How Much Money Can You Make on Amazon KDP? ($300K+ and Counting!)
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Amazon KDP has helped numerous authors earn an income over the years. In fact, Amazon 2020 financial reports indicated that KDP authors made upwards of $300 million in 2019 through Kindle Unlimited. More than 1,000 of those authors collected over $100,000 for that year.
Those numbers represent just one piece of the pie, so it is little wonder why Amazon KDP currently controls about 80% of the self-publishing market. But just how much money can you make?
This is a question asked by many authors and creators who have wondered about entering the realm of Amazon self-publishing, or who may have tried it on other platforms. Before looking at possible answers, it is important to talk about the significance of Amazon KDP and why it has become a popular solution for numerous writers around the world.
What is Amazon KDP?
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a self-publishing platform created by e-commerce giant Amazon, which allows authors to publish and distribute books digitally. The “kindle” portion of the name refers to the e-reader device which was launched in tandem with the rollout of the platform.
Amazon KDP is not only for e-books. Authors can also sell print-on-demand paperback and hardcover titles through KDP. When these physical options are purchased, Amazon handles printing and shipping activities, leaving authors and readers with a hassle-free experience.
What Types of Books Can You Publish on Amazon KDP?
The list includes:
- Children’s books
- Coloring books (kids and adults)
- Book series
- Poetry books
- Recipe books
Significance of Amazon KDP
Traditionally, authors often go through a bunch of hoops and gatekeepers in order to get their work in front of the decision makers at publishing houses. Without the right connections, it can be difficult to land a competent agent. And even if your manuscript reaches the desk of an editor, there is no guarantee that your book will actually reach the publishing stage, let alone arrive on the shelves of a bookstore.
On top of all that is the issue of adequate compensation. Writers who are not yet established often lack the financial resources required for printing, marketing, and distributing a book. As a result, many publishing houses draft up book deals that strip authors of their ownership rights while collecting the vast majority of royalties.
In the past, it was quite possible for authors to publish huge bestsellers yet have very little financial gains to show for their efforts.
The launch of Amazon KDP back in 2007 signaled a revolution in the book publishing industry. It effectively cut out the middlemen and removed many of the financial barriers to publishing a book. Authors from all walks of life suddenly found it much easier to get their works out to millions of readers globally.
Instead of having to hunt down agents and being left to the mercies of publishing houses, an author can simply upload their written work to the KDP platform, add in the necessary details, and hit “publish,” all on their own.
Authors are also able to earn more royalties from book sales and retain full rights to their works published on Amazon.
Using Amazon KDP
Amazon KDP makes it easy to go through the various steps of publishing, setting up your works for distribution, and collecting royalties. Everything to publish and list your book on Amazon is right at your fingertips. You also get access to promotional tools, maximizing your chance of getting book sales.
Using Amazon KDP to self-publish your books involves several steps. Here is a brief overview:
- Create an Amazon KDP account
- Once you are signed in, click “+ Create”
- On the next page, you will see options to create Kindle eBook, Paperback, Hardcover, or Series page
- Select Kindle eBook and fill out the requested information, including book title, subtitle (optional), language, author and contributors’ information, etc.
- Add your book description, set category, and choose keywords
- Upload the files containing the cover image and body content for your Kindle book
- Set your book price
- Click publish
How Much Money Can You Make with Amazon KDP?
A straightforward answer to this question is difficult to come by. It doesn’t help that Amazon is not very forthcoming when it comes on to sharing book publishing data.
Still, there are random reports of what some authors are making on Amazon KDP, some claiming five and six figure earnings yearly, and others far less. For instance, Amazon announced at the end of 2019 that “thousands” of self-published authors made $50,000 or more on the platform for that year.
It is possible to get a rough picture of what you might earn if you sell a certain amount of books. For example, selling an average of 100 books per month at $2.99 each, will work out to about $210 for the month based on a 70% royalty rate. On the other hand, book sales of 500 books per month at the same price will end up with over $1000 for the month.
In my experience, it is definitely possible to make significant amounts of passive income through Amazon KDP.
I wrote and listed a number of books (100+) on Amazon KDP several years ago. I haven’t added any new titles since this initial upload, but I still receive royalty payments every month from many of these titles.
Over the past several years, I have made over $300,000 selling eBooks through Amazon KDP!
I don’t share this figure to brag, but rather to show writers that it is indeed possible to make real money with Amazon KDP. Perhaps equally important, Amazon KDP eBooks can truly function as a source of passive income. Until logging in recently to check my data for this article, I had not logged into my account in several years, let alone made any edits or spent time updating content, and yet I still get paid like clockwork each month!
Strategies to Increase Your Amazon KDP Earnings
How much you make with Amazon KDP depends largely on different royalty rates, book formats, and markets, publication settings, and of course, actual sales numbers. It also depends on the strategies you employ. With that said, it is more important to focus on how top writers on Amazon KDP make money, instead of trying to come up with actual figures on how much you can earn. To that end, we examined strategies used by Amazon KDP bestsellers and listed them below.
1. Understand What Works
Trying to find success as a self-published author on Amazon is more about understanding what works instead of trying to re-invent the wheel. Begin with finding out what kinds of books do well on the platform. Such knowledge will help you formulate solid book ideas that are likely to pick up readers. How do you find out the kind of books that sell on Amazon KDP? Start by writing down your own book ideas (the main topic your book will be based on). After that, it is a matter of doing some research. Here are some steps on how to do that:
- Go to Amazon.com and navigate to “Kindle E-readers & Books.” If you are not signed in, you may first have to click on “Departments” and then “All”.
- Scroll down to “Kindle Store” and click on “Kindle Books.” The resulting page will give you an overview of some of the best sellers, top picks, new releases, and featured books, which you can browse through.
- Locate the “Popular in Kindle” submenu on the left-hand side of the screen and click on “Best Sellers & More,” then “Kindle Best Sellers.”
- Under “Kindle Store” on the left, click on “Kindle eBooks.” This will open up a list of all the broad eBook categories on the platform.
- Click on the main category that matches your book idea and then select a subcategory that further narrows down what the book will be about.
- Browse through the top 15 – 20 books that show up in the list to see if there are any that have a similar topic to yours, or at least a similar theme.
- If you have located a few books that relate to your idea, it means you might be on to something. If there is nothing matching your idea, chances are high that your topic won’t sell well, so you may want to move on to another idea.
- If your idea is reflected in what’s already available, your next move is to check the best seller rankings of the top books that are similar to the topic you want to write about. You can do this by clicking on each title and scrolling down to the product details.
Note on best seller rankings: The best seller rankings help you to figure out two things: which ideas sell best and the level of competition available. Books with very high rankings (between #1 and #1,000) sell the best but often represent the most difficult categories to break into, especially for new authors. Books that are ranked between #1,000 and #30,000 sell less but are usually able to still have decent sales numbers. On the other hand, books that are ranked below #30,000 will have the least competition, but also the weakest sales. It is recommended that you try to match your ideas with book titles in the middle rankings (#1,000 – #30,000) as while competition exists, there is still a good chance of standing out.
2. Follow The Habits of Bestsellers
Authors who generally make a lot of money on the platform are those who manage to land among the best sellers at some point. It follows that you can increase your earnings on Amazon KDP if you learn the habits of best-selling authors and be willing to follow them. How do you create like a bestseller?
- Fine-tune your book title: When writing an article or marketing email, the title plays a strong role in helping readers decide whether they want to read it or not. The same goes for creating a book.
Invest some time in crafting the best possible title that will give potential readers a whiff of what your book is about – but enough to generate strong curiosity. If you are new to writing, you can use a book title generator to help you with brainstorming suitable titles. You may also consider acquainting yourself with words that evoke strong emotions in readers, and which can fit into your book title.
In addition to the main title, it is often a good idea to also write a subtitle. This is supporting information that helps to further awaken interest in readers. For example, the subtitle can speak to who the book is for, mention what question or problem will be solved in the book, or give some idea of the era, place, environment, etc. the book is set in.
- Write well: Well-written content is a key feature that sets apart best-selling writers from the competition on Amazon. Even authors who create low-content material (such as coloring books and journals) often benefit from book descriptions that are written properly.
Eliminate typos and grammatical errors by ensuring you proofread your book once you have finished writing. You can use Grammarly or a similar app to help limit errors and lessen the amount of proofreading you will need to do. If possible (and especially if it’s a long novel), you can hire a professional copy editor to ensure the writing flows well and that repetitions and redundancies are removed.
Another thing to pay attention to is how well the content is laid out on the page. There are recommended eBook formatting strategies for Kindle that, if followed, can ensure the content in your book is laid out properly. In addition, there are a number of apps that you can use to format your eBook, including Book Design Templates and Vellum (for Mac users). You may also consider hiring a professional freelancer to do it for you.
- Invest in a high-quality book cover: A killer cover image helps to draw attention to your book and increases the chance of getting sales. With the competition being so fierce among authors on Amazon, having a standout book cover is essential.
Your book cover should be professionally done by a graphic artist who knows what they are doing. If you have exceptional graphic design skills, then you should go for it. Otherwise, it is best to outsource this part of the job.
- Write a winning description: Readers want to know what your book is about and what to expect before deciding to read it. This is where having a great book description comes in. An effective book description does not merely summarize the contents of the book. Instead, it persuades the reader that your work is worth their time. While you don’t want to explain in detail what the book is about, the description needs to spark curiosity and lead readers to see what potential benefits are in store for them.
- Offer multiple formats: Amazon KDP allows you to cater to different kinds of readers. Some people will prefer to hold a physical book in their hands, for instance, while others prefer to read from the Kindle app. There are also those who prefer to listen by purchasing audio books. Whatever the case, it is possible to ramp up sales if you make your book available in the different formats, thereby allowing all types of readers to get your book in the form they prefer.
- Create a series: In an age where people increasingly binge on content (think addictive Netflix series), publishing a series of books is a great way to increase your earning potential. This is especially true if you are writing fictional story books.
A one-off story will be purchased once and then the reader may or may not decide to check out your future releases. But creating a series can help to keep your readers constantly looking forward to what comes next. Instead of one purchase, readers will keep coming back to buy the follow up stories in the series.
Being able to deliver a good book series requires excellent writing skills. Each book should leave a question in the reader’s mind, enough to make them want to get the next installment so they can satisfy that curiosity.
- Increase your law of average with more books: The Amazon KDP algorithm works in a similar way to Google – authors who publish on a regular and consistent basis will, naturally, see their books being shown to readers more often than those who only have a few books.
Publishing plenty of books is also necessary if you join the Kindle Unlimited program. This is where you earn based on number of pages read rather than individual book sales.
Writing five or more books per year can be daunting for writers who are not creating low-content books. It is possible to pull it off if you are writing full-time. But many writers have 9-5 jobs and can only spend a few hours weekly on writing books. In such a case, you may consider hiring ghostwriters. Of course, this requires you to have money to invest in outsourcing skillful writers.
- Set the right price: The price for your books naturally affect how much money you can make. As it stands, Amazon offers three pricing tiers with different royalty shares.
- $0.99 – $2.98 (35% royalty payout)
- $2.99 – $9.99 (70% royalty payout)
- $10 and up (35% royalty payout)
Obviously, the second tier allows you to earn more percentage royalties, but before you go rushing to price your book between $2.99 and $9.99, you should know there are pros and cons involved.
For starters, people are quicker to buy a $0.99 title than one that is priced higher, so this might be a better option to go with if you are just starting out on Amazon KDP. This lower price is also ideal when promoting new books – you can always increase prices later on.
Additionally, readers want to know they are getting a certain amount of content for the price, so a short story may not warrant the higher price in their sight, especially if there are similar books in your category that are priced below $2.99.
Another option is to sell your books initially for $0. This might sound counterintuitive, but giving away free books can be a great strategy to capture reviews and potential customers if you don’t yet have an audience.
3. Spend Time Marketing Your Books
It is important to market your books before launch, and after publishing, in order to amplify your earning potential. There are a variety of ways to do this, including free and paid strategies. Some ideas include:
- Placing ads using Amazon’s advertising tools
- Running ads on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media platforms
- Book giveaways and discount specials in tandem with new releases or anniversaries
- Hosting live book readings
- Creating a website or landing page to help promote your book
- Creating a countdown promotion to show scarcity/limited time
- Publishing snippets to your social media followers with a link to access the book for purchase
The answer to the question of how much money can you make on Amazon KDP is essentially unlimited given the wide reach of Amazon’s platform. The exact amount you earn from Amazon KDP will vary tremendously based on the size of your existing audience, how many books you publish, what prices you sell your books at, and how much time and effort you are willing to invest in marketing your book.
But the good news is that, yes, it is possible to make substantial passive income by selling eBooks on Amazon KDP. It is just a matter of putting yourself in the best position by knowing what strategies work and following them.