How do authors receive royalty payments directly from Amazon and Smashwords?
As Africans we are very new to the Amazon Kindle publishing platform and the processes of creating and selling of eBooks online in general. The first South African authors only started breaking the digital barrier to Amazon as recently as 2010. There were, and still are many barriers that exist hampering a South African author wanting to publish an eBook online. This means what should be a smooth process, publishing your eBook online into Amazon and other eBook stores, is a process that unfortunately has added complexities.
That said, there are ways around some of these hurdles we face as (South) African authors. New online services are emerging daily, finding ways to make the life of an author an easier one. Before we begin, let me shed some light on why I have chosen the two eBook sales platforms mentioned in this article.
Amazon.com as it the biggest eBook shop, with over 3 million eBooks currently listed.
It also has the easiest publishing process and very easy to understand reports.
I have also included the eBook distribution portal, Smashwords.com as it is (in my opinion) the easiest way to get your eBook into all other eBook stores online.
Amazon.com, founded by American entrepreneur Jeff Bezos in 1995, has only become a real option as an online publishing platform for South Africans authors within the last few years. The adoption of the eBook technology is still in its infancy and as a result we are not yet considered a viable consumer market by Amazon. Because of this our authors and their readers are still forced to conduct business through the parent website Amazon.com. I am very hopeful that we will see our own Amazon.co.za up and running in the next few years.
Smashwords was founded by American Indie author Mark Coker in 2008.
The online service acts as a self-publishing platform helping authors reach most major online eBook retailers through a single account.
What is eBook Conversion???
The first barrier to South African authors looking to sell eBooks through Amazon and Smashwords was well; “How do we make a well-formatted eBook?”
Only within the last 2 years have entrepreneurs within South Africa started taking the process of eBook conversion seriously enough to offer it as a service to self-publishing authors. Most of the content conversion companies operating from within South Africa are still very new and as a result often produce substandard conversion results. The range of online retailers, some needing their own eBook format means that eBook conversion can be a more involved process than most authors think. This is especially true if you have written a non-fiction book.
Tip: Always review your eBooks page by page before publishing online to avoid embarrassment caused by obvious formatting errors. If possible use a Kindle or iPad. If you don’t have these devices please use the free software from my website for reading eBooks from your PC:
How do I publish my eBook online?
The next hurdle facing our authors, once they have a well-formatted eBook, is the publishing of the eBook online. Many authors do not know that this is possible, and now easier than ever. Both Amazon and Smashwords have made this process as easy to understand as possible.
Amazon I think has the easiest-to-understand user-interface making navigating your account a pleasure. Amazon has the lion-share of the eBook market, at the last count just under 66%. This means that publishing your eBook directly into Amazon.com using the KDP platform is essential for an author looking to maximise their exposure and yes, profits!
Amazon will pay you royalties of either 70% or 35% depending on your eBook list price.
Smashword’s user-interface whilst functional can be slightly confusing when trying to navigate and understand your eBook sales and other reports. The real benefit of Smashwords is that you as an author are able to distribute your eBook into several different platforms through it’s “expanded distribution” option. This includes the following eBook stores Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Amazon, Apple, Page Foundry, Baker & Taylor Blio, txtr, Library Direct, Baker-Taylor Axis360, OverDrive, Flipkart, Oyster and Scribd.
Smashwords will pay an author 85% of royalties from eBooks sold from within its own online store or roughly 60% royalties from its numerous distribution partners listed above.
How do I get paid my book royalties?
This has been one of the more painful topics for South African authors who have published their eBooks online through the Amazon KDP platform. The good news, once again is that the process of getting royatlies paid is getting easier.
Smashwords does have a definite advantage over Amazon in this regard.
Selling your eBook through Smashwords means that as writer outside the US you will get paid via an online-only banking service – Paypal.
You can currently only access this service from South Africa through our local bank - FNB (let me know if you find another way!) For those of you familiar with banking online, using this service is really no different. All money earned from selling your eBooks can be transferred from your Paypal account (online) into your FNB account, with FNB taking a commission.
This is a very easy to use service that I have never had any issue with. The best part of using Paypal is that I am able to send/ receive payments from most service providers around the world and it is not just limited to collecting eBook royalties!
Up until the last year Amazon would have wanted to pay your eBook royalties by posting you a cheque, in USD. For my South African readers, you know what a painful process this might be. (If you are lucky enough to have an international bank account in the US or UK, this should rather be used)
The New Alternative - Collecting eBook Royalties from Amazon using Payoneer.
Payoneer is a credit card that can be applied for online by South Africans.
Once your card has been received in the post (fingers crossed) it must then be activated online. You will then be issued with an American account number that can be entered online within your Amazon account setup process.
You would enter your American bank account details (issued by Payoneer) into the relevant field/s seen below whilst setting up your Amazon account.
Using Payoneer, South African authors publishing online through Amazon.com can receive their eBook royalty payments directly from Amazon, as if you had an American bank account. Payoneer has a very easy to understand interface as seen from the screen shot below:
Payoneer also has an active, useful and informative Youtube channel.
South African authors are now one step closer to being on level footing with authors from the US, UK and most European countries. If only we could get rid of the Amazon Whispernet Surcharge now….