If you’re looking to independently publish an ebook, then Kindle Direct Publishing is the place to start. There are other platforms out there such as Kobo and iBooks, but you should start with the largest on-line retailer, and that means Amazon.
Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP for short, is Amazon’s independent publishing platform. So how does it work?
Setting Up Your Account
You start by signing up for an account and you can do this with your Amazon username and password. As with any system, you will need to fill in your details, including bank account, so that KDP can pay you when your books start selling.
Before we move on to the exciting stuff, I just need to say something about everyone’s favourite subject – tax.
If you are a non-US resident, then a 30% tax will be deducted from your US royalties unless your country has a tax treaty in place with the US. For example, 0% tax is deducted from the royalties of UK authors but only if you have completed a W-8BEN form which is a Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding.
Yes, I know that’s a bit of a mouthful, but if I remember correctly from when I set up my own KDP account, KDP has an on-line wizard that walks you through the necessary questions. At a later date I also acquired a Tax Identification Number which I submitted to KDP. Here are two blog posts by Karen Inglis and Rachel Abbott who talk far more competently than me about tax issues and I would recommend you check them out if you are not a resident of the United States:
OK, having got all the tax stuff out of the way, let’s move on to the process of uploading and publishing your book. I’m assuming here that you already have a completed manuscript that has been thoroughly edited and proofread and is as good as you can make it. Before we walk through the KDP fields that you need to complete, here’s a short technical guide to file formats.
Just to get technical for a moment, kindle ebooks are in what is called a mobi file format. This means that if you look at a kindle book in your computer’s file explorer, the file name of the book will be in the format: booktitle.mobi.
Other platforms, like Kobo and iTunes, don’t use mobi files. They use an industry standard format called an epub file. So a book on Kobo or iTunes would have as its filename booktitle.epub.
If you write using Scrivener software then you will know that Scrivener enables you to compile your manuscript into any format you like. Using Scrivener you can output your oeuvre as a mobi file, an epub file, a Word document, a PDF and many other formats.
But don’t panic! KDP assumes that most people will be writing in Microsoft Word and therefore they have made it possible for you to upload your Word document to KDP and they will convert it into a mobi file for you.
However, you will need to do some formatting of your Word document before you upload it. To make sure that your Word document meets the formatting criteria for KDP it’s essential that you download and read KDP’s free guide, Building Your Book For Kindle. The instructions in this booklet will ensure that you have correctly formatted front matter and a table of contents which all ebooks require to enable readers to navigate them. Building Your Book For Kindle is available at Amazon.
If you’re using Scrivener and you’re confident about using the compile functionality, then you can produce your own mobi file and upload that to Amazon instead. It’s always worth side-loading mobi files onto your Kindle to check that everything is appearing as it should. To side-load a mobi file onto your Kindle, connect your Kindle to your computer via a USB cable and then, in file explorer, drag the mobi file across to the Documents folder on your Kindle.
The other thing that you will need is a book cover. Unless you’re a graphics designer you should always consider getting professional help with this. 99designs.com is a good place to go for book covers. KDP request a JPG or TIFF file which is at least 1000 pixels on the longest side. They recommend a height/width ratio of 1:6, for example 1000 x 1600 pixels.
Right, once you’ve got your cover and your formatted Word document or your Scrivener-compiled mobi file, you’re good to go. Now it’s just a question of working through all the required fields in the KDP book creation process.
Enter Your Book Details
You start by entering your book details. Most of these fields are self-explanatory, such as title, sub-title (if you have one), series title (if applicable) etc. Enter the author name in the contributor field.
One of the most important fields in this section is the Description field. This will appear on your book’s sale’s page and a well-worded, compelling description can help to sell more copies. You can use limited HTML in this field, for example to make headers stand out.
The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) field is optional. If you want to use your own ISBN then you can, but it is absolutely not necessary. In the UK ISBNs are obtained from Nielsen. In the US, I believe, you can obtain ISBNs from Bowker.
Amazon will provide you with an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) which is the only thing you need to uniquely identify your book on the Amazon platform. Remember, we are only talking about ebooks here. Paperbacks do require an ISBN, but if you produce a print-on-demand paperback through CreateSpace then CreateSpace can provide you with a free ISBN if necessary. I’ll discuss CreateSpace in another post.
Verify Your Publishing Rights
KDP asks you to confirm whether the book you are publishing is in the public domain or if it is one to which you hold all the necessary publishing rights. I you wrote it, then you own the publishing rights.
Target Your Book to Customers
It is important to get your book in front of the people most likely to buy it, so you need to think carefully about your book’s Categories and Keywords. KDP allows to select two Categories and up to seven Keywords.
Keywords are critical and you should spend some time choosing the best ones for your title. On Amazon Keywords serve two distinct functions:
- They help with organic search. This means that if someone is searching for a book about a particular subject, the right choice of keywords will help make your book show up in search results.
- Certain keywords will place your book in more granular categories than is possible with the two basic categories that you have chosen.
Remember, Keywords are not just single words but can be phrases, such as young-adult paranormal romance.
Check out the links on this KDP help page to find keywords appropriate to your particular book.
Select Your Book Release Option
The two choices here are between immediate release and making your book available for pre-order.
Immediate release is not as scary as it sounds. Your book won’t actually go live until you hit Publish. In the meantime you can always save the details you have submitted so far and come back to them at a later stage.
If you make your book available for pre-order then you can choose a date months in the future at which your book will become available. I have not used this option, but from the podcasts I listen to I understand that you absolutely must hit your publishing date. Woe betide any author who sets up a pre-order and then fails to hit the date. Amazon really don’t like that!
Upload and Preview
The next steps are to upload your cover and book file, either your Scrivener-compiled mobi file or your formatted Word document as described above. Whilst KDP is processing your files you’ve got time to go and make a cup of tea. When you get back to your desk your book should be ready to preview in the on-line previewing tool.
If everything looks hunky-dory then you can move on to the next step.
Verify Your Publishing Territories
The great thing about independent publishing is that you automatically hold worldwide rights to your work, unless you’ve already sold your rights in a particular country.
Assuming that you haven’t sold any ebook rights, then choose worldwide rights. This will make your book available to the largest possible audience. If you have already sold your ebook rights in, say, the UK, then you will need to select individual territories.
Set Your Pricing and Royalty
KDP asks you to choose between receiving 35% royalties and 70% royalties. I’m assuming this is not a difficult decision for most people to make. Who would rather accept 35% when they could have 70%?
But in order to qualify for a 70% royalty rate you must price your book between $2.99 US dollars and $9.99 US dollars. In the UK this equates to a price between £1.99 and £9.99. In countries that use the Euro the price must be between 2.99 and 9.99 Euros.
This is perfectly reasonable for most ebooks. As an unknown author just starting out you shouldn’t overprice your work.
You enter the price in US dollars and KDP will automatically convert the price into other currencies based on current exchange rates. However, you should manually overwrite the other currencies to make sure they look sensible. For example, in the UK you would expect to see a price of £x.99 or £x.49, not some random figure like £x.73 or whatever.
Kindle MatchBook and Kindle Book Lending
There are a couple of other boxes to tick (or not) before you hit Publish. The Kindle MatchBook programme enables readers to download a free ebook if they have purchased the paperback version. Kindle Book Lending allows people to lend your book to friends and family for a duration of 14 days.
Once you’ve completed all of the above steps you’re ready to hit Publish. KDP will review your book and send you an email when it is live on Amazon, usually within 24 hours.