Friday, 24 March 2017

Publish on Amazon and Kindle - How to do it

1 Feb 2016
Self-publishing on Amazon is amazing: It costs little or no money. It makes your book available worldwide. Setting up accounts and going through the proofing process is fairly straightforward and there is lots of How-to information on Amazon, and their customer service desk is efficient… Still, it will help you a great deal if you know in advance where to go and what to watch out for. So here are some useful links for self-publishing through Amazon:

·        Amazon Author Central
Create an account to establish yourself as an author on Amazon, and to set up f.ex. an author bio that will be visible on .com = the US site. To add these details to the Amazon sites in other countries, you have to set up an account there too. (It’s easy because the process is the same. Use when you’re doing the Japanese site J) Read this post too:
Note: Think about what e-mail address you want to link to all your accounts, because all correspondence will go through that address. The same goes for your login and official author name. You want it to be consistent.

·        Kindle Direct Publishing
KDP is the Amazon service to create an ebook (in their file format).

(Tip: If you plan to have a paperback edition as well, first read the CreateSpace info below.)

Uploading is free. You receive 70% or 35% royalties based on conditions like : location of the sale, file size, etc.
Great tip: Subscribe to and watch all the videos on how to prepare your manuscript for publishing on Kindle and on other platforms that exist: Nook (Barnes and Noble), Apple iBooks Store, Google Books, KOBO, etc…(There used to be a free trial period on Lynda. It might return...)

For instance, pay attention to how to set up a Table Of Contents. For Kindle it’s best to use the Insert Table option in Word. For other platforms (using format: .EPUB) it’s better to use the ‘universal’ way, namely: use ‘Insert Bookmark’ for every chapter title and make a table of contents from scratch via Insert Hyperlinks + linking them to the bookmarks of each chapter title. Otherwise the layout on non-Kindle e-book readers may not work or look bad.
KDP has a great preview option where you can see how your book will look on several devices (Kindle Fire, Android app,…)

·        CreateSpace
CreateSpace is the Amazon service for ‘Print On Demand’ printing = paperback edition will be printed whenever a customer orders a book.
Open an account and upload your book.
You need to set up your Author bio + book blurb again for this site. It isn’t linked to Amazon’s Author Central.
They offer 4 sales channels:
  • Amazon sites
  • CreateSpace site
  • Distribution channels (bookstores like the American Barns & Noble could order your book if their customer requests it.),
  • American Libraries. (Tip: To enable the sales channel ‘US libraries’ you need to choose the free ISBN number that CreateSpace provides!)

Note: CreateSpace autogenerates templates for the interior (the text) and the Frontcover-spine-backcover. Use these! I downloaded their templates that had the exact size, formatting and layout for my book containing 356 pages of a 6x9 inch size. Brilliant! In the proofing stage you’ll see a 3D render of the book. And if CreateSpace found printing problems, they’ll show you where to change the layout, fonts, etc.
You can upload a Word or PDF file on the site. Use one of the standard fonts they use. It looks bad on screen, but great in print (as opposed to fonts made for screens, like Arial).

Note: When publishing through CreateSpace, the site will prompt you to make the ebook (Kindle) version based on your upload. You can do that, but I think it might be better to upload a version on KDP specifically for that purpose. You may want to change the font, layout, page order,…

·        Embedded font
Embedded means that the font that your choose will be added to the book file.
Kindle has its own preferred font(s). Currently this is f.ex. ‘Bookerly’. It’s best to not select the ‘embed fonts’ when saving the (PDF) file, because readers might not like it, plus I found it complicated getting my book upload through the proofing process.

For the paper version, CreateSpace prefers their own font(s), like Minion.
You might decide to embed your own font. In that case change the PDF type from pages with text (that you can select) into pictures in Adobe Acrobat Pro or for example in Photoshop by ‘rasterizing’ the text. Google the best way to do this in the program you want to use.

·        Book cover. How to find a great book cover or have one made for you. Read my blog post on the subject.
Download a template contract online. Make sure that you own the full rights of the work! Make sure to ask for the complete Photoshop file so you can edit the layers yourself for promotional use later on, etc. Make sure the dimensions are exactly right to avoid headaches. Look up the suggested standard book size and resolution on the site.
Read the requirements on the website of CreateSpace and KDP (Kindle). Make sure the file is not downgraded in the process. You want to keep the highest possible quality.
CreateSpace and KDP offer additional services (at a cost) to help you with a book cover, layouting, etc.

·        DRM, protection
The Digital Rights Management approach differs on each platform. It’s basically software programming to restrict the usage of proprietary software, in other words, to combat piracy. Amazon gives you the option to enable or disable DRM. But once the book is published, you can’t change the setting anymore.
The debate around DRM is whether it prevents piracy or if it actually hinders sales. Tip: read up on it and make up your own mind.

·        ISBN number
This standardized number is simply a reference number to quickly find a certain book. A book can go without a ISBN number. Every country has its own service (for free or at a cost). 
Amazon adds free reference numbers (called ASIN numbers) to all its books anyway. In fact, on my Kindle book page, Amazon shows the ASIN number instead of my ISBN number.

·        Payment:
Amazon generally offers different ways (that can change in time), f. ex. by EFT, wire transfer or bank check. Within Europe, I assume the best out of those three is EFT.

Tip: And look into services like (sort of like Depending on which two countries are involved (f. ex. bank A in the USA transfers to bank B in Belgium), their transfer fee could be less expensive. But remember to take into account the hidden fees: the conversion rate from US$ to EUR. It might be worthwhile to look into setting up an account with one of those services, instead of using your usual home bank. (I haven’t tried this out myself yet.)
Amazon will not transfer money unless your Tax data are validated.

·        Taxes, ITIN number or EIN number, tax treaty
The below information is for people living outside of the US:
Amazon (an American company) will do a “tax interview” via your KDP and CreateSpace account, because selling books means VAT/consumer tax will have to be paid in the country where the sale takes place, and afterwards you will have to declare your foreign royalty earnings in your personal tax return.
By answering the tax interview questions, Amazon will draw up the document for you to (digitally) sign before sending it to the American IRS.
Tip: read up on this because you don’t want to make a mistake here. Amazon has recently updated their Help pages with more support and information on this.

To sell books in the US, I would need a Tax Identification Number. I don’t have one, so under normal circumstances, Amazon would have to tax and transfer (in my case) 30% of my royalties to the IRS. Luckily, Amazon can act as a withholding agent who deals with all of this. Once a year, the IRS will forward a tax document through Amazon to me.
Currently, I can fill in my local tax identification number in the tax interview. So I don’t need a US Tax Identification Number (TIN).
I could apply for a ITIN in the US but it requires quite a bit of administration and effort. Avoid if possible.
And EIN number is much easier to get (over the phone!), but for that you need to be an employee in your (own) company.

Luckily, the IRS won’t levy a % tax when there is a Tax Treaty between the US and your home country. In that case, the IRS the tax percentage is lower (or even 0%). You of course still have to declare your profits in your home country.
Tip: Read the info on the KDP Help pages and on the IRS site itself. (Brace yourself.)

You’ll come across the same tax interview when selling through CreateSpace, and through some ‘Aggregators’.

·        Aggregators
Aggregators are companies with distribution channels. They can get your ebook (.EPUB) up for sale on most well-known platforms, and also in hard to reach places - in my case, the Apple iBooks Store - but, of course, they take a percentage of the profit.

Smashwords for example is an aggregator who can act as a tax withholding agent in the States. The Apple iBooks Store won’t act as an agent (data: 2016). They pay out a ‘commission’ rather than royalties, so tax wise this is a problem for me. By going through an aggregator who does act as an agent (like Amazon does), it becomes possible to sell on the Apple store… but at a cost.
There are several aggregator companies. Probably some aggregators have distribution outlets that the competition has not (for example the French online FNAC store). It’s up to you to decide if it is worth the effort to join multiple aggregators, or any at all. Personally, I recommend it because you may want to not put all your eggs in the same basket.
Tip: make sure that they do not charge you (disproportionate) fees for every change you make to the book price, blurb,… because you will be making changes often!

Amazon has several ways to promote a book. (data: 2016)
For example, enrolling in ‘KDP Select’ ( gives access to:
·        Kindle Unlimited is a subscription program for readers that allows them to read as many books as they want.
·        Kindle Owners' Lending Library is a collection of books that Amazon Prime members who own a Kindle can choose one book from each month with no due dates.
When you enroll in KDP Select, your books are automatically included in both programs. Your books will still be available for anyone to buy in the Kindle Store, and you'll continue to earn royalties from those sales like you do today.
·        Amazon Giveaway is a service where the publisher pays for X copies of a book to give away for free to the winners. In that way the book gets exposure.
Make sure that you know if your book (and in what shape or form) may be on sale on other platforms or not when you enroll in these Amazon options.
·        Look Inside on Amazon is verrry important.
Many readers won’t buy a book unless they’ve had a chance to read the first chapter(s).
Both KDP and CreateSpace will automatically enable this feature (usually shortly after the book launch).
To ‘hook’ the potential buyers you may want to show 20% of the book instead of the default 10% for the paper edition (CreateSpace).
If in CreateSpace, you’d like to make your own Look Inside version, then you first need to sign up as a Seller on Amazon:
Then you can apply for ‘Search Inside The Book’:
Also, in KDP, you can send an email to the service desk and ask them to increase the Look Inside to X%. Bear in mind that the Look Inside window will often stop somewhere random inside a chapter.

·        Reviews are deemed very important. Potential buyers often want to read reviews on Amazon, Goodreads,… to decide to buy or not. Amazon has a very strict policy: If they suspect that the reviews have been bought or if they come from a close relative or friend, then they will delete those reviews.
Also, an author can get on the ‘Author behaving badly’ blacklist when (s)he directly emails a reviewer or customer through the Amazon/Goodreads platform. So be warned!
(Amazon now also adds a note to each uploaded review indicating that the reviewer was a verified buyer of the book or not. Both types are fine but a potential buyer might have more trust in a review by a verified buyer.)
Tip: read up on the correct netiquette (online etiquette) with regards to promoting yourself as an author on these sites.
Tip: join the Making Connections group on Goodreads to enroll your book in the Authors Requesting Reviews (ARR) group. You give your book for free, and interested readers ‘might’ later on add a review to your book page. The dialogue is handled by group administrators, so you are not in direct correspondence with the readers.

Create an online presence on social media to attract interest for your book. Often interlinking ‘feeds’ can be set up. For instance, my tweet on Twitter will also automatically appear on my Facebook author page.
Facebook “page” (, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Blogger (start your own blog), Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, Wattpad,…

This Amazon service is used by millions of readers. Goodreads will propose books to the readers in the genre that they have expressed interest in.
Open an Author account and link it to your published book via your ISBN or ASIN (Amazon reference number).

Millions of people read the free content on this site. Authors publish installments of their story (f. ex. one chapter per week) and get followers that may turn into fans. I have published the first 7 chapters of my book there ahead of my book launch (to get them ‘hooked’). Of course, after the launch, I keep these preview chapters up on the site. And, of course, from the start I stated clearly that I was only going to upload a part of the story.

·        Multiply formats available
Amazon will normally automatically link your Kindle book and paper edition in the days after their launch. So when you go to the Amazon page of one edition, you’ll see them side by side. It simply requires the exact same book title and the same publisher. If this doesn’t happen, then you can contact the service desk (link at the bottom of the KDP page) and put in the request.

·        Convert and check ebook file
Calibre Use this program to convert Word to .EPUB or .PDF or . AWZ, etc. yourself. It has the option to embed the fonts used. If you plan to publish on for example the Apple iBooks Store, you’ll need to provide an .EPUB version of your book. Calibre can do that conversion.
(I think it’s a good program but Amazon did find problems when I uploaded a converted file.)  This free website can be used to check if your EPUB file contain problems. Be sure to make use of this tool.

·        Copyright protection
One way to create proof of ownership of your rights is to send a (digital) copy of your book to a National Library or similar organisation in your region.
And, of course, put your own copyright text in your book. Open any book and you'll see examples. When you want to know more about a site or things connected to publishing, read about it on Wikipedia! And Google it, of course. It’s amazing how much info is available.

Amazon Associates
On your own (blog) site you may want to add a hyperlink to your Amazon page. Or you may want to add a widget showing your/a book inside an Amazon frame. When someone clicks on this link and buys the book, you get the commission (minimum 4% on click-through sales). If you want to make money that way, you need to give bank coordinates, etc. You will also need to have enough traffic, or Amazon will discontinue this service.

‘Universal’ URL: How to find the ‘universal’ URL to your book on Amazon (which redirects the surfers to the applicable Amazon site of their own country.)

Research: Buy (e)books on how to market your book, etc. For example:

·        Other major online bookstores:
Apple iBooks Store:

Google Books (part of the Google Play store):
Due to too many copyright infringements, it is not possible to sign up as a new author at this point in time. (Feb-17) Boo!

NOOK store (Barnes & Noble):
American (online) bookstore.

(Originally) Canadian online bookstore.
Uploading your book here is fairly straight-forward.

Did I forget a very important tip or website?
Then let me know, or write your feedback below in the Post a Comment box. Thanks!

- Jonen
novel writer of 'MINE LOOKS PURPLE' available at major online retailers.

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