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Amazon KDP setup

How best to handle the confusing KDP options

By Rob Fitzpatrick


Beyond the normal steps of preparing for publication (covered in Interlude 2 of the book), there are a few extra quirks specific to getting started with Amazon KDP (full docs here).

Finding your dashboards

Paperback, ebook, ads, and analytics in one place: Nearly everything happens through your Amazon KDP dashboard (KDP=Kindle Direct Publishing). Despite its name, KDP also handles the paperback. That’s where you’ll upload your files, fill out your description, review your analytics, preview your royalties, create ad campaigns, and so on. Consider that your self-publishing homepage.

Author profile and linked content in another: However, a few sections are filled out via your Author Central Dashboard. If you feel like something is “missing” from the main KDP dashboard (or your book’s store page), then it’s probably hidden here.

KDP Setup Options

Exclusivity? No. For most nonfiction, you’ll want to “no” to Kindle exclusivity since it prevents you from doing stuff like selling PDFs or upsell bundles on your own site. The perks of exclusivity mostly involve an increased array of discounting and promotional options that are quite powerful for fiction, but less so for useful nonfiction.

Global distribution? Yes. Say “yes” to global distribution — there’s no downside. Optionally, set lower regional prices for regions where U.S. book prices are prohibitively expensive.

Print on demand, not by yourself. For the paperback, use Amazon’s print on demand instead of the other option (“fulfillment by Amazon”) which requires you to print the books yourself, ship them to various warehouses, and keep track of inventory. The apparent savings of doing it yourself will disappear as soon as you factor in the costs and hassle of inventory management, logistics, and everything else that Amazon otherwise handles for you. (The only exception would be if your books require lots of high-quality, full-color photos that Amazon isn’t able to print. Although in that case you might be better-suited by another print-on-demand option like IngramSpark.)

Pricing and royalties

70% ebook royalties. You probably want to price your ebook at the “soft maximum” of $9.99. You (currently) get 70% royalties on a price of $1.99-9.99, and only 35% royalties if you’re higher or lower than that range. (Full docs for ebook royalties.)

40-60% paperback royalties. You pay Amazon a flat fee per book for printing (based on page count, dimensions, and your choice of paper/cover quality). After that, you get 70% of what’s left. This means that your paperback royalty percentage will increase/decrease as you make your book more/less expensive (since the flat printing costs will eat up a larger percentage of a cheaper book’s cover price). (Full docs for paperback printing costs and royalties.)

Avoid the cheapest prices. If someone will buy your book for $2, they’ll buy it for $10. This has a significant impact on your monthly earnings. (The only exception is if you want to run a discounted ebook version when you’ve just launched in order to gather more verified reviews.)

Kindle quirks and gotchas

Don’t micromanage page layouts. Amazon will allow you to upload your ebook as either a kindle file (mostly unformatted) or a PDF (formatted however you like). This appears like a no-brainer, but is a trap. PDFs are only supported on a small subset of Kindles (i.e., the “Kindle Fire” device), and Amazon’s isn’t clear about this on the store page, so lots of people will end up buying a book that can’t be displayed on their device, and they’ll then blame you for it. You can still include images and emphasis in a kindle version, but should allow the text to flow where it wants to flow.

Verify the formatting. Amazon provides a software emulator to view your files on a range of Kindle devices. Use it. And if it all possible, also verify on a real, physical device. Sometimes the emulator will overlook formatting problems and there’s no substitute for the real thing.

Don’t force updates. If you update your book after launch, there’s an option to “force” the new version onto Kindle customers. As appealing as this appears, don’t do this — it will wipe your readers’ highlights and notes, which makes them sad. Leave the update as optional.

Pre-sell it only once you’re confident in hitting the date. You can pre-sell a Kindle version, but not a paperback. If you miss the launch deadline, you can move it once, but Amazon will remove your pre-selling privileges for a year afterwards as punishment. If you miss it again, they cancel all your pre-orders and leave you with no way of contacting those customers.

Updates are not instant. Uploading a new cover or interior takes a couple days to process since Amazon manually reviews it, so don’t set too tight of a launch deadline. In some cases your book will also be marked as unavailable for purchase during those 2-3 days.

Don’t panic; call them. If you run into a seemingly intractable obstacle, Amazon KDP phone support is surprisingly helpful. The phone option is accessible through the KDP contact page while you’re logged in.

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