So, is Amazon the Devil, then?
SO, IS Amazon the Devil? This is a key question any would-be authors must ask themselves, according to Tim Dawson, speaking at the November LFB meeting (see here). Whatever the answer, it is very difficult to pursue only the other (non-Amazon) options if the intention is to take a commercial line. Smashwords is good, Tim said, but it will not add big sales if used on its own.
In terms of getting started, Tim recommended turning to Kindle's manual - just fifteen pages long. The process is very simple, at least for text-only files. This involves making a Microsoft Word file with Word's own indexing system, and then uploading it to the Kindle site. Adding pictures will complicate matters. The product can be tested on a Kindle, and tweaked, before final acceptance of the file. The whole process, excluding writing the book itself, should take under twelve hours.
Marketing is very important, as potential readers must know that your product is out there and available. Some help is available from Amazon, said Tim, particularly once sales hit treble figures, which is when Amazon's algorithms kick in.
Amazon will pay 70p in the pound of all money taken in sales. The bigger the file size, the more the author's share decreases. It is worth making shortish books and pricing them cheaply. Go for the price of a cup of coffee, suggested Tim, because people will take a chance on that.
LFB member Humphrey Evans stated that while he has made £100 from his ebook sales, it cost him £138 to restore his email account after Microsoft decided, wrongly, that he was spamming internet users when he emailed potential buyers from a relevant mailing list.
Other ebook formats? Hina Pandya pointed out that formatting needs careful double-checking where multiple platforms are being considered, as Word or epub files may not translate easily to KDP, Kindle's own format. Hina prefers to prepare her documents as PDF files. InDesign can also be a good choice, as it reflows well on other devices.
Publishing service Lulu was recommended as being able to cover both print and ebooks. One member said that they had had reviews on Amazon, but no sales, despite having signed for Amazon as an option when they signed up to Lulu.
Any product sold online can raise complicated tax questions. Clarifying the position on US tax, Emma Boyes said that the new system uses the W8-BEN form, available on the Amazon website. This indicates that the seller is not resident in the US and is not liable to pay US tax. Where it asks for an "EIN number", a British tax number will do.