Many authors today are enjoying great success publishing their books on the Kindle platform. Thanks to Amazon’s unique approach to the publishing industry, more authors than ever are taking control of their careers and their futures by taking on the responsibility of publishing their own books.
But even though the Kindle platform has been around now for a decade, some authors still don’t know how to take advantage of that platform for themselves.
There was a time when authors needed to go through gatekeepers in order to get their books published and released to the public. The process for doing so was the same for any up-and-coming author.
Many colleges even included publishing classes for those seeking degrees in writing. These classes taught you everything: handling writing agents, building book proposals, and handling relationships with publishing companies.
Today, authors are forgoing that route to self publish instead. And who could blame them? With a greater cut of royalties, and the ability to publish whatever you want, the self-publishing industry has exploded with authors looking to spend less time convincing gatekeepers to release their work, and more time connecting with their potential audience and building their careers on their own.
If you’ve never self-published before, then you may be tempted to go into it yourself. However, you need to know how this process works. Do it the right way the first time, and you greatly increase your chances of success in the self-publishing space.
But first, let’s talk about Amazon.
The Kindle platform
If you are considering self-publishing at all, then you are already looking at Amazon’s Kindle platform.
There’s a reason for this. Kindle has become the go-to brand name for self-published books. In fact, when somebody hears that you have self published your book, they will likely immediately assume that you are on the Kindle platform. Kindle has become to self-publishing what Kleenex became to facial tissue.
While there are other platforms, and some of them are very good for authors, the Kindle platform is unrivalled for self-published authors. The tools, exposure, and ease-of-use on the Kindle platform are all unparalleled.
When you do decide to publish on Kindle, you have to determine whether or not you want to be exclusive to Kindle or not. Thanks to their KDP Select program, many authors are enjoying increased exposure, fast-tracking their careers thanks to Amazon’s ability to promote their work.
However, joining the KDP Select program comes at a cost. No, you won’t have to write a check, but you will have to give up some exposure. By joining KDP Select, you are making your work exclusive to Amazon. Only Amazon will be able to publicize your work, and that may or may not be what you are looking for.
If exposure is your number one priority, and you are far more concerned with building an audience quickly, then KDP Select would likely be the best platform for you. However, if you decide that you want to expand beyond Amazon and cast a wider net, diversifying your business on to other platforms, then KDP Select would not be a good fit.
There is no right or wrong answer to this. Some authors make tens of thousands of dollars every month by joining KDP Select, and other authors have similar success by putting in the effort to go wide. You have to make that decision for yourself.
But it is a decision that you have to make before you self-publish. At some point, you will have to tell Amazon whether or not you want to be exclusive before you publish your book. It’s better to have that information understood ahead of time.
Preparing your book files
When you write a book traditionally, all you have to do is open up a Word document and start writing. In the old days, you just wrote everything down on paper. Preparing a manuscript was as simple as finishing it and handing the notebook over. And if you write in Word, all you have to do is save the file and send it to the publisher.
But when you are self-publishing, you are in control of every single step. That means that it takes more to publish a book than just providing a Word document.
That is the first step, though. It doesn’t matter what tool you use, you have to write the book first. You can use Google Docs, Microsoft Word, a text file, or really any tool that you want. Use something that you are comfortable with, and we will deal with the files themselves later.
Once you have the book drafted, it’s time to format it in a way that is going to be publishable by Amazon.
This can be done any number of ways. There are professionals who specialize in formatting book documents. You can find those on job boards, or even on Fiverr. I can’t speak to the quality of them, as it varies. Just be sure to do your homework ahead of time, and make sure that you can afford whichever book formatter you choose.
Another method of doing this is by using a program called Vellum. Vellum is a book formatting app that works mainly on Mac OS. If you have access to a Macbook, Vellum is an excellent investment. It costs a few dollars, but in exchange you receive a tool that can perfectly format your book, style it, and produce any type of file format that you need.
Some word processors are able to format your book too. Google Docs and Microsoft Word have built-in tools that let you export your document into a file that is readable by Amazon. These tools, however, are notoriously unreliable. You shouldn’t be turning to these tools unless you’re in an emergency.
Once you have those files ready, including a book cover that you either design yourself or have someone design for you, then you are ready to upload it to Amazon for review.
The uploading process
You have your manuscript file ready. You have your book cover file ready. Now it’s time to send both of those to Amazon to prepare for publishing.
All these steps are pretty similar across any bookstore, but we will focus on Amazon for the simplest explanation.
When you upload to Amazon, you will be marking down the title of your book, whether or not it is a part of a series, and how you want to categorize your book both in categories and tags. Along with that, you will write a description of your book that readers will see when they are looking at the book page.
That’s a quick summary, but understand that all of these steps are incredibly important. Your goal in this part of the process is to make sure that you are giving your book the best possible chance of seeing the most eyeballs. By properly tagging your book and including the right words in the title and description, you increase your chances of more exposure from Amazon’s algorithms.
After you do this, you will actually upload your book files. Amazon’s system will double check the files to make sure that there are no errors, and then you will move on to pricing.
Pricing depends on what kind of royalty you want to receive from your book. If you want to receive 35%, you can price your book as low as you want and as high as you want. If you want to maximize your royalty with the 70% option, then you need to keep your book between a range of prices. Either way, book pricing is very important. That’s a topic all by itself, but just know that you shouldn’t take this lightly either.
That’s it! Once you have decided on the price, you submit your book to Amazon for official review. They will email you when your book is ready to go.
But that doesn’t mean the process is over.
Publicizing your book
Entire paid educational courses have been designed and focused around promoting your book. If you are self-published, remember that you are taking on every step of the responsibility yourself. That also includes the marketing.
Putting a book on Kindle is only part of the process. If you have any hopes of having a career in publishing, or by using your book to build other aspects of your business, you need as many eyeballs on the product as you can.
That means investing in advertising, working on joint promotions with other authors, and even looking around for other book publicizing services that will increase exposure for your book.
As you can see, the process of publishing a book is rather straightforward. But every step is very important. Don’t take any of it lightly. Instead, take your time to do the best job you can during each stage of the process, and you can ensure a successful launch for your book.