How to Self-Publish a Book: The Ultimate 10-Step Guide
Self-publishing, you know it’s possible and you know it’s popular. But how exactly do you do it? From the very first word on a page to reaching your readers with the finished product, we’ve got you covered. Read ahead for our ultimate step-by-step guide on how to self-publish a book. This article will particularly focus on how to self-publish on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
The hype around publishing online began 13 years ago when KDP launched in 2007. And it isn’t dying down. If anything, the indie author community is thriving. The dream is exciting! Yet the exact process can still seem daunting.
However, it is all remarkably simple. The important thing is completing each step with care and precision. Don’t rush through the process. Take the time to ensure every stage is done in a way that upholds your brand and your message to your readers. After all, the details behind self-publishing your book is just as important as the book itself!
Step 1: Write a book!
This is just stage one and yet it is a huge task. We could write a hundred steps just for this step! Your book is the essence of your self-publishing journey. So get words down on a page. It is not that easy, but it is that simple. Complete your manuscript and then you can move onto the next phase. This is the same first step for everyone. Whether you’re writing an action thriller debut, a YA magic realism story, or a sci-fi/fantasy adventure extravaganza. Just make the story in your mind a reality on the page.
Book word count is also unimportant. You can self-publish a book of any length. But as a guideline, a novel is usually around 50,000-100,000 words. Anything shorter would be considered a novella, short story, or flash fiction, depending on its length.
Book written? Great. Let’s move on.
Step 2: Hire an editor
Hiring is a good editor is an investment you will never regret. You can re-read your own writing a thousand times and still miss mistakes. As writers, we are simply too invested in our own writing. While we get lost in the content, remembering the moment we wrote a certain sentence, or admiring some particularly well-formed phrasing, an editor is looking between the words. They see the grammar, the spelling, the punctuation, the formatting. And yes, they see the content but with a pair of outsider eyes offering that invaluable distanced perspective. Simply, an editor is looking out for the reader, not the writer. And that’s exactly what you need.
For further insight, check out our article How To Find A Book Editor!
Bear in mind that there are different types of editing: proofreading, copy/line editing, and developmental editing. Different editors might use different technical names, but these are the basic three. We have outlined the role of each and an affordable rate on our editing page. A Savage Edits editor can make the difference between your book being a slump or a success. Get in touch with us today!
Got yourself a great editor? Brilliant. Next step.
Step 3: Design your book cover
We’ve all heard the saying, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’. Oh, if only it were true! Unfortunately, we humans are not yet so advanced to not buy into appearances. A well-designed cover is the difference between someone clicking your book link and someone scrolling over it without a thought.
Did you know there are over 48.5 million books sold on Amazon?
The reality is that you need to stand out. Thankfully, many of those authors have skipped over the importance of this step. They have settled for the basic Amazon book cover design or created something shoddy and unprofessional, thinking it will do. Well, it won’t. Hire a book cover designer! It is another investment you will never regret. Let a professional artist create the first impression of your book for your readers. Only then will it have the aesthetic appeal necessary to get ahead of the crowd.
Fantastic book cover designed? Good. On to stage four.
Step 4: Get an ISBN
An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number. It is a 13-digit number that identifies your unique book, both for readers and the publishing community. KDP authors are not required to have an ISBN. However, it is highly recommended. It makes your book professional, official, and, best of all, identifiable.
If you want to sell your book on other platforms, you will need to purchase an ISBN. While this is another cost, it is worth it if you want to expand your marketplace. A single ISBN will cost around US$125. But costs will lower if you buy more than one at a time. You can easily buy ISBNs regionally and nationally. Just Google your local ISBN source.
Got an ISBN? Excellent. Now…
Step 5: Add copyright
Copyright is simply saying that you own the rights of your work. Amazon does not require you to include it in your book. However, it is highly recommended. By including copyright language in your book, you declare that the work is your own. Basically, this prevents anybody from copying your book and pretending it is theirs.
You can add copyright language very simply. Make sure it is in a prominent location, like the front or back cover, or contents page. And just write ©Year, Author Name. This will make it clear that you own the rights of the book the reader is about to read. You can also find more detailed copyright paragraphs online. But if you want to ensure the absolute safety of your book copyright, contact the copyright office. They will officially record your copyright registration. We are not legal advisers.
Copyright sorted? Nice. Onto the next stage.
Step 6: Log in to Kindle Direct Publishing
So you know the first steps. But how to self-publish on Amazon specifically? Well, the sign-up is simple. You just need an email and a password. If you already have an Amazon account, login with your existing details. Once you’re in, choose to upload either a Kindle eBook or paperback. In this case, let’s follow the eBook process. So click +Kindle eBook.
Step 7: Kindle eBook Details
You will then see a page with the following fields to fill in:
Speaks for itself. What language is your book in? Choose the correct option from the scroll down menu.
Once again, don’t just throw together a title and think it will do. Once again, it won’t. Take the time to think over multiple title options. Run them by friends and family. Ask writing forums which one they prefer. Research what makes a great book title. When you’ve found the perfect one, enter it into Amazon. If you want to, also add a subtitle. Both of these will appear on the front cover of your book. Make them good! If you want to know how to self-publish a book successfully, know that a captivating title makes all the difference.
Is your book part of a series? If so, fill in the name of the series and enter the number of the book. If this is your first book of the series, do the same thing. Just enter 1 as the series number. Or is it a standalone book? If so, skip this section.
If you have already written and published this book, went back and made changes, and now want to publish a new version, this section is for you. If this is your first version of the book, skip this part. If it is the second update of an existing book, write 2. And so on.
That’s you! Write your name or pseudonym.
Was this book a collaborative effort? Do you have more than one author? If so, enter their name into the contributors’ section. If it is all your own, skip this section.
Now, this is another important one. Again, don’t wing it! Take the time to craft the perfect concise representation of your book. This is the first bit of information your readers will get about the story. Pique their interest. Pull them in. Create a few different versions and ask people you trust for their opinions. Make sure it is professional and high-quality. Share the essence of your book. You know what makes it great. Don’t be shy. Let them know it too!
If you wrote the book and it is your own work, then select the first option: I own the copyright and I hold the necessary publishing rights. Simple!
Be savvy with your keywords. Don’t just throw down the first ones that pop into your mind. Use keywords that also appear in your title and/or description. That way, when readers search for a new book, they are more likely to discover yours.
This isn’t a space for superlatives or a marketing opportunity. Don’t write stuff like ‘greatest story ever’. Also don’t include your name, the title, or something completely generic like ‘book’. This is a space to ensure your readers find you as easily as possible. Be specific. What is your setting? E.g. Medieval France. What are your character traits? E.g. Single mum. What are their roles? E.g. Businessman. What are the themes? E.g. Redemption. What is the tone? E.g. Dystopia.
And remember, a keyword isn’t necessarily just one word. It can be a short phrase. For example: coming of age.
Like keywords, categories help your readers find you. What type of book have you written? One good technique is to ask yourself: If I was in a physical book shop, where would my book be? For example, fiction, travel, history, spirituality. Simply, make it as easy as possible for readers to discover your book.
Age and Grade Range
This is a particularly important section for authors of children and young adult books. Again, don’t just guess! Make sure you’ve done your research and know for sure the age bracket in which your story belongs. There is a huge difference between the reading level and interest of an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old. Don’t waste the potential of your book through a lack of research into your audience.
Are you ready to publish it immediately? Great! Click the first option. Or do you have a future release date? Then enter it into the second option.
All your Kindle eBook Details filled out? Good job. Save and continue.
Step 8: Kindle eBook Content
The next stage is about the book itself. Time to upload!
Again, no rush. Look through your manuscript once more. Ensure everything is perfect. Another thing that is as important as the content is formatting. Nobody wants to read a messy book. Your readers want the satisfaction of a tidy page making their reading experience as pleasurable as possible.
So make sure it is properly formatted. Justify your margins. Create a powerful title page. Check your copyright location. Make sure the font types and sizes are consistent. Adapt the appearance of your chapter titles. Do you want a contents page? Do you want an acknowledgments page? Are you going to add ‘End of Book Stuff’? Perhaps a first chapter extract of the next book in your series? These things might be simple, but they take time. And it is entirely worth the effort. The details make the difference!
If you want to save time and ensure high-quality, professional formatting, hire a formatter.
At this point, you also have to choose whether or not to enable DRM. Think carefully about this decision as you will not be able to change it after publication. Digital Rights Management can add an extra level of security to the copyright of your book. It restricts how easily people can unauthorizedly share your work. But it also means your work can’t be read on devices other than Kindle. It is basically a double-edged sword. Your book is locked away from people stealing your content. But it is also locked away from some of your readership. The choice is up to you.
But remember, enabling DRM far from guarantees the complete prevention of piracy.
Time to upload that well-designed, professional, eye-catching book cover we discussed earlier! Again, we recommend not to use Amazon’s Cover Creator. It won’t create a cover quality enough for a book as quality as yours.
See how your book looks to your readers before completing the process. This allows you to change anything you’re second-guessing.
You know that ISBN you bought earlier to identify your book? Place it in the box here.
Kindle eBook Content done? Great! Moving on…
Step 9: Kindle eBook Pricing
This is the last step before your book is published. Keep going!
KDP Select Enrolment
KDP Select is basically like an exclusive club that promotes your book to a larger audience by allowing millions of readers to borrow it. When they do, you make money on the pages read not the sales made. Of course, this means KDP Select members often make money straight away. The downside is that it limits your book to Kindle. By being exclusive to Amazon, you can’t sell your book on other platforms. The choice is yours. More Amazon readers but limited to Kindle? Or less immediate Amazon readers but a more open marketplace? Check out Amazon’s explanation of KDP Select for more details and benefits.
Make your choice and tick a box!
Simply decide whether you want your book to be available worldwide or only in certain places.
Royalty and Pricing
Deciding the sales price of your book can be a tricky one. Again, take the time to do your research. Consider factors like book size, your marketing strategy, and the rates of similar books on the market. But Amazon also provides a useful KDP Pricing Support service. It calculates the sales and earning for books similar to your own and provides a recommended pricing plan. So you can select their suggestion. Or you can manually insert your list price and royalty options.
The royalty amount is how much you, the author, receive. So if you select 35% royalty, Amazon will take 65%. If you select 70% royalty, Amazon will take 30%. It seems like an easy choice, right? But remember, certain conditions don’t allow the 70% royalty option. Some countries are excluded, as are public domain eBooks. And you must agree to allow your book to be lendable for 14 days.
But it is the recommended option.
As discussed, this box will automatically tick itself if you choose 70% royalties. If you select 35% royalty, you can still choose to select this lending option. It is a good way to spread the word about your book!
Finally, click the magic button and publish your kindle eBook!
Step 10: Market your book
Once Amazon has approved the publication of your book on KDP, it is time for marketing. There’s no point in having a brilliant book with a fantastic title and a great cover if you’re not promoting it. This is the stage many writers like to forget. We, writers, must now enter the world of marketing? Nobody said this journey was easy! But it is entirely possible, as long as you are committed and organised. Again, we could write a hundred steps just for this step. Promoting your book is a huge project. But here are some basics you need to consider and research to get started.
Create a Website
Your readers need to know where to find you! It can include background details on your work, information about you, updates on your upcoming books and events, perhaps a blog or photo updates, an email subscription, and, very importantly, links to your social media.
Create a weekly or fortnightly newsletter to keep your fans and readers up to date on your latest news and progress. This is all about creating a community. Show them the face behind the name. Be personal, open, and welcoming. Let people know that you are offering more than just a book; you are giving them a brand, an experience, a chance to be part of something.
Every business, however small, and every self-publisher must have the top three social medias in this world to make themselves known: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Without these three, you will undoubtedly fall through the cracks. But don’t just stop there. Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Goodreads, these are all brilliant social media resources for indie authors. Engage organically and consistently and watch your community grow.
Not a social media fan? No problem! Savage Edits offers a monthly social media marketing plan. We do all the work for you so you can focus on what you do best – writing! Leave the rest up to us. We set up your profile pages, create regular posts, engage with your audience, start and manage campaigns, and increase your followers. Contact us for more details!
However brilliant your book, it won’t be read by the many millions of readers who can’t find you on social media. A necessary evil, perhaps? Or a great way to connect worldwide with readers searching for the next big book breakthrough!
We have written an article Marketing Your Book: Social Media for Writers to help you along the way.
So here it is, your ultimate step-by-step guide on how to self-publish a book. There are 10 key stages in this journey. Once you break it down one by one, it is a simple process. But that doesn’t make it easy. Each stage requires meticulous attention, care for detail, and maintaining the unique spirit and energy that made you want to write in the first place.
Sure, anyone can learn how to self-publish on Amazon. But not everyone knows how to self-publish on Amazon well. They are either speeding through the process, or not marketing properly, or not focusing on the small details that make all the difference. Get a fantastic editor. Work with a brilliant cover artist. Hire an excellent formatter. Look for a savvy social media marketer. In those choices, that’s where you stand out. Make the extra effort, invest the extra money, spend the extra time.
So you know how to self-publish a book? Now it’s time to make those commitments to yourself and your goals. We guarantee it will pay off.