In Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon offers the easiest, most streamlined access to self publishing the industry has ever seen. Never before have writers had easier, more intuitive access to readers than today, making Kindle the logical choice for anyone, either new to writing, or experienced and looking for a new avenue. Despite the relative ease, however, there are still a number of necessary fundamentals you need to understand before jumping in. This blog is your brief, easy to understand guide on how to self-publish on Amazon.
Before getting into the steps, I’d like to dispense with a few words of caution. Self-publishing on Amazon is easy – really easy. The barriers to entry are few, if any, a triumph in the overall design. Call the process dangerously easy. How is that possible?
Those low barriers to entry mean that you can publish whatever you want. Whenever you want. Successful self-publishing, however, is a little more complicated than just putting something up on Amazon, hitting publish, and calling the process complete.
There is more. A lot more. If you’re smart about it, however, and prepare, you can reach your readers.
How To Self-Publish On Amazon: The Manuscript
The manuscript. The actual book. Often, it seems, this process of how to publish skips over the fact that you need to start with a well-written, professionally edited book.
Here is some advice I give any of my prospective clients. When you self-publish on Amazon, your book isn’t just competing with books written by other self-publishing authors. It’s competing with everyone. That means, if your book is in the same category as Stephen King, guess what, you’re now competing with Stephen King for readers. Good luck!
Don’t despair. Being in the same category as Stephen King actually works for you. People search for his books, meaning, if you position yours properly, millions of readers will be looking at your cover.
This level of competition means your book has got to be well written. Maybe you don’t have the same talent as Mister King and that’s fine. Few, if any authors, actually do. What you need to make certain is that your book is written to the best of your unique abilities.
Want me to stop beating around the bush? Let’s put this into action steps.
Know Your Genre
That means, if you write paranormal thrillers, like Mister King, develop characters and stories that fit within that genre. Going against expectations, or trying to flip readers to your take might not be a great idea right out of the gate. In the beginning, you’re going to want to learn reader expectations and find out how to meet them.
After you’ve written the best book you can on your own you then need to work with an editor. I don’t mean just a proofreader for things like grammar and punctuation, I’m talking about developing your story to compete with the best in your industry. Someone who has worked with books in your genre before and knows how to cultivate stories that satisfy those readers. When you’ve got that core story down, and it really works, then find someone to proofread it.
Next, find a good cover designer
If your answer to this one is, I’ll do it myself, think again. People judge the books they read by the cover, this is a fact of the industry. When they go to Amazon and search for their keyword, say paranormal thriller, your cover needs to look like books in that genre. If it doesn’t, or if it’s too amateur and doesn’t check the expectation boxes, readers will move on.
Think of the virtual bookstore like a playground. Learning how to self-publish on Amazon is a lot like learning how to get along with the other kids out there, err, I mean, books.
What About The Actual Publishing?
Breathe a sigh of relief prospective author. The actual publishing part of your checklist is actually where things start to get a little easier. That doesn’t mean it’s easy though.
Here are some tips and essential know-how.
Think of Amazon like a gigantic search engine. Your book’s product page is like any other webpage. Content on that page needs to be carefully created in order to drive eager readers to it.
The first thing is the blurb. As a writer, you are given a lot of room to create a description of your book. Many big, successful authors fill this space with reviews and other social proof. If you’re new, you need to do your best to write a concise, compelling description of your book.
How do you do this? Look at other books in your genre. Search for the top ten, twenty or even fifty best-selling titles and look at how those authors boil 75,000 words down to a couple of hundred, more focused words designed to grab attention. Blurbs differ from genre to genre, so be sure to look at yours. Paranormal thriller readers expect different elements in their blurbs than fantasy or science fiction do. Look at how those authors create those blurbs, pick out the style, and apply them to your book.
The next are the categories
I could write a dozen blogs about this topic alone (I actually find it among the most fascinating in the how to self-publish on Amazon equation). Concisely put, think of the book’s category as the virtual bookshelf where your title will appear. If your book is a cozy mystery, for example, you need to be certain that’s the shelf where it ends up. If your cut little cozy ends up next to titles like, say, Silence of the Lambs, readers are not going to click on your page.
The secret? Look at books, wait for it, in your genre. Find out what categories those similar titles are listed in and be sure to list your books there.
The last element here is keywords. Your book’s keywords are even more granular than categories. Think of these as the terms prospective readers enter in the search bar when looking for books. If your book fits in the paranormal thriller category, a keyword might be something like “haunted mansion thriller” – this is a real keyword by the way, filled with a lot of really cool books.
If you want to find the keywords that work for your books, try this trick. I’ll bet you know what I’m going to say. Go to Amazon, drop down to the Kindle store, and start entering keywords that you think might lead you to your book. Trial and error can get you pretty far here. It’s a little bit of hunt and peck, but once you find that key phrase, the more specific the better, that leads to books like yours, use that in your Amazon description.