic and commenting on blogs.

For example, if your book is about flyfishing, subscribe to alerts not only about flyfishing, but include brand names, makes and models of the fishing gear. Subscribe to the fly names like “Doc Spratley” because you won’t find them mentioned outside the sport.

You want to find out, who the ‘A’ list bloggers are in your category. Start reading and following their work.

Become part of their community. Join the conversations. Comment on their blogs. Tell them what you’re working on.

Ask them if they might be interested in getting a review copy of your book when it’s done. If they are, send them a copy of your book along with links to any bonus materials.

Follow up with an email a couple of weeks later and ask them if they liked it. Ask if they wouldn’t mind leaving a quick review on Amazon.

You HAVE TO ask. All they can do is say no, or ignore your request. It’s your persistence that will pay off in the long run.

The more positive reviews and sales you get, and the quicker you get them, the higher you move up the Amazon rankings. When people sort by highest rated or best selling in a category, that’s the premium real estate in the Amazon listings.


So if you’re only going to make two dollars per sale, the big question remains… is it still worth it?

Yes, because if you want a book, where do you go? You go to Amazon first! So does everyone else.

It’s a massive search engine. And it’s totally independent of what Google chooses to do to your rankings.

Remember, Amazon is the 5th most visited site in the USA and its currently ranked number 11 in the world. It reaches about 6% of all internet users on a daily basis.

The majority of those visitors are looking for digital books to read on computers and mobile devices. So even though I’ll continue to self publish and put out PDFs of my work, I’m adding Amazon into the mix.

What about you? What would you rather rely on… an affiliate sales force that you have to recruit and train on your own? Or will you bring in some help from Amazon’s 22 million daily visitors?

The choice is yours.



All the tech info you need for Amazon publishing is freely available, but what about promoting your book? If this article has you thinking that you want to be an Amazon publisher, then the Digital Publishing Virtual Summit (which just wrapped up) is what you need to get there.

You can buy the recordings from the Summit today and get everything you need to promote your book. These are closely guarded tips and strategies, from highly successful Amazon publishers, including best selling authors and people with dozens of titles.

Click here to get Kindle publishing tips from the pros.

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