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 self-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 that self-publishing allows you to take home more royalties than traditional publishing.
Indeed, self-publishing could be the key to your authorial success — and we want to help you get there! Which is why we've written this step-by-step tutorial, which will take you through the entire process of self-publishing on Amazon and provide crucial tips on how to maximize your book’s market appeal.
Kindle Direct Publishing
Before we dive into the tutorial, let's talk about Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Kindle Direct Publishing is Amazon’s self-publishing service, and 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.
In other words, if you’re even remotely considering the Amazon self-publishing route, it’s good to familiarize yourself with KDP first. Here are the answers to the biggest questions you might have about Kindle Direct Publishing:
1. How long does it take to self-publish through KDP?
The process of uploading your files and setting your book details should take no more than an hour. If you have these elements prepared beforehand, you can do it in just a few minutes! KDP is literally built for self-publishing authors, so the upload process is easily navigable and very smooth.
2. When will I actually see my book up on Amazon?
Your book should appear on the Amazon Kindle store within 72 hours of clicking “publish.” However, most self-published books seem to appear within 24-48 hours, so you probably won’t even have to wait that long.
3. What kind of royalties does KDP offer?
You can take home up to 70% royalties on your book if you price it between $2.99 and $9.99, or 35% for a book priced outside that range. If you’re offering print books in addition to ebooks, your royalties for each print book sale will be 60% of the list price.
Note that delivery and print costs will be subtracted from your royalties, which means you may have to raise your planned prices accordingly — especially if you anticipate high print book sales. Learn more about KDP royalties here.
4. When will I receive my royalties?
When self-publishing through KDP, you will not receive any royalties until at least two months after your book goes up. All royalties are paid two months after the month in which you make sales. So for example, even if you put your book up on January 1 and make 100 sales in the first week, you wouldn’t receive any royalties until the end of March.
Although this is standard practice for major ebook distributors, it’s important to know so you won’t become frustrated by how long it takes to get paid.
5. How does KDP stack up to other major ebook publishing platforms?
Compared to other major ebook publishing platforms like Kobo Writing Life and Barnes & Novel Press (formerly Nook Press), KDP holds up pretty well. All these platforms have similar upload processes, take about the same amount of time to publish your book (72 hours or less), and offer roughly the same royalty options (65-70% max). But of course, KDP is the only platform you can use to publish your book on Amazon — these other platforms cater exclusively to their respective stores.
In other words, the platform you should use depends on the store you want to sell through. To learn about publishing exclusively on Amazon versus going wide, check out this post on ebook distribution!
Now that we've covered the basics of Kindle Direct Publishing, let's get into the step-by-step mechanics of how to self-publish your book on Amazon.
Step 1. Sign up for KDP
You can either sign in with your regular Amazon account or create a new account just for KDP. If you choose the former option, don’t worry — other people won't be able to see your personal purchasing or browsing history (how horrific would that be?). You'll later create an Author Page, which is the only thing shown to users when they click on your name.
Step 2. Create a new title from the KDP dashboard
After signing up for KDP, you’ll go to the 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; that's how you'll receive your royalty payments!
Once you’ve completed your account information, 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 similar for both. The main differences are that a paperback book will have to go through KDP Print, and will require specified dimensions along with a spine and back cover design. (To learn more about setting up your book for print-on-demand, check out this post.)
Step 3. Enter your book details
Next, you’ll be taken to a page where you will enter all of your book details. This includes everything from the language and title of your book, to the description that will (hopefully) get readers to buy it! Here are a few tips on how to fill out the most important sections.
By this stage, you’ve probably already picked out a title, but you want to be 100% sure about it before you publish. Take this opportunity to stop and think: does my title effectively convey the content of my book? Is it unique and interesting? Will it appeal to my target audience?
To help you answer those questions, check out this post on how to choose good book titles. Alternately, if you have no idea what to call your book and could use a bit of fun inspiration, consider taking our genre-customizable book title generator for a spin.
Your book description 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 (that doesn’t give too much away!), and a question or point of intrigue to leave readers wanting more. For a thorough overview of Amazon description strategy, take a look at this blog post on how to write an Amazon description that sells.
Keywords and categories
Keywords and categories allow readers who are interested in your subject matter to find you more easily. You probably know which categories your book falls under, but if not, just look up books that are similar to yours and see how they’ve been categorized. You can also browse through every single category on the details page to ensure you’re not missing anything.
Keywords are a bit tricker — Amazon recommends choosing keywords that do not already appear in your title or description, as this will help you cast a wider net. To find the right keywords, you can use a keyword suggestion tool like KDP Rocket (or Wordstream's if you want to try one for free first). You can also just play around with Amazon’s search function to see which keywords result in top-ranking books in your categories.
To learn more about Amazon’s algorithms and how to choose the best keywords for your book, check out the course below.
A few other miscellaneous notes about your book details:
- Under “Publishing Rights,” select, “I own the copyright and I hold the necessary publishing rights,” unless you want your work to remain uncopyrighted in the public domain. Learn more about copyrighting here.
- Under “Age and Grade Range,” feel free to leave it blank, unless you’ve written a children’s or YA book.
- Under “Pre-Order,” select “I am ready to release my book now,” unless you are setting up your book in advance of the official publishing date. If this is the case, simply select "Make my book available for pre-order." (You can also save your book as a draft at the end of this process, if you don't want customers to see it at all yet.)
Step 4. Upload your manuscript
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for — time to officially upload your manuscript 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 checkmark should appear, along with a notification saying “Manuscript [name of file] uploaded successfully!”
What kind of file should I upload?
If you’re publishing an ebook, Amazon will automatically convert any 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. (If you're still confused about EPUBs and mobis, you can read up on the different types of ebook files right here.)
Digital Rights Management
At this stage, you’ll also need to select a Digital Rights Management (DRM) option. Enabling DRM can help prevent unauthorized distribution of your Amazon ebook; however, it also prevents people from accessing your book on any device other than a Kindle, which can be very inconvenient for customers.
We generally recommend against enabling DRM for this reason. But note that after you publish your ebook, you cannot change its DRM setting — so you might want to do some more research before deciding.
Step 5. Upload your book cover
In addition to your book’s description, your cover is one of your biggest selling tools. As with your title, you probably have one prepared already, but now’s a good time to take stock: does it look like other successful books in your genre? Does it attract attention without being too gaudy? 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. (For more information on creating a standout cover for your book, check out our free course on book design.)
What kind of image should I 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. If one file format doesn’t work, try the other, as the cover upload function can be a bit finicky. You can consult Amazon’s full ebook cover guidelines for more info.
Of course, if you’re creating a paperback print book, you’ll also need to upload your spine and back cover design at this juncture. Make sure that you have these elements prepared if you are going down the print-copy path.
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.
Step 6. Preview your book
Now you get to see how your book will look to actual Kindle readers! Click “Launch Previewer” to open your book in a Kindle simulator, complete with your cover image and full manuscript.
If you notice any problems with the formatting, you may be able to fix them just by re-uploading your files. Fortunately, ebooks rarely have formatting issues when uploaded through KDP; if you’re publishing a paperback, however, that might be a different story. This help page goes into detail on how to fix various issues you might encounter in your paperback preview.
Step 7. Decide whether to enroll in KDP Select
Now you’ll see the option to enroll in KDP Select — a service that allows you to run price promotions and makes your book part of Kindle Unlimited. In terms of what you get with KDP Select, you can organize either a Kindle Countdown Deal that gives buyers a discount on your book or a full-on Free Book Promotion (both for a limited time, of course). KDP Select also lets you take home up to 70% royalties and makes your book part of the Amazon Prime “lending library," in addition to the Kindle Unlimited library.
All that sounds pretty good — but the KDP Select program also prohibits you from distributing your book in any other digital format for its first 90 days, aka your prime marketing time. If you were hoping to publish on Amazon but still distribute and promote your book through other platforms (which is known as "going wide"), KDP Select may not be your cup of tea. This is especially true if you're distributing to non-US, non-UK countries where Amazon doesn't have as large of a market share.
Other factors to take into account are your genre and the marketing strategy you plan to employ. To learn more about KDP Select and its various pros and cons, check out this article.
Step 8. Sort out territories, royalties, and pricing
You’re almost done! Now you just have to choose which territories your book will be available in — we recommend selecting “All territories (worldwide rights)” — as well as your royalty plan. If you’ve enrolled in KDP Select, you’ll probably want to select the 70% plan, though there are a few strings attached (which you can read about here).
Next, you’ll set your book’s price. If you’ve chosen the 70% royalty plan, you must stay within the range of $2.99 to $9.99 (one of those attached strings we mentioned). 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 as to 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.
Step 9. Enroll in Kindle Matchbook and Kindle Book Lending
This section is all about customer incentives and rewards. Kindle Matchbook allows customers who purchase a print copy of your book (if you publish print copies) 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 book.
Step 10. Publish and get started with marketing
Congratulations, you’ve made it! If your book looks good in preview and you've filled in all your information, you’re ready to hit that yellow button that says Publish Your Kindle eBook. As it says in the Terms & Conditions, 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. Alternately, if you’re not quite ready to publish yet, you can always save your book as a draft.
And once your book becomes available, then what? Get started with marketing it, of course! You can run price promotions through KDP or on your own, augmenting them with the most effective tactics. Check out the course below for tips and tricks on running price promotions.
Finally, remember that just because you’ve gotten your book out there, doesn’t mean your job is over. Continue doing research, promoting your book through KDP and other means, and tracking sales patterns to maximize your success. You might even consider submitting your book to Reedsy Discovery to be reviewed! All these efforts will help you reach your desired audience, so your book can start selling like hotcakes.
Additional self-publishing resources
Self-publishing 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 part of your self-publishing journey! Here are a few more bonus resources to help you on your way.
If you’re just getting started and want to know the basics:
How to Publish a Book: Self-Publishing for Beginners
If you’re curious about getting your book on Apple Books, Kobo, etc. in addition to Amazon: The Complete Guide to Ebook Distribution
If you’d like to hire a third-party service to advertise your price promotion:
Free and Paid Book Promotion Services in 2019
If you want to learn more about Amazon's popularity contest: Winning Amazon's Secret Popularity Contest
If you want to know how much it costs to self-publish, from start to finish:
How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book in 2019?
If you want to learn about Amazon Publishing — their book publishing unit that operates much like a traditional publisher: Amazon Publishing: What is it Like to Get Signed by Them?
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 self-publishing on Amazon, please leave them in the comments! We’ll answer them to the best of our ability.