How To Self Publish On Amazon and Other Platforms in 2021: Is It Worth It?

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Are you looking for a different lifestyle than the typical nine-to-five office setup? Do you have a story—or several—burning to get out? Self-publishing may be the path for you.

When self-publishing first became available, it was looked at as another form of vanity publishing, a way to look published without having to deal with the gatekeepers and manuscript processing of the publishing industry. That is, until Amazon released its own self-publishing platform in 2007.

In the last fifteen years, self-publishing has gone from a questionable financial decision to a legitimate small business operation. With dozens of platforms to choose from, each catering to a different storytelling format, the self-publishing industry is growing rapidly.

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Self-Publishing on Amazon

Amazon is a great place to start in order to learn self-publishing. The guides and FAQs are easy to follow and there are forums all over the internet full of answers to common questions. Amazon already has a huge customer base, so organic traffic on the site can generate revenue. You can publish e-books, print books, audiobooks and even serials on Amazon.

Kindle Direct Publishing

Kindle Direct Publish is Amazon’s hub for publishing print books, e-books and the new serial option, Kindle Vella. This is convenient because you can control three different streams of product from one dashboard and access the largest book market in the world.

Royalties from KDP can vary wildly because each format has its own earnings calculation. Even within those formats, there are different royalty options that you, as the author, can pick from. Kindle Vella, Amazon’s new serial option, offers royalties based on tokens that readers choose to spend on each episode. If you enroll in KDP Select, which makes your book available on Kindle Unlimited but also exclusive to Amazon, you get paid from a global fund.

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If you choose to make your book available in print, it will be available with Amazon’s print-on-demand service, so you don’t have to hold inventory. The royalty rate on paperbacks is 60% minus printing costs, depending on the regions you make it available in. The royalty rate for hardbacks is 60% minus printing costs.

Self-Publishing on Other Platforms

Take a look at other self-publishing platforms to consider.

Apple Books and Barnes & Noble

Apple Books and Barnes & Noble offer authors a more straightforward compensation program than Amazon does, but their combined market share is smaller than Amazon’s, resulting in lower organic traffic. With Apple Books, the author gets a straight 70% share in royalties.


IngramSpark is a print-on-demand company that is also an aggregator. This means that they make your book available for purchase through several other platforms. IngramSpark is one of the few ways for a self-published author to get into vendors that cater to public libraries.

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With IngramSpark, the author gets 45% royalties minus printing costs. Printing costs vary depending on stylistic choices made by the author.


Draft2Digital is a distributor. By using Draft2Digital, your books will be available across several other platforms, including Amazon, Apple Books and Barnes & Noble, for a 10% commission on top of the selling platform’s commission. Then Draft2Digital pays you in one lump sum. Draft2Digital can even format your book for you and you can track your sales across platforms from their site.


Smashwords has its own store but will also distribute your book for you. Sales made on the Smashwords store earn 80% royalties, while sales made off-site earn 60% royalties.

Smashwords distributes to many of the same platforms as Draft2Digital and more, including mobile phone apps. Smashwords will only place your book on Amazon if you’ve made more than $2000 from other platforms, so that may be a drawback if you don’t plan to publish a lot.

Other Formats To Consider for Self-Publishing

You might want to take a look at these other formats for self-publishing your work.


If you like the idea of ​​Kindle Vella, then you should also check out Radish. It is a platform focused on serial fiction. Payment on Radish is based on a revenue share model, where the more coins readers spend reading your story, the more money you could potentially receive.


Tapas is a platform that gives readers access to serialized novels or webcomics. If you’re an artist, or can team up with one, then you can offer both the text version and the comic version of your story. Tapas pays creators with ad revenue, micropayments and tips directly from readers.


ACX is a platform that allows you to make an audiobook and sell it on Amazon’s regular store, their Audible Platform and iTunes. You can hire a producer and narrator right on the platform and earn even more money from the same story. The best part is you can use a story you’ve already written and published. ACX just enables you to offer that story in a different format.

How Much Do Self Published Authors Make?

Self-published authors can make anywhere from zero dollars per year to millions of dollars, depending on how much content they publish, how good that content is and how good their marketing is. The best marketing is more quality content. Any independent author that makes it to the top 100 of any genre on Amazon has several books under their name.

Contrary to what some of the YouTube gurus say, self-publishing is not true passive income. To self publish, you have to write a book, or get a book written, with good content. Amazon’s search algorithms favor newer products and posts, so the older your book gets, the less it will make without marketing.

take away

While self-publishing can be a lucrative side gig or even full-time business, don’t let anyone trick you into thinking it’s passive income. Just like any other small business, self-publishing will take work to yield results.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

About the Author

Diane Fogle is the owner and sole freelance writer at The Little Green Bird. She received her Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Denver. The research skills gained through that program, combined with a love of learning and intellectual freedom, have led her to a passion for helping businesses communicate with their customers. She lives in Colorado where she hikes with her husband, two young daughters and an old greyhound.


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