The Key Benefits and Drawbacks of Amazon KDP Publishing Explained

3rd July, 2024

11 min read

The Key Benefits and Drawbacks of Amazon KDP Publishing Explained

The Key Benefits and Drawbacks of Amazon KDP Publishing Explained

Written by:

Alex Thompson

Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) is a self-publishing platform that allows authors to publish and distribute their eBooks and paperbacks directly to millions of readers via Amazon. Authors upload their manuscripts, set pricing and manage their sales via the KDP portal. KDP provides access to Amazon's extensive customer base, global distribution, and various promotional tools, making it an attractive option for independent authors looking to reach a wide audience with minimal upfront costs.

In this article, I will be exploring the key benefits and drawbacks of KDP publishing. By the end of the article, you’ll have a firm idea of what it is best suited for and what it is less suited to and be able to make a decision about whether publishing via KDP is the best publishing route for you.

Key Benefits of Amazon KDP

There are a wide variety of benefits that authors can experience when using Amazon KDP to publish their books. While not an exhaustive list, I have summarised what I think are the key benefits for authors considering Amazon KDP to publish their book.


One of the key benefits of KDP publishing is its accessibility for all authors, no matter the genre, audience or commerciality of their book. The platform is designed to be accessed by all from anywhere with an internet connection, making it the most accessible form of publishing available. The simplified publishing process allows authors to upload their manuscript, set pricing and release for sale with ease. 

KDP offer step-by-step guidance through generic documentation to help authors with the process at each stage, from formatting the book to selecting distribution options, and many authors find this is enough help to publish the book without help. This reduces the barriers to entry for new authors, allowing them to focus more on their writing and less on the complexities of publishing.

Cost-Effective Publishing

Amazon KDP publishing is highly cost-effective for authors looking to self-publish. The platform is free to use, eliminating the need for significant upfront investment. Unlike traditional publishing, KDP operates on a print-on-demand (POD) model for paperbacks, ensuring low overhead costs due to no books being printed in advance of a sale being made. The sacrifices that authors will need to make on the quality of the product as well as the higher unit cost when printed individually using POD can be outweighed by the benefits of reduced initial costs. 

All this means that authors only incur printing costs when a book is sold and avoid the need to store any books themselves or with a third party. Additionally, there are no fees for uploading or listing eBooks. This affordability makes KDP an attractive option for authors who want to minimise their upfront costs. While there are still costs attached to KDP publishing (see sections below) the upfront costs are negligible.

Wide Reach & Global Availability

Amazon KDP publishing offers authors a wide reach and global availability, allowing authors to access and sell their books to Amazon’s extensive worldwide customer base. It enables authors to potentially tap into millions of prospective readers worldwide, increasing their book's visibility and sales potential. With KDP, books are available on Amazon’s international sites, ensuring global distribution without additional effort from the author. This expansive reach is particularly beneficial for independent authors, as it allows them to compete on a global stage. The ability to reach diverse markets seamlessly helps authors grow their audience and enhance their book's success across different regions and demographics.

Comparatively Higher Royalties

Amazon KDP publishing offers high royalties compared with typical traditional publishing contracts, making it an attractive option for authors. The platform provides competitive royalty rates, with authors able to choose to earn either 35% or 70% of their book's list price, depending on the pricing and distribution choices. At the time of writing, the 70% royalty option is available for eBooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99, provided they meet certain criteria, such as being available in all geographic regions where the royalty option is offered. The higher royalties do result in challenges as well though – more on this in the challenges section below!

Control and Flexibility

Amazon KDP offers authors significant control and flexibility over their publishing journey. Authors retain full rights to their work, allowing them to maintain creative ownership and decision-making authority. Additionally, KDP provides authors with the ability to make updates and changes to their books at any time, assuming they have the technical skills to do so, ensuring content remains relevant and up-to-date. This control and flexibility allow authors to actively manage their publishing process and respond to evolving market demands.

Authors also have flexibility around the formats they can publish in. Amazon KDP supports the publication of both eBooks and paperbacks using POD printing and distribution. Regarding ebooks, Authors can publish their books in digital format for Kindle devices and apps using a variety of file types. They can also opt to publish paperback through print-on-demand methods. With these options available, KDP publishing is becoming more and more popular with authors exploring self-publishing.

Marketing Tools

It’s not just publishing that Amazon can help authors with, it’s marketing too. Amazon KDP equips authors with marketing tools to boost book visibility and sales. Through Kindle Countdown Deals and Free Book Promotions, authors can strategically discount or offer their eBooks for free for a limited time, attracting readers and driving engagement. These promotions can stimulate interest and increase book rankings on Amazon, which may lead to higher sales. 

Authors also gain access to Amazon Advertising. For those with the knowledge, skills and time to invest in it, Amazon Advertising is a good tool for promoting their books through targeted ads. By leveraging these built-in promotional tools and advertising opportunities, authors can effectively market their books to a wider audience and enhance their success on Amazon.

Major Drawbacks of Amazon KDP

Now I have covered what I perceive as the key benefits of KDP publishing, I am going to explore what I think the biggest drawbacks of the platform are. From your book being lost in the crowd to the lack of support you get throughout your publication journey, these are all things to explore and understand ahead of deciding that Amazon KDP is the best route to publication for you.

Limited Support

If you’re an author who wants to have help from and communication with professionals through your publishing process, Amazon may not be the best publishing route for you. While Amazon KDP is backed by human support, interactions primarily occur through automated chat, email, and support articles. Authors seeking assistance will encounter challenges in accessing direct human support. While it's possible to reach a representative, the process can be cumbersome, more often than not leaving authors to navigate issues independently. 

This reliance on self-guided troubleshooting means authors must be prepared to tackle any challenges they come across with formatting, uploading or selling their books on their own, prolonging resolution times. While Amazon has a variety of resources available for authors to read through and pick out solutions to their problems, the lack of direct human support highlights the importance of self-sufficiency and resourcefulness for authors navigating the intricacies of the platform.

Limited Distribution, Especially to Bookshops

For authors that choose to sell their books on Amazon exclusively, they are limiting themselves to a restricted part of the book-buying market. For authors that are solely focused on ebook sales, Amazon is the largest retailer of course but there are other retailers like Kobo and Barnes and Noble that also sell ebooks to many readers that you will not have access to by publishing through Amazon exclusively. 

For authors that have opted to sell their books as POD because they want to sell printed books, there are even more restrictions. For POD books, it is extremely unlikely that any bookshops will buy and sell copies. This is because not only do bookshops operate on a sale or return basis (i.e. they buy a number of copies of a book and, if they do not sell, they can be returned to the seller) which cannot work when a copy of the book is only printed with each order, but they also know that the quality of POD printed books is more often than not far inferior to those that are produced using print runs, like the ones authors commission Troubador to assist with. With POD books, you cannot get the cover finishes, paper types or quality materials that you get from a print run, meaning that bookshops are highly unlikely to use some of their precious shelf spaces for books that do not look the part.

Finally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, bookshops won’t stock Amazon-published books because bookshops don’t like Amazon! Since it expanded to become the global mega-corporation it is today, bookshops have by contrast struggled to keep their businesses afloat under the increasing pressure of the Amazon behemoth. Bookshops, especially independent ones, are facing more challenges than ever to stay afloat with the cost of retail space skyrocketing and the popularity of the high street declining, but add in the world’s largest shop undercutting and muscling into the book market and bookshops have no love lost at all for Amazon. An author who goes into a bookshop to see if they will stock their Amazon-published book will very rarely be entertained for long.

For any authors wanting to be stocked in bookshops, publishing exclusively through Amazon KDP will not be the best way for you to publish as you are very unlikely to achieve it. You will need to work either with a publisher like Trouabdor that has connections with retailers (including Amazon and Waterstones), wholesalers and consumers and understands what the book trade is looking for.

Market Competition

Millions of books get published on Amazon KDP every year. With that level of competition, standing out from the competition is a daunting prospect. As a result, KDP-published authors need to be prepared to employ a huge amount of strategic marketing tactics and compelling storytelling to capture audience interest or your work will be lost in the crowd. Visibility becomes a significant hurdle, necessitating authors to differentiate their works through unique concepts, eye-catching covers, and engaging descriptions. 

While the vast selection on Amazon offers opportunities for discovery for readers, which is being embraced more and more in recent years, navigating through the competition demands perseverance, innovation, and a strong understanding of readers' preferences to carve a niche and thrive amidst the crowd. Without executing this kind of marketing activity, most authors cannot expect many readers to find your book, which will harm sales.

Of course, books can stand out from the crowd in other ways. Whether that is a professionally designed cover, reviews posted on platforms like NetGalley or price drops that are arranged on the author's behalf, Troubador works with hundreds of authors a year to help them make their books as visible as possible both on Amazon and through many other sales channels too.

Marketing and Visibility

Achieving visibility for their books requires active marketing efforts from authors publishing through Amazon KDP. Without proactive promotion, which takes time, knowledge and marketing skills, books will struggle to gain traction in an incredibly competitive marketplace. Authors bear the responsibility of driving visibility through various channels, including social media, book blogs, email newsletters, their author website and more. A passive approach relying on Amazon's platform to make your book visible to readers will result in limited exposure, emphasising the importance of author-driven marketing initiatives. 

By investing time and effort in promotional activities, authors can enhance their book's discoverability, attract readers, and ultimately increase sales, establishing a strong presence in the dynamic digital landscape. Alternatively, authors that want to publish their books through Amazon might be inclined to seek help for the marketing of it. Whether that is employing freelance marketers or publishing their book through a service provider like Troubador, who can take care of a large amount of the marketing they want for their book, authors should explore the options available to them.

Royalties and Pricing Limitations

While Amazon KDP offers competitive royalty rates, there are elements authors should consider before committing. Firstly, the 70% royalty option is limited to certain pricing ranges ($2.99 to $9.99 for eBooks as mentioned above), restricting pricing strategies. Additionally, authors must adhere to specific requirements, such as setting the list price within Amazon's guidelines and enabling certain distribution options, to qualify for the higher royalty rate.

Furthermore, authors opting for the 70% royalty rate may incur delivery fees for larger eBook files, impacting overall earnings. Lastly, fluctuations in Amazon's policies or market conditions can affect royalty rates, potentially reducing income unpredictably. These factors necessitate careful consideration when planning pricing and distribution strategies.

Quality of Publications

The benefits of accessibility for authors mentioned above also bring challenges. Amazon KDP's open publishing platform results in variable quality of published works, ranging from polished, excellent titles to amateur productions. Also, while steps have been taken to limit the amount of AI-written manuscripts published on Amazon, there is also only so much that can be done to block AI books from being published through it due to the lack of human involvement in the publishing process. This diversity often affects the perceived credibility of the platform and the books that have been self-published exclusively on Amazon.

While KDP publishing offers opportunities for aspiring authors to share their work, ensuring consistent quality remains a challenge. Readers often encounter formatting errors, grammatical issues, or poorly designed covers, potentially impacting their reading experience and overall impression of the book. Authors must prioritise quality assurance measures, such as sourcing professional editing, design or perhaps outsourcing the publishing process to a self-publishing services provider, to maintain credibility and compete effectively in the marketplace, mitigating the risk of negative reviews and diminished reader trust.

How We Can Help

While Troubador works across a wide range of publishing routes, from producing high-quality books, ebooks and audiobooks in-house to distributing them to retailers, wholesalers and directly to customers from our dedicated warehouse facility, we also help hundreds of authors a year publish their ebooks. We do this in a variety of ways, but we take the stress out of the publishing process and work with the author to design, format, upload and sell their ebooks for them through Amazon as well as other ebook platforms. 

Should authors seek to entrust their creations to seasoned experts with a track record of successfully launching thousands of ebooks, we encourage them to reach out directly to explore how we can help you.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Amazon KDP

Amazon KDP presents both benefits and drawbacks for authors venturing into self-publishing. With its user-friendly interface, global reach, and competitive royalties, KDP offers a cost-effective and accessible platform for authors to share their work with a wide audience. However, authors must navigate through various drawbacks, including limited support, fierce market competition, and the need for proactive marketing efforts to achieve visibility.

Additionally, considerations such as pricing limitations, quality control, and distribution constraints may impact an author's publishing decisions. Ultimately, authors must weigh the benefits and drawbacks of Amazon KDP carefully to determine if it aligns with their goals and publishing needs and, if they need it, ask for help from a team like Troubador who can help you navigate all this and more.