If you’re thinking about writing a book but worried that publishers won’t work with you, then do what millions of authors all across the world are currently doing: Cut them out of the equation!
That’s right. You can publish an eBook all by yourself! Self-publishing using Amazon’s free Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform has become the preferred way to bypass the old-school process of book publishing by letting authors go direct to the market.
Every day, thousands of new and professional writers are bringing their stories to life for virtually little to no investment. Some people have even turned their love of writing into a worthwhile side hustle, such as this story from Forbes of one author who’s earned $450,000 off of his crime-thriller fiction series.
If this all sounds good and you’d like to self-publish on Amazon, then here’s what you can do to get started.
Self Publish On Amazon First Step: Decide Your Topic
Is there something that people often ask you about because you have specialized knowledge in that subject? Or do you have an idea for a unique and interesting story that you think other people would like to read?
Make a shortlist of your ideas and leave nothing off the table. Think about each one and consider which topics would make the best candidates.
More importantly, go with something that you will truly enjoy writing about. With the majority of ebooks ranging anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 words long, you’re going to want to be sure the content is something you’re going to love spending time working on.
Research Your Niche
Before you commit to your topic, one thing you’re going to want to do is to research the other books that already exist in this niche. This is an important step because if there is already a lot of competition out there, then you may want to go with a different subject.
If you do find other books about your topic, don’t get discouraged right away. You might notice that they have poor reviews, terrible front covers, fewer pages, etc. You can even take a deeper dive by downloading a free sample of the book (Amazon will usually let you read the first few pages as a preview). If you find that the content is not very well written or that the table of contents is weak, then you’ve probably got a great chance of putting out a more desirable book.
Write Your Manuscript
Now that you’re sure about your topic, its time to get to work!
Make An Outline
One of the best ways to be as efficient and organized as possible when writing your book is to start by making an outline. This can be simply a loose list of major points or chapter topics that you’d like to cover.
Don’t worry about getting the order right or capturing every detail. As you get writing, you’ll more than likely change your mind a few times and think of more topics to add as you move forward.
If you already have Microsoft Word on your computer, then you’ve already got everything you need to get started writing. If you prefer to use free software like Google Sheets, then you can do that instead. Amazon also has a free program called Kindle Create that you can use to draft and format your ebook.
Another trick that many savvy writers like to use is the “talk to text” feature available on most smartphones. This allows you to dictate your content while your phone converts it to a text file that you can email to yourself.
A Little Bit At A Time
Don’t feel like you have to write your entire book all at once. A high-quality ebook takes time to create and may take weeks or even months to complete.
Your best strategy will be to set a goal for yourself and then commit to it. For example, you might tell yourself that you’ll knock out one chapter per week. Consider what your schedule permits and make your expectations realistic.
Also, while you’re at this stage of writing, don’t worry about formatting or editing. For some writers this can be a distraction from the task of creating the content itself. Keep your focus!
Hire A Good Editor
Once your manuscript is complete and you’ve read through it at least once, its time to get some professional feedback from an editor. Hire someone to proof-read your new book and objectively tell you what they think of the content.
- Were there any spelling or grammar mistakes?
- Did the content flow together well?
- Are there some sections that could be better explained or in need of re-writing?
Be as open as possible to this external feedback. Chances are if your editor is recommending something to you, then your readers will be thinking the same thing.
Where do you find an editor? If you don’t know someone within your circle of friends, you ask for a recommendation on social media. Or you could post a job online on a freelance site like Upwork or Fiverr.
A good editor will also be able to help you with the appropriate formatting needed to self-publish on the Kindle platform. Be sure to ask if they have any experience with this during the hiring process. Amazon also has a complete formatting guide at this link here.
Create An Eye-Catching Cover
Whoever said “Don’t judge a book by its cover” definitely never self-published on Amazon. Like it or not, attractive covers are one of the main things that can catch the eye of potential book shoppers. Just like a good first impression, it can make or break if anyone ever clicks on your book!
Again, it will be best to hire someone to create your book cover professionally. You can generally do this through a freelance site or use any number of services that specialize in creating ebook graphics. Expect to spend less than $100.
If you know exactly what you want your book cover to look like and are already handy with digital art, then you can create your own book cover for free using Kindle Create or any other number of design programs.
Upload To Amazon
Once your book has been edited and is ready to go, it’s time to upload it to Kindle! That’s right, it’s time to get involved in the Kindle publishing business!
Here’s what the KDP dashboard will look like after you create an account and login for the first time.
Under “Create a New Title” on the left, choose “+ Kindle eBook” to start the process.
Kindle eBook Details Tab
Here you will fill in some basic metadata about your book such as:
- Book title (and sub-title if you have one),
- Edition number / series number (if applicable)
- Author (or authors) and any contributors
- Book description – This is the text that will appear on the sales page on Amazon. You’ll definitely want to spend some time making sure you write a good sales pitch!
- Keywords / Categories – Helps Amazon shoppers to find your book
Kindle eBook Content Tab
This is where you will upload your manuscript and book cover to KDP. Note that Kindle accepts manuscripts in most popular file formats (.doc, HTML, MOBI, etc.). Book covers should be in JPG or TIFF format. Be sure to check that your files are compatible.
After uploading both, there is a handy “Kindle eBook Previewer” that will let you actually see what your book looks like. Be sure to open this and scan through the pages. If something looks off, then you may want to go back to your file and check the formatting.
Kindle eBook Pricing Tab
Finally, this is where you decide how much would you like to charge for your ebook.
Amazon offers a very generous royalty of 70% for all ebooks priced between $2.99-$9.99. All books outside of this range will only receive a royalty of 35%. For that reason, you’ll find that most of the ebooks on Amazon are sold for $2.99.
On this tab, you’ll also be asked if you’d like to enroll in the Amazon KDP Select Program. This would allow Amazon members who use Kindle Unlimited (KU) and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) to view your book for free. In exchange, you’d get a share of the KDP Select Global Fund. Agreeing to KDP Select would also mean that your book can only be sold exclusively on Amazon and not on any other platform.
Now You’re Self-Published!
After you complete the steps above, Amazon takes anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days to audit your book and ensure that it meets their guidelines. If there are any problems, then they will send you an email.
Once your book has been accepted, you’ve finally done it … you’re now a self-published author! You can go to Amazon’s homepage and search for your book title just like any other product on their site. Every month, Amazon will tally your royalties for the number of books sold and send you a direct payment.
If you enrolled in KDP select, then you will be able to periodically run promotions where you can temporarily sell your book for free or at a reduced price. This is sometimes helpful for getting attention and collecting positive reviews.
Don’t Forget About Paperback
Not everyone wants to read books digitally. Amazon knows this, and that’s why they also offer a print on demand service where you can also self-publish a paperback version of your book.
Depending on your target audience, you might find that the paperback version can do quite well. In fact, there may even be some months where it could out-sell your digital version. For example, if you’re publishing a finance book about how to deal with Medicare, your target audience is going to be more inclined to buy a paperback versus the digital format.
Final Thoughts: Self Publish On Amazon
Now you know each step for how to self publish on Amazon. Writing a book takes time and dedication, but you don’t have to wait around for a publisher to get your writing out there!