amazon kdp self-publishing pros and cons

Is Self-Publishing on Amazon All It’s Cracked Up to Be? Pros and Cons

If you’re struggling with or uninterested in conventional publishing, you’ve likely considered self-publishing. One of many options within this route is self-publishing on Amazon: with its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program, the giant online marketplace has now stepped into the publishing world.

Before you commit to self-publishing on Amazon, make sure you understand the pros and cons of self-publishing itself, and what the alternatives are. Start with this great resource on navigating the publishing process, from self-publishing to finding an agent, and everything in between.

If you think that self-publishing is the route for you, or want to learn more about Amazon’s self-publishing platform, read on for self-publishing on Amazon pros and cons.

The pros of self-publishing on Amazon

Where publishing used to be an elites-only club, Kindle Direct Publishing allows writers to enter the literary world on their own terms. Some of the most notable pros of Amazon’s self-publishing are the site’s ease, accessibility, flexibility, pricing, royalties, and payments options.

Ease

KDP makes self-publishing easy. They’ve provided detailed documentation, how-to videos, FAQs, forums, and a help center, all of which can help you understand your self-publishing options. Whether you’re new or experienced, you’ll be able to use Amazon’s self-publishing services easily.

Accessibility

Self-publishing truly opens up the elusive publishing world to new writers. Having free self-publishing options can make that writing dream become a reality for people who may have thought it was impossible. Self-publishing can sometimes be a pricey option, so having an affordable and feasible option for writers is truly groundbreaking.

Flexibility

In the current world of publishing, writers now have to consider what type of medium they would like to produce – digital or printed. Amazon self-publishing is flexible: you can publish strictly in a digital format (an eBook), you can publish in a paperback, or you can sell your book in both media. The choice is yours!

Pricing

KDP allows most authors the option to set the book’s pricing. There are some restrictions, though. For example, if you select the 70% royalty program, then the maximum price that your eBook can be sold at is $9.99 in all applicable markets. Be sure to read through the fine print carefully while considering the pros and cons of self-publishing on Amazon.

Royalties

KDP lets you set your royalty plans, giving authors a greater amount of control over their own financing. There are two options to choose from: a 35% royalty plan or a 70% royalty plan. It’s important that you do your research to figure out which option is best for you. For example, with the 70% royalty plan, you do need to account for printing and delivery costs, while with the 35% royalty plan, you don’t need to account for those fees.

Payment options

Last but not least, Amazon gives reliable payments to authors. Authors are paid on a monthly basis, but with a 60-day window. So, If you make $100 in August, you won’t receive that $100 until October. This payment gap is notably large for the publishing industry and something to consider when weighing the self-publishing pros and cons.

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The cons of self-publishing on Amazon

Unfortunately, there’s some bad to consider with the good. Some of the cons we’ve found are the lack of a marketing strategy for authors, a forced dependence on Amazon’s marketplace and accompanying algorithm, and the exclusivity clause when signing onto KDP Select.

Lack of built-in marketing strategy

There are many pros and cons between traditional publishing versus self-publishing, but the one that affects most KDP authors is the lack of a built-in marketing approach. A traditional publisher will usually help plan out a marketing and press strategy before publication, but when you self-publish, this responsibility falls onto you. While you may be able to get your book into a printed or digital format, the next challenge is getting people to buy your book, and that challenge falls entirely on you.

Amazon marketplace algorithms and paid-only reviews

Social media has re-terraformed the literary landscape; thus, many marketing strategies rely on free giveaways and Amazon reviews. Unfortunately, Amazon has restricted reviews to paid customers only.

This means that even if your readers were given the book for free, they’ll be unable to leave an honest review on your book’s page. Reviews are important because they’re a part of Amazon’s algorithm when choosing the books that will be most visible to readers.

Exclusivity clauses

Another con to consider when choosing a self-publisher is the exclusivity clause. If you choose to sign up with KDP Select, one of Amazon’s publishing options, then be sure to read through each section carefully.

When authors sign on with KDP Select, they agree to only have their books available in the digital format with KDP. If a digital version of your book is available elsewhere then KDP will pull your book from their marketplace until you have removed other digital versions elsewhere. Luckily, this exclusivity clause seems to only be relevant for eBooks and not for paperback books.

Payment terms

Authors are paid on a monthly basis, but the 60-day window from earning your money to receiving it is notable and something to consider when weighing the self-publishing pros and cons. If you make $100 in August, you won’t receive that $100 until October.

Self-publishing can go beyond Amazon

When you’re doing your research, be sure to weigh all the pros and cons of self-publishing—whether on Amazon or not. Publishing your own work, regardless of platform, generally means more control, less stakeholders, and increased royalties. It also means generally fewer sales and no free professional editing, formatting, or cover art.

If you are looking for a different publishing platform, there are plenty of Amazon alternatives for self publishing, like:

Should you self-publish on Amazon?

Amazon has established itself as a reliable, affordable online marketplace, and has brought its expertise into the publishing domain. From our research, we think Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is a great option for new authors seeking to self-publish. 

However, we strongly advise you to do your own research, read the fine print carefully, and even get legal advice (if possible or necessary!).

When deciding on a publisher—whether traditional or self-publishing—it’s absolutely critical that you be thorough and weigh the pros and cons effectively to find the best option for you.

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13 Comments

  1. Alexandra Bassett on March 28, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    Very informative. Thank you!

  2. Daniel Wright on September 4, 2020 at 12:59 am

    Thank you so much for the amazing article that you have shared the tips and ideas are simply amazing and worth trying will surely share this with my other friends and familyu as well.

    • Sean Glatch on September 4, 2020 at 7:16 am

      We’re happy to hear you gained something from this article! Best of luck to you and your writing journey.

  3. Dr. Sylva on September 23, 2020 at 1:31 am

    I want to publish my >1000 poems in one book,
    I do my formatting … have published 20 poetry book …
    Can Amazon Publish my 1000 poems in one book???

    • Sean Glatch on September 24, 2020 at 6:37 am

      Hi there! Amazon’s self-publishing system allows you to make your book as long as you want, so if you want to put your 1000 poems into one published manuscript, go for it!

  4. Lewis Kempfer on February 22, 2021 at 4:18 pm

    I published my first book, a memoir, with BookBaby. They totally blew my launch day in late 2019. I worked for months trying to get pre-orders which I did, probably around 100. Launch day arrived and Amazon said they didn’t know if or when the book would be available. Further, they sent emails to all those asking if they wanted to cancel. The issue was BookBaby prints in-house and when Amazon placed its order for the pre-sold copies, they were told it would be at least 8 weeks until they could ship the books. BookBaby had a more important order and I was bumped. So, I’m seriously considering publishing a second book and re-publishing the first with Amazon. I’m confused and upset that my book release was botched. Is an author able to speak with a rep during the publishing project? Or is it all just form-driven?

  5. custom essay on July 19, 2021 at 3:18 am

    Hello! Thank you for this really informative article. I’m a little upset that I didn’t find it before. Really great post, thanks a lot. I wrote a couple of books during the pandemic, even translated them, and started selling on KDP and Amazon (have about 16 now in my store). I got some sales in the beginning, but now it’s kind of dead. I will work over again and change some things. Had no idea you could apply for 8 more categories. Thanks again!

  6. Charles Cunningham on September 6, 2021 at 3:44 pm

    Thanks for the article and everyone’s input. When I first saw the KDP recently it seemed like the greatest thing since sliced bread but now I am going to proceed cautiously. I already have one title with ingram spark and they were okay until the pandemic broke out and you can no longer talk to a live rep. They used to assign you a personal rep. which was awesome but now you have to do everything via email. For some reason, ingrams quit recognizing my password… so I was asked to reset it and that was okay until they also didn’t recognize my security question and I was unceremoniously locked out of my account. Every time I would send in the form questionnaire, I kept getting a form letter telling me that I was locked and needed to reset my PW…I couldn’t reset it!! I tried telling them a bunch of times. My security question was very simple and I am sure I had it right. I even asked if they could just have someone call me. No response. They were a great company back when they were Lightning Source but now….. well, I don’t know what the hell has happened to them but I am dismayed. After being locked out of my acct for about a month, countless emails , getting a different responder each time I am seriously of thinking of bailing and doing a lot of research about KDP. I also read that you can sell your book elsewhere but you have to get your own ISBN and not use the KDP freebie. Choices, choices. I listed my website below but I just bought it so it’s not up and running yet but will be shortly.

  7. Helen S. Fletcher on September 21, 2021 at 1:33 am

    Amazon allows reviews of books given to readers PRIOR to the publication of the book. They are known as ARC, Advanced Reader copy. The reviewer needs to identify themselves as an ARC reader and they will be published.
    Also, the article should have mentioned that Amazon sells 50% of print books and 75% of ebooks published which is a significant number.

    It doesn’t have to be an either or. A book can be published on Amazon, Nook, Apple, Google play, etc.all at once. In fact, it is probably the wisest thing to do.

    Amazon also has ads, which if done right,can get your book moved up and add extra sales. I’ve always made more than I’ve spent because you can choose what you want to spend a day and how much you want to spend on clidk throughs.

    Addressing Ingram, they have been good to work with for me. I agree email is a hassle and I would have loved to have my book assigned to one person.

    The problem is most people want to write a book, put it up and that’s it. That’s not a good plan no matter who you sell with. You have to stay engaged and push the book. Traditional publishers no longer spend money on publicizing your book unless you have a big name or a gazilion blog readers or social media.

  8. Adebayo Adesoye on December 29, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    Very instructive. Valuable addition to my publishing career tutorial.

  9. […] you’d like to make a more informed decision, here are links to Ethical Consumer, writers.com with a pros and cons list for Amazon, and an article from Just Publishing Advice about other […]

  10. Stephanie Jaeger on June 7, 2022 at 7:39 am

    Thanks for this info. Very timely and very informative. I really appreciate the links provided as well.

  11. oldbuck on August 2, 2022 at 6:02 am

    I laughed when I read about “lack of sales” for books of poetry. I’ve published 4 books of poetry since 2014 and the only one I sold was the very first day. My older sister contacted my younger sister and told her i had published a book of my “stuff”. She immediately ordered one not realizing I was sending her a FREE copy. A friend from my church ordered an E-book. That’s my total sales to date. I have handed out a couple hundred FREE copies but haven’t had much feedback from that. Good Luck to those interested in “publishing your poetry”. oldbuck

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