Publish on Amazon Only? One Author’s Perspective

By Lori Culwell

OK, now that you know a little about getting the KDP process started, I want to give you a little perspective on authors who choose to publish there exclusively.   At BEA this year, Guy Kawasaki said that he is doing this, and encouraged authors to stick with Amazon exclusively.  This is not a strategy I personally employ, but I wanted to get the perspective of some who does (and does so successfully!).  So, today I asked one of our contributors here at, Rachel Thompson, about why she chooses to do just that.

Here’s Rachel, talking about her choice to have her work available only on Amazon:

7089e60cfcb647045539052e2296bdcb-193x300I’ve got three books out as of this moment (working on books four and five).

All three are digital only, and all are only available on Amazon as part of their KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select program, which means I cannot sell my digital versions anywhere but Amazon.

Why have I chosen this Kindle-only option?

1)   Focus. Even sale I make goes toward improving my ranking. If I distribute the book across all platforms, the sales and marketing efforts are diluted and will affect my ranking.

2)   Free. I CAN take my books free – five days out of ninety – if I so choose. Why do that? People argue that free books devalue an author’s work (let’s not discuss libraries then, but whatever). I disagree. The free option is for only a few days per quarter, and it’s not mandatory.

I like to take my books free because a) it makes them more available to people who can’t normally afford them and b) it helps my ranking when I switch back over to paid.

3)   Finances. I make 70% per book, whether I’m in KDPS or not. However, I’m also paid on borrows – usually around $1.85 to $2.00. This is money I would not be making if I wasn’t KDPS. Every little bit helps.

And, while nobody knows Amazon’s algorithm, best guess is that borrows do affect rankings positively.


Yes, I’ve been approached by a few publishers interested in creating paperback versions of my books, particularly Mancode: Exposed and my latest, Broken Pieces. So far, I’ve turned down two  publishers who also wanted digital rights, something I will not give up.

I’m currently discussing creating Broken Pieces in paperback with a hybrid publisher. It’s going through their submissions process now, so we shall see.

If that doesn’t work out, I’ll do my own through CreateSpace/Lightning Source. So there will be a paperback version in the next few months.


1)   Broken Pieces: I launched the book (my third) in December, 2012 and took it free the week after Christmas for a few days. I had several thousand downloads and the book hit #1 on several FREE lists (Poetry, Women’s Studies). When I went back over to paid, those rankings helped immensely and I maintained that #1 position for 3 days on those two paid lists.

Additionally, six months out, I’m still in the top 10 on those lists, I sell about 20-40 copies per day, and I have at least 3-4 borrows.

2)   Mancode: Exposed: I launched that book (my second) in December 2011. Within days after taking it free it hit #1 on the overall PAID list  — sure, it was only for a nanosecond, but I did it!

There are several factors that went into achieving that:

1)   KDPS had just launched, so the effects was greater, since less people were part of the program.

2)   By taking the book free, I made a ton of lists immediately which positively affected sales once it became paid again.

3)   Interactive platform: I’m very interactive and aggressive about building my platform, keeping in mind that social media is about relationship-building, not the hard sell.

Final words:

No matter if you take your book free or not, you must focus on building your platform as a marketing tool, not a hard sales tool. That’s the biggest mistake I see newbie authors make: HERE’S MY LINK! BUY MY BOOK! LIKE ME!

It’s annoying and people unfollow.

Also, follow and connect with readers, not exclusively other writers.