The Real Costs of Self-Publishing on Amazon KDP (8 Steps) 2023
What is the cost of publishing a book? Well, it depends, but it's definitely not close to zero!
For many aspiring authors, the thought of self-publishing on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) seems like a quick and easy way to get their work out into the world. However, there are some real costs that come with self-publishing on KDP that many people don't consider.
First we need to identify the steps of self-publishing:
How To Publish a Book on Amazon in 8 Steps? (Summary)
- Find your motivation and the core idea behind your book
- Why you wish to write a book at all?
- Is it your own story? (Memoir)
- Are these quality findings that should be shared? (Self-help, Business books)
- Is it a unique storyline? (Fiction books)
- Write your manuscript
- Hire an editor to your manuscript
- Format your book
- Hire a quality cover designer
- Choose your self-publishing platform
- This would be KDP in our case but there are alternatives like
- and there are more
- Publish your book
- Find your book's keywords
- Find a kick-ass title and also consider adding a sub-title
- Find the right categories to your book
- Use and ideal pricing strategy
- (Optional) Audiobook creation (ACX)
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Do you know why most books fail?Our Authors' corner
Quick Introduction to Self-Publishing
A few years ago, publishing a book meant seeking a publishing house inundated with several inquiries for looking at a manuscript. This was challenging in an extremely competitive market. The truth was that several publishers did not even go through a manuscript if there was no agent in between.
This made the procedure of publishing a book inefficient in terms of both time and money. Even if a publisher glanced at a manuscript, the probability of publishing the book and selling it in stores was low.
Today, this scenario has completely changed, thanks to a couple of novel opportunities that enable authors to self-publish their books. Once deemed mediocre in the industry for delivering impulsive books, self-publishing has now become an almost better way for those with a great outline popping in their mind.
Yes, it is not something that all authors will prefer. While many people think that traditionally published authors are more successful, the fact is that different ways of publishing exist for different authors and goals.
Going through a publishing house, indeed, has some benefits, as they know the publishing industry well, their readers, and ideal market strategies. Nevertheless, self-publishing bestows you with full control over your original piece of work and helps to earn more.
The following article will show how to publish a book on Amazon, focusing mainly on KDP platform, which is the best alternative for new authors.
Self-Publishing in 2022: The Motivating After-effects of COVID-19
Due to the safety measure of lockdown across the globe to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, people in their homes started reading more. Similarly, more people became avid readers for getting rid of troublesome distractions induced by the difficult time.
It was found that readers became more interested in fiction books, such as thrillers, adventures, and social justice although all genres managed to fetch more readers.
More readers found that online books were available in different reading formats that the physical stores could not offer at competitive prices. Further, more authors made their books digitally available. Thus, despite other forms of easily-accessible entertainment such as TV shows and movies, countless people have turned to reading books.
Thus, the acceleration of the digital trend across the planet is likely to last in this year and beyond. This trend encompasses not only ebooks but also Print on Demand (POD) and audiobooks. This is inspirational for authors now shifting to digital platforms.
Ways to Self-Publish a Book
The simplest and swiftest way to publish your book online is to choose an online book platform such as Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Lulu, IngramSpark, Barnes and Noble Press, or Apple Books. Well, these are only a few popular ones to name here, as the list is big.
You can either choose one of these big digital retailers or use aggregators that will post your book on a variety of platforms but by taking its share of profit. A few of these famous aggregators are Smashwords and Draft2Digital.
Most self-publishers use Amazon Kindle, known as Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP. This is because it is the simplest platform for new authors and has the biggest US market share. It is recommended to get started with it without any middleman. Just get accustomed to this platform and then publish on other digital platforms via aggregators.
8 Steps to Self-publish Your Book and The Cost of each Step
Here are our 8 steps on self-publishing along with the costs of publishing a book.
01. Find Out Why You Wish to Write a Book and Self-publish It!
Cost: Your time
Many book authors ignore this most important step, as they do not recognize this step as a motivational one. They usually start with the topic of the book. Knowing why you wish to write a book acts as the biggest motivator to sustain your commitment to self-publishing the book.
This is the first and the most critical step that helps you become a bestseller in no time. To know the purpose of writing your book, just ask a few questions to yourself, which are as follows:
- Are you trying to test your knowledge and skills to become a paid author?
- Are you an entrepreneur with good business and are now looking for alternate sources of revenue?
- Are you willing to become a popular freelance author?
- Have you obtained a worth-sharing experience based on which you intend to build an asset? Or do you have many great writing ideas and just wish to get started with one?
- Do you have a larger number of book ideas or prompts you need to start writing?
Do: Use these questions as an outline and jot down at least five applicable reasons as motivators for yourself.
02. Write the Book (The Manuscript)
Cost: Your time
Now, you should think about the topic of the book and prepare the first draft. You start by thinking genuinely about what to write about by considering your target audience. Then, you proceed towards creating a manuscript.
You may choose to write non-fiction, fiction, or a memoir book. A non-fiction book will usually be on some how-to topic or a topic that can solve the readers’ issue. You may have to research a lot and take interviews to write.
In case of a fiction book, you will prepare some basis and develop the story upon it while including plotting and sketching characters. A memoir can be a book based on some real event or incident due to which it simply tells a story. It can also be writing about your own life.
Regardless of the kind of book you wish to write, the process of creating a manuscript remains the same. Once done, you get your manuscript proofread. In between, you may face some time-consuming challenges. For example, you may look at a blank page for hours and still unable to write something concrete.
This triggers irritation, which results in procrastination. Well, it is completely fine to experience so, as it is hard to write a book. Still, it is possible to make it easy by developing and following a small but synchronized process. This process should include the following:
- Setting your environment for writing; this should be the place where there is no interference or confusion and your head is at peace.
- Making writing a habit by doing so at the same time daily; this will help you write regularly as well as automatically.
- Splitting the book into small milestones and scheduling them per day or week using a calendar; this will ensure that you complete the book without taking much time.
- Designing an outline or a structure that gives direction to your tale; doing so keeps your writing organized.
- Finding a reliable friend who can be your partner to help you in finishing the manuscript or draft by the targeted date; this partner will give honest feedback about what you have written according to which you can revise.
Do: Strictly follow the aforementioned essentials. Above all, ensure to choose a partner who can give unbiased feedback.
Writing a book is akin to building a new skill. So, it is essential to be patient enough to give proper time and significant effort along with an enthusiasm to learn. If you wish to be an effective writer, do accept the negative feedback points first and learn by improving them.
Once the manuscript is ready, it is now time to edit it. However, it is not a good idea to do so by yourself. This is because you may be unable to objectively proofread it. So, it is ideal to hire a freelance editor who can do it for you.
Do you need some more resources and advice in this field? Check out our book collection for authors.
03. Edit and Proofreeding the Manuscript
This is perhaps the most important step, as it can make the difference between a mediocre book or a bestseller. Thus, do not hurry at all at this stage.
Editing is an umbrella term, as it ranges from rewriting (by you) of the first draft to proofreading prior to the release of the final book.
- Initial Editing – It takes a lot of time and effort, but I suggest to do it on your own.
- Copy-editing – This part should be always made by a 3rd party, you can't do everything on yourself
- Proofreading – Maybe it is the cheapest task from this list, but this is also should be done by someone who haven't read the text before
For this purpuse you can find great freelancers on Fiverr.
Although you will need the expertise of a professional editor, it is wise to edit your work as much as you can before giving it to the editor. Time is money for both you and the editor.
Thus, if you can put as many sentences as possible in proper form, you will save the editor’s time and effort as well as your money. Otherwise, you will end up paying for those rectifications that even you could have done.
If you are writing a novel, self-editing would include going through a couple of drafts to settle the characters and fix a storyline. In case of a non-fiction book, you would have to share the manuscript with an interested group and fix it as per the feedback.
Once you edit your manuscript, it is best to show it to an ideal editor. To find such an editor, begin with your network of friends and office colleagues. If you know a qualified editor, try contacting her or him. If you know someone who can get you an editor, reach out to her or him too.
If none of these ways works, consider hiring a professional editor from websites dedicated to freelancers. You can do so as per your budget. However, you should always go through the work portfolios and references of the promising freelance editors.
Regardless of how you get your editor, ensure that the professional is interested in your topic and is a suitable fit prior to hiring them and then paying a small amount for editing a couple of pages. You should also ensure that the book gets edited in a month including a few rounds of revisions and fixes.
In case you find that the chosen editor is not doing good or is not meeting the deadline, do look for another editor. This is why you should never pay fully in the beginning.
Do: Never forget the editing procedure. Get the best editor for your book to get the English, grammar, and flow right!
04. Formatting Your Self-published book
Cost: Free (your time) – $300
If we are speaking about ebook editing with Sigil it is considered free (even the software is open-source). Just takes time and some Html and CSS knowledge.
If we are talking about professional formatting of a paperback book with a lot of pictures and pages, the price could quickly climb higher.
Once the book content is error-free, it is time to format it. For this, it is essential to have consistent fonts, proper spacing, uniform indentations, and clear illustrations (if any). The formatting should be done keeping the publishing platform in mind, which can be preferably Amazon KDP.
It is vital to note that formatting will be different for non-fiction and fiction books. A non-fiction book will have no indentation but spaces between paragraphs. On the other hand, fiction books will have an indentation for each new paragraph.
Do: Use a professional to handle the formatting tasks for different book formats (Kindle, paperback etc.) There is a lot of freelancer platform (like Fiverr) where you may find good on budget gigs for this purpose.
05. Design a Book Cover
A professional Kindle book cover starts at $100 on Fiverr. This is one standard Kindle cover with zero revisions (no modification requests).
- Never start your book with a self-made cover, you will need a professional cover no matter
- If you are looking for cheap service providers (not bad at all) go find with a highly rated provider on Fiverr
- If you have a budget for this purpose check out 99designs
You could find both good and bad designers on both places, so always check their latest works and choose the selected one according to their work reference.
If you are looking for professional on budget designers, check our selection of book cover artists.
A cover is perhaps the first feature that converts your book viewer into a customer. Thus, a high-quality, attractive, and a legible book cover is essential when it comes to self-publishing. After all, the cover design is what a viewer will glance at first. This will help the viewer decide whether to read the book or not.
It is said not to judge a book by its cover but this is forgotten at the first glance. Thus, you need to create a professional cover that shall make your book in that genre stand apart from the rest.
The blend of the title, visuals, colors, and typography should give you a cover that captivates the mind of others, promises a clear and interesting story, and adheres to the genre’s practices. You should start with the title.
Once the writing is done, give considerable time to decide a captivating title. It should not only sound good but also capture the eyes of the intended audience. At the same time, the audience will see the cover while shopping around.
Even if the title is captivating, the book does not sell without an interesting cover. So, it is essential to get a professional and captivating cover design that can attract people to your book from amidst the assortment of other covers.
You may choose to design a cover for yourself if you are skilled or hire a professional designer for you to do the same. You can find such designers on websites such as Upwork, Fiverr, 100 Covers, and 99 Designs. The charges will differ as per the service and cover you need but the outcome will be worthy.
No matter how you get your book cover, you should know what goes into making a good cover. Clear and easy-to-read title and subtitle, professional touch for conversion into sales, simple styling without any overdo, and a look that appeals to your intended audience.
Do: Ensure to have a cover that will get your book a competitive edge!
Do: Always use a professional cover designer for this purpose
06. Choose the Platform for Self-publishing
Cost: Free (Amazon KDP, Smashwords etc.)
Some years ago, self-publishing a book meant making it print and paying directly for those many copies. That said; the author usually ended up with unsold copies. Fortunately, modern publishing has removed this issue.
The easiest way to self-publish your book is to publish it with Amazon KDP service. It is a platform for the authors wherein you can upload your book and get it listed without paying a penny.
Interested readers can buy that ebook or convert it into a print version with a single mouse click. There is no need for you to have some prior publishing knowledge; Amazon has made it so simple that even a naïve author can publish a book.
KDP is where you create and handle Kindle ebooks, paperbacks and hardcover. With the acquisition of a famous printing company named CreateSpace, Amazon stepped into the big market of self-publishing and it is the most advanced platform for this purpose.
Through the KDP forums and other resources, you can easily learn how to publish on your own and start selling quickly. KDP offers maximum royalty and that ebooks are typically priced lower than the printed ones. This attracts the readers who do not wish to pay $20 for a book whose author is unknown.
07. How to Publish a Book on Amazon KDP?
Most people think that this may be the only relevant step of this article but in reality it isn't. It isn't just about pushing the button, you will see the most important elements of it.
You get started for publishing by first creating your KDP account using your existing Amazon account or e-mail ID. The procedure is simple, but there are some good tips along with the process (Authors' Corner – Amazon KDP Guides) which is worth reading before starting the process in KDP. During this process, you need to focus on the following essentials:
- Book Description: You need to write a small but comprehensive description of your book. It should be powerful enough to hook and captivating enough to summarize the story. Consider adding some keywords here if they match with the flow of what you are writing.
- Keywords: These are key phrases using which a reader can find your book. You can specify up to seven such words for your book. If you do not know how to choose keywords, Amazon has good resources on it. Just ensure to choose meticulously so that it positively influences the visibility of your book on Amazon. You should also consider the Keywords to avoid section.
- Categories: Amazon provides two categories for a book, one being a broader one such as Adventure or Mystery and the other being a specific one such as Water Sports Adventure. You can add more categories if you wish to and compete on that many levels/categories. This makes it quicker for the seekers to get into the specific category of what they are looking for.
- Price: As you are in charge of your book, you can easily govern the rate at which it sells. Consider going through the current prices of books from other authors in your category and determine the price. In case of a non-fiction book from a popular author, most probable buyers do not pay beyond $25. Several non-fiction books from the first-time authors are initially priced below $6. So, do not charge more than $6 here, as people will not pay a big amount for an ebook. Your time, effort, and emotion are priceless. Still, even the best-sellers do not charge in hundreds of dollars. It is wise to start at a low price and then slowly increase it if deemed lucrative. This strategy will then get you a segment of skeptical audience to increase your customer base. You may even consider offering a fiction book for free for some days to obtain a good number of buyers.
In our Authors' Corner you will find valuable visual guides for publishing (90% of the guides and tools are free to use):
- Most Popular Book Categories
- Book Cover AI Tester (just in case you would like to test your new design)
- Amazon KDP Guides (how to fill and upload data to Amazon KDP step-by-step)
- Amazon Keywords article (find keywords that will offer marketing value to your book)
- Book pricing guide (find the ideal pricing strategy for your book)
During the publishing process, you will also be asked to include your photo, bio, and a blog or Website link to make you stand apart from other authors. Do fill in these details so that probable readers can easily find out about you. Finally, publish your digital book!
Do: Choose a low price to attract an increasing number of readers and then increase it with popularity!
After the different book formats are live on Amazon, let Amazon's website 24 hours to link the different formats (paperback, hardcover, Kindle etc.) What if doesn't happen?
How To Link Your Book Formats On Amazon Manually?
If the different book formats have been published using all the KDP platform, than do the following:
- Enter into your KDP Bookshelf
- Find the book title you would like to link
- Click “Link existing paperback” / “Link existing Kindle eBook” / “Link existing hardcover”
- Enter the book you want to link into the search field and click “Search”
- If you see the book, click “Link books”
If you published your books using different platforms like 3rd party publishers, than you will need to reach Amazon staff, using a simple form:
- Visit https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/contact-us?topicId=productPagePrint&subtopicId=linking
- Click “Amazon Store & Product Detail Page”
- Click “Link your print and Kindle editions”
- Select “E-mail”
- In the email enter both ISBN/ASIN codes and links of the book formats
08. Marketing Your Self-Published Book
You have just published your first ebook on Amazon. However, this is not the end of your journey; it is just 50% work done. The remaining 50% involves actions to make your book shine amongst Amazon customers. Yes, now it is time for you to do marketing for maximizing reach and boost sales.
- Cater to All Customers: While most customers can read, some are physically challenged. So, consider making your book accessible by making it available in audio form (use ACX for creating an audiobook). You may record your book and publish it. You should also consider giving a print version for those who still love having the hard copy in hand.
- Harness the Power of E-mail Marketing: E-mail communication is a great tool for being in touch with the interested readers and promoting your book. It is free, easy, and anytime accessible. Collect every potential e-mail into your contact address!
- Consider a Giveaway: Consider giving a special offer to your probable readers in return for sharing their e-mail IDs. Doing so can easily expand your customer base and increase your conversion rate.
- Get Book Reviews: This is another reliable way to get more readers for your book. If an existing reader leaves a review on Amazon for your book, it can fetch many more without putting any effort from your side. So, do ask your customers for writing reviews on Amazon. You may even contact some reviewers and ask them to do so and get a free copy of your book. The best platform is Netgalley for this purpose. In short, ensure that you get transparent reviews, too positive or too negative are only exaggerations.
- Go for Amazon Ads: Consider this strategy if you can spend some extra money on Amazon ads. Use AMS only when your book has already presence and visibility on Amazon (after 10-20 reviews). If done well, it can significantly increase your sales, using relevant keywords. You can even try for social media ad campaigns.
- Goodreads Marketing: There are many opportunities on Goodreads, which is the second largest book catalog in English after Amazon. If you want to learn more read our detailed guide for Listopia lists and Goodreads marketing.
09. (Optional) Audiobook
Cost: $100–500 (depending on the length of the book)
ACX is an excellent platform to turn your existing ebook into Audiobook. You could either choose a narrator who with you will share the royalty, in this case the narration work will cost somewhere between $0 – $100. In the other case is when you cover the cost of narration and you will receive all the royalties after future sales the cost factor rises to $200-500 depending on the book's length.
Audiobook sales have been skyrocketing with much lower competition than ebooks and paperbacks in the last years.
Final thoughts on How to Self-Publish a Book and It's Costs
A professional self-published book costs $450-4,000 altogether, which already includes some important marketing actions and a professional edit and cover.
While the cost of publishing a book could be much smaller if you pay a small “self-publishing” house to do it for you like Bookbaby, but it cost your time and attention.
Self-publishing on Amazon KDP gives full control to the author to print and distribute the self-written book typically via a self-publishing platform while evading the traditional publishing entities. The most important benefit of self-publishing is that your royalty income will be maximized. Publishers have high cut from your profit, this eliminated when you are directly using KDP. Also, you an follow sales on daily basis, which is more like a yearly basis in case of traditional publishers.
If you have time and you would like to learn more about the book market, self-publishing is definitely the way for you!
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My profession is online marketing and development (10+ years experience), check my latest mobile app called Upcoming or my Chrome extensions for ChatGPT. But my real passion is reading books both fiction and non-fiction. I have several favorite authors like James Redfield or Daniel Keyes. If I read a book I always want to find the best part of it, every book has it's unique value.