Printing Books with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing
by Linda Austin, Moonbridge Publications
Updated March 2020
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is cost-efficient and easy to use, and ebooks and print books conveniently are managed under one system. Publishing services (cover design, layout) are not offered. Books will be automatically loaded onto the Amazon website for sales. Amazon direct-deposits royalties to the author’s bank account – a three-month lag time exists to account for any books returned by customers (rare unless the book is badly written or not edited well). Authors can purchase their own book at a discount, but no royalties earned for those.
Be sure to read the details on the Kindle Direct Publishing website before using their services. KDP has many articles online to help self-publishers learn about publishing and marketing.
Using an Amazon-provided ISBN
Many self-publishing authors use the free IBSNs provided by Amazon, which means Amazon is the official publisher and the book’s Amazon page will show “Independently Published” next to the publisher name. The author does own the copyright. An ISBN is like a social security number for the book. An ISBN and bar code are required for print books sold via commercial sales routes. KDP will automatically place a bar code (which includes the ISBN, yours or Amazon’s) on the back cover of each book and on the last page of the book.
Using Your Own ISBN
You can form your own publishing company and purchase your own ISBNs from Bowker (currently 1 for $125 or 10 for $295). Register your book and its ISBN into the Bowker Books in Print database. You are the publisher on record. KDP will then use your ISBN to create the bar code on the back cover and your own company will be listed as the publisher.
Owning your own ISBN is not that important if selling only via Amazon or selling by hand, such as at book fairs, but many serious authors prefer to have their own company on record as official publisher – this looks professional. Physical book stores and libraries are not attracted to books published by Amazon, so if you plan to market to them, you will want your own ISBN.
Sales and Use Tax
You can buy copies of your own book at discount through KDP. Generally, you will be charged sales tax on purchase of your own books unless you have registered for Amazon’s Sales & Use Tax Exemption. To apply, when you log in to the main Amazon website, look at My Accounts, then in the Ordering & Shopping Preferences box, click on Amazon Tax Exemption Program and follow directions for submitting online or via postal mail. You will enter the state Tax ID number of your company.
Having a tax exemption on file allows you to purchase your books without paying sales tax, on condition that you will re-sell those books and you will collect sales tax from your buyers. Tax rate varies per town or jurisdiction where you sell your book. You do not have to collect sales tax from out-of-state sales. You will report and pay collected taxes to your state at year end. If you sell via consignment to book stores, the store will collect and report the taxes. When readers buy your books direct from Amazon, Amazon takes care of any sales tax collecting and reporting.
Availability of KDP Print Books
Print books published with KDP are available only on Amazon, but KDP offers (for free) an Expanded Distribution (ED) option. The only advantage of using ED is that the book will be available on the Barnes & Noble website. The disadvantage is that you will need an Amazon ISBN (see above about ISBNs), if that matters to you. The book must also be one of several standard sizes.
Expanded Distribution will also get the book listed in the Ingram database. Ingram is a major wholesaler-distributor for print books, the one most book stores and libraries order from. But, since you MUST use an Amazon ISBN for Expanded Distribution, that makes your book unattractive to libraries and book stores, since Amazon is the publisher. (See my article on IngramSpark.)
Also, Expanded Distribution selling terms for Ingram and B&T are not up to industry standards. Stores are used to buying at 50-55% discount so they can make some profit re-selling, and ED only gives them a 25% discount. ED also does not allow for returns of unsold stock, which book stores are accustomed to doing with books that do not sell well. Hence, for several reasons book stores will not willingly order via Expanded Distribution. Libraries are generally fine with ordering from Amazon via ED but will order from the main Amazon website if necessary. Author royalties are less (40% of list vs 60%) if books are bought through Expanded Distribution channels.
Quality of KDP Print Books
The books look fine, although once read, the front cover tends not to lie flat. Good quality black & white photos and illustrations usually do well on white paper and sometimes on cream—KDP cream paper may have a distinct yellowish hue. Color illustrations with any digital printer do not fare as well, so be especially aware of this if printing children’s books – you may need to use the costly Custom Interior option. Be sure to have a printed proof book mailed to you for your approval, particularly to check the colors; do not rely on the online proof. Cost of a proof copy and shipping is inexpensive. Digital printing is not recommended for books full of high-quality art.
Getting a KDP Print Book Into a Local Book Store
For sales at physical stores, you will probably have to ask the store to accept it for consignment sales. Consignment means the store gets 40% and you get 60% of sell price. It is possible that a book store will not want anything to do with a KDP book if it shows an Amazon connection. Authors should develop a good relationship with the book store owner (be a friendly customer, not a stranger expecting a favor) and have a quality product with a sales plan. For consignment, authors should assume responsibility for supplying and tracking books and asking for payment – do not depend on the book store. These days, bookstores may charge the author a “shelving fee” if they accept the book.
Most new authors of any genre book should find Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing print book option to be economical and appropriate for their needs. Most people have found the KDP service reps to be responsive and helpful. Amazon owning the ISBN is not much of an issue with online- or hand-selling, but owning your own ISBN is more professional, showing your company as publisher. Those believing their books would be important to libraries or physical book stores nationwide – and are ready to market to them – will need to use Ingram Spark, perhaps in addition to KDP without Expanded Distribution (see my IngramSpark article). For books able to withstand numerous readings (ex. how-to books), you may prefer IngramSpark.