Amazon KDP is a legitimate side hustle that virtually anybody who has access to the internet (like you!) can start. With this side hustle, you can make anywhere between $100 all the way up to $10,000 per month.
In fact, with about 6 – 7 hours of work (total) that I'd put in, I made almost $500 in less than 4 months with Amazon KDP.
What is Amazon KDP?
Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) is Amazon's book self-publishing platform, allowing anyone who can create an Amazon account to create a KDP account.
While ‘Kindle' is usually referring to their digital content and devices, KDP has become an umbrella term for publishing both physical as well as digital books.
How does Amazon KDP work?
Amazon is obviously a very big player in the eCommerce space. Not only do they have consumer behavior down to a near-exact science, they also have distribution and logistics down to a near-exact science.
This allows them to be printers of of all kinds of physical products, not just books, and digital ebooks.
The physical books are done through their company Createspace, and their digital books are through Kindle Direct Publishing.
If I were to believe the internet, there used to be a very big difference between those, even different platforms, but now Amazon KDP has become an umbrella term for paperbacks, ebooks, and, quite recently, even hardcovers.
You can pretty much start uploading your low content, medium content, or high content books in the 3 different formats pretty much instantly.
When somebody is scrolling Amazon and buys your ebook, Amazon delivers it to them via their Kindle devices or apps. And when it's a physical paperback or hardcover book, they print and send it to the customer as soon as they place their order.
This means that, once you've done the work of creating the content, optimizing your Amazon listing (Title, subtitle, keywords, item description, etc.) it's all pretty much hands-off for you.
Let's walk you through setting up your own KDP account if you don't already have one.
All of these things are free!
Setting Up Your Amazon KDP Account
Creating an account
This one is easy, especially if you already have an Amazon account for purchases, and you want that same email address to be used for your KDP account.
If you want to use another email, that's fine too! You don't even need to create an Amazon account for purchases.
Create your account by going to kdp.amazon.com.
Submitting Your Tax Information
Very important and you have to have done this before Amazon is able to pay you.
Go to Tax Information to fill out and submit your tax information.
Select the right form (W9 if you're a US individual or entity, or W8-BEN if you're a non-US individual or entity), take a minute to fill out the correct information and submit it. Mine was automatically approved.
Important to note here is that you do not have to worry about any of your future buyers to see anything you fill out on this form.
You can be as anonymous as you want. The tax form is only for Amazon's own records and is also used to determine if and how much the applicable withholding rate is.
Getting Paid on KDP
Again, pretty self-explanatory. Go the getting paid page of your account.
Here, based on your bank's location, you'll be paid out in that country's currency.
You can add in multiple bank accounts from different countries (meaning different currencies) and choose for certain Amazon Marketplace region sales (amazon.com, amazon.ca, …) to be paid out to bank account A, and another region (amazon.co.uk, amazon.de, amazon.fr, …) to be paid out to bank account B.
(Tip: I use my Wise Multi-Currency account to be paid in one currency and am then also able to spend those same Euros when making USD, GBP, AUD and CAD purchases.)
How much royalty do authors get on Amazon?
For obvious reasons, this is a good and important question. After all, you're not publishing books on Amazon to not reap any benefits from it.
This depends on a few things:
Type of book
On Amazon KDP you can sell 3 different types of books. Digital copies, Paperbacks, or Hardcovers.
When uploading either of these, you'll be able to see what Amazon's cost is for printing and delivery your specific item.
For digital content, there are 2 factors that influence your KDP royalties on an item:
- How big the file size is (it's currently $0.15/megabyte)
- What royalty level you choose (currently there's 35% and 70% meaning Amazon's cut will either be 65% or 30%)
For physical content, there are a lot of other factors that influence your royalties on item:
- printing cost (which itself is dependent on type of paper + number of pages)
- whether it's sold through Amazon's channels, which are at a 60% royalty-level (so 40% for Amazon), or through the Expanded Distribution channels, which are at 40% (so 60% split among Amazon and their Expanded Distribution channels and partners)
But, don't worry. Amazon will clearly show you what their cost is beforehand, and then you can decide how much of a mark up you want to make on that.
7 Steps to Your First Book on Amazon KDP
Now it's time to actually do the research, create your book, and publish it to Amazon KDP. But first, I want to touch on 3 points:
Take Yourself Out of the Equation
The point of creating an Amazon KDP passive stream of income is to make money. Ideally, predictably. Not to write the next great American novel.
So, it's important to only create books that have some amount of data backing them up that they have a fighting chance of selling regularly.
You can write the next great American novel once you've reached financial freedom, which is what a passive income stream like Amazon KDP could get you closer to.
The YouTube gurus you hear talking about how they've made 5 figures last month in KDP royalties have:
- Either been lying to you, because they're actually just brand new to the KDP game
- Put in the work. ‘The work' is months, or even years of trying and testing. And they probably have 1000+ books uploaded
- Are also publishing audio books
Currently, Audible (or ACX Publishing) only allows for a very limited amount of countries to sign up and publish audiobooks on their platform.
If you're one of the lucky ones and you're eligible to upload your own audiobooks, this is another means of distribution that you have, which can allow for a greater earning potential.
So, if this is your first try, do not expect to be making predictable $1000s of dollars in a few months.
Instead, break it down into smaller milestones.
Let your first milestone be to make 1 sale. Let your second milestone be to make 10 sales total. Let your third milestone be to make $50 in net royalties every month in 8 weeks. Let your fourth milestone be to make $100 in net royalties every month in 16 weeks.
Remember: slow and steady wins the race.
Low, Medium, or High?
What kind of books are you currently able to make?
To answer this, you need to be honest with yourself about the financial resources you have and are willing to dedicate to this.
If you don't have any financial resources to spare, you may be limited to only creating low (generally free) or medium content books ($50 for a VA), or spend significantly more time creating your own medium- and high-content books.
Do not beat yourself up if you're only able to make low-content books. Reinvest those royalties into ways to have a medium-content piece created.
Step 1: Can this be a brand?
Before we start with the research, there's another question you need to ask yourself.
There are hundreds of categories to choose from and thus to publish in.
You could do the market research and, as long as it fits most of the criteria, publish books in all of them.
Or, you could try to become something of a brand in one particular niche and publish multiple books in that niche.
You could publish more content in the Japanese Garden Niche, with a pen name like Feng Shui Gardens and try to dominate it.
Or, you could for a more broader, Gardening type pen name, and publish only Gardening books, including Japanese gardens.
How you then turn this into a brand is not only by publishing more books in the same niche, but also through a blog, which you can then leverage into an affiliate marketing passive income stream.
More books = more sales opportunities = potentially more royalties.
Step 2: Your Niche
What is a niche?
A niche is a segment of ‘the market' (ie = pool of – potential – consumers)
‘Parents' can be a niche. ‘Mothers', ‘Fathers', and ‘Foster Parents' would then be a subset of that niche.
Deciding on a niche early on is important because you want to be in a niche wherein it would make sense were you to create another low-, medium-, or high-content book in under the same author or pen name.
How to do Market Research for Amazon KDP
If you've read my own little accidental case study, you know that I only saw my first real passive income success on KDP with my 2nd type of books.
What put me on the road for that success? Market research!
To decide on a niche, we need to take a look at what's currently selling and what available niches Amazon already has.
Open up an incognito tab of Amazon.com's bestsellers and, on the left-hand side, open up the Books department.
There, you'll see a lot of categories, or niches.
Some of these categories have even more categories when you click on them.
For example: the category (or niche) “Crafts, Hobbies & Home” -> “Gardening & Landscape Design” -> “Japanese Gardening”
Deciding On a Niche
In this step we'll actually be deciding on a niche and checking if the keyword ‘Permaculture' is one we should pursue or not.
For this, you'll need 3 things:
- Have that best seller's list open (here it is again)
- A spreadsheet (a Google sheet is just fine)
Divide the spreadsheet like this:
In Column A, write down the category. In Column B, write down the sub-category. (if available) In Column C, write down the keyword. (if available)
For example, the keyword ‘Hydroponics' (Column C) is part of sub-category ‘Needlecrafts & Textile Crafts' (Column B), which is part of the category ‘Crafts, Hobbies & Home' (Column A).
Step 3: Keyword Research
In the next 5 columns we'll be putting criteria and checking our keyword ‘Permaculture' against it. Ideally, a keyword has minimum 3 out 4 Yesses.
Also make sure that you're searching in the ‘Books' department and not the ‘All' department. Again, do all of this in an incognito tab, since Amazon may otherwise give you personalized search suggestions.
In Column D, we'll be seeing if, when typing the word ‘Permaculture' in the search bar between 5 – 10 search suggestions come up.
And it does! So that's a yes.
In the next column, we'll check the average BSR and if it's at or below 150,000-200,000. (This is why you need KDSpy)
BSR basically displays how many people are actually buying this topic. So, the closer to #1 BSR means more sales.
The BSR for the keyword ‘Permaculture' is at 86,767, so that's a yes!
In the next column we'll look at the amount of results for the keyword. Ideally, this is below or at 4000 – 5000.
‘Permaculture' has 3000, so that's a yes!
Now, we're at 3/4 with only one more criterium box to check.
In the last column, we need to check if the keyword has an exact search match in the search suggestions.
And it does!
We're at a full 4 out of 4, so we can continue with this keyword!
Step 4: Creating the Content
Before you can publish, you obviously need to create something to publish.
Using KDSpy I'd look at the type of content is not only published, but also selling! For permaculture, it looks like it's a lot of guides aimed at beginners and people who've maybe heard of the concept, but never actually designed it before.
I know nothing about permaculture, so in this case, I'd get knowledgeable. Watch YouTube videos, permaculture courses on Udemy. Read blogs.
Then, I'd buy some PLR articles, and use Jasper.ai to make them my own.
Or, if I had the financial resources, I would look for a ghostwriter on Fiverr or Upwork.
Whichever way you go, make sure to end up with your content in a PDF format.
Even though Amazon allows various formats, like .docx, using a PDF version minimizes the risk for any content display errors the most.
Notes for Formatting eBooks
If you have a Kindle, or use the Kindle app, you'll have seen that most of your books come with clickable links.
Not only can you end your ebook with a few links to an external site (like your own where you can do some affiliate marketing), but nearly all Kindle books have also hyperlinked their Table Of Contents.
This means that if someone were to open your book, and tap on “Chapter 1”, their app or device will then go directly to the first chapter.
Step 5: Designing the cover
The good thing about this niche is that I can use the written content to turn it both into an eBook, paperback, AND a hardcover version.
This does mean that I'll need to create 3 different (e)book covers. Or 1, but resize them somewhat to fit the eBook, paperback, or hardcover cover size.
If you have a feel for design, go ahead and use something simple like Canva.
You can use Amazon's own guides for help on cover sizes for all versions.
Step 6: What Else Do You Need Before Publishing?
You're almost there!
There are just a few things you still need to create in order for you to be able to upload everything Amazon will ask for in one go rather than having to go back and forth.
I suggest opening op a Google doc and writing the, sometimes required, info in there.
Obviously very important. It's a good idea to put your keyword in here. Also remember that, once your book is published, this cannot be changed!
If my full book title is “A Permaculture How To Guide: for beginners young & old” then ‘A Permaculture How to Guide' is my title and ‘for beginners young & old' is my subtitle.
The subtitle is optional and cannot be changed afterwards for physical books (paperback & hardcover) but can be changed on a Kindle book (ebook).
If this book is going to be part of a series this is where you can either create a new series, or choose for this book to be added to an existing series you've already created before.
On the product page, it will then also display which series it's a part of, and which number in the series.
An example of a series would be the 7 Harry Potter books, where ‘Chamber of Secrets' would be listed as ‘Book 2 of 7', and The Deathly Hallows as ‘Book 7 of 7'.
Here you can list your own name, or use a completely made up name (a pen name, or pseudonym).
I've gotten away with using non-human pen names, like the name of a brand, but some people have been saying that Amazon is getting stricter and stricter with this rule and, even the pen names, need to sound like actual names.
This is quite literally the description of the book on its product page and a very important piece of the Amazon SEO puzzle.
Here you can add up to 7 keywords. Use a mix of single-word keywords, as well as long-tail keywords. For example: continuing on with my permaculture example, I'd add in ‘permaculture' as well as ‘permaculture for beginners' as a keyword.
Even though Amazon says these are optional, it's highly recommended that you try to use up all the 7 fields with relevant keywords.
Another tool I use for this is Publisher Rocket.
Step 7: Publishing Your Book
You've done it!
You've created your Amazon KDP account, you've done your market research, you've decided on what kind of book you'll be selling, you've got the cover for 1 or all 3 formats, and you've successfully created the content, or had some help along the way.
Now, it's time to upload it all to Amazon!
Creating a Title
Go to your bookshelf page and click the + sign on the paperback version.
Unfortunately there's no way for you to create all 3 versions (paperback, hardcover, ebook) all at once. However, if you've set up the, for example, paperback title, Amazon will then give you the option to turn that same title into a hardcover or ebook version (or vice versa) and they'll copy over most of the details (like description, title, subtitle, keywords etc.)
Hardcover, Paperback, or Kindle eBook Details
If you've gathered all the information on Step 6, you can now copy those over in their respective fields here.
When creating a paperback or hardcover version you need an ISBN number. You can buy your own, which you can then use to submit to other directories, or you can let Amazon assign you a free one.
We're choosing their free option.
Obviously only applicable on a paperback or hardcover option.
Ideally, you'd have already decided on a size and created a cover image based on that specific size (if not go back to Step 5)
Pick your size, print paper and cover finish. The Matte is cheaper in production cost, meaning less expensive for Amazon to print, so their minimum cost will also be lower.
Here is where you'll upload the PDF with your content.
Here, you'll select the “Upload a cover you already have (print-ready PDF only)” option. and upload your cover for the paperback and/or hardcover version.
For the Kindle version, they only allow covers with .jpg or .tiff extensions.
A few minutes later Amazon will have processed both your content and your book cover and you'll be able to launch the book previewer.
This is where Amazon will tell you if your cover is too small or too big, and, if so, tell you what changes need to be made. (If you're enjoying the Canva Pro plan or trial, you can very easily resize your cover image and re-upload)
Look through the first pages of your book to see if all the content is displayed correctly and as intended.
This is where Amazon will display their printing cost based on the options you've chosen (type of paper), but also based on how many pages your book is.
For ebooks, there is no printing cost, but a ‘delivery cost' based on file size which you'll see on the Pricing tab.
If your content is English, consider choosing Amazon.com as your primary marketplace. Don't worry, it'll still be available for sale on the other Amazon marketplaces (.ca, .co.uk, .com,au, and even non-English speaking countries)
Paperback & Hardcover Pricing
The list price that's already filled out is Amazon's minimum list price, which consists of their own printing cost + some profit for you).
You can change this to whatever you want, but ideally you've also looked at what your kind of book usually sells at.
When you're updating the list price, Amazon clearly displays what their cost is and how much you'd be earning in royalties with each sale on that specific marketplace.
You can choose to base all the other marketplace listing prices on the first one you filled out, but I like to go into those lines manually and round them up or down so they end in a $xx.x9 or $xx.x7.
Kindle eBook Pricing
Amazon gives you the option to receive either 35 or 70% of the royalties. The only difference is that Amazon charges a Delivery Cost when you choose the 70% royalty option.
There are more marketplaces available to list your eBook on than there are for the paperback and hardcover versions.
This part is mostly the same as the Pricing page for paperbacks and hardcovers, the only difference being Amazon's cost.
Instead of a Printing cost, you'll see a Delivery cost. This is the cost Amazon calculates based on the file size of your ebook and, at the time of writing, is $0.15/megabyte.
For one of my medium-content books (at the 70% royalty level) the delivery cost is a negligible $0.03.
I like to double check my double checks.
So I'll go back to the first page of uploading the content and go through everything again, making sure that I haven't missed something or forgot to fill out a key part.
Once you've double checked your double checks you can then hit the ‘Publish' button and the book will be sent in for review.
Review times can take a few days.
The shortest I've seen myself is a few hours, and the longest I've seen is 4 days.
I've heard from others that during (approaching) holiday seasons, when more people are publishing content, review times can take significantly longer.
Should there be an error you'll receive an email from the KDP Review Team telling you what's blocking your listing from going live. You can then simply go in and edit what they need edited and resubmit for review.
Congrats, you've published your first book on Amazon! Now, you can wait for the sales to come in.
You may have some follow-up questions:
Frequently Asked Questions
When am I getting paid by Amazon?
Any Amazon KDP royalties collected in a month will be processed and paid out all at once roughly 60 days after.
Meaning that, if you make 100 sales in January, you'll see those royalties deposited to your bank account around the end of March.
Amazon talks more about that here.
How will I know I made a sale?
Unfortunately, Amazon doesn't notify you when you've made a sale. They'll only send out an email in the month you'll be paid out your royalties from 2 months before.
You can manually check if you've made a sale on their KDP Reports page
Which is why I'm using KDP Champ.
Once there's a new sale, I'll get a KDP Champ notification on my phone as well as an email.
Should you venture out into Amazon Ads, like I did on my 1st month of Amazon KDP they can also tell you how much you've spent and tell you if you're running at a loss, breaking even, or turning a profit.
Can I sell my Amazon book on my own website?
You can definitely sell your books on your own website. There's an exception for Kindle eBooks you've enrolled in KDP Select, which can't be sold anywhere else outside of Amazon. You can find out more about KDP Select here.
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Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you make a purchase using one of these links, such as from the Amazon Associates program.