Getting Started – Getting Better

Where to Publish

KDP: Kindle Direct Publishing


Amazon and Kindle are the OG of the digital self-publishing world.

Not, mind you, the OG of the self-publishing world. Self-publishing goes back to at least 1843, when Charles Dickens self-published A Christmas Carol. (Hint: it wasn’t the greatest financial move for him. He paid so much to gussy up the binding and other details, he made very little money from first print run, despite selling selling out quickly.)

Amazon launched its Kindle e-reader, and with it the associated digital-publishing platform, November 19, 2007.

The first Kindle reader sold for $399, sold out in five and a half hours, and took Amazon another five months to restock.

Early authors made a lot of money from the platform. At least one teen became a millionaire based on her writing. Most of the original content hovered in realms of fanfaction — often bad fanfiction. Nowadays, self-publishing authors have to step up their game to make anything. There are, however, self-published authors who pull down six figures and more, even now.

I was an idiot who missed the bandwagon. I received a direct invitation to write for Kindle in 2005, and their guidelines left me cross-eyed. Instead of figuring it out, I blew it off until 2013.

Genius move. Right up there with not buying bitcoins for a dollar apiece in 2009 or so. Broke or not, I could’ve dropped five bucks here and there and been a whole lot better of financially in 2023.

Nowadays, Amazon is truly the benchmark everyone else wants to copy, and the simplest, lowest-cost option for beginning authors. A mastery of publishing through KDP makes jumping to other platforms simpler. Once you’ve got the basics under your proverbial belt, only tweaks will be needed to fit a new platform.

The pros:

  1. Publish an eBook 100% for free. There’s no setup fee, no Amazon costs whatsoever. Amazon takes its cut out of sales, and sends the rest to the author.
  2. The only author print-publishing costs from Amazon are for hard copies (proofs and author copies) and shipping. Again, Amazon takes its cut out of sales and pays the rest to the author.
  3. Amazon holds the biggest market share for books, both ebooks and print.
  4. The KDP platform manages both print and ebook publishing from the same workspace.
  5. Preview books – both print and ebook – online before publishing.
  6. Order author copies of print books at a significant discount. Great for book-signing events!
  7. A free ISBN is provided for print books, if the author wants one.

The cons:

  1. Amazon gives preferential treatment (including payment) to those who publish with them exclusively.
  2. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited pays by pages read — at a price set by Amazon, not by the author.
  3. Wide distribution is problematic. Print copies for wide distribution are sold at a lower cost to wholesalers, which is normal. However, those copies are often sold for a lower cost on Amazon — undercutting those sold directly from the author.
  4. Because Amazon is such a huge bookseller, the vast majority of books get lost in the shuffle. Many never sell a single copy other than to friends and family.
  5. It can be difficult or impossible to reach an Amazon support person in the event of a problem.
  6. No author copies are available for hardback books. They can only be purchased retail.