Amazon Self-Publishing Costs and Royalties: Here's What You Need to Know
If you’re reading this post, you’re probably already familiar with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Amazon’s self-publishing service for indie authors. But you may be somewhat less familiar with the mechanics of Amazon self-publishing royalties: how much authors get paid, when they receive payments, and of course, how much Amazon takes out of those payments for things like printing/delivery costs.
We’ll answer cover all these topics and more in our pithy primer on Amazon self-publishing costs and royalties! Let’s start with one of the most commonly asked questions, for KDP authors wondering when they can expect their share of profits.
When does Amazon pay royalties to authors?
Amazon starts paying royalties 60 days after the first sale is made, with further payments coming through every month. Depending on where you do your banking, you can elect to be paid through direct deposit — also known as Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) — wire transfer, or check. However, no matter which avenue you go down, there’s no way to receive your royalties any sooner than 60 days. So if you have bills to pay, make sure you’re not counting on your royalties coming in right away.
In terms of which payment method is best for you, you should know that there’s no payment threshold for direct deposit. For check and wire payments, you’ll be paid only after you make a certain amount in royalties (for instance, $100 in USD and CAD and £100 in the UK). See the full list of payment thresholds here.
Now let’s talk about the program’s ebook and print royalty plans — which, as you can imagine, are pretty different from one another.
How do ebook royalties work?
Amazon offers two ebook royalty plans: the 70% option and the 35% option. To be eligible for the 70% plan, you’ll need to do all of the following:
- Publish something that’s not in the public domain.
- Price your ebook between $2.99 and $9.99. This price also needs to be at least 20% lower than the lowest list price for a print version.
- Pay for file delivery. This doesn’t require any extra effort on your part — the delivery fees are automatically deducted from your royalty payments.
Keep in mind that only books sold to customers in certain countries are eligible for the 70% plan. Additional copies sold outside those territories will go on the 35%. Don’t worry, the 70%-eligible territories include all the big Anglophone markets — the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand — in addition to several others, primarily in the EU. If you enroll in KDP Select, the list expands to include Brazil, India, Japan, and Mexico.
How do print royalties work?
For those thinking about self-publishing a print book, Amazon offers two distribution tiers for self-published paperbacks. Each comes with its own royalty structure, and in both cases, the cost of printing the book is deducted from royalty payments.
If you go through the regular Amazon-only distribution channels, you can expect 60% of the list price for every paperback sold. But if you distribute your book through Amazon’s Expanded Distribution plan to non-Amazon retailers, like Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million, you’ll be looking at 40% instead. (In lieu of opting into this plan, we recommend using IngramSpark for expanded distribution. You can read more about why here.)
The cost of self-publishing on Amazon
Unlike vanity presses, which make authors pay for publication, Amazon won’t charge you any money upfront to self-publish your book. Instead, delivery costs (for ebooks) and printing costs (for paperbacks) are subtracted from your royalties. Let’s break the cost of Amazon self-publishing down below.
What are the ebook delivery costs?
If you’re on the 70% royalty plan, ebook delivery costs will be deducted from your royalty payments. They vary depending on the currency used. For instance, you’re looking at $0.15 per megabyte in USD and CAD, and £0.10 per megabyte in GBP. This cost is waived if you select the 35% royalty plan — which may be a boon if you want to set a high price for your book anyway (as the 70% royalty plan requires it to be lower than $9.99).
What are the paperback printing costs?
As for the printing costs associated with self-published paperbacks, those depend on A) your book’s page count, and B) whether you choose to print in black-and-white or in full color. Don’t worry, you won’t have to figure this out yourself — Amazon calculates your printing cost and displays it for you as you’re uploading your book to the platform. It will also suggest a minimum list price to ensure that your book sells for enough to cover the cost of printing.
Your printing cost is calculated according to the following formula (where fixed cost depends on your page count and ink type):
Fixed cost + (page count x cost per individual page)
You can find fixed costs in USD in the following table:
|Paperback specifications||Fixed cost||Additional cost per page|
|Black ink with 24-108 pages||$2.15 per book||None|
|Black ink with 110-828 pages||$0.85 per book||$0.012 per page|
|Color ink with 24-40 pages||$3.65 per book||None|
|Color ink with 42-500 pages||$0.85 per book||$0.07 per page|
To give you a sense of how the calculation works, Amazon would charge $4.45 per copy to print a 300-page paperback in black-and-white, because $0.85 + (300 x $0.012) = $4.45. You can read more about Amazon printing costs here.
What about other costs?
Of course, the print and delivery costs that come out of your royalties don’t include all the optional expenses you may incur if you want to put out a high-quality, professional-looking volume. The full suite of services like editing and cover design can set you back a couple thousand dollars. And that doesn’t even factor in marketing costs — which can include Facebook advertising, Amazon’s native ads, and any other external promotions you want to run.
This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to save when self-publishing. For instance, while you may have had to pay for typesetting previously, apps like the Reedsy Book Editor allow you to format your book for free. There are also some book promotion services that will list your book free of charge, though keep in mind their submissions can be competitive. If you really want to cut costs, you can even self-edit and design your own cover, though we wouldn’t recommend this unless you already know a lot about design.
At the end of the day, the best way to save on self-publishing is to stay informed. The more you know about the costs, royalties, and other aspects of various publishing plans, the more cost-effective (and generally effective!) your path will be. To that end, here are a few more resources you might want to check out:
- How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book in 2020?
- The 13 Best Self-Publishing Companies of 2020
- What Is the Best Service for Print on Demand Books?
- The Complete Guide to Ebook Distribution
We hope this post helped you understand Amazon self-publishing royalties and costs a little better! However, if you still have questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll answer to the best of our ability.