An Introduction to Using Amazon KDP for Self-Publishing
Introduction to KDP costs and royalties | Key benefits and features | Competitors and alternatives | Other options for selling books on Amazon | Considerations before establishing your free account | A guide to account setup | FAQ & resources
An Introduction to Using Amazon KDP for Self-Publishing

An Introduction to Using Amazon KDP for Self-Publishing

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s easiest way to self-publish and market eBooks and print books, both paperback and hardcover—and it’s free.

It is not the only way to sell books or eBooks on Amazon, and it’s not only for self-publishers.

This article will provide you with

  • a brief history, including why KDP is significant,
  • an introduction to costs and royalties,
  • a summary of key benefits and features,
  • competitors/alternatives to using KDP for self-publishers,
  • other options for selling books on Amazon,
  • considerations before establishing your free account,
  • a guide to account setup,
  • and finally, an FAQ based on our 13 years of experience using KDP for client books and our own books.

Clarification: we use the term “publisher” and “self-publisher” interchangeably in this article, as they mean the same thing in KDP. KDP is not limited to self-publishers—publishers and hybrid publishers use it as well.

Before Kindle Direct Publishing, there was Digital Text Platform

DTP was launched by Amazon in 2007, and it paid royalties of 35% to publishers. That may seem like a low royalty compared to KDP’s current top-tier payout of 70%, but it isn’t too much less than publishers (and self-publishers) get today when a print book is sold.

In 2010, around the time when Apple launched the iPad and the iBooks store (since 2018, simply called Apple Books), Amazon increased its royalty payout to 70% to match the royalty Apple paid to publishers.

It would be impossible to overstate the significance of what this meant at that time.

  1. Anyone with a manuscript could upload their file to KDP and it would appear for sale in the largest bookstore in the world.
  2. Anyone with a Kindle device—and soon after, a Kindle app—could easily buy and read the book.

It was an end-to-end solution for writers and readers alike, especially writers who couldn’t get past gatekeepers. Overnight, people like Karen McQuestion, John Locke, and Darcie Chan (see story headline below) became overnight stars for this new route to publishing.

Kindle self-publishing costs and royalties are largely unchanged since 2010

KDP is free to use; virtually anyone can establish an account and publish a paperback, hardcover, or Kindle eBook. There are a few times, however, when you will need to spend money.

Print books costs

Anyone can upload PDFs of the cover and inside of a book and publish it in print. Books are printed individually when ordered, a process called print-on-demand (POD). The cost of printing and Amazon’s sales commission are subtracted from the retail price you set, and you get what remains.

Every print book requires an ISBN, provided free by Amazon or available to buy on your own. If you use the free ISBN, no one but Amazon can print your book. Read our advice about this topic or see David Wogahn’s book My Publishing Imprint.

Other costs you may incur for print books are optional, such as ordering printed proofs. You can order a maximum of five at a time, and Amazon has several printing locations around the world to make delivery less expensive. You pay any shipping costs, even if you are a member of Prime.

Print book royalties

Publishers are paid 60% of the retail price of their book when sold on Amazon, less the manufacturing cost of printing the book, which depends on dimensions and the number of pages.

Publishers can also choose to sell their book in other online bookstores such as Barnes & Noble. In that case you receive 40% of the retail price, less the manufacturing costs.

Background note: Amazon used to provide POD services via another subsidiary, CreateSpace. This was folded into KDP in 2018. KDP began offering case laminate hardcover books in 2021. If you want a hardcover with dust jacket, you need to use another printer, such as IngramSpark.

Kindle eBook costs

Technically, the only cost a publisher incurs is when their Kindle eBook is sold under the 70% royalty program. Called “delivery charges,” the fee is $0.15 per megabyte of eBook file size, and it’s subtracted from the royalty payout you receive, much like the cost of manufacturing a print book.

Kindle eBook royalties

Generally speaking, if you price your eBook between $2.99 and $9.99, you may receive a 70% royalty (less delivery charges). Outside this range, the royalty is 35%.

Rules and exceptions for costs and royalties

Alas, this topic can be complicated and is subject to numerous rules. Fortunately, we have a detailed guide to Amazon KDP costs and royalties that covers it more thoroughly.

Amazon KDP Services At a Glance

Key features and benefits unique to KDP

KDP began as a platform to upload books to the Amazon shopping store. Since then, they have added marketing capabilities and expanded their support forum. In this section, we’ll focus on marketing capabilities, each of which is free to use.

KDP Select: only eBooks

Perhaps KDP’s most popular marketing tool is KDP Select. As long as your eBook is unavailable in any other eBook store, you can enroll it for a 90-day term. There are several advantages to doing so:

  • Your Kindle eBook can be borrowed by members of Amazon’s eBook-reading subscription service, Kindle Unlimited. This program is enormously popular with avid readers, so it’s a proven way to attract new readers to an unfamiliar book or author.
  • When your book is borrowed by a reader, you are paid for each page they read.
  • During the 90-day term, you can offer one of two price promotions to market your book even more widely.
  • If you selected the 70% royalty, you get paid at that rate for eBook purchases originating from Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and India (otherwise it’s 35%).

See our article for more details about KDP Select, including a guide to determine whether it is right for your eBook.

A+ Content

Have you noticed that some books’ product detail pages on Amazon have extra images, captions, and comparison tables? This “brochure-like” content is called A+ Content, and you can add it via KDP for print or eBooks.

To add A+ Content, your book must be available through KDP. Books listed on Amazon using third-party self-publishing portals like IngramSpark, Draft2Digital, and PublishDrive are excluded.

See our articles on creating A+ Content, including examples like the one below.

(Note: non-POD books sold on Amazon can have A+ Content. Small publishers can use Amazon’s Advantage program for this purpose.)

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Author pages (Author Central) and Amazon Ads

You do not need a KDP account to create an author page using Author Central, or to create Amazon Ads, but both are integrated into KDP. These are available to any author, regardless of publisher.

Other marketing programs

Amazon considers Kindle pre-order a marketing benefit, but you can list your eBook for sale on Amazon before its release date by using other platforms (see below).

Amazon also encourages publishers to nominate their books for special promotion to shoppers, but we’ve found that only those books with wide appeal and strong sales track records are selected for inclusion.

KDP is not the only self-publishing platform—competitors and alternatives

A self-publishing platform is a service that enables anyone to independently publish and distribute their own written works, specifically print books, eBooks, and audiobooks. Some platforms, like KDP, are connected to a specific store or stores, such as

Self-publishing platforms that are most like KDP

Each of these platforms have a self-service portal connected to an online bookstore for readers to buy books:

  • Apple Books
  • Barnes & Noble Press
  • Kobo
  • Google Play

Distributors/aggregators submit your book to multiple stores

You don’t need to use KDP to sell a print or eBook on Amazon. If you have a lot of books, or want to sell your book(s) in lots of stores, it’s easier to use a company that can do that for you instead of you setting up accounts with multiple stores.

The downside is that they charge a fee, and you lose some control over how your book’s information (metadata) is presented in those stores. Sales reporting and payment processing can also take more time.

Examples of those businesses include:

  • Draft2Digital (they also own Smashwords)
  • PublishDrive
  • IngramSpark
  • BookBaby

KDP is by far the largest self-publishing platform, and Amazon sells the most books. Some of these distributors allow you to have a direct relationship with KDP while they service other stores.

Other options for selling books on Amazon

Amazon has three other services for selling books on Amazon. Amazon Seller Central/Marketplace is used for selling print books, especially used books; and Amazon Advantage is used for selling new books. To learn more about these programs, see our article explaining Amazon Seller Central and Amazon Advantage (includes a comparison table and FAQs).

For audiobooks, you need to use Amazon’s third service, Audiobook Creation Exchange, ACX works much like KDP in that anyone can establish an account and use it to publish an audiobook to retailers. Those retailers include Amazon, Audible, and Apple.

(An alternative to ACX is Findaway Voices, owned by Spotify.)

Considerations before establishing your free account

The most important consideration is the email address you wish to use, because Amazon accounts are tied to email addresses. If you have an Amazon account for shopping, you can use it for KDP. Doing so makes it easier in that you won’t miss important emails, because you’ll have a single account for all communications—shopping and book publishing.

You can certainly use a different email, if you wish to keep communications separate. This is entirely up to you.

Note that Prime shipping benefits do not extend to KDP. When you buy author copies of your print book, you pay shipping costs.

A guide to account setup

Before beginning, you’ll need the following:

  • Your name or business name, address, and phone number.
  • Your banking information if you wish to be paid electronically (EFT). You can also elect payment by check or wire transfer, but there are minimum payment thresholds and there may be fees. Amazon has a list of available payment methods based on your bank’s location.
  • Your tax information, so Amazon can report income from royalties. (Any local sales taxes, such as VAT, are subtracted from your royalties.)

Visit and sign up using your preferred email address. You’ll see it supports seven languages.

The name of your business, or your name, is not publicly disclosed and need not match the name of your publishing business. In fact, your account can have books that use multiple publishing imprint names.

Amazon KDP My Account page-Company Profile Getting Paid Tax Information

Frequently asked questions

Is there a separate KDP for each country?

No, KDP is available in several languages, and books are sold in all the countries Amazon serves.

Can I use KDP if my former publisher gave me my book back?

Yes, but make sure you have a signed document from the former publisher giving you permission to publish your book. Amazon may request to see it. For more on this, see our guide to republishing books.

Can KDP be shared by several people?

Each account is managed with a single email, single bank or payment arrangement, and a single tax ID. Amazon doesn’t check to see how many people use, own, or control this information.

Can I use KDP along with other self-publishing portals?

Yes, this is not uncommon at all.

What is the best self-publishing company?

It is arguable if Kindle Direct Publishing is the best, but Amazon sells the most books and KDP has the most robust set of self-service tools and services for authors and small publishers.

Is KDP only for self-publishers?

No! But think of Kindle Direct Publishing as a self-service publishing platform. Traditional publishers need services that support the publication and management of hundreds and thousands of books, so KDP would never work for them. Its intended market is individuals and small publishers with much lower publishing volumes.

How much does KDP cost?

There are no set-up or monthly fees. You are paid when print or Kindle eBooks are sold.

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