Tech Digest eBook Self Publishing Season – How to self-publish an eBook with Kindle Direct Publishing
The go-to online book retailer, Amazon has (with the advent of its Kindle eReader devices and app line) also become the premier destination for grabbing digital editions of your most-loved tomes. And through the company’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform, it’s also one of the easiest digital storefronts to get your book published to. This guide will hopefully give you all the info you need to get your book on sale and in front of millions of readers through Amazon’s Kindle store.
Note: This guide assumes that you’ve already written your book, at least in a manuscript form. We won’t be giving you tips on how to plan out a plot or conjure memorable characters!
What is Kindle Direct Publishing?
Kindle Direct Publishing (or KDP for short), is Amazon’s platform for letting authors publish their books directly to the company’s Kindle eBook store. It deals only in digital eBooks, so if you’re looking to get your book printed and on brick-and-mortar store shelves, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. However, there are many, many benefits to publishing through KDP.
Why publish through Kindle Direct Publishing?
For starters, KDP allows authors to retain complete control of their work. So long as it’s an original work, you’ll retain all the rights to all characters and other unique aspects of your work, and will also retain the ability to update and make changes to your book at any time, a particularly useful feature if you’re writing a non-fiction text that needs to stay relevant over time. KDP will let you distribute your book globally in several languages, including English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Japanese, and your book can be available in all of Amazon’s markets across the world within 24 hours of submission. Kindle eBooks can also support images and, for versions intended to be read on smartphone or tablet apps, video and audio too.
Though Amazon sell a number of tablet and dedicated eReading devices, their Kindle audience is vast thanks to the availability of apps for all major mobile platforms, and even for PC and Mac too. The Kindle store is visited by millions of people every day, and the Kindle charts have become very influential, allowing self-published authors to make a healthy living off their books.
Authors can retain as much as 70% of the royalties from Kindle book sales and, if you’re willing to jump through some hoops for Amazon’s KDP Select option, there are some very helpful marketing tools and techniques on offer that can help push your book to the top of the charts.
To begin with, you’ll have to have your book written.
Done that? Good! That was quick!
Now you’re going to have to set-up an Amazon account if you don’t already have one (they’re set up when you first make a purchase from Amazon, and can be set up for free if you haven’t got one already). Then you’re going to need to sign up for Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform, which you can do by clicking here.
BE SURE TO READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS! We’ll go over the main points over the course of this guide, but the devil is in the details, so make sure you’ve carefully studied exactly what your signing up for before submitting your book.
Before your would-be bestseller can be published, it’ll have to be correctly formatted. You’ve got two options here: either do it yourself, or pay someone else to do it for you.
There are a number of companies that will go through the hassle of putting your book together in a form that Amazon’s Kindle apps and eReaders can read, and while all will pay a varying charge (usually based on the length of the book and its content), some will also help you on the first steps to marketing it too. It’s particularly worth enlisting the help of another company if your book is full of complex tables and images. Click here for a list of services that can help.
If you’re ready to endure some tedium, here’s how to get going with the DIY approach.
- Make sure your finished manuscript is in a Word file, or .doc to use its proper name. It’ll make later stages much, much simpler.
- Next, make sure you’ve added a Table of Contents for the document, which is easily done using Word’s and Page’s built-in tools.
- Insert page breaks after every chapter. It’ll avoid inserting unnecessary stretches of white space when your final Kindle eBook is ready.
- Headers and footers, along with bullet points, don’t work all that well with the conversion process, so try using bold and italic texts along with headings to demarcate your text’s sections.
- Make sure any images are added as .JPG files, or they won’t work properly either. Keep them centrally alligned, and remember that Kindle eReaders only present images in greyscale.
- Keep a check on your spelling and grammar if you dont have an editor. Have multiple grammar pedants read and re-read your text if possible to scan it for errors.
Once all that’s done you need to save the document again, this time in Filtered HTML format. File, Save as, Web Page, Filtered (*HTM &*HTML). Sorted.
Finding a Cover
Forget everything you’ve ever been told about not being able to judge a book by its cover. YOU TOTALLY CAN. And nailing an attractive cover, one that will represent your book well in a number of sizes and in both greyscale and colour, can make all the difference when it comes to attracting potential readers.
Our advice? Make sure your cover communicates clearly what your book is about, and do it in a clear rather than evocative way. If your book is about zombies, pop a zombie on the front, and then those looking for a good gore-soaked zombie book will know they’ve come to the right place. But make it the best looking zombie you can muster from the depths of hell. Hire a designer if possible – it’s their natural habitat, and they’ll know all the tricks to make things stand out from the crowd.
Turn it all into a .prc file
Before submission, you’re going to need to make .prc, which is the format Amazon accepts for KDP submissions, and you’re also going to want to preview exactly how your book will look when it’s put together. To do those two things you’re going to need to download two apps: Mobipocket Creator and Kindle Previewer. First we’ll look at Mobipocket Creator, which sadly is only available on PC with few OS X alternatives available, so you’ll have to find a friend with a PC for this stage if you’re a Mac user.
- Fire up Mobipocket Creator and select “HTML Document”, then hit “Import from an Existing File”
- Next, you’re going to need to find the HTML file we created earlier, and hit “Import”
- Now we’re going to add your eBooks cover. Exciting! Click on “Cover Image”, then click “Add a Cover Image” and browse to select the book cover you’ve created. Select it, and hit “Update” to save it.
- Hit “Build” from the Menu, and on the Build page hit…”Build”…surprisingly. This will compile everything into your near-complete eBook!
You’ve just made the .prc file! Pat on the back. You’ll find it in the My Documents/My Publications folder if you’ve left everything as the default values. You’re now going to open the file using Kindle Previewer to check how it will look as a finished product. And now here’s the real tough bit – if you’ve found a problem or a mistake, you’re going to need to go right back to the start, tweak your document and the HTML file and make a new .prc file until everything’s perfect.
It’ll be worth it though! Gloss over a mistake now and in 30 years time you’ll be tearing your hair out that you allowed that weird blank page to slip in, and that you spelt your mum’s name wrong on the dedication page.
Submitting your eBook
With all the above completed, it’s now time to get your book onto the Kindle Store. Head over to the Kindle Direct Publishing page that you visited earlier.
You’re going to have to set pricing and royalty rate information now, and things get a bit more complex here, and you’re going to have to think very hard about how best to price your book in order to make money from it. We encourage you to read Amazon’s pricing and royalty rate pages for more details, but there are a few key things to consider. To get the maximum royalty rate of 70% of sales price, you’re going to need to set a price between £1.49 and £7.81 (GBP). If that doesn’t suit your needs, the 35% royalty rate is for books priced at a minimum of £0.75 and £120 (GBP), and slightly higher minimum prices if your eBook weighs in at more than 3MB.
Of course, the lower the price, the more books you’re going to sell. But note how there was no free book option here, an option that can obviously be massively useful in spreading awareness of your eBook?
Amazon don’t allow for free eBooks to be distributed through Kindle Direct Publishing. However, you can sign up for the Kindle Select scheme that offers a 5 day promotional period, determined by you, in which your book can be downloaded for free. It also pops your book onto Amazon’s Kindle Owners Library for 90 days, letting Amazon Prime customers borrow the book for free. They’re two very important tools if you want to maximise sales and visibility (free eBooks regularly sit high in the charts), but Kindle Select comes with a few important caveats. The one, basically all-encompassing Kindle Select rule is that you’re giving the Kindle Store a 90-day period of exclusivity on your eBook – it cannot also be distributed as a PDF through your website, or be available through Apple’s iBooks store or the Nook store during that time. You can’t even give it away. Print versions of the book don’t affect this though, and once that 90-day period is up, you can distribute the book as you please.
Kindle Select is great if you’re a new author, but its restrictions may be limiting if you’ve already built an audience, especially if that’s an audience that extends beyonds the confines of the Kindle platform.
Once you’ve considered all your options, upload your completed .prc file, hit “Save and Publish” on the Kindle Direct Publishing page and, if you’ve followed all that correctly, you should now be done! Within 24 hours your eBook will be available for purchase on the Kindle store in your local territory, and within 48 hours it’ll be available worldwide, along with any blurb details you’ve submitted and any reader reviews that may well be already trickling through.
Congratulations, you can now count yourself among the same published, esteemed literary giants as James Joyce, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf and…er…Katie Price.