There’s never been a better time to be a self published author.
If you’ve spent years trying to get picked up by an agent or a publisher, you may just feel glad that you didn’t.
You’ll see why in a moment.
In this guide, I lay out the process, step by step, to help you get your book on Amazon for free.
I will also cover the things you need to know, including why self publishing may be the best thing you can do and why I chose to publish on Amazon KDP.
Let’s do this!
Here's what we're going to be covering...
- 1 How to Become a Self-Published Writer and use KDP as an Author Platform for Your eBooks and Paperback Books
- 1.1 Why Self Publish: Traditional Publishing v Self Publishing
- 1.2 What is the cost of self publishing and how much does it cost to publish a book?
- 1.3 Can you make money self publishing a book?
- 1.4 Why I self publish with KDP exclusively
- 1.5 KDP now offers print on demand for paperbacks
- 1.6 Should I use Create Space of KDP for paperbacks?
- 1.7 Is it Free to Publish on Amazon Kindle?
- 1.8 Is KDP profitable?
- 1.9 What are the author royalties in KDP?
- 1.10 Pros and cons of self publishing on Amazon
- 1.11 Is KDP available everywhere?
- 1.12 What are the submission guidelines?
- 1.13 Are there any rules authors should know about?
- 1.14 So how do I get started with KDP?
- 1.15 Conclusion
How to Become a Self-Published Writer and use KDP as an Author Platform for Your eBooks and Paperback Books
I first self published back in the late 90s. I was writing both fiction and non fiction and I was desperate – like many writers – to get picked up by an agent. You know the story: rejection letter after rejection letter.
I gave up on that and began exploring self publishing platforms for my books and ebooks. Like many authors, I didn’t start out by wanting to self publish. It was the frustration of trying to get an agent that led me to self publishing.
So I tried a few platforms and settled for Lulu and Amazon. Back then, Amazon’s self publishing platform was called Create Space. CS is still around, but I don’t recommend using it (I’ll get to why soon).
I didn’t know it at the time, but self publishing turned out to be the best decision I made as a writer.
Let me tell you why (and why it’s a good way to go for you too):
Why Self Publish: Traditional Publishing v Self Publishing
In the past few years, a number of traditionally published authors have spoken about the realities of being a published author. And more are joining the ranks (search online for publishing sucks and you’ll find plenty).
It turns out that being published or having an agent does not equal raging success and stardom. Far from it. In fact, most published authors make very little income, if any, in the way of book royalties.
Also, these days authors are expected to market themselves (yep, publishers don’t tend to do that for you, unless you’re a household name).
I first became aware of all these facts in late 2017, so it’s only recently that I started to realise I’m on the best side of publishing (the ‘do it yourself’ side).
Interestingly enough:JK Rowling (author of Harry Potter) is self publishing the ebook version of her books. This should be reason enough for anybody to take self publishing seriously.Click To Tweet
And check out what Ingram Spark are saying:
“One amazing trend that took hold in 2017 and will continue is the hybrid author. This is the author who publishes via both traditional publishing and self-publishing. The so-called stigma of self-publishing has seen its last days. Given its acceptance in the publishing industry as a whole, self-publishing is now a viable option for all authors.”
SOURCE: Ingram Spark
So let’s look at the benefits:
Self publishing benefits
- you retain control over your books and your copyright (you own them, not just 10% or 12%, which is what you get from most traditional publishing deals).
- you retain control of the distribution (you can literally switch it on and off).
- having control of the platform means you can get things done fast (you can publish an updated version of your book, change your book cover, add a print version or an audio version with just a few clicks – no need to wait weeks or months and go through long drawn out processes over which you have little control.
- you control everything. You don’t have to ask permission every time you want something to happen with your book.
Now let’s look at some of the disadvantages of self publishing and compare those with traditional publishing:
- you have to do your own marketing. But this is the case with traditional publishing too.
- you have to pay for everything (we’ll get into costs in a moment).
- you need to find your own editor (if you decide to use one).
- you need to find your own book cover designer (if you decide to use one).
Ok, so the upside of being a self published author is that you control everything. The downside is that you have to pay for everything.
So let’s talk about what those costs are, exactly.
What is the cost of self publishing and how much does it cost to publish a book?
The good news is that you can spend as little as you want. You can quickly launch your book and pay nothing.
- write your book using software you already have (e.g. MS Word) or free software (e.g. Google Docs or Open Office).
- export your book to PDF.
- upload to a self publishing platform (e.g. KDP).
- use the cover designer that most publishing platforms come with to create your cover or use free software like GIMP or Inkscape.
And that’s it. Zero spend to get your book published.These days, you can publish a book and spend zero when you know how to. And it's not that difficult or time consuming.Click To Tweet
However, if you want to do your book justice, you may have to put your hand in your pocket and shell out for some things.
- if you’re not a graphic designer, you may want to consider paying one to design your book cover.
- if you want your book interior to be as readable and sexy as possible, you may want to consider using book formatting software or paying somebody to format it for you.
- if you want your book to have a better chance in the marketplace, you may want to consider paying an editor to clean it up.
That’s the real downside of self publishing.
On the positive side, there are literally tons of freelancers and agencies providing all the services I just mentioned. In fact, you could:
- pay somebody in fiverr to design you a book cover (from $5 to $100) or use Canva
- pay somebody in fiverr to format your book (optional: from $5 to $100)
Editors are a little different. I think it’s a fair assumption that the more you pay the better the quality you will get. But again, editors are optional (I don’t use one).
So, after this reality check, there’s only one real question to ask:
Can you make money self publishing a book?
Yes, you can. But realise that making sales is down to multiple factors. Self publishing just puts you in a position where you can earn money from your books. But you have to get all the pieces right.
Making money as a self published writer depends on various things, including:
- how much demand there is for your book’s topic.
- how well written the book is.
- the quality of the cover design.
- how well crafted your title and description are.
- how many competitors you’re up against.
And there’s probably a few more things you could add to that list.
In practice, here’s how those factors play out:
- if your topic is popular (e.g. paleo diet) then more people could potentially find your book.
- if the quality of your book is poor, then anyone who reads it is likely to leave you a poor review and warn other potential buyers not to buy.
- if your book’s cover design is appalling, it will make your book look cheap and turn off potential buyers.
- if your title and description are poor and don’t engage the reader, you’ll lose sales.
- if your chosen niche is super competitive, your book may end up on page 100. However, this is where advertising comes in, so this is a problem that can be easily fixed.
Ok, so far we’ve covered the reasons for self publishing as well as the benefits and downsides.
This brings us to the next part, which is choosing a platform. I personally use KDP. So let’s talk about KDP and why I think this is the way to go:
Why I self publish with KDP exclusively
If you recall, at the start I mentioned that, back in the day, I was using Create Space for my paperbacks. I was also using lulu for my ebooks. I was all over the place.
Then Amazon launched Kindle and the KDP platform, which stands for Kindle Direct Publishing, and I started selling my ebooks there.
This is what was available from Amazon for authors back then:
- Create Space for print books (print on demand)
- KDP for Kindle ebooks
And that was my setup.
But there was a problem:
Having two different platforms for the same books is not ideal. Let’s face it: it’s extra admin. Also, sales figures are held separately, which means extra work for you trying to figure out your total book sales.
On top of that, I never did enjoy CS – I find the interface clunky and dated. It’s just… ugh.
But all that changed (for the better) because:
KDP now offers print on demand for paperbacks
Even though KDP started off as a Kindle ebooks only platform, it now gives you the ability to turn your ebook into a paperback. So you get to have all your books under one dashboard.
Now, there are a lot of people still using Create Space as well as KDP. I was too, and my dilemma was:
Should I use Create Space of KDP for paperbacks?
It’s better to use KDP if you also publish ebooks because you get your ebook and paperback sales data in one dashboard. This fact alone did it for me.
I get that many have put in the work into CS. Maybe you did too. But so did I! And I can tell you that the best thing I did was to bite the bullet and relist all my paperbacks under KDP.
It took a bit of time, but now I have only one dashboard to deal with and I can see all my sales data. Also, I no longer have to deal with the nightmare CS interface.
TIP: if you’re just getting started, it really is a no-brainer: use KDP and don’t bother with Create Space.
So that’s why KDP is good for me. But why is it good for you?
Check out this quick video and you’ll see why (the benefits):
Looks good, uh?
But other publishing platforms offer the same benefits as KDP, don’t they?
Many do, but KDP has the edge because it leverages Amazon’s massive marketplace. There are millions of Amazon customers, and many of them shop in KDP.
So now you know why I think KDP has the edge over other book self publishing platforms.
So let’s talk about the things you want to know:
Is it Free to Publish on Amazon Kindle?
It’s free to publish on Amazon KDP (for both your ebooks and paperbacks). Publishing is the biggest piece of the puzzle after your book is completed, and KDP provides you with the platform as well as the distribution channel.
The fact that you get access to a global market as well as the mechanism to sell your books for free is pretty astonishing. Remember I said there’s been no better time to be a self published author?
So now let’s deal with the million dollar question:
Is KDP profitable?
Yes, it is for many authors and it can be for you if you do things well. You get up to 70% royalties (I’ll break down the author royalties in a moment). If you can’t make a profit with that margin, there’s an issue in your sales funnel.
If you advertise your book with ads, then you have a running cost that eats into your profit. But still, 70% (or 35% in some cases, as you’ll see in a moment) is still a lot of play with.
So if you’re not profitable, then you need to look at the various factors that come into play.
- are your ads effective? If they’re poorly written or targeted, then you’re going to be paying for a lot of clicks that don’t convert into sales. That’s going to drive up your costs. This could be a reason for your book not being profitable.
- is your pricing right? You need to consider the cost of advertising and everything else that goes into selling a book and price your book accordingly. If you price your book at $0.99 that means that you have less than $0.99 cents to spend on advertising to sell that book, and that advertising will only be profitable if at least one of the clicks buys the book, providing you have anything left after tax. So the price of your book is a big factor determining whether you will be profitable or not.
There are other factors that affect your sales (and your profit) as I mentioned earlier, including the cover design of your book and the title and description. Those things sell (or turn off buyers to) your book.
These days I use KDP exclusively. This is a personal choice, but I’d rather have all my eggs in the biggest basket of all.
Naturally, KDP takes a cut of your book sales (they’ve got to make money too). When you make a sale, you get what they call a royalty payment.
Here’s how the Amazon KDP royalty split works:
- you get 70% on all Kindle eBooks priced between $2.99 to $9.99
- you get 35% on all Kindle eBooks priced below $2.99 and above $9.99
Just remember that 70% is not all profit – you need to pay tax on your earnings, so your 70% royalty minus the tax due is your actual sales income.
If your maths is as funky as mine then just look at your bank statement at the end of the month or the quarter and see how much came in versus how much went out.
Pros and cons of self publishing on Amazon
There are positives and negatives to almost anything, and KDP is no exception. However, I personally find the positives far outweigh the negatives, so publishing on Amazon KDP exclusively works for me.
Here’s what every writer should know:
- pro: publishing on Amazon enables you to potentially reach millions of readers.
- con: being exclusive to KDP means you can’t list your books for sale on other platforms.
- pro: you control pricing.
- pro: you get up to 70% royalties.
- pro: the publishing process is extremely fast (usually 24 hours or less).
However, you don’t have to be exclusive to KDP in order to publish with KDP, which means you can publish on KDP as well as any other platform.
What’s the catch?
Well, being exclusive means that you get paid for every page of your ebook being read at a higher rate than not being exclusive.
It also means that you can run promotions where you get to set the cost of your book to $0 (so you clock up a load of downloads, which in turn helps your book rank better). If you happen to have a series of books, giving the first book away for free in a promotion is a killer strategy to build your reader base and sell your other titles in the series.
Is KDP available everywhere?
KDP is a global platform. You can publish to KDP whether you’re in India, the UK or the other side of the world.
What are the submission guidelines?
These can change over time, so the best thing is for me provide a link for you. See Amazon publishing guidelines.
There are always people trying to game the system, and rules are put in place to stop them. So if you don’t do anything weird, you should be OK.
But since you asked, here are a couple of things to be aware of:
- reviews: don’t abuse the system. Don’t buy reviews from other websites in order to clock up fake reviews for your books. Amazon’s system is smart, and if you get caught and you’re lucky, you’ll just lose the fake reviews (and possibly some legit ones too). If you’re unlucky, they could take things further.
- content: don’t publish crap. Some people get into KDP to spam and make a quick buck. Some use software to scrape data and spin recipe books and other books that, when read, make little sense. I’ve heard of ‘authors’ reusing the same book under different titles and covers. Any nonsense like this is going to get you banned at some point, so don’t do it.
So how do I get started with KDP?
- sign up to KDP
- upload your manuscript
- set your title and description
- set your pricing and royalty
You can see the entire process in this 1 minute video:
VIDEO: Getting started with KDP
Self publishing is a great model for authors because it gives you full control over every aspect of your content, including design and pricing. Even some traditionally published authors are now taking control of their own work with self publishing.
There are many self publishing platforms available today, including Amazon’s KDP. Using these platforms, you can typically publish your book within 24 hours. This puts unprecedented power in your hands.
KDP is the largest book marketplace on the planet, and the fact that it’s free is a blessing for many writers. If you’re a writer, you should definitely consider KDP as a platform.
I hope you enjoyed this guide and found it helpful! Please share and thank you.