Thursday, April 19

Self Publishing on Amazon: Kindle Direct Publishing

Kindle Direct Publishing

Would you like to be an author? Writing a book is hard but getting it published doesn't have to be, not with the opportunities that now exist for self-publishing. Last week I wrote about how to publish your book through Barnes & Noble, this week I'll be discussing how to self-publish on through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

When I published my book, Until Death, I was nervous. What if I did something wrong? In that sense, it was one of the most daunting things I've done, but it turned out to be easy! So, if you're like me and you are letting your fear prevent you from publishing on Amazon, don't! Although the process can require a great deal of patience (for example, getting the formatting just right), publishing a book through KDP takes little time.

Let's step through the process together.

First, take out an account at Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Unlike Barnes and Noble, you don't need to be a publisher to sign up with KDP. Just enter your name -- or, if you are a publisher, your company's name -- your geographic information, and so on. Another difference between Amazon and Barnes and Noble is that to publish through Amazon you do not need a US address, credit card or bank account.

Section One: Your Book

I'll admit, I felt daunted when I first saw the form you have to fill out to publish a book with Amazon! But I needn't have been. Amazon gives top notch help all the way through, including "what's this?" links. If, at any point, you don't understand what information Amazon wants from you, just click one of these links and all will be explained in great and glorious detail.

Let's go through this step by step.

1. Book Details

a. Book Name
Amazon Kindle DirectThis one's easy! Just give the title itself, nothing else. Some folks like to pad the book title with keywords or extra information about the book, tell readers it's part two of a series, etc., but Amazon would much rather you just gave the title.

For instance, if your book, Death's Door, is part two of your Jaws of Death series they don't want you to write: Death's Door (Part 2 of Jaws of Death)

They want: Death's Door

Besides, in another box just below, you have the opportunity to indicate that your book is part two of a series and to even give the series title and volume number.

b. Book Description
If you've sent off a query letter for your book then you've already crafted a description (just keep in mind it can't be over 5000 characters)! If you haven't crafted a description of your book then I'd suggest taking a look at some of Nathan Bransford's posts on the subject. Here's a link to my post: How to write a query letter. At the bottom I've included links to a few of Mr. Bransford's posts, the ones that I found most helpful in this respect.

In Query Letter Mad Lib, Bransford gives the following formula:
[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal].
I've found that template be an excellent point to start from when writing a description of a story.

c. Book contributors
This is pretty much what it sounds like. If you wrote the book by yourself and no one illustrated the book, and so on, then just put your name down. If someone helped you with the illustrations, or if there was more than one author, then list those people. Next!

d. Language
That's self-explanitory. Just tell Amazon what language you used when you wrote your book.

e. Publication date
I published my book through Smashwords a day or two before I published it on Amazon so I used the Smashwords publication date here. However, if this is the first time you've published your book, then use the current date.

f. Publisher You don't have to be a publisher to publish your book on Amazon, but if you are a publisher then you can put your company name here.

g. ISBN number
Your book doesn't have to have an ISBN number for Amazon to publish it. If you do want your book to have an ISBN number then note that only publishers can purchase ISBN numbers. Also, if you have published this same title in a print edition you can't re-use that ISBN, you need to use another one.

2. Verify your publishing rights
This can sound daunting but it's really very simple. Do you have the right to publish the book? If you wrote it then of course you do!
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

3. Target your book to customers
This part is very important. You are allowed to choose up to two categories for your book, so list two categories. The more categories your book is listed under the better the chance someone is going to find your book when they do a search.

You are also allowed to give up to 7 keywords for your book. You don't have to, but you can. Again, the more keywords you list, the better your chances are that your book will come up when someone is doing a search. If you can't think of 7 keywords, think harder! You've written a whole book, this is the easy part!

4. Upload your book cover
Amazon says that this part is optional, but if you want to sell your book – and of course you do! – you have to have a cover. It doesn't have to be fancy, in fact I think that some of the best covers I've seen have been relatively simple.

When I was doing my cover someone gave me this tip: Look at the bestselling books that are the most similar to yours. Look at their covers and get ideas. You don't want yours to look exactly like any other book, but if, for example, you've written a romance book, there's a certain look most of those covers have and it would be nice if yours did too.

If you don't have any image editing software on your computer, Adobe Photoshop is wonderful, although both the learning curve and the price can be a bit steep – although Photoshop Elements costs less and has most of the functionality you'll ever need. Another great image manipulation program is Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program), and it has the advantage of being free! That said, the learning curve for Gimp can be a bit steep. To help you research this area, here's a review PCWorld did on Gimp. Also, here's an article from that compares photo editing software programs.

5. Upload your book file
There's a lot packed in here, so let's take it one point at a time.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

a. Digital Rights Management (DRM)
One of the things that caused me the most agony when I first looked at this form was whether I should enable DRM for Until Death. I decided not to. If I had enabled it then, for example, if you'd bought the book in kindle format you couldn't have converted it to another format.

For instance, although you bought and downloaded the book file from Amazon you might want to make a copy of it, convert it to the epub format, and read it on your Nook reader. Personally, I feel that if someone buys my book then I would be happy for them to make as many copies as they want for their own use. But that's me. Other people feel that DRM helps prevent folks from illegally distributing books. Personally, I doubt that DRM reduces piracy, but this is an issue on which good, intelligent, people can differ wildly in their opinions. To sum up: Do whatever feels right to you.

b. Upload the digital file of your book
This is it! This is where you transfer your book, your baby, up to Amazon's servers and put it out there for the world to see. Amazon recommends that your file be either a doc (.doc) or .prc (prc) file but – as of this writing -- it will accept epub (.epub), txt (.txt), mobipocket (.mobi or .prc), html (.zip, .htm, or .html), adobe pdf (.pdf) or rich text format (.rtf).

An entire book could be written on just this topic, and I'd like to recommend Zoe Winter's excellent book on the subject entitled Smart Self-Pubilshing: Becoming an Indie Author. Also, Mark Coker's style guide, Smashwords Style Guide, is a must read. Even though Coker's guide is written with Smashwords in mind – Mark Coker is, after all, the founder of Smashwords! – he gives excellent suggestions for how to format your Microsoft Word document that are just as applicable for Amazon.

Basically, if you are using Microsoft Word then don't use tabs, use paragraph styles instead, and keep any special formatting to a minimum.

Again, I highly recommend Coker and Winter's books, they were a great help to me when I did this and they saved me a lot of time and frustration.

6. Preview your book
At this point your book has been uploaded and the conversion was successful. Now it's time to preview it and make sure everything is in the right place. Often artifacts found in a document file can cause unexpected effects in the converted file. If this happens to you – it did to me – try not to get frustrated. Remember, there is no limit to the number of times you can do this conversion, just go back to your original file, fix what needs to be fixed, and upload it again.

Okay! We've done section one. Treat yourself, the hard part is over.

Section Two: Rights & Pricing
7. Verify your publishing territories

The choice here is between "worldwide rights" and "individual territories". For me this was easy. I hold the worldwide rights for Until Death so that's what I put. I don't imagine that the average author often sells just the rights for one or two territories, but I'm sure it comes up, otherwise Amazon wouldn't have given us this choice.

8. Choose your royalty
This is a topic that deserves its own bookshelf! Here is my condensed version: if you want a 70% royalty on the sale of your book then you have to price it between $2.99 and $9.99. Other conditions apply as well, but that's the big one. If, on the other hand, you want to sell your book for either under $2.99 – for instance, some people want to sell their book for 99 cents – or for over $9.99 then Amazon will only pay you a 35% royalty.

Your choice.

I opted to sell Until Death for 99 cents. I didn't want to discourage folks from trying out a new author and I thought it would be nice to make a little bit of money from the sale. So far I've been happy with the result, although I sometimes wonder if there is very much difference between the amount of sales made at the 99 cents price point and the $2.99 price point. But that's a topic for another post.

9. Kindle book lending
Here you must indicate whether you will allow your book to be lent out. If you check this box then a person can lend out your book to someone else for a period of 14 days. The buyer is only allowed to loan the book out once.

I allowed book lending. I have borrowed many of my friends books, and they've borrowed mine. It is one of the ways I was introduced to wonderful new authors and I wanted to continue that tradition. Actually, I wish Amazon would make it so I could decide how many times my book could be lent out.

That's it! All you have to do now is check everything over one more time and press the brilliant orange "Save and Publish" button. No worries, though, if you're not quite ready. There is also a white "Save for later" button.

I found the experience of publishing with Kindle Direct Publishing rewarding and hope you will too.

Good luck!

Related Articles:
How to self-publish on Barnes and Noble
How to write a query letter

Photo credit: Amazopia


  1. Thank you for this step-by-step guide. I do believe that the publishing industry has changed, and as writers we need to learn how to change with it. The trend has changed from traditional books to the eBook and Amazon is leading the way. The retail giant even announced that Kindle books have officially overtook paperbacks for the first time.

  2. Just published for the Kindle on Wednesday and this article was extremely helpful! Thank you!

  3. Hi Adrian, thank you! It's comments like that which make writing this blog so worthwhile.

    By the way, loved your articles, "The More Precise Method of Selecting Kindle Categories" and "Proof Kindle Categories Matter!"

    I don't usually list the urls to other folks articles in these comments, but you've given the writing community some great information. Thanks!

  4. Hi Karen, thanks for the praise! My blog is pretty new right now so I definitely appreciate the extra exposure!

    1. My pleasure! Your blog has great content, that's the key. I've subscribed and, if you keep putting out informative blog posts, I'm sure a lot of others will too. But try not to let your blog take up too much of your time. I know that's easier said than done!

  5. Dear Karen, I plan to self publish soon, and I found this blog extremely helpful! Thanks! Maria

  6. Thanks for the excellent info Karen. I'm within a couple of days of uploading. I've reviewed the Amazon steps.

    The one that concerns me most is the requirement for bank account information. That seems strange given that royalties are paid by cheque. I'm wondering if it has something to do with me not residing in the USA...I'm Canadian.

    If you know anything about this, I'd love to hear...thanks again

    1. Thanks Lawrence!

      Good question. No, I think everyone has to surrender their banking information regardless of country. Though if you hear otherwise, that would be interesting!

      For myself I prefer direct deposit, so naturally I had to give that info. Perhaps they're trying to move everyone to direct deposit? (That's just a guess.)

      Sorry I wasn't more help.

      By the way, big congrats on uploading your novel! I'm guessing this is your first, at least at Amazon. Best of luck! (Not that you need it.)

  7. Very helpful! I will be recommending this post to one of my clients.
    Jennifer Buckley (

  8. I wish I had found this BEFORE I published on KDP! I was so freaked out! But I'll definitely be forwarding this to my other Start Experiment friends who have been asking me for info. Thanks for taking the time to do this!

    1. Thanks Genevieve!

      Trust me, the process is easy. Amazon gives you help every step of the way and, if you ever have a question, I've found them easy to talk to and quick to respond.

      All the best! :-)

  9. Nice post.
    "2. Verify your publishing rights
    This can sound daunting but it's really very simple. Do you have the right to publish the book? If you wrote it then of course you do! "
    My understand was that this was definitely true of previously unpublished works. However, I've had poetry published in small journals that restricted when I could sell the work again. Self-publishing was included in some of my contracts. So I don't think this point is completely off-base, I just wanted to add that I think it might be wise to check any contracts you have with publishers if you are self-publishing a book that was previously published. (Just my personal experience.)

    1. Yes, good point.

      In this article I was talking about previously unpublished work. If one's book has been published before then one would need to be sure one's rights had reverted. I write about that issue here:

      Adam, thanks for your comment. :-)

  10. Karen, I have a print cookbook (5,000 print run) that has almost sold out, so I'm toying with creating a digital version, but adding some more recipes. The print version has tons of photos I took myself...all professional 4-color. How do color images display on a Kindle...especially the black-and-white ones? Also, have you made any money pricing your book at 99 cents.

    1. Hi Mother Linda! Love your website. :-)

      Making a digital version of your cookbook is a great idea. About images, I haven't included many in my books, but has a helpful FAQ about it here:

      I generally read ebooks on either my laptop or my iPad and, what images I've seen so far, look great. I couldn't tell you how color images display on a black and white display, sorry. If it was me, I'd blog or tweet about it; chances are, someone with a monochrome ereader will know.

      My feeling is the industry has gone away from offering books at 99 cents unless the book is very short. Sure, one can do promotions and give books away, and so on, but I think the feeling nowadays is that good sized-books should start at $2.99.

      That said, of course it's up to the author and the strategy of pricing books at 99 cents has sure paid off for John Locke. My advice would be to experiment.

      All the best!

  11. Thanks for the great info! You make it much less scary. I have a short "how-to" book for parents of horse crazy little girls but I'm wondering if it's too small to publish. About 3-4 pages per chapter. How small is too small in your opinion? Also, does KDP allow the use of a pseudonym when publishing?

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Lee.

      "I'm wondering if it's too small to publish. About 3-4 pages per chapter."

      It depends on the number of words. A while back there was some talk of Amazon not wanting folks publish anything under 2,500 words (or so).

      "does KDP allow the use of a pseudonym when publishing?"


      Hope that helps, and all the best with your book. :)

  12. Do you know anything about Audible by Amazon? One of my proofreading clients just published her first book the other day via Amazon, and she's very interested in making her soon-to-be trilogy an audible book. Does Audible by Amazon actually find someone to record the story or would she have to find someone?
    BTW, her debut book is Isles of Olympus: A Guardian's Truth by Sandra Schepis.

  13. Hi Karen, I loved this article. You make the process seem so simple! I have one quick question, though. You stated that it is better to use paragraph styles instead of tabs. Why is this? Will it be any different if I use tabs in Microsoft Word? I hope you can clear this up for me, thanks!

    1. Hi Bri, good question. First, though, have you read Mark Coker's "Smashwords Style Guide"? It's free, and I think it's, hands down, the best book on how to format a book so that the conversion to ebook will be relatively painless. (And that goes for Amazon, etc., not just Smashwords) Here's the URL:

      Okay, about tabs, I passed that hint/tip on because it's what everyone says. You can try to leave tabs in, convert your manuscript to an ebook, and see how it goes. If the resulting ebook is formatted as you want then use tabs! If not, try eliminating tabs and use paragraph styles.

      For myself I use paragraph styles and I've never had a problem with either the Smashwords meatgrinder or any other conversion tool.

      All the best! :-)

  14. Hi Karen. I'm from Suriname and i want to self publish on KDP. But i don't have an US account. So i wanted to know if i could get my royalties via mastercard. Thanks

    1. I _believe_ you can, but I'm not positive. I'd check the KDP FAQ. All the best!

  15. Brilliant guide!
    I have worked so hard on my first book and was having a wobble about publishing via Kindle because the forn scared me. You have answered all of my questions, thanks so much


Because of the number of bots leaving spam I had to prevent anonymous posting. My apologies. I do appreciate each and every comment.