Over the last year, since I started printing my books via Amazon, I’ve received lots of questions from my readers and fellow authors about their print on demand service. Many Nigeria-based authors, or would be authors, are curious about the requirements, the process and the benefits of going with Amazon to print their books, instead of relying on local printers and/or publishers. With my awful experience in 2017, printing my books locally via a supposed publisher (I wrote about it HERE), I’ve been too disillusioned to print more locally. Not only do you have to cough up a lot of money for the print, before you’ve even made sales, you are also putting a lot of trust into the printer/publisher to print the right quantity of your book in good quality, and not give you excuses nor abscond with your money. It’s quite a gamble.
Then, there’s the issue of finding a market or a good distribution network for your books after you’ve printed. It helps to know that you no longer have to commit to a big shipment to be an author with your books available in print. You also don’t need to worry about distribution to places beyond your reach, as long as you are able to promote your book globally. With Amazon print on demand, I now have 11 titles in print, which can be ordered from anywhere in the world, paid for and received, via Amazon. Though I’m not popular yet, as soon as I become so, it is that easy for people in China, Kenya, Brazil or wherever they are in the world to order all my books and read up! So, I am definitely a champion of Amazon print on demand.
Please note that this post isn’t sponsored 😁 I just thought it was about time I put this info where others can see it, and I will have somewhere to direct enquirers in the future. So, what are these frequently asked questions…?
1. What do I need to register with Amazon and publish my books?
I think this applies, wherever you are in the world. You need to be registered with a tax authority, know your tax ID, and correctly input your tax information as well as personal information, when you sign up to become an author on Amazon. Without the tax details properly filled in, your account won’t be approved for publishing, whether ebooks or paperbacks.
2. I am already a registered author on Amazon and have a Kindle book published. How do I create the paperback?
It’s pretty simple to do so, as Amazon provides you with an easy setup process, with links that offer more info about the different things they require. Once you have your ebook on their site, simply click to create your paperback now. Or you can just create a paperback, without publishing your ebook on their site, as I did with Broken (which is a free ebook. Amazon doesn’t publish free books!).
The details you filled in for the ebook will be automatically transferred for the paperback. All that’s left to add are your ISBN, your formatted PDF manuscript and your formatted PDF two-sided book cover (different from the single jpeg Kindle cover).
After you’ve uploaded your manuscript and cover, chosen your book dimensions and print paper/quality, you then need to preview it. They will create a preview for you to approve. After you approve it, they will tell you how much it will cost to print, before you move on to the final section, where you chose your price and distribution channels (through Amazon only, or allow for expanded distribution with their affiliates like Barnes and Nobel, Borders etc).
Before your book is published, it will need to be approved by Amazon. They will check your book formatting, content of the book, license page, cover image and ensure that it agrees with their formats and there are no obvious errors. If it doesn’t pass their approval, you will be asked to reformat/edit your book and/or cover and resubmit.
3. Do I need to get my own ISBN number from the Nigerian Library to publish on Amazon?
No. Amazon offers you a free ISBN with your book, but you are not allowed to use your ISBNs for books published on their platform to publish/print books elsewhere. You can also use an ISBN that you have purchased for your book, but you still can’t use the same ISBN to publish elsewhere. It has to be unique to them. All you do is make sure that you include the ISBN on the license page of your book, which they will check for during the approval stage.
4. So, do I have to pay to print my books and sell on Amazon?
Yes and No. You don’t have to pay anything upfront. They take the money from your earnings, as people order your books. So, your profit depends on the price you put on your book. From the price, Amazon takes their 40% leaving you with 60%. The cost of printing your book will be deducted from your 60%, and the difference is your royalty.
Amazon doesn’t take the cost of printing out of the price first, before taking their 40% from the difference, as you may have thought. Their 40% is straight from the price and you bear all other costs. So, they actually have a MINIMUM price you can sell your book at, which allows them to take off their 40% and charge you for printing! If you choose expanded distribution, Amazon will take 60%, leaving you to pay for printing and earn your royalty from 40%!
So, if your price is too low compared to the cost of printing, you may only make $1 from the sale of a book priced at $10…if it costs $5 to print. With expanded distribution, you’d be forced to increase your price to a minimum of $12.5, so Amazon can take their 60%, leaving you with nothing (unless you increase your price too, but keep in mind that their commission also goes up).
The good thing is, they are not asking you for money. If you don’t sell, they don’t earn. Your books get printed when people place orders, which means that it may take a few days for people who order your book to get it, as they have to wait for it to be printed, unless it’s in demand, and Amazon takes the chance to print ahead…
Also, Amazon allows authors to buy their books at printing cost value only. That means, authors don’t have to pay the $10 price on their book. If it cost $3 to print, they pay that, and they pay to receive (i.e. postage). This is where it helps to have friends or partners or family, where Amazon operates, like the US or UK. It’s by far cheaper to post to them and have them bring it over or ship it for you than to pay for Amazon to deliver to your address in Nigeria. But then, you also have to count the cost of inconveniencing friends and family.
5. But if I order more, do I pay less?
Lol!!! Don’t you wish! It’s a strange problem with Amazon print on demand. The printing cost is static, entirely based on your book size, dimensions and quality. Printing more doesn’t change the printing cost. So, if it cost you $4 to print one book, it will cost $400 to print 100 copies.
Also, the postage cost, to Nigeria at least, doesn’t enjoy economies of scale. You do not save more by ordering more. You are actually more likely to PAY more with bigger orders. I checked how much it would cost me to post 500 copies of my book, and it was disproportionately higher than posting 100 copies! And I’ve found that the postage cost to Nigeria appears to be related to the printing cost by 1.2:1. Meaning, the postage costs is usually higher than printing cost. I don’t know how they work it out…
So, if your book, priced at $10, costs $3 to print, and you pay $3.5 to post, your profit is merely $3.5 against the price set on Amazon, if you decide to sell locally at a comparatively low price. In actuality, you still stand to earn a better royalty by buying your books yourself and selling locally, because, with the same book, priced at $10, $3 to print, your profit from selling via Amazon is only $3, after they take their $4 commission from the price. If you chose expanded distribution on this book, your profit would only be $1.
Plus, if you’re not so popular abroad, but have a growing demand locally, making your book available in print locally means that you are actually earning from your sales, as opposed to leaving it on Amazon, with the hopes that people will buy direct from them. The cost of postage to Nigeria, alone, scares away many local buyers from ordering the books for themselves. So, that’s why I still order my author copies and sell locally, even after posting directly to Nigeria. The profit isn’t much, but at least my books are getting read…until my demand grows enough to justify printing locally.
6. How do you get paid in Nigeria? (This answer was updated 23/11/2020)
Nigerian banks and cards are not accepted for receiving transfers from Amazon (though they’ve been able to refund me on some payments I’ve made), and Nigerians are still not allowed to receive money via Paypal. This poses a problem with receiving your royalties when due and required from Amazon. However, Nigerians are able to receive money via Payoneer, as long as it’s to a personal account. When you register with Payoneer, you will be given US bank account details, which you can use on Amazon to collect your royalties.
7. I tried to upload my PDF, and it wasn’t accepted. What do it do?
You need to follow their guidelines, or use one of their templates to create your own formatted book. If you need help with formatting your book so that it is accepted on Amazon, I can be of service. Book formatting and editing are among the services I offer authors, via Ufuomaee Business Solutions.
8. I tried to use their cover creator to design my book cover, but it’s not coming out the way I want it. Can you help?
Yes, you’re in luck! I do not only assist with editing, formatting and cover design, I am also able to help you get your book published on Amazon. I am quite proficient with their cover creation tool, and I can also design a PDF cover for you to upload, if you would prefer that. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how you’d like me to help.
9. I’ve been able to publish my book and I’ve ordered my author copies. But there are mistakes. Can I still change it?
Yep! That’s the great thing about Amazon print on demand. Just as easily as you can revise and update your ebook, you can revise and update your paperback too. And since you didn’t print 1000 copies first to find out you made a few embarrassing mistakes in your manuscript, you don’t have to die of embarrassment. Give your bad copies to your close family and friends, or sell them anyway (they can’t be that bad), edit and print more books, which are free from errors!
10. I know other print on demand services locally that work out to better profits. Is the quality of the books printed abroad that much better than local print?
Well, I can’t answer for all local printers or all the printers abroad either. But I’m seen enough books printed locally and they can’t compare in quality to the ones printed abroad. My books are all great quality, which allows me to justify the charge I place on them. I know they won’t spoil. So, if you want to print locally, you should be ready to charge less, if the quality for the book doesn’t match up. But I don’t want to discourage growing our printing industry here. You just need to think about what works for you and what you can afford.
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