Free Self-publishing on Amazon
Self-publishing on Amazon is easy and free! Their platforms for both ebook and print are user-friendly, and plenty of help is available if you get stuck. This article does not go into costs associated with production of your formatted manuscript or cover art; some authors do these steps themselves and others pay services to do formatting and cover art professionally.
Some things to have prepared ahead of time:
Choose keywords or keyword phrases that readers will use to search for a book like yours.
Each phrase must be less than 25 characters in length. KDP needs seven, CreateSpace needs five.
Know the genre classification for your book.
You will choose two for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) (shown as “categories”) and one for CreateSpace (shown as the “BISAC code” = Book Industry Standards and Communications).
Write up a book description for the sales page.
You may use the back cover blurb or create a longer one including more information.
Have an author bio ready.
Know your imprint name (your name as publishing company) to be able to enter that information.
The Amazon dashboard
Once you have an account, you are given a dashboard where you will create your projects. The book is not published until you have all the information and files uploaded and they have gone through Amazon’s review process (to check for format issues, file size, etc.) and you say “go.” On KDP, this can all be done in fifteen minutes when you are familiar with the process. File review takes up to 48 hours but is usually much less. When you hit “publish” the book is live often 12 hours later. CreateSpace is a little slower but not by much.
Print or Ebook?
Some books sell better on ebook and other sell better in print. Readers are unpredictable. It is beneficial for you to have an account with both CreateSpace and KDP, and to publish in both. Each gives an option to translate your book to the other, but the formatting requirements are so different you are better off formatting and uploading each separately.
You can edit after you publish.
The best part: nothing is written in stone even after you hit the “publish” button; you are allowed to make corrections and upload new files for free as often as you need to (for example if you find typos). Be aware the files then need to go through the review process again, which adds a few days of delay, or longer if you must order a print proof copy.
The legal stuff
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s e-book platform.
Here is their helpful guide: Kindle Direct Publishing: Create an Account When you begin your account, you must file the necessary tax information so they can check your U.S. tax status, etc. If you are uncomfortable using your SSN or do not have one (if non-citizen) you will want to apply with the U.S. government for a TIN (Tax identification number) also called an EIN. This is a free service and takes only a few minutes. Amazon will also need banking information to be able to pay you for copies sold.
Tip: read the “terms and conditions” pages and other information available. They caution against allowing a 3rd party to have access to your account (common sense), but if you are unsure about uploading the finished files your editor may be able to walk you through the steps over the telephone. Some of the wording on the upload steps sounds final and scary if you are unfamiliar with the terminology. Check Amazon’s KDP forums to see what solutions others have found before you—no need to reinvent the wheel. www.kdpcommunity.com
File types recommended for book interior files are Microsoft Word DOC/DOCX or HTML format. Cover art files must be JPEG (JPEG / JPG) or TIFF (TIF / TIFF). Files will be compressed and translated to .mobi by KDP’s system.
A file previewer is available after you upload the files to make sure it looks right.
CreateSpace is Amazon’s print publishing platform, which is print on demand (POD).
Just as with KDP, there is no upfront cost to you (outside of purchasing an ISBN separately, explained below). Each time a reader orders a print copy of the book, an individual copy of the book is printed and sent to them. This is MUCH better than having hundreds (or thousands) of copies in boxes molding in your garage.
You will want to create an account here just as you did for KDP. Go here: https://www.createspace.com/ and enter the same tax ID information and bank account information for accepting your royalty payments. CreateSpace also has a forum where users trade helpful tips: CreateSpace Communty
To publish a print book, you will need one very important thing you do not need for an e-book: an ISBN number. In the U.S., all ISBN numbers must be purchased through Bowker, and to do so you must register as a publisher. Information on how to do this and why you should buy ISBNs in lots (rather than individually for $125 each) can be found on their website Get Your ISBN .
Every edition of your book and every book you publish subsequently will require a unique ISBN; rare is the author who only publishes one book. A less expensive alternative is a company that has purchased ISBN numbers in bulk and will sell them individually to authors, but this is not recommended.
CreateSpace can assign you an ISBN from their store of them (purchased in bulk) for free as part of your upload package. The only downside to accepting the free one from them is that while you are listed as the sole copyright holder, Amazon CreateSpace is listed as publisher in the Bowker registry (this is also the problem with ISBNs purchased individually from discount shops). Bookstores such as Barnes & Noble will not carry books registered in this way, but many self-published authors find this not to be an issue. Statistically, most readers check with Amazon for a book first anyway.
Both book interior and cover art files must be PDF for upload to CreateSpace.
This system also has a file preview section you should check, as well as the ability to order a print proof you can hold in your hand and look over before you say “publish.” Allow at least a couple of weeks for this process before you want your release date.
Larger books cost more to print, and so will have a higher sales price in paperback than in ebook or as a mass-market paperback like you see in a bookstore. For example, novels between 85-95K words can cost ~ $14.99 vs. $7.99 mass-market from a traditional publisher or $2.99 for e-book. Larger books and those with illustrations will cost more to produce and that cost is passed on to buyers. Amazon will alert you to the minimum price you may set during the setup phase of your uploads. This may depend upon the royalty percentage you set for yourself; at 70% royalty the price point is higher than if you elect for 35%, which may allow you to drop the price to $0.99 (for e-book), a popular move for promotions.
To decide whether to use the extended distribution channels, Kindle Lending, Kindle Select or other options, read the forums or use your Google-foo to learn the pros and cons.
Amazon is known for being one of the most consistent-paying self-publishing platforms as long as your books are selling. That is, they pay your royalties to you regularly no matter how small the amount collected at that point, vs. some publishers which wait until a minimum amount is reached before payout.
Don’t be afraid—be published!