The Shift to Self Publishing
Historically, if you wanted to publish a book, you needed an agent to get a traditional publisher to look at your manuscript. In fact, many publishing companies won’t even open a manuscript if it doesn’t come through an agent. Even if they do open it, it’s still unlikely that your book will be published and ultimately sold in bookstores.
Is there another way for me to publish my book without going through a traditional publisher?
Yes! In fact, there is another way for your book to not only be published, but to reach a global audience, with little to no upfront investment, other than your time. This technique has led to the success of many authors, and is changing the book and traditional publishing industry.
The solution is self-publishing.
I’ve self-published many fiction and non-fiction books on Amazon, sold tens of thousands of copies, and continue to collect thousands of dollars per month in royalty checks. And I’m not alone. There are people making tens of thousands of dollars in passive income through Amazon KDP. Steve Scott is one (extreme) example, having made over $40,000 per month!
While this is one of my more volatile sources of passive income, it has increasingly stabilized as I have added more books in a wide variety of subjects. And while I’m not at Steve Scott’s level of success, Amazon KDP is one of my most successful passive income streams. Here is a screenshot from my KDP sales dashboard from the same month he wrote his post (~ $2800 that month alone, including royalties from all counties where my books sold). One of the great things about Amazon is the fact that, as an author, you can reach not only most of the US, but many foreign countries. This expands your reach and also increases your earning potential.
So you’re probably wondering — if this is so lucrative, why isn’t everyone who loves to write (or simply wants to increase their income) doing this? There are a few reasons:
- The self publishing industry has rapidly evolved in the last few years and some of the changes to the payment structure (through Amazon, specifically) have been tough on fiction writers (which make up a majority of hyper-successful writers).
- Writing a book is still a challenging feat, even though the improved publishing process has made marketing your book easier than ever. Additionally, those who have the ability to write well often lack sales, marketing, and business experience.
- Many authors (myself included), write in a specific search niche they have mastered, and want to keep their success to themselves for fear of losing their significant competitive edge. There is still a lot of secrecy among writers looking to stay ahead of changes in the Amazon search engine and KDP policies. This is especially true if your writing is in a popular non-fiction niche, or is in the romance/erotica fiction categories (it is amazing how much demand there is in these specific categories, despite the flood of new books entering the market).
From 2014–2017 there was a huge gold rush among writers as Amazon began to promote eBooks. Many of these “authorpreneurs” used advanced internet marketing tactics to promote their books. Combine this with the rise of cheap gig economy services provided through platforms such as Fiverr, which offered cheap ghost written books, and there was ultimately a sudden influx of poorly written material rising through the Amazon best seller rankings.
I am familiar with this backstory because I was a ghostwriter during this period. Many of these “outsourced” books were written by non native English speakers in India or Pakistan, which further underscored my ability to churn out quality writing and research. When I started realizing what some of my work was being used for (books written under pseudonyms), I decided to stop writing articles for individual buyers and write my own series of pseudonymous books to generate long-term passive income. This seems to have been a wise decision as I still collect royalties from the books I wrote years ago, that have far exceeded the going rate for them at the time (and I still retain ownership).
Publishing Your Book
So despite the general sentiment on most online forums and indie writer blogs, writing a book can still be a great way to earn passive income while still utilizing your creative streak. Below are the 20 steps to publishing a book on Amazon KDP:
Step 1: Sign Up with Amazon KDP
Step 2: Create a New Title
Click on either the “Kindle eBook” button or the “Paperback” button under Create New Title. For the purposes of this article I’ll go through the Kindle eBook process.
Step 3: Enter Your Book Title and Subtitle
Enter in your book name and subtitle (optional). The ideal title is catchy but also key word rich. You should err on the side of making your title lengthy and illustrative. It may not sound as great but it is essential to generate sales based on the Amazon search algorithm.
Step 4: Enter Series Name or Edition Number
If your book is part of a series or is a revised edition of a previously published book, you can enter this information here.
Step 5: Enter Author name and Contributors
Click on the “Add Contributors” tab to add contributors. Enter your name (or your preferred pen name under “Primary Author or Contributor.” Note: You can write books under various pen names (and this is the only name that will show on your book’s public page) but your payment information must correspond the your real name and social security number or the name of your business and its EIN number.
Also, if you do use a pen name, do not choose an extremely well known author, as Amazon may misconstrue this as an attempt to misrepresent your book as the work of another popular author. This can lead to account suspension or a delay in your book being published.
Step 6: Enter Your Book Description
- Accolades — If you or your book have won any awards or distinguishing titles (like bestseller), be sure to mention that in your book description. Anything and everything is worth mentioning. Now is NOT the time to be bashful about your accomplishments.
- Comparables — Language that compares your title to best-selling authors and titles will let fans of those popular authors know that they should check your book out next.
- Emotional, gripping language — Be sure to use language that is evocative. Make readers feel something by simply reading your description, and leave them yearning for more. One strategy is to use the first few sentences from a particularly gripping scene in your book which tends to work well.
- Keywords for your genre — Different genres have different tropes that readers learn to look for. For example, in the category of erotica, historical, western themed, and paranormal stories are popular sub-genres. If there are keywords that you know readers in your genre are going to be searching for, make sure to include those in your description.
If your book is non fiction, it is also advisable to include pertinent biographical information. If it based on your life, feel free to include an “about me” section.
Step 7: Publishing Rights
Choose the first option if your book is under copyright and you hold the necessary rights for the content being published. Select the second option if you are publishing a public domain book. Keep in mind that the duration of copyright varies between countries/regions. So, if your book is in the public domain in one country/region but not another, you must identify your territory rights accordingly. Learn more about publishing public domain content on KDP.
Step 8: Select Search Keywords
Search keywords are words or short phrases that help people who are searching Amazon find relevant content. Keywords can be descriptive of your book. They can also be established using the Google Keyword Tool or manually searching for competitors using the Amazon search engine (I suggest the latter).
Step 9: Categories
Select the categories that best describe your book. The more specific the niche your category falls into, the more likely it will be found by the right people.
Step 10: Select Age Range if Applicable
Leave ages blank unless it is a children’s book or contains sexually explicit material.
Step 11: Select Your Book Release Option
You can either choose to immediately release your book or have it relased on a future, predetermined date. You can make changes to your book at any stage after publishing, if needed.
Step 12: Manuscript
DRM (Digital Rights Management) is intended to inhibit unauthorized distribution of the Kindle file of your book. Some authors want to encourage readers to share their work, and choose not to have DRM applied to their book. If you choose DRM, customers will still be able to lend the book to another user for a short period, and can also purchase the book as a gift for another user from the Kindle store. Important: Once you publish your book, you cannot change its DRM setting.
Step 13: Upload Your Book File in The Correct Format
Click the “Upload eBook manuscript” button. Make sure your file type is supported by Kindle. Recommended formats for Kindle eBooks: .doc, .docx, HTML, MOBI, ePub, RTF, Plain Text, and KPF.
Step 14: Kindle eBook Cover
You can create your own cover using Kindle’s Cover Creator, but it won’t be nearly as attractive as having one designed by a professional designer. This is another instance where affordable graphic design, through a service like Fiverr, can be very useful.
Step 15: Kindle eBook Preview
The Online Previewer is the easiest way to preview. It lets you preview most books as they would appear on Kindle e-readers, tablets and phones.
Once your book has been converted, click “Launch Previewer” to see if it has converted properly. This is a crucial step if you have more complex formatting like tables, graphs, or embedded images.
Step 16: Kindle eBook ISBN
An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number. You can publish your book without one, but if you do have one, you may enter it here. However, it will only be used as a reference and won’t actually appear on the detail page of your eBook (only the ASIN will). Important: Do not use an ISBN from a print edition for your digital edition. If you want to include an ISBN for the digital version of your book, it must be a unique ISBN. You can purchase an ISBN from multiple sources on the Web. Learn more about ISBNs.
Step 17: KDP Select Enrollment
Enrolling your eBook in our optional KDP Select program gives you the opportunity to reach more readers and earn more money. You can enroll a single book, your whole catalog or anything in between. Enrolling in KDP Select makes your book eligible for 70% royalty earnings on sales to customers in Brazil, Japan, India, and Mexico.
If you make your eBook exclusive to the Kindle Store, which is a requirement during your book’s enrollment in KDP Select, the book will also be included in Kindle Unlimited (KU) and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL). You can earn a share of the KDP Select Global Fund based on how many pages KU or KOLL customers read of your book. Learn how payments are calculated.
Enrolling in KDP Select also grants you access to a new set of promotional tools. You can schedule a Kindle Countdown Deal (limited time promotional discounting for your book) for books available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk or a Free Book Promotion (readers worldwide can get your book free for a limited time).
Step 18: Publishing Territories
Verify whether you have the rights to distribute your book worldwide or only in certain territories. Select the first option if you hold worldwide rights for your book. This enables Amazon to make your book available for sale on all Amazon websites.
Select the second option if you don’t hold worldwide rights to sell and distribute your title, you must indicate the territories in which you hold rights. If you are publishing a public domain title, keep in mind that the duration of copyright varies between countries, so ensure you set your territory rights to only include those territories where you have determined the book is in the public domain. Learn more about territorial rights.
Step 19: Pricing and Royalty Rates
Select your pricing dependent on your goals and sales strategy.
Under the “Royalty and Pricing” section, choose a royalty plan: 35% or 70%. Check the list price requirements by royalty plan. You can choose a plan for each of your books.
When entering your book’s details, did you indicate in the “Publishing Rights” step that your book is a public domain work? If you did, it’s ineligible for the 70% royalty option. Also, sales to customers outside of the 70% eligible territories will only receive royalties of 35% of the list price.
Learn more about eBook royalty options.
Step 20: Terms & Conditions and Publishing
Agree to the Amazon Kindle terms and conditions and click the “Publish” button after reviewing all the data you have entered so far.
After clicking the “Publish” button, your title will be available for purchase on Amazon, in 48–72 hours (occasionally the system is backed up or your book contains questionable content which can hold up the process another several days).
Now that your book is published, you will need to market it. It’s important to draft up a marketing plan before you publish your book so that you are already prepared for this stage.
Amazon KDP Payment Notes:
Now that your book is published, check your Amazon Kindle Payments account section to see how many people have read and/or purchased your book. This will become an additional stream of passive income. You will be sent the royalties every month and Amazon will handle the distribution of your eBooks and even the paperback version of your books should you choose to pursue selling your books in physical form, as well.
Amazon pays royalties approximately 60 days following the end of the calendar month in which your royalties meet the payment threshold. You’ll receive separate royalty payments for each Amazon marketplace in which you have chosen to distribute your title. Available payment methods (direct deposit, wire transfer, or check) are based on the location of your bank. Your bank may have fees associated with some payments.
Selecting direct deposit, also known as electronic funds transfer (EFT), as a payment method allows you to receive your earned royalties without a minimum threshold before the funds are released to you; in a more secure and environmentally friendly way than paper checks; and in your local currency. Also, on August 15, 2018, KDP will introduce an $8/£8/€8 handling fee per check payment to authors who reside in the US, UK, or EU countries where we offer direct deposit.
To avoid the handling fee, sign up for direct deposit.
After you switch to direct deposit, the change will take effect immediately. You’ll be paid in full for all of your sales, regardless of the amount, in your local currency approximately 60 days after the end of the month in which the royalties accrued.