A long prepared guide on how to publish an e-book is finally here. And, since this is a monster of a post to write and read, we’ll keep it to the point. Here’s everything you need to know before you publish your next or first book.
There are four major part that we are about to explore:
- Writing It
- Formatting For Kindle
- Publish An E-Book
- Marketing The E-Book
Even though we covered the creative part of writing a novel in many aspects over the last two months, this is a bit specific. Because this is the ultimate guide to publishing an e-book, we’ll go through all the steps. We’ll now explore every step along the way and you’ll be perfectly able to publish your next book on your own.
Of course, you’ll probably need some help with editing (I advise you to do so). For that, you can visit the editing guide I wrote. You can also subscribe on the right and you’ll get a handy guide to writing a book in 13 steps where we address editing.
If you are writing specifically for Kindle, you surely have a plan on how to separate chapters, link them and emphasize some parts.
Specific thing about Kindle is that you must export your work in PDF. Then you upload it on their platform but they code it automatically for readers. Now, publishing an e-book on Kindle gives you a lot of options but Kindle gives options to the readers as well. You won’t be able to use larger fonts to emphasize a word or to achieve some effect. Readers decide on fonts as it suits them.
Also, you must break it into chapters so that readers can easily find the chapter they are looking for. Then you must link those chapters to a table of contents in the beginning of the book.
Kindle does have a handy guide that you can download for free and it will help you with step-by-step instructions.
Amazon also produced an in-depth guide (over a hundred pages worth of material) that you can check out here.
Formatting For Kindle
There is a set of rules you must respect if you want your book to be published on Kindle. Luckily, guides are available up there and on Amazon.
These rules ensure great reading experience.
Such rule is that you need a table of contents at the beginning after your copyright page so readers can quickly find chapters they are looking for.
To do so, you’ll need to highlight every chapter and make assign it a special heading style. Once you do that create a table of contents at the beginning and import all the bits of your novel that have the same heading style.
Do not put page numbers or any sort of header or footer content. Kindle is for users primarily and they are free to resize your font so the page numbers will get messy. Also, Kindle calculates pages based on the word-count and the size of a screen displaying the novel and shows it in the bottom left corner.
Definitely read through the shorter guide and keep it open either as you are writing your final draft or after you are finished and wish to format it.
One other bit note is you cover. Do not put your cover inside the manuscript. Cover is uploaded later once the publishing process starts.
Publish An E-Book
The actual publishing is a fast process compared to traditional publishing. It will take you less than an hour to set up everything and up to 72 hours to see your title published. Well, I say 72 hours but it’s under 24 hours usually.
If you are registered on Amazon the account is valid on Kindle Direct Publishing. You’ll scroll down at the bottom of any Amazon page and in the footer in the bottom half of the second column titled ‘Earn Money with Us’ you’ll find a link to KDP.
That’s the link. Click on that and it will take you to a landing page where at the right side and on middle you can choose the medium (Kindle, Paperback, Audio). Click on Kindle.
The new page will pop up and you can sign in or if you’re signed in you’ll see your bookshelf.
The bookshelf will be empty if you’ve never published a title before. So, having a novel or a story ready, you can now add a new title.
First, choose the format. For now go with Kindle and if it’s a novel you are publishing choose later if you want Kindle to produce your paperback or if you would prefer to go with CreateSpace. It’s the same, wither way except Kindle Paperbacks are still in beta.
Click on add new title and you’ll probably need to sign in again. Amazon has a very secure sign in form which times out quickly so no one can break in and you can’t simply forget to sign out.
You’ll now find a lot of fields to fill out.
First is ‘Language’ – Kindle doesn’t support many languages which contain non-English characters in spelling. That’s how it is for now
After this field, you’ll need to enter your title and optionally subtitle.
If it’s a series that you will publish, you’ll have a field where you should put that information in. The title of the series and the number of that publication in the series.
You know how to fill in those information but once you get to the description it can get tricky. I advise you have a copywriter or test out some description way before you start publishing. Once you see that white space which decides if your book will sell or not, you’ll certainly bump into writer’s block!
So, have someone write a description or write a couple of descriptions and test them with a beta audience.
Afterwards, tell Kindle if your book is your own or if it’s a public domain title.
And now we’re at the point where SEO kicks in. This is where you stop looking at Amazon as a retailer and a savior of writers, and start looking at it as a search engine. Of course, it’s the keywords.
You’ll be able to pick seven (magic) keywords to improve the chances of being found in thousands upon thousands of titles. It all depends on your genre, target audience, comfort zone. But, if you are a blogger – you’ll understand how to pick keywords which sell. And if you don’t, lucky you – we have a post on that subject.
Then comes another battle with the system. You have to choose two categories (genre-subgenre). I know, many titles have five categories but all of them had only two to choose, then Amazon added some more.
Choose carefully because you want your book to be in a relevant category but you also want to have a fair advantage with low competition in it. But, if there isn’t a category you want to use (at this point there aren’t many categories you can pick) use the name of your category in keywords to let Amazon know what the book is about.
Choose it your book is ready to publish or you want it available to pre-order (if you’re not a well known author I doubt you’ll have any luck with pre-order).
Manuscript and Cover
After you click on ‘Save and Continue’ button, you’ll be on the second page and you’ll be able to upload your cover (best in .docx, while Smashwords wants them in .doc).
Upload it and let Amazon do a quick spellcheck.
Now you have a choice – either upload your own cover or create one with Kindle. They let you launch their app for cover creation which I wouldn’t recommend because it’s fairly limited. But, if you find something extraordinary which I missed, use it by all means.
Personally, I like simple covers so I use Canva. It has a large collection of templates and they cost very little to nothing. The downside is, you’ll find a lot of covers that are basically the same.
If you want to be original, you can follow some of these links and hire a professional for far less money than it usually costs. This guy has amazing ratings and I think he would design great covers for non-fiction. Be sure to check out this designer who has a great portfolio of covers for fiction.
At the end of the post I’ll put resources so you can find more designers willing to make great covers for anywhere between $5 and $100. Don’t be mistaken, that’s an incredible deal.
This is a subject we talked about before. You basically have three options:
- Kindle Unlimited
- Permanently free
- Have a price
Kindle Unlimited contract binds you to have your title exclusively on Amazon for 90 days. The good side is that you earn every time someone reads a page and there are nice bonuses every month for the most read titles. The downside is that you can’t publish anywhere else. Another good side is that within the 90 days you can select 5 days (don’t need to be consecutive) when the book is FREE to boost your sales and earn some reviews. Or you can set up giveaways.
Permanently free is an option for emerging writers who have more than two titles. Having one title for free and two at a price is a good way to attract readers and get them to know your style. This work best if you have a series. First title should always be free while the rest is priced according to your own rules.
A good thing is to bundle the whole series and sell it at a discount as well. But, the problem is that Amazon doesn’t really allow free titles. So, you need to have your book published on Amazon at a price and somewhere else (through Smashwords) for free. Then let Amazon know there is a free version of your book and ask them politely to match the price. They will tell you that they retain the right to keep the price as it is. But ultimately they will price match the book. The process could take a couple of weeks. But don’t worry, it all ends well.
And finally, the default stage of your title is having a price. You set the price on the third page while preparing your book for publishing.
Prices are usually set based on the word count and the overall audiences’ familiarity with the author. If you have a strong following and write a 100K words you can price it higher than $2,99 or above $3,99. But, if you don’t, you can’t get away with high prices.
People like what they know. You’ll have to have something free aside for them to get to know you. Only then you can pump up the price up to $5. Otherwise, no one will buy it.
Again, this comes to your preference. But, you must keep in mind that word count and your name play a big role in pricing.
Once this is don you simply click publish or schedule publication. It will take anywhere between a couple of hours to 72 hours until your book is properly published. Then starts marketing.
Marketing After You Publish an E-Book
Well that’s obviously a lie. You should have started the marketing before you wrote the book. I’ve written plenty about book marketing before and I’ve talked about promoting a book for very little money, and finally here’s a post about audience building.
With those resources and a few tips here you’ll be ready for everything that comes after publishing your book.
To repeat a great strategy – you need to give so you can receive. The bestselling book Wool by Hugh Howey is a great example of the power of a free story. Mr. Howey wrote Wool as a stand-alone story. He did very little to none promotion but the readers found it and loved it. It’s not even 50 pages long but it has an amazing story (I strongly recommend it). After he saw how appreciated his book was he started writing the rest of the story since Wool gave him a lot of space to work with. Once other stories were published the first part went permanently free. And the full book was pushed to its glory.
So, if you have a series or a few titles that connect to each-other by genre, mood, characters, setting or anything like that, make one free.
The other options are buying ad space and paying to feature your book in newsletters. In previous posts linked above I talked about the power of e-mail. So that’s something you should also consider.
Resources and Conclusion
You’ll have a hoot with publishing and it all boils down to patience and creativity. I listed the resources for good book covers below so be sure to check them out.
I gave you the guidelines of those steps that are the same for everyone. The rest is detail and you can modify anything based on your own needs. If you have some cool ideas on publishing be sure to leave a comment below and start a nice discussion!
First: Resource link 1
Second: Resource link 2
Third: Resource link 3
Plus the two in the post above. Good luck!
Author: Mladen Reljanović
Mladen Reljanović is the founder and lead writer at Writer to Writers. He is the author of Oaktown stories, senior student of communication and a pianist.