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An Indie Author's Checklist for Self-Publishing on Amazon


Comic book, cook book, travel guide, children's book, educational text, memoir, manga, or the next great novel … you've decided to publish your book yourself and market it on Amazon, the world's largest bookstore.

In so doing, you will maintain creative control of your work and own your copyright. Print-on-demand means no minimum orders and your book will never be out of stock, as Amazon presents it to readers throughout a behemoth international distribution network.

Since it's owned by Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a likely choice for many indie authors. Publishing eBooks since 2009, KDP took over from CreateSpace last year as Amazon's paperback self-publishing platform. Books published on KDP link directly to Amazon and earn up to 60% royalties on the set list price (minus printing costs), and 70% for eBooks.

To make a self-publishing income stream a reality, you will wear a lot of hats and need to accomplish the 32 tasks listed below. Decide which jobs you can do yourself and which you will contract out. Use every business and artistic decision as an opportunity to reinforce your author brand.

  1. Write the book. Rewrite. Submit it to your critique group. Rewrite. Submit it to your beta readers. Rewrite. Hire an editor. Rewrite. Polish the final manuscript to a glossy sheen. This is the Body of the book.
  2. Decide how you want your book to physically look and feel. Stack up books you admire and study them. Educate yourself to the particular trim sizes, fonts and other characteristics that are conventional for different genres. Notice, for example, that young adult fiction doesn't have the same layout as narrative non-fiction.
  3. Hire an artist or graphic designer for illustrations, tables, maps or chapter heading designs. Or master Photoshop and do this yourself, ensuring all images are at least 300 dpi.
  4. Prepare the Front Matter (some of which is optional): the frontispiece, title page, copyright page, dedication, epigraph, table of contents, foreword or preface, prologue or introduction. You will print the book's ISBN on the copyright page, so you need to acquire that and type the 13-digit number on the copyright page before saving the manuscript as a PDF file.
  5. Prepare the Back Matter (again, much is optional): epilogue or conclusion, appendix or addendum, chronology or endnotes, bibliography and references, list of contributors, endnotes, copyright permissions and acknowledgments, glossary, author's note (including contact invitation), teaser for the next installment in the series.
  6. Link the Front Matter, the Body and the Back Matter—that's your book!
  7. Design the book or hire a book designer. This is a centuries-old art form, not pages slapped between a cover. Every element from font type to chapter headings and scene-separating symbols is an opportunity to reinforce your story and your author brand.
  8. Format the book or hire a book formatter. Microsoft Word is capable of formatting many projects, though for multiple or complex manuscripts, it's worth learning Adobe InDesign. Formatting is a focused, detail-oriented task involving running headers, pagination, beginning chapters on a right-facing page, and banishing widows, orphans and unintentional blank space. Be thorough and consistent. Don't be intimidated by terms like recto, verso, kerning and leading. You're an author—master the language! KDP Tools and Resources has a step-by-step formatting guide. You can format an eBook and a paperback with simple layout working off your Word document and templates from Kindle Create, a free desktop app.
  9. Turn your formatted book into a single PDF.
  10. Design the cover or hire a cover designer. Write the back cover copy. You will not know the precise width of the spine, until you have uploaded the interior of the book. Also, you will later obtain a bar code with a specific ISBN number and (optional) pricing information. The bar code will be printed on the back cover. So you will complete the cover design step later. KDP offers Cover Creator, a free tool to design a simple cover that meets Kindle's specifications. Whatever your design method, choose simple elements so your cover will read well and stand out among Amazon's thumbnail images.
  11. Plan the book launch campaign. Should your release date dovetail with Latvia's Centennial Celebration, or something significant to your subject matter? Plan to get face-to-face with readers during the excitement of your new book release by planning a calendar of bookstore and library signings now. Write a press release and set up who will receive it and when. Prepare a list of reviewers who will receive advance copies of your opus.
  12. Amazon rankings are influenced by a flurry of sales activity in a short period of time, so take advantage of the initial hoopla to affect a spike in sales.
  13. Build or maintain your author platform. You want your book to arrive hot-off-the-press to fanfare! Don't let your social media presence lapse just because you are in formatting purgatory. Schedule six months of posts in advance.
  14. Print bookmarks, display posters and flyers. Practice performing readings before an audience.
  15. Use your e-mail list to keep fans and readers in the loop, let them count down with you to the release date, and invite them to events.
  16. Make sure your browser is updated.

Congratulations! If you have completed the above 16 steps, you've accomplished the work of a team of publishing professionals.

At this point, you may choose from many print-on-demand providers. If your heart is set on a hardcover, for example, Ingram Spark would be a better fit than KDP. You can utilize both or several platforms to achieve your objectives. Research your options thoroughly for the best fit before committing your time and money or signing any agreements. Authors who select Amazon's KDP will find the process to be straightforward and user-friendly. Onward!

  1. Set up your KDP account. Then, go to your Bookshelf and Create A New Title. Most of the info required is obvious, but Book Description, Keywords and Price should be carefully considered.
    • Your 4000-character Book Description will appear on Amazon, and must catch a reader's interest and motivate a purchase.
    • Provide 7 keywords or short phrases that will make your book discoverable.
    • Set the price.
  2. KDP offers authors the option to use their own ISBN (International Standard Book Number), purchase discounted Bowker ISBNs, or obtain free ISBNs with KDP Print as the imprint.
  3. Select trim size, page color, and cover finish, as prompted.
  4. Upload the PDF file containing your paperback's manuscript, aka the interior.
  5. Complete the Cover Design (step #10 above) with the precise, required dimensions (front, back and spine) and bar code. Now that you know the book's page count, ISBN, and pricing, KDP's Cover Template Generator will give you the cover's exact dimensions and unique bar code.
  6. Upload the cover PDF file.
  7. Launch the Previewer. Any problems that will impact printing will be reported. Some errors will have to be corrected. Others may be ignored if you want to risk a suboptimal outcome. You may inspect a digital proof by downloading the Print Previewer, or order a physical proof, or both.
  8. Approve the proof and submit the files for a Manual Check. After your book passes, it is available for sale on Amazon.
  9. Kindle Create will format the manuscript file for an eBook, which is similarly uploaded, proofed, submitted, reviewed and published.
  10. Your KDP Bookshelf will show that your books are Live and Available for Purchase on Amazon! Purchase a quantity for your promotional needs. Savor holding your book in your hands and the effort it represents.
  11. Go to Amazon's and set up your Author Page—an important and potentially juicy component of your platform. Through this portal, add editorial reviews for your book, track book sales, see and respond to reader reviews, chat with your readers and fix issues with your book listings.
  12. Create your Author Page.
  13. Don't forget to create a direct link from your website to your book's detail page on Amazon. Post this link on your social media sites.
  14. Get reviews! Potential readers may ignore a book that has zero reviews.
  15. Promote! Move up Amazon rankings with flights of intense promotional activity in a short period of time. Drop the price of your book for 5 – 7 days. Or invent a giveaway, hoping that many of the winner-readers will return a favorable review. Do a virtual book or blog tour. Learn more on KDP Select and Kindlepreneur.
  16. Deposit royalties. KDP pays royalties every month, approximately 60 days after the end of the month in which they were earned.
Follow this checklist to self-publish on Amazon.
Follow this checklist to self-publish on Amazon. Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels.

Remember, as an indie author, you are the ultimate and only source for your book. If you're new to this, you may make mistakes. Correct them. You are not Simon & Schuster. You offer an artisanal product, according to a savvy business model that maintains 60% royalties. Put forth your best effort and build ethical, personal relationships with your readers and publishing associates.

Further help: K-boards and the KDP Community.

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