Don't worry – you won't get into trouble with Amazon (or the law, for that matter) if you decide to sell author copies that you've ordered from KDP.
Amazon KDP has provided self-published authors with the option to order author copies knowing that they will sell a proportion of these in retail fashion, ie. at markets, events, your own website, via your social channels etc.
What Are Author copies For? 🤔
When you, the registered author, buy your book off Amazon (while logged into your Amazon KDP account) you will receive retail copies of your book called the 'author copies'.
These copies are no different from the ones any other potential reader would receive.
They come from the same print machine, the only difference is that these copies will have cost you what it costs Amazon to print them.
This gives you the potential to sell these on for yourself and in some cases make greater profits as if the Amazon listing price is $12.99 and your author copies only cost $2.70 (excluding shipping), you have the potential to sell at a discounted rate and still make a greater return.
Some of you might be confused because you’ve accepted the free ISBN provided by KDP (which as you have probably heard, has its limitations), or are considering it as an option. If you use the free KDP ISBN, will you still be able to sell your author copies?
How to Order Author Copies on Amazon
You can order author copies of your paperback book from your Amazon KDP dashboard once your book has been approved and has gone live. Author copies are different from PROOF copies of your book, so do not make the mistake of ordering hundreds of proof copies - you will be sorely disappointed.
You can add up to 999 author copies to your cart and checkout at the discounted rate.
What if I use the free ISBN from KDP? Can I still sell my own copies?
Yes, even if you use the free KDP ISBN, nothing is stopping you from selling your author copies.
However, make sure you are making an informed decision if you're going for the free ISBN because it comes with its own set of conditions and cautions:
- In exchange for giving you a free ISBN, Amazon KDP will require you to print your book only through KDP. You cannot use other print-on-demand services like IngramSpark with the same ISBN, you will need to purchase another. This might not be a problem if you only intend to print through Amazon anyway.
- Some bookstores and retailers do not like Amazon, and so coming off as an Amazon-only author (which will be the indirect effect of a free KDP ISBN) will not help your distribution strategy.
- You cannot remove a free ISBN copy from the listing on Amazon, so even if you decide to buy your ISBNs later on, you won't be able to do anything about the reviews on the previous copy.
- With a free ISBN you will always show up as "Independently Published" rather than your business name or publishing brand. If you intend to start your own publishing company it will be best to purchase and provide your own ISBN and have the ability to print wherever you choose.
- You will find that printers have different quality and customization features so you may prefer to print with another company other than Amazon KDP. Many authors have said they prefer the color and paper type of IngramSpark over Amazon KDP.
Now that you have a little more information on what having a free ISBN from KDP entails, the next question that must have popped up in your mind is: "How much will it cost to buy my author copies?" "Is there a minimum purchase amount?"
How much do author copies of my book cost?
The general rule is that you will be paying a lot less than what a potential buyer would pay for your book. However, you will still have to cover the shipping costs and any taxes that apply.
KDP will require you to pay only the printing cost for each copy of your book.
So your total cost will depend on three factors:
Other than this, your free or Prime membership shipping options are not effective here – you will be selecting and paying the shipping costs as you would if you were buying anything else from Amazon so it makes sense to order a good amount (if of course, you can sell them all), you can order up to 999 copies at one time.
Finally, you may also have to deal with applicable taxes.
If you’re going ahead with IngramSpark, everything will be the same as described above, except that you will have to shoulder an additional order handling fee of $1.99.
Do author copies count towards book sales?
Let's say that you order 100 author copies from KDP with the intention of selling them to your fan club or a local bookstore. That should reflect as 100 sales on your Amazon profile, right?
Amazon is very clear about this:
"since you are buying the copies at print cost, Amazon will not count these as official sales of your book, nor will you get any royalties for these copies. The only copies that will count as real sales are the ones bought by readers on the full retail price from the Amazon listing."
What can I do with my author copies?
So here we are: you now know that you will have to pay a small fee to get author copies and that these will not count as official sales. Why should you buy these copies then?
Here is a list of reasons:
Sell books from your website.
Many authors work hard to build their personal brand, and a crucial part of making this successful is being able to sell your books directly through your personal website.
You don’t want to trap your readers in a lengthy redirection loop in which your website takes them to Amazon and asks them to complete an order and submit their information. That takes away the charm your website carefully builds.
So if you have an inventory of author copies, you can take orders directly from your website and ship the goods directly to your readers.
Use copies as giveaway prizes
Set up a lucky draw on your website where you ask people to enter the draw by registering with their email address. One lucky winner will, in turn, get a free copy of your book. This is a highly effective way of building a mailing list.
You can also have book giveaways at conferences where you want to attract larger audiences and help spread the word around about your book.
Send them to book reviewers
Many book reviewers prefer to have paperback copies so they can add sticky notes and highlight the things they have thoughts on. You can send them your author copies.
Donate to a local library or related organizations
If you’ve always dreamed about a random person stumbling upon your book inside a library, this is one way you can increase the chances of that becoming a reality.
Other than that, it’s also quite helpful if you can send your book to an organization that will benefit from its contents. For example, if you’ve written a book about dealing with ADHD, you could send it to a local organization that helps people who have ADHD.
In addition, free copies donated to libraries make for great promotion. I have given away several children's books to local libraries, all have my details, website and other books I have published on the last inner page.
If a reader enjoyed your book, they know where to find you!
Provide a copy to an influencer in your niche as a complimentary gift
Influencer marketing has become ever more critical in today's age. You can achieve significant gains in outreach just by getting the right influencer with the right audience to spread the word about your book.
Sending them a complimentary copy of your book will be a lovely gesture and will likely get you an outstanding effort from the side of the influencer.
Send it to your media contacts as a PR copy.
Your media contacts will spend a lot of time working on building outreach for your book and your personal brand. It's best to keep them stocked in case they have to offer a free copy to some news agency or some renowned book reviewer.
You don't want to be told that you lost the perfect deal or got passed up because your contact did not have any copies to forward.
Review the quality of your book
Even though you must have spent a lot of time ruthlessly reviewing, editing, and proofreading your book before it got printed, some errors could still have crawled through tiny cracks in your judgment and ended up in the print version of your copy.
Going through your author’s copy can be an effective way of weeding out these remaining errors. You will be able to spot the misalignment, typo, and formatting issues before you give the final go-ahead for mass printing.
Of course, you could just order proof copies for this reason but the costs are the same and they have "proof copy not for resale" all over them... so even if you wanted to you couldn't gift it or resell it. For this reason, I personally do not bother with proofs!
Gift a copy to your team
Writing a book and getting it published is not something that can be done by one person. You will have to employ a team of beta-readers, proofreaders, editors, and designers to help you eliminate the errors in your book and make it into a form that is attractive and appealing to audiences.
Sending your team members a copy can be a good gesture of gratitude for all the hard work they have put in throughout the process.
What can’t I do with my author copies?
It’s quite natural to ask about all the things you can do with your author copies, but most people forget that you don’t have complete freedom to do as you please.
Here are the aspects you should be wary about when it comes to handling author copies:
If you have the free ISBN provided by KDP, you cannot sell your copies to bookstores that do not recognize the KDP system because, for them, the ISBN is not valid.
If you want to sell to them to such bookstores, you will have to buy an official ISBN from Bowker (in the US) or Neilsen (in the UK) and then print copies under that new ISBN.
Another thing you probably do not want to do is try to set up your own selling business by taking mass-orders from your website. It might seem like a good idea, profit-wise and you could always have a few on hand if you already have an active site and do not mind post office trips etc.
But it could work out better to have an Amazon Associates (affiliate) link on your website to facilitate people who want to buy your book.
Your time would be better spent on marketing and outreach efforts than managing stock and the printing, packaging, shipping, and payment of all the orders you get on your website.
It is better in the long run and definitely more scalable for your business to let services like KDP and IngramSpark manage all of that.
That said, again, there is no reason why an author should not order author copies. After all, these prove to be a crucial tool that helps in extending outreach and building a personal brand.
So that’s it from me, happy self-publishing!
If you want to learn how to market your new book, effectively, check out my Recommended Products and Services page where I list the best resources for self-published authors as well as social media and online marketing courses.