A Guide to Kindle Direct Publishing
After having slogged through writing your book, you are now face to face with the publishing part of the process. You have spent countless nights spend stolen from family or work to make this precious personification of all that you are. Having a book under your belt means more than just writing a book. It means spending a few weeks or months writing cover letters and book proposals (if your book is nonfiction). It means searching for agents, finding them, and waiting for them to take you on. Some agents might send you back to the writing pad or the computer screen. In India, the culture of hiring agents developed much later than in the west. If you have managed to cross these stages and still want to publish your book, there is always the idea that a publishing company can reject you.
But if you decide on self-publishing your book, you can skip all the above steps. Especially, if you are publishing with Amazon Kindle. Kindle Direct Publishing is the platform to self-publish your book. It is known colloquially by its acronym, KDP.
You might ask, does KDP work. Will anyone, read your book if you use KDP to publish it? Oh, yes, it does! And people do read KDP eBooks. Ask authors Andy Weir and Luke Jennings. Andy Weir’s ‘The Martian’ was released on Amazon KDP. A Hollywood production house optioned the novel and made it into the Matt Damon starrer by the same name. You must have heard of it. In 2015, it was one of the hit films. Luke Jennings is the author of the novella ‘Codename Villanelle’. The acclaimed TV series ‘Killing Eve’ directed by Phoebe Waller-bridge is based on this novel. It won many awards too.
Now that you know that KDP works, let’s move on to the next step.
Publishing a Bestseller
There are several steps to publishing a best seller on Amazon.
1. Writing the Manuscript
You need your manuscript to be completely error-free. You can use many tools, such as open-source apps and browser extensions, to get to that stage. Or you could hire a freelance editor or proofreader to help you achieve grammatical perfection.
2. Understanding How Amazon KDP Works
Once your book is on Amazon, you need people to discover your book’s page (the traffic) and then buy it because they are convinced of the value of your book (conversion). So sales is basically traffic x conversion. Only traffic, or only people window shopping, doesn’t help. You need to convert a potential buyer to an actual one. Conversion is your good friend. Because more people buy your book, the more Amazon will notice and promote it. It is because Amazon also recommends books to buyers. But for you to get Amazon’s recommendation logarithm to notice your book, you need to have a high conversion rate. How do you do that? You need to make the best use of your Amazon KDP Page.
3. Creating Your Amazon KDP Page
The Amazon KDP page is the face of your book. Your reader doesn’t know you or your book. Through this page, he/she gets to know about it. For your book to be a bestseller, your Amazon KDP page should also look like a bestseller. How will you do this? By concentrating on these aspects:
- An eye-catching book cover
- A stellar book description
- Favorable book reviews
- An appealing author bio
- Keyword categories
A. An Eye-catching Book Cover
Imagine that you are a reader. Your favorite genre is fantasy Young Adult literature. If you search YA fantasy as a genre on Amazon, it will turn up hundreds of books. Some will be traditionally published. It is a popular genre, so publishers know the ROI for it will be high and will invest considerably in it. They will spend a lot of money on a reputed graphic designer who will create a fabulous cover design that will go down in history as the face of the first edition of the book. Some of those books might be self-published. They, too, might have spent big bucks to get a catchy cover.
Now, think as an independent author that you are. Your book has to compete with these books. Amid the pixel perfection of the traditional publishers and self-publishers, your book has to stand out. Will a last-minute stock image cover image cut it? If you said yes to that, think again. It won’t work. You need to also invest in making an impactful cover. You have to make sure that the cover:
- looks professionally done
- catches the browser’s attention
- matches the conventions expected of the genre
You can hire freelance graphic designers to take care of these points. Matching the expectations of the genre is a crucial point. You cannot skip this step no matter how original the cover design is. It’s a good idea not to challenge the conventions of the genre on the cover. Instead, go along with them. A mystery book needs a book cover that matches it. A YA fantasy book needs a book cover that shows the reader from afar that it is so. By looking at the cover, the reader should be convinced that your book is the next must-read in a genre they love.
Make sure that your cover looks good as a thumbnail as well. Most often, a reader will see a thumbnail first before clicking or tapping on it to see the Amazon page. Follow the KDP recommended size and aspect ratio given in the guidelines as well.
- Kindle Direct Publishing recommended size — 2,560 x 1,600 (1.6:1 aspect ratio)
- Novels and Non-Fiction — 2,560px x 1,600px (1.5:1 aspect ratio)
- Illustrated Books — 2,800px x 3,920px (1.4:1 aspect ratio) or 3,000px x 3,600px (1.2:1 aspect ratio)
- Audiobooks — 3,200px x 3,200px (1:1 aspect ratio)
Head to this article on standard book and eBook cover sizes for a detailed look.
B. A Stellar Book Description
Continue to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Your reader has clicked or tapped on the attractive thumbnail that fits the recommended dimensions, meets the genre expectations, and is attractive as well. Now, they land on your book’s Amazon page. Then they see the pixel-perfect cover image and are persuaded enough to read the book description. But if the book description doesn’t match the promising cover and thumbnail, the game’s over even before it’s begun. This is not how you’d like it to go, right?
So, you need to work on the book description. This is not a synopsis of the book. This is not the same as the back cover of the book. Here is your opportunity to sell your book to the potential buyer and reader. Think of it as a sales opportunity. It is your elevator pitch.
The book description is the first time the reader is coming into contact with your writing. So you want to be ready for them. How do you do that? Here is a very brief guide:
- A striking headline: You can start the book description with a one-line comment from a reputable source, which could be a famous person or a newspaper or magazine. If that’s not available yet for your book, you need a short and striking headline. Grab the attention of the reader by using italics, bold, or block quotes. Here are some HTML tags to help you:
- Bold: place the text you want in bold here
- Italics: place the text you want in italics here
“Blockquote:place the text you want as an…”
- A brief blurb: After the striking headline convinces your reader, this is the place in which they will search for the meat of the story. In this part, you don’t need to give a detailed story. Just a broad outline will do. You do need to use keywords associated with the genre. For example, if you are writing the YA fantasy, you need to have “young adult”, “fantasy”, and “alternate worlds” in the book description. Readers will be able to spot what they want from these keywords. These are not the same keywords as in the book category, which comes later. We will cover it in a bit.
- A strong sign-off: Your reader has reached the sign-off section now. They are almost ready to buy the book or close the window and walk away. You have one last chance to tilt their choice in your favor. That is in the sign-off. You need to tell the readers WHY they should be reading the book. What do they gain from reading it? What do they lose from not reading it? You can even compare the book to a famous work in the same field—for example, the new J. K. Rowling. If you have some favorable reviews, you can quote a few lines here. Or underline the value of reading the book.
C. Favorable Book Reviews
Now your reader is 90% convinced of purchasing your book. But still, they want some confirmation from other readers. It is where favorable book reviews come in. Book reviews at Amazon have the superpower to sell your book. So far, you, the author has been telling the reader why they need to read the book. Now they will hear it from other readers. Readers trust other readers. The word-of-mouth publicity that you get from a favorable book review is unparalleled. A book review, positive or negative, means that real readers have read the book.
There is one downside to this. Unlike the other parts of the Amazon page, you have no control over this part of the publishing process. You can send your finished book and ask a few trusted readers to post their reviews. You will need to cultivate your readers, which means keeping track of readers of your genre and drawing their attention to your book. Don’t worry about middle-of-the-rung or bad reviews. Any review is good news, according to Amazon. Though it’s better, you have reviews that rate you above 3.5 stars. Anything less and your average review score might be affected. A list of only five-star reviews might look suspicious, so it’s always good to have honest reviews.
D. An Appealing Author Bio
After reading the reviews, your reader might be tempted to find out who the author is. So they will visit your Amazon Authors Central page. This is another chance for you to show your readers who you are. The Amazon Authors Central is a free service for authors who publish through Amazon KDP. The page is used to manage and respond to customer reviews and track the sales of your book.
Through the Amazon Authors Central page, your reader can learn more about you. Hence it is important to write an appealing bio, which will grab the reader’s attention. You must keep updating the bio and polishing it as you go along. You have only 100 characters to make an impact. You must add an attractive picture of yourself as well. Make sure you own the rights to your own picture. If you have multiple pictures, add them and sort them in any order you like. Next, don’t forget to customize the Author Page URL. This makes your author bio look professionally done. If you have professional-quality introduction videos, you can add them as well. Finally, if you have written other books, search for your other books and “claim” them so that they show up as your books on your author page.
Your reader may not even look at the keyword categories, yet the reason they are on your book’s page is because of them. There are several Amazon keyword categories. It could be simple like ‘fiction’ and ‘non-fiction’ to something very detailed like Literature & Fiction -> Women -> Mystery, Thriller & Suspense -> Women Sleuths. Thousands of categories go into such depth.
When you publish your book through the KDP dashboard, you have to choose two categories. Later, after the book has is published; you can request an additional eight more. You must make use of this provision. Categories are important because some sell better than others. As you assign your book to an exclusive niche, you are more likely to be able to reach the Best Seller status in that niche. That orange badge has your name on it!
Follow the same logic for your keywords. Choose keywords that reflect your book and have high sales potential. Your readers will find you through them.
4. Working on Your Book Launch
You have published your book via KDP, following all the guidelines given earlier. Now you’ll need to prepare for marketing it. With the right marketing efforts, you will be able to turn your book into an Amazon bestseller.
- Plan the book launch: Have a day-by-day book launch plan ready before you start the marketing process.
- Have a price promotion: Reduce the price of your book for a period of time. Amazon gives more visibility to lower-priced books.
- Use your existing audience: Reach out to your followers and friends on social media. Announce on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media so that they can buy the book.
- Connect with other authors: Cross-promote other authors in your mailing list while they promote you in theirs. You will need a mailing list or a list of subscribers for this.
- Advertise: Advertise your book on Facebook, Amazon, and other platforms.
5. Calculating Book Sales and Royalty
When authors think of getting their book out, they wonder if they would make money self-publishing on Amazon. Let’s imagine your self-published book via KDP is doing really well. How would you know that? You’ll need to calculate the book sales and your royalty from it. The two components that you need to be aware of are:
- The amount Amazon charges you for each unit sold.
- The amount Amazon charges as sales commission.
Then there is the Amazon Kindle eBook delivery cost. Amazon states that they charge $0.15 per megabyte (MB) of your Kindle eBook. This is for each book sold which is priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Allow the Amazon calculator to calculate the delivery charges for you. You can completely avoid this charge by choosing a 35% royalty option. This might mean lower your profits. So choose wisely.
Amazon also offers a 50% royalty option for invite-only non-fiction books. There are no delivery charges if you are eligible.
Amazon’s sales commissions depend on the royalty rate.
- 35% royalty rate: For books priced lower than $2.99 and higher than $9.99, the Amazon sales commission is 65%.
- 70% royalty rate: For books priced between $2.99 and above $9.99, the Amazon sales commission is 30%.
Remember that not all books can qualify for the 70% royalty rate. Sales in English-speaking countries pay higher than non-English speaking countries on Amazon. Yet in India, you will get 35% royalty unless your book is in KDP Select. Read up on the terms and conditions of KDP select to make an informed choice.
Now you know how to publish an Amazon Best seller. You need to write an error-free manuscript, completely set up the Amazon KDP page, manage the marketing and calculate the sales and royalty. Congratulations if you have done all of them! Good luck!