The Ins and Outs of Self-Publishing on Amazon

Self-publishing on Amazon has become increasingly popular. Not only does it simplify the publishing process, but it helps authors retain control over their work.

What’s more, Amazon is one of the world’s largest online retailers, which gives authors a much wider reach. More potential customers equals more potential sales.

Amazon publishes books through Kindle Direct Publishing, which is an impressive, easy-to-use platform. In this article i’m going to help you figure out if it’s the self-publishing platform you should be using.

I’m going to outline the pros and cons of self-publishing on Amazon. We will look at the overall process, that way you can work out if it’s right for you.

Self-Publishing on Amazon – Is It Worth It?

Before we look at the pros and cons of self-publishing on Amazon, let’s take a quick look at whether or not it’s worth self-publishing to begin with.

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Self-Publishing Pros

As a freelance author, you get to stay in control of your work. If you had to go the traditional-publishing route, you could end up spending years working with agencies and publishing houses.

There are also no guarantees that you will find an agent or a publishing house that will be willing to take on your work. Publishing houses tend to have a rigorous editing process that some authors find completely alters their work.

By self-publishing your book, you allow customers to decide whether it’s a hit or a miss.

Depending on the platform you use to self-publish, you can also look forward to enjoying more of the royalties than if you find someone to publish your book for you.

Self-Publishing Cons

One of the well-known cons of self-publishing is the fact that the market tends to be quite crowded, even on Amazon.

If this is your first book, you’re going to have to convince people to buy it.

If you have some sort of following on social media this will be much easier.

To ensure you produce a high-quality book, you’ll need someone to edit it, this of course can be costly.

You don’t need an editor but without one you should be prepared for the potential backlash of readers finding spelling and grammatical errors.

You should also be prepared to do a lot of the marketing leg work yourself.

Let’s move onto the pros and cons of self-publishing on Amazon.

Amazon Self-Publishing Pros

Amazon is a massive platform, this is one of the biggest benefits of becoming one of their authors. People trust Amazon, which means your product will automatically benefit from some of that trust.

Amazon’s built-in marketing tools also make it really easy to spread the word about your book.

Next, there’s the fact that they offer print-on-demand services. This means you don’t need to buy stock, the book is only printed and delivered if it’s ordered.

This is a major money-saving bonus!

As an Amazon author, your book is automatically added to the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and it’s enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program.

Anytime someone reads your book, or part of it, you get paid.

Kindle Direct Publishing’s marketing features give you different ways to boost sales. For example, you can offer your book for free for a limited time or sell it at a discounted rate.

Amazon Self-Publishing Cons

By choosing to enroll in Kindle Direct Publishing Select, your book will have limited reach, which will also limit your income. If this is going to be your sole source of income, signing up for KDP Select is probably not the best choice.

Amazon asks all new authors to agree to a 90-day exclusivity clause, which means you won’t be able to sell your book anywhere else for a period of time. If you were planning a big launch, this will make it a lot smaller.

Lastly, Amazon also has a few content limitations in place. They ask you to agree to not publish more than 10% of your content on any other online platforms – even if that platform is your personal blog.

Now that you have a better idea of the pros and cons, this is what you can expect from the self-publishing process.

Self-Publishing on Amazon – How It Works

How to Self-Publish on Amazon

As previously mentioned, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is the platform that Amazon uses for self-publishing projects.

The platform allows authors to manage their eBooks, paperbacks and even audiobooks all in one place.

To publish a paperback on Amazon, you would follow the same steps as you would when publishing an eBook, with some small differences.

I am going to take you through the general eBook publishing process and then explain how you would convert that to a paperback.

Step 1: Create Your KDP Account

Once you navigate to the KDP site, you can register with your existing Amazon account or sign up for a new one.

Before you can publish any books, you will need to complete your tax information. To do this, click on Update and Finished once you’ve entered your details.

Your profile is now set up.

Step 2: Enter Your Book Details

Now, you will start entering all the details of the book you intend to publish, starting with a title and subtitle.

A subtitle isn’t compulsory, but it is known to bring in more views and it helps your book appear in more search results.

You’re also going to need a catchy book description that will entice buyers to download or order your book.

Step 3: Select Your Keywords

Linking keywords to your book will increase the chances of the right kinds of readers finding your book.

Amazon allows authors to select seven keywords for each book, which means you should take the time to do a little research.

Consider what a reader would type into Amazon if they wanted to find a book like yours. Once you have a list of potential keywords, use a keyword research tool to find out how many people are searching for those keywords.

There are a number of excellent tools for this, including Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner, Keyword Scout and my personal favorite Helium 10.

Step 4: Select Your Categories

When choosing a category, you need to find a sweet spot. You want to select categories and subcategories that are relevant to your book, but you also don’t want to choose categories that are highly competitive.

You can check out the competition levels by looking at the rankings of the top three books on the category pages you’re considering.

A book with a ranking of 2,000 or less is considered a highly purchased product.

If this is your first book and you don’t have an audience yet, find categories with books that rank between 10,000-30,000.

Step 5: Upload Your Manuscript

To upload your manuscript, you will need to click on Kindle eBook Actions, which will appear alongside the title of your book on your Amazon Bookshelf.

Once you select the option to Edit eBook Content, you will see the option to upload your manuscript.

Before you upload, make sure that your manuscript is saved in a supported kindle format.

You will get the chance to preview the uploaded file before you submit it to Amazon.

I highly recommend using the Look Inside feature once your book is available online – this will show you what potential readers see first. This is where formatting is really important.

Step 6: Design & Upload a Book Cover

What do you want readers to see when they first discover your book?

If you’re not a professional designer, hire a freelancer to assist you with this part of the process. If you’re serious about making money from your book, the cover needs to look professional.

You can find Amazon’s book cover specs here.

Step 7: Price Your Book

Your book price will depend on whether or not you’re already an established author and what other authors in your genre are selling their books for.

The average price range is $2.99 to $9.99.

Many authors choose to start off on the lower end and slowly increase their price to see how it affects their sales. If the book is popular and receiving reviews, increasing the price shouldn’t have a negative impact on sales.

Publishing Your Paperback on Amazon

If you would prefer to publish a paperback, you would follow the same process above but with a few differences.

Print-on-demand is the best way to self-publish a paperback. Not only do you not have to invest in stock, but you won’t need to worry about managing and fulfilling orders either.

When KDP prints your book upon order, it simply subtracts the costs from your royalties.

If you want to distribute your paperback in bookstores and libraries, you will need to enable Expanded Distribution.

Authors also have the option of ordering proofs and wholesale copies.

To start printing copies of your book, simply find your eBook on your Amazon Bookshelf and select Create Paperback.

The same details that you provided for your eBook will be used for your paperback, but you’ll have the option to edit these details if need be.

If you decide to publish a paperback after publishing your eBook, KDP will review the manuscript again and look at elements such as fonts, margin settings, image resolution and general readability.

Any new or revised KDP books will also need to meet specific content guidelines.

If you choose to keep the eBook and your paperback, they should link automatically if the book details are the same.

KDP has put together a really handy video that outlines the best way to format your manuscript for printing.

The Cost of Self-Publishing on Amazon

Self-publishing a book on the KDP platform is free. Amazon makes its money by subtracting delivery (eBook) and printing (paperback) costs from your royalties.

You can expect to start receiving royalties 60 days after your first sale is made. From there, payments will come through every month. Direct deposit, wire transfer and check are all payment options.

There is no payment threshold for direct deposits. If you choose check or wire payments, you will only start receiving payments once you’ve earned a certain amount in royalties. You can see the full list of payment thresholds here.

Let’s take a closer look at royalties because eBook and print royalties are slightly different.

eBook Royalties

There is a 70% and 35% eBook royalty plan available on KDP.

If you want to sign up for the 70% plan, there are a few requirements you need to meet:

  • Your eBook can’t be less than $2.99 or more than $9.99
  • The book shouldn’t be published in the public domain
  • You will need to agree to a file delivery fee
  • Book sales need to occur in one of these countries – sales made outside of these countries will fall into the 35% royalty option

Print Royalties

There are also two royalty options for those who choose to sell paperbacks.

If you select the Amazon-only distribution channel, you will receive 60% of the listed price for every book that’s sold.

If you select Amazon’s Expanded Distribution option, you will only receive 40% for every book sold.

If you’re serious about making money selling books on Amazon, I’ve created an in-depth guide here.

Is Self-Publishing on Amazon Worth It?

Self-publishing a book on Amazon is definitely one of the better routes to take if you want to start building an audience and start earning money as an author.

If you’re looking to make this your sole source of income, you may want to consider using an agent. Keep in mind that this will extend the publishing process quite significantly.

This isn’t to say that you can’t eventually earn a living as an Amazon author, you might just need to be a bit more patient.

If you know that you want to pursue a career as an author, starting out on Amazon is a good way to get a feel for your audience and how they respond to your writing.

Just make sure that you’re taking full advantage of Amazon’s marketing tools before you decide that your book is a flop.

I’d also highly recommend building an audience on your preferred social media channel, once you have a following it will be much easier to make sales and get real feedback on your books.

There are plenty of other ways to make money on Amazon, if you are interested in learning more read this article.

Tags: Amazon, kindle direct publishing, self-publishing on amazon

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