This is a complete starter guide to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing in 2022.
You’ll learn the following fundamentals about self-publishing with Amazon KDP:
- How to publish books online
- Pros & Cons of Amazon KDP
- Costs & Earnings you can expect
- The best Amazon KDP Alternatives
- And much more
So if you’re thinking about starting self-publishing with Amazon KDP, this guide is for you.
What is Amazon KDP?
Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP is a self-publishing platform launched by Amazon in November 2007. It enables authors to create books with no upfront costs and distribute them to a global audience without going through the hassles of traditional publishing agencies.
Originally called Digital Text Platform, the service made it possible for writers to independently publish their e-books on Kindle Store. In 2016, Amazon added a paperback option based on Print-on-Demand technology, meaning that each volume is produced in response to a purchase. This opportunity was provided by CreateSpace, another company owned by Amazon, which merged with KDP in 2018.
KDP is a great alternative to traditional publishing since authors can sell their books much easier and faster. Convincing large publishing houses to release your book may be difficult. Sometimes, it takes months to get their final decision, so you waste your time until reaching the global market. Also, note that publishers typically release a book in a year after accepting your proposal.
Unfortunately, time is not the only thing you will lose. Traditional publishing requires you to pay money upfront since you need to cover a part of editing, designing and marketing costs. Eventually, you will get a small percentage of the earnings, usually about 10-12%. There is no publishing fee required until you make a sale on Amazon. What’s more, self-published authors receive 35-70% of the royalties.
How does Amazon KDP work?
According to some estimates, Amazon holds over 67% of the e-book market share. It’s the largest bookstore in the English-speaking world that provides access to millions of Kindle users.
One of the major advantages of self-publishing with this platform is that the company handles fulfillment and distribution processes while saving your full rights to a book.
Although it’s free to list your books for sale on KDP, the company takes a profit share of each purchase. Its size depends on the royalty option you’ve chosen. Hence, you must split your revenue with Amazon since it handles everything, from printing to shipping.
Types of Books
You can publish different books using Amazon KDP. Typically, authors release content books that contain literary or informative texts. Readers buy them to learn new things, get advice or entertain themselves. Non-fiction, encyclopedias, novels, biographies, memoirs, poetry and history books belong to this category.
Content Book Example:
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Low Content Books
Books that contain little to no text are called low-content books. They are usually designed with pre-filled layouts to allow readers to interact with them. Such books can record or collect materials, so people often purchase them for their activities, hobbies or special events. The most common examples of low-content books are log books, planners, prompt journals, coloring books and activity books.
Low Content Book Example:
No Content Books
Unlike two previous categories, no content books contain no written text elements. But, that doesn’t mean they always have blank or plain pages; they may feature graphic elements and patterns. Amazon KDP publishes journals, notebooks, diaries, composition books, and sketchbooks.
No Content Book Example:
Graph Paper Journal
Kindle Store is broken down into over 14.000 categories and sub-categories. Some of the best selling genres on Amazon are Literature & Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Nonfiction, Teen & Young Adult, Biographies & Memoirs, Religion & Spirituality and History.
E-books are a rapidly growing trend all over the globe. Revenue in the eBooks segment has increased by 6.1% and reached $16,109 million in 2021. Digital book versions can be read on various devices, including eReaders, tablets, smartphones and computers. Publishers are recommended to use the following file types:
|File Type||File Extension|
|Microsoft Word||DOC / DOCX|
However, KDP also supports these file types:
|File Type||File Extension|
|HyperText||HTML / HTM / ZIP|
|Rich Text Format||RTF|
Note that authors can insert videos and clickable links into the text. Royalties for eBooks are counted per download. Besides, Amazon offers exclusive marketing features for digital books, such as Free Promotion, Countdown Deals and Book Pre-order.
To distribute your e-book on Amazon, upload your pre-formatted manuscript and book cover to Amazon KDP. Next, add an optimized marketing description, set a selling price and publish your work on the platform. After purchasing your digital book in the Amazon Kindle store, readers can immediately read and download it.
Amazon KDP allows you to choose between paperback and hardcover printing options. Paperbacks, also called softcovers or softbacks, are cheaper than hardcovers. They are light, compact and easily transportable. Hardcovers or hardbacks are quite heavy and inflexible. However, they are more durable and have a premium appearance. People often buy hardcovers for a gift or their own collection. Since printing costs for this book type are about twice as high as for paperbacks, they are more expensive.
Amazon KDP uses Print-on-Demand technology for paperbacks and hardcovers. That means printing copies on a per-order basis. Following the technology, all printing and shipping costs are automatically subtracted from the price of your book after the actual purchase. So you don’t pay for the product until you’ve sold it.
To have your book published, you just need to provide the service with a printable manuscript and a cover. To see your book in person before its release, you can order a proof copy.
How to publish a Book on Amazon KDP?
1. Create a book listing
To begin a publishing process on Amazon KDP, you need to provide the metadata of your book. It includes all key information, such as a book title, author’s name, up to 4000 characters long description, category, primary language, keywords and price. After that, you can upload your manuscript and book cover.
You have to set print options for physical books, including ink and paper type, book dimensions, bleed settings, and cover finish. KDP offers you to select cream or white paper types with black or premium color ink.
Note that the default book size in the “Print Options” section is 6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm) because this is the most common choice in the United States. But you can change it to other standard and non-standard trim sizes or create your own custom dimensions.
If your content contains any illustrations and you want them to reach the edge of the page, you must choose bleed for your interior.
The last thing to set up is the cover finish, which can be glossy or matte. The first one looks shiny, making covers more striking, while the second one has minimal sheen that provides a classic style.
2. Book Preview
After uploading the content, preview your book to check for formatting and print settings. If you’ve created an eBook, use Online Previewer to see what your digital book looks like on tablets, smartphones and e-Readers.
For paperbacks, you can apply the Print Previewer tool to ensure that their final book cover and interior are excellent. Otherwise, the software will display existing errors.
3. Publish your book
Once you’ve provided metadata, uploaded all the necessary files, and ensured no formatting or quality errors, you can submit your book for publishing on Amazon.
4. Review by Amazon
Amazon will review your book manually within 24-72 hours. However, this process may take longer during the holiday or if a closer content analysis is needed. The manual analysis includes formatting and quality checks and examining the content according to the guidelines, including copyright and trademarks policies. If your book is rejected, you will receive an email with a specific reason explaining Amazon’s decision.
5. Available on marketplaces
After a successful review, your book becomes available for purchase on all selected Amazon marketplaces. This means that your book finally can reach a massive audience around the globe.
6. Distribution by Amazon
As soon as somebody purchases your book, Amazon handles the entire distribution process, so you do not have to deal with anything from production to book delivery. Even returns management and customer support are managed by Amazon.
The company uses the Print on Demand System, in which book copies are published only after receiving a purchase. Once paid, physical and digital books are distributed fully automated to your customers.
7. Payment of your royalties
For each successful sale, authors receive a share of the profit. So-called book royalties have a fixed rate between 35% – 70%. The exact percentage depends on the book type and marketplace you are using. For example, paperbacks have a 60% royalty rate.
KDP makes royalty payouts through direct deposit, wire transfer or check 60 days after the end of the month that royalties were earned. This means that sales generated in January are paid out at the end of March.
Benefits of Amazon KDP
As a leading online marketplace, Amazon gives sellers a chance to reach an immense audience and expand their business internationally. With over 300 million active accounts and 150 million paid Prime members, the marketplace ensures access to diverse target groups in the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia and several other countries around the globe.
Thus, this is an incredible opportunity for authors, especially unknown, to directly reach millions of potential readers worldwide without spending huge budgets on marketing. And since Amazon users are already looking for products, they are more ready to convert into customers.
With Amazon KDP, you need not organize a distribution process because the company does it for you. It ensures quick delivery, fulfillment, returns management and customer service. Hence, it’s not required to have an inventory or any equipment.
Amazon offers more generous royalty rates than traditional publishing houses. Depending on the book type, you can earn 35% – 70% from each sale made on Amazon, while traditional publishing houses pay only 5%-25%.
Low barrier costs
There is no cost for publishing a book, and there is also no minimum order quantity on Amazon KDP. Don’t pay for equipment, inventory or employees. Your only expenses include book creation and marketing promotion costs. That’s why this business model is particularly beginner-friendly.
Algorithm driven marketplace
Self-publishing on Amazon allows independent authors to reach leading positions thanks to Amazon’s A9 Algorithm. It displays products in search results based on several ranking factors such as sales, keyword relevance, pricing, customer reviews and conversions. Since this approach is objective, beginner writers have the same chances to reach the top positions as popular authors.
Integrated marketing tools
Amazon has a wide range of its own features to promote your book. You can use them in addition to your external marketing campaign. Check the most effective Amazon tools below.
Formerly Amazon Marketing Services or AMS, Amazon Advertising is a platform for creating sponsored product ads of different formats. It enables paid-per-click advertising in Amazon search results and on product detail pages.
Amazon Author Central lets you create an Author Page with your biography in different languages, customized book overviews, photos and videos. It helps to build your own brand and improve brand awareness. Author Central also shows Amazon Best Sellers Rank for specific books, marketplaces and periods so that you can analyze sales.
Kindle eBook pre-order
Kindle eBook pre-order is available for digital books only. It allows you to set up pre-orders, allowing you to promote and sell your book before the actual release.
Combined with Countdown Deals, Kindle eBook pre-order draws attention to your product and turns its release into a marketing event. This is especially useful for authors with an existing audience or fan base because their pre-orders affect the bestseller rank.
Buying and Gifting
The Buying and Gifting feature is available for digital products. It generates gift codes of your book, meaning you can share copies with beta readers and your targeted audience via social media giveaways, marketing events, or newsletters.
To give the readers insights into your book content, you can share a link to a free preview. Book Previews can drive additional traffic to your eBook and improve conversion rates. This feature can also be embedded on external websites.
Look Inside Feature
The Look Inside feature also allows readers to preview 10-20% of your book content. It’s automatically enabled when you publish your work.
More Marketing Tools
If you enroll a book in the KDP Select Program, you’ll get access to more exclusive marketing tools such as Free Promotions, Countdown Deals and Lending for Kindle.
With Free Promotions, you may share your eBook at no charge for up to 5 days. Kindle Countdown Deals lets sellers run limited-time discounts for eBooks with a countdown timer.
The Book Lending feature is used by readers who want to lend digital books they have purchased to their friends and family. You can read more about the mentioned marketing tools in the section on Amazon KDP Select.
Drawbacks of Amazon KDP
Amazon is the largest publishing platform with over 48 million books of all types, including over 3.4 million eBooks. Authors sell their works on Amazon and major publishing houses use this marketplace as a distribution channel. For this reason, the competition can be very strong in certain niches.
Lack of control
Many design and marketing elements offered by Amazon are very standardized, resulting in major branding limitations. So, it is impossible to run custom mail campaigns, use special packaging designs or customize your product page theme.
Since Amazon handles all distribution, you also don’t have access to any customer data. Without your own customer base, you become bound to Amazon. By depending on the marketplace, you put all your eggs in one basket and risk losing everything.
Amazon’s strict guidelines change without announcements. Some rules are ambiguous and unclear, so your account may be suspended if you unintentionally break any of them.
Costs & Earnings
Publishing with Amazon KDP requires no upfront expenses, even for physical books. Printing and delivery costs are subtracted from the book price after its purchase. They depend on page count, ink type, and the Amazon marketplace you have selected. your paperback was ordered from. To count printing costs for paperbacks, you can use this formula:
Fixed cost + (page count * per page cost) = Printing cost
If your book has 300 pages of black ink and it was ordered from Amazon.com, the calculation of printing costs will look like this:
0.85 USD fixed cost + (300 page count * 0.012 USD per page cost) = 4.45 USD
Delivery costs for digital books are determined by their size. They also vary from one marketplace to another. The rates for US, UK and EU marketplaces are:
These costs are incurred only after an actual purchase.
A book can have a list price between $0.99 and $200.00. Paperbacks can’t be cheaper than $0.99 because of printing and inventory expenses. To calculate the minimum rate for paperbacks, you need to use this formula:
Printing cost / 60% (Royalty rate) = Minimum list price.
The maximum paperback list price allowed by US Amazon is $250.00.
The royalty policy differs for eBooks and paperbacks. Depending on the list price, you can receive 35% – 70% of sales on US Amazon. For books between $0.99 and $200.00, you will get 35% royalties, while books that cost $2.99 – $9.99 will bring you 70% royalties.
KDP has a fixed 60% royalty rate on paperbacks, but your final earning will be lower because the company subtracts printing costs. You can estimate it with Printing Cost & Royalty Calculator or by using the following formula:
(Royalty rate x list price) – Printing costs = Royalty
Amazon has several payout options for sellers. You should use a direct deposit to withdraw less than $100 as it doesn’t have a minimum payment threshold. For larger amounts of money, you can choose between a wire transfer or a check.
Payouts are made every month, approximately 60 days after the end of the month in which the sale was reported. For example, if you earned your royalties in January, you will receive money at the end of March. But for Expanded Distribution sales, you must wait up to 90 days because it takes some time for the respective third parties to transmit the sales figures to Amazon.
Amazon KDP Select
What is Amazon KDP Select?
Amazon KDP Select is a program that provides Amazon exclusive rights to sell your selected eBooks through the Kindle store for 90 days. After three months, your commitment will be automatically renewed if you don’t change the settings.
KDP Select doesn’t affect print versions and audiobooks. As a result, they can be distributed through other channels such as your own website or publishing platforms like Apple, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, etc.
The main advantage of KDP Select is that it makes your book accessible to all Kindle Unlimited subscribers in the Kindle Store. When people read your books through a Kindle Unlimited subscription, you earn your share of the KDP Select Global Fund, which accounted for as much as $36.5 Million in June 2021.
What is Kindle Unlimited?
Amazon Kindle Unlimited (KU) works like an online library where you can explore new authors and genres. It is a subscription-based service that allows you to get as many eBooks as you like and keep them as long as you want for $9.99 a month. With this program, you can choose from over 2 million KU titles and read 10 books simultaneously.
Benefits of KDP Select
Over 3.3 million active Kindle Unlimited subscribers prefer its free books. Some estimates show that people read over 9 billion pages per month through KU subscriptions. That means you can reach an additional audience besides the regular Amazon users.
Your earnings are determined by the number of total pages read by customers. To avoid manipulations (e.g. empty pages) and determine an eBook’s page count the same way for different devices and display settings, Amazon developed the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC).
It is calculated using standard formatting settings for font, line height, spacing, etc. For every page read, you will get between $0.004 and $0.005. Amazon calculates pages every month and pays on average $4.78 per 1,000 pages.
It’s important to note that Page Reads influence Kindle’s best seller rank. The more customers read your book, the better it will be positioned by Amazon in the search results.
Exclusive marketing tools
KDP Select gives access to effective marketing tools that enable free promotions for 90 days. If you don’t need this option, you can benefit from Kindle Countdown Deals instead. It displays a countdown timer for eBooks in the product listing for a maximum of 7 days.
Since Kindle Countdown Deals draws more attention to your products and increases sales, it’s a great way to bring “dead” books back to life. But there are a few restrictions set by KDP Select. You can adopt Kindle Countdown Deals only on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk if the casual list price ranges from $2.99 to $24.99 or from £1.99 to £15.99 (including VAT).
With KDP Select, your royalty for sales to customers in Japan, India, Brazil and Mexico will be 70%, twice as high as a standard rate of 35%.
What’s more, the program offers All-Star bonuses to the top 100 authors and books of the month. You can get the All-Star badge on your book details page and be rewarded with $500 – $25,000 from Amazon.com.
Drawbacks of KDP Select
No external marketplaces
By enrolling in KDP Select, you give Amazon exclusive rights to your book. That means you can use no other publishing services and marketplaces like Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google Play, Kobo, Draft2Digital.
Since not all of your readers may use Amazon, you risk losing potential customers and revenues. With KDP Select, you can’t reach audiences with specific eBook readers (e.g., Barnes & Noble Nook) and those from countries where Amazon doesn’t dominate.
No other bestseller lists
Some bestseller lists, including The New York Times and USA Today, require your book to be available on at least several marketplaces. So KDP Select decreases your chances of hitting a popular bestseller list and makes it harder to gain visibility.
Income depends on pages read
Per-page-read royalties might be lower than your income for book purchases, especially if your book costs less than $2.99. KDP Select offers a 35% royalty for books priced below this threshold.
Is Amazon KDP Select worth it?
The decision to enroll in KDP Select or distribute your book wide should be based on a few factors. First, consider the genre of your book. While targeting KU readers that consume significantly more books than other customers, you must check the most popular categories among them.
According to the Kindle Store bestselling lists, KU readers frequently purchase Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, or Thriller. So if your book belongs to one of these categories, you might benefit from KDP Select.
KDP Select can be especially useful for beginner writers without recognition because its free promotion tools help them quickly build an audience at no cost. What’s more, it allows customers to borrow your books and leave reviews, so your reader base may grow thanks to them.
KDP Select is not recommended to authors of non-fiction books, book series and to those who target the audience outside the US and the UK.
Amazon KDP Alternatives
To reach more readers, you can additionally consider other platforms besides Amazon.
A marketplace is an e-commerce platform that brings together multiple vendors and customers. It manages all transactions and subtracts a commission from each sale. Sellers can gain visibility at popular marketplaces and sell their products or services to a large audience.
Apple Books for Authors allows you to write, publish, market, and sell your eBooks and audiobooks on the Apple Books platform. It has no publishing fees. Regardless of your book price, Apple Books for Authors grants 70% royalties.
By publishing your digital books with Google Play Books, you can reach over 3 billion Android users on their preferred platform. Similar to Apple Books, this platform doesn’t impose fees for publishing or delivery. Its royalty rate also accounts for 70% of each eBook.
With Kobo Writing Life, you can publish your eBook or audiobook in a few short steps. After just 72 hours, it can be available in online bookstores worldwide. Kobo offers royalty rates of 70% for books that cost $1.99 – $12.99. Outside of price range products will generate 45% royalties.
Gumroad allows authors to distribute all kinds of digital products, including eBooks, video courses and design templates. As a writer, you can publish your book on the platform, and it will be immediately available for purchase.
Gumroad has a lot of special features that improve selling performance. For example, you can apply its email marketing tools or use shop interaction for your own website.
With Google Analytics or Facebook Pixel, Gumroad provides authors with information on their readers, so you can optimize an existing marketing strategy based on customer data.
The company doesn’t charge you a monthly fee, but it takes a small percentage of every sale. At the beginning, you have to pay 9% + 30¢ per transaction. However, after you reach a milestone of $1,000, that percentage will drop to 7% + 30¢. Finally, once you make $10,000 on sales, Gumroad will take 5% of your income.
Lulu has publishing options for eBooks, paperbacks, photo books, magazines, comic books, yearbooks, calendars and more. It provides access to the largest marketplaces like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Gardners, Google Play, Ingram, Kobo, Libri, Scribd. This aggregator also provides its own marketplace where you can receive 80% royalties.
Since Lulu integrates with Shopify, you can list your book on this platform. Every customer order will come directly to the aggregator. Orders for physical books will be sent through Lulu’s Print API to the production and fulfillment facilities. After the order is placed, the book is jerked fully automatically and delivered to the customer.
BookBaby is a self-publishing service provider for eBooks, paperbacks and hardcovers. Its major marketplaces include Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Powell’s Books, Books-A-Million, Ingram, and Baker & Taylor.
The company additionally provides design, copywriting and advertising services. If you are unsure about your content quality, you can request editing or proofreading directly at BookBaby. In addition, there is a feature that allows you to build your store to sell straight to your readers, and you can earn 50% royalties for printed books and 85% royalties for eBooks. Publishing fees of BookBaby depend on a book type, genre and page count.
At Draft2Digital, you can publish your eBooks, audiobooks and paperbacks with Print-on-Demand technology. Their distribution is possible on the largest marketplaces like Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, OverDrive and Baker & Taylor. The company charges no fees for formatting or updating your book, and it only takes a 10% profit share.
After publishing your eBook or audiobook with Smashwords, you can sell it on their own marketplace or distribute it through Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, Tolino, OverDrive, Browns Books, Baker & Taylor and Gardners. Smashwords has many powerful tools for authors to make publishing and distribution processes fast and easy.
Self-publishing at IngramSpark gives you access to the most popular distribution channels such as Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, Barnes & Noble. The company has a $25 publishing fee for eBooks and $49 for paperbacks and hardcovers. If you need both a digital book and a print version, you will still pay $49. The printing options of IngramSpark are wider than in most self-publishing companies since it offers various trim sizes and ink colors.
Get started with Amazon KDP
To get started with self-publishing on Amazon, you have to set up your personal account. It requires just a few simple steps described below.
Create an account
First, visit Amazon KDP and sign into your existing Amazon account or sign up for a new one.
Next, carefully read the Amazon agreement and accept the Kindle Direct Publishing Terms and Conditions.
When you see the box saying that your account information is incomplete, click on the Update Now button.
Then, enter author or publisher information, add payment and banking details and complete the tax interview. Finally, click Confirm to save your data.
Once you’ve created a KDP account, all the functions of the KDP Bookshelf become available to you. Your Bookshelf is the hub of your KDP account, where you can manage your existing products and create a new book or series.
The bookshelf contains not only published books but also eBooks and paperbacks in review and your drafts. You can advertise and edit them, updating details like the description, cover image, and list price.
If you need help with self-publishing on Amazon, use a step-by-step guide called KDP Jumpstart, which covers four major milestones: Getting Started, Book Details, Manuscripts & Cover, and Rights & Pricing. With instructions, videos and insider tips from KDP Jumpstart, you will easily set up your KDP account and transform your manuscript into a best selling book.
Amazon KDP Community
Become part of the largest Amazon KDP Community with over 46,000 members and find quick help, exchange ideas or get useful tips on self-publishing.