How To Make Money From Amazon Kindle Publishing (Start and Scale)

David Utke •  Updated: March 2, 2024 •  Online Business

Steve Scott was a blogger I used to read regularly as he tried different ways to make money online and shared these as case studies on his blog the “Steve Scott Site which started off as a personal development blog but then he transformed it into a “make money online” type website based on actual results.

One case study that he launched was a personal development blog called Develop Good Habits (I know, he’s awfully boring and generic at naming) as a way to demonstrate that he can make money in a non make money online niche.

He built this new website and monetized it with Amazon KDP and in this business model breakdown I’m going to how you how to make money with Kindle KDP. Steve had so much success with DevelopGoodHabits.com and Amazon KDP that he abandoned his SteveScottSite.com website all together.

First, what is Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)?

Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP for short is Amazon’s self-publishing platform that was launched in 2007. Authors can earn up to 70% royalties for the books the publish and get access to promotional tools like KDP Select and the ability to run ads to their listing with comprehensive data on the performance.

With real time reporting and no costs beyond taking the time and effort to write a book and perhaps hire an editor and an ebook cover designer. KDP has been a revolutionary platform for writers by enabling them to self publish their work to a massive marketplace of buyers.

How Steve Scott Built His KDP Income

Steve Scott began writing a blog about habits over at DevelopGoodHabits.com. Along with the blog, he started an email list and created a lead magnet for his list so when free search engine traffic visited his site, so they would be inclined to signup.

Then he got to working creating helpful Kindle books on habits that are 80,000 words or more. He publishes books about habits under the pen name S.J Scott on Amazon and not his real name.

Whenever he publishes a new Kindle book, he sends out a promotional email to his list in order to drive sales of his new book as well as positive reviews. This is essential because you need to get sales of your book so Amazon trusts the quality of your content.

Once a book has enough sales and reviews it gets picked up organically by the Amazon algorithm and pushed to a wider audience. In each ebook, he has a call to action (CTA) at the beginning in order to get more people on his email list.

Rinse and repeat.

The process is simple, but not easy.

The process of building out a publishing business on Amazon KDP is pretty simple. Choose a niche, write a bunch of books and build an email list. In your book, before the table of contents offer a free give-a-way as a lead magnet to get people on your email list.

Once you start selling books on Amazon, your email list will grow. Keep in touch with your list by emailing them 1-3 times a week about your niche. When you publish a new book on KDP, email your list with a discounted price as a way to drive sales.

You can also segment your list and have a small group that gets the book for free as a way to entice them to leave a positive review (but don’t tell them to do that as that is against to TOS of Amazon KDP).

This action then helps seeds sales and reviews for your book so it gets picked up and promoted by Amazon to a wider audience. Then, rinse and repeat with your next book.

Step 1 – Choose your niche

Unless you have aspirations to be the next James Clear or Mark Manson where you publish 1-3 books that become international best sellers and make millions of dollars, you’ll need to choose a niche and go with a volume approach. That means you write a bunch of books around a specific topic that’s broad enough to support 20+ books.

Steve Scott choose the habits niche and then went on to create books that are functionally expanded blog posts. Talking about like habit stacking, morning routine, mindfulness, journaling and so forth. Currently he has a portfolio of 80+ books.

Spend the time and find a niche that has a lot of topics you can create books around that you know and understand. Also, don’t choose a topic where you think you can make money but have zero interest because the process of creating books will become a chore and you won’t enjoy the process. Thus you won’t stick with it long enough to see results.

Remember, your overall goal is not to write an international best seller, rather you just want to write and publish a book that sells at least 15 copies a month.

Step 2 – Study your competition

When you have a niche chosen, find authors who are already creating books around your topic and research how they are performing in the niche.

How many books have they published?

The more books an author has published, the more likely they are having success and their KDP ebook business is working. This is a good sign that there is potential to grow an email list and a portfolio of complimentary books.

Amazon Reviews

Books that sell get reviews, so how are people responding to the content your competition is producing? You’ll want to pay attention to both the number of reviews and the average rating. Look for reviews from “verified purchases” as these are accounts who actually bought the book.

Take note of the reviews and what they say, including things people like and areas for improvement so you know what to include and expand upon in your own work.

Amazon Best Seller Rank

Take a look at the best seller rank. The best seller rank gives you an idea of how many copies of a book are being sold. You can use this free calculator (from KindlePreneur) to estimate how many sales they make daily.

Steve Scott’s best-selling book is #36,040 in the Kindle Store, which seems quite bad to the untrained, but that indicates he is making 5-15 sales a day of this book or around $500 a month from this book.

When viewing your competitions, see if their books sell and what topics work. Again, our goal is volume, and we want to create books that sell 1-5 copies a day.

Step 3 – Write your book

Next, you’ll need to write your book for KDP. How long should an Amazon KDP book be? The honest answer is as long as it needs to be to satisfy someone who purchases your book.

Since people can and will leave reviews on books, you’ll need to ensure that your book comprehensively and thoughtfully covers whatever topic. I bought books for $2.99 that were 30,000 words in length (25-some-odd pages) that I found helpful, insightful, and to the point.

I recommend that a book be at least 60,000 words in length. This type of book can be created at a pace of one per month and is long enough to hone in on a singular topic in detail.

Kindle Create

Kindle Create is Amazon’s own free software tool to help you write an ebook. Kindle Create is a tool provided by Amazon to assist authors in formatting their books for Kindle. It offers a user-friendly interface and helps streamline formatting, especially for complex layouts and visual elements.

Atticus – Paid software

Atticus.io is the best software I’ve come across for someone looking to write and publish ebooks and print books. It allows you to write and format a book in real-time, view what it will look like on multiple devices, drag and drop chapters around, and create an easy-to-navigate table of contents.

With Atticus, you can easily import your writing from another platform or format. The only catch is that this is paid software, but if you publish a lot of books, it might be worth buying as it is a one-time fee.

Google Docs or Microsoft Word

The last option is to write everything in Google Docs or Microsoft Word and then hand off your writing to a professional to format it into a book or to write it yourself and then format it yourself. I pay someone to format my ebooks.

Break everything up into chapters

Each chapter should be a separate document if you’re writing in Google Docs or Word. This makes it easy when you also hand off the writing to a professional. It also makes it easy to format your book with Atticus or Kindle Create.

Reverse engineer

Finally, buy a few of your competitor’s books to look at how long they are and how they are structured. This will give you insight into what the audience expects, likes, and finds helpful for this topic. I recommend a book that is at 40,000 to 100,000.

Step 4 – Start an email list

The secret to making this all work is building out an email list. You’ll need to create an email list in order to market your books to your target audience.

Offer a lead magnet

With ebooks, Amazon offers a “read sample” button. This is why you need to put your lead magnet offer above or below your table of contents so it appears to people who still need to purchase your book.

With this offer, you make it easy for someone to get on your email list by offering them something of value related to the ebook. Good lead magnets can be things like an audio version of the book or additional chapters, or you can create a free ebook as a giveaway.

Market to your list

Create a sales funnel for when people get on your list. Deliver the lead magnet right away. After that, you have a few options.

First, you can set up a one-time offer page offering some product. Alternatively, you can create your standard “thank you page” where you deliver the lead magnet and set the context for what your subscribers can expect going forward.

This is important because you need to get people to open your emails when they get sent out. Otherwise, your email marketing efforts could be helpful.

I’ve found the jab-jab-hook strategy to be the most effective. That is, you send helpful content with no offers, just content where you’re helping people solve their problems, and occasionally send out a promotional email.

Step 5 – Format your book

You can find professional help on both Upwork and Fiverr for people who can format your text into a well designed ebook for Amazon KDP. Of course you can do this yourself, but it’s much more efficient to pay someone to do this for you.

Book cover

In addition to the formatting, you’ll need a book cover. Pay a professional to do this for you instead of spinning your wheels and wasting time. Your focus should be on the writing, not becoming a book cover designer.

Step 6 – Setup Your KDP account

Now it’s time to sign up for Amazon KDP. They have a guide here that you can follow. In short, navigate to Amazon KDP. and create your account using your name, email, and password. Once you’ve made your account, you must set up your author bio, payment, and tax information.

For your information, you’ll need your real first name and last name or business name. You can use a pen name for your books but not for your KDP account for tax reasons.

To get paid, you only need to set up direct deposit for your bank account. Royalties are paid out once a month. Finally, you’ll need to submit relevant tax information to comply with US law if you’re a United States citizen. If you’re a non-US resident, check Amazon’s tax status page for instructions on proceeding.

Step 7 – Publish book

With your finished, formatted book in hand with it’s own professional designed cover, it’s time to publish your book on Amazon KDP.

At this point the book should be done with an offer ready to go that will be viewable for anyone who wants to preview the book. The next steps are pretty basic:

KDP Pricing – 35% or 70% royalty rate?

You can choose the royalty you want to earn on your book, 35% or 70%. You may be wondering why anyone would select 35%. You would choose this to help drive sales of a new book.

35% can be selected for books under $2.99 or over $9.99. This structure incentivizes you, the author, to never price your books higher than $9.99 and to only price your books under $2.99 for promotional purposes.

You can always log into your KDP dashboard and change the pricing of your book and the royalty rate later if you decide to price your book at .99 cents.

Step 8 – Promote your book to your email list

With a brand new Amazon KDP book, you’ll need to drive sales to your book so it ranks and Amazon trusts the quality of your products. The reality is that with AI and lazy people looking to make money without doing any work, Amazon only sandbox your book once you prove its quality to avoid spam and low-quality content.

You have a few different options to get the proverbial ball rolling for sales and reviews of your book.

.99 cent promotion

Running a .99 cent promotion of the book does help drive initial sales. This is why growing an email list is essential to making this all work, as your list is where you will send this ebook promotion out. Your goal with a new book is to drive sales and 5-star reviews, so your book then ranks and starts making sales organically.

Split your list to give the book away for free

In addition to pricing the book at .99 cents for the first month, you can give the book away for free to a small segment of your email list. You must curate this small segment into your most loyal and supportive group.

When you publish a new book, you can email this small segment to help get initial positive reviews of your book, which helps improve the Amazon book rank. Please note, do not ask for positive reviews, as this is against Amazon’s terms of service.

Run ads for your book

Remember that you can also pay to run ads for your book on Amazon so it comes up at the top of various search queries. Running ads is helpful because it’s an effective way to build your email list and drive book sales.

Amazon KDP also provides high-quality analytics for advertisers to see what market segments convert best for your book. With running ads, your goal should be to break even with ad spending and book sales. With a stronger focus on growing your email list, you will also have a list to promote future books.

Steve Scott now has a passive income machine

By now you should have a good understanding to how the Amazon KDP business model works. No, you don’t just write books and hope and pray. Serious publishers like Steve Scott treat KDP like a business.

Choose your niche, create a branded website, build an email list and promote your books. It is slow going when starting out, but when you get to a place where Steve Scott is and you have 80+ books that are making 1-5 sales a day, building a substantial online income through writing and marketing does become a real possibility.

The key essentials to making this business model work though are email marketing and serving a niche through creating high quality books that help a specific audience.

It's all my fault

Hey I'm David. I'm a blogger, YouTuber and a highly rated UX consultant on Fiverr. My writing, videos and courses have helped tens of thousands of people make their first 1$ online. I write this blog to show you the "how to" for turning knowledge into income so you can live life on your terms.