Self-publishing a book on Amazon is free, but that doesn’t mean the steps before self publication are without cost. And, if you want to produce a quality product, you can’t skip steps.

Step 1: Hire a professional book editor and proofreader

First, do the right thing and have your book edited and proofread by professionals. Not your local English teacher, your friends, or your mother. They don’t know how to make your book as good as it can be, making it the rock on which to build a huge fan base with thousands of sales on KDP.

Be prepared to spend $2,000+ on editing and proofreading a full-length novel. It’s the most expensive part of self/e-publishing, but it will make or break your career as an author.

There are different categories of editing and related costs.

Developmental editing/manuscript critiques: ~3-7 cents per word

I start all critiques by first studying the structure, which creates flow. I’ve created a mathematical breakdown (by word count) of manuscripts that come to me to read, either as developmental edits, standalone critiques, or as part of a developmental and line-editing job (which in my case includes a critique). The end result is to make sure the story’s high points and data points “hit their marks” at the right places, or within reason of the right places.

The breakdown shows me immediately if chapters have roughly even word counts or are all over the place—which doesn’t generally make for good comprehension. Readers can get comfortable with short chapters, then get anxious when chapters seem unending, and are then startled when a little one throws off the pace again.

Manuscript development/critique considerations

Does the author have enough chapters for the book’s word count? A comfortable length for a chapter is between 2500-3500 words. If the total word count is around 120K, and there are only eight chapters, I will be on the lookout for places to create more chapter breaks; conversely, if it has seventy-five chapters, I’ll probably be thinking of putting several together. I can do both computations with word count in my mathematical guide before I begin the read, or after, which is often easier.

If I find there are long word-count chapters in the middle, chances are good the story is bogged down, wandering, full of unnecessary data, and tension has disappeared. Not always, of course, but it’s what I’ll be prepared for.

Copyediting: ~ 3-5 cents per word

“Copyediting” is a term with numerous interpretations, but is generally understood as hands-on line editing. It is often used interchangeably—and incorrectly—with “proofreading.”

Copyediting usually does not include:

  • Rewriting (which may be part of a developmental edit)
  • Checking for plagiarism
  • Ensuring the accuracy of text, graphics, tables, illustrations, and (sometimes) the accuracy of references/bibliography/index/glossary
  • Final proofreading before submission or publication

Proofreading: ~ 2 cents per word

Does include the list of “not-included in copyediting.” Is the final eye on any manuscript, without rewrites or suggestions for development.

“Cheap proofreading” is a popular search term on Google and other search engines. Ironically, the coordinator of Book Editing Associates calls its proofreaders “divas.” It is by far the most difficult badge to earn. The infamous proofreading test has a 2% pass rate.

Every consultant in the Book Editing Associates network is required to have a service agreement with every client. It will clearly define the services offered and exclusions/limitation; it also contains a nondisclosure clause.

Your editor will know when you’re close to being ready to debut on KDP. About 2-3 months prior to that you should:

Step 2: Hire a cover designer and book layout designer (if you cannot do these yourself)

$500 – $1,000, depending on what you want from each.

The Internet is full of choices for those specialists, but I offer my writers a “How to Market on KDP” packet of information to make the search easier for those who want to e-publish.

Cover choices come in two options: templates and custom.

Book cover templates: ~$99-$199

You will be shown an array of covers on a page on a website (generally book packagers’); you’ll pick out what you think is as close to what your story is about, the computer guy or gal puts your title and name on it in whatever the standard font is and that’s it. One-design-fits-all covers are the second worst thing you can do for your success, after not having your book edited and proofread.

Custom book covers: ~$300-$1000

You work with the graphics artist from concept to final product. The artist chooses from hundreds of photos available from websites like Shutterstock (stock photos for purchase) or Unsplash (free), and selects a font from a font bank. They use software like Photoshop to manipulate all the elements (layers) into one complete and new cover for you.

Many of the cover design websites also offer interior layout design as well.

I have the names of several custom cover and layout designers in the “How to Market on KDP” packet.

If you are blessed with talent (as some of my authors certainly have been) in graphics art and layout design, you can do your own designing. Kindle has published information guidelines for what sizes, etc., you need to follow, and you just submit it.

If you’re not so blessed, KDP support can walk you through it all. If you lack computer talent, and/or don’t trust your instincts to make the right choices, there are two middleman self/e-publishing companies I recommend in the packet I give my writers. Neither keep you on the hook forever by only allowing sales through their websites. Pay them for their work, and once you’re on Kindle they are out of the picture.

Keep your title in mind when you and your editor are working on the book. Use just 1-4 words at the most. Kindle-scrollers spend about 3 seconds per title/cover view, so keep it short and catchy. This proved true for the books below on 11/27/18. (Note, these rankings were good only for the day I looked them up.)

Storyteller’s Secret, Sejal Badani

#1 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Historical > Cultural Heritage
#4 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Literary Fiction > Historical

Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Literary Fiction > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

A Spark of Light, Jodi Picoult
#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Literary Fiction > Sagas

Elevation, Stephen King
#10 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Suspense > Paranormal

Pulling up a random page of “also boughts” again proved the rule held true: Love You Gone. The Red Room. The Perfect Family. Promised Hearts. Secrets Between Us. The Orchid Girls.

Note the style and color schemes for the genres of the bestsellers above. You do not want to get far from the norm in your genre/subgenre in your own title. There are two “cover rules” to keep in mind, whether working with a custom designer or doing it yourself: Make sure it is professional-looking, and, the cover is a promise of what’s in the story and highlights its most salient point, without throwing in lots of superfluous details.

MOBI is KDP’s text language. You can download your own work on such apps as this: that switches your text to pdf and then converts it to MOBI.

There are also apps that convert a file from MOBI to pdf, such as:

This is not apropos of your book translation, but when I research information, I tend to find a good deal of interesting data, and this one struck me as fascinating: We’ve all seen this in science fiction movies: The instant language translator. Here it is.

Write Your Book Description: ~$0-$100

You’ll need to write a “book description.” This is an art form. It costs nothing unless you want it to, by finding specialists who know all the keywords; but they aren’t going to know your book without reading it. You still have to supply the salient points—the essence of your story—and they put it into usual KDP book description format. DIY is best for this.

Reading as many book descriptions on Amazon you can find in your category (i.e., mystery, historical, amateur detective), until you have the rhythm, flow, and keywords making a word cloud in your head, is good practice and pays you back later on your next books. This is an example (with crucial data left out to keep the story unidentifiable) of one of my author’s first tries after studying her genre’s book descriptions (will it stay this way? I don’t know):

“X is running out of ideas to shore up his failing law practice. As he ponders his options, his fugitive uncle shows up on his doorstep; he needs a place to stay. How can he turn family away? But harboring him will make X a co-conspirator.

“An instant message blinks on his social media account. What could a retired colleague from the police force two decades ago want? Then an attractive woman messages him from a dating app. He thinks: What have I got to lose? He accepts her invitation to meet at the Hotel M. The renovated hotel overlooking B Bay is a family friendly place these days. But it has a sordid past.

“It was the epicenter of the global cocaine trade, and it’s where X’s uncle ran an infamous cartel. Now his uncle has returned to salvage sunken treasure. X’s new love interest has ties to the hotel, too. So does his colleague, still obsessed with the unsolved murder of the beautiful waitress, J.

“As he connects the dots, and more characters from his past appear, a deadly conspiracy to salvage a fortune in hidden drug money emerges. It’s too late for X to back out of the dangerous hunt. If he’s lucky, he won’t end up like J . . . floating face down, feeding the fish.”

I am usually happy to work with my authors to tweak descriptions; after all, we know the book best. But you need to write it first.

Find Book Reviewers: ~$100 – $1000 per review

One of the final early efforts is to get reviews from major reviewers. Amazon/KDP lists several, so you don’t need to figure out who to send yours to; the price is generally the only guide you’ll go by.

These reviewers will charge to review your book, with NO guarantee they will review it; but if they do, and it’s awful, you won’t get a refund, but, these reviewers don’t publish the reviews in their publications as they do with traditional reviews (sometimes killing a title before it’s even breathing), so you don’t have to, either.

However, if you get a dynamite review from Kirkus or Publisher’s Weekly, it’s money that’ll come back to you in sales.

Pros: You post the reviews you want; a bad one doesn’t kill your book because you don’t have to post it; a good one helps it.
Cons: It could be a total loss of $. There is no promise of an actual review, good or bad.

Dollars could be better spent on special marketing efforts through Bookbub and the like, that target your specific audience.

In Conclusion

The rewards at Kindle Direct Publishing have increased exponentially over the years, along with the infrastructure to making sales. They have the Million-Dollar Sales Club, the “Top 100 Paid” and annual “Best of” listings in nearly all their categories, and now considerable Hollywood interest.

It’s not a skip in the park to hit these marks, but it’s totally doable if done correctly from the beginning, from the moment you put the last period on your manuscript, and an understanding that you will need to spend money to get your story out there.

Theodora Bryant
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