Hi, writer! Welcome back to the Indie Publishing Roadmap series. If you haven’t checked out the other posts yet, but sure to do so.
Also, grab your free self-publishing guide at the end of this post!
On to today’s topic: preparing your book for self-publishing on KDP. KDP is Amazon’s publishing platform.
Before you can publish your book, you need to know a few things, including, but not limited to where you’re going to publish your book.
While this post is dedicated to publishing on Amazon’s KDP, a lot of this information is also necessary for other print-on-demand (POD) platforms, which I’ll cover in future posts.
So, what are you going to need to know before you publish? You’ll need to know your book’s:
- Title (and subtitle, if applicable)
- Series name (if applicable)
- Description for your sales page
- Publication date
- ISBN (or if you’ll be using a free one)
- Print options
As you can see, there’s a lot you need to know before you can publish. All of this information goes to the POD platform to build your book’s sales page and categorize it in the shop.
I’m breaking each section down today so that you can prepare this information for your book and make publishing seamless.
Title and Series Name
You should know your book’s title and series name (if applicable) before you even had your cover designed or your book formatted.
Note that on KDP, you can’t change the book’s title, subtitle, or series information after you publish that edition. You’ll have to upload a new edition, and while that’s not difficult, can complicate things.
Settle on your book’s title and series information well in advance to save yourself the extra work later.
On KDP, your book description is what potential readers will see on the book’s sales page.
Your book description is a key part of your pitch to potential readers. It’s one of the puzzle pieces that says, “Hey, you’d probably like my book! Maybe you should buy it!”
I’ll write a full post on writing book descriptions soon, but here’s what you need to know to get started:
- Start with a hook. This should be one or two sentences.
- Add your content. No matter what genre you’re writing, this part of the description tells readers what to expect. If you’re publishing fiction, try to keep this between 70 and 100 words.
- End with a climax or call-to-action. End on a cliffhanger that entices your reader to buy.
Total, I would suggest your book description to be between 150 and 200 words, max. You can always try out other methods later, or add reviews later, but you want to start with something short that hooks the reader and gets them to click that ‘buy now’ button.
If you’re writing non-fiction, like the example I have in the image above (which is for my writer’s notebook), you can write a bit longer of a description. But for fiction, start short.
Amazon’s KDP allows you to choose seven keywords that match your novel. If you don’t research your genre carefully, your keywords might end up being too vague.
For example, if you’re writing a YA fantasy novel, you might automatically think words like, “fantasy,” “elves,” “magic,” and “strong female character” are helpful.
They’re not bad keywords, because they do talk about your genre, but they’re not great keywords either. They’re vague, and if you use vague keywords, you risk getting lost among the millions of books on Amazon.
If you search “YA fantasy” on Amazon’s Book store, you get over 40,000 results. If you type in something more specific, like “YA fantasy witches,” though, you get around 3,000 results. People are more likely to find, and possibly buy, your book if you’re more specific to what they’re looking for.
You need to find a balance between keywords related to your book and keywords that shoppers are looking for. A tool like PublisherRocket can help you do this, but if you’re trying to stay within a specific budget, start by searching for keywords in the Amazon bar and seeing what else it suggests.
Do this while using Incognito Mode in your browser and being logged out of your Amazon account for the most accurate results.
Amazon lets you choose two categories to start with. Categories are really important as they help Amazon further categorize your book for readers.
Now, just as you might choose vague keywords, your initial inclination may be to choose a vague category, like “Fiction > General.”
Just like keywords, it’s not incorrect, but it’s also not ideal. Simply classifying your book as “Fiction > General” doesn’t help Amazon narrow down reader searches. And in publishing, you want to be specific so the right readers–the ones who will actually buy, read, love, and share your book–can find it.
The key is to narrow down your subcategories.
For example, if you’re publishing the YA fantasy novel from the last example, you might choose “Fiction > Juvenile Fiction > Fantasy & Magic.” Amazon will take that book category and your keywords to help readers find your book.
Note: You can layer keywords and book categories to boost your visibility and bestseller potential, but that topic is complex and requires a post of its own. Check back here on the blog for that in the future!
As you begin to research keywords and categories, go on Amazon and do some digging in their Books store. You can see the various categories and subcategories in the store, and that can help you decide how to classify your book.
Your Publication Date
Before you publish, you’ll want to know what your publication date is. This affects everything from pre-orders to your ability to get a print proof copy from Amazon.
I always recommend to my publishing mentorship clients that they start preparing their book for upload at least six weeks before their publication date. If they can get the draft set up on KDP the same day, they can order a proof copy and still make changes before publishing.
Setting up a pre-order may also be important to you. This can help you pre-sell some books and build buzz around your upcoming release. It’s not necessary, but KDP offers the option for eBooks.
If you want to learn more about publishing strategies for authors, check out this post on the ‘rapid release’ strategy.
Your ISBN Number
ISBN numbers are the unique identifiers for books. ISBNs help booksellers know the book’s format, edition, and publisher. They’re the global standard for book identification.
When you self-publish on KDP, you have two options:
- Buy an ISBN number
- Use a free one from Amazon
There are advantages and disadvantages to each.
Advantages of buying an ISBN:
- You can list your own imprint as the publisher instead of Amazon. This is great if you have your own company set up for publishing your books.
Disadvantages of buying an ISBN:
- They’re expensive. One ISBN in the US costs $125, and you need an ISBN for each file type (paperback, hardcover, audiobook, etc.). The good news is that eBooks don’t need ISBNs.
- The good news is that you get major discounts if you buy in bulk. You can get 10 ISBNs for $295, which you can later assign to future books you write. That brings the cost from $125 each to $29.50 each.
Advantages of using a free ISBN from KDP:
- You save that money. If you’re on a very tight budget, this may be ideal for you.
Disadvantages of using a free ISBN from KDP:
- You will not be listed as the publisher. Amazon will be. This has no bearing on your copyright or intellectual property rights, but it does change the publisher to Amazon.
- You can’t use that ISBN anywhere else. When you purchase your own ISBN, you can use it for the same format (paperback, hardcover, etc.) through other POD platforms too. This is key if you want to sell on sites like Barnes & Noble, the Apple store, etc.
If you plan on self-publishing for profit and as part of your author career, I would strongly consider buying a 10-pack of ISBNs to get started. Make sure you’re purchasing from your country’s authorizer ISBN seller. In the US, that’s Bowker.
Before you publish your book, you need to know the print options you’ll be choosing. This includes:
- Paper color
- Interior print (black & white or color)
- Trim size
- Bleed settings
- Gloss or matte cover
These are largely cosmetic options, but you’ll still want to make this choice ahead of time. You must know your trim size before getting your book formatted and your cover designed.
If you aren’t sure what to pick, look at some books in your genre that you have on your bookshelf. What color is the paper? What’s the trim size? Gloss or matte cover?
I personally prefer cream paper for novels, but there’s no right or wrong here. Just be aware that you can’t change some of these settings after publication.
How you price your book will depend on the print cost and royalty rate you want.
Paperbacks, for example, get a 60% royalty rate on KDP. This means, for a $10.99 print book with a $2.46 print price, the author makes $4.14 per sale. See the screenshot below for my writer’s notebook pricing:
These are all things you need to be aware of before you upload your book!
eBooks work a little differently on KDP. You can opt into a 35% or 70% royalty rate for your digital titles.
To qualify for the 70% option, you have to meet a few qualifications:
- Your book must be at least 20% below the print version
- Your book must be available for sale in every territory you have the rights to publish in
- You must be enrolled in KDP Select for 70% royalties in Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and India
- You must meet list price requirements, which refers to the file size and minimum list price.
If you choose the 70% option, Amazon takes a small delivery fee out of your royalty payment. Think of this as the digital version of the ‘print cost’ on paperbacks. Take a look at my pricing screenshot from my non-fiction book:
KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited
The other thing to consider is whether you’re going to enroll in KDP Select. This is what lets readers from Kindle Unlimited read your book for free. You still make money on page reads, but they don’t have to buy your book outright. If you’re enrolled in KDP Select, you must publish your book EXCLUSIVELY on Amazon. You can’t sell it on any other site. That may be a non-issue for you, and may even be beneficial if you write in an extraordinarily popular category like romance.
Note: Just like the keywords & categories topic, the topic of KDP Select requires a post of its own, which I’ll post at a later date.
What you need to know about pricing is that you want to find a sweet spot between a ‘good’ price in readers’ eyes and something they’re willing to pay. This also needs to fit your idea of what you want to make from each book you sell. This might require a little math on your part. Pricing can also be changed later.
Wrapping It Up
There’s a lot on the back end of self-publishing that you need to be aware of before you pop onto KDP to publish your book. Lining this information up ahead of time will reduce your overwhelm and keep the uploading process smooth.
Good luck and happy publishing!