Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s self-publishing platform. It enables authors to sell their books to Amazon’s enormous audience—without any upfront costs or jumping the hoops of the traditional publishing industry. KDP authors can earn high royalties through Kindle Direct Publishing and buy paperbacks of their own books wholesale for sale at live events, or other selling venues.
Despite being traditionally published by Simon & Schuster India with You Beneath Your Skin, and my forthcoming book, The Blue Bar, to be published by Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint, I remain curious about self-publishing in general, and Kindle Direct Publishing, in particular.
Dan Antion, my long-time blog friend, has recently made a foray into self-publishing via KDP. He has written and published the popular No Facilities blog since 2011, and a lifelong interest in writing became a reality after he retired from a successful 42-year-long career in information management.
Knuckleheads, published in June 2022, is Dan Antion’s first book in the Dreamer’s Alliance Series. This story introduces the main characters. The next two books in the series will follow in late summer and early winter 2022. Dan is here to speak about how to published a book via Kindle Direct Publishing.
Take it away, Dan!
How Does Kindle Direct Publishing Work?
Having recently published my first novel through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Damyanti asked me to reflect on the guidelines and tools Amazon provided – “the things you would have appreciated at the beginning of your journey.”
Let me start by stating two facts:
1) There are hundreds, if not thousands of posts about publishing with KDP,
2) It remains a platform you have to discover on your own.
That might seem incongruous, but it’s not. Everyone has their own approach to any complex task, and publishing on KDP is complicated. But, as indicated by Damyanti’s question, Amazon provides resources to help. The most significant bit of advice I can give you (warning, I’ll repeat this) is study everything they offer.
Setting up the Kindle Direct Publishing Account
The first thing you need is a Kindle Direct Publishing account. That sounds simple enough, but there are many details to take care of, and the sooner you do that, the better off you are. The last thing you want to worry about when you are ready to publish your book is how you’re going to be paid. As a first-time author, I can tell you, it feels pretty good to sign into your Author Account.
Once you can log into your KDP account, you can begin to learn about the publication process. Amazon offers ways to make that process easy.
Kindle Direct Publishing: Formatting and Cover Design
You can download software to help you write and format your book. You can work with their Cover Creator.
If you’re more hands-on, there are guides for creating your manuscript using Microsoft Word (PC or Mac) and there are templates for each. I am the hands-on type, and I worked extensively with Word for over 25 years, so that was the route I took. Still, it’s not like writing a business report.
The first thing I read was the format guidelines.
Again, I had help from others on this, but it still pays to know what you’re doing. Your writing process will go much smoother if your manuscript looks like you want your book to look. It’s no surprise that Book Formatting is the first topic in Amazon’s list of KDP Tools and Resources. In addition to the specific guidelines, you will find detailed instructions, format guidelines and even templates for different writing environments.
Initially, your list of questions will grow because they mention topics you haven’t considered. The answers are there, and the more you understand, the more likely you are to get the format correct from the beginning.
Pay close attention to page size and margins. Amazon will ask you to choose the page size for paperback and hardcover books. Each page size includes requirements for margins. These requirements vary with the number of pages in your book. “Requirements” is the operative term. If your margins are not adequate for the number of pages in your book, the KDP process will not accept your manuscript.
The next thing that caught my eye, were the guidelines and templates for cover design. If you’re working with a cover designer, maybe this doesn’t interest you. If, like me, you decide to create your own cover, the guidelines and templates provided are essential. If you have a basic idea, photograph, or image, study the guidelines so you know the size and resolution you will need. Look at their template, which for the paperback version will include the back cover, and the spine, to see how much room you have for a photo, author bio and blurb.
If your book is part of a series, you can set up the series in Kindle Direct Publishing ahead of time. Keep in mind you will need to have a Series Blurb as well. KDP presents you with a number of form-pages to complete all the information required for the series (if applicable) and each book you write. These details are important, and many of them cannot be edited once your book is published.
Publishing your Manuscript via Kindle Direct Publishing
Once you are ready to publish your book, you will be assisted in the most important parts of the process. When you upload your manuscript (I uploaded a Word document) KDP will scan the file. If there are problems (margins, for example) the manuscript will be rejected, and you will be told why. Once the manuscript is accepted and processed, you can upload the cover image. The cover is complete, back cover, spine, and front cover, in a single PDF file. Once both files are accepted, you can preview your book. This is your chance to see exactly what your printed (or Kindle) book is going to look like. It’s an arduous process, but you must check each page. If you find errors, or things you want to change, you must make your changes, upload the file, and begin again.
Kindle Direct Publishing: Prices
The last step in the process is to define marketplaces you want your book to appear in and establish the price for each market. Kindle Direct Publishing provides a price and royalty calculator that clearly defines the printing/preparation cost, Amazon’s royalties, and your royalty options. I took advantage of the option to let me set the US Dollar price and have KDP set the price in the other markets based on that.
Kindle Direct Publishing: Proof Copies
The last thing I’ll mention is Proof Copies. Once you have accepted your book, Amazon gives you the option to purchase proof copies for the cost of printing. This lets you see the paperback copy and judge the reading experience for yourself. I had a few beta readers and proofreaders who preferred a paperback copy over a PDF, so I bought them proof copies as well.
When you consider the complex process of bringing a book to market, it’s amazing that Kindle Direct Publishing gives us the opportunity to do this for ourselves. I’ll leave you with two thoughts.
First, that reminder from the start: take the time to study every tool and guide listed in the KDP Help section.
Second, really just an additional reason for the first, Amazon changes KDP without warning. Even if you have previous experience with KDP or if you have read other blog posts, things might have changed.
Thank you so much for having me here, Damyanti, and good luck to anyone beginning this journey!
Do you know the basics of the Kindle Direct Publishing experience? How many books have you published via Kindle Direct Publishing? Do you have questions for Dan? Do you have words of advice for anyone starting on the Kindle Direct Publishing journey?
I’ve read Knuckledheads by Dan Antion. It is an intriguing story within a story–and reads like a slipstream: a perfectly mainstream narrative with speculative elements. In some ways it is a tale of growing up, in others, of looking back. It is a read with flow and a tremendous sense of ease, and it’s clear that the author had as much fun writing the story as readers find in reading it. Highly recommended!
My lit crime novel, The Blue Bar will be out this October with Thomas & Mercer. It is already available for preorders. Add it to Goodreads or pre-order it to make my day.
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