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If You Self Publish on Amazon, Who Owns the Copyright?

May 1, 2021
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When publishing a book on Amazon, you, as the author, technically own the copyright. You are “licensing” Amazon to distribute and sell your book under that company’s terms and conditions.

When you put a manuscript in tangible form on paper, digitally or any other means, it is copyrighted and protected under US Copyright laws. If someone publishes your work without your permission, you may need to prove that the content is yours (that you, indeed, own the copyright). The best way to do that is to register with the US Copyright Office.

When you choose to enroll your book in Amazon’s KDP Select on the 70% royalty plan,  you are also  making the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP. Under your copyright, you give Amazon–and only Amazon–the right to sell your book.

In KDP Select, you can’t distribute the digital book anywhere else, not even on your own website, unless you cancel the contract by written notice. Formerly, the higher royalty rate forced you to participate in Kindle’s lending library, but the lending library was discontinued in January 2021.

Books enrolled in KDP Select are automatically offered to Amazon Prime users in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. A customer can read your eBook as many times as they like, but Amazon will only pay you for the number of pages read the first time the customer reads them. It may take months for customers to read pages in your eBook.

According to Written Word Media, the US payout per page as of March 2021 was:  $0.00443837  out of a fund of $35.4 million. For a typical 280-page novel, read in its entirety, that would total $1.24.

If you were to sell the book outright at $9.99 (less 65% wholesale/distribution), you would earn $3.49, if the math is right.  So which deal do you think is best for you? Also, bear in mind that you must also pay delivery costs if your book sales price is between $2.99 and $9.99. The price for delivery to U.S. buyers is $0.15 per megabyte, and the only accurate way to calculate that is via the numbers Amazon will process for you.  Also, bear in mind that you may not get the 70% rate in all territories.

Even after you cancel your agreement, Amazon can continue to distribute for a while in order to fulfill any standing orders or deplete stock on hand. Be sure to read all of their terms and conditions before you decide on an exclusive plan.

Amazon has this information on its website:

What does it mean to publish exclusively on Kindle?

  • When you choose to enroll your book in KDP Select, you’re committing to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP. During the period of exclusivity, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format other than digital.

I have been in the publishing business for many years, and I see the rules changing every day. When in doubt, you may want to seek the advice of a lawyer.

Tip: As an alternative, check out How to Self Publish a Book | Self Publishing | Print on Demand | IngramSpark. They distribute through Amazon, too.

Also, check out Authorlink for more information on writing, getting published, self publishing, and and reading good books.

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This post was written by Doris Booth

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