View Full Version : A simple guide to Self-Publishing through Amazon

04-15-2016, 11:21 PM
Hey there. I've been asked by a potential author to help guide her through the process of getting started. I've put together the guide below... but I'm no expert. Anyone want to look it over, and let me know if there's anything I could add to it? I'd owe you a beer, or non-alcoholic beverage of your choice, collectible the next time you're visiting the Dayton Ohio area... :D

So, you wanted to know how to self-publish your book. You've told me that it's twelve pages, and you made it with MS-Word. You have a goal of wanting as many people as possible to read it.

Bad news first: The only way I know how to get into print that doesn't cost money requires manuscripts with a minimum of twenty-four pages. Yours is only twelve, so for now you might have to settle for just e-books, unless you feel you can flesh it out some more.

Good news: If you stick with an ebook format, you can self-publish and put your book out there for readers. I can't promise anything, but I can tell you how to set it up so that you have the possibility of success.
And I can tell you how to do it without spending any money.

My estimate is that your best chance of success with the least amount of complication is to use Amazon. There are a number of reasons for this, but also I'm recommending it because it's the service I have the most experience with. Ask another self-published author, and they might tell you something different. That's fine, no two of us get here the exact same way.

You'll need a few things, first. Once you get these set, you're mostly ready to roll.


1. A Kindle Reader or a Kindle Reader App: You're going to be working with Kindle books, so you need to understand what they look like. If you have a kindle reader already, great. But if you don't have one, that's fine too. All you need is a computer. Kindle has a Kindle Reader for PC that's absolutely free. All you have to do is download any free Kindle E-book, and it'll give you an option to get a "Kindle for PC" application that's absolutely free. Get it.

2. Get on Amazon, and search for the ebook "Building Your Book for Kindle": It's a free ebook, and it tells you how to use word to format your manuscript in the way that will make it read properly for Kindles. Read the book over, follow its instructions, and format your manuscript accordingly.

3. Register for an account at https://kdp.amazon.com/ : This is where the magic happens. You're going to have to sign up for an account here. It's free, but... you will have to give them some tax information. Since you have a job, that should be easy. They need this information so that they can pay you royalties. Without it you don't get paid, or you get paid in a way that takes longer and causes problems.

This site also has a ton of guides on how to do self-publishing and answers for various questions, so you'll want to give it a good look-over.

END PART 1: That's pretty much all you need. I'm assuming you've got access to a computer you can use to edit your manuscript.


Here's how to write a good e-book. This is pretty much my method.

1. Write the first draft of the manuscript: Simple enough, eh? But it's the hardest part. You've done that.

2. Find beta readers, and show them the manuscript: Beta readers are friends whose judgement you trust, and who don't mind occasionally hurting your feelings. Ask them politely to read your manuscript, and critique it, and let you know about any errors they find. Finding beta readers can be tough.

You can forgo this step if you absolutely have to, but in my experience it makes for a poorer book.
3. Revise the book after you get the beta's feedback: Once the beta readers point out a problem, fix it. Repeat until the manuscript is free of problems. Now, in some cases it's okay to disagree with Betas. If you've got seven people looking over your stuff and only one of them objects to something, it might not really be a problem. A generally good rule of thumb is to think over why a problem detected by Betas needs fixing. If you agree with them, fix it. If you don't, then let it be.

4. Find an editor, and ask them to look over your manuscript: An editor can be someone who's really freaking good with grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the works. They're like an advanced version of betas. For some people, they take the place of betas entirely. Finding a good editor is work. Again, you can skip this step, but in my experience it makes for a poorer book.

5. Fix the problems the editor points out: Again, like betas, you can disagree with your editor if you want. But think harder than you would for the betas. You went to the editor for help, and asked them to do a hard job. Do you really not trust their judgement? If so, then why go to them in the first place?

6. Make sure that the format works for kindle: This is where you bust out your copy of "Building Your Book for Kindle", and making sure that your document matches Kindle's requirements. Do whatever fiddly little bits you have to to clean it up.

7. Make sure the Title kicks ass: Ideally you want a title that grabs people's attention. One of the best ways to do this is to browse amazon for the type of book you're selling, and see what the best-sellers in your categories have for their titles. Short and Snappy or Long and Sappy? Hard to say. See what works. Or if you come up with a badass idea, go with that. A title is the Third most important part of the "Big Three."

8. Get an Okay or Good Cover Image: Okay, so there are three things that really sell a book on Amazon. Of them, the cover's probably the most important. A lot of writers (like me) get by with commissioning artists to draw their covers. But you're going for free, right? So if you don't want to spend money on it, there's two ways I can see. The first way is to do up a simple but attractive image in photoshop or something like that. The second way is to find some free clip art, and use that. You can also hit up a friend who's good with photoshop, and beg them to make you a cover. If you go the clip art route, make sure the clip art includes a statement that it's okay to use as a book cover, or for profit purposes. If the clip art site doesn't say that, then don't use it.

The advantage for you is that you're working in non-fiction. Non-fiction can get away with simpler covers, and abstract images. Not so much in my genre...

Anyway, a cover is THE most important part of the "Big Three."

QUICK NOTE: Do remember that when you're browsing in Amazon, the cover's going to show up as a tiny thumbnail image. So you want a cover that's scaled to look good at that level, as well as the full image that appears when you click on the book entry.

9. Write up an Attractive Blurb: What's a blurb? Well, go click on an ebook in Amazon. See where it tells you what the book is about? That's a blurb. Think of it like the inside jacket cover of a hardback.

An ideal blurb is about 1-3 paragraphs, and if you can get it short and concise, that's the optimal route. You don't have to explain the whole plot of the book, but you have to explain enough that a person knows what they're buying when they hit that "buy" button. And ideally, you make it interesting enough that they're curious. A good blurb is the second most important part of the "Big Three."

END PART TWO: This is really the hardest part, I find. Most of it's on you, except for the parts where you have to rely on other people. Now, if you find you can't complete some of this, you can pay people to do the stuff on this list you cannot. But the risk there is that's money spent you might not make back, so be cautious. We'll get into options there later, at the end of this guide.


This part's easy if you're good with computers and filling out forms. If not, then you might have to read some of the FAQs and guides on the KDP site, or find a youtube tutorial. Or get a tech-savvy friend to help you walk through this part.

1. Get to KDP Select

2. Head to your Bookshelf

3. Click on the "Create New Title" option.

4. Fill out everything you need to fill out: Follow through the drop-down boxes and text boxes until everything's answered properly, and your manuscript and cover are uploaded.

5. Review your manuscript in the Kindle Previewer: Make sure it looks right, and there are no glaring errors. If your book doesn't look right, then you'll have to go back and edit the manuscript until it looks right. That's fine, keep at it until it looks right.

NOTE: At some point during this part, you'll have to select two categories for your book, and up to seven keywords. These are important. Putting your book in the right category will help people find it easier. Adding the right and correct keywords will make your book turn up more often when people search for things on Amazon.

This is a part where personal judgment comes into play. We might have to discuss this separately, feel free to shoot me an email with questions when you get to this stage and if you want help with it.

6. Hit the button to move on to page 2: This will take you to royalties, pricing, and all the fun stuff.

7. Choose a price: Now, honestly? Your book's going to be very short. So I'd recommend a price point of ninety-nine cents. This will limit you to 35% royalties, so you'll see about thirty-four cents per copy sold. That's entirely fine. It adds up.

8. Put your book into Kindle Select: Your goal is to be read by as many people as possible. Kindle Select means that people don't have to buy your book to read it... anyone with a Kindle Unlimited membership can check it out for free. However, for each page of it they read, you'll get about half a cent. So you'll get a nickel out of each full read.

This adds up, and it helps your goal. No reason not to go for it.

9. Distribute to all territories: Might as well go worldwide, what've you got to lose?

10. Fill out the other little details on that page.

11. When you're done, save and publish your book.

12. Head back to the Bookshelf and check out your book: It'll say something like "Under Review" for a while, then it'll appear on Amazon within about a day or so.

13. Celebrate! Seriously, You've done something that very few people actually manage to do... you're an author now and forever. This is no small thing. No one can ever take this achievement from you. No matter what comes, you did it.

The power and confidence I gained from that was indescribable.

May it be so for you.



Of course, now that you're a self-publisher, the hard part's ahead. You've got a book out there, now you need to let people know about it.

There are a ton of different ways to market. Many of them cost money. I'm going to go through the cheap and easy stuff that worked for me.

1. Check how your book looks on Amazon: Go see that the picture came out right, the blurb reads properly, and the entry looks good overall. If something's wrong, fix it early before too many people notice.

2. Set up an Amazon author page: Head out to https://authorcentral.amazon.com/ Sign up and fill out the forms and get an account. Upload a good picture of yourself, and write up a small bio. Keep the bio short. Add your book to your author page. You can look up my author page if you want to see an example. Mine's not the best out there, but it does the job.

3. Post on your social networks about what you've done: Facebook, Twitter, whatever, you know what to do. It's bragging time! Let your friends and family and contacts know that you wrote a book! They'll probably be some of the first to buy it. Even more, they'll talk about it to THEIR friends and family.

4. Work the Online Communities: Post on any online communities that you spend time in, let your friends there know you wrote a book. Maybe put a link to it in your sig.

5. Find writing communities and learn from it: If you aren't in any writers' communities yet, I'd recommend heading there now or even before the marketing part. Talk with other writers, get to know them, see what they do and figure out how to do the stuff that works and avoid the stuff that doesn't. There are two good sites I spend a lot of time on... AbsoluteWrite.com, and Kboards.com. Both are very good places to learn the ropes, and see what other people are doing. This may also let you set up marketing efforts with other writers.

6. Occasionally check on how your book is doing: About once a day or two, head on out to the KDP Select website, log in, and check your reports. This will show you how well your book is selling. It will also show you how many pages people are reading through Kindle Unlimited.

A lot of authors check this site multiple times a day. (I'm guilty of this.) It can get addictive, and fun to watch, but try to moderate it. If lack of sales start annoying you, leave it for a while because it'll just depress you. Seriously, don't let it get you down. You got this far without spending money, right? Every cent that you make is money you didn't have before, right? Keep your expectations low. You're planting seeds, that's all. Some grow faster than others.

7. Be in Kindle Select: Oh hey, you're doing that already! Yeah, it's pretty much free marketing. See, the folks in Kindle Unlimited are paying for that privilige, so they're reading free books as fast as they can find them. So you'll get more people reading it than you would if you weren't in Kindle Select.

Big-name authors can get away without this step. They have alternative marketing methods, and more importantly, people know their name. Right now nobody knows your name. KU will help fix that, for what's essentially selling your book at a discount. And since the readers matter more to you than the money, well... we already talked about this, yeah?

Alright, that's the basics. There's more things you can do to market, but we'll cover those under advanced tactics. Or maybe you can explore your own avenues...




If you're happy with writing just one book, and had a really hard time getting to this point, then maybe you don't need to worry about this part.

But, if you're like me, if you completed this book and got it published and watched the sales climb, and some part of you said "Yes, this is what I was made to do," then the next step is to write another book.

And make it better than the last one.

How do you make it better?

1. Read: Read books in the category you want to write in. Sounds simple, yeah? Do it. If you can't read and enjoy books about something, writing in that category won't go so hot.

2. Write: Sounds dumb, right? But necessary. Go and practice writing. Do it over and over again, writing about whatever, wherever, whenever. This is called 'Butt in Seat' time, and it's necessary. Got to practice, or else you won't get better.

3. Online discussion: Remember those writer's communities? The online ones that you joined? Go talk stuff over with them, get their advice, see how they progress. Read their journals, read online articles... and take each one with a grain of salt. Not everything you read about writing is going to be helpful. Some of it doesn't apply to you. Some of it's just wrong. But some of it's pretty damn useful.

4. Check out books about writing and publishing: There are tons out there. Rule of thumb? The ones by big-name authors tend to be pretty good. Two I'd recommend are "On Writing" by Stephen King, and "The Well-Fed Self-publisher" by Peter Bowerman. Oftentimes local libraries have these or others that you can borrow for free. Used bookstores are also a good place to look.

That's it. That's all. Simple enough.

An author is someone who has published books.

A writer is someone who's working on more books.

Which do you want to be?



Everything in here is optional, and subject to change. This section includes both things that I haven't tried, or tricks that might not apply to your situation, but might someday. It's also got time-sensitive stuff... viable self-publishing is a very new field. By this time next year, everything could change.

Tactic #1 - Going Deep versus Going Wide: Right now, the method I recommended to you is called "going deep." You are only distributing your ebook through Amazon, and you are putting it in the Kindle Select group. You are only worrying about uploading it to Amazon and selling it through Amazon.

This works right now because Amazon is kicking the ass of most other online ebook vendors. About a 60% market share? Something like that.

Going wide is distributing your ebook through everyone you can reach. Apple. Barnes and Noble's Nook. Kobo. D2D. Now, if you haven't heard of these? That's because Amazon is kicking their ass, mostly.
Some people go deep, and have great success. Some people go wide, and have great success. Generally the rule of thumb is to try one method, give it half a year or so and see if it works out, and if it doesn't then maybe consider switching.

Now, the thing with going wide is that you can't go wide with a book and have it in Kindle Select. You also have to learn how other ebook services manage their uploading and formatting and royalties and whatnot. Me, I decided that I didn't want to mess with that until writing was my full-time job. Maybe not even then, since... yeah, repeat after me, Amazon is kicking too much ass.

But if it turns out you aren't getting many KENP read, if you aren't getting many Amazon reviews, if you aren't seeing movement enough to make you happy... well, it might be time to consider expanding, pulling your book out of Kindle Select and going wide.

I'm not to that point yet. So it's your call, if and when you get there.

Tactic #2 - Finding Reviewers: Normally the best way to get Amazon reviews is to wait for people to read your book. But if you feel they aren't coming fast enough, then you can try and figure out the best bloggers, podcasters, or other book reviewers to review your book. Contact them and ask them to review it. Maybe you'll have to send them a free copy, but that's fine. The best reviewers for books are going to be different for every genre, so I can't tell you who this is for you.

So far this tactic hasn't been working out for me, but it's costing me nothing to try. And if I find the right reviewer, it could pay off.

Tactic #3 - Local Events: Since your book's too small for physical copies, I'm going to skip conventions, bookstores, libraries, and the like. But... how are you at talking with groups of people? You could find programs or events that deal in the area of your book, and get in touch with the people running them. Offer to speak about your experiences, and tell them that you're an author. People are more likely to listen to a public speaker if that speaker's got cred, and if you're an author in the field you're speaking about, that's cred.

Now this is the important part... when you're speaking, DON'T urge people to buy your book. Just make sure they know you have one. Maybe get some cards made, hand those out. Or make sure that you're on the event program as an author, and give the title of your book.

That way if they like you or like what you said, they have the option to buy your book. Never make buying your book an obligation... that's just rude.

Tactic #4 - Spread out in Social Media: I have a facebook author page now, I didn't used to. I'm on Twitter now, I didn't used to be. I'm blogging, too. Not a thing I did before writing. You need a footprint, you need to have an online presence. It really does help sell books.

Tactic #5 - Get a website: If it gets to the point where you're earning enough to pay for a website, then look into getting one. Now, mind you, there are ways to get websites for free, but they usually require you to be web-savvy. Wordpress is good for that, if you can handle setting it up.

Tactic #6 - Buying advertisements: Don't bother with TV or radio or the local newspapers, they're usually too pricey. Figure out where the demographic you're aiming at browses the web, and buy ads there. This is always a gamble, as you're putting up money that might not cover the return. Never spend more than you can afford to lose.

Tactic #7 - Paying for stuff you can't do: If you want a good cover but can't make art yourself? You can pay for it. If you want to format your manuscript for Kindle but aren't savvy enough with MS-Word? Well, you can pay for that. If you want betas and an editor but no one is available for free? Yeah, you can pay for those too.
Go to the online writer communities, look for people advertising on those. Or check out fiverr.com, if you're on a budget.

But the more you do yourself, the less it'll cost you, and the more return you'll see on your book. And you know the fun thing?

You can go back and change your ebook later. So for example if you want a good cover but can't afford it, then you put in an OKAY cover to start, then use the royalties to pay for a good cover and upload it later.
Or you could do what I did... beg, borrow, and get a favor from friends to have them help you photoshop your first covers, and use the royalties from those to pay for your next cover.

Tactic #8 - Taxes: Not really a tactic, but more of a caution. Remember that tax information you filled out on Amazon? They need it to send tax forms to you every year. And they'll do this because you'll have to report any royalty income on your taxes. Be aware that it may affect your tax payment or refund. Now a little profit? That won't mean much, you can count it as a hobby. But if it gets to be more than your job? (Small chance, but the chance is always there.) If that happens, get your butt to an accountant or firm posthaste. You'll want to know how to handle this.

Who knows? You might end up having to declare yourself an LLC to save money. Which is surprisingly easy, but that's another guide entirely...


There's an epilogue, but it's tailored to her, so I'll leave it out.

04-16-2016, 12:30 AM
Haven't read through the whole thing yet, but for covers there's also the option of signing up for a free trial with a stock photo website. Then you just cancel the subscription before the trial is up :)

/may or may not have 60 high-res photos of shirtless dudes hoarded on her computer

04-16-2016, 12:42 AM
Haven't read through the whole thing yet, but for covers there's also the option of signing up for a free trial with a stock photo website. Then you just cancel the subscription before the trial is up :)

/may or may not have 60 high-res photos of shirtless dudes hoarded on her computer

Heh! Sure, for "cover purposes." Uh-huh. :D

I think I'll save that lesson for a future discussion with her. File that under advanced tactics. ;D

04-16-2016, 05:43 AM
Heh! Sure, for "cover purposes." Uh-huh. :D

I think I'll save that lesson for a future discussion with her. File that under advanced tactics. ;D

Not so advanced! I managed it, after all ;D

This is a great guide, though! Very nice of you to write this up for her.

04-17-2016, 08:20 PM

To be honest, I really want her to get there. Her book is about how she survived some really bad things, and she might be able to help a few more people get through similar situations if she can make it available for widespread viewing.

Sagml John
04-18-2016, 10:27 PM
Thanks for sharing and caring! Here is something I am trying myself (Step 4 or maybe 6) -- If she likes to write short -- especially memoirs -- there are sites that have lists of flash fiction publishers. I see mostly memoirs, even though it is flash "fiction". Getting published gets no income but a chance to plug her ebook in a bio. Google around for flash publisher lists...

J. Tanner
04-19-2016, 03:47 AM
If it were my friend, I would recommend putting it on a free blog rather than trying to sell it. It's much easier.

If my friend were determined to try and sell it, I would temper their expectations by sharing my opinion that 12 pages is far too short for the typical memoir (24 wouldn't change anything) and it's unlikely to generate any significant sales beyond friends. If they're still cool with that, then I'd move on to helping them publish it as economically as possible.

04-20-2016, 07:48 PM
Well, if she gets back to me and says "whoa this is a lot of work" I'll raise these options to her.

I sent it to her a few days ago. Still waiting to hear her thoughts on it.

Sheryl Nantus
04-20-2016, 08:46 PM
Twelve pages, to be honest, is a long blog post. She'd be better off putting it up somewhere and asking for donations rather than going through the motions to self-publish at this point.

The cheapest she might be able to price it is 99 cents on most websites and people flinch at paying that for only 12 pages.

I'd suggest she just put it up somewhere for free and have a virtual tip jar around. It's really not worth her time and money to go through the steps listed.