So, you’ve written a book, and you’d like to publish it. Well, you have three main options:
- Query literary agents
- Query publishers
If you want to publish the traditional way, then you should start with the first option. Make an account on QueryTracker, research literary agents in your genre, write a query letter describing your book and your writing credentials, and start querying. The problem is that acceptance rates are very low, and the querying process can take years.
You can also try querying publishers directly. Most large publishers do not accept unsolicited queries, but some smaller publishers do. My first book, a young adult fantasy novel entitled A Broken World (republished recently, so see here for the original reviews), was published by a local publisher called Old Line Publishing, which I queried directly in 2011. Unfortunately, publishing can be a difficult business, and that publisher closed down in 2016.
The easiest option is to self-publish. All you need is your Word file and the rights to your work, and you can have a finished product within a matter of hours to just a few days. Here’s how to get started.
1. Make an Amazon KDP Account
To publish your book, you’ll first have to make an account with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Once you create your account, you’ll be able to publish a paperback, eBook, hardcover, or Kindle Vella story.
2. Create a New Title
Next, you’ll need to start your new project by clicking “+ Create” as shown in the image below.
3. Decide on Your Book’s Format
This will open up a page for you to select a book format to publish, as shown here:
You can choose between a Kindle eBook, a paperback, or a hardcover. Don’t worry about only selecting one. You can always add the other formats later to give your readers the full variety to choose from. (The series page is not a book format and is meant to connect your already published books in a series on Amazon so readers can easily go from one to the next. I have yet to use Kindle Vella, but it should allow you to publish serialized stories one episode at a time rather than as a completed product.)
The easiest option to choose is the Kindle eBook. You don’t have to worry much about formatting, and the review process is the fastest. Also, if you want to set your publication date in the future so you can start getting pre-orders and generating buzz, you’ll have to publish as an eBook. This is not an option for paperback.
On the other hand, if you’d prefer to release the paperback or hardcover version first, that’s perfectly fine, and files that are formatted for that (with page sizes and margins to accommodate book binding) can still be uploaded later to publish as an eBook with minimal changes. The reverse is not true. To publish a paperback or hardcover, you will have to make sure your page sizes and margins match your actual book page sizes, which may not match your original manuscript or eBook file.
4. Fill Out Your Book Details
Once you have selected a format, you will be prompted to enter your book details, upload your book content and design your cover, and select your pricing.
1. First, you’ll need to select the book’s primary language. You can publish in the following languages through Amazon KDP:
2. Then you’ll enter your title and optional subtitle.
3. Add series details if applicable.
4. Add an optional edition number.
5. Fill out the author or primary contributor’s name (or pen name).
6. Add other contributors if applicable.
7. Fill out the description. This is the summary, or book blurb, that will appear on your Amazon sales page, so try to write your best pitch to your ideal audience.
8. Confirm your publishing rights or that it is a public domain work.
9. Enter up to 7 keywords. Though this is optional, don’t skip this step. These help potential readers find your book. You can read more about keywords here.
10. Choose up to 2 categories. This is how your book will be sorted, so make sure it ends up in the right place. This will help readers find your book and allow you to see your sales rank among similar books. You can see the broad category options below, but make sure to be as specific as possible.
(Paperback or hardcover only) You will also be asked whether your book classifies as a “low-content book,” such as a notebook, journal, or planner, and whether it is a “large-print book” with 16-point font or greater.
11. (Kindle eBook only) Select an age and grade range for your book. This is primarily for children’s books to help parents pick age-appropriate options.
(Paperback only) Select whether your book contains language, situations, or images inappropriate for children under 18.
12. (Kindle eBook only) Choose whether to release your book now or make it available for pre-order. Your eBook can be available for pre-order for up to a year. You can read more about pre-orders here.
5. Upload Your Book Content
After filling out your book’s details, you’ll next need to upload your book’s contents. This process differs significantly for Kindle eBooks compared to paperbacks and hardcovers, so I will break up the guide into 2 sections.
The process is very simple for eBooks. You only need to upload a manuscript and a cover, and you’re good to go.
1. Upload your manuscript as a KPF, EPUB, or DOCX file and choose whether to add digital rights management (DRM) to inhibit unauthorized distribution. Your file will be processed and checked. Typical errors include a missing table of contents (recommended) and possible spelling errors, as shown below:
2. Use Cover Creator to make a book cover or upload your own JPG or TIFF file (front cover only). If you use Cover Creator, you can upload your own image or use a stock image, and your title and name will be inserted automatically based on your book’s details. You have limited customization options including font styles, sizes, and colors and text placement. If you upload your own cover, you can customize it however you wish, but this may take more work on your part.
3. Launch the Previewer to confirm how your book will appear to your reader. If necessary, go back and make changes until everything appears correct.
4. (Optional) Include an ISBN, which you would have to purchase elsewhere. This is not the same as your print book’s ISBN. You can also include a Publisher.
Paperbacks and Hardcovers
Paperbacks and hardcovers require a bit more input because you also have to decide on ink and paper types and book dimensions.
1. First, get a free KDP ISBN. This stands for International Standard Book Number and is a unique number used to identify your book.
2. Enter the original publication date for your book, or leave it blank and it will be determined by when your book becomes active on Amazon.
3. Choose your ink and paper type. Ink choices are black & white or color, and paper can be either white or cream.
4. Choose your trim size. Available options can be seen below:
5. Select your bleed settings. Bleed allows for printing at and off the edge of a page for use with images and illustrations.
6. Choose your cover finish. Your options are matte or glossy.
7. Upload your manuscript as a PDF, DOC, DOCX, HTML, or RTF file. Make sure your manuscript is formatted appropriately for your trim size (change your document’s page size and margins to match the trim size).
8. Use Cover Creator to make a book cover or upload your own PDF file (one full-size image: back, spine, and front). If you use Cover Creator, you can upload your own image or use a stock image. You have limited options to customize the design, but you have some control over where the image is placed, the back matter (blurb and author bio/picture), and font.
9. Launch the Previewer to check for formatting and quality issues with both the cover and manuscript contents. Make sure to be thorough.
10. Check the summary to confirm your choices and see your printing costs per book.
6. Set Your Book Pricing
After formatting your book and uploading your contents, the final step is to set your pricing.
1. (Kindle eBook only) Decide whether to enroll in KDP Select. This program makes your eBook exclusive to KDP, but it includes your book in Kindle Unlimited and allows you to run free book promotions and limited time price discounts. You can read more about the program here.
2. Select the territories for which you hold distribution rights (either worldwide or individual territories).
3. Choose your primary marketplace. For most of us, that would be amazon.com.
4. (Kindle eBook only) Select a royalty plan. The options are 35% or 70%. The pricing you can set differs depending on your royalty plan as you can see below:
Essentially, you can charge between $0.99 and $200.00 with the 35% royalty plan but only between $2.99 and $9.99 with the 70% royalty plan.
Paperback and hardcover books have a royalty rate of 60% of the list price minus printing costs. You can also opt for expanded distribution of paperback books, making your title available to other retailers beyond Amazon, at a 40% royalty rate.
5. Set your list price. For Kindle eBooks, this must be between $0.99 and $200. For paperbacks and hardcovers, the minimum price is based on the printing cost, and the maximum price is $250. The list price in other marketplaces will be converted based on the price you set in your primary marketplace. You can see the royalties you will earn for each sale on the right, as shown below:
6. (Paperback and hardcover only) You can request a printed book proof to check for printing errors before your book goes live.
When you’re confident that everything is ready, click Publish!
Note that it can take up to 72 hours for your book to become available on Amazon. Kindle eBooks tend to go live faster than other formats, sometimes within just a few hours.
Congratulations! You’ve successfully published your book on Amazon. You’ll receive an email when your book goes live. If you published multiple formats, it may take a couple days for them to be linked together on the marketplace.
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