How to Publish Your Book on Amazon: Part 1
Gone are the days when publishing a book meant creating a manuscript, submitting it to one publisher after another and dealing with rejection after rejection.
More often than not, the rejections had little or nothing to do with the quality of your manuscript.
J K Rowling's manuscript for the first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 publishers before being accepted by Bloomsbury. All while eking out an existence as a single mother living on welfare! She has been famously quoted as saying "I wasn't going to give up until I'd been rejected by every publisher in existence". Fortunately, that didn't happen. She is now one of the world's top earning authors. Her books have brought in more than $25 billion and sold more copies than any other book series. And then, of course, there are the movie royalties.
Open a KDP Account
KDP is Amazon's platform for authors to publish their books. KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing, but don't be misled. You can use KDP to publish your book on the Kindle platform, as a paperback and as a hardback.
What Does It Cost?
KDP is totally free to join. The only money you pay are the royalties when you sell a copy of your book and these are deducted from the sale price.
But What About Paperbacks and Hardbacks?
It's hard to believe that there are no upfront costs for the paperback and hardback versions of your book, but it's true. It's because Amazon, unlike a traditional publisher, doesn't print in advance or hold stock.
Instead, it uses POD (Print on Demand). When a customer orders your paperback, only then is it printed and shipped to the customer. Amazon has POD facilities all over the world, ensuring fast fulfillment. These are also used for creating and shipping author copies.
How to Open a KDP Account
Opening a KDP is free and a lot simpler than many other platforms.
Go to https://kdp.amazon.com.
If you have an existing Amazon account, click the Sign In button and then sign in; if you don’t have an Amazon account, click the Sign Up button and then follow the steps to create one.
Read and accept the KDP terms of service (TOS) that open onscreen.
You should see the KDP Bookshelf, where all your published books will be listed.
In the upper-right corner of the screen, you will see a warning that your account information is incomplete. Click the Update Now link.
Complete the form for your account.
You are now ready to publish your first book!
Decide on Your Book's Content Type
The first decisions you need to make are whether your book will be fact or fiction and whether you will write it yourself or not.
Fact or Fiction?
This also touches on your reason for wanting to write a book in the first place. Do you have specialized knowledge that you want to pass on to others? If so, you're a teacher and need to approach the task from that point of view. Are you a story-teller who wants to get the book inside you out into the public eye? Then you're an entertainer. Or do you just want to make money? (And there's nothing wrong with that, by the way).
No matter what, you will structure your book in the same way and we'll cover how you do that further on in this article.
Who Will Write Your Book?
Well, that depends on your role.
If your role is teacher and you're writing about your expert subject, then you will write it yourself. You will probably combine knowledge out of your own head with additional research on the subject. That research may simply inform your own writing or may appear as footnote references.
If your role is entertainer because you have a fiction book inside you screaming to get out, then you are also going to write it yourself. There are whole courses on how to structure fiction and I'm not going to second-guess them here. My advice is to get a couple of novels by your favorite authors and re-read them. But not in order to be entertained.
Ask the question "what is the author doing here?" Are they setting up a scene for a big reveal in the future? Are they creating images in your mind? What emotions are they trying to elicit? Are they misleading you? Or are they using the old author trick of making you feel good because you know or understand more than one of the protagonists?
But what if you're just in it for the money?
If you're just in it for the money, in some ways it's a lot easier.
For starters, you're not constrained to something you ate interested in. You are simply after a genre that will be profitable.
There is a formula to determine this, and I'll cover it in the next lesson.
And second, you are not going to write it yourself and I'll also cover outlining a plot and getting a great ghostwriter in the next lesson.
Who Will Be Your Editor and/or Proofreader?
Whether you write your book yourself or use a ghostwriter, it will need to be edited and proofread. You can do this yourself, get a family member or friend to do it or pay a professional. The pros and cons of these different approaches will all be covered in the next lesson.
Get a Cover for Your Book
"Don't judge a book by its cover" is an old adage but one that doesn't really apply to self publishing on Amazon.
The decision to purchase may be largely driven by your cover, so it needs to grab your visitor's attention.
You can get a cover created on Fiverr or Upwork for a surprisingly low price. They will all have examples of their work so choose someone whose style resonates with you.
Or you can create one yourself.
I created the one to the left by finding a free image on Pixabay, trimming it to a 2:3 ratio (so that it would fit a 6" x 9" Kindle or paperback and then used an editor to add the title and the pen name author.
Total time less than 10 minutes and a cost of zero.
Does this cover attract attention?
I believe so. Some people will be offended by a naked angel, but more will be intrigued and will want to find out more. How do they do that? They buy the book.
And maybe it's the first of a series.
Again, remember that, until you've got a reputation, the only thing your prospective reader has got to persuade them to buy your book is the few words comprising the blurb and the cover itself. So it's worth spending a little time and money on.
Note: Save your cover as a .jpg as this is the format you will need when you upload your cover to KDP.
Do I Need a 3D Image?
A 3D image is an image that makes your book or series look like one in the real world, such as this one I had done for a series of books I wrote on internet marketing.
You can use software such as Photoshop to produce this sort of thing but I just got someone on Fiverr to do it for me for around $8. Totally worth it.
But... you won't use a 3D image as part of publishing your book to KDP.
You can use it as part of your advertising and, of course, on your own website or social media platforms to promote your book or series.
Create a Template
You don't want to be spending time for each book you create, working out such things as paper size, fonts, heading sizes, creating a table of contents and so on.
It's really important to make all those decisions just once and create a Word document that you can use as a template going forward.
Just like a line drawing that you can color in, instead of producing the whole thing from scratch, it's a major time saver, as well as ensuring that your books follow a consistent format.
To create a template in Word that you can use for both Kindle and paperback publications, open a new blank document in Word and then:
- Go to Layout >> Size >> More Paper Sizes. In the Paper tab, select Custom Size and set it to Width: 6" or 15.24cm and Height: 9" or 22.86cm. From the Apply To dropdown, select Whole Document. Click the OK button.
- In Word's ribbon menu, modify the heading styles as follows:
- Chapter Heading - Calibri (body), 20 pt, Left-Justified.
- Normal - Literata, 12 pt, Left and Right (Fully) Justified.
- Heading 1 - Calibri (body), 18 pt, Left-Justified.
- Heading 2 - Calibri (body), 16 pt, Left-Justified.
- Heading 3 - Calibri (body), 14 pt, Left-Justified.
- Title - Calibri (Body), 28 pt, Centered.
- Sub-Title - Calibri (Body), 11 pt, Centered.
- Create skeleton pages and use Insert >> Page Break to separate them.
- Title page. Contains your book's title using Title style, followed by your book's sub-title (optional but recommended) using Sub-Title style.
- Copyright and Enquiries page. This is the wording I use:
Copyright © 2022 by [author]
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Comments or enquiries may be left in the Contact page at
- Change the copyright year to the year of publication. If you don't have an author website (but you should) remove the reference to leaving a comment.
- Disclaimer page. Not required for fiction. This is the wording I use:
Please note the information contained within this document is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Every attempt has been made to provide accurate, up to date, reliable and complete information. No warranties of any kind are expressed or implied. Readers acknowledge that the author is not engaging in the rendering of legal, financial, medical or professional advice.
By reading this document, the reader agrees that under no circumstances is the author or publisher responsible for any losses, direct or indirect, which are incurred as a result of the use of information contained within this document, including, but not limited to, errors, omissions, or inaccuracies.
- Contents page. From the ribbon, select the References tab and then Table of Contents. Use Automatic Table 1. This will produce a table of contents labeled "Contents" and showing down to Heading 3.
- Instead of a normal page break, the Contents page should be followed by a section break. This is because from this point on, we will be inserting headers, footers and page numbers. To insert a section break, use Layout >> Breaks >> Section Breaks >> Next Page.
- Then use Insert >> Header and Insert >> Footer. In the Header, Insert the book's title and sub-title (you can copy and paste these from the Title page) and in the Footer, insert the page number, centered. Then create the normal page, that you will use as the model for most of your content.
- Normal page. Enter the following items on this page, so that you can see how everything will look:
"Chapter" using the Chapter style.
"Heading 1" using the Heading 1 style.
"Heading 2" using the Heading 2 style.
"Heading 3" using the Heading 3 style.
"Paragraph" using the Normal style.
I also like to start the first paragraph in each chapter with a drop cap. Place the cursor immediately before the first letter and select Insert >> Drop Cap >> Dropped.
- The Rest of the Books page. If this book is in a series, list them here and tempt your readers to buy more in the series with some teaser information. If you have other books, list them here as "Other Titles by the same Author". If you have a website, invite your reader to sign up to be informed about forthcoming titles and other information.
This is all about establishing yourself as a brand.
- The About the Author(s) page. Don't underestimate the importance of this page as part of reinforcing your brand. Readers love to know stuff about their authors, especially what they look like. Include a photo of yourself and write an interesting, personal bio wrapped around the photo. (To wrap text around an image, right-click on the image, select Wrap Text and experiment with the various options. You may need to change the size of the image to get the best effect.
The bio should be reasonably substantial and include personal information, as readers are always curious about the life, upbringing and personal choices of the person whose work they are reading. It should also include some information that connects them to the writing of this book.
- Normal page. Enter the following items on this page, so that you can see how everything will look:
Save two copies of the template, one to update with your book's details and the other to come back to for your next book!
While you can create your own template, you can download mine from HERE and either use it as is or as a base for creating your own. You need to substitute your own details in various parts of the template and also either delete the part that directs your reader to your author website or (better) create your author website and direct your reader to it for more information and invite them to join your list.
Write or Outsource Your Book
At last, the fun part. Actually creating your awesome book.
As mentioned earlier, broadly you have two alternatives:
- Write it yourself.
- Pay someone else (ghostwriter) to write it for you.
You'll write it yourself if it's a fact book showcasing your expertise on a particular subject.
You'll write it yourself if it's a work of fiction that you're wanting to publish and get out into the world. Maybe it's a book that you've had inside you for a long time. It could be in one of your favorite genres.
You'll pay someone else to write it if you just want to make money from a hot, profitable niche.
In all cases, you'll be using the book template that you created as described above.
Does Size Matter?
If you're writing it yourself, no, not really. It will take however many words that are needed. Here are some rough guides to size definitions. Repeat, rough guides, there's a lot of leeway.
Short Story: 5,000 to 10,000 words or around 25 pages.
Novelette: 10,000 to 20,000 words.
Novella: 20,000 to 50,000 words.
Novel: Upwards of 50,000 words. Fun fact: War and Peace has 587,287 words!
However... If you're just in it for the money, you best format is the 25 page short story in a genre that's hungry for their next fix. And one genre really stands out. I'll reveal it in the next article along with how to find a top-notch ghostwriter.
Publish Your Kindle Book
Once you have your KDP account, your book as a Word document and your cover, publishing on the Kindle platform is really easy.
Log in to your Amazon KDP account and, under the Create a New Title heading, click on + Kindle eBook.
You will see 3 tabs, labeled Kindle eBook Details, Kindle eBook Content and Kindle eBook Pricing, with the first tab already selected. Here's how you fill them in:
Kindle eBook Details
These are mostly self-explanatory. You will enter
- Book Title and optional Sub-Title
- Series details if the book is part of a series
- Edition Number (leave blank)
- Author (this can be your real name or a pen name, but should correspond to the author name on your book's cover)
- Contributors. If others have co-authored or otherwise contributed to the book, list them here.
- Description. This is a brief description of what your book is about. I suggest you write this as a separate document and then use it both here and as your book's blurb.
- Publishing Rights. As you have written this book or had it written for you, you own the publishing rights. Select the first radio button "I own the copyright and I hold the necessary publishing rights."
- Keywords. Think of these in terms of what someone might be searching for on Amazon and would be delighted to find your book. You can enter up to 7 of them.
- Categories. You can select up to 2 categories. These can help browsers find your book in a particular category. Hint: If you select one of the categories with a smaller number of books, it can help your book get the desired Best Seller label as there is less competition. This can increase sales.
- Age and Grade Range. Unless you have written a children's book, leave this blank.
- Pre-Order. The first radio button "I am ready to release my book now" is selected by default.
Click on the Save and continue button to move to the next tab:
Kindle eBook Content
In this section, you will enter:
- Digital Rights Management (DRM). Read the guide next to this section "How is my Kindle eBook affected by DRM?" and make up your own mind. Personally, I select No as it avoids an extra complication.
- Upload eBook Manuscript. Here you will upload the Word version of your book. Amazon will tell you when it has uploaded successfully and warn you of any issues, such as suspected spelling errors.
- Kindle eBook Cover. Select the option "Upload a cover you already have (JPG/TIFF only" and then the button Upload Your Cover File. Select the cover file previously created and stored as a .jpg. Wait until you see the message Cover uploaded successfully!
- Kindle eBook Preview. This is really useful, as it allows you to check your book as it will be seen on a device such as a Kindle Reader. Click the Launch Previewer button and scroll through your book.
- Kindle eBook ISBN. The International Standard Book Number is not required on Kindle books. Leave blank.
Click on the Save and continue button to move to the next tab:
Kindle eBook Pricing
- KDP Select Enrollment. It says "Maximize My Royalties with KDP Select (Optional)" and that sounds attractive. Use it if you have no intention of publishing anywhere but on Amazon. However, at some point of time, I intend to cover publishing on other platforms. Amazon doesn't allow this if you are enrolled in KDP Select. However, you can change this at any time, but the change is not immediate.
- Territories. It sets you up for a bit more work further on, but I like to select All territories (world wide rights). This allows you to sell all over the world in local currency but to get paid in your home currency.
- Primary Marketplace. Select your primary marketplace from the dropdown, such as amazon.com.
- Pricing, Royalty and Distribution. This can have a big impact on your profitability, so it's worthwhile spending some time on it and there are a few factors involved. First up, however, set your royalty plan to 70%. This means you will get 70% of all sales of your Kindle book. Amazon will keep 30%. This compares favorably with royalty payments from traditional publishers.
Enter your amazon.com price ($2.99 to $9.99 but if you are just starting, do for the lower end such as $3.99) and select Base all marketplaces on this price. This will show the equivalent price in local currency for each of your marketplaces.
Now update the price in each marketplace to something that looks better. For example, if USD3.99 converts to AUD5.55, change the Australian price to $5.99.
- Book Lending. Locked. Nothing to enter.
- Terms & Conditions. Information only. Nothing to enter.
All done. Click on the Publish Your Kindle eBook button.
How to Publish Your Book on Amazon: Part 2
In How to Publish Your Book on Amazon: Part 2, I'll cover what to do if you just want to make money in this highly profitable niche. In particular, I'll cover:
How to Find a Profitable Genre
Hiring a Ghostwriter
Outlining a Plot for Your Ghostwriter
Publishing Your Paperback
How to Publish Your Book on Amazon: Part 3
In How to Publish Your Book on Amazon: Part 3, I'll cover some more advanced topics, including:
Outlining a Plot for Your Own Book
Editing and Proofreading Your Own Book
Should You Do a Series?
How to Promote Your Books
Amazon Publishing Training Course
I'm creating a full, video based training course called Creating and Publishing Your First Book on Amazon. You'll be able to watch over my shoulder as I guide you through each step of creating your book, publishing it, promoting it and making money from it. It costs you nothing to register your interest and you'll get valuable free gifts whether you decide to enroll in the course or not. Click here to Register Your Interest.