November 23, 2020

5 Things To Know Before You Self-Publish a Book on Amazon by Desiree Villena / Guest Post


Please help me to welcome Desiree Villena to Write with Fey. She has an amazingly detailed post for you all about self-publishing with Amazon. Thank you, Desiree!

5 Things To Know Before You Self-Publish a Book on Amazon

by Desiree Villena

Self-publishing via Amazon can be very attractive — it’s the largest marketplace for ebooks, and incredibly convenient for authors to boot!

That said, there are some finer points about how Amazon’s self-publishing process works that might not be apparent at first glance. Fortunately, I’m here with a handy list of five things you should know before you commit to Amazon self-publishing, so you’re aware which parts of the fine print might be crucial for your book sales later on. Let’s dive right in!

1. Amazon forces you to follow their pricing structure for ebooks

One of the greatest appeals of self-publishing is that its authors keep a much larger percentage of the royalties than traditionally published authors do. Amazon’s self-publishing service, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), offers a competitive royalty rate of 70% (in specific countries) — but that comes with several caveats.

First off, it only applies if you price your ebook between $2.99 and $9.99; any ebook priced outside that range is disqualified and receives the default 35% royalty rate. Additionally, for any ebook of yours that Amazon price-matches to meet a third party seller’s sales price, you’ll be dropped back down to that 35% royalty if the sale ends up outside of that $2.99 to $9.99 range. So be cautious when pricing your book, and make sure it’s consistent across platforms!

2. KDP Select requires Amazon exclusivity

If you choose to publish through KDP, Amazon offers you the option to join their KDP Select program. This gives authors access to a larger reader base through Kindle Unlimited, the ability to discount or provide their books for free for a limited time every 90 days, and a bump from 35% to 70% royalties in India, Brazil, Mexico, and Japan.

Sounds great, right? But there’s a big restriction to KDP Select: committing to publishing your work solely on Amazon for the 90 days you’re enrolled (and longer if you choose to re-enroll). This is a major decision, as you’re cutting off other potential revenue streams by doing so, and because some readers are increasingly anti-Amazon — or reside in less Amazon-dominated areas, like Canada or Germany.

To that end, consider where your intended audience is located and how much you might benefit from using other platforms before settling on KDP Select. It’s tempting to forge ahead with it just so you can run price promotions, but keep in mind that…

3. Even besides Amazon exclusivity, KDP Select has a lot of fine-print

Amazon exclusivity might be the most important thing to note about KDP Select, but there are plenty of other restrictions hidden in the contract about the benefits of the program.

For one thing, Amazon’s pay structure for people who read your book through Kindle Unlimited is on a pay-per-page basis, regardless of the original list price. Obviously, this privileges books that have more pages — so if you happen to publish a children’s book in the 20-40 page range, you’re going to be pulling in much less than someone with a 400-page novel. That per-page price also fluctuates per month according to Amazon’s KDP Global Fund, so the rate is slightly inconsistent.

The other marketing benefits of KDP Select, Kindle Countdown Deals (which offer a discount on your ebook for a week every 90 days) and Kindle Free Promotions (provides your ebook free for up to five days every 90 days), also have quite specific restrictions. To start with, you can’t use both Kindle Countdown Deals and Kindle Free Promotions within 90 days of each other, so you’ll effectively have to choose between them each KDP Select membership period.

Kindle Countdown Deals and Kindle Free Promotions each have their own fine print as well. Per the Countdown Deals details page, it can only be initiated 30 days after KDP Select enrollment, and only if your list price remains unchanged. Additionally, neither Countdown Deals nor Free Promotions can be triggered in the final 14 days of a 90-day KDP Select period — which is bad luck for authors hoping to end their enrollment with a bang.

4. Amazon takes 60 days to get your money to you

Everyone likes to get paid quickly, and for self-published authors, it’s often important to have a shorter payment cycle. Hence why it’s worth noting that Amazon’s royalty payment schedule is quite lengthy, at 60 days from the end of the month (according to their KDP contract).

This means you wouldn’t get early January royalties until the end of March, for example. Notably, Amazon KDP’s competitors, Apple Books and Kobo, get your royalties to you within 30 or 45 days, respectively. Given that many authors are attracted to self-publishing because of its flexibility and high royalties, a long turnaround time on the payments may be a major drawback of Amazon KDP.

Furthermore, according to that same contract, if you have a payment dispute with Amazon, you must file within 6 months of the day the financial statement is made available. You will also not be able to claim any damages beyond the original amount owed, e.g. for the delay in payment — which can be a real hassle if it happens to you.

5. Amazon can suspend or terminate your account at any time

It’s no secret that Amazon has had many run-ins concerning business ethics and workers’ rights, most recently about essential worker conditions during the coronavirus outbreak.

But perhaps closer to home — and to your own financial well-being — is that Amazon can change the rules of a KDP or KDP Select agreement at any time and suspend or terminate your account, through no fault of your own. Dale Roberts has cited some examples of self-published authors being locked out of their accounts, one for having a name that happened to be the same as a celebrity.

Needless to say, you don’t want to lose all your earnings and data about your book sales, and the pain can be compounded if you had previously been a KDP Select member with no other revenue streams. So think carefully before going all-in with Amazon, and ensure you’re making the choice that’s right for you!


Having second thoughts about Amazon? Check out this post on how to publish an ebook to get a better grasp on your alternatives. And if you’re looking for more information on self-publishing in general, head to Chrys’s master list of posts all about publishing!

Guest Bio:

Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world's best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She's very passionate about indie publishing and hopes to help as many authors as possible achieve their dreams!

Please leave a comment for Desiree. :)


  1. Great post. Very informative and concise in weighing the pros and cons.

  2. For a lot of reasons she stated I don't want to be Amazon exclusive.

  3. There are definitely downsides to publishing with Amazon – but I think it's still the best bet for many authors who want to self publish on a limited budget.

  4. Thanks for all this information, Desiree. I'm a self-pub on KDP. I also just created a shop page on my site for my paperback versions of my books. My thinking was that some people don't want to buy from Amazon. My pricing is the same as my paperbacks on Amazon the drawback is that I have to pay more for shipping than I can actually charge. I'm off topic here, but indeed the Amazon KDP platform can be frustrating. They make it easy to upload your books but once on there, it's every man for himself and Amazon really is the one making the cash. Lots to think about on this topic. Thanks for sharing this guest, Chrys.

  5. Thanks for sharing. I will keep these points in mind when considering working with Amazon.

  6. Very interesting. I do all my reading via my Nook, so I don't opt in to Amazon's KDP and such, so I have to wait for some of my favorite authors' books to be out of KDP before I can read them. But there are pros and cons.

  7. While 70% sounds like a great royalty, knowing that Amazon can bump you off anytime is a little troubling.


  8. Good article. I refuse to allow Amazon sole access to my work, so Select isn’t for me. I make nearly as many sales across other sites, managed through Smashwords (which cuts a little into my profits but saves me having to manage a dozen platforms separately).

  9. Definitely a few drawbacks. Basically, they know they have a near monopoly on the book world now, especially ebooks. And such great power usually comes with a company doing as it pleases. Plus, they can afford better lawyers than nearly any writer out there. So, yeah, they've secured the lion-share of the market and know they can keep writers over a barrel.

    I have one book on KDP, two published on Amazon and elsewhere, and one that isn't on Amazon. My Amazon sales are always higher. It is what it is, I guess.

    I hope your November went as well as it could and that you'll experience joy in the coming holiday season, Chrys.
    There's a giveaway on my blog that ends today, if you're interested.

  10. An eye-opening post, ladies. Thank you for sharing. I've learned a few things here I would never have known without a microscope ;-)

  11. If only setting up all these tasks for advertising a book was as easy on Amazon as it is on Smashwords. So confusing! :(

    Thanks for the wonderful post, it was really informative.

    ♥.•*¨Elizabeth Mueller¨*•.♥