An 11-step guide to accessing the huge author and reader platform
The self-publishing boom continues, with more than 1.5 million authors worldwide choosing an independent book release every year and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) taking a huge slice of that.
Given its ease of use, that’s understandable, but self-publishing’s still daunting, so a simple book editor’s guide on how to publish on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is vital.
I’ll outline the steps to releasing your ebook or paperback free on the massive platform, which offers many advantages to traditional book publishing: it’s much easier to access than the traditional route, removes months of waiting for acceptance or rejection, and instantly plugs authors into the world’s largest audience of potential readers.
1. Create an account with KDP.
You’ll need your bank account information, including IBAN and BIC/SWIFT and, depending on if you’re publishing as an individual or as a company, your Unique Tax Reference (UTR), National Insurance number, or corporate tax number.
Enter your usual Amazon login information or make a new account. You can publish under a pen name and have a different author name than your KDP account name; it has no impact on your Amazon account.
You can alter your book, within limits, even after it’s been published, whether it’s a paperback or ebook. Learn more on Amazon’s Update Your Book Details page.
UK-based authors could reclaim the full 30 per cent by inputting their National Insurance number, personal UTR, or company tax reference. Tax agreements change, so be sure to check before publishing.
This is not the same as possible taxes on royalties. It’s important to let HMRC know that you don’t sell books; instead, Amazon sells the books and pays the necessary taxes on sales. Only your royalties can be taxed.
2. KDP Select?
Your book will be accessible via Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library if you decide to join. Visit the Amazon KDP Select page to learn more.
3. KDP’s Tools
KDP walks authors through a number of processes, providing thorough instructions. Take your time and remember, if you make a mistake, it’s free to start again.
4. Enter Your Book’s Title
Neither the title nor the optional subtitle can exceed 200 characters. If it’s a part of a series, omit the name or number of the series in the title field.
5. Extra Steps for Books in a Series
A series, according to Amazon Kindle, is a group of related books. Leave this blank if it’s a standalone work. The series field should not contain either the series number or the book’s title. For instance, the series area would be filled out with “The Mortal Instruments”. The series number is entered as a single digit, not as “book 5” or “volume 5 of 8”, for example, but simply “5”.
A benefit for Kindle authors and readers is the ability to buy every book in a series with a single click from a Series Collection Page. It is your responsibility as the author to check that the sequence numbers are accurate and the series name has been recorded consistently throughout all books. Keep this in mind because, for instance, “Mortal Instruments” is distinct from “The Mortal Instruments”.
A Series Collection Page can only contain publications made available through KDP. Readers will not be able to see the Collection Page if an author makes one book unavailable, but they will still be able to buy the remaining available books separately.
The precise series name and number must also appear in your book in at least one of the following locations: the book cover, interior (Look Inside), product description (metadata), editorial reviews, your official website, or Goodreads. For instance, any of the places above may include the phrase “This is the third book in The Mortal Instruments series”.
Novellas, prequels, and short stories are not permitted on these pages.
Control the Series Collection Page from Bookshelf>Create New Title or for existing titles eBook Actions>Edit eBook Details. Amazon ask for you to contact them with the list of ASINs for books in a Series Collection Page.
6. Your Book Description
To draw readers, a book description must be well written and intriguing. Consider this description to be the text or blurb on the back of a book since it needs to be succinct, potent, absorbing and revealing.
Look at the Amazon Book Description page for help. If your description is longer than a simple paragraph, it gives help on writing HTML.
So, if your book description contains text that is bold, italicised, or has bullet points, or if you want to separate more than one paragraph, for example, you will need to write your text in a HTML convertor, then copy and paste into the Amazon KDP description box (otherwise, it will merge into one paragraph).
You can use the free Amazon Book Description Generator from Kindlepreneur.com to generate your content and/or alter your description.
Use keywords as naturally as possible in your description to prevent it reading like a list of search terms, as Google will use them to determine where your book ranks. When you upload for publication, you can select up to seven keywords, and Amazon will prioritise the description, subtitle and keywords you selected for ranking.
7. Choose Categories and Keywords
Amazon’s categories, which include sections for historical fiction, romance, thrillers, and children’s publications, are used to filter where books are put.
After publishing, you can request ten more categories from the thousands of options on Amazon. When you first self-publish, you choose two BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) categories appropriate to your work.
As a result, you can be featured in more specialised categories, giving new books a better chance to rank well and when readers conduct searches. Consider what your viewers are looking for to best use this aspect.
8. Format Your Book
This is possibly the most nerve-jangling aspect of how to publish on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. But, if you resolve to take your time and stick to a few simple rules, it’s simple enough.
Your book editor might get your manuscript KDP-ready, if you ask, making the process even easier. Among the book editing services here, I can make your Microsoft Word document ready for KDP formatting.
To format your text, you can use the Kindle Create tool. It changes text to make it ready for upload. The majority of authors already have their manuscript in Microsoft Word format (doc or docx), which KDP demands. But for image-heavy books, such as cookbooks, travel guides and children’s books, a PDF format is preferable.
Modify the ‘normal’ style and apply it to all text for consistent formatting.
Kindle doesn’t recognise tabs, so you need to indent paragraphs. To modify normal style to meet KDP requirements, in the home tab, right-click on normal style and choose modify. Choose format and paragraph.
Choose indentation and special to First Line 0.2 inches or 5mm. Under spacing, set before and after to 0 and line spacing to single.
When everything is formatted to normal style, chapter titles should be formatted to Heading 1.
‘Front and back matter’ refers to the text and pages on the outside and inside of the cover jacket. These typically include book title, author name, dedication, bibliography, notes about the author, acknowledgements, etc. Most, except for the book title and copyright page, are optional.
Add page breaks, if it’s important for you to control the breaks. Each new chapter begins on a new page, but that’s not vital for ebooks. Place the cursor where you want a page break and select insert and page break.
Insert hyperlinks if you plan to link to other websites. Go to insert and links, then choose hyperlinks. Copy and paste the full URL into the dialogue box and save.
Create a table of contents by clicking on the thumbnail of your first chapter and choosing insert>table of contents.
Format chapters to create a large drop capital at the front of each. Place your cursor next to the first paragraph of your first chapter and click Chapter First Paragraph. Repeat for all chapters.
Finally, add any images by choosing insert image and upload. They must be 300 DPI (dots per inch) and at least 100 pixels on the longest side. Amazon’s comprehensive guide on How to Format Images is a great resource to help you.
9. Create Your Cover
You can commission a book cover from a professional cover designer or, if you’re watching the pennies, there are excellent free options. Be aware, though, that anyone else is free to use the same design.
The KDP Cover Maker template allows authors to start from scratch using the program’s DIY features.
It’s worth spending some time on your cover or, if it’s at all possible, biting the expense bullet of employing a designer, as your cover and blurb are critical to potential sales success.
10. Preview and Upload
You can preview your book before publication once you are satisfied with the format and cover. Choose Kindle Previewer if you are formatting in Microsoft Word. Click the Preview button if you are using a template in Kindle Create. Both options display how your book will appear on different devices.
Your Word document, PDF or template from your Bookshelf should be uploaded.
11. How to Publish a Paperback Version
Hardcover versions are now possible alongside KDP’s paperback option. Only when someone buys a paperback of your book is it printed, so there is no stock in warehouses requiring storage fees.
Given that the deal with KDP is non-exclusive, you retain your copyright. Up to 60 per cent of the list price, less printing costs, is paid out in royalties.
An ISBN (International Standard Book Number), which is required for printed books, is available from the International ISBN Agency.
An ISBN is not needed for Amazon Kindle ebooks. You can use a free KDP ISBN to publish when using KDP. The free ISBN can only be used on KDP, not with another publisher.
Make a formatted physical copy of your manuscript using the Kindle Create feature. For PC and Mac users, there are different guidelines and templates.
The format requirements for printed books are much more strict than for ebooks. Before starting, be prepared to spend some time researching your options for size, trim, and spine width.
See the size information for paperbacks on Amazon. The Paperback Manuscript Templates has options at the right size for your book.
Kindle will automatically add a barcode to the back cover if you don’t upload your own, and there’s no option to move it or edit it.
The printed area’s edge is referred to as ‘bleed’. Pages can bleed on purpose. If yours does, you must upload your manuscript in PDF format rather than Word.
Any images must be 300 DPI minimum.
Further file requirements are stated in KDP’s manuscript guide and include things like embedding all fonts and images in the native file before submitting, flattening transparent objects and layers, avoiding metadata, and not using crop marks or annotations.
Common mistakes include too many blank pages, missing barcodes and the wrong pagination.
What to Expect After Publishing Your Book
You can view clear monthly royalty statements and up-to-date, real-time sales data through your KDP account. That contrasts with, typically, three to six months from traditional publishers.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Publishing on Amazon?
High street booksellers seem hesitant to carry books so easily available online, so you might have to accept your book will never appear on the shelves of your local Waterstones or WHSmith.
But knowing how to publish on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, possibly with the help of a book editor, creates a new world of opportunity. It gives you access to Kindle’s free PR and formatting tools, making it easier than ever to release your labour of love to a huge, book-hungry audience.
Self-publishing has transformed many a manuscript – once condemned by traditional publishers to dusty-drawer obscurity – into bold protagonists freed to seek literary success.
© Lee Dickinson, Bookediting.co.uk, 2023
This article’s writer, Lee Dickinson, is an advanced professional member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and chief editor at Bookediting.co.uk. You can read his blog here.