It's easy to publish a book on Amazon once you nail down the right timeline and processes. Where first-time publishers tend to get frustrated is spending months, or even years, on trial and error trying to figure everything out themselves. And that's exactly why we're here, so you don't have to waste any more of your precious time.
This blog post takes a deep dive into self-publishing with Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing. It covers if it is easy to publish on Amazon, all the hows, the whens, and the whys of saying "thank you, next" to the traditional publishing model so you can take the publishing process into your own hands.
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Amazon's self-publishing platform was originally called its Digital Text Platform, but now it's more commonly known as Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). This platform disrupted the traditional publishing model by allowing anyone with a computer to upload, retain the rights to, and profit from their own original work.
Overnight, it suddenly became possible to upload your manuscript and cover for both a paperback and hardcover book and make your very first book sale the same week. The platform was first launched in 2007 and has seen great improvements every year since. There's no doubt that it has grown to be one of the quickest and easiest platforms to publish your Kindle eBook with just the push of a few buttons.
KDP offers a straightforward book setup process that allows publishers to easily upload their manuscript, enter key data, make changes, and publish their books.
Of course, a book doesn't just publish itself, so let's talk about what's actually required on your part.
Our other blogs show you how to use ghostwriters or AI to write your book. This post will be more of a step-by-step guide for using the Amazon platform itself. There are a lot of steps to get through, but we’ve got your back! It’s okay to take your time and go at your own pace.
Here's the Amazon self-publishing run-through:
If you have an existing Amazon account, it will prompt you to log in with your existing credentials. Otherwise, you'll be prompted to create a new user account.
When you log in for the first time, you should see a dashboard that looks like this:
This page will ask you what you'd like to create. You'll eventually want to publish multiple formats of the same book, but most self-publishers tend to start with their paperback. Click "Create Paperback" to start setting up your book.
This page will prompt you to start filling out all the information for your book, such as the language the book is written in, book title and subtitle, author name, book description, keywords and categories, and digital rights management information.
If you're at this stage of the game, you should have already conducted your competitor and customer research, and you should have a book title that's already properly optimized. If your book is NOT part of a series or a new edition of an existing book, you can just ignore those boxes and continue down the list.
The next set of boxes should look as follows:
You may choose to enter a pen name for the author box, your first and middle name, or your full legal name. It's entirely up to you! You'll also have the chance to add any contributors that you'd like to recognize. If you worked with a ghostwriter, you own the rights to your book and do not have to recognize them here.
The book description will have a limit of 4,000 characters, not words, so you'll need to make sure it's optimized properly.
Feeling Stuck? Our comprehensive self-publishing course is loaded with over 30+ hours of video and has an entire lesson about writing optimized book descriptions.
Here's what you should see as you keep scrolling down:
As long as there wasn’t any copyright infringement and you didn't steal or borrow anyone else's work, you should own the necessary publishing rights to your book. Then, you'll be prompted to disclose whether your book's cover or interior contains any explicit adult content. Lying to Amazon always runs the risk of an account deactivation, so be honest!
At this stage, you'll also choose the primary marketplace that you'd like to sell your book in. For most self-publishers, it will be the US marketplace, and later on, you'll have the opportunity to expand your book sales into other markets.
Here's what you should see next:
Note: Amazon WILL NOT allow you to choose your categories until you answer the explicit content question above it.
At this point, you'll be asked to select three categories that your book best fits under. Again, we can't stress this enough, Amazon wants the truth to help your book get seen by your ideal readers. If you pick a misleading category, you could get a warning from Amazon and risk eventual account bans.
You'll then need to disclose whether your book also falls into either or both of these categories:
Low-content books: These are things like notebooks, planners, and journals.
Large-print books: These books use a font size of 16-point or greater.
Choosing an age and grade range will be optional.
If you forgot to conduct keyword research earlier, you can use AI to do it now. Otherwise, think about the phrases that people would type into Amazon to search for your book and enter up to 7 of them below.
Then, choose your publication date. In most cases, it will be the same as the release date unless you have a particular book launch plan that specifies otherwise.
You will need to hit "Save and Continue" to move forward to the next screen.
Still with us? You’re doing great!
Here's what the next screen should look like:
This is where you'll decide whether to get a free KDP ISBN or to use your own. As you start to scale your publishing business, it will make more sense to buy your own ISBN from online marketplaces to give you the freedom to distribute your book to more retailers. But if you're new to the publishing process, getting a free ISBN from Amazon is perfectly fine!
An ISBN is the identification number you see on the barcode of every book.
Hang in there! We're almost done!
Next, you'll be prompted to pick your print options.
This will be one of the most important decisions you make with publishing a book, as it will directly affect your printing costs and the royalties you take home. It will always be cheaper to print in black & white, but you'll want to consider the readers' experience, too. They're the ones who are going to have your book in hand and leave honest reviews that get seen by other readers.
If you've made it this far, you are officially the closest you've ever been to finally publishing your book, and you can almost taste the royalties! But this step can be tricky.
Amazon's KDP only allows file types depending on whether you're attempting to upload your paperback books or your eBook manuscript. Traditionally, it's easiest to upload a PDF for paperback and hardcover books or an ePub file for eBooks, but you will also need to upload your book cover separately.
Note: Amazon offers a free cover designer software called Cover Creator to let you visualize your cover file, but there's a bit of a learning curve that comes with it. It takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy to integrate with your workflow. You can even design your own book cover in Canva and then upload it to their cover designer to make sure it looks exactly how you want it to look.
If KDP is giving you difficulties at this step, take a deep breath. Most self-publishers have been in the same shoes. Sometimes, it's best to hit "Save Draft" at the bottom of the page and come back to it later. Other times, it's worth connecting with a book formatter on Fiverr who can help you with getting the right file types.
Once your files have been accepted, you'll be prompted to answer a question about your AI use.
Note: Amazon is NOT against AI! They just want to know whether your content was AI-assisted or AI-generated and what level of edits you made for research purposes.
The next step is to launch the Book Previewer and make sure there were no changes to your book's formatting when it was uploaded earlier. If you upload your book and everything looks good, then congratulations! You get to move on to the final piece of the publishing process!
If something looks a little funky with your eBook preview or paperback preview, take your time to get things right. A rushed book is never worth the bad reviews and ding in your sales.
The Kindle format can sometimes encounter glitches, but the key takeaway here is that everything is fixable and figureoutable (shout out to Marie Forleo for coining that phrase).
Whether that means calling a publishing coach or collaborating with a freelance book designer, you've come too far to give up at this step.
The last page will look like this at the top:
In most cases, you'll select "All territories" and move on to select your pricing.
Amazon will display your take-home royalty rate depending on which list price you select. We'll talk about this more later on in the blog, but you can play around with it to find a price that feels comfortable.
That brings us to the last few steps of getting your book published! You'll need to accept KDP's terms and conditions, and you'll also be asked whether you'd like to request a proof copy of your book.
A proof copy is a printed book that has the exact front and back covers and manuscript that you uploaded, but it cannot be resold. Essentially, it's your final chance to make changes to your book before clicking "Publish." If you decide to go ahead with ordering a proof, you can simply click "Save as Draft" to return to publishing at a later date. You'd be surprised how many authors catch repeated paragraphs, missing paragraphs, or missing punctuation at this stage.
When you do come back, get excited! This is the moment you've been waiting for!
All it takes is clicking the "Publish Your Book" button, and you're officially a publisher!
But you know what's cooler than being a publisher? Getting paid to be one.
To connect your bank account to your KDP account, you'll need to do the following:
Click "Your Account" from the Kindle Direct Publishing home screen.
Enter your personal information like your full name and address, your tax information, and your bank account information.
Your royalties will then be directly deposited into your account! Easy peasy.
Self-publishing on Amazon isn't necessarily difficult, but there are a lot of decisions to be made and a lot of steps in the process to be followed. Here are some of the most common challenges that self-publishers run into:
We already discussed this one above, but formatting is probably the #1 issue that people run into when trying to upload their Kindle eBook and print books to the KDP platform. It can be incredibly frustrating and discouraging to go through the work of creating a manuscript in the first place just to have it get stuck in limbo, but it's also a great chance to practice strengthening your business mindset.
When it comes to being an entrepreneur, there will always be difficulties, whether your ghostwriter decides to actually ghost you or personal stuff crops up out of nowhere and suddenly completely shuffles your calendar around. The trick is taking everything in stride and continuing to move forward, even if it slows you down.
With thousands upon thousands of options to read, people will judge a book by its cover art. Perhaps it's not entirely fair, but this also means that your cover art can give you a competitive edge when it's made well. While it may be tempting to keep the budget low and design the cover yourself, keep in mind that most bestselling books are designed by professional designers.
Working with a designer doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. There are plenty of freelance platforms out there that have creative professionals who are looking for more experience and would love the chance to work with someone like you.
The traditional publisher model often kept royalty rates on the down low because traditional publishing houses didn't want authors to know how much more money they could make on their own. They built up a level of exclusivity and secrecy to make authors compete against one another instead of learning how to take on the publishing process themselves.
Nowadays, Amazon is 100% transparent about how they calculate their royalties and how much money you'll make from every single book sale. There are still some self-publishing companies out there that will try to take a cut of your royalties, so beware when you're searching for a publishing coach! Check out our list of the best self-publishing companies to compare which is the right fit for you.
The publishing industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, which, by nature, means growing competition. When you decide to self-publish a book, you become responsible for marketing and promoting that book to get it in front of more readers. If you're new to marketing, this can be overwhelming and confusing.
Our beginner-friendly course includes an entire module on marketing and advertising specific to the Amazon self-publishing process. We walk you through how to set up all your accounts and how to run ads for a profit, so you can go from publishing a paperback to paying for your kid's tuition or taking a guilt-free vacation to Spain.
Your book reviews are like free ads promoting the quality of your book. The more book reviews you can snag, the more likely readers will take a chance and buy your book on Amazon. There’s just one problem. Amazon has strict rules for gathering book reviews and may terminate your account if they think you are bribing friends, family, or even strangers for reviews.
In other words, getting book reviews can be stressful if you don't have a good system in place.
Let's break down the costs associated with the decision to publish your book on Amazon.
Creating a KDP account doesn't cost a penny, and Amazon doesn't charge any maintenance fees to keep the account active. They also don't charge anything for inventory management, and whether you publish a single book or 100 books, uploading your books to the platform is 100% free.
The hidden costs associated with self-publishing on Amazon will depend on which pieces of the manuscript process you'd like to outsource. If you decide to get extra help with your writing, editing, formatting, and marketing, then you might be looking at an investment of upwards of $1k-$2k.
None of these expenses are required but keep in mind that working with other professionals can help you publish your book quicker and lead to a better reading experience for your potential customers down the line.
Amazon offers self-publishers different royalty rates depending on the length and type of the book you are publishing as well as the market you are publishing in. It might sound complicated, but it's actually pretty straightforward once you understand where the cut is going.
The most common options for royalties are 35%, 60%, and 70%. If your eBook is priced between $2.99 and $9.99 and is cheaper than any physical version by at least 20%, you're eligible for the 70% option. Just keep in mind that you'll pay a small fee based on your book's file size for this option. If your book is priced outside this sweet spot or if you're selling in a market that doesn't offer the 70% deal, then you'll be looking at a 35% royalty rate. The good part is that there are no extra fees with this option. Hardcover books and paperbacks typically have a flat royalty rate of 60% of the list price.
As long as you're abiding by KDP's content guidelines, you will automatically earn the royalty option that you choose.
In a perfect world, you'd click a button and generate an entire manuscript that's fully polished and publishable. This doesn't exist quite yet, although we are working on it!
Learn about our beta AI manuscript wizard here!
In the meantime, it can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to publish on Amazon, depending on how you go about the process.
The pre-publishing process will take up the bulk of your time as a self-publisher because you'll have to manage every step of the book's creation, even if you're not doing the writing or editing yourself.
A ghostwriter who tells you they can write a 30,000-word book from scratch in a week might be an expert on the subject...or they might be taking shortcuts. And if there's one lesson you want to keep close in this business, it's that taking publishing shortcuts never ends well.
Amazon's review and approval process can take anywhere from a few hours (which is pretty rare) to a couple of weeks (which is also pretty rare). The sweet spot for most authors tends to be in the 3–5 day range. If Amazon detects an issue with your manuscript during their approval process, they'll typically let you know by email and give you the opportunity to fix it, then resubmit the work for publishing.
When planning a book launch, it's better to overestimate the time that the book review will take than to underestimate it.
Publishing on Amazon has brought some of our students more income than all of their previous side hustles combined. For others, it has even replaced their full-time income.
Alana and Sidney wanted to find a side hustle that would allow them to escape Canada's brutal winters each year. They had no clue they could make over $1,600 in their third month of publishing and go on to retire in their 40s.
Jeffrey Marcoux decided to put his art background to good use in designing, formatting, and publishing multiple books all on his own. The success he's created for himself now allows him to share helpful tips, guides, and resources with others new to the self-publishing business.
Sandy Salinas went from having no experience in publishing or writing to making over $1,000 from a book she put together in just a few days. All on a book she never ran any ads or special promos for.
If you feel even the tiniest spark of curiosity about what's possible and want to publish your first book surrounded by a community of ambitious everyday people, you're in the right place.
Our student success hub will show you how this process has completely transformed thousands of lives beyond what they ever thought possible.
The majority of our coaches started off as students in our program. Some of them were passionate about writing and already had some publishing experience under their belt, but most of them were starting completely from scratch. They didn't know if publishing was the right path for them, but they did know they wanted to get something more out of their lives.
It's the same reason our co-founders, The Mikkelsen Twins, decided to give self-publishing a try. What started off as a side hustle to help two brothers find more fulfilling work led to building an award-winning publishing company whose program has generated over $50 million for its students all over the world.
We went through all the trial and error, so you don't have to. We know what works and what doesn't. We've packaged everything we've learned into this webinar (the fun-size training) and this course (the king-size, all-you-can-eat grand buffet).
Why wait to take that first step to your publishing dreams any longer?