Self-publishing on Amazon KDP has become a popular way of earning passive income. A quick search on YouTube will give you a list of self-publishers who are eager to tell you how they found financial success writing and selling digital books through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
So how much do self published authors make on Amazon?
Self-published writers on Kindle make around $150 per month on the lower end to more than $20,000 per month on the higher end. It’s important to note your KDP earnings are a function of different factors, including your selected Kindle category, audience size, preferred royalty program, the type of book you are selling (ebook, paperback, audiobook, etc.), and more.
While these numbers may sound a lot compared to the traditional publishing industry, success on KDP doesn’t come easy.
All new authors have to be aware of the fact that Amazon publishes around 2 million books every year. Without tactical marketing efforts, your book will struggle to attract potential readers and, in turn, you can have a hard time making money out of it.
A lot goes into publishing a book that will make a profit on Amazon KDP, and we’ll give you an overview of what you need to keep in mind.
Here’s what we’ll be discussing in this post:
Let’s start with the basics first, why even sell on Kindle…
Amazon self-publishing statistics show an exponential increase in books sold by indie authors on the platform. According to the last official data, self-publishers made up 92% of all book listings on Amazon, a huge jump from 2007 when self-published titles only accounted for 6% of the total collection.
Amazon KDP offers self-publishers several perks that traditionally published authors don’t have access to while working with conventional industry players.
Large Customer Base
The greatest benefit Amazon provides is its large pool of users. The book-selling giant has long surpassed traditional publishing houses in market share. It roughly accounts for over 50% of the physical book sales and around 68% of the ebook sales in the US.
Other than its large customer base, Amazon makes it incredibly simple to self-publish a book. Just create a KDP account, format and upload your book’s manuscript using the tools provided, and hit publish. No middleman, no hassles, and no cost.
However, new writers are advised to hire professional editors, designers, and marketers when publishing a book on Kindle for the first time.
Kindle offers significantly higher royalties than most of its competitors. Draft2Digital pays 10% in royalties to self-publishers, Smashwords pays 15%, while XinXii offers 30%.
With Amazon, however, you can earn up to 70% royalties on book sales, provided your work is copyrighted and doesn’t fall in the public domain.
Not all online publishing marketplaces give authors the option of printing their ebooks. Authors self-publishing on Amazon can choose to print their books on-demand. This way, they can avoid unnecessary inventory costs and only print books when a user specifically requests for a physical copy.
Next, we take a look at some of the authors who have already made it big on Amazon KDP.
Often compared to JK Rowling, LJ Ross is one of the few examples of self-publishers who found success on Amazon by writing fiction books. Her crime thriller series consists of 19 books, 18 of which have topped bestsellers’ lists worldwide. The writer has sold over 7 million copies since she began publishing on Amazon and established a loyal customer base. It’s no wonder she’s touted as the “Queen of Kindle”.
Lawyer turned author, Mark Dawson has found immense success as a self-publisher on Amazon. Unlike LJ Ross, Dawson actually tried taking the traditional route with his earlier books and worked with a publishing house. With limited control over the process though, he struggled to sell copies. This prompted him to switch to self-publishing instead.
Having more say on pricing and promotion, Dawson quickly found the audience he was looking for. He now boasts an income in millions and is a very vocal self-publishing advocate.
Rachel Abbott was the first-ever self-published author to secure #1 spot on Amazon. Her success was proof that indie authors can make it big when given the right support.
With over 4 million copies sold globally, Rachel Abbott is one of the leading self-published authors on Amazon KDP.
New self-publishers looking to make money on Amazon KDP are advised to write non-fiction books mostly because it is incredibly difficult to leave a mark as an author of fictional books in the online world if you are just starting.
Steve Scott stuck to what he knew and managed to make millions off that. Through his self-publishing business books, Scott rakes in $30,000-$60,000 every month, making him one of the most successful self-publishers on the platform.
Malcolm Gladwell has sold millions of copies of his books The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outlier. The Tipping Point is by far Gladwell’s biggest with more than 3 million copies sold, staying on New York Times’ bestseller list for 8 years!
With all the success the above authors have found, you may be thinking how you can follow in their footsteps.
Several factors determine the success of a book on Amazon KDP. Yes, you need to be a good writer that effectively engages audiences and writes gripping content, but there’s more to think about when self-publishing on Kindle.
The niche you select has a direct impact on your KDP earnings. If making money is your top priority, pick a niche that attracts a decent number of readers. Be mindful of the competition though.
You don’t want to sell in a category that has hundreds and thousands of listings. Our advice would be to narrow down your search and pick a smaller but profitable pool.
Between 2020 and 2021, the most popular books on Amazon were Barack Obama’s The Promised Land, followed by Midnight Sun from the much-loved Twilight Saga author.
There was a clear allure towards books that addressed timely topics such as civil unrest, but fictional works had their fair share of following too.
As an upcoming author, it may seem next to impossible to compete with world leaders and celebrities, but if you put aside the influence of those writers, you will realize the recurring themes amongst all the bestsellers.
In the US, the bestselling nonfiction books consist of biographies, stories of personal success, and self-help. The bestselling fiction categories include mysteries, crime thrillers, romance, and political fiction.
As you look for a niche, think about your area of expertise and pick a niche accordingly.
This basically guarantees you the highest royalties you can earn on Amazon. Books that are priced below $2.99 only receive 35% in royalties meaning authors have to sell a lot more copies to earn a decent profit.
We suggest keeping the price point around $6. This will qualify you for the 70% royalty program as well as give you a decent chance at making a formidable income. Furthermore, a $6 book is also quite affordable for most.
As you upload your ebook, Amazon KDP will give you the option to enroll in KDP Select. This is a promotion program Amazon offers to publishers that give them access to a wider audience, and the chance to make more money through Amazon Self-Publishing Global Fund.
KDP Select works on 90-day enrollment periods during which publishers can take advantage of Amazon’s promotional tools like Kindle Countdown Deals and Free Promotions.
Kindle Countdown Deal allows KDP Select authors to drop the price of their books for 7 days (or less) without losing their 70% royalties and receive additional promotion on Amazon. When you sign-up for Kindle Countdown Deal, a timer is added to your book’s page, informing users of the discounted price and urging them to complete their purchase before the sale expires.
In order to be eligible for Kindle Countdown Deals, you need to be enrolled in KDP Select for at least 30 days. Unless your KDP Select is set to automatically renew, you will not be allowed to sign-up for Kindle Countdown Deals in the last two weeks of your enrollment period.
Self-published writers enrolled in KDP Select are given access to Kindle Unlimited readers. Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service where Amazon Kindle users have access to an unlimited number of books that they can “borrow”. Publishers get paid through the KDP Select Global Fund based on the number of times their book was borrowed and the number of pages read.
So what’s the catch?
KDP Select is an exclusivity program. While you are enrolled, you cannot sell your book on other platforms. Considering that Amazon has almost three quarters of the ebooks market share, a 90-day exclusivity clause isn’t a bad thing, to be honest.
You need to put some thought into the publishing format(s). Experienced self-publishers will advise you to publish your book in multiple forms to reach a wider audience.
Giving buyers the choice to purchase paperback/hardcover copies of your book lets you cater to an audience that prefers physical books over digital books. Although you make less in royalties on the print versions of your book, your sales receive a nice boost.
The ebook format you choose to publish in will also affect your reach. MOBI and AZW are popular ebook formats, but they limit you to just Amazon Kindle. Meanwhile, publishing your book in EPUB format allows you to sell in most ebook marketplaces including Apple Books, Google Play, Barnes and Noble, and KOBO.
You also have the option of releasing an audiobook to cater to readers who may be visually impaired or prefer to listen to a book rather than read it.
Rarely has an author found global success with just a single book. As with anything else, it’s better not to put all your eggs in one basket. By publishing multiple books, you gain more exposure on the storefront and gain credibility as a writer.
Remember, you don’t have to worry about storing inventory or printing hassles when selling on Amazon KDP. The book retailing giant does all that for you, so there really shouldn’t be anything stopping you from selling more than one book on the platform.
Publishing multiple books will increase your chances of making a decent income month after month and establishing a loyal following.
Writing and making your book available to potential readers is just half the job. The amount you earn from self-publishing is heavily dependent on how you market your book. This is when you should tap into your professional network and social circle through Facebook and other social media websites.
Once your book is out, make a point to promote it on social media through posts, blogs, podcasts, etc. You can link your post to your author page or directly to the book’s page to make it easier for people to purchase.
Amazon’s Author Central lets you set up a highly personalized page where you can show off your books, post videos, and photos, and connect your blog to start building an audience. The larger your audience, the easier it becomes to target users that are already interested in you and your work.
Find ways to engage your social media following by putting out content related to your book, asking relevant questions, and posting updates about upcoming events and releases.
After your book has picked up traction, it’s a good idea to start building a mailing list to reach out to customers who have already purchased a book from you. The old 80/20 marketing rule (Pareto Principle) applies to books too; 80% of your sale comes from 20% of your total customers, in this case, your most loyal readers.
Social media comes in very handy when it comes to building a loyal customer base.
KDP Advertising lets you put your book in front of more readers. KDP ads can be spotted easily with a “Sponsored” tag on the corner.
KDP Advertising (like most online ads) gives you complete control over your budget. You get to decide how much money you want to allocate to a campaign.
Keywords that help convert your book into a sale are recognized by Amazon. So the next time a user enters the same keyword, Amazon’s algorithm will push your book, increasing your keyword ranking.
Leveraging KDP Ads in the right way should lead to an increase in sales.
How do authors qualify for the 70% royalty option for Kindle books?
As previously mentioned, you can qualify for Amazon’s 70% royalty program by pricing your ebook between $2.99 and $9.99 and securing copyright protection. Also, the price of the ebook must be at least 20% lower than the price of your physical copy.
For ebooks, Amazon offers publishers two royalty programs, 70% and 35%. No matter which program you choose, you will have to wait 60 days after the sale to get paid.
The 70% royalty option is available in selected countries (most English-speaking markets). Enrolling in KDP Select opens you up to other large markets like India, Brazil, Mexico, and Japan.
Amazon subtracts the delivery fee of your ebook directly from your royalties.
It charges $0.15 per megabyte to deliver an ebook in the US.
Like with ebooks, Amazon offers two royalty programs for paperback copies, one provides 60% in royalties, and the other offers 40% in royalties.
If you sell books through Amazon’s regular distribution network, you’ll receive 60% in royalties. However, if you sell through Amazon’s Expanded Distribution Network to stores like Barnes and Noble, you’ll only get 40%.
The printing costs for physical copies are subtracted directly from your royalties. It depends on the page count, and the colors and ink type used in the book.
Use the following formula to determine the printing cost of your book:
Print cost = Fixed cost + (page count x cost per individual page)
The Fixed Cost is derived from the page count and the cost of the ink and is preset by Amazon.
You can give credit to multiple authors and collaborators (where due) when uploading your book. However, you can’t split royalties between them directly on Kindle. You must do that separately and handle all the logistics on your own.
The publishing cost of ebooks on Amazon is zero. However, you will have to pay for printing paperback and hardcover versions of your book. The minimum cost for printing a book on Amazon is $0.85.
Amazon pays publishers through direct deposits, wire transfers, and checks. You’ll need to meet specific thresholds if you want to be paid through check or wire transfer. Check the requirements for your territory before you select your payment options.
How to self-publish on Kindle
Self-publishing a book on Amazon involves finding a profitable niche, researching relevant keywords, editing and formatting the manuscript of your book, designing a book cover, signing up for a KDP account, and providing Amazon your complete tax and bank information.
You can read our guide about publishing a book on Kindle for more details.
With writers getting paid more than $450 million last year through Amazon’s Unlimited ebook subscriptions alone, it is evident that there is a growing demand for self-published titles among the masses. Combine that with the fact earnings on Kindle continue to increase year-by-year, this is one opportunity you wouldn’t ignore in 2022 and beyond.
Zonguru provides users a kit of tools like Niche Finder, Niche Rater, and Keywords on Fire that can help you kick start your Kindle journey and make money self-publishing books on the platform.
Our tools are designed to assist you in making the best decisions regarding your book research for Amazon KDP and eliminate some of the guesswork involved in self-publishing. Sign up today for a 7-day free trial!
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