How to Self-Publish a Book on Amazon
So, you're an independent author who's ready to put out your newest work — and now you want to know how to publish a book on Amazon, the grand hub of e-commerce and the original online bookstore. In this day and age, there’s no better way to make your book quickly available to the general public (not to mention the royalty advantages).
Indeed, self-publishing could be the key to your authorial success. And we want to help you get there! Hence why we've written this comprehensive guide to Amazon self-publishing, which includes how to self-publish on Amazon in just 10 steps AND helpful tips for maximizing your book sales.
Before we dive into the tutorial, let's talk about Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Amazon’s self-publishing service. The KDP platform is what you’ll use to put your book up on Amazon. You'll also monitor your sales and stats from your KDP dashboard in the coming weeks and months.
This means that if you’re even remotely considering the Amazon self-publishing route, you ought to familiarize yourself with KDP first. The post linked above will give you a super-thorough overview, but here are a few FAQs to start:
🕙 How long does it take to self-publish through KDP?
About an hour to upload your prepared files, and 24-72 hours for your book to appear on the Kindle Store. So if you upload your book today, you could be making sales tomorrow!
💰What kinds of royalties does KDP offer?
70% royalties on any book priced between $2.99-$9.99, or 35% for a book priced outside that range. However, if you're enrolled in KDP Select, you can still get 70% royalties for a book under $2.99 through special promotions (more on that later).
🤔 How does KDP stack up to similar platforms?
Most ebook self-publishing platforms are similar to Kindle Direct Publishing — free and easy to use, with comparable royalty plans. But of course, KDP has one massive trump card: it's the only service you can use to self-publish and distribute on Amazon.
Now that we've covered the basics of Kindle Direct Publishing, let's get into the actual step-by-step mechanics of how to publish a book on Amazon.
Sign up for KDP
You can either sign in with your regular Amazon account or sign up for a KDP account (aka your Amazon self-publishing account). If you choose the former option, don’t worry — other people won't be able to see your purchases, only your author page.
Create a new title
After signing up, you’ll be directed to the KDP dashboard. You may need to update your account information before proceeding — there will be a notification for it at the top of the page. Don't forget to designate a bank account, as that's how you'll receive your royalty payments!
Once you’ve completed your account info, go ahead and create a new title from the dashboard. You can choose either a Kindle ebook or a paperback book. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll select the ebook option, but the process is fairly similar for both. (If you're hoping to print your self-published book through Amazon, check out the KDP Print section of this print-on-demand post.)
Enter your book description
Next comes your book description. This is one of your top selling tools on Amazon, so don’t phone it in! Make sure it has an attention-grabbing hook, a brief but engaging summary, and a question or point of intrigue to leave readers wanting more. (You can learn ALL about how to write a great description in the post linked below.)
This description, for example, raises a number of questions: How did Jenny escape the Gestapo? Who are her husband and children? Why a muffin bakery? Some are more pressing than others, yes, but all will compel readers to purchase her book.
If you want to really hone your description, check out this guide: how to write an Amazon book description that sells.
Set keywords and categories
Now it's time to determine the keywords and categories for your book. These are the terms that people will be searching to actually find your book, which means they need to be highly relevant to your content. So as with your description, make sure to get your keywords and categories right!
You probably know which categories your book falls under, but if not, just look up books that are similar to yours and see what theirs are. You can also browse through categories on this page to ensure you’re not missing anything.
Note that categories typically follow an "category tree" from broad to specific, so you can ensure that every single relevant category has been applied.
Examples of Amazon categories:
- Fiction > Thrillers > Supernatural
- Juvenile Fiction > Social Issues > Prejudice & Racism
- Nonfiction > Biography & Autobiography > Personal Memoirs
- Juvenile Nonfiction > Technology > How Things Work/Are Made
- Comics & Graphic Novels > Manga > Superheroes
- Literary Collections > Caribbean & Latin American
As you can see, Amazon categories can get preeetty precise. Luckily, you can choose two of them, so take advantage if your book qualifies for multiple categories — this makes you all the more discoverable to readers.
Keywords are a bit tricker than categories. Amazon recommends choosing keywords that do not already appear in your title or description, as this will help you cast a wider net. However, that doesn't mean they should be completely unrelated! For example, the keyword "inspirational" above is often attributed to memoirs, but it's still good to be as specific as possible with Amazon self-publishing keywords.
As you can see, you may select seven keywords to describe your book on Amazon. You have to condense your entire book into them, so choose wisely!
To find the right Amazon keywords, you can:
- Use a keyword suggestion tool like Publisher Rocket (or Wordstream's if you want to try one for free first)
- Play around with the Amazon search function to see which keywords result in high-ranking books that are similar to yours
- Simply think about what you would search for to find your own book — in all likelihood, your best keywords will be pretty intuitive!
Upload your manuscript
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for — time to officially upload your book to Amazon! Simply click the yellow upload button and choose the correct file. It may take a few minutes to process, so don’t navigate away from the page. When it’s finished, a green notification should appear.
What kind of file should you upload?
If you're publishing an ebook, KDP will convert your file to mobi, which is the format used by the Kindle store. However, we still recommend having a mobi or well-formatted EPUB prepared beforehand, which you can easily do using the Reedsy Book Editor.
Alternately, if you already have an EPUB and want to convert it to a mobi, just use our super-efficient EPUB to mobi converter! This will ensure that the file you upload looks exactly as it will on Amazon.
Upload your book cover
With your manuscript all set, it's time to upload your book cover as well. You probably have one prepared already, but now’s a good time to take stock: Does it look like other bestsellers in your genre? Does it attract attention without being over-the-top? Does it make for a nice thumbnail image?
Since your cover design is so important to your sales, you shouldn’t leave anything to chance. Amazon provides an on-the-spot “Cover Creator” tool, but we recommend spending a good chunk of time on your cover to make sure it looks really great.
What kind of image should you upload?
Amazon requires a minimum image size of 1,000 x 625 pixels. It also needs to be in RGB color space — luckily, most images are formatted this way automatically. And the final version of your cover should be converted to a JPG or TIFF before you upload it. You can consult Amazon’s full ebook cover guidelines for more info.
Once you’re ready to upload your cover, select that yellow button to do so. Again, this might take a few minutes; when it’s done, you should get another green-check-marked confirmation.
Weigh up KDP Select
Now you’ll see the option to enroll in KDP Select, a free program that can help you promote your book — so long as it remains Amazon-exclusive. Let's talk about what KDP Select can offer you (and what it can't).
The benefits of KDP Select include:
- 70% royalties in special territories like Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and India
- Ability to run Free Book Promotions & Kindle Countdown Deals (discounted price) on your book — AND you'll get 70% royalties even when your book is priced under $2.99
- Inclusion in the Kindle Unlimited library, where you also earn royalties by page
What about the drawbacks? There's only one, really, but it's a major consideration: for the 90-day KDP Select period, you can only distribute digital copies of your book through Amazon. And of course, if you choose to re-enroll, you'll remain restricted.
For authors who plan to go Amazon-exclusive anyway, this won't be a problem. But authors who want to distribute through a variety of platforms should proceed with caution. Amazon self-publishing can be fickle, and you may not want to put all your eggs in one basket. Plus, you may live in (or be distributing to) a country where Amazon doesn't have as large of a market share! So think hard about the pros and cons before committing to KDP Select.
To learn more about this program and whether or not you should enroll, check out our exhaustive guide to KDP Select.
Price your book
Next, you’ll set your book’s price. If you’ve chosen the 70% royalty plan — which we recommend — you must stay within the range of $2.99 to $9.99. If you’ve chosen 35%, you can set a price anywhere between $0.99 and $200.
After you set your price, calculations on the right will inform you of your royalties per book. Delivery rate will depend on the size of your book — the bigger it is, the higher the delivery price. This will be subtracted from your royalties if you’ve chosen the 70% option. And if you're printing books through KDP Print, you'll have to subtract print costs from your royalties as well.
Enroll in other programs
This section is all about customer incentives and rewards! Kindle Matchbook allows customers who purchase a print copy of your book to download the ebook at a reduced price, or for free. Kindle Book Lending is pretty much what it sounds like — it allows people to lend your book to other readers for 14 days. and it’s a mandatory feature with KDP Select.
However, even if you don’t enroll in KDP Select, we recommend checking yes on both of these. They provide nice bonuses for your customers, and ultimately help more people access your work.
Publish your book
You’ve made it! If your book looks good in preview, you’re ready to hit that yellow button that says Publish Your Kindle eBook. It may take up to three days for your book to become available, so don’t worry if it doesn’t immediately show up on Amazon. And if you’re not quite ready to publish yet, you can always save your book as a draft.
How to make money on Amazon
Just because you've gotten your book out there in the world (a tremendous achievement, and congratulations to you!), doesn't mean your job is done. There's still so much you can do, from creating an stellar marketing plan to various promotional hacks. And of course, the more you hustle, the more books you're likely to sell!
On that note, here are our most helpful tips for actually making money through Amazon self-publishing.
💸 Take advantage of price promotions
The best way to make money on Amazon is to charge less for your book. Sounds counterintuitive, but wouldn't you rather pay $0.99 than $9.99 for a book — especially if you'd never read anything by the author before?
In that vein, make sure to run a price promotion for every 90-day period you're enrolled in KDP Select. Each Kindle Countdown Deal only lasts 7 days, but this can be broken up into segments! We'd recommend pricing your book at $0.99 for the first couple of days, then raising it to $1.99, then to $2.99.
This way, more people buy it when it first launches, giving it a spike on the charts before the price gradually goes up — though it definitely helps if you publicize externally, too.
👩💻 Go on a virtual blog tour
Speaking of publicizing your Amazon self-publishing promotions (say that ten times fast), there's only so much you can do on your own platforms. What really boosts your sales is reaching entirely new readers. Going on a "blog tour" can be a great way to do that!
You'll want to plan your blog tour a few months ahead of your release, so you can get relevant guest-posting slots in time. How do you find places to guest post, you may ask? Simply Google terms related to your book (think about your genre, categories, and keywords!) + "submit a guest post," or even "blog tour." You'll be surprised by how many bloggers are more than happy to lend you their platform for a day.
💯 Make reviews a priority
Other than simply getting customers to buy your book, you also want people to review your book. Indeed, reviews are another major sales tool for authors on Amazon, and just a handful of positive reviews can make a huge difference.
We have a whole guide on how to get book reviews, but it basically boils down to reaching out to book bloggers. Try to narrow down your search to a dozen or so who review in your niche, and write a personalized inquiry to each of them; again, you'll be pleasantly surprised by who's willing to help. (For those hoping to get a head start, you can find our curated directory of book review blogs right here.)
🔀 Change up your description and keywords
Remember how we said Amazon self-publishing is fickle? It still is — but there's a silver lining, which is that you can be fickle too. If it's been a few weeks and your book still isn't ranking, feel free to change your book description and keywords to try and improve!
How can you make effective changes? Well, look even more closely at the comparable books in your genre. Try to imitate their blurbs, and take note of any categories you might've missed — you can even use some of them as comp titles. ("Readers who loved [title X] will love my book, [title Y].")
If you've gotten any stand-out reviews, you might also quote them at the top of your description. And if you're really ambitious, you can take this course on Amazon algorithms and learn to co-opt them for your own purposes.
More self-publishing resources
Publishing a book on Amazon is just like anything that requires a bit of effort: you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Hopefully, this guide has helped you put your best foot forward as you undertake this intrepid Amazon self-publishing journey! However, here are a few bonus resources to help you on your way.
1. If you’re just getting started and want to know the basics:
How to Publish a Book: Self-Publishing for Beginners
2. If you want to know how much it costs to self-publish, start to finish:
How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book in 2020?
3. If you’d like to hire a third-party service to advertise your price promotion:
Free and Paid Book Promotion Services in 2020
4. If you're curious about Amazon Publishing (their book publishing unit that functions like a traditional publisher):
Amazon Publishing: What is it Like to Get Signed by Them?
5. If you just want to make sure you haven’t missed anything:
The World’s Most Essential Self-Publishing Checklist
And if you have any other questions about Amazon self-publishing, please leave them in the comments! We’ll answer them to the best of our ability.