How to Successfully Self-Publish a Kindle eBook

I am on sabbatical for the next few weeks. While I am gone, I have asked some of my favorite bloggers to stand in for me. This is a guest post from Jeff Goins. He is the author of Wrecked and his forthcoming memoir, The In-Between. You can follow Jeff on Twitter or find out more about him here.

If you want to get noticed in the digital age, waiting for someone to choose you is the worst strategy. You have everything you need to start sharing your message today—fingers, keyboard, and the Internet.

Amazon Kindle Fire

Even if they don’t consider themselves writers, most people dream of writing a book. And there’s never been a better time to do so. The stigma of self-publishing is fading away, replaced by countless success stories from first-time authors making a name for themselves.

How are they doing it? Simple. By publishing eBooks on Amazon.com.

Why Amazon?

Forget what you think you know about Amazon. It’s much more than an online shopping cart or web store. There’s a reason guys like Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin have published exclusively to Amazon. It has a lot going for it:

  • Amazon is largest paid search engine in the world. People don’t Google things with their credit cards out, ready to buy, like they do with Amazon.
  • Amazon dominates the book market.
  • Amazon’s review system is an authority metric (even if someone plans to buy elsewhere).
  • Amazon is a marketing machine. Once you start selling a certain number of copies, it refers your book to others who have never heard of you.
  • Amazon makes it easy. You can publish elsewhere, but few places get your book online and ready in a matter of hours. When you publish first (and maybe exclusively) to Amazon, you concentrate your sales in a single place and can climb the best sellers lists faster.

Yes, you can get published, see your message spread, and make good money using nothing more than a keyboard and your brain. Here’s how:

Step 1: Write

When publishing an e-book, the first step is, of course, to write it. Think in terms of three drafts:

  1. The “vomit draft.” This is just what it sounds like—you’re throwing up on the blank page. Certainly not the most warming image, but you get the idea. Here, you will write the Table of Contents, sketch out each chapter, and put down all your ideas, scenes, and stories. Don’t make it pretty; just make it.
  2. The review draft. This is where you spend some time developing what you want to say and how. At this point, you should share the work with a few close friends for feedback.
  3. The editorial draft. This is where you get help from a professional or close friend who knows not only grammar, but story structure and elements of style.

Each draft may, in fact, have multiple versions and iterations. But this three-step approach will help you get the work finished without endlessly stalling.

Step 2: Format and Design

Once you’ve written a book you’re proud of, here’s what to do next:

  1. Format it for Kindle. You can try this yourself using a program called Calibre, or you can just pay someone to do it—which I recommend. If this is your life’s work, it’s worth paying a few hundred dollars to get it done right.
  2. Design the cover. Please don’t skimp on this or have your cousin Vinny who just discovered PhotoShop “take a whack at it.” If you’re on a budget, check out 99 Designs or Crowdspring, both affordable crowd-sourcing services. Ask for an image that is a JPEG file and at least 2500 pixels on the longest side with a height/weight ratio of 1.6 (what Amazon recommends in their publishing guidelines).
  3. Double check everything and have friends proofread for errors.

This is an important step, so don’t blaze through it. If you need more guidance, check out TheBookDesigner.com.

Step 3: Publish

How do you actually make your book available for sale on Amazon.com? This is, perhaps, the part that intimidates most people. And the truth is it shouldn’t. All it takes is twelve simple steps:

  1. Go to kdp.amazon.com and sign in (you’ll need an Amazon account).
  2. Register your tax info for royalties.
  3. Click “Bookshelf” and then “Add new title.”
  4. Fill out the form, including book title, description, and keywords you want people to search to find your book.
  5. Upload the cover file (JPEG format).
  6. Upload the book file.
  7. Test your book with Amazon’s online viewer to make sure it looks right.
  8. Click “Save and continue” and advance to the “Rights and Pricing” page.
  9. Choose “Worldwide Rights.”
  10. Choose a 70% royalty rate and select your price, letting the international prices adjust based on the US price. Most e-books are priced $2.99-9.99 (this is what I recommend to maximize your royalty rate).
  11. Click Save and Publish.
  12. Amazon will email you when the book is ready, which may take 24–48 hours but often happens much more quickly.

Step 4: Promote

Now, you’re ready to tell the world about your book. But before you do that, you need some reviews. Reviews are important, because they’re your “social proof” that will legitimize your work to new readers.

Before the book’s release, send the book to friends, family, and followers online who would be willing to leave a review. If you don’t know anyone who would be willing to do that, check out StoryCartel.com, a platform that helps authors get free, ethical reviews.

Once the book is published, remind your early readers to leave reviews. Expect 25-50% of those who promised, to actually comply. And they don’t all have to be 5-star reviews. In fact, having a few honest critiques of your work will give it a greater authority than a bunch of superficial praise.

People can leave reviews on Amazon only a few days before the book is published. So one way to get around this is to publish your book a week before you tell anyone about it. That way, you can build up a good amount of early reviews, which help sell the book to new readers. When it “officially” releases, you can then direct people to the page where they will see some glowing reviews of your work.

Step 5: Launch

After you get some reviews, it’s time to launch your e-book. Every book launch should be unique, but here are a few things that work every time:

  1. Send an email to your list of friends, family, and/or blog subscribers, announcing the release of your book.
  2. Offer an incentive for those who buy the book. This can be a time-sensitive offer or ongoing opportunity. Andy Traub, who made over $20,000 in 90 days with an eBook, gave away the audiobook, 30-day email course, and exclusive membership to an online community with his book. Make it a no-brainer that people can’t pass up.
  3. Promote the book via word-of-mouth and social media. Clicktotweet.com is a great resource for hand-crafting messages that people can easily share. Another effective strategy is to use a launch team of volunteers to help you spread the word.
  4. Share your e-book with online forums and book directories. Kimanzi Constable, who sold over 80,000 copies of his books, said this was a key strategy.
  5. As the book begins to sell, tell people about it. This is called “social proof” and will create a snowball effect that can help you sell even more.
  6. Give the book away. Brandon Clements, who struggled to sell more than a few hundred copies of his novel in a year, decided to give away the e-book version. And in a week, over 60,000 people downloaded it. The next week, he sold another 2,000 copies.

Books can spread pretty fast when everything is digital: the product, the promotion, the distribution. In other words, if you ever wanted to get a message in front of a lot of people, there’s never been a better time.

The days of waiting years to be picked and published are over. So what are you waiting for? (For more help on self-publishing for Kindle, check out the Kindle Publishing Guide, which is free this week exclusively for Michael Hyatt readers.)

Question: What’s one question or tip you have about self-publishing? Click here to leave a comment.

Want to launch your own blog or upgrade to self-hosted WordPress? Watch my free, twenty-minute screencast. I show you exactly how to do it. You don’t need any technical knowledge. Click here to get started.

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  • Tanveer Saleem

    Hello! Gud afternoon… I have a doubt regarding ebook publishing. I have an unpublished novel which I would like to get published as an Ebook. It is of 95000 words (approx), the language is English and the usage is very simple. It is basically a fantasy adventure novel set in 1950s. I am from India and I did not get any publishing breaks. So, shall I move on with this or wait for anyother publishers? I need some advice. Please help…

  • martian

    thank you so much for your valuable information.

  • Eugenio Almodovar-Aviles

    This post is amazing! And as though the post wasn’t enough, it is followed by even more advice and encouragement from fellow writers.

    I’m still young (20), and publishing a book is my biggest dream. I have often found myself discouraged because if there is something daunting about publishing a book, it is having no idea of how to go about it most effectively.

    You’ve shed light on me like sunrise. And what a beautiful day it will be!

    Thank you very much for sharing!

  • Ardhendu De

    I have a blog with more than 800 posts and the total readership is more than 20 million. Presently, students/ readers of my blog are requesting me for and ebook of the blog content. now I am newbie and need your suggestion.

  • Cecile Gueho

    Thank you very much, that was really helpful.

    I am far of being a geek and I was lost in all those Kindle steps. Langage gap was hard too as I am a non native English speaker. Without your advises, I won’t have managed in publishing my Paris Guide 8 Amazing Walking Tours: an insider’s Guide to Paris to escape from the hordes of tourists ;-).
    Thanks a lot!

  • PRINCE SAINI

    thanks for providing such a knowledge about the book publish on amazon.
    by guideguru.in/blog

  • Jaimie Bowman

    Thank you for this!! I am just about to release my first book on Feb. 1 and it is already uploaded to Amazon for sale on Kindle (not published yet). I also am receiving my first proof from Createspace this week. My question is – when you say it is wise to give away a copy of the book, do you mean a PDF version?

  • kindle

    Crank out hundreds of Kindle money machine http://tinyurl.com/my6fw9v

  • Ben Armstrong

    These are the great tips to start with thanks for sharing with us Amazon Book Reviewers

  • Dennis

    Thank you very much! This page is gold. You are doing a great service to people that could really use the help. Between you and Amazon, what was next to impossible 15 years ago is now at the fingertips of an clown like me.. :)

  • Miguel Leon Abarca

    Those are very good advises, indeed, but my book is written in spanish (i’m a spaniard) and i want to get it translated properly into english, do you have something to say about that?

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  • TShall

    Do you know any quick ways to get a book copyrighted for an affordable price? Do ebooks need to be copyrighted or are they automatically copyrighted once they are published?

  • Jenny

    What if you would like to e publish a picture book with colour illustrations? I am wondering if the technology exists to make it cost effective.

  • StormChasingNinja .

    This seems easy only I have written my entire book in my kindle notes, is there a way I can use this information but with my notes?

  • Paul JF

    This is great information for a would-be author, such as myself.
    I am 23,500 words into writing a novel, that I have edited several times over, hence it taking 18 months thus far.
    I have another, shorter story that I am also currently writing (I like to switch between them, to stay fresh), which I am considering ending at about the 10k word point, so I will self-epublish that one, keeping back the “biggy” for book publication if/when possible.
    Again, many thanks for the article

  • VENUS PSYCHIC

    what the diferrence between amazon and ebook?

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    I am not familiar with this software, so I really don’t know if it works or not. It doesn’t appear to even be available yet.

  • Tom

    My name is Tom Tiffoney and I served in the British Army for 15 years. During that time I served in both Gulf wars, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. I now suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome but have found that creative writing is very therapeutic for me, so much so that I am now in the process of writing about my experiences and the battles I took part in. I am hoping to publish my work as an eBook and donate half of the proceeds to Help for Heroes by way of a thank you to them for all the support they have given me.

    I have finished three of my short stories so I am now at a point where I am ready to seriously think about the next stage in the process of getting my book ‘published’. This is where I would like to ask for your help as I am new to the literary world. I would like offer someone the opportunity to assist me in getting my book proofread and published. I would obviously gain the benefit of having their educated eye look over my work and help me get my story out there on the market.
    Any help or advice would help me a lot

  • Tom
  • albertsneij

    if I use picture from Google, do I need a permission from Google before I publish my Kindle book?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You need permission from whomever owns the copyright on the photo. This isn’t usually Google. This is why I recommend that you only use images from a royalty-free site like ShutterStock.com.

  • Mark Conatser

    I want to make my book available to anyone for free, and I thought an e book would be the best way since there’s no paper or ink involved. I am speaking about the things of God, and they are too fundamental to the basics of faith for me to feel as if they should be offered at a price, when of course what I’ve learned, and what I have written, was given to me by God for free. Can I publish my own book on Kindle or anywhere else at no cost to the reader?

  • Toby Ross

    Thank you for this posting! Question- We enrolled our e book with the KDP 90 days program and I would I would like to know the following, Do we get 70% worldwide or just Japan India Mexico etc…if that is the case what the USA, does the 70% apply? a or does drop down to 35% in the USA ? Also once the 90 days are over is it wise to renew the enrollment to another 90 days or is it wiser to go out with the e pub filkes etc into all other markets? After all not everyone owns a kindle. Thanks!

  • DASHIXI

    Hi,

    I have a question: Is it ok to publish my book on Kindle if I already sent it to a publishing house? They didn’t reply yet (it’s too soon) but let’s say their answer is “Yes”, Will it be ok if my book is on Kindle when they do?

    Thank You!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Probably not. You need to review your contract with them. Any legit publishing house is going to publish your book in all forms, and e-books are a big piece of the pie now.

      • DASHIXI

        Thank You very much for your reply.

  • Saint Paul

    The main purpose I want to be a writer and aim of this website is to bring for you the whole and complete changes that comes along with the inspection Best Writing Forums and by that you can feel the how to get published necessary areas and factors that can help you in all possible means. These are all substantial I want to get my book published and residential items which will be good enough because of your common aspects

  • http://www.myebook.co.za/ David Henderson

    A good, concise description of the eBook publishing process.

  • http://james-jpierre.wix.com/jamesjean-pierre James Jean-pierre

    Great post. I will be referring back to this before taking any action when close to my release date. One question that’s been bothering is how many publishing companies like amazon and such should you use. It was almost answered when you said ” concentrate your sales in a single place and can climb the best sellers lists faster.” I was thinking of choosing a top three, what do you think being someone that’s already taken the road and have the experience? and if you have a site I can visit about the formatting, that would be great too.