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Aiming At Amazon: The New Business Of Self Publishing

Aiming At Amazon: The New Business Of Self Publishing

By Aaron Shepard

Aaron Shepard wrote Aiming At Amazon: The New Business Of Self Publishing for authors and self-publishers who primarily want to sell their books online through

Shepard says Amazon levels the playing field between self-publishers and larger publishers. Before Amazon, Shepard said industry gatekeepers demanded huge discounts to purchase and resell books. This made it difficult for self-publishers to get cost-effective distribution. While the gatekeepers still exist, Shepard offers a new business model for micro-self-publishers: Using Ingram's Lightning Source Print-on-Demand Service to directly fill Amazon orders. Shepard is considered one of the pioneers of marketing print-on-demand (POD) books through Amazon.

Shepard writes: "…print on demand means producing books on smaller, computerized presses using laser technology—in other words, on glorified photocopy machines. Printing directly from computer files, these presses are able to efficiently produce even a single copy of a book at a time. This means a publisher no longer needs to invest in 1,000 or 2,000 or 5,000 copies of a book to bring the cost per copy down to a reasonable level. … In fact, if you design your own book and produce the files, you can set up a new title for just one or two hundred dollars. … cost is no longer a serious factor in deciding to publish."

Shepard's new business doesn't involve storing or packing inventory, something that bedevils smaller publishers. Instead, Shepard recommends direct fulfillment from a POD service company to Amazon.

Shepard discusses title set-up and creation, given the demands of POD and online marketing. For example, Shepard recommends using a font called Georgia for body type, because that font displays better at the lower printing resolutions of POD printers. Cover design can be simple, but it must standout in a postage-sized graphic, typical of how the cover will be displayed online.

For those who want to design their own book on the ultra-cheap, Shepard explains how to use MS Word to produce a book. While many publishers consider that akin to trying to eat peas with a knife, the results can be entirely acceptable as Shepard's book demonstrates. Aiming At Amazon: The New Business Of Self Publishing was designed in MS Word, yet appears professionally designed. Most seasoned publishers use special software to layout books, which for new self-publishers adds hundreds of dollars in cost to get started and demands learning the new software.

Aiming At Amazon: The New Business Of Self Publishing focuses on marketing through Amazon. In addition to providing book distribution, Amazon offers a great marketing vehicle for authors and publishers.

Shepard writes: "…one of Amazon's greatest contributions has been to make lesser-known books visible by providing a way to search for them. This is, in fact, part of what makes the new business of self publishing viable." Shepard explains how a book's title and subtitle are crucial in allowing the book to be discovered by readers on Amazon.

Shepard mentions other Amazon programs of interest to authors and publishers, including Amazon Connect, which allows authors to use Amazon to communicate with their readers. Amazon Web Services, which allows those with some programming skills to directly interface to Amazon's database, is briefly discussed.

Using Amazon Web Services, Shepard wrote a simple tool (available from to check sales rank for books on Amazon. Monitoring sales rank for books can become an obsession for authors, so it might as well be automated. Shepard helps us understand how Amazon sales rank converts into the number of actual sales. We all know a sales rank of #1 means the book is the top selling book on Amazon, but what exactly does a sales rank of #5,000 correspond to in terms of book sales? Shepard tells us a sales rank of #5,000 might correspond to sales of 200 copies per month. (Shepard credits Morris Rosenthal, another of the POD pioneers, for much of the research on linking sales rank to actual sales numbers.) A sales rank of #10,000 might sell 100 copies per month.

Overall, I highly recommend Aiming At Amazon: The New Business Of Self Publishing to self-publishers and authors who want to publish a book at little cost. Presently, the model pioneered by Shepard, Rosenthal, and others is probably the best way for a newcomer to enter the world of self-publishing.

Aiming At Amazon: The New Business Of Self Publishing
Aiming At Amazon: The New Business Of Self Publishing

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