Is Publishing on Kindle Really Self-Publishing?

Kindle has been touted as validation for the self-published author, and for good reason. Now, you can publish your book without fear of rejection (by publishers) or wrangling with editors about where that comma should go – yours really is the final say.

You also get to decide on things like the cover, format, and so on.

Yet is publishing on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) really self-publishing?

In many key ways, Amazon is acting as the publisher itself. For example, it sets its own rules including restrictions on pricing, the need for an ISBN number, ways that you can and cannot market it on their web pages, etc.

Most of these rules make sense and (so far) don’t really infringe on the author’s rights. Kindle and Amazon are essentially distribution systems, so it has rules in place to make distribution smoother. Things like restricting advertising like the famous incident where Louise Voss and Mark Edwards named their book “Catch Your Death (for fans of Dan Brown and Stieg Larsson)” make sense in a way — Amazon may have legitimate liability concerns with self-publishers using the names of other authors in their titles.

“After four days the subtitle was removed,” Louise Voss told The Guardian last spring. “While this hasn’t affected the book’s ranking at all, it does mark a sea-change in how self-publishers will be able to promote their work in future [ed. note: on Amazon…].”

This is one example. The fact is that they are rules you need to follow if you are going to publish your book using KDP.

The biggest stumbling block for me though in terms of self-publishing is pricing. You cannot, for example, give away your book for free through Kindle. In fact you can’t price it below $0.99 or above $200 USD. Sure, that price range will fit the needs of most self-publishers. But isn’t that a pretty big thing for a self-published author? Being able to set your own price without restriction? Some might say that that is the most important defining factor of a self-published book.

Now I know that many of you out there will say I’m splitting hairs. And in many ways I am. KDP is an amazing tool that gives individual authors choice and freedoms that they never had at all. In short, I’m not trying to “bad mouth” Kindle here by any means (or publishers, for that matter…)

What I’m trying to say is that KDP may not be the be-all and end-all of self-publishing platforms. That in the future, there may be something that addresses some of these issues. A delivery system that allows the author to set prices and keep all the profits. Of course, such a system would have to have some sort of fee-based system to exist, it wouldn’t have to be 35% or 70% of the book’s sale price in order to operate.

In fact, as I have found out since I started writing this post, such a system already exists. Double in fact, JA (Joe) Konrath has recently installed the system to sell his own books, and blogged about it here.

It was designed by Xuni (http://xuni.com/ebooks.php), a company that from what I can tell started life as a web design company and stumbled into ebook ecommerce and cover design. It seems like a pretty basic ecommerce set up, but of course it’s marketed directly towards authors (hmm, nice cross-over to my day job…)

The downside is that publishing through your own website will make it even more difficult for readers to find you. But when they do, the profits will be all yours.

Who knows? Maybe in 10 years the pundits will be referring to Kindle and Amazon as “legacy” publishing…

So in turn, I guess welcome to the new New Age of Self-Publishing…

~Graham

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