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Last updated on Jul 07, 2021

How to Publish a Book on Amazon: An Intrepid Author’s Guide

We all know a writer who’s decided to publish a book on Amazon only to run away shouting, It’s a jungle out there! You can’t blame them: publishing your work is nerve-wracking, especially when you’re making all of your own decisions. Even those authors who are excited by the freedom of self-publishing can be hesitant to embark on the adventure without someone to point out the dangers.

So we’ve donned our khaki, loaded the riverboat, and we’re ready to guide you through the jungle — starting with how to publish a book on Amazon, in the most literal sense. Intrepid authors, get ready to hit that ‘publish’ button with confidence. 

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1. Set up a KDP account

Before boarding this Amazon express cruise, you will need to get a ticket. And by that we mean, set up a KDP account. Luckily, it’s easy, quick, and free! Hop over to Kindle Direct Publishing and get started by signing in to your Amazon account — or signing up for a new one. 

Then you’ll need to complete your KDP account information, which includes:

  • Author/Publisher information: As scary as this sounds, it’s just your full legal name (not a pen name), address, and phone number.
  • Payment information: The details for receiving your sweet, sweet royalties — i.e. your bank account name and number. 
  • Tax information: Just a quick tax interview that guides you through the process of gathering the information required to establish your tax identity. 

Once that’s all ship-shape and good to go, climb aboard. This is where the fun begins!

2. Create a new title

On your KDP dashboard, you’ll see right away that there’s a section called “Create a new title,” with two options underneath: Kindle eBook, or Paperback. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re only going to cover setting up an ebook, though the process for paperbacks is pretty similar. (We also have a whole post on publishing your books through print-on-demand services if you want to check that out.)

Once you select what type of book you’re creating, you’ll be brought to a page with three separate tabs for all of your book’s details. We’ll get into those soon, but for now, stay in the first tab and put your book’s title and language in the first two fields, then you’re on your way!

3. Enter your book description

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The rest of this first tab is where you fill in all the information about your book. This will include, among other details:

  • if it’s part of a series;
  • the recommended age range of your readers, and
  • any additional contributors who worked on your book, such as a book illustrator.

But the most important thing you’ll need to add is your description.

Amazon book descriptions are pretty much what you’d find if you flipped over a paperback — i.e. the blurb. I won’t get into the art of crafting a book description here (just check out that post!), but once you know what you want to say, take a moment to dress it up: Amazon allows you to use bold and italics to make your description visually appealing, so take advantage of that.

A bold headline statement, hook, or social validation is a common approach used by bestselling traditionally published books — there’s no reason not to imitate them.

Amazon Self-Publishing | The Amazon Product Description of David Grann's The Lost City of Z
The statement “#1 New York Times bestseller” is made bold to hook readers.

4. Select your keywords and categories

Choosing your categories and keywords can often feel like a crocodile-infested swamp you’re forced to pass through on your way to Amazon self-publishing success. But with a little bit of time, and the right research methods, these nine-or-so words can be a simple and effective way to boost your chances of success. 

Essentially, a lot of the research has to be done by hand. Clicking through the Kindle store and digging up the data on successful books similar to yours is the best way to find the keywords and categories that feel like a perfect fit. 

However, our very own Reedsy Learning course on understanding Amazon’s algorithms — along with the posts in this guide on keywords and categories specifically — have made the process a smooth cruise for countless authors. So don’t get left behind struggling through the swamp!

Free course: Amazon Algorithms

Send your book to the top of its category by using Amazon's recommendation system to your advantage. Get started now.

Once you’ve found your keywords and categories, actually entering them when you publish a book on Amazon is simple. KDP lets you select two categories for your book, and up to seven keywords. Select the ones that you’ve decided best encompass your book — and remember, you can change and add to these later, so don’t be afraid to experiment with a couple.

5. Upload an epub file of your book

The next tab you reach is where you’ll need to actually upload your book onto your KDP account.

To get started, simply click the friendly, yellow “Upload ebook manuscript” button. Select the final copy of your epub file and click “OK.”

Amazon will accept a range of file formats, but we strongly recommend having your file formatted as an epub. Slapping a Word document in and trusting Amazon to do the rest never works out well. Readers can tell who’s professionally formatted their book, and who hasn’t — and cutting corners will come back to bite you. Hiring a professional formatter will definitely pay for itself over time, but if you’re an author on a tight budget, you can use a free tool like the Reedsy Book Editor to export a beautifully formatted ebook.

Once you’ve selected your manuscript, you’ll see a message pop up saying that it’s processing your book. Do not refresh or click off of this page! It can take a few minutes for Amazon to upload your book and verify it.

Soon, if you’ve formatted your book to Amazon’s satisfaction, you’ll see a little green message saying that your manuscript has uploaded successfully. Take a moment to celebrate, but don’t get too distracted — there’s still a few very important steps to go.

6. Upload a jpeg or tiff version of your cover

A book won’t sell without an attractive cover. Your cover designer should have provided you with a jpeg or tiff version of your cover, sized appropriately 1,000 x 625. To add it to Amazon, simply select the option to use a pre-existing cover, and click the “Upload your cover file” button. Select your cover file, making sure to upload the ebook version.

Like when you uploaded the book itself, this process can take a minute. When it’s done, you’ll get another green notification.

Amazon Self-Publishing | KPD's cover upload screen
The sweet green tick of a successful upload

After you’ve uploaded your ebook and cover, you can use the “Ebook Preview” tool to see how it will look. Take a minute to ensure that everything is correct: that the whole cover shows up, that the interior looks the way it does when you open the file on your computer, etc. If anything is wrong, go back and double-check your files, then upload again.

After that, it’s on to the final tab.

7. Set a price between $2.99 and $9.99

The first thing to know when deciding what price to sell your book is that Amazon offers a 70% royalty rate on ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99, and 35% on anything outside that range.

There will be times when you want to sell a book outside this price range. Perhaps you will sell the first in a series at a lower price to drive sales for the rest of the books. But as a general rule, it’s best to stick to something that will get you that sweet 70%.

As you set your price, Amazon calculates your estimated royalties. It deducts a small “delivery rate” based on the file size of your book and then shows you how much you’ll make per sale.

Amazon Self-Publishing | Setting the list price on KDP
Choosing a list price that ends in a 99 is always good practice.

You can also expand the pricing section to set different prices for each country you want to sell in. If you genuinely don't care about international sales, you can just set it to auto, but you'll get much better results if you do it manually.

Selling internationally can really help boost your sales, so we recommend keeping an eye on your international sales trends and nurturing those that develop. Our free course will tell you all you need to know about how to do that. 

Free course: International book pricing

Selling your book in multiple countries? Maximize your international profits with this 10-day online course. Get started now.

8. Enroll in KDP Select (or don’t)

Now that all the information for your book is in place, it’s time to consider a few important programs that may help your book reach an even wider audience. 

KDP Select

We have a whole post on KDP Select, so we’ll try not to repeat ourselves too much. But essentially, the program offers two main benefits to authors looking to market their ebook:

  • Inclusion in Kindle Unlimited; and
  • The ability to run free book promotions and Kindle Countdown deals to help market your ebook.

Whether you choose to enroll will depend on your goals as an author and what kind of business plan you have for your work. For example, is selling box sets through Apple Books or Google Play a big part of your marketing strategy? Or do you want to take advantage of regular price promotions (and even the occasional “free” weekend for your book)? The KDP Select post linked above, and the quiz just below, will help you weigh your options. From there, it’s just a matter of checking or ignoring the “Enroll my book in KDP Select” box.

Wondering whether you should give all your ebook distribution rights to Amazon?

Answer these 5 questions to find out!

9. Hit that Publish Button

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! But before rushing in, take a moment to click back through the previous tabs and make sure everything is set up exactly the way you want it. Although you can correct a mistake after you’ve published, it’s better to ensure the information is right before you hit that button.

If you’re not quite ready, there’s a “Save as Draft” button that will allow you to come back and finish later. If, however, everything looks good, there’s nothing left to do but hit “Publish your Kindle ebook”!

Congratulations, you did it! Hopefully, you’ve seen that publishing a book on Amazon isn’t nearly as scary as you may have feared.

And if you’d like to follow our guide deeper into the jungle, we’ll explore those areas of Amazon self-publishing where usually only the most intrepid authors feel safe — including Amazon’s algorithms, keywords, and categories. Hold on to your safari hat!

10 responses

Joni says:

19/10/2019 – 01:52

Do I need to get a ISBN number if I choose to e-publish?

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

23/10/2019 – 09:46

Most times, the distributor (Amazon, et al) will assign you with their own unique codes. So in short, not really.

Jeff says:

12/04/2020 – 23:44

This is helpful, Thank you for this resource.

Stephen James says:

27/05/2020 – 11:22

Is it still possible, likely, or practical to sign with a traditional publisher, through pursuing agents with query letters, after self-publishing with Kindle on Amazon?

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

03/06/2020 – 10:20

For future books, very practical. For the book you've already self-published: incredibly difficult unless it's been a MASSIVE hit already.

Stephen James says:

27/05/2020 – 11:24

Assuming I would buy my own ISBN from Bowker, at what point would I insert it into the copyright page?

Bert de Korte says:

30/06/2020 – 14:09

Hi I already self published 2 books in holland trough Bruna. I want to publish them in ebook format at amazon. Is that possible? Already have isbn numbers.thx Albert

Sandra Bailey says:

14/07/2020 – 13:13

If my book is already published and is a Kindle book, how can I update the book with a new section directly through Amazon and republish the book?

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

28/07/2020 – 10:43

You can do! Here's the relevant help page from KDP:

Lorie Eubank says:

18/08/2020 – 23:47

If I self published a book several years ago primarily for print purposes for personal use and distribution, can I republish using the KDP format? I have all rights to the book. And I know from the publisher that I would just need to get a new ISBN number

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