Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) – Reviewed

kdp

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has established itself as the single most recognisable DIY self-publishing platform for authors wanting to publish their books in e-book. Amazon launched Kindle Direct Publishing back in 2007 in beta form and pitched it initially to ‘publishers’ via marketing emails. Amazon had also just launched the first Kindle e-reader hardware—a basic e-ink, black and white text device.

It was clear even back then Amazon saw the Kindle experience as both a facilitator for readers and author/publishers. Since 2007, the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform is available to authors in many countries including USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Australia and Japan, and the supporting Kindle store market now stretches beyond 100 countries. That’s a pretty powerful global reach for any authors, and yet at the heart of Kindle software is mobi; a series of file formats developed by Mobipocket (owned by Amazon since 2005) to develop the software for Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, web-based Cloud Reader and for the Kindle reading apps for Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Windows Phone, PC and Mac. This remains both Amazon’s greatest strength and weakness. Amazon might dominate the e-reader market, but the format of choice for most other device manufacturers is e-Pub. Also, despite a wider range of sophisticated colour e-readers, the Apple iPad remains a more suitable device for colour, heavily illustrated and enhanced e-books.
Confused? Put it this way. Publishing through KDP will give authors a huge market reach for their e-books, but if you want the potential to reach all readers using an e-book, you will need to publish your e-book in e-Pub format (outside of Amazon’s walled garden) with another e-publishing platform as well.  
Authors can upload documents in several formats to KDP for delivery via Whispernet and charge between $0.99 and $200.00 per e-book download (you can sell for free for 5 days per 90-day period sign up to Amazon’s exclusive Select program—more about that later.
I’ve never liked the way Amazon has positioned the location of KDP’s main landing page on their online ecosystem. Drilling through Amazon’s store or affiliate marketplace pages will result in the occasional visual advert for KDP, but I’m still regularly asked in my day-to-day role as a publishing consultant the killer question by new self-published authors: Where the hell do I go to publish on Kindle?
Writing Life may not be a top-of-the-page link on Kobo, but it is there, and likewise, Publish with NOOK Press is there under Nook Books on the main landing page of Barnes & Noble. I guess if you are the number one e-publishing platform, then you don’t have to try too hard!
The KDP main page might not be inspiring or sexy, but it’s clean (lots of white space) and delivers its key selling points for the service (free without any upfront fees). You will need an Amazon account to publish with KDP or you will have to create one before accessing your work dashboard and uploading a book.
Let’s take it step by step.
File Upload
After signing in with your Amazon account (or newly opened account), you can upload your book in a number of different formats.
·  Word (DOC or DOCX)
·  HTML (ZIP, HTM, or HTML)
·  MOBI (MOBI)
·  ePub (EPUB)
·  Plain Text(TXT)
·  Adobe PDF(PDF)
What authors need to remember here is that KDP’s conversion engines will do the conversion online and ideally you really need to upload your internal book file in HTML or MOBI. Using other file formats will result in varying degrees of accuracy and layout in the finished (uploaded) resulting file.  This help page on KDPwill advise on the preparation work and specifications required for each separate file format. I would strongly advise any author to download Calibre’s e-book management tool (free) and use this to work with and test/convert files before upload to KDP. Every file type has its own built-in formatting and the more complex your book file (images, diagrams, tables etc), the greater degree of variable results you will have. The KDP upload (certainly from my experience) is a lot more forgiving than using Smashwords’ meatgrinder, but only because its conversion engine is ‘looser’ with file replication outside of HTML and MOBI files submitted.
Like many e-publishing platforms, along with the upload process, you will need to have all the information needed for the publication of your book to hand. Your KDP dashboard will allow you to update/reload a new version and change other publication details like book description, author (referred to as contributor), publisher name and cover, but I would suggest that an author has all these details to hand in an MS Word file (and your cover file) before starting the process.

 

If you are publishing on KDP, you really should sign-up for an Author Central page. This is free and it will allow authors to reach more readers, promote their books, link blog posts and Twitter feeds, and crucially include a proper and detailed author biography. I’ve no idea why Amazon/KDP didn’t properly integrate Author Central into the upload and registration process.
ISBN & Publisher Imprint
Publishing on Amazon’s KDP does not require an author to have an ISBN. Amazon allocates a unique number to every published book regardless, known as an ASIN. You can use an ISBN of your own, but note: KDP does not supply ISBNs and is not an affiliated agent.  You have the option to specify the imprint name you registered with Bowker/Nielsen when you bought your block of ISBNs. Remember; even though you publish through KDP, you are still required to register publication details and copyright details with the relevant bodies in your country. KDP is a DIY self-publishing and distribution platform, and Amazon, its owner, is fundamentally an online retailer; you still remain the author-publisher and are responsible for all the legal and registry red-tape that goes with that.
General
You can unpublish your book at any time on KDP, and you can change the internal file or cover, or other submitted details, pricing etc. Updates can take 24 to 48 hours to take effect online. Your dashboard will also allow you to alter set retail pricing depending on how many territories your book is available in.
You can choose to enroll in Kindle Select. This pricing and promotional program will let you set your e-book below $2.99 for a period of 90 days. During these 90 days, you will have 5 free promotional days to give your e-book out for free if you choose. Once the 90 days are up, your book will revert to its standard market price. The 90 day period is renewable (including the 5 day free period) but your book must be exclusively sold on Amazon Kindle and on no other online retailer.
What is Kindle Owners’ Library?
If you choose to make a book exclusive to the Kindle Store via Kindle Select, then the book is eligible to be included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. This option is exclusive to authors who are Amazon Prime Members. However, borrowing e-books is only available on Kindle devices, not Kindle reading apps.
Amazon KDP includes a preview tool before you save and commit your book file to publication in the Amazon marketplaces, but I’ve found this preview tool is not always entirely satisfactory. I would recommend you either test your file using Calibre, prior to upload, or downloadKindleGen (a command line tool used to build e-books) and the Kindle Previewer (a tool that emulates as closely as possible how your e-book will display on Kindle devices and applications).  
Royalties and Pricing
Once you have uploaded your e-book project to KDP, it will appear on your main dashboard. Under Rights and Pricing you can specify to sell your book in individual territories or Worldwide. You have the option to select a 35% or 70% royalty rate, but note that download delivery charges will apply to the 70% rate dependent on the size of the file, and not every territory qualifies for the higher rate of royalty. To qualify for the 70% royalty rate, the price of your e-book must be between $2.99 and $9.99 and the list price must be at least 20 percent below the lowest physical list price for the physical book. You can change your royalty and pricing options at a later stage. Full examples can be found here on KDP. If you are not enrolled in Kindle Select, you cannot price below $2.99.
Reports, Payments and Tax Withholding
KDP provide monthly reports on e-book sales, including periods of promotional runs, and all reports can be viewed online by territory from your author dashboard. The main payment report includes your payment amounts, tax withholding, payment type, and other information in a way you can filter by sales period, marketplace, and payment status via drop-down menus on the reports option from your dashboard. Your payment report can be downloaded in Excel format. Payments are made by Amazon for sales in any given month approximately 60 days later.
Amazon KDP requires all author-publishers to supply a valid tax identification number (including non-profit or tax-exempt organizations) in order to comply with USA tax reporting regulations. A United States tax payer number—known as a TIN—is required by Amazon if you are a USA Publisher.  Non-USA publishers must provide a TIN if they are claiming treaty benefits or if their income is effectively connected with a USA trade or business. Non-USA author-publishers do not need a TIN, but you will need to apply for an EIN (individuals/business entities) or ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number), otherwise Amazon KDP will withhold a percentage of your royalties. Once you have obtained your tax number, you will still need to fill out a W8-BEN form for Amazon KDP. For further details on how to go about this procedure, take a look at this excellent post by Catherine Ryan-Howard. Amazon has begun recently to streamline the process of recording and registering your overseas tax details and W8-BEN form submission. It can now be carried out through an online process.
Royalty payments for each of the Kindle Store territories (the ones you have chosen to distribute your book in) are paid automatically and directly to your bank account or sent by check to your address, depending on which payment method you chose during sign up and registration as a KDP author-publisher. Authors should also remember that Amazon KDP, like most e-publishing platforms, impose different payment thresholdsdepending on the method you have chosen to be paid with. Amazon KDP does not pay author-publishers via PayPal.
Overall
Amazon KDP provides a pretty thorough help guide section which covers all the areas you may need advice and help with. Additionally, the Kindle KDP community also offers user support from other Kindle authors and publishers. One further external and independent resource for help is the KBoards forum (Kindle Boards), again a community of authors and publishers using the KDP platform. You can also find many recorded tutorials about using KDP on YouTube.
Amazon’s dominance in the e-book sales market has made it the single most recognised place to go to browse and buy e-books, and I see KDP as the devil you know and can’t really do without if you are a serious DIY self-publisher. But like all DIY self-publishing platforms for e-books, the author-publisher needs some smarts about them. Competent computer skills and a degree of comfort working with basic design specifications is a must. KDP is no Bookbaby or Lulu. This is not assisted self-publishing. KDP does not provide file preparation and formatting services, nor does it provide cover design services. If that sort of stuff perplexes you, then I would strongly recommend you contract the formatting and design services of a professional who will be able to provide you with a completed file ready to directly upload to KDP. You are ultimately the publisher as well as the author, and you are responsible for all the components, registration and book publishing legalities that go with producing and publishing a book.
All that said, KDP remains one of the easiest hands-on DIY self-publishing e-book platforms there is. I find it a great deal easier to navigate and upload work than say, Smashwords. The single biggest disadvantage to using KDP is that you are only publishing to Amazon’s Kindle, and if you want your book available in the universal e-Pub format, and to all e-book readers using other devices, then you will also have to combine publication on Amazon KDP with another e-book platform and distributor.
PROS—Easiest of the DIY publishing platforms to use, attractive royalties, strong author community, huge global reach, flexible author-publisher payment, useful online sales widget tools, transparent terms and help resources.
CONS—Exclusivity if book enrolled in Kindle Select, single walled garden (eggs in one basket-subject to changes in terms and conditions) if bulk of sales from one distribution channel, KDP website lacks visual appeal, no hands-on technical support, Prime members (readers) can only borrow one book a month from Kindle Owners Lending Library, iPad may be more suitable e-reader device for some illustrated and enhanced e-books.
RATING: 8.3/10
UPDATES:

Mick Rooney – Publishing Consultant

If you found this review or article helpful, but you’re still looking for a suitable self-publishing provider to fit your needs as an author, then I’m sure I can help. As a publishing consultant and editor of this magazine, I’ve reviewed and examined in detail more than 150 providers throughout the world like the one above. As a self-published and traditionally published author of nine books, I understand your needs on the path to publication and beyond. So, before you spend hundreds or thousands, and a great deal of your time, why not book one of my personally tailored and affordable consultation sessions today? Click here for more details.
If you would like to leave a comment on an article older than one week, please use the Blogger comment facility rather than the Facebook comment app as we do not monitor FB comments as regularly.

Authors

16 Comments

  1. Mick Rooney said:

    I think some aspects of marketing are under your control as an author, but it is certainly the greatest challenge now in an increasingly crowded arena. Programs like KDP are excellent but just one aspect of self-publishing and I think new authors need to understand that just having a book ‘out there’ is not going to generate sales alone.

  2. Pingback: The Highest Rated Self-Publishing Companies of 2014 | WD Ghostwriting Services

  3. Bill said:

    Kindle Direct Publishing – Not good for new authors

    Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing hampers the ability of new authors.

    1. Amazon’s pricing structure penalizes authors for trying to promote their works at lower prices. Taking more than two thirds of the profits if pricing is lower than $2.99.

    2. Amazon prevents new authors from giving samples of free copies away to entice readers, especially if the author is producing a series.

    In order to utilize a limited version of the above two strategies, Amazon penalizes you with three months exclusivity where you cannot sell you work elsewhere. Basically, they are selling back your right to manage and price your work as a benefit of KDP.

    Advice for new authors: Promote your work at other ebook sellers first, like iBooks, and Smashwords first, for a few months before coming to KDP. Utilize lower pricing and free giveaway strategies elsewhere first where they don’t penalize you for managing your book the way you want to. Only when sales fizzle at other ebook sellers, then go and publish with KDP to access their customer base. I actually sell more books at iBooks than KDP.

    The truth is, if free giveaways and lower price strategies don’t work with all the other places for your book, it won’t work with KDP.

    Some would argue that KDP has the biggest share of the market, but that has no bearing on your sales when you can’t get your work noticed. It’s better to support sites like iBooks whom don’t hamper new authors, and hopefully the market share will begin flowing to author friendly sites. Anyone who tells you different, most likely works for Amazon or has a vested interest to keep Kindle Publishing the way it is for their advantage.

  4. Marcus De Vaca said:

    Hello Mick: Wonderful article. I have a Wattpad novel that has just topped 100,000 reads. Seems like this historical romance is pretty catchy and is growing like 300 to 500 reads a day. Figure it’s time to more it over to KDP. I already have an author’s account on Amazon listing a paper novel through the Advantage program. Since I want to keep my pen name for the KDP book (used on Wattpad), will I need to set up a new account under that name or will my real name suffice?
    Also I am a USA citizen living permanently in Greece. I have a USA bank account. Will I register as a USA Kindle contributor or as someone in Greece? Lastly, will I need a new email account for KDP if I maintain this pen name as the e-books author?

    Thanx in advance.
    ~~Marcus

    • Mick Rooney said:

      Hi Marcus,

      I get so many requests for direct advice like this. Unfortunately so much I can’t provide tailored advice via the comments sections. I’d suggest you visit the Consultation page of the TIPM website.

      Best.

      M.

    • Mick Rooney said:

      Marcus, your book pen name will have nothing to do with the account name you publish on Amazon with. I’d use your Amazon.com US account to access KDP. I don’t believe Amazon have a Greek site and when that is the case, visiting and signing up often defaults back to the USA. Depending on where you are in the world, Amazon control where you can purchase books from. As an example, prior to launching Amazon.nl, Dutch folks could order from Amazon Germany or USA, but many books could not be ordered from Amazon UK.

  5. Brent Runyan said:

    I AM EXTREMELY UNIMPRESSED BY KINDLE’S CUSTOMER SERVICE – & SUSPICOUS ABOUT THEIR FAILURE TO PAY ME. It’s almost funny. Around February 24th, I ran a report to see where some missed royalties were that should have been paid the previous month – only to find to see that those funds according to the report were PAID on February 28th. Of course, not only were the funds not ever transferred to my bank account – but again it was only February 24th and the report said that I was PAID (which means the transfer went through) on February 28th which would be impossible since that date hadn’t come yet.

    I did get a response from their CS Dept which made no sense and didn’t address the issue. I would be extremely surprised if this was an rare occurrence with them.

  6. Pingback: Publishing Service Index: April 2015 | The Independent Publishing Magazine

  7. Pingback: Publishing Service Index: May 2015 | The Independent Publishing Magazine

  8. Pingback: Publishing Service Index: January 2016 | The Independent Publishing Magazine

  9. jeff daniels said:

    Could you help me understand how to set price on kindle and royalties? I have a 214 novella a tom jones rogue
    type adventure. I have no idea how to set a price. Thanks jeff

  10. jonas said:

    Is there any kind of copy right “built in” when you publish through KDP?

    • Mick Rooney said:

      Jonas, copyright is a matter for the publisher and/or author depending on the method of who is taking responsibility to put a work into the public arena. KDP is a platform tool for publishers and authors. It has nothing to do with the preparations authors/publishers take to record copyrights.

  11. ANNE J STEINBERG said:

    R
    I CANNOT GET THRU TO KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING AS THEY PUT MY 6 TITLES UNDER GERMAN I HAVE WRITTEN THEM NUMEROUS TIMES THEY SAY THEY WILL CORRECT THIS BUT THEY NEVER DO.I AM AMERICAN ONLT UNDERSTAND ENGLISH AND THEY CLAIMED SOMEHOW I REQUESTED TO BE SENT INFO IN GERMAN….THIS IS OUTRAGEUIS I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO CORRECT THIS FOR MONTHS.I CANNOT PUT MY TITLES ON THE SALE OPTION SINCE I CAN T READ OR WRITE IN GERMAN. PLEASE ;LOOK UP ANNE STEINBERG MY TITLES ARE MANROOT EVERY TOWN NEEDS A RUSSIAN TEA ROOM FIRST HANDS AND SO ON. I KNOW THIS IS THE WRONG SITE TO COMPLAIN BUT I TRIED DOING IT ON THE PLACE WHERE I CANNOT DO ANYTGING AS ITS IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE, I AM PLEADING WITH YOU THEY SAID THEY WILL CORRECT THIS THEY NEVER DO…I CANNOT PUT MY TITLES ON THE FREE TIMES
    HELP ANNE STEINBERG

Leave a Reply to jeff daniels Cancel reply

*

Top