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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Amazon Creates Another Way for Authors To Make Money Selling eBooks - What’s the Hype About Kindle Direct Publishing

By Lorilyn Roberts

The first time I read about Kindle Direct Publishing, also known as KDP, I couldn’t see the value of it. Why would I want to give away a Kindle book for up to five days every three months and be forced to yank it off all other distribution sites, including Smashwords? 

I had three ebooks at that time being sold through Smashwords, and with their premium distribution, my books were available to Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and other websites I learned about later. I didn’t understand the fine print about the KDP Loan Option, which sounded like a lot of hype about nothing, and I didn’t know anyone who was enrolled. I wrote off  KDP thinking it was too much trouble to implement and I would be wasting my time.

For those who don’t know me, I lead the John 3:16 Marketing Network, a network of over two hundred Christian authors. Our chief focus is to help Christian authors launch their books when published on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. One of the most valuable aspects of belonging to the network is the sharing of information. In January  2012, we had a new member, Bob Saffrin, who emailed me about his success with a Kindle book, Moses –Steps to a Life of Faith, in the KDP Select Program. After offering it for one day free, he had almost four thousand ebooks “sold” and topped the charts in all the nonfiction subcategories.

In over of year of launching books, we had never had anywhere close to that number of books sold in one day—and we are a network that launches books. Of course, Mr. Saffrin’s ebook was free, so my next question was, besides the great exposure he had received—four thousand books loaded on Kindles in the United States and Canada and even other countries sounded awesome—would those downloads translate into royalties? Or was if a fluke? Many people had bought Kindles for Christmas and were looking for cheap ebooks to load on their new “toy.”

I started paying attention to KDP Select through other authors in the John 3:16 Marketing Network. Some were willing to share their numbers. Martin Roth, an Australian author of international thrillers, emailed me about his success with Kindle Direct Publishing. He, too, had “sold” thousands of ebooks with KDP. Now I had validation that it wasn’t just nonfiction books that were doing well with KDP but fiction books also; and it couldn’t have been just  an after-Christmas rush to upload new ebooks on new Kindles. This was for real.

I decided to give KDP a try—which required a lot of effort on my part. Mr. Roth warned me that it was important to make sure you removed your ebook from all distribution sites except Amazon. Your book had to be exclusive to Amazon. My first thought was, how would they know anyway?

Don’t be fooled—Amazon will find your ebook on other websites and contact you to remove it. They are serious about this. When Amazon says exclusivity, they mean it. I waited a couple of months before enrolling my book in the program to ensure it was removed from all the websites I knew about, and Amazon found more later and alerted me.

My book Children of Dreams is an adoption memoir, and that was the first book I put into the Kindle Direct Publishing Program. In the meantime, some of our John 3:16 Authors had compiled a list of FREE websites where you could promote or advertise your ebook the days it was free on Amazon. I went through that list to maximize my book’s exposure.

For two days, over Mother’s Day weekend, I offered Children of Dreams for free on Kindle. By the end of the weekend, I had almost 17,000 ebooks downloaded and it hit number eleven out of all free books on Amazon.

I was ecstatic to have that many books downloaded on Kindles all over the world. In comparison to the number of ebooks I had sold previously, it was astounding. The question then became, how can I make money with this?

Since that weekend, I have offered my other ebooks for free through Kindle Direct Publishing. For the month of July, I received a royalty payment from Amazon for $350. Another author in the John 3:16 Marketing Network made $4,000 last month through Kindle Direct Publishing. The numbers vary widely, but you can make money using KDP. I am delighted that even I can make a few dollars to pay a bill, and the most important thing is, I didn’t spend a dime hiring a publicist or a marketing firm—and, to be honest, they will soon exhaust anyone’s financial resources and may not sell you a single book. I am speaking from personal experience.

Is KDP Select for you? To learn more about the specific details, go to There are also step-by-step instructions on how to enroll your book in the program.

What about the exclusivity requirement? That means my book can’t be sold anywhere else.

Here are my thoughts: If it bothers you, then don’t do it. Amazon has come up with a marketing method that works. It’s a win-win for Amazon and the author. You have a choice, and as long as authors have that choice, I see nothing wrong with it. Amazon is in business and they are good at it. Looking at their growth and market share, they are probably the best. The challenge is for another company to come up with a better “KDP Select Program” than Amazon’s.

Here are some suggestions for anyone who is listening:  Implement a similar program that doesn’t require exclusivity. Challenge Amazon. Become a bigger player by offering authors more. What about an 80 percent royalty instead of 75 on books priced at $2.99 or more? What about a 50 percent royalty on books that are only 99 cents? What about allowing us to make our books free whenever we want—ten days a month instead of five?

Just like a lover woos his mistress, you’ve got to convince me to give up KDP Select in its current form and prove that you can offer me something better.

The royalty payments I have received from Smashwords pale in comparison to what I have earned with Amazon, even with Smashwords’ premium distribution. In fact, the $65 in my Smashwords account isn’t enough to deposit into my bank account based on their minimum requirement for direct deposit.

Until another company convinces me otherwise, I will stick with Kindle Direct Publishing, despite its exclusivity. Amazon needs more competition from other companies to entice them to adjust their paradigm. As long as KDP continues to put more money in authors’ pockets, including Smashwords, Amazon won't have any inclination to “rock the boat” and change it.

In a couple of months, I will be releasing my new YA novel, Seventh Dimension – The Door, and I plan on enrolling it into the KDP Select Program. One thing I want to stress, however, is you still need to promote your book. Laziness in promotion won’t sell books. KDP Select will require effort in terms of letting websites and others know when your Kindle book is free. Then you have the opportunity to make some money after the free promotion is over. It’s the uptake in sales following the free promotions that rings up that royalty check. Amazon also pays every month through direct deposit into authors’ bank accounts if it’s set up that way. My question is, why would anyone not want to do it?

For information on how to join the John 3:16 Marketing Network, go to:



  1. Excellent post. It helped me make my decision to get into the KDP program. Thanks.

    Tom Blubaugh, Author
    Night of the Cossack

  2. I agree--excellent post! So much valuable information and impressive stats! Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us!

  3. All is clear now. Thanks a lot

  4. Excellent article. You started out calling it KDP, which is Amazon's Kindle publishing program. However, you later used KDP Select which is what you are describing. You mentioned the need for promotion and this is a biggie. John 316 members have provided suggestions to help promote your free days. Also, some of us are seeing dwindling results over time and trying skipping a 90-day period all together to see if that helps. I've had more than 72,000 of my first two books downloaded and increased sales have followed each free period.

  5. I forgot to mention that a significant part of KDP Select for me is the income from Amazon lending the book to its Prime members. The royalties are sometimes more than I get if they sell the book.

  6. This is the best post I've read so far on KDP. Unfortunately I am not eligible since my books are all contracted and I don't have the rights to do this. However, I have been thinking about future books ... :) Thanks for such a thorough and convincing take on the matter, Lorilyn.

  7. Tracy, many publishers use this promotion tool. You don't have to be self published.

  8. I am still debating the Kindle Select program. Using the "free days" did increase the visibility of my non-fiction and also regular sales. I am about to put my novel, RUN, up there for free and see if it has similar results.


  9. Thanks for your comments, almost $100 of the $350 I made last month was through the loan program, so it's nothing to sneeze at. And those websites with lending programs that aren't paying authors, like Amazon does, they should. This is big money!

  10. Sid, thanks for mentioning the loan program. $100 of that $350 last month came from loans.

    That just emphasizes those websites loaning out books without paying royalties have figured out a way to save themselves a lot of money.

  11. Thanks for your comments, almost $100 of the $350 I made last month was through the loan program, so it's nothing to sneeze at. And those websites with lending programs that aren't paying authors, like Amazon does, they should. This is big money!

  12. You are convincing me. I feel jostled constantly by various strategies people swear by. The facts you have provided make the case. Thank you for taking the time to explain your results.