Sunday 4 April 2021

Publishing with Amazon

There are pros and cons to publishing with Amazon, but if you've definitely decided you want to self publish your book and have it publicly on sale, I think it's the easiest and most effective place to start.

Some of the advantages are –

You don't need to qualify or be accepted, and there's very little waiting time. It's entirely possible for you to start the process now and have a complete stranger reading your book the following week.

There are no up front publishing costs. Amazon take their cut of each sale before passing the remainder on to you.

You are entirely in control of all decisions such as book content, editing, cover design, title, pricing etc etc. 

The process isn't particularly difficult – and there are lots of online resources showing you exactly what to do.

The author is free to choose their own editor, proofreader, formatter, cover designer etc etc, or opt to do some or all of these things themselves.

Any royalties due are paid monthly (a couple of months in arrears) and you can check frequently to see what you've earned.

You can see your sales figures promptly and as frequently as you wish.

You may publish an ebook (kindle) version, a paperback, or both.

Copyright remains with you.

If you wish to make a change to the book (because you've become aware of a typo for example) you can do so quickly, easily and at no cost.

You can buy 'author copies' at a cheaper rate to sell in person.

Amazon are probably the largest book retailer, so you have the potential to reach a huge worldwide audience.

Some of the disadvantages are –

There is almost no quality control. You may get alerted to some typos or the fact that you've spelled your own name incorrectly on the cover, but most errors will go through unchecked. If you accidentally upload only the first seven chapters not the whole book, that's what will be published. If you upload a story with huge plot holes or grammar so bad it's almost unreadable, that's what will be published.

You will be completely on your own. Unless you pay for help or can get support from a writing group or knowledgeable friends you will have to make every decision yourself and undertake every part of the process yourself. This includes marketing. You may have had adverts from Amazon suggesting you buy a particular book – they usually only do this for books which are already selling well, or if people have chosen to 'follow' you. They won't do that until they've heard of you.

Bookshops very rarely buy from Amazon. That's because they'd have to pay the full cover price and therefore can't make any money. (Some will buy from you directly, if you ask nicely, are a local author and a regular customer.)

Libraries very rarely buy from Amazon. It's easier and cheaper for them (and bookshops) to buy through book distributers – and these companies will be able to supply all the best selling and most frequently requested books.

If you decide to go ahead, here's a quick checklist of what to do...

1. Write a book.

Rewrite it, edit it, get feedback, rewrite it, edit it etc etc until it's as good as you can possibly make it. A professional editor, and / or experienced and reliable beta readers are advised.

Get the book proofread. I strongly advise NOT doing this yourself.

Buy or create a cover image. That's just a front cover for ebooks. With paperbacks you can create the front back and spine and upload as one pdf, or just upload the front cover image and use Amazon's cover creator to sort out the rest.

2. Choose whether the book will be ebook or paperback and format accordingly. If both you will need two files as ebooks don't have page numbers and headers and footers. Amazon provide templates you can use which will take care of things such as the correct page size and margins. Ebooks can be uploaded as a Word doc. For paperbacks you'll need to convert it into a pdf – you can usually do that easily using 'save as' or by selecting the pdf icon in your toolbar.

3. Create an Amazon author account. They might want to check you're really you, and you might have to complete tax forms. You'll need to give your bank details so they can pay you. This can take a while, so maybe do that in advance. You won't be committed to publishing with them if you change your mind.

4. Follow the step by step instructions for uploading your book. You can either use their free ISBN or provide your own. You'll be asked for a description – that's your blurb or sales pitch. Keywords are the words people might type in when searching for books like yours. Categories are the genre (or genres) which best describe your book.

5. Once the text and cover are uploaded you can preview the book online. I strongly recommend you do that carefully, even if you intend to buy physical proofs as it will be quicker to make changes at this stage and spotting mistakes now will save you money on further proof copies after you've made corrections.

You will then have the option to buy one or more physical proofs before you publish the book. Although that will cause a delay it's probably a good idea to see what your finished book looks like before you put it on sale.

6. Next you say where you want the book to be on sale, how much you want to charge and what percentage of royalties you want. There will be a price range to select from and there's an option to get a suggested price guide.

For ebooks you can choose 'KDP select enrolment'. If you do that, readers who subscribe to kindle unlimited can 'borrow' your book and you'll receive a small payment for each page they read. You can only do this if your ebook is available exclusively with Amazon. You enrol for three months at a time, with the option to automatically renew. You can take your book out and publish it other places later if you wish.

7. Press the button to publish your book.

8. Sit back and wait for the money to roll in – or do some marketing to give yourself a chance of that happening.

In case you're wondering ... All my books are available through Amazon. Some of my novels are also published through Ingram Spark (all my new books will be published with them and my entire back list will be added over time). My ebooks are currently available exclusively through Amazon and are enrolled in KDP select (meaning that if you subscribe to kindle unlimited, or sign up for a free trial, you can read them for free.)

If you have any questions feel free to ask. I can't guarantee I'll be able to give a sensible answer, but it's possible!

If you found this post useful or interesting please say so in the comments, as that will encourage me to make further posts on things such as publishing with Ingram Spark, book marketing, creating audio books ...


Lindsay said...

This is the clearest and most detailed advice on Amazon self-publishing that I've ever seen (and I've googled this a few times.) Thank you very much, Patsy. As always, you are generous to less experienced authors.

Dianne Stadhams said...

Incredibly clear and helpful. Thank you for sharing.

Carolb said...

Thank you Patsy. A clear step-by-step guide for anyone wanting to publish via Amazon.

marialynch said...

Thank you, Patsy, for this incredibly clear post on self-publishing through Amazon. I have hemmed and hawed my way over this one as I have a draft novel that will be professionally edited soon, and I have wondered as to the next step. It is a guide I shall keep by me. It has given me a bit more confidence about going down the self-publishing route.
I think the only other thing that concerns me is promoting the book once it's published. From what I can see, it takes up a good amount of a writer's time. Thanks again

Bendywriter said...

Thank you, Patsy. You're a star.x

Jenny Worstall said...

Fantastic guide to publishing on Amazon! Thank you. Only one point I'd like to mention. The last time I published a book with them, after I'd done the ebook using Kindle Create, I didn't have to make another file for the paperback version as they offered to do this (and it worked!). Not sure if this is still the case, as in my experience of using amazon to self-publish over nearly ten years, as soon as I think I understand something, it changes! But it may be the case that using Kindle Create makes it easier to produce a paperback version than it used to be. I remember the formatting was quite tricky in the days of Create Space...

Patsy said...

@ Lindsay, Dianne, Carol and Bendywriter – Thank you. I'm glad it's of interest.

@ Maria – The publishing isn't too difficult. You're right that marketing takes up a lot of time. I'm only just getting to grips with that myself, but will share some tips when I have them.

If anyone who already knows a bit about marketing would like to do a guest post, I'll be very interested in hearing from them!

@ Jenny – Yes, the option to do that does still exist. I've not tried it myself (it wasn't a thing when I first started and I've got into a routine now which involves doing the paperback version first) which is why I didn't mention it. Worth giving it a try though and seeing if you're happy with the result.

Marguerite said...

Such a detailed guide - thank you, Patsy. One day...

Sophie said...

Thanks so much Patsy, really useful.

Kate Blackadder said...

Very useful, Patsy, thanks. I've published with Amazon in e-form only so far; it's been helpful to hear about the paperback process.

Cathy Cade said...

That is a neat encapsulation of the process. Amazon's KDP pages give more detail and I found a lot of help by Googling when I proofread and formatted my writing group's first collection.
It came out looking good, which gave me the confidence to try it for myself. That first time, I ordered a proof copy, but it turns up with a green banner across it saying Not For Resale so now I just order one author copy to use as a proof copy. (But, of course, I don't have an army of followers waiting with bated breath for my next offering, so nobody knows but me if it hasn't come out as I want it.) It arrives sooner than a proof copy and I can add it to my stock if it's OK.
Marketing is a pig because I hate selling, but I didn't publish to make a fortune; I did it because I could. The writing group is a u3a group - we're all retired and writing for our grandchildren. We sells ou (2 now) anthologies and our own publications locally and to our u3a group and I've even sold a few copies internationally to blog followers.
I send copies myself to our local library and the libraries where have worked in the past - why take a chance on them buying it? It's cheaper than advertising. If in the UK, don't forget to join ALCS and CLA - no idea of the US equivalents).
I now use Mark Coker's Smashwords Style guide and template to produce the e-book files because his advice is comprehensive, and anything that works for Smashwords will work for Kindle (with a tweak to the copyright declaration).
Then I copy and paste the book into the Styles available on Amazon KDP's formatted templates for the paperback. I enjoy making it look the way I want - which isn't usually the way Amazon set it up, and it does require attention to detail but it isn't rocket science. If you publish the paperback first don't take up their offer to convert it to e-book because pdfs don't make good e-books.
And you don't have to pay a penny if you don't want to. I would say, though, be aware of your limitations (proofreading, copy editing, cover design). If you aren't aware of them now, publishing that first title will show you where they lie. And if you are hoping to make this your career, then be ready to invest in those skills you don't have.

ChrisC said...

Thanks Patsy! I really interesting read, I ve been wondering how it all worked. Ut it seemed complicated. You ve explained it in easier terms! Thank you

Fay Knowles said...

Fantastic guidance on Amazon publishing, Patsy! You have laid it out so clearly. I have published six books on Amazon, but still don't quite understand some of the ins and outs! One thing is that I ticked "Expanded Distribution" when publishing the paperbacks, but only a few of them seem to be available on other book retailers' sites like Barnes & Noble. Have emailed Amazon about this several times, but didn't get anywhere!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a very clear and interesting guide Patsy. Written in an easy, user friendly and knowledgeable style. It will become a go-to guide for many I am sure.
Looking forward to putting it into practice before the year ends myself.
Good luck with your marketing, it is certainly working for me.

Patsy said...

@ Marguerite – It's a big step, but not one I regret taking.

@ Sophie – thanks.

@ Kate – There's a little more to consider with the paperback version, but it's not that much more difficult.

@ Cathy – I totally agree that we're unlikely to be good at everything ourselves and that we should get help, paid for if necessary, in those areas.

@ ChrisC – It is a bit complicated, but can be broken down into easier steps – and in most cases if we get something wrong we can change it later.

@ Fay – If you've selected expanded distribution that means other sites could sell it, but it's their choice, not Amazon's, whether to do so or not.

@ Karelann – I'm pleased it's useful.

Thanks everyone for your comments. It seems there is interest in self publishing, so I'll be providing more posts on the subject.

Liz said...

This is a great guide, Patsy - really clear. I might self-publish some of my stuff at some stage, and shall definitely refer to this post if I do.