Summer is starting to wind down, school starts again this week, leaves are on the ground … but it’s never too late for ice cream! With that in mind, let’s talk about Amazon (bear with me; the ice cream analogy will become clear in a moment).

A few recent conversations, on and off Facebook, have revealed that there’s some confusion around the options available to self-publishing authors through Amazon. Authors say CreateSpace when they really mean KPD, or they think ebook = self-published and hardcopy = traditionally published, or they assume that if they publish through one channel, their book will be available in all formats, or they think that if promotional options like pre-orders are available in one, then they’re available in all of them …

So let’s clear this up once and for all.

For self-publishing authors, Amazon comes in three equally delicious but decidedly distinct flavors. Think of them as different kinds of ice cream, each in its own separate carton:

And then there’s Author Central. Think of Author Central as the dish that holds all your scoops together.

You can have one, two or all three flavors in whatever combination you like. You can even skip the dish—but that would be a little bit like trying to eat ice cream from your hand (not very professional and kind of icky).

While they all make it easy for you to sell your book on Amazon, our three flavors serve very different purposes, have different requirements, and different royalty payment systems. If you’re going to publish through Amazon, it’s vital that you understand the difference.

CreateSpaceKDP, and ACX all belong to Amazon, and they are all open to self-publishing authors, but they are completely separate systems. You need to create accounts in each one, give each one address/bank account information so that you can receive royalties, and upload different files to each to create your book.

Author Central also belongs to Amazon, and requires yet another account (but not quite so much personal info). It gives you the ability to attach a bio, headshot, and editorial reviews to your book listings and to create an author page that not only lists all your books but can also link to your blog and social media posts, and even host a video or two if you want. (It’s a very fancy dish.) It’s not required for you to have an Author Central account, but I can’t think of any reason not to. It will make your book listing look much more professional.

(Author Central, btw, will allow you to host up to three different profiles in a single account, so keep that in mind if you use multiple names/pen names. If you have more than three pen names, you can go crazy and open a second Author Central account.)

I’m not going to worry about ACX in this post as I’m still learning about audiobooks myself (I’ll share more as I learn more). For now, we’re going to look at the two (relatively) traditional ways of producing a readable book: CreateSpace and KDP.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) CreateSpace (CS)
Format ebook paperback
Minimum retail price $0.99 CS will set a minimum retail price based on the cost of producing the physical book. You can raise this price if you like.
Royalty payment amount 70% of list price between $2.99–$9.99; 35% if the price is lower or higher Varies. Go here and click the “royalties” tab for a calculator that will give you an estimate.
Frequency of royalty payments Monthly, for sales made in previous month. No minimum threshold amount for direct deposit; $100 minimum for checks and wire transfers. Monthly, for sales made in previous month. Must meet a minimum of $10 for direct deposit and $100 for checks.
Sales reports  Accessible in close to real time in your KDP account Accessible in close to real time in your CS account; may sometimes have more of a delay than KDP
Interior files requirements Correctly formatted Word doc or .mobi (it’s possible to use other files, but these are the most common and usually the easiest/best quality). Correctly formatted .pdf
Cover file requirements  .jpg of front cover only .pdf of full cover (front, back & spine together)
Approval time
(length of time from when you upload your files to when the book goes live. You will NOT be notified when the listing is live.)
Typically 12–24 hours; sometimes less.

Changes to a published book usually take less time, but they are not immediate.

Usually about 72 hours after you approve your proof.

Changes to a published book can take up to a week.

Promotional opportunities The KDP Select program gives you some sales/promotion options if you commit to publishing your ebook exclusively through Amazon for a period of 3 months (renewable). N/A, although Amazon may sometimes opt to reduce the retail price. You still get paid the same royalty amount that you would on the full retail price.
Pre-sale options You can make your ebook available to buy up to 90 days before it’s released on the market. N/A

(Some authors pre-sell their paperback editions using Amazon Advantage, which allows people to sell physical goods through Amazon. See here for more info.)

International Distribution

(for US-based authors)

Automatically available on (US)

Gives authors the option to distribute on,,,,,,,,,,,

Automatically available on and

By checking the Amazon Europe distribution channel, your book will be available on,,,, and

By checking the Bookstores & Online Retailers, your book will be available on,, and


  • Publishing through CreateSpace does not automatically make your book available on Kindle. Nor does publishing through KDP make your book available as a paperback.
  • CreateSpace will give you the option of turning your .pdf file into an ebook and loading it up via CreateSpace. However, DO NOT DO THIS. For the ebook to look good and behave properly, you should have a separate file (Word or .mobi) formatted specifically to KDP standards.
  • When you first make your book available, each format will appear as a separate listing. Amazon usually reconciles the listings into one after a few days; you might be able to hurry this process up a bit by going into Author Central and claiming each listing as yours. If, after a few days and claiming both from your AC account, they’re still separate, then contact Amazon directly and ask for help.
  • You do not have to do both KDP and CreateSpace. Most people will benefit from having both an ebook and a paperback available (simply having a paperback edition often makes the book look more professional, even if most of your sales are for the ebook), but you can do one or the other or even use CreateSpace simply as a way to create affordable print-on-demand books for your private use and not list the book publically at all.

If you want to learn more about CreateSpace, check out my CreateSpace tutorial.

Questions? Comments? Favorite ice cream flavors? Share ’em here!

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