Amazon KDP: What Every Self-Publishing Author Should Know

Different types of books of all sizes and colors on bookshelves.

Long before I became the CEO of Colwell Creative Content, Inc., I aspired to become a published author. I wrote my first short story at the age of 10 and continued writing stories and longer manuscripts for my friends to read all throughout college and beyond. 

Amazon KDP makes it possible for authors to self-publish their books free of charge, which is incredible! But there’s a lot to learn about this platform and how it works. 

If you have aspirations of becoming a published author, there’s a lot more you need to know about this industry too. So let’s dive right in.

What is Amazon KDP?

In the simplest terms, Amazon KDP is a part of Amazon that makes it possible for authors and other creators to self-publish their books. If you already have an Amazon account, you can log in to Amazon KDP by clicking the link above. 

You can publish three different styles of books through the KDP platform: 

  • E-books
  • Softcover books
  • Hardcover books

There are several elements you’ll need before you can self-publish with Amazon KDP. 

Your Finished, Properly-Formated Manuscript

Before you publish, you’ll want to make sure your manuscript has been edited and formatted correctly for publication. We highly recommend professional editing to catch any grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. 

Even if you’ve gone over your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, I promise you, there are probably things you missed that a professional editor would not. More extensive editing can also help you identify plot holes or answer questions your readers might have that your book doesn’t answer. 

You’ll also need to choose the size of your book. E-books should be uploaded in standard PDF format for best results. But for your softcover and hardcover titles, you’ll need to use a template to get the correct sizing and spacing. Amazon KDP has templates readily available for every book size they offer. 

An ISBN Number

While e-books do not require ISBN numbers, you need one if you publish your book in softcover or hardcover formats. You can go about acquiring this in one of two ways. 

The first way is to simply ask Amazon KDP to assign your book a FREE ISBN number. The advantage of this option is that the number doesn’t cost you anything. However, it does tie your book to the Amazon KDP platform. If you want to move it off in the future, you’ll have to get a new ISBN. 

Alternatively, you can purchase your own ISBN through the Bowker website. One ISBN will cost you $125 as of the writing of this post. If you have several books in the works and you want to go this route, you can purchase bulk ISBNs at a cheaper rate. 

When you purchase your own ISBN, you’ll need to name a “publishing company.” This can be anything you want it to be, including just your own name. 

Your Book’s Description

With all formats, your book will need an optimized description. This is what people will see when they’re browsing through Amazon, looking for something to read. 

Your description should give a summary of your book. But be careful not to give too much of the story away in this section. You want a good hook right at the beginning to cause people to want to read your book. Then provide just enough details to give a good overview. 

Finally, ending your description with an irresistible “teaser” to get people to purchase your book is a great idea. 

Your Book’s Categories

Amazon KDP will also ask you to categorize your book, and it’s vitally important to get this right. You can choose two categories, and I highly recommend picking two, even if your book fits into one better than the other. 

Categorizing your book properly will help more readers find it when they’re searching. 

Your Author Bio & Picture

You don’t necessarily need a professional bio picture, but the one you choose should be of just you or you and your co-author if you’re writing it with someone else. 

Take this opportunity to take a nice picture of yourself with a solid background. I would avoid using a selfie for the back of your book. 

As far as your bio goes, give your readers a glimpse into who you are as a person and an author. Try answering these questions: 

  • What makes you an expert in this area? 
  • What are some personal details you’d like to share about yourself? 
  • Why are you passionate about this subject? 

Your Book Cover

Amazon KDP has a pretty decent book cover creation tool built in if you’re looking for something simple. It will walk you through designing the front and the back and give you several options for the front cover. 

But if you want something a little more involved, you’ll probably want to design at least the front of the book yourself. I recommend using PhotoShop or Canva for the best results. Alternatively, you can work with a graphic designer to create a unique cover design. 

You’re Ready to Publish! Now What? 

Once you’ve completed all of the above, you’ll review a mock-up of what your book will look like and set the price for your book. Each book format can be priced differently, and usually, e-books are the least expensive option. 

On the last page, you’ll be able to see what your royalties will be per book sold. You can adjust the price up or down and pick a percentage based on where you want your book to be distributed. 

Once you’re happy with how everything looks, you’re ready to hit the publish button. You’ll get a little pop-up box telling you your book has been submitted to Amazon for review. It can take up to 72 hours or so, but as long as everything was done correctly, you’ll soon receive an email telling you your book is available for purchase on Amazon. 

Self-Publishing and What to Avoid

Amazon KDP is – by far – the safest option for self-publishing authors. There are a lot of publishing companies out there preying on people who have always dreamed of seeing their books in print. I know because I was a victim of one of them years ago. 

My first book, Drop by Nine Spoonfuls, was originally published by Tate Publishing Company, which is no longer in business. This company swindled a lot of money out of hopeful authors. They made big promises about marketing and distribution and didn’t keep any of them. These types of companies may also be called vanity presses.

My best advice? Avoid any company that requires payment in exchange for publishing your book. If you want to go the more “traditional” publishing route, that will involve finding out which book agents in your genre are accepting pitches. You’ll need to adhere to their requirements, which typically involve writing a query letter and including a summary and several book chapters. 

Talk with Us About Publishing Your Book! 

At Colwell Creative Content, Inc., we’ve published several authors’ books on Amazon KDP. I’ve personally published seven of my own books in every available format and in multiple sizes. 

In short, we can help you get your book into print every step of the way. We’ll edit your manuscript (and even ghostwrite if you want help), design your cover, and take care of all formatting issues. 

Want to learn more? Contact us and Let’s Publish Your Book Together! 

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