Amazon KDP Review

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP): Honest Review 2024

Amazon KDP ReviewAmazon Kindle Direct Publishing—also known as KDP—has been the center of attention in the world of self-publishing since late-2007. Many authors and self-publishers flock to KDP hoping to fulfil their dreams of author stardom or self-publishing riches. Let’s explore KDP as it stands today and what folks can expect from this platform.

I’ll thoroughly explore all elements of KDP, leaving nothing unexamined. By the end of this video, you’ll have a clearer understanding of how Kindle Direct Publishing functions and if it’s right for you.

Amazon KDP: eBooks

KDP distributes ebooks to thirteen regions within the Amazon ecosystem. How you get paid for ebooks gets a little tricky. Ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99, you get 70% of each sale minus a delivery fee. KDP bases the fee on your ebook’s file size. Smaller files get smaller delivery fees, whereas larger files cost higher fees. Four regions—Japan, India, Brazil and Mexico—will not honor the 70% royalty unless you’re enrolled in KDP Select. More about that in a moment.

For any ebooks priced outside of $2.99 and $9.99, only get a 35% royalty, but you have NO delivery fees. This means an ebook priced at $19.99 will get the same royalty as a book priced at $9.99. They need to do away with this outdated royalty system to stay competitive with all other self-publishing companies.

Public domain works are automatically 35% with no ability to increase the royalty. If you plan to publish public domain works, you’ll need to create something unique about the book or KDP will reject it. They have enough public domain works, so they don’t need the 50,000th version of Think and Grow Rich on their platform.

KDP Select

KDP Select is a 90-day exclusivity program for ebooks that places your publication into lending programs called Kindle Unlimited. You get paid per pages read based on the KDP Select Global Fund every month. This fund is what Amazon makes from membership sales, so they distribute the monthly pot to enrolled ebooks based on performance.

The issue is you cannot publish your ebook anywhere else during your 90-day agreement. You can publish the print books and audiobooks with no issue, it just affects the enrolled ebook.

A lot of authors get confused about this option, often thinking that publishing through Amazon KDP means you have to remain exclusive to them. Exclusivity only applies to any ebooks enrolled in the program.

And the other big issue is historically you’re paid less than half a cent per page read and there’s been little sign of it improving. They’d recently had a record month of $50 million in the KDP Select Global Fund and it’s not surprising if you consider that Amazon recently increased the monthly subscription fee from $9.99 to $11.99. Yet, authors have seen no increase in payouts.

However, enrolling your ebook in KDP Select comes with several advantages.

Any time a customer checks out your book through Kindle Unlimited, your ebook’s best seller rank increases as if it had a sale. This means your ebook could become a bestseller without even making a sale.

Also, your enrolled ebook gets two unique marketing options to use every ninety days. You get a five-day free book promotion or a seven-day Kindle Countdown Deal. The first option seems like a total waste, but distributing free copies of your book can increase reviews, encourage backlog sales, and even goose the Amazon algorithm, gaining some favor for post-promotion sales. While the five-day free promo isn’t quite effective as it once was for post-promo sales, it still helps in building recommendations for within your niche.

The 7-Day Kindle Countdown Deal—only for US and UK distribution—is where you set a pricing promotion for your ebook. Amazon provides a countdown clock on your product page and enters it into the special Kindle Countdown Deal category for additional marketing across the US and UK Amazon Marketplaces. The best part about the deal is you get paid the original royalty rate despite the price dropping below $2.99. This means if you have a book priced at $9.99 and drop it to $0.99, then you’ll still get the 70% royalty per sale. Nice, right?

The only catch to these two promotional options is that you can use one or the other and not both. You CAN, however, split up the promotional days throughout the 90-day agreement period.

Once you enroll your ebook in KDP Select, it’ll automatically renew every ninety days unless you go into the KDP Select Info for your book under the ellipsis and deselect the KDP Select auto-renew feature. You still must fulfill the remaining part of the 90-day agreement despite deselecting the auto-renew option. Should you want to break the agreement, hit up support through the “Contact Us” link in the bottom of your dashboard.

Kindle Vella

Kindle Vella offers serialized content where readers can unlock and read episodes using in-app purchases called tokens on the Amazon US Marketplace. When a customer reads or “unlocks” an episode, they scroll through the content instead of swipe through it. Unlike normal ebook distribution on KDP, Vella provides a native word processor with minor formatting tools like bold, italics, strikethrough, and more. They do not support images, graphics, or charts and cater primarily to fiction readers. Can nonfiction authors publish here? Sure! Although, Kindle Vella favors fiction work, primarily romance and erotica.

Authors provide serialized content that can be 600 to 5,000 words per episode. KDP pays authors fifty percent of the revenue plus performance-based monthly bonuses. This bonus is based on customer activity such as redemptions of free and paid Tokens, Faves, and Follows, and the total number of Kindle Vella stories that qualified to receive a bonus that month. Near the 20th of each month, KDP posts the previous month’s bonus amount in the Community tab of your KDP dashboard.

Recently, KDP announced some upcoming changes that include:

  • The first ten episodes are free to readers. They decided to offer ten episodes instead of three, as they believed more customers would unlock more episodes with their tokens.
  • Amazon provided customers 200 free tokens to use on Kindle Vella, but are putting an end to it since offering the first ten episodes free.
  • Customers only have to pay 10 tokens per episode. Previously, the token cost was based on the number of words in an episode, making token spend unpredictable for readers. This works out well for the customers, but the authors are left with a pittance for each unlocked episode.

Right now, 100 tokens that unlock 10 episodes costs $0.99. For 2,000 tokens—or about 200 episodes—they pay $16.79. This means you could get paid about $0.08 to $0.10 per episode, but that’s a fifty/fifty split with KDP, leaving you netting $0.04 to $0.05 per episode. Many authors leveraging Kindle Vella have to rely on the monthly bonus, yet the amount is unreliable and confusing.

Despite Kindle Vella being available since July 2021, the program hasn’t extended beyond the US for authors AND readers. I’m wondering if we’ll see Kindle Vella last for the long run. Time will tell.

Amazon KDP: Print books

Paperbacks

KDP Print rolled out around late-2016, then the Amazon-owned print-on-demand company, CreateSpace, merged with KDP in late-2018. They offer sixteen trim sizes with a minimum to maximum page count from 24 to 828—though that varies based on the type of book printed. You can select 50- to 61-pound white or cream paper. If you’re looking to publish full color, you have two options in standard and premium.

Keep in mind, the base costs for printing books rely on a good, better, best system where black and white is good, standard color is better, and premium color is best. With each incremental increase in quality, the print costs increase. To be clear, YOU don’t pay for these costs; the customer does. You’re just going to get paid a percentage of profits beyond the wholesale cost of the book.

Should a customer return your book, you don’t pay a dime! The print quality of KDP’s paperback books is pretty good with slight deviations from one region to the next. Amazon doesn’t use the same printers for global distribution; instead, they rely on printers from each region, so it keeps their distribution costs to a minimum.

Ordering proofs is as simple as uploading your content, then hitting the Request Proof button on the last step of the upload process. Sadly, you’ll get a copy with a “Not for Resale” watermark inconveniently placed on the front cover.

If you want a copy without the watermark, you’ll need to publish or schedule a publication date for your paperback. Then, you can order author copies at the wholesale price plus shipping. Sadly, the delivery time varies from about ten to fourteen days.

Should you want your books faster, I recommend ordering directly through Amazon. Sure, you’ll pay full retail price, but you’ll get paid the royalties from the sale, and if you have Amazon Prime, you can get the book within three to five days.

Once you hit publish on a paperback book, it can take anywhere from one to three days. If you’re publishing low content books, it’s been my experience that it takes much longer, sometimes up to two weeks.

The latest feature to roll out for print books is scheduling. This option is great if you want your paperback’s product page available on a specific release date. Use this option at least one to two months in advance if you want to order author copies in time for your launch. A member in my Discord community had shared how he’d used this option just two weeks prior to the scheduled launch date, yet he could not get author copies on-time to sell at an in-person launch party. So, plan ahead!

Will KDP offer the pre-order option for print books? Time will tell. I have no inside intel, but will keep you abreast of any updates on any changes. Subscribe to this channel and my podcast channel to get all the latest in self-publishing news.

Side note: KDP provides a free-ISBN—or international standard book number—for all print books. ISBNs uniquely identify a specific edition of a book, making it easier for libraries, bookstores, and readers to locate and purchase the book. That KDP-assigned ISBN is exclusive to the Amazon platform and you can’t use it elsewhere. If you want to provide your own ISBN, you can use that number anywhere you wish. For your region-specific ISBN registration company, visit DaleLinks.com/ISBN.

Hardcover Books

KDP rolled out the hardcover option around mid- to late-2021, offering hardback books in five trim sizes with a minimum to maximum page count  of 75-550. They offer black and white print on white and cream paper in 50- to 61-pound, and premium color printing on 60- to 71-pound. Much like paperback, you can choose a matte or glossy finish for the cover.

The base print cost is significantly higher than paperbacks. Of course, it’s cheapest in black and white print, and most expensive with premium color print. However, KDP currently doesn’t have the mid-tier option of standard color right now. I imagine they’ll eventually roll this out as an option.

Also, KDP does NOT offer dust jackets for your books. If you want dust jackets or standard color options, consider looking into platforms like IngramSpark, Bookvault, Lulu, or Barnes and Noble Press.

Similar to paperback books, you can schedule a launch date for your hardcover book. Just remember to set it up at least one to two months in advance if you want to order copies to have on-hand.

I’ve not had the best experience with print quality for KDP’s hardcover option. Yes, it gets to me in record time, but it seems to forego quality control. Many hardcover editions arrive warped or subpar for the cost. Should you ever run into that issue, report it to KDP. In a lot of instances, you can contact Amazon directly to have a replacement copy shipped to you.

Print Royalties & Distribution

KDP distributes paperback books to twelve Amazon regions, while hardback books go to nine unique regions with the tenth region of Canada lumped in with US distribution. You get paid 60% minus print fees for every print book order.

Currently, KDP Print offers an option called Expanded Distribution for paperback books, not hardcovers. Ingram Book Group handles Expanded Distribution to ONLY their US and UK fulfillment. This company reaches over 40,000 online retailers, libraries, and brick-and-mortar bookstores. KDP only uses part of that distribution. I’m not sure why since KDP Print’s predecessor, CreateSpace, used all of Ingram’s distribution.

If you want to leverage more of Ingram’s reach, go directly to the source through IngramSpark. You’ll get better royalties and control over your metadata too. The base print costs are a little higher, but you can control your royalty rate between 45% to 60% royalty minus print fees. With Expanded Distribution, you get only 40% minus print fees. That’s a 5% lower than what IngramSpark offers at their deepest wholesale discount to 20% lower than what you get in the best-case scenario with IngramSpark or KDP’s Amazon distribution royalty.

If you don’t want the hassle of managing two different accounts, then you can always select Expanded Distribution. I know for some folks, 20% fewer royalties isn’t a big deal in exchange for the time saved of managing both accounts.

When a customer buys your book, you will not see that order in your sales reports until the print copy ships. This can take anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks, depending on the region. For expanded distribution, you won’t see that until thirty days after the close of the month, since the aggregate distribution channel has to report it to KDP, then KDP will report it to you.

Most months, you’ll see a massive bulk order appear in your sales reports in the latter part of the month. Usually, it’s about one day of a bulk reporting with a lighter day following it.

Amazon KDP: Audiobooks

Recently, KDP shocked the world when they publicly announced their new program for distributing audiobooks with digital narration. The catch? You must be invited to this closed beta program. Authors get to price their audiobooks between $3.99 to $14.99 and will get 40% of every sale through distribution to Amazon and Audible.

Of course, you’ll have to have a published ebook to qualify for the closed beta program. It doesn’t appear that you have to be enrolled in KDP Select to get access. I left a link in the description below if you want to request access.

Overall, I’ve heard positive remarks about the AI narration, with some saying it’s decent and others saying it’s good, but just not good enough. With digital narration rolling out to various platforms like Google Play Books, Findaway Voices and more, it’s no surprise that KDP wants to capitalize on artificial intelligence.

Beyond those details, I have no additional information about audiobook publishing via KDP. Stay tuned for all the relevant updates and news.

Amazon KDP: Miscellaneous Features & Options

Reports Dashboard

The reports dashboard is where you’ll get all the relevant data about book sales. Recently, the dashboard saw an update and complete overhaul. As KDP was ready to sunset the old reports dashboard, they decided at the last minute to keep it. Since the massive update, I’ve had sporadic display issues, nothing major. So, if you find it’s acting up or not giving you the reports you want, visit the old reports dashboard.

Marketing Dashboard

The Marketing Tab gives you a variety of ways to market your book through integration with KDP Select enrollment, Amazon Advertising, Author Central, A+ Content, KDP Select Price Promotions, and Nominate Your Ebook.

You can also access most of these features through each book in your dashboard under the “Promote & Advertise” button.

Amazon Ads is available to account holders willing to plunk money down for premium placement in the marketplace. When you select this option, you’ll be whisked over to the Amazon Advertising platform based on the region you select. Before you spend any money on ads, I highly recommend taking the free online Amazon Advertising Certification Course. Select the question mark in the top right corner of your dashboard, then click “Training Courses.” After that, dive into any number of courses, from Sponsored Ads to KDP-Specific modules.

Author Central is a free-to-use service on Amazon where you have an author profile and claim any books you published.

Side note: if you’re publishing books on Amazon without KDP, you can access Amazon Ads there. I’ve got an entire video series based on how to use Author Central, so give that a watch.

A+ Content is a section known as “From the Publisher” that’s usually listed below your book description, but above the reviews. You can include images, comparison charts, and text that’ll entice browsing customers with more details. Leverage the text-based modules for increased discovery. Per the Amazon Advertising Certification Courses, the Amazon algorithm indexes text-based A+ Content. Double dip with text- and image-based modules when you add a keyword to every image.

To nominate your ebook, you can submit two ebooks for additional marketing opportunities and one book for Prime Reading. I landed the Prime Reading option for one of my children’s books and the promotion went REALLY well. In fact, I hadn’t been earning a dime from that book for months when they accepted my nomination. That brief spike in pages read looked good on my sales report and bolstered additional sales and page reads beyond the promotion.

You can set the nomination to renew automatically or change your choice manually every ninety days. KDP typically sends out an email to let you know when the nomination period is ending and if you’re set to auto-renew or not.

Community Tab

The Community tab is a KDP-specific forum, having its share of pros and cons. KDP is great about posting updates and relevant news in the Community tab, but the drawback is you’ll run into some rather short-tempered yet well-meaning authors.

To be clear, the staff is always professional and never demeaning to anyone on the forum. It’s just a select few authors who seem inclined to snarky and condescending banter. The Community must be the only place they get attention, otherwise, they’d be a lot more selective with how they treat other people.

But, isn’t that a problem in all walks of online life?

If you’re one of those people, remember that everyone is a newbie at some point. While a question might seem trivial to you, it might seem mountainous to a beginner. Patience goes a long way. Should you ever feel you’re ready to attack someone, take a break. Remember, it’s self-publishing. We’re not handling weapons of mass destruction or brain surgery. Stop taking yourself so seriously.

Amazon KDP: Payments

KDP pays you sixty days after the close of the month. For instance, any sales made in January, they’ll pay you in late-March. Amazon pays account holders through direct deposit, wire transfer, or check. If you’re receiving pay through your bank, you’ll have no minimum payment threshold. Whereas wire transfer and check require a certain amount of money before they pay out. Review their help article of When will I get paid? for details about the minimum threshold based on your region.

If you’re outside of the Amazon regions, lean on services like Payoneer if your bank is not available to KDP.

Pros & Cons of Amazon KDP

Though I can’t share every benefit or drawback of KDP, I will give you the top three pros and cons of the platform.

  1. KDP is the path of least resistance to publish on Amazon. If you’re brand new to the business, you can always take their free online course, KDP Jumpstart. Or, search for any number of questions on YouTube. Hundreds of YouTubers have covered this area from time to bottom. Heck, I’ve got roughly 1,500 videos between two channels, with a vast majority tapping into Amazon KDP.
  2. KDP has a rather competitive royalty structure compared to their competitors. Yes, the higher 70% royalty for ebooks comes with an asterisk or two, but the print books are on-par, if not better than most distributors out there. Heck, print fulfillment comes WAY faster through KDP than other retailers. I’ve tested this out in quite a few videos and not a single platform can match Amazon’s efficiency.
  3. KDP continues to develop and change as time goes on. It’s abundantly clear that Amazon KDP is here to stay. Considering it’s free to distribute in exchange for a share of the revenue, authors have nothing to lose in distributing through KDP. Some authors balk at the revenue share model, but they fail to realize that KDP provides direct access to Amazon’s marketplace where millions of customers come and go every second. Good luck trying to get that same amount of traffic on your own site.

With the good comes the bad, though.

  1. KDP is rather heavy-handed, with account terminations and suspensions. Every account holder agrees to the Terms and Conditions when setting up an account. You’re expected to know every last detail in that agreement, because if you step even slightly afoul of those guidelines, they’ll swiftly terminate your account. The sad part is the only communication you have is through the email notification of your account termination. There’s no support line or phone number for you to call. They should offer access to the “Contact Us” feature in the bottom of the dashboard for ALL account holders, even the terminated ones. That way, when things get hairy, the terminated account holder and KDP can work together to resolve any issues and cover any outstanding concerns.
  2. The reach you get doesn’t extend beyond Amazon, except for Expanded Distribution for paperback. Heck, even expanded distribution offers only US and UK distribution from Ingram Book Group’s wide reach. Might as well go direct to the source for more royalties, more control, and more distribution beyond the US and UK. Should you want to get your ebooks into libraries or other online retailers, you’ll need to consider other options like Kobo Writing Life, Draft2Digital, PublishDrive and more.
  3. The hardcover print option is nice, but it’s limited in trim sizes, doesn’t have standard color printing, and, again, in my experience, the print quality is rather erratic. Not to mention, they don’t offer dust jackets as an option and hardcover books do NOT reach expanded distribution. I’ll bet another two years from now when I eventually update my review, KDP will have that all ironed out. For now, KDP’s hardcovers have room for improvement.

Final Thoughts

I still believe Amazon KDP is the ideal platform for new authors to explore when breaking into this business. Does it have its share of faults? Absolutely, but then again, I don’t know of any one platform that’s perfect for self-publishing. All self-publishing companies have issues and concerns. It’s up to authors to be extra diligent in researching and exploring what is right for their author career.

What are your thoughts about Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing? Have you published any books on their platform? If so, have you had any issues or successes with them? Drop me a comment, I read all of them.

If you’re looking for a viable alternative to Amazon KDP, then check out my previous post about the best alternatives.

See you there!

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