Amazon is not known for being overly fair with its royalty rates. Whether it be Amazon's restraint over pricing (i.e. not allowing a 70 percent royalty rate beyond the bounds of its $2.99 to $9.99 price range), or Audible's egregious royalty rates, it seems like most authors have issues with one area or another.
One issue for many authors is the fact that Amazon will actually charge you (the author) the delivery fee, which is taken out of your 70 percent royalties.
What this means, is that you are actually not receiving 70% royalties. You are receiving 70% minus the delivery cost. That could leave you without potentially thousands of dollars you’re missing in royalties.
That's right! For every 1 megabyte your ebook file is, Amazon takes 15 cents.
Let's say your ebook is 2 MegaByte (MB), then Amazon will charge you 30 cents for every ebook sold. So, if sell 10,000 ebooks a year, Amazon will take an extra $3,000.
However, if you can reduce your ebook size to 1MB, you'll save yourself $1500.
It is because of this, that in this article, I want to show you how you can reduce your ebook size, and save hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year.
Table of contents
- Understanding Delivery Cost
- How to Know Your Ebook File Size
- How to Reduce Your Ebook File Size
- Too Complicated? Try This…
Understanding Delivery Cost
When you have an ebook, that ebook has a file size, usually measured in megabytes. The larger your ebook file, the more Amazon takes out of your royalties to “deliver” that ebook file to the purchaser.
This is true of all ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99 (in the United States), a.k.a. the price range where you can receive 70% royalties.
(Note: Amazon does not charge delivery fees if you're receiving the 35% royalty rate)
But how much is this delivery cost?
Well, it depends on the size of your ebook. Basically, you look at your ebook file size, determine how many megabytes it is, then multiply that number by the delivery cost relevant to your country:
- Amazon.com: US $0.15/MB
- Amazon.ca: CAD $0.15/MB
- Amazon.com.br: R$0.30/MB
- Amazon.co.uk: UK £0.10/MB
- Amazon.de: €0,12/MB
- Amazon.fr: €0,12/MB
- Amazon.es: €0,12/MB
- Amazon.in: INR ₹7/MB
- Amazon.it: €0,12/MB
- Amazon.nl: €0,12/MB
- Amazon.co.jp: ¥1/MB
- Amazon.com.mx: MXN $1/MB
- Amazon.com.au: AUD $0.15/MB
You can learn more about Amazon’s delivery rates here.
So let’s say your ebook has a lot of images and is 10 MB large. In the United States, that would cost an additional $1.50 out of your royalties, in addition to the 30% that Amazon already takes. If you sell 10,000 copies in a year, that’s literally $15,000 in revenue that you are missing out on!
In other words, it’s important to know how large your books are, and ways to reduce their size.
How to Know Your Ebook File Size
It is relatively easy to find your ebook file size. If you're using a PC, use the following steps. These steps are intuitively similar for Mac as well.
Step 1: Find your ebook file
Step 2: Right click it and select “Properties”
Step 3: Find the section that says “Size”. There you will find the number of megabytes that your ebook takes up.
Note that the actual file size you see here, may be different than the file size on Amazon. That’s because Amazon has their own compressions that they run on your ebook file, meaning that it may be smaller (or in rare cases, larger) than the original file.
To see this, go to your KDP dashboard, go to your eBook Pricing, where you can see the file size as it will appear in Amazon. This is the final sizing number that is used to calculate your delivery fee.
This is a great way to find your ebook size, but as many authors will find, you may be surprised by how large your ebook is.
So let's take a closer look at ways to reduce your file size.
How to Reduce Your Ebook File Size
Now that we have a good idea of the toll that having a large book file size can do, let’s discuss ways in which you can reduce your file size. There are a number of options, including:
- Remove images if possible
- Compressing the file
- Compressing your images
- Uploading smaller images
- Eliminating bloated code
These steps are going to be very important, especially if you are manually formatting yourself. However, you can also use this information if you are hiring a formatter. It's best to ask them what they did to reduce the file size, and take action to see if you can further reduce it. If you have a formatting software, most of them do this sort of thing or some of them.
1. First, Should You Have Images?
Honestly, the first question you should ask yourself when designing an ebook is: do you actually need them in the first place?
Print books look great with images, especially full-bleed images that can take up an entire page. If you want that, absolutely, go to town on that.
But for ebooks, images simply just don’t look as great.
Granted, you may be writing in a specific genre where maps, charts, etc. might be necessary. And in those cases, sure, you can keep the necessary images.
But in most cases, I recommend asking yourself if you really need those images, or if there’s a way that you could take them out for the ebook file. Maybe package them up and deliver them as a reader magnet?
2. Compress Your File
The most obvious way to improve on your file size is to use a compressor like the one here at OnlineConverter.com.
These kinds of online compressors work well, but they come with a cost. Sometimes using a compressor can mess up the formatting of your ebook file.
So you absolutely need to run your ebook through a previewer to make sure it still looks as good as you remember it. The previewer in KDP (as you are uploading your files) is a good option for this.
One thing to keep in mind though is that most formatting software will do this for you, but you might want to still see if this works to reduce it further since we can speak for all of them.
3. Image Compression Option #1: Use Calibre
Images are one of the worst offenders in any ebook with a large file size. Now you may think you’re out of the woods there, because you don’t have any images in your book.
But keep in mind that your book cover, any ornamental breaks you use as scene dividers, and any personal logos you use all take up space. Sometimes a lot of space.
My favorite way to reduce image cost is to use a free program called Calibre (read our overview of Calibre here).
Going through the steps with Calibre can seem a bit confusing, but it does a great job of reducing file size, and don’t worry, I’ll walk you through the whole process:
Step 1: Import your ebook. All you have to do here is select “Add Books” from the top left and then select your ebook file.
Step 2: Edit book. Once you’ve imported your book, simply right click it and select “Edit book.”
Step 3: Compress images losslessly. Once you’ve selected “Edit book”, it will open up a new window. From there, select “Tools” from the top menu and then select “Compress images losslessly.”
Step 4: Compress images. You’ll then see a new window that says “Compress images”. Make sure all the images are selected on the left, and that the box labelled “Enable lossy compression of JPEG images” is checked. Then hit “OK”.
Step 5: Save a copy. Once the compression finishes, you’ll want to save a copy. To do this, go to “File” in the top menu, and select “Save a copy”.
And that’s it! You should be able to find the new file, take a look at its Properties, and find that it is significantly smaller than it was.
If all that seems overly complicated to you, I recommend checking out Atticus, which does a base layer of compression over its images (although combining both Atticus compression and Calibre compression will still help you.)
4. Image Compression Option #2: Compress Early
You might save yourself a ton of time and headache by compressing your images before you even upload them to your formatting program.
There are several free image compressors out there. We like to use Kraken.io for our images, but the images already need to be below a megabyte in order to use the free plan.
Because book covers can often be large images, this is why I recommend the Calibre method above, because it will help to compress all of your images, including the big ones.
5. Upload Smaller Images
Generally speaking, it’s nice to have high-resolution images for everything we need. That way, we’ll never have to deal with pixelated visuals.
However, we often overestimate how large an image needs to be for an ebook.
We definitely don’t have to upload our highest quality images when creating our ebook. Here are some recommended maximum sizes:
- Book covers: 1600×2560 pixels (maximum)
- Ideal width: 500-700 pixels wide
- Maximum width: 1600 pixels wide
- For thumbnails (i.e. smaller images that don’t take up the whole screen): no more than 160 pixels wide
I recommend resizing all of your images to be roughly in this range.
6. Eliminate XML “Bloat”
If you know XML code, you have an advantage. Ebooks make use of XML code, and many will include code that is not necessary, which can increase an ebook's file size.
But honestly, this is a time-consuming process for a minuscule savings in code. That is why you probably want a formatting program that automatically eliminates any unnecessary ebook code.
Too Complicated? Try This…
Now I get it. Each of those steps can take a while or is just too complicated – not many know about XML coding and if you're doing this manually, you may run into problems.
However, luckily there is an easy button:
Thankfully, despite the complexity of all these methods to try and reduce your delivery fee, there is a tool that can easily help: Atticus.
Atticus does all of the above.
- It reduces image file size
- Helps making ebook versions with less images better
- It has extremely clean coding to eliminate XML bloat
In short, it’s a great way to reduce the headache of trying to use all of the methods listed above. All you do is export your ebook through Atticus, and you can trust that most of the necessary work has been done.
Pro Tip: if you really want to go the extra mile, try combining an Atticus file with the Calibre image compression technique above. Doing so compounds the techniques, leading to an even smaller file size.
So if you haven’t already, take a look at Atticus and save yourself some time and effort.