Updated 8th January 2017. I initially wrote this post in May 2016 full of excitement about Amazon’s venture into educational video. I was contacted by Amazon and encouraged to take part. How could this not be good? Well, it isn’t. I wouldn’t advise educational video content creators, courses creators, or any self-publishing entrepreneur to get involved with Amazon Video Direct. Sure, I get my content viewed but there is hardly any payout! But if you really want, I’ll explain how to get started on the platform and how to sell video courses on Amazon Video Direct.
This is Amazon entering the user-generated video market. Creators can upload their own videos to Amazon’s Prime Video and generate royalties based on the hours streamed. Video-makers have several options to monetize: videos can be rented, owned, or they can be free and ad-supported. Videos can also be packaged together and offered as an add-on subscription to Amazon Prime Video.
What do I think about it?
I thought the opportunity to sell my video courses and tutorials on the Amazon platform is simply too good to pass. I was even personally contacted by the Seattle-based company about Amazon Video Direct. I spoke at length to three Amazon employees who all seemed excited and committed to the platform.
However, after I experience teething troubles on the platform, the Amazon people disappeared. I ended up spending a lot of money getting videos transcribed and wasting a lot of time uploading some of my material. For nothing! Thanks, guys.
The platform will be linked to Amazon’s hugely successful Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) – both in essence and literally. At some stage we’ll be able to link our video products to our textual products (Kindles). The full details of this are not yet available. The platform is new and still in its testing phase. So far nothing.
So, at the moment, I would avoid this platform.
Remember, there are very few online video platforms that require exclusivity. So you can have the same videos on YouTube, Udemy and, now, Amazon Video Direct.
OK. How do we sign up?
Remember, this isn’t YouTube where a 13-year-old can set up an account and upload a video from their phone in seconds. Amazon wants serious video creators and, maybe for this reason, the signing up process takes 10 minutes or so. A small barrier to entry to dissuade the amateurs.
Here is a video I made of the account creation process at Amazon Video Direct.
Here’s what you do:
- Log in at videodirect.amazon.com using the credentials (email and password) associated with your Kindle Direct Publishing account, your existing Amazon account or create a new one.
- Review and electronically accept the Contractual Agreement.
- Set up the Company Information (can be just your name), banking, and tax information to get your profile created. As mentioned in the above video, if you are a non-US citizen, you can forego the 30% sales tax that American citizens have to pay. Here is a video of me getting an EIN tax identifcation number from the IRS.
Once you’ve done all the above, you will be directed to the portal and will be able to upload new titles to Amazon Video. Woohoo!
Adding additional members and VAs to the account
Another amazing thing you can do on the Amazon platform (that you can’t do on Udemy, Skillshare, or, for that matter, YouTube) is to connect other Amazon users to your Amazon Video Direct account.
If you want to add additional members to the account:
- Click the company name in the top right corner (next to the language and help buttons)
- Click “Your Account”
- Click Users & Roles
- Add your VA’s Amazon email address
Here are the settings I used for my VA’s access to my Amazon Video Direct account:
Why would you want other people to have access to your videos? So you can get a VA (Virtual Assistant) to do a lot of the leg-work for you which frees up more of your time for content creation.
Selling video courses on Amazon Video Direct
Now comes the exciting bit – getting your videos on the platform so that they can be sold to the 244 million active users on Amazon.com (and that doesn’t include the audience on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de and Amazon.jp).
If you click on the “Videos” link in the top navigation at Video Direct you are confronted with 3 options:
Click “Standalone” for your single YouTube-type movies and tutorials. But choose “Episodic” for your long form, multi-video, Udemy-type courses.
The above video walks you through the whole process of how to upload and sell video courses on Amazon Video Direct.
There are many, many technical and publishing specifications for you to bear in mind. Remember, this isn’t as simple as putting up video on YouTube. Here is a very useful main support document from Amazon Video Direct. But here are the main takeaways and pain points I’ve had so far:
Video: I would supply 1920×1080 (16:9 aspect ratio) HD MP4s exported from any good video editor (Screenflow, Camtasia, etc.) – although 1280×720 is also OK, I would go for the bigger format to be on the safe side.
Audio: As ever, good quality audio from a high quality microphone is important. Audio duration and video duration must match. 1-Channel Mono embedded audio is OK.
Captions (timed-text/subtitle files): This is a new one for me. Amazon is a “customer-obsessed company and captions help ensure a consistent viewing experience for all customers, including those who may be hearing-impaired, are non-native English speakers, or prefer to view videos without sound”. Here are Amazon’s specs and list of providers for captions. So far I’ve used Rev.com who charge $1/minute and provide an excellent service. Or you could download a caption file at YouTube and edit it. I’ve had mixed results doing this.
Key Art: you need 3 images for each Standalone video and Episodic video series. Image specs and sizes here. Standalone titles need a 1200×1600 (3:4) image, episodic titles need a 1600×1200 (4:3) image; Both standalone and episodic titles need a main 1920 x 1080 (16:9) as well as a background images of the same size. JPGs or PNGs file formats.
Got it? Good. Apart from the above it’s just adding good, keyword-rich titles and synopses. Remember, all these are barriers to entry that some people won’t bother with, leaving less competition in this exciting new platform for you – and me!
Uploading videos at Amazon Video Direct
I’ve made over 16 courses that add up to 30GB worth of video files. That’s a hell of a lot to upload! Fortunately, I’ve devised a way to do this without having to upload any videos at all.
Just before I decided to run my business from the Land of the Smiles, I got myself a Dropbox Pro account (around about $100/year for 1TB of backup). So all the files on my laptop are permanently backed up to the cloud (we hope).
Amazon Video Direct allow a direct upload from Amazon’s cloud storage service Amazon S3. So all I had to do is find an inexpensive way to move files from one cloud service to another. There are many companies that do this. I found that Zapier provided the most simple and cost-effective solution. See above my video on how to move video files from Dropbox to Amazon s3 for use on Amazon Video Direct. Here is the zap: Copy files from a Dropbox folder to an Amazon S3 bucket. You can also move files from Drive to Amazon S3 in a similar way. You can get Zapier free for 14 days.
So, this plus the ability to add my VA as an additional member to the Amazon Video Direct account (see above), means I can get all my courses uploaded to this new and exciting platform without me having to do too much work! That’s something I like very much.
For free, rent or sale? What price to sell video courses on Amazon Video Direct?
Now there’s a question.
Here’s what I’m doing. For Standalone videos (and, remember, my Standalone videos are all between 5 minutes to 15 minutes in length), I’m supplying free with pre-roll ads.
For Episodic videos (Udemy-type courses) customers will, interestingly, have to ability to buy single episodes or whole series. I’ll be experimenting with a number of price points. The lowest price for an episode seems to be $0.99. Here’s my pricing for a short (2.5 hour) course
Amazon recommend using custom pricing so that you can ensure courses are competitively priced for customers. It will be fascinating how this plays out. I could price a course quite low initially ($9.99), sell it to my list to get sales on Amazon’s platform early on (Amazon’s A9 algo loves that) and then raise the price to something more like $26.99. Just a thought. But, there will be many interesting pricing strategies emerging. Maybe Amazon will enable us to do countdown deals and free days as they do on KDP Direct. And there’s Prime Day and Black Friday. Oh my!
Selling on Amazon Video Direct – You Can Do It!
For education, this platform is still in its pilot phase so there are some known hiccups, such as the inability for bulk upload and rearranging of courses once a listing is created. We still don’t really know how to link to supplementary materials in the courses.
This looked like a great opportunity but so far it seems Amazon isn’t taking it seriously. Proceed with caution, you could end up like me, having a lot of your material viewed for next to nothing.