KDP – How to self publish your book

In the past few years, I’ve managed to write and publish four books. Three of them are in English while only one is in Dutch. But, writing a book is just one of the many steps between the idea and the book being bought and read by someone.

As I live in Sweden, and none of my books are in Swedish, I presume my readers are most likely be found abroad in Europe and the US. Reaching out to established publishing companies abroad to persuade them to publish my books seemed like a stretch for a newbie writer, so I did not pursue this avenue. Of course, it would be easy to have my books printed locally and then sell each copy myself, but that would require a considerable investment in printing. And I’d have to go door to door to sell them, which is not my thing. Thus the idea of self-publishing them came up.

Where can I publish:

After this, the question was where to self-publish and in what form. The logical choice seemed Amazon which offers a print-on-demand service that allows you to publish a book – at no cost to the author! Amazon’s publishing service is called KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing – indicating Kindle, the ebook platform. But KDP does not limit itself to ebooks – also paperbacks and hard-cover books can be published on KDP.

All my books are available in paperback and ebook and all are published on KDP and thus for sale on Amazon and partners. One of my books is also available as an audiobook. Since KDP does not feature audiobooks (yet), this title was published on a dedicated audiobook website.

What are the costs for publishing:

Normally, publishing your book could imply some or all of the following costs:

  • Beta reading and correction
  • Formatting
  • Creating a cover design
  • Buying an ISBN
  • Printing the book
  • Marketing the book

As I am writing on a shoestring, I have no budget for any of these costs. So my good friend and fellow blogger Eef helped me with the beta reading and correction. The formatting and cover design I always do myself. KDP will supply a free ISBN if you don’t have your own, and because it is printing on demand, there are no extra costs to get a series printed.

How to publish in KDP:

First, you surf to the KDP pages where you are asked to create a profile. Once you’ve done that, you’ll now see this:
To get started, press the yellow ‘+ Create’ button.

Here, KDP wants to know what type of book you want to publish:
Make your choice. In this post, I chose ‘Create eBook’. What follows are three panels where you describe your book, upload the manuscript and cover, and set the sales price.

Book details:

You will now see the first of three panels, ‘Kindle eBook Details’, for publishing your book:

Here you start registering the basics of your book such as language, title, and sub-title. Further down on this page, you fill out book details such as:

  • Edition
  • Author name
  • Named contributors
  • Your blurb
  • Publishing rights
  • Age limitations
  • Market place
  • What category is your book
  • …and more

When the above is complete, press the ‘Save and Continue’ button at the bottom of the page to continue to the next page.

Kindle eBook Content:

Now, the panel ‘Kindle eBook Content’ comes into view, it may look something like this:

This is where things really get exciting; finally, you get to upload your manuscript and design the cover for your book! The upload manuscript is just like any other upload dialogue, no surprises here. Other data you have to register on this page is:

  • Does your book contain AI-generated content? (read more about AI content here)
  • ISBN (not required for eBooks)

The page also allows you to preview your book. I strongly recommend doing a thorough review. That will allow you to check if everything looks as expected – sometimes they do not. You ought to check the following:

  • Does the cover look ok? (front and back covers, spine)
  • Does the book content look ok? (margins, chapter headers, page breaks)
  • Does the index look ok? (references to chapters ok)
  • Also check for:
    • Page formatting
    • Paragraph formatting
    • Inserted pictures
    • Different fonts
    • …and more you can think of

The cover can be a prepared cover design ready for upload, or using the built-in cover wizard. I usually design the front cover myself and then use one of the many templates in the wizard for the back cover. If you are uploading a prepared cover, remember to calculate the spine correctly. KDP has an easy calculator for this. There’s a preview for the cover in KDP, use this to make sure everything fits your book.

Obviously, for e-books, there’s only a front cover. For this, I use the same front cover design that I use for the paperback.

Once you’re done here and pleased with what you’ve done so far, it is now time to continue with the final page. Press the ‘Save and Continue’ button.

Kindle eBook Pricing:

You now have come to the final panel, ‘Kindle eBook Pricing’:

Here, you choose:

  • If you want to enroll in KDP Select
  • The territory where you own the distribution rights
  • Your primary marketplace
  • And finally, the price!

Pricing:

KDP allows you to be quite flexible with your pricing. In KDP, there’s a minimum price as the book has to be printed, which is not free. While playing around with different prices, KDP shows what part of that amount will be yours as royalties. Perhaps you want to give away your book for free? In that case, you set the minimum price. Or you want to maximize your royalties, in which case you set a very high price. The best price lies somewhere in between these excesses.
Have a look at your favorite bookstore to get an impression of how much books in the same category, and with similar pages and word count, sell for. Then decide if you want to stick to a similar price, or sell yours slightly cheaper – your choice.

Ready?

When you’re done here, you have to make an important decision, to click one of these buttons:

Pressing the ‘Publish Your Kindle eBook’ button will send it to Amazon for review. If all’s dandy, your book should be for sale on Amazon and Kindle within 72 hours. If issues surface during the review, you’ll get an email to inform you of that and how to proceed. I’ve not experienced that myself, but know of cases where overly quoting copyrighted material in a book stopped it from publicizing it at Amazon.

Alternatively, the ‘Save as Draft’ button allows you to review or complete the data registered so far and publish it another day. Also, if you do not want to sell your book on Amazon, but sell it yourself, here’s where you order author copies of your book. They are printed at cost, so you get your books for a fairly good price.

Before pressing the ‘Publish…’ button for a paperback book, I’d recommend ordering an Author’s copy of your book. This is quite cheap and allows you to do a final review of your book before releasing it for sale on Amazon. I never publish my books before having read a paper copy of it.

Once you’ve come this far and
pressed the ‘Publish…’ button:
Congrats!

What’s next:

Your book is now one of a zillion other books for sale on Amazon. According to Amazon, each day around 7.500 new titles are published on their platform. This totals up to over 32 million titles for sale there. (Amazon, January 2023)

The next activity to get your books sold is marketing, a branch of sport I know nothing about.

~

Notes:

  • The above describes the KDP process in a simple form. In reality, there are quite a few decisions to be made along the way. Luckily, KDP has added help text and links included in nearly every aspect of the interface that will help you to decide what suits you best.
  • I plan to zoom in on some aspects of KDP publishing in a future post on this site. Keep posted!

~

Paul
2024-01
Sweden

Click here for all essays on books and writing this site