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Amazon KDP: Pros and Cons for Authors

By: Chris O'Brien

I'd like to give a quick crash course on Amazon's book publishing platform called, "Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing" (aka Amazon KDP).

The TL:DR summary - As much as I love supporting small and local options, Amazon's platform is a "frustratingly good" option for authors. The undeniable upsides: Low cost for printing. Free ISBN. No hassle with order fulfillment. Easy to link people to your book. Worldwide reach.

The bummer: I feel like I'm fueling Jeff Bezos further into space.

I've pulled a bunch of screenshots from my book of essays titled Here or There (shameless plug: it's available here on Amazon) to use as visuals. Let's dive in.

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing - The name sounds like it's only for ebooks on the Kindle. But the platform allows authors to publish paperback copies as well. Amazon also has a hardcover option currently in a Beta version.

^ Kindle Vella is an intriguing new option. Authors can serialize their book, publishing one chapter at a time. I think we'll have a whole post about this in the future. I don't know enough about it yet.

How hard is it to publish a book on Amazon?

Writing a book is no easy task. The writing, editing, cover design, formatting. All these steps are difficult and extremely time-consuming.

But the actual uploading of files to Amazon? That's pretty easy. It's about as hard as filling out a form at the doctor's office mixed with attaching a file to an email.

Here's a look at my "Bookshelf" inside the Amazon platform.

I wrote a description of the book, picked the genre, and put my name as the author. Then I picked the size and some details about the cover.

Then it was time to upload the manuscript and finished cover (Amazon has templates you or your designer can download and work from).

Amazon has a great online preview tool too so you can see exactly what your book will look like when it's printed. Make sure everything's lined up correctly.

Then you set the price for your book:

Amazon automatically calculates your royalty at each price point. Using mine as an example:

  • I set the price at $19.99

  • I make $8.30 (royalty) every time the book sells for $19.99 on

  • I make $4.30 when it's sold via a retailer in the "expanded distribution" channels

Hit the publish button and then, 1-2 days later, my book was live on Amazon available worldwide.

The Biggest Selling Point for Amazon KDP (in my opinion)

The ease of the process is nice. The fact that whenever anyone orders a copy I don't have to do anything in terms of fulfilling the order, that's nice too. The free ISBN. The quality of the books. All good things.

But where I think Amazon delivers the biggest value is when ordering "author copies." Author copies are your book at the wholesale price. If you want to sell your books at a book signing or an event, that's where author copies come in handy.

My book is right around 225 pages long. I can order 1 print-on-demand copy from Amazon for $3.69 (+ shipping and handling).

I don't know of anywhere else that offers the ability to do print-on-demand of 1 copy for that low of a price.

Most printers I'd need to order 500 copies to get down to that low of a price (interestingly enough Amazon's price stayed at $3.69 whether I ordered 1 copy or 500).

Are there any downsides to using Amazon... other than Amazon being a $1.7 trillion company and Bezos doing the whole spaceman thing?

Most self-published books sell 50 copies or less. I think Here or There ended up somewhere between 50 and 100 copies sold.

In my opinion, since there aren't that many orders to fulfill, the goal of a first book should be all about knowing who the readers are, offering them some type of unique book experience (like a signed copy), and then adding them to a newsletter to stay in contact for your next book.

With Amazon, there's no ability to see who your readers/buyers are. Maybe if they leave a review, but even those can be pretty anonymous.

I think this is a major bummer and would suggest authors who use Amazon buy up 10-20 author copies and sell them directly. This way you can gather contact info to start building your fan base/readership base for future books.

Weird Pricing Things

Right now, the paperback for Here or There shows up on Amazon at a price of $4.21. I don't know how this happened or what this means. And it's weird because there are 7 other new copies available more in the $15-20 range.

Things like this are an example of the author losing some pricing control on the platform.

Local bookstores are not fans of Amazon

Local independent bookstores use a platform called Ingram / IngramSpark as their preferred fulfillment platform. There's a lot of friction if you come in with an Amazon title and try to get it on their shelves. Most bookstores will say, "No thanks," and point the author to Ingram.

(I ended up putting Here or There on IngramSpark too).

Needle in a Haystack

It's nice to have the Amazon link and share that on Facebook or LinkedIn, which makes it easy for your network to find your book.

But for someone to randomly find it via search... good luck. I think there are 10 million books listed on Amazon.

Happy Medium?

From my experience, I'd recommend the following strategy if you plan on using Amazon KDP:

Use Amazon mainly as a printer - I loved that I could order 10-20 copies at $3.69 a book. Not having boxes and boxes of author copies in our storage unit is a nice feature.

This allowed me to sell Here or There on Long Overdue Books. It's much less crowded. I can setup an order form and know who's buying the book. Add them to the monthly newsletter. And fulfill these orders with signed copies. I think that makes it feel more personal and since I'm not selling that many copies, it's not overwhelming at all to ship the books.

Publish via IngramSpark as well - It's helpful to get into local bookstores to expand your audience reach. Best to use the process and platform the local bookstores prefer.

The Long Game - Goes back to the first point, but I really think the first 1-3 books an author writes, the goal is mainly about growing an audience of 250 - 1,000 people. Everything you can do to build a subscriber list is crucial in the long run to keep building momentum.

I believe the author's journey is more of a marathon than a sprint. With these tips above, I hope you can find a way to utilize Amazon's efficiency without sacrificing the personal touch.

I'm always interested in hearing from fellow authors about their books - whether they're in the idea stage, almost published, or published stage. If you'd like to connect, send me an email here. Thanks for reading and hope this blog was helpful!

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