In today’s digital age, self-publishing has become a popular and viable option for authors to bring their works to readers around the world. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform is a leading choice for many writers, offering an easy-to-use, cost-effective, and wide-reaching platform for publishing and promoting their books.
Since navigating the world of KDP can be overwhelming, particularly for authors who are new to the process, this article provides an in-depth guide to everything you need to know about Amazon KDP to take your book from manuscript to published work.
What is Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)?
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a self-publishing platform developed by Amazon that allows authors to publish their books and make them available for sale on Amazon Kindle stores. It provides authors with the tools and resources they need to format and publish their books, set their own prices, and promote their work to millions of potential readers worldwide.
It was launched in November 2007, under the name “Digital Text Platform” (DTP). The platform was created to provide independent authors and publishers with an easy-to-use and cost-effective way to publish and sell their books on Amazon’s Kindle e-readers.
At the time, self-publishing was a relatively new concept, and most authors had to rely on normal publishing houses to get their books published and distributed. With the launch of DTP, Amazon disrupted the publishing industry by offering a platform that gave self-published authors three big advantages over those who published through traditional publishers:
- It allowed them to retain creative control over their work, including the cover and content.
- It allowed them to set their own prices.
- It enabled them to earn higher royalties from their book sales.
Over the years, DTP evolved and was rebranded as Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). It continued to improve its services, adding new features such as print-on-demand publishing (which they used to offer separately as CreateSpace), audiobook publishing, and expanded distribution options.
Amazon KDP has democratized the publishing industry by giving independent authors a platform to reach a wider audience, retain control over their work, and earn high royalties.
In addition, it has also helped to level the playing field for independent authors by providing them with the same marketing and promotional tools as traditional publishers. KDP’s marketing tools, such as Amazon Advertising, allow authors to reach a wider audience and target specific readers based on their interests and preferences.
How Does Kindle Direct Publishing Work?
KDP provides authors with a range of services to make the self-publishing and selling of their books easy and convenient.
They publish your ebooks, they print your hardcopy books when a customer orders them, and they even enable you to record and publish audiobooks.
In addition, they handle the complete distribution, fulfillment, and customer support, while you rake in royalties for every book they help you sell.
The process of self-publishing through KDP includes roughly seven steps that you can complete quickly and easily:
- Create a free account: The KDP website will ask you for some basic personal, tax, and banking information.
- Upload your book: This includes the book and the cover art, and can be submitted in various formats like EPUB, MOBI, PDF, and MS Word.
- Set your price: For this step, you can find tons of advice in our guide on how to price a book.
- Publish your book: This makes it available for sale to millions of potential readers worldwide.
- Promote your book: Use the built-in marketing tools like Amazon Advertising and KDP Select to promote your book.
- Earn royalties: You can earn up to 70% in royalties on your book sales, depending on your price and the country in which it is sold.
- Track your earnings: Track your earnings on your own KDP dashboard and adjust your price and marketing, if necessary.
What Kind of Books Can You Publish with KDP?
KDP allows you to sell your book in multiple formats, including print, digital, and audio, all in one place. Despite the common association of “Kindle” with ebooks, KDP offers a range of publishing options, allowing authors to expand their reach far beyond the digital realm.
Once you have written and edited your book, you can publish it on KDP in ebook format, to be read on any electronic device by your readers.
It must be formatted according to Amazon’s requirements, include an attention-grabbing cover, be placed in the right category, and include suitable and relevant keywords in the description.
Paperbacks & Hardcovers
Amazon KDP offers print-on-demand services, which means that authors can sell paperback and hardcover editions of their books without having to worry about the printing process, keeping inventory, or shipping costs.
Then you can publish your print book on KDP. It will be available for sale on Amazon’s website, and readers can order a copy, which will be printed and shipped to them on demand.
Low-content books are popular with KDP authors, since they yield lower printing fees that might make them fairly profitable for topics that have relatively little competition. These are books that contain minimal written content, usually consisting of blank pages or lined pages for writing or drawing, such as diaries, journals, planners, notebooks, sketchbooks, coloring books, and activity books.
Independent authors have the opportunity to reach a growing audience of audiobook listeners through Audible, the world’s largest audiobook distributor.
However, creating a high-quality audiobook requires specific resources that not every indie author possesses, such as great reading skills and recording equipment. Amazon authors can use ACX (Amazon Creative Exchange), a service that connects authors with audiobook narrators to collaborate on an audiobook, splitting the royalties evenly.
It is up to you to pick a reader whose samples fit your book’s tone and style, after which your audiobook will be created for you. You then publish it directly on ACX and, once published, it will be available for sale on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
What Are the Benefits of KDP?
KDP provides authors with a powerful, free platform to publish and promote their work, among other benefits.
Free to Publish
KDP offers a free publishing service, which means you do not have to pay any upfront costs to publish your books. Once you start to sell books and earn money, you share a percentage of your revenue with Amazon.
Whether you can afford to hire a professional cover designer and editor is up to you, but your KDP account and the uploading and publishing of your books are free.
Amazon is the world’s largest retailer, with a vast global reach that spans across multiple countries and languages. It has a massive customer base that includes hundreds of millions of people who regularly shop on the site for various products, including books.
It has a global network of warehouses and fulfillment centers that enable fast and efficient delivery of books to customers around the world, which is more than other retailers can claim.
By publishing your books through KDP, you can tap into this vast customer base and reach a massive audience of potential readers.
Overall, KDP’s royalty rates can be significantly higher than those paid by traditional publishing houses, allowing you to earn more money per book sold.
- KDP yields up to 70% in royalties on ebooks, depending on the book’s list price and the country of sale. Traditional publishers typically offer royalties of around 10% to 25%.
- KDP’s print-on-demand service yields up to 60% in royalties on print books. Traditional publishers usually pay royalties of around 7.5% to 15%.
- KDP provides you with up to 40% in royalties on audiobook sales compared with the 5% to 10% of traditional audiobook publishers.
However, it’s important to note that traditional publishers may offer you other benefits, such as advances, editors, and free marketing, which can offset some of these lower royalty rates.
Quick Publishing Time
KDP enables you to get your books in front of readers faster than traditional publishing methods. With KDP, you can upload and publish your books within hours, as opposed to the months or even years it can take to get a book traditionally published.
This quick publishing time is especially important if you want to capitalize on current events. For example, if you want to publish a book on a topic that’s currently trending, you can do so quickly before it is no longer relevant.
No Publication Limit
You can publish as many books as you want on the platform. In fact, it encourages authors to publish their work, because it benefits from selling it too. As long as you follow KDP’s content guidelines, formatting requirements, and copyright rules, there are no limits to the number of books you can publish.
Amazon handles all of the distribution and fulfillment processes, including the printing and shipping of print-on-demand books and the delivery of digital books directly to readers’ devices. This means that you don’t have to worry about any logistics or inventory management, and you can focus on writing and promoting your books.
Additionally, Amazon’s customer service team handles all customer inquiries and complaints, including returns and refunds, leaving you free to focus on your writing.
Amazon’s algorithm determines search rankings and recommendations for books on the platform. This can help independent authors to reach a wider audience, increase their book’s visibility, and boost their sales.
It is designed to recommend books to readers based on their browsing and purchasing history. By optimizing your book’s metadata, such as the title, subtitle, keywords, and categories, you can increase its visibility and improve its chances of being recommended to readers who are interested in the same book genre or topic.
Best of all, when a book is recommended by Amazon’s algorithm, it can lead to a significant boost in sales, which can increase the book’s visibility even further. This can result in a snowball effect, where the book’s sales and visibility continue to increase over time.
KDP offers a print-on-demand service that prints your hardcopy book only when someone orders it. This service offers many benefits, including the following:
- No inventory management: You don’t have to worry about managing inventory or ordering large print runs of your books.
- Cost-effective: It is cost-effective for you because you don’t have to do your own printing or keep inventory. This makes it easy for you to publish your books without a significant financial investment, and also reduces the risk of overprinting and wasting unsold copies.
- Flexibility: You can experiment with different formats and cover designs, and adjust your pricing strategies on the fly to optimize your book’s performance.
Integrated Marketing Tools
KDP provides a range of integrated marketing tools that can help you promote your books effectively.
Here are some of the available ones:
- Amazon Advertising: You can use this tool to create targeted advertising campaigns for your books to increase their visibility. You can target specific audiences based on interests, behavior, and demographics, and track their advertising performance using Amazon’s advertising metrics.
- KDP Select: This program offers free book promotions and Kindle Unlimited listings in exchange for making your ebooks available exclusively on Amazon for a 90-day period.
- Countdown Deals: This tool allows you to offer limited-time discounts on your books to increase sales and generate buzz.
- Amazon Author Central: This is a free service that lets you create a profile page that includes your bio, photo, a list of your books, your book signings, and your speaking engagements.
- Free ISBN: KDP can assign a unique ISBN to your book, which can be used to identify and track it across various book-related businesses. The free ISBN option saves you money, as purchasing an ISBN from the official ISBN agency can be expensive.
Drawbacks of KDP
While KDP offers many benefits, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider, such as the competition and its strict and ambiguous guidelines.
Loss of Control
While you have creative control over the contents of your book, you do lose control of some aspects of it. You don’t have access to the data of your buyers, meaning that you can’t market your future output directly to people who seem to like your work.
KDP print books are branded with Amazon’s logo and brand name, and all book listing pages also feature Amazon’s branding. There is no way to get rid of it. Lastly, for print books, you cannot choose the paper on which it should be printed, and the print colors may differ slightly from those in your digital file.
Lots of Competition
There is a huge amount of competition on the platform. With millions of books available on Amazon, it can be challenging for authors to stand out and get their books noticed by readers. This means that you may need to invest significant time and effort into marketing and promoting your books to gain visibility and sales.
This is especially true for new and unknown authors, as readers may be more likely to choose books from established authors or those with a strong marketing presence.
Possible Exclusivity Agreement
If you choose to enroll your books in the KDP Select program, you are required to agree to a period of exclusivity with Amazon. This means that your ebooks cannot be made available for sale on any other platform during this 90-day period.
It means that you will miss out on potential sales and readership on other platforms, such as Barnes & Noble or Apple Books.
Additionally, it might not be a great idea to put all your eggs in one basket by relying solely on Amazon for book sales. While it is the largest book retailer, relying solely on one platform can be risky, as changes to Amazon’s policies or algorithms could impact your ability to sell books there.
Strict & Ambiguous Guidelines
KDP has specific formatting requirements for ebooks and print-on-demand books, which can be time-consuming and challenging for authors to navigate, particularly if you don’t have experience with book design and layout.
Further, its guidelines are sometimes ambiguous, such as bans on contents and covers that are erotic, explicit, sensational, or misleading, the definitions of which aren’t always obvious.
If you don’t comply with KDP’s guidelines, your books may be removed from the platform, which can be disruptive if you rely on book sales for income. There is also no guarantee that you will receive clarification or support from KDP’s customer service team, which can be slow to respond or to provide detailed guidance.
No Pre-Orders for Print Books
You aren’t currently able to set up pre-orders for your print books. This means that readers cannot order the book before its official release date and must wait until the book is available for purchase on Amazon.
If you rely on pre-orders to generate buzz and excitement for your books, this can be a significant disadvantage. Without them, you will have to rely more heavily on marketing and promotion efforts to drive sales in the weeks following the book’s release.
However, KDP does offer pre-orders for ebooks, which can help if you publish in both formats. Ebooks can be made available for pre-order up to 90 days before their official release date, giving you plenty of time to build buzz and generate early sales.
Kindle Direct Publishing Royalties
KDP royalties are sums of money paid to authors by Amazon for every copy of a book sold through the KDP platform.
Amazon takes a percentage of a book’s list price to cover the costs of selling, distributing, and printing the book, as well as for providing an online platform with access to millions of potential readers. The rest belongs to you as the author.
Each book format offers different royalty options, which we will consider below.
For ebooks, you can choose between two royalty options: the 35% option or the 70% option.
The 35% option applies to ebooks priced between $0.99 and $2.99 and above $9.99, while the 70% option applies to ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99.
List Price Requirements
|Royalty Rate Option||Minimum List Price||Maximum List Price|
The 70% rate is available only for books sold in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and 35 other countries.
When sold in these countries, the calculation for an ebook sold for $5 looks as follows:
Royalty rate x list price = royalty
0.70 x $5.00 = $3.50
Paperback & Hardcover Royalties
When opting for print-on-demand of a print book through KDP, the basic royalty rate is 60%, with printing costs subtracted from the list price before this 60% is taken off.
To calculate your royalty, you can use the formula:
(Royalty rate x list price) – printing costs = royalty
The printing costs are determined by four key characteristics of the book:
- Number of pages
- Ink color (premium color, standard color, or black)
- Country of sale
- Type of binding (paperback or hardcover)
By enrolling in Amazon’s expanded distribution program, you can make your books available on other online retailers, as well as potentially be stocked in libraries and physical bookstores. This program is only available for paperback books listed on Amazon in the US and UK.
For books enrolled in expanded distribution, the royalty rate is 40%, with printing costs subtracted from the list price before the 40% is taken off, as above.
To help you with these calculations, you can use our free KDP Royalty Calculator that can work out your royalties on different book formats. You can use the calculator to experiment with different pricing strategies and royalty options to find the optimal pricing for your books.
How Do Authors Get Paid on KDP?
KDP offers three payment methods: direct deposit (EFT), wire transfer, and check. PayPal is not an available option for payment. Direct deposit is recommended by Amazon as the simplest payment method, available worldwide and allowing any transfer amount.
For wire transfers and checks, there is a required minimum amount of approximately $100, with slight variations depending on the Amazon marketplace.
When Does KDP Pay Royalties?
Amazon pays your royalties with a delay of 60 days after the end of the month in which the sale occurs. For sales made through expanded distribution, the delay is extended to 90 days. For instance, royalties earned from January sales are released at the end of March, while royalties from expanded distribution sales are released at the end of April.
This means that you receive your royalties from February sales at the end of April, from March sales at the end of May, and so on.
How Much Does It Cost to Publish on KDP?
It is free to publish on KDP. There are no upfront costs to upload and publish an ebook or print-on-demand book. But KDP takes a percentage of the list price of each book sold on the platform to cover the costs of selling, printing, and distributing the book.
The percentage taken depends on various factors such as the format of the book, the price, and the distribution channels you select, as explained in the sections above.
While it is not compulsory on KDP, you should also keep in mind the money you might spend on professional services like editors, cover designers, and so on.
Is Amazon KDP Worth It?
KDP is a valuable platform for authors who want to take control of their publishing journey and have the potential to earn income from their work. It is especially worthwhile for a variety of authors, including:
- Independent authors who want to self-publish their books and have substantial control over the creative and publishing process.
- Experimenters who want to have the ability to make changes to their book, pricing, and marketing strategies at any time.
- Authors who want to earn a higher royalty rate than what is typically offered by traditional publishers.
- Ambitious people who want to take advantage of Amazon’s wide reach and distribution channels to sell their books to millions of potential readers worldwide.
- Authors that have achieved popularity outside Amazon on Reddit or Facebook groups, since this helps to beat the plentiful competition that is on KDP alone.
Here are a few examples of authors for whom KDP may not be the best fit:
- Those who are uncomfortable with editing, formatting, and marketing may find the platform too challenging and expensive due to the hiring of extra help.
- Authors who lack the resources or time to invest in their book’s production and marketing may struggle to find success on KDP.
- Quick profit seekers may find that the competition and downward pricing pressure on KDP make it challenging to earn significant royalties fast enough.
Is Amazon KDP Profitable?
Since Amazon does not release book publishing data, it is impossible to know the ratio between authors who succeed and fail on KDP. But some information occasionally escapes.
At the end of 2019, for example, Amazon mentioned that thousands of authors earned more than $50,000 in royalties during the year, while more than 1,000 authors cleared $100,000. In 2022, they announced that the number of authors earning more than $50,000 increased by 40% between 2020 and 2022, and that more than 2,000 authors surpassed $100,000 for the year by May 2022.
So, the audience exists and is willing to spend money on books, and some authors have achieved substantial profits.
How Much Do Authors Earn on Amazon KDP?
Generating a monthly income of $1000 to $1500 is achievable with just two or three KDP books that rank around 10,000 on the bestseller list. If you manage to produce close to 10 such books, you can earn more than $5,000 per month.
While this may not sound hugely profitable, remember that it is a passive income that you make while you are working on the projects that will bring in tomorrow’s earnings.
For example, one author created a daily gratitude journal called Start with Gratitude. It is a typical low content book that has been hanging between 6,000 and 16,000 on the bestseller list for more than five years.
Assuming that it’s sold about 500 copies per month, which is typically the case for books that achieve this rank, it has probably been generating monthly earnings of almost $1,000 for its author for years.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here, we’ll address some of the most common questions that people have about Amazon KDP.
Is Amazon KDP Free?
Publishing on KDP is free of charge, meaning that authors can upload and publish their ebooks or print-on-demand books without any upfront costs. However, KDP deducts a percentage of the list price of each book sold on the platform to cover the expenses associated with selling, printing, and distributing the book.
What is Amazon KDP Select?
KDP Select is a program that allows authors to make their books exclusive to Amazon, meaning that they cannot be sold anywhere else for a period of 90 days. In exchange, Amazon gives them additional promotional and marketing benefits like Kindle Unlimited, free book giveaways, and countdown deals.
Can Anyone Publish Books on Amazon KDP?
Yes, as long as individuals have the legal rights to the content they are publishing, anyone can publish books on Amazon KDP. This implies that the author or publisher must possess the copyright to the book or have obtained the required permissions to utilize any copyrighted material featured in the book.
Is Amazon KDP Only for Writers?
Although KDP is mainly intended for writers to self-publish and distribute their books, it can also be utilized by various content creators. For instance, graphic designers and artists can leverage KDP to publish and market coloring books, journals, planners, and other low-content books. Photographers can design and sell photo books and portfolios. Additionally, business owners and marketers can publish ebooks and white papers to advertise their products or services.
What is Not Allowed on Amazon KDP?
Amazon’s guidelines prohibit several types of contents, including materials to which the author doesn’t own the copyright, that contain personal information, and that promote scams. Additionally, hate speech, pornography, illegal activities, and the glorification of violence or terrorism are all forbidden.
What Kind of Books Sell Best on Amazon?
While readers’ preferences are diverse and the book market is constantly evolving, certain book genres tend to perform well on Amazon and frequently appear on the platform’s bestseller lists. These genres include:
- Mystery, thriller & suspense.
- Science fiction and fantasy.
- Nonfiction, particularly in the self-help, business, and personal development categories.
How Many Authors Use Amazon KDP?
Amazon does not release author numbers, but an international research data and analytics group called WordsRated estimates that more than one million authors earn royalties on KDP every year.
Amazon KDP offers an opportunity for independent authors to publish and distribute their works to a worldwide audience. With its user-friendly interface, quick publishing times, print-on-demand services, and wide reach, KDP has revolutionized the publishing industry and opened up new avenues for writers to showcase their talent and share their stories.