Self-Publishing 2021-2022: Amazon KDP

Welcome back to the Creative Life Adventure.

Last week, I wrote briefly about my experience publishing print-on-demand (POD) paperbacks with Ingramspark. Today, we’ll look at the same process with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Note that you can also publish ebooks with KDP, but this process is so simple, and similar enough to publishing with Draft2Digital, that a post about that would be fairly redundant.

Having already published my first two novels in paperback with Ingramspark (IS), it might seem redundant to do the same with KDP. Many independent authors do exactly this, however, because Amazon doesn’t play well with others. So if you publish with IS, your book will be listed on Amazon, but may well show up with the status of “Ships in 3-4 weeks” or something similar. To guarantee reasonable delivery times, you can publish the same book – essentially uploading the exact same files – with both IS and KDP, including using the same ISBN. To avoid conflict, DO NOT check the “Expanded Distribution” option when publishing with KDP. This is how you publish the same book, with the same ISBN, with both distributors. Thankfully, KDP doesn’t charge set-up fees the way IS does, so there’s no additional fee for publishing with KDP.

Screen shot of KDP book set-up

If you go the same route as me, publishing your book first to IS, you will find publishing with KDP quite simple. The set-up process is a bit simpler with KDP, and the file requirements are not as strict (though you still need both your text and cover in PDF format). One significant difference is that IS allows you to identify a specific future date for publication, making preorders possible. With KDP, on the other hand, preorders are not possible – you have to submit the book for publication, and if KDP approves your work, it is usually available within 24-48 hours.

Screen shot of KDP book set-up

Setting up your book on KDP requires basic information that should be familiar by now: title, ISBN, description, page length, BISAC (or similar) categories, and decisions about paper type, trim size, and so on. Like IS, KDP provides a cover template based on trim size, page count, and paper type, and you will use this to create an uploadable PDF for your cover. Also like IS, once your uploaded files are approved, you should definitely take advantage of the opportunity to order a proof copy. Unlike IS, however, KDP proof copies are marked as such to prevent resale.

Screen shot of KDP book set-up

KDP Weaknesses:

  • As noted, KDP doesn’t work well with others. It should be enough to publish with IS, but KDP makes it too difficult for Amazon customers to order these books, practically requiring independent authors to publish simultaneously with KDP.
  • The aforementioned “Proof” text on author copies. IS doesn’t do this, and for good reason. Once an author buys a copy of their book, it should be a real copy, as the customer will see it. And if the author decides to resell it, so what? That should be none of KDP’s business.
  • Perhaps KDP’s biggest failing is a habit of shutting down the accounts of independent authors without cause. Amazon is well known for facilitating the sale of counterfeit and knock-off products, and this sadly applies to publishing also. It’s common for self-published content to be stolen and shared illegally on free download sites or via other Amazon accounts – KDP often uses this as an excuse to blame the original author for copyright violations. These situations are generally easy to figure out, but KDP puts excessive burdens on authors to prove ownership of their own work.
Screen shot of KDP book set-up – international currencies fill in automatically based on current exchange rates but can be changed individually. DO NOT check Expanded Distribution if you are also publishing your book elsewhere under the same ISBN.

KDP Strengths:

  • KDP’s greatest strength is that it is free right up to the point that you actually print a book. No setup fees like IS.
  • Author commissions tend to be a little higher with KDP than with IS.
  • Like it or not, Amazon probably sells more books than any other single retailer. By publishing with KDP, you instantly reach the majority of book consumers.
  • Print quality can vary from order to order, but so far I have found the cover color reproduction of KDP books superior to IS. I’ve found no noticeable difference in interior print quality.
  • Compared with IS, book setup on KDP is relatively simple.
  • Integration of print and ebook formats is easy if you publish both with KDP.

Next time, an overview of copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Office.

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