What indie publishing can teach a filmmaker about indie distribution

Are you a Filmmaker searching for a distribution deal?

In this article, you will learn about distribution with AMAZON and some tips on how to connect with a fan base.

We are in the golden age of content creation.  If you learn how to master the new world order of indie filmmaking you will be able to find your audience and nurture them into raving fans.  What is also important to understand is that AMAZON has run the “open door” strategy before, so you can learn from history as to the best ways to connect and build your audience.

If you have made a film and want to get it in front of an audience, I will show you how to set up a distribution deal with a content provider that has over 54 million subscribers.  No, not YouTube, Amazon.

The best part is, the opportunity provides some of the best terms you have ever seen and if you embrace this method you will have control over your content and your relationship with your audience.

Let’s begin…

There is a war going on now for eyeballs and what every industry expert knows is that to win the war for our eyeballs you need to have content.  Disney get’s it.  They have purchased Marvel,  Lucasfilm, and Maker Studios.  Netflix and Amazon have both created original content production to get more subscribers, however, to date this has been mainly focused on the traditional studio content production that is surrounded by gatekeepers and agents.  So what has changed?

Amazon has gone to back to the playbook that made them the dominant player in publishing by opening up content distribution to everyone.  Yes, that is right, you can now sign up and distribute content on Amazon for FREE – WITH NO AGENT OR APPROVAL BY A STUDIO.

Amazon.com (AMZN) has more subscribers for its streaming video service in the U.S. than does Netflix (NFLX), but it lags in viewers. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated that Amazon ended 2015 with 54 million U.S. members for its Prime service, up 35% from the prior year.  In an effort to improve viewership AMAZON has several strategies to get original content on prime.  One of these strategies is targeted directly at the Indie filmmakers.  I believe this a fundamental game changer for the movie industry that will have repercussions for decades.  To understand how this strategy will change the industry, a little history lesson is the best demonstration of what will happen to the film industry.

In 2007 AMAZON rolled out the Kindle; already a dominant player in retail book sales, Amazon’s next bet was on the Ebook and a digital reader.  At the time there was a significant conflict between the Big 5 publishers, Amazon and Apple about the handling of digital publishing rights.  Amazon needed content for the Kindle and created a service called Kindle Digital Publishing, where authors could publish books for the kindle and get a 35% royalty.
At the time this royalty was rich and the platform began to attract a range of authors bringing new or out of print works to the platform.  Apple observed the momentum that Kindle was building and started a similar program but with a 70% margin for the Author.  This battle for market share set in place the best possible deals ever in the history of publishing.


  1. Authors are getting the larger share of revenues

  2. Authors can connect and nurture their audience directly – Disintermediation

What was the impact?

  • More writers have made $10,000 or more from their writing since 2007, then all of prior publishing history.
  • Authors that embraced the changes have been able to make a living from their writing without ever hiring an agent or getting a publishing deal.
  • Amazon is now the dominant player in a market that is larger and more diverse than when it began selling print books in the late 90s.

Later, I will explain how writers developed marketing systems that identified and connected them with their audience. You can follow this system to find your audience and then convert them to fans.


If you are not familiar with AMAZON VIDEO DIRECT here is how it works;

You can publish a single title or episodic works, meaning you have a film you can put it up or you can control your work as a series, a season or a group.

You need to upload key artwork, subtitles, and video that complies with the AVD technical and content standards.

You have a range of choices for revenue generation and sharing.  The options being showing your work as part of prime and receiving a per hour watched fee (calculated by the second), sell it for a fee, rent, or show free with advertising.

In cases where you sell, rent or revenue share on ads, you receive 50% of the net revenue.  AMAZON expects to get paid for file storage and downloads but these are nominal and you are only charged when your work is distributed.

How does this benefit you?

Back to our history lesson…
Authors that embraced independent publishing were able to connect with readers and build fans of their work.  More and more authors were able to generate some income and many were able to transition to full-time writing and quit the day job.
Success came from the improved economics for the author and the ability to connect directly to readers.  Amazon and the big 5 publishers took notice and eventually, some Indie authors got big publishing offers.  One of the notable stories is that of Hugh Howey, an author who built a following on KDP then landed a $500,000 publishing deal for print only and movie deals for undisclosed amounts.

The results will be the same for filmmakers as the results for writers who got serious about marketing their work. By adopting Indie publishing techniques and applying them to building an audience for your films you will be able to establish a leadership position while we are in the early innings of independent video distribution. I believe those that embrace these changes will be heading up their own independent production companies in three to five years, all fueled by revenues generated from streaming video.

Amazon competitors should be very concerned; this is not a longshot strategy.  It has worked brilliantly in publishing and translates easily to filmmaking.  AMAZON knows that this system exposes them to the best talent and grows the market within an ecosystem that they can control.


If you created a 30-minute show for Amazon Prime and 0.25% of the Prime subscribers watched your program all the way through you would earn $10,000 and get around 135,000 viewers.

The hurdles for you to achieve these results are all in your control. First, you need to get your work up on AMAZON. Then you need to do deliberate work to find and inform your audience.

If you are struggling to get your first 100 viewers, try our mini-course to learn what methods hundreds of Indie publishers, including myself use to build our audience.  Not only is this course free but much of what is taught in the course is done with free software.

Also with signing up, you get access to a free service that helps to notify  Amazon viewers of the difficult to find Indie content that is hidden in the depths of AMAZON.

Get our FREE email mini-course on how to find your first 100 viewers


The reality is that it’s difficult now for the average user of Prime to find Indie content. AMAZON’s algorithms can’t promote your movie until some base activity is there to analyze.  So you need to give your content a kick start to educate AMAZON’s search engine.

In a recent survey conducted by a well-known Indie author, the top two methods for a reader to find his book were either an e-mail sent by AMAZON suggesting the book or the reader seeing the book in the “readers that bought this also bought section” both very powerful FREE audience builders.

How serious is AMAZON about Video?  VERY!

They are buying companies that develop talent and do production.

These companies are owned by AMAZON:

Amazon Studios: Where you can submit scripts, or concept videos for the studio to greenlight for production.  They include a free script writing tool.

WithOutabox :  A free site that helps with distribution to AMAZON as well as promoting your projects to over 100 film festivals and juried events.

IMDBPro: The leading industry database for movies and entertainment.

Amazon Video Direct: The main way for you to distribute your content to Amazon streaming services.  This is the service you want to sign up for!

Creatspace: The original company for loading video and creating print on demand books.

This group of companies gives AMAZON access to talent, ideas and the ability to market to the industry and film festivals better than competitors.

So after reading this are you of the opinion that:

a) No way this is for me.  I am going to keep hitting film festivals and try to get a traditional deal.


b) All right I get it but how do I take advantage of being an early adopter?

If you’re in the first camp that’s too bad, there are thousands of authors that still wait for an agent to call them back for that big book deal.  The facts are no publisher can deliver the economics that Indie publishing gives, nor do they have the bandwidth to help you unless you are the next JK Rowling.

If you do get it and you’re interested then check out our FREE course to find your first 100 viewers.

As stated earlier, you have to take on a promotional role to get viewers engaged.  Marketing your movie will take time and effort, but if you are committed you can get momentum and connect with your audience.  Once you have some traction the power of AMAZON will kick in – their search engine will begin suggesting to customers to view your work.

What a great opportunity to have AMAZON as your distributor, all you have to do now is go find those viewers!




Related Posts

Comments are closed.