There is a huge variety of options for self publishing a print book today, but none of them is as cost-effective and simple as Print-on-Demand (POD) publishing with KDP Print or IngramSpark.
In this article, I’m going to show you exactly how to self publish your book in paperback with POD publishing using KDP Print.
What is Print-on-Demand Publishing?
Print-on-Demand publishing, often just called POD for short, is a business model that uses digital printing and just-in-time inventory management to transform the way physical books are printed and delivered to readers. When Amazon.com started selling books online twenty years ago, they had physical inventory. If you ordered a book online, that book was sitting in a warehouse along with thousands of other books. When you ordered, someone would go to the warehouse, pick the book you ordered, pack it and ship it to you.
With POD publishing, there is no warehouse! The book you order on Amazon.com from a POD publisher is printed AFTER you order the book. The printer (KDP) simply has the print files sitting in a computer database, and sends those files to a printing machine to print the book. Then, that book is packed and shipped to the reader, and it shows up at your door in 48 hours or less.
Print-on-Demand publishing is amazing for independent authors, self publishers and small publishing companies because you no longer have to invest in inventory or warehouses. Even traditional publishers are using POD publishing for their backlist titles.
In my experience, POD publishing is the method of printing physical books that will be most profitable for the vast majority of self published authors. However, this method is NOT right for every author.
Who Should Use Print-on-Demand Publishing?
Print-on-Demand (POD) publishing is probably right for you if you are publishing a book with the following characteristics:
- Less than 500 pages
- Nonfiction or fiction
- Black and white printing
- You are publishing a book in full color that is less than 100 pages in length
Print-on-Demand is also great for you if you don’t want to worry about managing print orders, warehousing, fulfillment or paying for bulk print runs.
Print-on-Demand (POD) publishing is probably NOT a good fit for you if:
- Your book is a large art book or coffee table book (because you’ll need higher quality offset printing in color and the cost of POD publishing in color is very high)
- Your book is a children’s picture book (because you will probably want higher quality offset printing in color and the cost of POD publishing in color is very high)
- Your book is longer than 500 pages (because the cost of printing so many pages with Print-on-Demand is high)
- You are publishing a book in color over 100 pages in length (because the cost of POD publishing in color is very high)
How to Use Print-on-Demand Publishing with KDP Print
Make sure your book has been professionally edited. You can read our full guide on how to find an editor.
For a detailed look at the self-editing process of an author who has sold more than 19 million books, see the interview on self-editing here.
Make sure your book has been professionally proofread in order to fix typos and grammatical errors.
Interior Book Design and Formatting
Make sure your manuscript is properly formatted for KDP Print.
We have a free tutorial on how to format a book for KDP Print.
If you don’t want to learn how to layout and design your book for print by yourself, you will definitely want to hire a professional book interior designer who understands the requirements and industry standards.
If you do not know the trim size you would like for your book, talk to your designer to see what size may be right for your project. The most common trim size for trade paperbacks is 6”x9”. If you’re writing a manual or workbook and want a larger size, you’re probably looking at 8”x10” or 8-1/2″ x 11”.
Your print-ready book file should be in PDF format if you’re publishing with KDP (but you can use Microsoft Word or InDesign to do the interior layout and design work and save those files in case you need to make changes or edits in the future).
You will need to have your interior designed first so that you can send your cover designer the exact trim size and page count for sizing the book cover properly (You can have your book designer design the front cover while waiting for the interior designer to finalize the book file for print if you wish). If you already have an eBook cover designed, all you need is the spine and back cover designed and added to the existing book cover to finalize your cover for print.
You will want to hire a professional book cover designer. Make sure to get several quotes, check their previous work to see if their style suits your needs, and do your market research so you know what kind of book covers are appropriate for your market. For example, if you’re publishing a horror novel, you probably won’t want lots of pink color and butterflies on the cover.
Book cover files will need to be in PDF format if you’re publishing with KDP.
Read our full guide on how to find a book cover designer.
KDP Account Setup
Create your KDP account at kdp.amazon.com.
Make sure your account information with KDP is completed including your tax information and bank account information so Amazon can pay you royalties on your book sales.
Here’s the information KDP will need to publish your book:
- Primary Author
- Series Title and Volume (if applicable)
- Edition Number (if applicable)
- Publication Date
- Interior Type: You can choose Black & White or Full Color. Printing in color will cost significantly more and is very rarely profitable for print-on-demand books.
- Paper Color: You can select white or cream. For most books, I find white paper looks and feels brighter and fresher.
- Trim Size (see above)
- Book Interior File in PDF Format (see above)
- Cook Cover in PDF Format (see above)
- Cover Finish: You can select Matte or Glossy. This is largely a matter of personal preference. Feel free to order proof copies with both cover finishes to compare.
- Book Description (Up to 4,000 characters, about 700 words or so)
- Author Biography (Optional)
- Country of Publication
- Amazon Search Keywords (Up to 7)
- Contains Adult Content? This is just a checkbox. Select it if your book has adult content such as Erotica.
- Large Print? This is another checkbox. Select this if your book is specifically formatted for the visually impaired and has at least 16 point font.
KDP offers several distribution channels:
This is where you will make most of your sales and earn most of your royalties if your book is in English because the US market is so big.
This distribution channel allows Amazon to print and distribute your books across Europe. Usually you will see about 5-10% of the sales you get from Amazon.com in Europe for books in English.
Bookstores and Online Retailers
By enabling this distribution channel, you can make your book available to thousands of major online and offline bookstores and retailers, and expand the size of the potential audience for your books. Basically, these retailers can now purchase your book through KDP.
Libraries & Academic Institutions
Your book must have a KDP-assigned ISBN to be eligible for this option. If you have your own ISBN, you can still sell and deliver paperback books printed by KDP to libraries and academic institutions (you just can’t select this option inside your KDP account if you have your own ISBN).
How Much Does Publishing a Paperback Cost?
Finally, you have to select your pricing in USD, GBP and EUR (US Dollars, British Pounds and Euros respectively).
Depending on the page count and color options, the cost of printing your book will change. Amazon will set a minimum list price you can sell your book for on Amazon based on these costs. You cannot sell your book on Amazon for a price lower than the print cost, because KDP wants to make a profit.
How Can You Get an ISBN Number?
You can purchase ISBN’s through Bowkers at www.myidentifiers.com. ISBNs start at $125 per one ISBN, but the price goes drastically if you purchase more. If you plan to publish more books in the future, you should probably buy 10, 100 or 1,000 ISBN’s to take advantage of the large discount when you buy more at once.
Once you purchase your ISBN through Bowkers, you will have to assign one of the ISBN’s you purchased to your book by filling in the metadata, or information, about your book including the book title, subtitle, author(s), language, format, trim size, imprint, etc. If you are setting up your own imprint through your publishing company, email [email protected] to request they add a new imprint to your account.
KDP will offer an option to use a KDP-Assigned ISBN for free. However, if you select this option, the imprint on record will be KDP, and you will only be able to distribute your book through KDP. Because of these limitations, I highly recommend buying your own ISBN.
Order Print Review Copies
Once your book interior and book cover are designed and you have the print-ready files from your designers, it’s time to actually print a copy of your book and check it out!
You can use KDP’s Digital Proofer software to spot any glaring errors, but it’s always best to print an actual copy of your book and do a final proofing to make sure everything is perfect before releasing the print edition of your book. You will have to pay the cost of printing any proof copies you order plus taxes and shipping (in most cases, it will cost less than $10 per proof copy including shipping and taxes).
Approving Your Proof Copy
Once you’re happy with the proof copy of your book and you’re ready to make your paperback book available for sale on Amazon, you need to let KDP know you have approved the proof. After that, KDP will take about two to five days to make your book live on Amazon.
After Your Book is Published
Your job isn’t done just because your book is now available for sale.
It’s very important that you follow these steps after your book is published to make sure your print books are being properly distributed and promoted on Amazon.com and other online and offline book retailers.
Check Your Book Page on Amazon
Check your book’s page on Amazon to make sure all the information is correct including your book title, description, and book cover.
Merge Your Book Listings
If your book was already published on Amazon in eBook or audiobook or another format, you will want to make sure Amazon properly merges your listings so that readers can quickly buy your book in eBook, print or audiobook format. If you search for the title of your book on Amazon and notice there are two search results for the same book, email KDP support or KDP support and ask them to merge your listings.
Author Central Profile Setup
Set up your Author Central profiles for the US, UK and all other Amazon stores. See video tutorial on how to set up your Author Central author profile.
BookBub Author Profile Setup
See the step-by-step tutorial for setting up your BookBub Author profile on the TCK Publishing blog.
If you have any questions or need help getting your book published in paperback, just post your comments below or contact us here.
More Self Publishing Checklists
Want even more self publishing checklists to make the process faster and easier? Check out our free Kindle Self Publishing Checklist here.
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Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.