“Your manuscript will go on the ‘Slush Pile’ along with hundreds of others. Our main priority is with the authors already on our books.” The words of a Literary Agent who addressed my Creative Writing Group many years ago.
In the past, the traditional route to publication was to send your manuscript to a multitude of Literary Agents and receive repeated rejections. If managed to win over a Literary Agent, they would submit your manuscript to a range of Publishers and you would receive further repeated rejections. Don’t believe me? J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ was rejected no fewer than twelve times, with one rejection letter advising Ms Rowling not to quit her day job.
She is in august company; John le Carré, Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell, Agatha Christie, Frank Herbert and James Joyce were all rejected many times. Beatrix Potter was never accepted and was forced to self-publish her work.
What is Self-Publishing?
In the past, self-publishing meant paying upfront for a print run of several thousand books, which you then had to store, sell and distribute yourself. Alternatively, a ‘Vanity Publisher’ would charge you sometimes tens of thousands of pounds to print and publish your book. (Vanity Publishing companies still exist; any company who charges handsomely to get you into print is best avoided.)
However, new technology has transformed publishing in the last few years. Estimates vary, but eBooks (books which are delivered electronically to a reading device) now constitute approximately one third of all book sales. It is a growth market and with no physical product, one that is usually more profitable for the author or publisher.
Print-on-Demand (POD) technology means that a paperback can be printed and sent straight to a customer when they order. In delivering direct to the customer, both eBooks and POD have made large print runs and product storage a thing of the past.
In this article, am going to talk about Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) since that is the platform on which I have published my books. Other publishing platforms do exist and they work in a similar way. I chose KDP for my own project, since its marketplace is with global giant, Amazon and I haven’t figured out the others yet!
How Easy is it to Self-Publish a Book on KDP?
If you have basic computer skills, you can self-publish a book. The KDP website works like a Wizard. Once you have typed up your book, KDP walks you through uploading and formatting your manuscript for publication. The preferred file type is a formatted PDF, although Word and other file types are supported. There is a built-in Cover Creator which helps you to design a cover for your book.
KDP tells you the print cost of your book and you select the sale price yourself. Once you have completed these steps, Amazon will review your upload and if all is well, your book should be live for sale on Amazon within 72-hours.
How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book on KDP?
You can self-publish your book for… £0.00!
How much you wish to invest depends largely on your intent. If you are publishing a memoir for friends and family only, you may want to keep your costs to a minimum. If, like me, you want to be the next Bill Bryson (it’s good to have aspirations!) a little strategic spending may not go amiss.
Worthwhile Expenses when Self-Publishing
I invested around £1000 in my series of three travel books. Eight months on, I have just about broken even on the sales of the first two books, although I parted with the cash on the basis that I was indulging myself in an enjoyable hobby and anything else was a bonus.
- Proof Reading and Editing – I am a fastidious grammarian with great confidence in my abilities with the English Language, however I still had my books proof read and edited. Editing your own work is difficult, since you know what you intend to say, which means that you can miss mistakes. I read a lot and find glaring spelling and grammatical errors in books really off-putting. You don’t want your reviews concentrating on errors, rather than the content of the book. Proof reading and editing cost upwards of around £0.002 per word and besides polishing the presentation, should iron out any inconsistencies with the story or plot.
- Professionally Designed Book Covers – It’s the biggest cliché in the world, but people DO judge a book by its cover. Potential buyers will be engaged – or not – as soon as they see it. Your cover tells readers immediately the genre of the book and what it is about. The cover must work as a thumbnail image on Amazon and for a paperback, you need a back cover and spine of the right thickness for the page count. Home-made covers usually stand out a mile. The cost of getting a professionally-designed cover depends on your budget. You can employ a designer in the Far East via websites like Fiverr for as little as ten pounds, while some of the top design agencies will charge you thousands. Some book cover companies offer one-off pre-made covers for around £50 (the designs seemed to be more oriented to fiction). I opted for a custom book cover designer, Book Covers for You, who charged £398 + VAT for two covers (eBook and Paperback) plus formatting the text to give a professional appearance in the book. They gave me a 20% discount for my series of three books. I was delighted with the results but sadly, they have since stopped designing covers to concentrate on the publishing side of their business. Go On Write offers hundreds of pre-made book covers in a variety of genres for sale for as little as $30.
- ISBN Numbers – an International Book Standard Number identifies all of the product information. Amazon will allocate an ISBN number to your book; however, you will not own that ISBN number. If you publish on multiple platforms, your book will have different ISBN numbers for each. Not having your own ISBN numbers can preclude selling your book through a bookshop or having it stocked in a library. You can always add your own ISBN number later, but this might mean that you lose any reviews associated with the previous ISBNs. In the UK, ISBN numbers can be purchased through Nielsen Book Services. I bought a bundle of ten ISBNs for £132.50. I have three books in the pipeline and each format (eBook and paperback) needs its own ISBN. This is an optional expense, however I wanted to keep my options open just in case fame and fortune might beckon!
What Happens After You Publish?
- British Library Legal Deposit – within a month of publication, UK law obliges you to submit a copy of your book to the British Library at your own expense. The other five Legal Deposit Libraries may ask for a copy of your book which again, you must submit at your own expense.
- Nielsen Title Editor – an optional, free database listing which ensures that your book is visible to book-buying customers in over 100 countries.
- Marketing – as a self-published author, this is all down to you! Amazon offers options for promotion (Amazon pushes books in the first 90 days from publication). Social media can be very helpful as can specialist press and magazines.
For me, less than a year ago, publishing a book was just a long-held dream. Now, I have made it a reality. I am not expecting to retire on the proceeds; I consider it a success simply to have covered my costs. However, it has been enjoyable and very satisfying. I have finally seen myself in print and have received many positive reviews from strangers who clearly enjoy reading my scribbles.
However, do be aware that if you are out there, you will receive negative reviews, which can be very hurtful. Every author, no matter how successful, has received poor reviews and many say that reviews are for readers, not authors and simply do not read them. I am proud of my work and that is all that matters to me. I just tell myself that it is not possible to please all of the people all of the time.
They say that everyone has got a book in them. Whether it is a memoir for the kids or the next Bestseller, the opportunity is out there to get into print and I hope that this article at least guides and inspires you to take the first few steps.
- KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)
- Sophie Wallace Proof Reading (Facebook) – @SophieWallaceProofreading
- British Library Legal Deposit
- Nielsen Title Editor (& link to buy ISBN Numbers)
- Indies Unlimited – a fabulous list of resources, advice & free promotion for independently published authors.
- The Creative Penn Blog – a most valuable source of information on all aspects of self-publishing. Also has many links to suppliers.
- How to Publish a Book – an excellent 10-step guide with useful links to further in-depth information from Reedsy, who also list approved editors, designers and other publishing professionals.
- How To Self Publish A Book – a comprehensive summary of all the steps available to download from Print On Demand publisher Ingram Spark.
- Kindle Publishing Masterclass – a Udemy course which covers writing and publishing Kindle books.
- Go On Write – a wide selection of pre-made book covers.
- 100 Covers – custom book covers from $100.
- How to Use a Stock Photo to Create a Book Cover
- Nonfiction Authors Association List of Recommended Resources – from proof readers to publishers.
- The Book Khaleesi – One stop shop for authors, from reasonably-priced book covers to affordable help with marketing.
Fur Babies in France – From Wage Slaves to Living the Dream is the story of how, having been made redundant in our early 50s, Mark and I accidentally bought four dogs and our first caravan. Overnight, we decided to rent out our apartment, sell most of our possessions and tour full time. To order from Amazon.co.uk click here, for elsewhere in the world, click here.
Dog on the Rhine – From Rat Race to Road Trip follows our second year’s journey through Germany, The Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Italy. To order Dog on the Rhine, from Amazon.co.uk click here. If you are elsewhere in the world, click here.
Dogs ‘n’ Dracula – A Road Trip Through Romania – we were heading for Spain but decided to turn left… To see how we managed to avoid being robbed, scammed, kidnapped by gypsies, eaten by bears or attacked by wild dogs and wolves – as well as the floods and riots, order Dogs ‘n’ Dracula, from Amazon.co.uk click here. If you are elsewhere in the world, click here.
Pups on Piste – A Ski Season in Italy – “You don’t look old enough to have given up work!” Pups on Piste documents the first three month winter season that we spent in beautiful Monte Rosa, one of the ski areas of the Aosta Valley in northern Italy. To order Pups on Piste from Amazon.co.uk click here. If you are elsewhere in the world, click here to go to your nearest Amazon marketplace.
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4 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing a Book & Selling it on Amazon”
There have been some huge successes that began in self publishing, like Andy Weir’s best selling The Martian, so who is to say that a self published book won’t go on to be a best seller, in fact I suspect self publishing will be the driving force in publishing from now on. Great post.
Hi Sharon, I think you are right. There are some really excellent self published books out there and the thought that they are somehow second best is changing slowly. There are some poor examples out there, but I have certainly read plenty of traditionally published books that could have used a bit of editing! Thank you for your kind words. I am pleased that you enjoyed the post. Jackie xx