Why are traditional publishers taking 85% to 90% of a book’s sales?
Okay, sure, that made sense in the 1950s, and even in the 1990s, but the publishing landscape today is very different.
The cost of publishing a book in the past was incredibly expensive. You had to do the printing, the shipping, the warehousing, the distribution, all the marketing, and handle all the returns. For many years, that was the only path available to someone who wanted to publish a book, and so publishing companies sprang up to take all the work beyond writing off the author’s shoulders.
Because they were providing so many services, they could charge whatever they liked. Authors could take it or leave it—and if they left it, their book wouldn’t be published and their insights wouldn’t be shared with their audience.
Today, with ebooks and print-on-demand publishing, the cost structure of the industry has changed. You can have low investment and get a much higher return.
In my experience, working with hundreds of authors across the world and publishing thousands of books, I’ve found that most authors sell about 80% of their books in the ebook format.
If you look at the numbers from back in 2013, ebook sales hit $4 billion in the US, with physical book sales that year at $10 billion. For some markets, these numbers are not exactly accurate—but regardless, we know the ebook segment has been growing tremendously while physical book sales are holding steady, or sometimes even dropping significantly in certain markets.
These days, people are already buying about 1½ to 2 ebooks for every physical book. The only reason why digital format sales have not surpassed physical book sales is because of the low price of ebooks compared to physical books. In 2018, according to projections by the consulting firm PwC, ebooks will edge out print and audio books as the most lucrative segment.
That’s bad news for the traditional publishers but good news for self-publishing authors.
Self-publishing has opened the doors for a lot of authors to bring their artistic vision to life and share it with readers around the globe. They have commandeered their careers and turned their dreams into reality.
How to Publish a Book on Amazon
I want to share with you how you can take control of your career as an author, and how you can earn up to a 70% royalty with every book you sell through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
It’s easier than you might think!
1. Sign In to Your Account
Open up your web browser and go to https://kdp.amazon.com/. This is the Kindle Direct Publishing website, where every self-published author goes to publish on Amazon Kindle. Click on Sign in.
If you don’t have an Amazon account yet, you need to sign up to use this Amazon service. Enter your email address and click on I am a new customer. Then just follow the on screen instructions to complete sign up.
If you already have an account and are a returning customer, all you have to do is to enter your email and your password, then click on Sign in using our secure server.
2. Complete Your Profile Information
After signing in your KDP account, the first thing you’ll see is your Dashboard. This will lists all the books that you’ve published so far. If you’re a new author and haven’t published any, it will be empty.
Let’s assume that you haven’t published any books yet. The first thing that you need to do is to complete your profile information. You will not be able to publish any books on Amazon until you have completed your account information.
Complete Your Address
Tell Amazon How You Want to be Paid
Most authors want to be paid through their bank account, but check payments is also an option. You will also have the option to choose the mode of payment for each of the markets you sign up for later.
Update Your Tax Information
In order to pay you, Amazon needs some basic tax information.
Once you’ve completed your profile information, save the information. You’re now ready to add your book. Go back to your account dashboard and click on + Kindle eBook.
3. Enter Ebook Details
Keep in mind that you can always come back here and change the information any time you want. So don’t fret too much and just do the best job possible.
Select the Language of Your Book
Select the language the book is written in.
Enter Your Book Title
Enter the title of your book, along with the subtitle, series, volume, and edition of your book. If you’re writing a trilogy or a nonfiction series, you must enter the series name and volume. For the edition, if this is the first edition of your book, you can leave it blank.
Add the Author and Contributor Names
Add your name on the Primary Author or Contributor field and put the name of the other people who took part in creating your enook in the Contributors field. You can add the name of your editor, anyone who wrote a foreword or introduction, the illustrator, narrators, photographer, and translator.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any of these or don’t want to add them—it’s the author name that’s the most important.
Add Your Book Description
The book description is one of the more important parts of uploading your books to Amazon. Most authors don’t understand the power of the book description.
Amazon gives you 4,000 characters to write a book description, and every time you type something, it counts down. You want to use as many of those 4,000 characters as you can, because this is where you inform your customers what your book is about and whether it is for them or not.
This is your first pitch to your customer, and the more detailed your book description, is the more customers you’re going to get.
Take the time to write a really good description because it is one of the biggest influences when readers are deciding whether to buy your book.
One very important point to make is that your book descriptions should be well edited. There should be no typos, no grammatical errors, usage errors, and so on. It would not make for a great first impression if your description wasn’t well written!
For nonfiction authors, it’s best to indicate in the book description what’s the book is about, what it’s going to cover, what it’s going to solve, and practically all details that tell your reader why this book is good for them.
For fiction authors, you’d want to focus more on who’s the main character of the book, what’s the goal, who’s the villain, what’s the obstacle, what’s going on in the story, and basically any descriptions that will engage your readers. You can include a synopsis, an excerpt of your book, or an author’s bio.
4. Verify Your Self-Publishing Rights
This section is where you declare your copyrights. You can’t really publish any public domain works on Amazon today and charge for them. Your book has to be original.
So select I own the copyright and I hold the necessary publishing rights.
5. Choose Your Keywords
Keywords are actually phrases that customers type in to search for your book. It’s important to know that Amazon only ranks your product on the keywords that you select here. If you want to know how effective the keywords you want to use are, you can try using K Optimizer 2.0.
Amazon allows you to choose up to seven keywords for your ebook. Make sure each one is pertinent to your book.
For instance, if you have a sci-fi book, you might want to choose keywords like science fiction novel, sci fi novel, sci fi, space sci fi, etc.
6. Select Your Ebook Category
The list of categories found inside your KDP account is actually Amazon’s version of the bestsellers list. So these are the categories where your book can rank…and get in front of more readers.
Here’s the tricky part. If you choose a very competitive category and your ebook doesn’t rank for it, that category won’t help you with your sales. And if you choose a category that’s less competitive but not relevant for your ebook, your readers might not ever find it, because they’re not looking in that category.
If you want to learn more about choosing the right category for your book, visit our training program at http://bestsellerrankingpro.com/.
In your KDP account, you need to choose two categories in order to publish your ebook on Amazon. Click on Set Categories.
In the popup window, select the category that’s most relevant to your book and click Save. If you chose the wrong category, just click on Remove.
7. Select Age and Grade Range
The majority of writers just leave this blank. This is really not necessary unless you are writing a children’s book.
If you do have a children’s book, just select the age range, and for educational books, select the appropriate grade level.
8. Select Your Book Release Option
This section allows you to choose between pre-order or ready to release. If you choose the option I am ready to release my book now, Amazon will review your book and it will be available in the next 72 hours.
If you choose the option to Make my Kindle eBook available for Pre-order, you will be given an option to set a release date up to 90 days in the future. This is ideal if you’re planning a big launch for your book and you have a strategy to maximize your launch potential.
Click Save and Continue to proceed to the next steps.
9. Upload Your Book File
Decide on DRM
Okay, this is a controversial topic. Should you enable DRM? Digital rights management or DRM is a coding strategy that protects your book from pirates and hackers—which, in theory, is awesome. But in practice, enabling DRM may be problematic…and not even really helpful.
Anyone who’s tech-comfortable can break DRM in five minutes flat. All you have to do is Google how to hack into DRM and you’ll get tons of results.
On the flip side, if you’d like to share an ebook with a family member or friend who isn’t very tech-savvy, DRM makes life difficult—and can even make sharing impossible.
So it really doesn’t do anything to protect your book and it makes for a frustrating experience for those trying to share your book.
Personally, I don’t enable DRM. But this is my two cents and I recommend you dig deeper into this topic to form your own opinion, because there are definitely people on both sides of the issue.
Upload Your Ebook Manuscript
In the article How to Format Your Book for Amazon Kindle in 30 Minutes, I’ve shown you how to prepare your manuscript for upload in Kindle. Make sure you have followed those steps before uploading your book.
Click on Upload eBook manuscript.
The biggest mistake that a lot of new authors make is that they do not format their ebooks properly, and that gives a very bad impression to readers. People who buy these poorly formatted books leave bad reviews, because poor formatting makes it difficult to read and creates a very bad reading experience.
That’s not the reader experience you want to offer! So take the time to create a good-looking ebook.
10. Upload Your Book Cover
You can create a cover using Amazon’s Cover Creator tool or upload your own cover.
In terms of cover design, I always recommend hiring a professional ebook cover designer. That’s because when people are looking for books on Amazon or their Kindle device, they are looking at a very tiny book cover on the screen. It’s 200 x 300 pixels or even smaller, meaning people can’t see very fine details or tiny text. The most important thing about ebook cover design is that your title or text is all easily readable.
If you have a hand-painted cover with lots of colors, details, and texture, it would look amazing on a physical book cover. But with ebook covers, you won’t see any of the details and texture. It’s best to have simple, clean, well-designed imagery. Having two or more images will appear cluttered and your readers won’t be able to focus to immediately see what your book is about.
A professional designer will know how to create a cover that pops in thumbnail size.
You can also read through Amazon’s guidelines for book covers for help.
11. Preview Your Book
This option allows you to preview your book on the Kindle e-reader and tablet. Click on the Launch Previewer button.
On the preview screen, you can check the formatting and test all the links. I highly recommend you take advantage of this tool because if there are any formatting mistakes, you can find them there and fix everything before publishing.
To continue publishing your book, just click the top-left button: Book details.
12. Add the ISBN
This is optional. You don’t need an ISBN to publish an ebook. If you’re a self-published author, in fact, I recommend not including it. If you include an ISBN for your book, it’ll be tracked by the traditional publishing industry. And that’s not always a good thing.
If you’re self-published author who’s trying to get a traditional book deal, they’ll investigate the sales of your ebook, and if you have less than 5,000, they’re going to think you’re too small. Your sales record could “stain” your reputation in the traditional publishing world.
My advice is, don’t list an ISBN unless you’re sure you can push your sales to more than 5,000.
Adding the publisher is optional, too, but I highly recommend it. Having an official publishing business for your work makes it look more legitimate to readers and also helps you keep everything straight at tax time.
Click on Save and Continue to go to the next steps.
13. Enroll in KDP Select
KDP Select is a 90-day program where you pledge to exclusively publish your ebook on Amazon. This does not include audiobooks and paperbacks—just your digital version. It means you can’t publish the book on your website and other third-party sites like Nook, Smashwords, and so on.
I highly recommend KDP Select to both brand-new and experienced authors. It offers you a lot of audience-building and sales opportunities you won’t get otherwise.
One cool feature of KDP Select is that if a customer is on Amazon Prime, they can borrow your book for free; Prime customers get to borrow one free book each month. So if you enroll in KDP Select, you can tap into a huge group of potential customers, gaining an opportunity to covert them to loyal followers.
And on top of that, Amazon will pay you every time your book is borrowed! It’s about $1.30 to $1.40 a copy, depending on how your book is priced.
Click on Visit the Promotions Page to manage your KDP Select Enrollment to enroll in KDP Select.
14. Verify Your Publishing Territories
Whether you want to publish your ebook worldwide or just in specific regions, this is the section where you select those options.
Typically, you’d want to choose the option to publish worldwide. But if you have some kind of book deal in specific territories like the UK or Germany, you would need to deselect those markets.
15. Set Your Pricing and Royalty
You can choose to either have a 35% royalty or a 70% royalty. You might be thinking, why would you choose the 35% royalty?
Well, if your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99, you can get the 70% royalty. If it’s priced higher or lower, you may have to select the 35% royalty.
Once you have selected the royalty option, you can start setting the list price for all the different countries. Once you enter the price for the US market, it will auto-populate the prices for the different markets. You might want to change these amounts manually to match the prices prominent in each market.
Once you have finished putting in the pricing, there are a couple of things that you might want to take notice of.
The first is the delivery cost. The delivery cost is usually priced at $0.01; if it’s over $0.15, then your ebook probably contains a lot of images or has some other factor creating a much larger file size. You might want to compress the image or reformat your file to reduce the delivery cost.
Next to the delivery cost is your estimated royalty rate. This is roughly the amount you can expect to get for every sale you make.
16. Enroll in the Kindle Matchbook Program
If you enroll in the Kindle Matchbook Program, a reader who has bought your physical book can opt to get an ebook copy at a discounted price. This only matters if you have a physical copy of your book produced through CreateSpace or another service, and made available through Amazon.
If you have a physical book, then I recommend that you check this box and select the paid option.
17. Accept the Terms and Conditions
The very last step is to click on Publish Your Kindle Ebook to accept the terms and conditions box.
I highly recommend reading the terms and conditions. I know that all the legal jargon can make it difficult to read, but it’s always better to be informed about the contract that you’re signing with Amazon.
If you have not selected pre-order, you can expect your ebook to appear on Amazon within 72 hours. If there are errors to be fixed, things to be changed, or information that Amazon needs to tell you, you’ll receive an email from them.
These 17 steps to publishing your book on Amazon show you how fast and simple it is to publish a book. It’s my hope that this has ignited a fire in you to continue writing your book, get it done, and share it with the world.
Are you ready to try these steps and take control of your career as an author?
If you’re ready to take the next steps to create your author career, check out our free video training series at eBookPublishingSchool.com.
For more on how to start your career as a writer, check out these great posts:
- How to Format a Book for Kindle in 30 Minutes
- 6 Key Foundations to Marketing Success
- The Two Most Powerful Marketing Strategies
Kate Sullivan is an editor with experience in every aspect of the publishing industry, from editorial to marketing to cover and interior design.
In her career, Kate has edited millions of words and helped dozens of bestselling, award-winning authors grow their careers and do what they love!