How to self-publish a book with Amazon…
Ever since, I’ve been asked whether it’s hard and worth the effort to self-publish a book with Amazon, or if trying to find an agent and publishing house would be wiser. My answer…it’s the easiest thing to self-pub and totally worth it. I wouldn’t do it any other way.
The next fifteen minutes, I’m going to explain to you the hang of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and, in another post, how to turn your script into a beautiful paperback. But first let me tell you why, in my opinion, self-publishing is the right way to go.
There are two main reasons.
For one, you decide about everything on each step of the way.
What does this mean?
If you go with a traditional publisher, your script will be hacked to pieces, edited in a way you may or may not like, you might be forced to rewrite parts, rename characters, hold back a release for 6 to 24 months if you’re new on the market, have little say in the title and even less say in the cover design.
Does this sound fair, considering you put about a year of hard work, sleepless nights, bleeding fingers and twenty liters of sweat into your novel? To me it sounds like total crap.
So if you go Indie, you release your book when you’re ready, and it will look exactly the way you want it to be.
Sounds a lot better, eh?
And reason number two, well…it’s a money thing, really.
What would you say if you worked all those many months on your book, did everything to make it perfect, and when you’re ready to start making money, your neighbor comes around the corner and asks you to give him 93% of what you’re going to make with the sales. Would you say, “Oh sure, here you are. I’m glad I could help you. Have a good day and have fun spending my money.”
Really, would you?
Be prepared to tell that your publishing house if you find one, because that is what’s going to happen. They’ll grant you 7% royalties for something you alone created. Oh, I almost forgot. If you’re with a literary agency, they’ll take another 15% of those 7. Do the reckoning yourself.
If you publish with Amazon, you’ll not only be able to choose the price for your book yourself, but you’ll also be given 70% of that money. No shit.
Now, if I could convince you that Indie-publishing is the right way to go, let me tell you how it works.
First of all, WRITE AN AMAZING BOOK. It can’t be just something you pieced together in a couple of weeks. Writing has to be outstanding to make you a celebrated author one day, and a rich person.
Take your job serious. If you write a book, give your best. And when you finished a great story, HIRE A COPY EDITOR OR PROOFREADER. You don’t—really, really, really don’t—want to publish a book without having a professional editor extinguish all your errors. Or most of them, because no book out there is 100% error free. But again, it should be the best possible work you can deliver. Otherwise you’ll ruin your career before it even started.
Once you got your clean novel back, do the FORMATTING. That’s an easy thing to do for Kindle. (I’ll talk more about paperbacks in a later post.)
No page numbers, single spacing, one inch margins, 12pts for the text.
Indent the first lines of each new paragraph for the entire novel, except the chapter headings and the first line of each chapter. The body text should be hyphenless justification.
Add whatever copyright information you want for your novel, author information, acknowledgements, sneak peeks and dedications.
When you did all this, use the function “search and replace“. In the search for line you type: one space, then ^ and the letter p. It should look like the text within the quotation marks if you typed it right. ” ^p”.
In the replace line you type the same, but without the space in front. “^p”
Then you click replace all. Click it again and again until word tells you there have been 0 replacements.
Why did you do this? Because with it you eliminate all the empty spaces after the end of a paragraph. If you don’t do it, your text will look like crap on any Kindle or eReacer.
Do the same replacing thing again, but this time type the space after the letter p in the search for line. “^p “. Replace it with “^p” like before, and as many times. Now you eliminated all empty spaces at the beginning of a new paragraph. You wouldn’t believe how many of them you work into your script without knowing.
All done? Great. Your novel is formatted and ready to upload.
UPLOAD TO AMAZON
Go to https://kdp.amazon.com and read the terms and conditions. It’s really a lot to read, but it’s very helpful. You should invest the time, especially since you’re going to get a lot of money from them if everything works out well with your books, and you don’t want to miss any important details like taxes, stating your bank account or whatever is necessary. Read carefully and check the box.
Now create your account. It’s really an easy step-by step thing. You can choose whether you want your money paid into your bank account or get a cheque every month. It’s all up to you.
Are you all set up? Good, because now the most important thing happens. You upload your book. Therefore go to your bookshelf within your new account and click the yellow button “Add new title”.
Every step on the following site is self-explaining, but if you need help, move your cursor over the “What’s this” link and you’ll get extra information.
The very best thing about publishing with Amazon is, you can make changes at any time!!
You can upload new versions if you find mistakes in your book later, you can upload new covers, you can change the title, author name, blurb, search keywords, you name it…
Enter your title and series name if it’s a series, or leave it blank if it’s not.
You don’t need a publisher name or an ISBN. Amazon will give your book an ASIN once it goes online and that’s totally enough.
Description: Put your blurb here. Make sure it’s not too long and really catchy. It’s what you want to read on the back cover of a book. Get help when you write it. It’s, apart from the cover, what’s going to sell your book!!
Click the button “Add contributors” and add your pen name. If you co-authored with someone else, you can add all the author names there.
You hold the necessary publishing rights.
Target your book to customers. “Add Categories”. Pick the categories that represent your genre the most.
Search keywords: This is important!
Don’t use random words that have to do with your novel, like High School, Beach, Flirting, or Death in small town. They are inefficient. Rather find a bestselling book that is like yours the most and check out on which Amazon bestselling lists it is ranked. Use those words for keywords.
Example, and here I’m using my fantasy romance NEVERLAND to show you what I mean:
teen & young adult, romance, fantasy, science fiction & fantasy, teens, love & romance, contemporary
These are the lists that it’s been on and which represent the genre of my book.
Now you can upload your book cover. There are guidelines you can read for help, like it should be about 1800 pixel in width and 2600 in height, but most important: It should be in high resolution and really outstanding. Your book can be fantastic, but no one will buy it if the cover stinks. You need to make it as catchy as possible. Look at book covers that sell. Go for something similar but still unique. Use colors that stand out. Find a handful of pictures on any stock image plattform and have a cover artist piece them together. You don’t want to go with just one picture that might be on 15 other covers, too. That really turns me off as a reader. Use the right signs, persons, poses for the right genre. A romance cover should hold a couple in an intimate position. A horror cover should scream “scary” at me. You get the picture? Good. Because you only have one chance with this. If you screw up with the cover, you won’t make it.
On the plus side, as an indie-author you answer to no one and you can change your cover any time if the one you have doesn’t work. No big deal. But really, put enough thought into the first cover. It’ll pay off!
Upload your book file next. If you wrote your book in MS word, the file is good enough to go. Just upload it. Once it’s there, you can check how it looks on a Kindle later, using the preview button. You don’t have to click through all the pages. Maybe just check the first few and the last few pages to see if everything looks the way you want. If something’s wrong, make changes in the real script and upload the new file. That’s it. Done with page one, now click Save and Continue and start with page two.
RIGHTS & PRICING
You choose the option Worldwide rights and the form of royalties you want.
If you go lower than $2.99 with your price, you can only click the 35% option. This makes sense if you’re about to publish your very first book. Offer it for $0.99 for a while, so more people will buy it and your book will be listed on the bestselling ranks soon. Why you want your book to be listed there? Because of the wider exposure. Customers will only see your book, if it’s listed really high.
Once it’s ranking close to the top, you set the price to normal, which would be $2.99 or if it’s a long book $3.99. Don’t forget to change the royalties option to 70%!!!
Whenever you see your book falling back and out of rankings, offer it for $0.99 again and make it climb up. You can change the price as often as you want, at any time.
That was it, guys. Now check the lowest box on the page, confirming you’re the rights holder and hit Save and Publish!
Congrats! You’ve published your first book!! Go celebrate!!
I’ll do a happy dance for you!
Okay, once the celebrating is over and you’ve sobered up, let’s do the fun stuff that comes with publishing really. Check your book reports.
It’s the second item in the menu and it tells you exactly how many books you sold in a month. Click the Month-to-Date Unit Sales for it.
You can check it daily and see what kind of progress your book makes. I started an excel list for all my books where I fill in the sales each day. With some easy formulas, you can calculate the book sales of each day. It’s fun and interesting too.
Every Sunday, you can check out how much money you made the previous week with your book sales. It’s the Prior Six Weeks’ Royalties button. In the search line, you type in the date of the last Saturday and then you see the royalties you got for each book. It’s awesome. You’ll love it!
Now one last important thing about Amazon and freebies, and then we’re really done.
If you want your book going out for free, set the price to $0.99 and at the same time make it free on Smashwords. (You do want to upload your book to Smashwords too, because they’ll retail it to Barns&Noble, Kobo and Apple)
Amazon does permanent checks on the market and if they find your book offered for less than you set the price on Amazon, they will lower the price automatically. Amazon is the only retailer that wants to be the lowest bidder at all times.
If you want your price back to normal, change it back on Smashwords first. They are usually very slow with changing all the prices. It can take up to three weeks if you’re a new writer. For bestselling authors it usually goes faster, like in about 3 to 6 days. Set the price back on Amazon then and all is good.
All right, I hope I was able to give you some insights into Amazon and how it works. And trust me, most of it sounds a lot more complicated than it really is. Just try it. If you don’t like it, you can always change things or simply unpublish your book.
I’ll tell you all about CreateSpace and how to turn your book into an attractive paperback in another post next week.
Until then… Happy Publishing!