My 11 Questions About Publishing Ebooks on Amazon’s Kindle

by John Soares on September 18, 2013

Like just about every other writer, I’m interested in self-publishing ebooks for Amazon’s Kindle. I’m also interested in publishing print versions, and I want to know about the other distribution channels for ebooks.

Amazon's Kindle logo.This post won’t be like many others here. I’m no expert in this; in fact I’m a noob. I’ve done the traditional publishing route with my two hiking guidebooks on northern California (The Mountaineers Books, Seattle); both are widely available in bookstores in California and elsewhere. I’ve also published two of my own ebooks/digital products that are distributed through (Click the covers in the sidebar to the right for more details.)

What I’ll Be Doing

I have one manuscript that’s just about ready, another 6 or so ideas that are on the front burner, with maybe a baker’s dozen on the back burner.

Will they all be about freelance writing? No. The first one will be, and there’s a couple others in the works for freelance writers and other self-employed folks.

But I also have other projects unrelated to freelance writing, projects I’ve wanted to do for years, on a wide variety of topics.

About These Kindle Questions

These are questions I’ll be researching in detail in the coming days and weeks. For some questions I provide a preliminary answer. If you have a better answer, or more details, feel free to share your knowledge in the comments below.

Why Questions Are Important

For any project you do, you’ll be far more productive if you first create a list of important questions to guide you in figuring out exactly what you must do to bring the project to a timely and successful conclusion.

Now let’s move on to….

My Amazon Kindle and Related Questions

1. What percentage of the overall ebook market does the Kindle capture?

About 55%, according to this November 2012 article in Publisher’s Weekly. Apple has about 20%.

2. What are the monthly average earnings for all Kindle ebooks?

I couldn’t find data on this, just info on people who’ve done really well. Is this a situation where a small percentage rakes in most of the dough, a few do OK, and most struggle to make a few bucks?

3. Is it possible to make substantial sales of Kindle books even if I don’t have a strong online presence?

Some of my ideas are definitely outside the freelance writing/self-employed niche, and I don’t want to create a blog, or Google+ group, or set up a Twitter account for each idea.

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Guy KawasakiIn his book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (recommended) Guy Kawasaki stresses the importance of having a strong online presence in the book’s niche to drive traffic to Kindle sales page. However, is it possible rank well in Amazon searches without having to do a ton of such marketing?

4. What are the most important other distribution platforms/channels for ebooks besides Kindle?

Kawasaki’s APE book says these guys, in order of market share (links to main page for self-publishing authors):

  1. Apple’s iBookstore
  2. Barnes & Noble’s Nook
  3. Google Play
  4. Kobo

5. Do I own the rights to my work, or does Amazon/CreateSpace, or any of the other relevant distribution companies?

I’ve only researched Amazon Kindle, where it appears the rights remain with the author. I haven’t checked the others yet.

6. What if I want to leave a given ebook distribution platform?

I ask this because some of the self-publishing companies out there for print books can make it difficult to get your title away from them. I think it’s fairly easy with Kindle. I don’t yet know about the others.

7. How easy is it to publish using a pseudonym/pen name?

Fairly easy, according to this thread.

8. How easy is it to do a print book on CreateSpace?

Death to the Starving Artist: Art Marketing Strategies by Nikolas AllenMy friend Nikolas Allen just published his excellent marketing book for creatives: Death to the Starving Artist. I recently e-mailed Nikolas to ask about his experience. He said “Absolutely happy with CreateSpace! Two enthusiastic thumbs up!”

That’s a good sign.

9. Can I publish to Kindle and other platforms by beginning with Word documents?

I think the answer is yes, as long as the formatting guidelines are met, but the different companies have different formatting and file requirements, unfortunately.

I know there are important rules to follow in formatting. I also wonder how easy it is to create one Word document that will work across the different platforms.

10. How hard is it to convert from Word to MOBI and other formats to sell the ebook across other major platforms?

I’m guessing that it ain’t that easy if you don’t know what you’re doing. I might hire someone to do this.

11. What are important trends in self-publishing, both print and digital, that will impact me and other authors in the future?

Ebook sales growth is flattening, says Nicolas Carr in his August 5 post analyzing data released by the Association of American Publishers. The same data shows that trade (print books) declined 4.7%.

Resources for Researching the Amazon Kindle

Yes, there are extensive resources provided by the big boy:

Kindle Direct Publishing. Look in the left column for specific topics. (I’ll be spending a lot of time here.)

CreateSpace. Amazon’s program for publishing print books.

Of course, there are many Kindle ebooks about how to produce Kindle ebooks.

Your Take

Have you self-published on Kindle or elsewhere? What were your experiences? Got any answers to these questions? Have general thoughts about self-publishing? Please share!

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    { 34 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Cathy Miller September 18, 2013 at 7:16 AM

    Twitter: @millercathy

    As a fellow noob, I thank you, John. I have similar plans and this will come in very handy. Thank you!

    It would be helpful to have reliable resources that do the converting necessary for e-readers. My ideal would be primarily dealing with the writing and the marketing. I don’t want to get bogged down in formatting and other mechanics. But, then again, I am a total noob, so it could be easier than I think.
    Cathy Miller recently posted…When Business Writing Examples Go Too Far


    2 John Soares September 18, 2013 at 7:21 AM

    Cathy, I’ve heard from multiple sources that formatting for the different devices and services can be difficult. I’m starting with Kindle, but I’ll likely look for professional help when I need to convert to other formats.
    John Soares recently posted…Find Your Freelance Writing Niches with This New Course


    3 Cheryl Rhodes September 18, 2013 at 8:40 AM

    I don’t have a lot of experience but I have a tiny bit of knowledge because a lot of stuff comes through from emails from my publisher. More stuff than I’ll even remember.

    Try Smashwords for distribution. I think they do Barnes & Noble and other places. Probably most online booksellers besides Amazon Kindle. I don’t believe it costs anything to the author/publisher and I don’t know what the commission structure is but probably similar to Amazon.

    Amazon Kindle has 2 types of commission 35% or 70%. You’d think that’s kind of a no-brainer to go for the better commission but if your book is .99¢ then its automatically 35% so you’d want to price your book at least $2.99 to get 70%. Unless of course you’re one of those authors who sells millions of .99¢ books then that’s the way to go. That author would be John Locke.

    Download Calibre – its free.

    Write your book in Word then use Calibre to convert it into MOBI, ePub, PDF, etc. Before using Calibre you have to open your Word document and then save it as “Web Page, filtered” from the drop down menu. Then use Calibre to convert that web page Word doc into whatever version. Takes seconds. Calibre also lets you upload the bookcover, keywords, etc so you have a book ready to go on your computer to send to anyone in whatever format. It also makes it easy to upload to Amazon Kindle as an existing MOBI doc. I think Kindle lets you upload a Word doc and it converts it, but if your book is already converted to MOBI and you’ve already checked it over on your computer then its probably going to upload nicely to Amazon. The weird thing I found was that even though my MOBI document showed fractions nicely, when it hit Kindle it didn’t like fractions that ended in 3. Could be a problem for cookbooks. 1/3, 2/3 etc all showed up with little boxes. Kindle gives you an option to proofread your book before you hit the button to make it go live.

    Another recent change to Kindle is that you can create your own cover no charge. You can choose a photo from their gallery or upload a photo of your own. They then pop up with about 10 different cover options very professional looking for you to choose from. From there you can change the font, color, etc if you want.

    My tenant used Create Space and is very happy and its a decent looking book. She hired a cover artist and its on paperback and Kindle. Her problem is overpricing because she says similar books in the store go for over $20. And maybe books by experts in their field or celebrities do sell for that. Unknown authors not so much no matter how much you want to make back the price of printing your book.

    Here’s a Smashwords survey from a few months ago that kind of breaks down price points

    The top selling ebooks are romances. I don’t see a whole lot of difference in the sales between the romances my publisher has contracted and the ones I’ve self-published. The difference with self publishing is I have control over the price and marketing. And the profits.

    Those free ebooks on Kindle? When you sign up and upload your book you can enter it into Kindle Select which means you agree for 90 days (?) not to sell that book with any other outlet. Optional program. If you’re in Kindle Select you can also give your book away for free for 5 days during that period. Use them or lose them. The thing is if you give it away for free on Amazon Kindle you can’t have it for sale anywhere else online during those days. According to my publisher its a real pain in the ass to try to get Smashwords to remove the book and impossible to get Overdrive to remove. People offer books for free for a few days promo to promote their other book sales. If you don’t have other books for sale or coming up for sale there’s not much point in doing the free promo. I did it once when I had the serial coming out in a couple of days. I thought that it would increase – or should that be decrease – my promo book’s rank in sales. When it came off the promo the selling rank was the same range where it was before so all those freebies didn’t help at all in that regard though it undoubtedly spurred some sales of the new release.

    Even though Amazon is the best selling outlet for self-published authors, for me personally I rarely buy ebooks from Amazon. I almost always buy from iTunes for a couple of reasons. I prefer reading on my iPad in the iBooks app instead of the Kindle app. eBooks are often cheaper on iTunes. Seriously. I check the price on and and iTunes and whichever is cheapest that’s where I buy from. Also I can go to Walmart and buy iTunes gift cards and load up my balance so I don’t have to whip out a credit card when I’m buying an ebook. Amazon doesn’t have gift cards you can buy from retailers. Though I do win gift cards in various contests or filling out surveys so I have a balance on both my Amazon accounts.

    Kind of long I know but I hope some of this stuff helps, especially the free Calibre thing. Hope some of it helps!


    4 John Soares September 18, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    Cheryl, thank you so much for taking the time to share all of this important info and advice. I really appreciate it!

    Heading over to look at Calibre right now…
    John Soares recently posted…How Writers Can Minimize Eye Strain at the Computer


    5 Kim Solga September 18, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    Twitter: @kimsolga

    But John, you avoid the core question – should people and especially authors support amazon AT ALL? Amazon is a marketing bully with the clear goal of eliminating all other options for book selling and book buying – and hand in hand, book publishing and book writing. – Amazon Infographic: How a Single Company Gained a Stranglehold over Online Shopping and the Future of Retail


    6 John Soares September 18, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    Kim, you raise very important points. There are definitely aspects of Amazon I don’t like, and that’s a very powerful and disturbing infographic you shared.

    However, I recognize the reality that Amazon does have a major market share in print books and ebooks, and that if I want to be successful as a book author, I need to be there.
    John Soares recently posted…Top 10 Ways to Generate Great Freelance Writing Ideas


    7 Nikolas Allen September 18, 2013 at 7:13 PM

    Twitter: @nikolas_allen

    Kim, sometimes it pays to rage against the machine and other times it’s just a waste of energy. The truth is, telling people your book is available on Amazon is a great legitimizer. Amazon offers a quick, accessible, easy shopping experience that people are familiar with (which explains their dominance).

    While I do believe it’s very important to ALSO have a presence in local brick & mortar stores (see Recent Post link below), the majority of your sales are going to be via Amazon. This has been the case for me so far at least. If you plan on publishing a book WITHOUT using the Amazon infrastructure, I’d be eager to hear how it goes!
    Nikolas Allen recently posted…Stocking Local Venues with Art Marketing Books


    8 Michael Taulier September 18, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    Twitter: @RefinedWriter

    I’m working on a client’s autobiography at the moment. He has asked me to have it printed the traditional way but also as an ebook.

    Most writers are familiar with an app called Scrivener. It’s my everyday writing tool and I just found out that I can convert documents created in Scrivener into a number of ebook formats: (.epub, .mobi and the iBooks format).

    If you plan on publishing the book in the Kindle format (.mobi), you can download Amazon Kindle Previewer for free and it will show you what the final product will look like.

    I’m a noob as well but Scrivener has been a huge help in learning the ins and outs of ebook formatting.


    9 John Soares September 18, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    Michael, thanks for the tip about Scrivener. I’ve heard of it, but didn’t realize it was so useful.

    How does your client plan to publish the print version of the autobiography?
    John Soares recently posted…Why Multitasking Makes You a Less Productive Writer


    10 Michael Taulier September 18, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    Twitter: @RefinedWriter

    He chose

    They provide step-by-step tutorials on how to publish your book and you can request a free book to see the quality of the materials, print, images, etc.

    It makes a big difference when you can hold it in your hand and see it with your own eyes.


    11 John Soares September 18, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    I’ll probably still go with CreateSpace, but I like to have recommendations for all my friends who want to self-publish a print book. looks like a good company.
    John Soares recently posted…My Nightmare Freelance Writing Client


    12 Lori September 18, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    Twitter: @LoriWidmer

    Good post, John. I was lucky — Smashwords had a tutorial that walked me through much of the process, though not all. This is a great post for filling in the gaps, for sure.
    Lori recently posted…Market Like You Mean It


    13 John Soares September 18, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Lori, are you overall happy with your choice of Smashwords over Kindle for your excellent ebook Marketing 365: Daily Strategies for Entrepreneurs and Small Business?

    (Note: I reviewed the book and interviewed Lori here.)
    John Soares recently posted…Find Your Freelance Writing Niches with This New Course


    14 Tom Bentley September 18, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Twitter: @bentguy1

    John, Jane Friedman’s blog is one of the best sources of info on publishing in the new (and often crazy) world of publishing. Here’s a post of her’s that gathers lots of great links to info on self-publishing in general, and publishing to Kindle in particular:
    Tom Bentley recently posted…Honey, Somebody Shrunk the Summer


    15 John Soares September 18, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    Ding, Ding, Ding!

    Jane Friedman’s post is a winner: many resources on all aspects of publishing.

    Thanks Tom!
    John Soares recently posted…How Writers Can Minimize Eye Strain at the Computer


    16 John Soares September 18, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Tom, I just subscribed to Jane’s blog. I’ve come across her a few times over the years, but now I really see that she shares info I need.
    John Soares recently posted…Why Writers Need Free Time Alone


    17 Tom Bentley September 18, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Twitter: @bentguy1

    John, good one. I am subscribed to her stuff, and unfailingly find good info in every post, though the subject material can range a bit. But it’s always writing-related, and always of high quality.
    Tom Bentley recently posted…Honey, Somebody Shrunk the Summer


    18 Nikolas Allen September 18, 2013 at 7:45 PM

    Twitter: @nikolas_allen

    John, thank you so much for the mention! I was so thrilled with my CreateSpace experience, I’m already crafting my next book. However, now that my book is finally published, the REAL work is just beginning.

    Which brings me to your Question #3:
    If you DON’T plan on maintaining a strong online presence to specifically bolster your book, then you better plan on some highly targeted paid advertising to attract an audience to your book. The notion that people will simply stumble upon your tiny pebble on the massive beach of available e-books is quaint at best.

    Amazon has severely limited the author’s control of categories and keywords, instead relying on their own algorithms – and more importantly – browsing habits of web visitors to determine where and when your book shows up in searches and alongside similar books. Therefore your best bet is to drive your own traffic to the site who are actively seeking YOUR book. The way to do that? You guessed it: Marketing!

    Good luck!
    Nikolas Allen recently posted…Trying to Make #Hashtags Happen


    19 John Soares September 19, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    Thanks so much for your input Nikolas.

    The key issue for me is the amount of time it takes to maintain a “strong online presence” to market what may be a single book in an area unrelated to writing. The marketing could eventually dwarf the time it took to actually write the book.

    I am willing to create a Wordpress site with details about the book, but probably wouldn’t want to have a Twitter account and a blog, etc.

    For those books outside freelance writing/self-employment, I might just push them a bit here and through social media channels and see if they can do well enough on Amazon to justify the time spent creating them.
    John Soares recently posted…Find Your Freelance Writing Niches with This New Course


    20 Dan Thompson September 19, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    FWIW, someone else has compiled a loose table on sales rate at various rankings on Amazon’s kindle list. It’s here:

    It has matched my experience as one of my books has moved between the 8,000 and 25,000 rank positions. Having a single book around the 3000 rank would make for a reasonable living. Having multiple books in the 5,000 to 25,000 range would also make for a nice living. And that’s ignoring any additional income from print, Nook, Apple, Kobo, etc.

    So, while we mostly read about the breakout successes that fill the top 100 list, this other data suggests that there are several thousand authors making a reasonable living on their Kindle income.
    Dan Thompson recently posted…Rare Hard-ish Data


    21 John Soares September 19, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    Dan, thanks for sharing Theresa Ragan’s data and your analysis.

    Very helpful!
    John Soares recently posted…Find Your Freelance Writing Niches with This New Course


    22 Jeevan Jacob John September 19, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    Twitter: @JeevanMe

    Hey John,

    I don’t have any experience with Kindle publishing, but I do plan to do it. If you are looking for some answers, I do suggest you check Steve’s site (

    Steve has some amazing posts on Kindle publishing. He published a few books, and from the statistics he has shared, his books were a success :D (he is constantly publishing new ones every now and then).

    Anyways, good luck :D


    23 John Soares September 20, 2013 at 8:32 AM

    Thanks Jeevan!
    John Soares recently posted…How Writers Can Minimize Eye Strain at the Computer


    24 Joel D Canfield September 19, 2013 at 9:01 PM

    Twitter: @somedaybox

    John, I’ll try to keep my overlap with other comments to a minimum but some will creep in if I’m to keep some coherence to what might be a bit of a ramble.

    I’ve used CreateSpace for all 10 of my books. I use them only for print (on demand, not in bulk.) I prepare my files in MS Word (and yes, I hear all the folks who already own Adobe InDesign gasping, but Word will do in a pinch.) I create print-ready PDFs by formatting everything exactly as I want it. The litany of caveats is nearly endless, if you’re a font and layout junkie like me (don’t use obscure fonts, for instance, and verify that your fonts can be embedded in a PDF because, remarkably, some can’t.)

    My methodology for my books and my clients’ has grown as much from habit and personal preference as from logic.

    We produce the print book first. Get the Word doc shipshape and get a printed proof from CreateSpace (which is where we find the other 13 typos. Sigh.)

    From that Word doc, we go to Smashwords and follow their formatting guide precisely. No layout-via-endless paragraph returns. No giant fonts. It’s a mite tedious, but their guide is clear enough for a well-behaved chipmunk to follow (as long as it has opposable thumbs.)

    Getting into Smashwords’ Premium catalog (no cost, by the way) gets you distribution to B&N’s Nook, Kobo, iBooks (notoriously difficult otherwise) and virtually every where that’s not Kindle.

    Now, take the Word doc that got into Smashwords Premium, save it as “filtered HTML” from the “save as” menu, and upload to Kindle. For best results, you can follow one of many tutorials about how to ensure that the Start and TOC buttons on the ereader can find those locations in your book.

    These online services are distributors or printers. They are not publishers. You are the publisher. You don’t surrender any rights (with the tiny exception of Kindle Select, which requires you distribute exclusively through them, which I don’t do.) To stop using a service, you “unpublish” the book. It’s a single click on Kindle or Smashwords, and two on CreateSpace.

    (CreateSpace gets your book on Amazon, since Amazon owns them.)

    If you want your own private copies of Kindle or ePub versions (every other ereader uses ePub, whatever they call their files) then as mentioned calibre (yeah, lower case) makes it very easy. Pull in the HTML file you created for your Kindle, export as MOBI (for Kindle) or ePub (for anything else) and copy it to your device like a file to a USB drive.

    Or sell them direct to readers, or give ‘em to friends.

    I do this stuff all day every day. Absolutely delighted to answer any question I can.

    (Hey, look; it’s Tom “Write Word” Bentley! Hulloo, Cap’n!)


    25 John Soares September 20, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    Joel, you’re a prince! What a wealth of info. I really appreciate it!
    John Soares recently posted…Why Multitasking Makes You a Less Productive Writer


    26 Graham Strong September 20, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    Twitter: @grahamstrong

    Hey John,

    This just came in my inbox today — how timely!

    It is a high overview of everything, including how to come up with a topic, write the book, edit, etc. — a lot of this PDF is actually fairly basic if you’re already a writer. But there is a list of software to use for creating an ebook starting on Page 33. It talks about Word and others, and confirms what I suspected — that InDesign is likely the most professional option, if not the easiest. (I happen to use InDesign for my day job, so this will be my first choice once I get there.)

    Hope this helps!

    Graham Strong recently posted…The Edits


    27 John Soares September 20, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    Thanks for sharing that link Graham. I downloaded the ebook. (It’s free to download and distribute.)
    John Soares recently posted…Top 10 Ways to Generate Great Freelance Writing Ideas


    28 Richard S. Hartmetz September 24, 2013 at 10:04 AM


    I would highly recommend a small publisher such as Starry Night Publishing in Rochester, NY. For less than $300, they take your Word Document, edit and proofread it, compile text and pictures, convert the files to the proper formats for eReaders such as Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad and PC, design a professional-looking cover, take care of Copyright and ISBN, handle marketing and distribution on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Abe Books and many other online retailers, give you writing tips, allow you to retain 100% of your rights and give you all of your royalties. They have published more than 300 books in the last twelve months, with only satisfied customers. Most books are for sale on Amazon within 48 hours of submission. They do paperbacks, eBooks, CDs and DVDs. Check them out and give them a try.

    Their website is:

    Their Facebook page is:

    I hope you find this helpful.


    29 Joel D Canfield September 24, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    Twitter: @somedaybox

    I thought that sounded too good to be true: they don’t list “editing” in the services for that price. It’s a good price despite that. I’d be skeptical of good editing for $300.

    My skepticism extends to professional-looking covers at that price. I think I need to work with them on a client’s book to see how it goes. If I can offload my digital conversions I can focus elsewhere.
    Joel D Canfield recently posted…Take Your Days Off


    30 John Soares September 25, 2013 at 8:06 AM

    Editing/proofreading is a complex job, especially if the book wasn’t written by a professional writer.
    John Soares recently posted…How Writers Can Minimize Eye Strain at the Computer


    31 Wes Aaron October 1, 2013 at 2:51 AM

    Thanks for sharing this! Just wondering if in case we already have a published book, can we also have it done with Amazon Matchbook?
    Wes Aaron recently posted…Amazon’s Matchbook To Bundle Print And E-Books


    32 Jennifer B Graham October 8, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    Twitter: @jbgrahamux

    John, I’ve learned a new word “noob” !
    Many thanks for such an informative blog about eBooks and self-publishing. Thanks also to fellow writers/authors who responded with such invaluable information. I’m in the process of “testing the waters” with my first 500 books being printed at a book printing company here in Canada. (They provided me with professional design and layout people, ISBN and website) I own all the rights and have to do my own promotion and marketing. I’m having a local book launch in November and my next step is going with Amazon and Kindle for mass exposure. So all this information is very useful. Thanks again. Btw, my website is still under construction.


    33 John Soares October 9, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    I’m glad you found the post helpful Jennifer!

    Be prepared to do some formatting changes for Kindle, unless you (or the company you hired) has already taken care of it.
    John Soares recently posted…Twitter Hashtags for Freelance Writers


    34 Rajesh February 23, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    Twitter: @rk1708

    I’ve published a 52 page internet related book on Amazon, almost a year ago but not a single person bought it yet, will try to implement the things said by you.
    Rajesh recently posted…Windows 8.1 Data Recovery Software to Recover Deleted Files – My 3 Recommendations


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