2019 and Welcome to Doing Business with KDP

As 2019 beckons, I just wanted to take a few and get down some thoughts on doing business on KDP for the coming year. The book-selling business as an indie writer, that is.

For openers, if you're of the pre-2018 school that still believes in organic placement on Amazon's sales pages, you're in for a shocker. Organic placement no longer exists. Unless you've been  out of the game for six months or more you've already come to understand and may even be on the road to accepting that organic placement and organic sales are a thing of the past. The era has dawned on indie publishers, the era of pay-to-play book sales.

Prepare to advertise. My little publishing gig currently spends $50,000 monthly to move my books, a catalog of about 26 books. ROI is about 100%, give or take, and, as our emphasis on promoting backlist intensifies, we expect to see ROI increase. See Chris Fox's excellent book on renewing your backlist if you haven't already; it helped kickstart me into this new thinking. Second, I'm 100% KU. I've tried wide and have suffered lost sales because of it. Lost sales on Amazon. This year I've done over a million dollars in sales. $266,000 of that was backlist. And most of the year the backlist was pretty much on its own. Well, that has come to an end since I've accepted, kicking and screaming all the way, that such sales from here on are going to need to be facilitated with ad spend. That's the new reality.

This other new reality is that the Amazon book selling platform is the only one that really matters. Yes, you've got your others and we know all about them and we also know their competitiveness with Amazon is all but non-existent. The war is over (it was short and it was less than impressive) and Amazon won. Or should I say the "wide" publishers simply capitulated? I have zero interest in Apple, KOBO, BN and GP. They have no way to lay down a renewable and effective strategy for success and it looks like they don't want to be bothered with any. I won't bother you with my books, either.

 It's going to be a great year on Amazon if you have a series of 3+ books or more and if you have a war chest with which to advertise. If you don't, and if you're just starting out, I have no words of wisdom for you and no advice. There is only so much visibility to go around on KDP and that is now being auctioned off to the highest bidders. If you can't bid to win a slot, you're not a player. That's how it is. If you don't like it, change it somehow. Again, though, I have no advice for you, not anymore than I would if you were asking me to how to crack the breakfast foods market and compete with Kellogg's. That ship, my friend, has already sailed. Likewise with KDP. I'd like to have a nickel for everytime I've seen a new publisher announce on KB that their new book has just been published, only to post and ask, Now what do I do? Surprise: what  you do is set up a plan to get out six more books in that series, write to market, tell compelling stories in a compelling voice, and be prepared to spend $1000 daily to effect sales and be prepared to keep this going for six to twelve months without the need to turn a profit. Will it be worth it? Well, do you know of any other business, cocaine sales excepted, where you can make 100% on your spend?

I don't and so I'll keep writing my books and getting them out the door.

It's what I do and I hope it's what you get to do, too.

Jonathan Schuler