How to Publish Your Book on Amazon: Part 2
In How to Publish Your Book on Amazon: Part 1, I covered all the technical details, including:
- Opening a KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) account
- Deciding on your book's content type
- Getting a cover for your book
- Creating a template
- Writing your book
- Deciding on your book's size
- Publishing your book on the KDP platform and
- Setting your book's pricing.
All this was based on the assumption that you are writing the book yourself and that at least some of your motivation is to get this particular book published because you have something to say and want others to read it.
But what if you just want to make money?
That's absolutely fine, but requires a different approach.
Selecting a Genre
If you just want to make money from Amazon publishing, you have a wonderful sense of freedom.
You are no longer restricted to something you are knowledgeable about, or even interested in. You're not going to write it. Someone else is.
The first thing you are going to do is find a profitable genre and I've got measurement tools to enable you to do exactly that.
What Makes a Profitable Genre?
A profitable genre is one that has profitable books in it. That's pretty logical, right? But how do you determine that a book is profitable? To be honest, you can't, because you don't know how much money a successful author is spending on advertising. But it's reasonable to assume that no successful author is spending on advertising to make a loss, so we can ignore that factor and focus instead on who's selling lots of books.
And Amazon gives us a clear measure of that. It's where a particular book appears in Amazon's best seller lists.
So that's where we'll start.
And we're going to do it in one of the most popular categories on Amazon - Romance.
Yep, romance. Back in the pre-Amazon days, romance was the province of companies like Mills and Boon and Harlequin. They had an army of writers all over the world who churned out formulaic romance short stories and novellas to a fan base who couldn't get enough of them.
And guess what? They are still out there. Looking for their weekly fix. And once they've found an author they like, they'll continue to buy every story published by that author.
How would you like to be that author?
Is the Genre Profitable?
It takes a bit of time and research, but here's how you find out if your genre is profitable or not.
First of all, we have to hone in a bit. Something like Romance (or Science Fiction or Fantasy or Mystery, Thriller and Suspense) is too broad.
Here's what we do:
Go to amazon.com and click on Best Sellers and then Kindle Store.
Note that the reader we are after typically pays less than $5 for their weekly (or even daily) fix so we are primarily focusing on publishing to Kindle. That's not to say we won't spend the extra 20 minutes to create a paperback as well, but it's not our primary aim.
From here, we will go to either Kindle eBooks or Kindle Short Reads. I'll cover both. We'll go to Kindle eBooks first.
Once you're in Kindle eBooks, scroll down and click on Romance.
This will bring up a list of the top 100 best sellers in Romance, but note that on the left-hand side, there is a large list of sub-categories.
This is where we will do our research.
What we are going to do is pick a sub-category (no particular method; maybe just something that piques our interest) and look at the overall best seller rankings of the #1 and #100 books in that sub-category. We want the #1 book to be under 2,500 because that indicates that there is money to be made and the #100 book to be over 25,000 because that indicates that the competition is low enough for us to rank high and make money.
I'm going to choose Time Travel (scroll down to find it between Sports and Westerns). Why? Probably because I'm interested in history and can imagine a romance between a modern young woman and an historical figure such as Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan. Or a male protagonist romancing Elizabeth l, the virgin queen. Or... well, you get the idea.
The #1 Best Seller in the Sub-category
At the time of writing, the number 1 best seller in Time Travel Romance was Diana Gabaldon's Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone. This is actually the last book of the 9-book Outlander series. Click on the book cover to find out where it fits in Amazon's overall best seller list.
Wow! What a money spinner. Number 1 in Time Travel Romances, Time Travel Romance and number 2 in Historical Fantasy are all to be expected, but number 203 in the entire Kindle Store means that this book is really making a lot of money.
Bearing in mind that most customers don't bother leaving ratings, the fact that it has over 27K ratings and 4.5 stars is another indication of the size of its footprint.
But... note also its 960 pages. This is a novel, not a novella or short story.
But also... as I said before, it's the last book in a 9-book series. It's reasonable to assume that most if not all purchasers of this book have also bought the first 8 books of the series. Making this series hugely profitable.
The #100 Best Seller in the Sub-Category
At the time of writing, the number 100 best seller in Best Sellers in Time Travel Romance was Rescued By The Highlander: A Scottish Time Travel Romance (Highlander Forever Book 1). Where does it fit into Amazon's best seller rankings?
Interesting. Naturally, it's #100 in Time Travel Romance but number 24,157 in the Kindle Store.
Not quite over the 25,000 that I said we wanted to be but in my opinion close enough.
To me, this indicates that I can do well in this sub-category if I can produce a quality product.
And I'm confident in my ability to do so. Let's see just how we are going to go about achieving this.
It's no coincidence that both the first and the 100th book in this sub-category are set in the Scottish Highlands. Several of Diane Gabaldon's Outlander series are in the top 100 and the reviews of others are often accused of ripping them off. So I'd tread carefully. By all means emulate her style but steer clear of her settings and characters.
Kindle Short Reads
Kindle Short Reads are conveniently divided into books of different sizes and then, within each size into genres.
As before, go to amazon.com and click on Best Sellers and then Kindle Store. But this time, select Kindle Short Reads.
These are split into:
- 15 minutes (1-11 pages)
- 30 minutes (12-21 pages)
- 45 minutes (22-32 pages)
- 1 hour (33-43 pages)
- 90 minutes (44-64 pages)
- 2 hours + (65-100 pages)
The most popular size here is 1 hour, so let's have look in 1 hour romance.
Short Reads 1 Hour Romance
You can't expect short stories to have the same sort of overall ranking as novels, so we'll have to compromise on the requirement for our #1 pick to be ranked at 2,500 or better.
The main advantage of modeling a short story is that our ghostwriter will be much cheaper and we will get the result faster. It can give us a good start to get up and running in this business and for our author pen name to start developing a reputation.
At the time of writing, the #1 best seller in Short Reads 1 Hour Romance was Love Lessons by Jane Fox. This book is part of a series called the Zaftig Dating Agency.
If we select this book and scroll down to its details, we can see that it's overall rating in the Kindle Store is 1,791. This is remarkably good and tells us that there's money in this category. And if we look further, we see that there are 94 books in the series. That's serious money.
But is there a lot of competition? Let's take a look at #100.
At the time of writing, book #100 was Wounded Hero by Hope Ford. It's #57,252 in the Kindle Store. This indicates low competition and we should be able to do well.
You Need a Ghostwriter
There are three things that you need to do here:
- Create your book's outline
- Find the best ghostwriter to actually create the book for you at a fair price and
- Get a stunning cover designed.
Create Your Book's Outline
Before you can employ a ghostwriter to create your book, you need an outline of what it's all about. Otherwise, you are not likely to get something that fits your vision.
You need to do some research in order to do this.
Pick three books that you like the look of from the top ten best sellers in your chosen sub-category. One of these will become the model that you base yours on. As the saying has it "Do what is already successful". For each of these books, you are going to check out:
- The book cover
- The title
- The description (blurb)
- The Price
- The length (number of pages)
- Reader reviews (very important)
- The "Look Inside" which will reveal the Table of Contents.
Let's have a look at how you can use this information to help your team craft your own personal best-seller.
Choose the book you are going to use as a model. Come up with a suitable pen name.
From reading the blurb, create your own story outline. Ask yourself these questions:
- Who are my main characters? Clearly, there'll be two protagonists, but also think about supporting characters. There may be an antagonist, there may be a third wheel, a jealous lover, comic relief and so on.
- What is the relationship between my characters at the start?
- What is the relationship between my characters at the end?
- What happens to them on that journey and how do they feel about it?
- How can I turn this into a series? Remember that all a series needs is some common element that all the books in the series share. This could be the some or all of the same characters but can also be a common location or device. It just really depends on the story. Bear in mind the popularity of prequels. If you've produced three or four books in a series, your readers will swoop on a prequel.
Read the reviews to work out how you can improve on the original. Just be a little careful here, as there will be a handful of readers who criticize the book for exactly the things that a far larger number of readers found attractive and exciting. These can include things that are not acceptable in modern real life. Read the Outlander series reviews and you'll see what I mean.
You are going to send your ghostwriter both your story outline and a link to the book you are modeling. Your story outline conveys the content you want them to produce and the book you are modeling conveys the style. You will also send them your book template as described in How to Publish Your Book on Amazon: Part 1.
Find the Best Ghostwriter
There are two places to look, Fiverr and Upwork.
With Fiverr, you will find someone advertising their services for a fixed price and make a decision based on their advertising and the reviews they have received from past customers.
With Upwork, you will place an advertisement and offer a price.
Using Fiverr is easy. Just go to fiverr.com and create your account or log in if you already have one. Then search for "ghostwriter romance".
You are looking for writers who will write in the Romance genre and have 4.9 or 5 star ratings from at least 10 customers. If you are looking for a 1 hour read, you will want between 15,000 and 20,000 words.
You may have to look at a large number of offers but should be able to find someone who will write your 1 hour short story/novella for around $100.
Go to upwork.com and create your account or log in if you already have one. Then go to the Talent (Hire Professionals and Agencies) section.
Start off by writing a headline for your job post. For example "Seeking fantasy romance ghostwriter for a series of short story/novella length books".
Note that we've given both the genre and the book length and also indicated there's likely more to come in the series.
Next, list the skills required or select from the list. These will be used to narrow down the search.
Scope is next. Select Medium, 1 to 3 months and Expert level.
Then set a Maximum Project Budget of $200.
Click the Review Job Post button.
Now you need to describe your job. Don't use your proposed book's description here. That's between you and the ghostwriter you eventually hire. What you put here should cover what they can expect from working with you and pre-empt any questions they may have. For example:
"I am looking for a high-quality, talented ghostwriter to write the first in a series of fantasy romance novella length titles, with the possibility of eventually writing all of the books in the series.
I will provide the book's outline and main characters but will otherwise leave the plot development, drama and humor to you. I will not either micro-manage or rush you. I want a quality product, free of grammatical errors, that I can promote to best-seller status in the Kindle Store.
I will pay $100 per 10,000 words. So a novella of 17,500 words would earn you $175."
In the next section, enter a screening question. This is to protect you from candidates who respond to any request without actually reading it. I just put something like "Please include the words 'responsive measures' in your cover letter".
Under Advanced Preferences, you need:
- English Level - Native or Bilingual Only
- Talent Type - Independent
- Number of Professionals Needed - One Person
Other fields can be ignored.
Click on the Post Your Job Now button and wait for candidates to contact you.
Blurb and Book
Always get your ghostwriter to write the blurb for you as well as the book itself.
Buy the Model Book for Your Ghostwriter
Although not strictly necessary, it can be a good idea to buy the book that you are modeling for your ghostwriter. You will need their email address to do this.
With the book you're modeling on screen, look over to the right-hand side, directly under the price, where you will see a section headed Buy for Others. You will need to log in if you're not already and then you can fill out your ghostwriter's details.
Who Will Be Your Editor and/or Proofreader?
Your ghostwritten book may still 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 1: Save your cover as a .jpg as this is the format you will need when you upload your cover to KDP.
Note 2: A cover created by someone running a gig on Fiverr or Upwork will (almost) always be far better than one you create yourself. And if you are writing a series (and you should be) you can get the same person to produce a corresponding series of covers.
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.
We will cover promoting your book or series in Part 3.
Publish Your Ghostwritten Book as a Kindle eBook
Do make sure that your ghostwriter has assigned all copyright in the work over to you.
You should have your book as a Word document in the template that you provided to your ghostwriter, your blurb and your cover as a .jpg.
You should also create a PDF from the Word document. Word provides the option when saving to Save as a PDF.
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.
Publish Your Ghostwritten Book as a Paperback
Once you've published your eBook, it's quite simple to publish it as a paperback as well.
Go to your bookshelf in Amazon KDP and in the section showing your published eBook, click on the + Create Paperback button.
All of the corresponding information will come across from the eBook. It can be edited if you want to make any changes but generally it should be fine.
You will need to set the categories. This is because paperback categories are not the same as eBook categories.
Unlike eBooks, paperbacks require an ISBN. Fortunately, Amazon have made this totally simple. Click on the Assign Me a Free KDP ISBN button.
Under Print Options, choose Black and White Interior with Cream Paper and leave everything else at the defaults.
Click the Upload Paperback Manuscript button and then select the PDF that you created from the Word doc that was uploaded for the eBook.
Under Book Cover, click the Launch Cover Creator button. Under Get Images for Your Cover, select From My Computer. Then choose the front cover that you had created for this book.
Choose your design from the options presented. The designs will show the front cover, the spine and the back cover with placeholders for the blurb and author image.
The selected image will be shown to you for editing. Just paste your blurb into the placeholder and optionally the author image. You can, of course, use a suitable avatar as the author image if you prefer.
Click the Launch Previewer button to see how your paperback will look.
Promoting Your Books
No matter how good your books are, no one will buy them if they don't see them.
You have to promote them. The good thing is that once you start to make sales, then Amazon will come to the party and help customers to find your books.
I will be covering all aspects of promoting in How to Publish Your Book on Amazon: Part 3.
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.