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How to publish a Kindle eBook

So, you’ve written a book?  Congratulations.  Whether it’s the work of years or simply your latest NaNoWriMo entry, it was almost certainly a difficult and demanding project that it would be great to get some recognition for.  Sure, you can go through the traditional routes and send out your manuscript to the publishing houses in hopes that you get a bite, but should you be looking for another route, whether due to rejection, disinterest, or simple distaste for involving yourself with those companies, Amazon’s DTP(Digital Publishing Platform) for the Kindle might be right for you.  Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Create an Account

One of the advantages to going with the Kindle for your digital platform is that any Amazon.com account should basically be good for this already.  Simply head to the DTP Log-in screen and enter your usual information.  If this is your first time playing with the DTP service, you’ll be asked for some basic publishing-specific settings such as tax information and preferred payment method.  It’s pretty straightforward and you should have little trouble.

Step 2: Format your eBook

Presumably you’ve already taken the time to do any sort of content editing you’d like to do.  Dwelling on the details of that would turn this post into a book of its own, as I’m sure you’re aware.  What is important, however, is making sure you’re setting things up properly to be accessible on the Kindle platform.  The supported file formats at the moment are:

Unencrypted Mobipocket(.mobi and .prc)

This is pretty much the ideal, if you can do it, since it is the format that the Kindle-specific file format is derived from.

Unzipped EPUB

These should actually make the conversion very cleanly in most cases.  It is basically the current generation of the old Mobipocket format(yes, I know I’m oversimplifying) and can be brought back to that earlier iteration in eBook formatting pretty easily.  If you’re hoping to get your book set up for more than just the Kindle, you’ll likely be using this format anyway, at some point.

Plain Text

Obviously not much you can do wrong in this one, though it is a bit limiting.

Microsoft Word .doc File

Definitely usable, but with some complications.  Avoid anything like headers or footers.  No page numbers(remember that the Kindle reflows the text to respond to size adjustments and such).  For the same reason, don’t bother playing with Margins or anything.  Also, for whatever reason, Amazon recommends you add in images using the “Insert” command rather than copy/paste for best results.  Something to keep in mind.

*IMPORTANT* Don’t mistake this for the new .docx file format.  That is a different and wholly incompatible thing.

Adobe PDF

This is the poorest option, by all accounts, but it will still work after a fashion.  There is simply too little formatting information in your average PDF to hope to get much of anything besides the bare text and most minimal formatting out of Amazon’s conversion process.  You might actually be better off finding a third party utility to break down your PDF into something that can be played with in MS Word or a similar program that can be converted into a more useful format.

Zipped HTML

There are a number of specific things to be aware of in using an HTML document for your Kindle book.  While this is the most finely controllable method for formatting your book, by most accounts, it is also complicated and requires great attention to detail.  In most cases, until and unless you have extensive experience using this sort of an eBook format, you might be better off using something else.

To be honest, speaking from personal experience, the best thing you can do to get something ready for publication is to take what you have finished, convert it to either .mobi or HTML, and send it to your Kindle to see how it works.  Flipping through on the device itself will save you a world of trouble in case something goes wrong.

kindle for pcStep 3: Upload Your Book

They’ve made this part really simple.  Assuming you are still logged into the DTP system, you will see a button that says “Add a New Title”.  Click on it and enter all the information it asks for.  You’ll need to provide not only your book file and a description of the work to sell it with, but also any important publication data, an assurance that you have a right to publish the book, a decision about whether or not to enable DRM, and a cover/product image.  The product image is important, since it is what will appear on the product page in the Kindle store.

You will then be prompted for information on countries where you hold the rights to your work, and to select a pricing/royalty option.  You can choose from either 35% royalties, in which case you get to set your price in stone, or 70% royalties, which means that Amazon has a lot more say over how much your book is going to be costing if they decide they need to price match or anything like that and that they deduct a small delivery fee based on file size for each sale.  Either way, you set your price(s) in the little box below that area and you’re done.

Step 4: Promote it

Let’s face it, getting the book on the Kindle marketplace is the easiest part of things.  The hard part, aside from the writing itself, comes next!  Now you’ve got to spread the word.  Many recent authors have had luck with creating a public presence for themselves through creative use of blogging, web promotion, and plain old word of mouth.  Whichever method you choose, you’ve got a good start going already.  Good luck!

67 comments to How to publish a Kindle eBook

  • Excellent information! Amazon/Kindle has been the best for customer service. My company uploads ebooks for corporate accounts and individual authors and Amazon has been the easiest to work with. Thanks for the info, I will send out to all our authors.

  • Paul Goodwin

    This looks very engaging. Is there any way to publish under a pseudonym doing this? I have two different lines of work I would consider publishing, but they would not play well together from a marketing standpoint…I would not want the two both associated with the same author name.

  • matthew

    I’m completely certain that there is a way to publish under a pseudonym, but I’m equally sure I have no idea what the best way would be. Alternate Amazon account, maybe? Sorry, just hadn’t occurred to me!

  • admin

    You can enter whatever you like as the author name. Amazon doesn’t enforce anything in this regard unless they receive a complaint. Just don’t choose Stephen King or Sarah Palin as your pseudonym and you are good ;)

  • i have published over 50 novels, numerous short stories and collections. i know you were selling THE HEREAFTER GANG and INTERSTATE DREAMS on Amazon. who do i talk to about making a deal to use my large backlog as e-books? i will furnish a bio, list of books and stories and awards. Last May I was named
    Author Emeritus for “lifetime achievment” by the Science Fiction Writers of
    America at our Nebula Awards convention in Coco Beach, Florida. looking forward to hearing from you.

    regards,
    neal

  • Diogenes

    Signe, I was stunned to read your post. How did you even contact amazon / kindle customer service? My experience is the opposite of yours … we have 21 ebooks ready for upload and are blocked from doing so by minor tech issues that we are unable to contact anyone to resolve. Please share your secret!

  • Joe

    Hello! Can you please tell me if you can also list ebooks on amazon that can be downloaded onto regular computers? Would it be a separate listing? Can you revise your ebook after it has been listed or do you have to do an entire new listing?

    Much Thanks!
    – Joe

  • Andrei Pushkin

    Joe,

    All Kindle books are automatically available on computers via Kindle for PC (which also runs on Linux via Wine) and Kindle for Mac. It would not be a separate listing.

    You can make revisions and republish your book as often as you please.

  • Kristin

    Do you have to have an ISBN to list your Ebook for sale on Amazon? I had read that somewhere else, but see no mention of it here.

  • Andrei Pushkin

    Kristin,

    You don’t need to have an ISBN to publish for Amazon Kindle. I’ve verified that personally by publishing my books.

  • I have just had my book published in a hardback edition. Can I use the present pdf text plus photographs in an ebook format? If so, does that go into Amazon’s catalogue, and what proportion of the published book’s sale does the author get? Also, who determines the sale price through Amazon? And can the author have a say in how the book is presented?

  • Just about finished my first E-novel and am planning on using Amazon to sell it. Is it a good idea to sell it on other sites too?

  • Amazon is great for publishing ebooks. You may also want to check Lulu
    and Smashworks to get a wider audience for your books.
    Allie Peterson, Author of Oh, Middle School!

  • matthew

    Creative Writing,

    I would definitely recommend putting it out through other non-Kindle stores. While I have personally had the best results through Amazon, for the most part my sales have come at least 15-20% through Barnes & Noble and sometimes as much as 5% elsewhere. Since you retain the rights to your eBooks, don’t limit your options or your audience.

  • Rajesh

    How i can publish my books to Kindle only to India, Srilanka and UAE? Is there any way?? I don’t want to publish my books to US, UK due to some violations.

  • Burnsy

    Thanks for the info.Does this apply only to Kindle format? Can you sell to IPad through Amazon. Does it need re-formatting?

  • Andrei Pushkin

    Burnsy,

    All eBooks published for Kindle are automatically readable on Kindle App for iPad/Android/PC/etc. There is no need to format anything in a special way.

    You may want to include color in your book pictures so that it looks good on color LCD screens. You wouldn’t have to worry about it if you were targeting only eInk Kindle.

  • Andrei Pushkin

    Rajesh,

    Two thumbs up for your sense of humor!

  • Elena

    I wonder if Mr.A.Pushkin can help me with an answer to “How do I create a cover for my eBook?” Thank you!

  • Andrei Pushkin

    Elena,
    You can try to contract a graphical designer on elance.com or similar service.

  • Guille

    Rajesh

    Si no quieres que otros lo lean, publicalo en lenguaje : Indies, Srilankes y Arabes… así nadie de otro lado lo va a leer!!!

  • Gordon Alexander Fraser

    To Mathew or Andrei : My novel “The Scent Of Rain” published by Diadem Books is available on Amazon, B&N, etc. however my copy of the original is in PDF format. I have retained all rights to the MS. It is obvious that the eBook concept will make it easier for authors to publish and less expensive for readers. Could you please advise me where I would find all relevant info on cost of using eBooks. With thanks,

    Gordon

  • matthew

    Gordon,
    Much of that would depend on what you mean by cost. Are we talking about production costs due to software, back end maintenance costs, industry-wide broader implications, etc.? I’m definitely open to discussion of the topic, if I can provide any useful info.

  • Candace T

    Do you have to copyright it through the Library of Congress in order to publish it throught Kindle?

  • matthew

    Candace T,
    Your work is copyrighted from the moment it is created, in the most technical sense. This is enough for the vast majority of situations. Should you wish to bring legal action against somebody in an instance of theft you’ll have to register the work, but having a publication date through Amazon should be sufficient to prove that you were the creator.

  • barun

    i want to publish a short story collection. can i just attach the *.doc files n send it 2 u? will u make the e-book cover for me? i’m from south east asia. how will i recieve the royalties?

  • Robert Creutz

    What does Amazon do to confirm authors uploading e-books own copyright? Is it simply a matter of clicking “yes” on a disclaimer? Is there an editorial review during the 24-48 wait before publication?

  • matthew

    I don’t believe there is any extensive checking done regarding copyright on Amazon’s part prior to publication. On the one occasion I have had to get a stolen work taken down, however, they were prompt and their representative was apologetic. It took less than 5 hours and was handled with 3 pages of faxed information. Admittedly a small sample pool, but it’s what I have to work from.

  • Miriam

    Thanks for the much needed answers. I do have a question. As far as Ebook Covers, if I use clip art from Microsoft Office 2010, how do I site that, and if I tweak it do I state so? It is not like I am “selling the cover”.

  • Amy

    I had a very negative experience with a publisher and want to salvage my book by publishing it myself as an ebook. I can end my contract with my publisher as they have not fullfilled thier obligations, and they will discontinue printing the paper versions of the book. Would I need a seperate ISBN to publish this book, as it is already listed on Amazon.com under the title, which I’d like to keep. I need to let my publisher know by the end of this week, so any help from anyone would be fabulous!

    Thanks,
    Amy

  • matthew

    Miriam,
    Search for a page entitled “Use of Microsoft Copyrighted Content”. They lay out their terms of use there for everything from logos to clip art.

  • bulzeye

    Will I need a different ISBN # for the eBook than an actual published book that has an ISBN?

  • Orit

    What about Children’s Books?

  • Rob

    I was at the Amazon page regarding uploading digital books and I read that digital authors must allow Amazon to have access to their books for their Lending Library program. Is this true? Because if it is true, I don’t want anything to to with it. I wrote a book and I would like it to sell for exactly what I believe it is worth, not hope to get some paltry token amount from Amazon.

  • Kendall

    I have an old book published 1875. Wanted to covert this book to an ebook and sell on Amazon.
    What legal ramifications I need to get involved with?

    This book is not listed any where that I can find on the WWW. kind of a lost treasure!!

  • matthew

    Rob,

    Not exactly right, but I can see where the confusion comes from. What they actually require is that all Kindle Edition books taking advantage of the 70% royalty option have lending enabled. That is just the “lend it one time for two weeks if you feel like it” option, rather than the lending library. If even that is too troubling, you can opt for the 35% royalty rate and disable lending altogether so long as you do not have it enabled through any other service like Barnes & Noble’s.

  • matthew

    Kendall,

    That is actually a tricky question. Amazon took a stand against public domain publishing a while back when users were being hit with dozens of copies of the same book at various prices and qualities. You sound like you might have something not offered in any way through their store, however. If you can confirm that the title is not available through any of the usual channels (Google Books, Project Gutenberg, etc.), I would advise you to contact Amazon’s Customer Service reps directly through kdp.amazon.com and clear it in advance. Good luck!

  • Cheryl

    What program do I need to get my e-book in Kindle format?
    Unencrypted Mobipocket(.mobi and .prc)—not sure what program does these.

  • matthew

    Cheryl,

    Try using Calibre. It handles most conversions with ease.

  • Anthony

    So helpful. Thank you.

  • Piper

    I am the publisher of a small magazine in Texas. These instructions are perfect for helping us to publish an anthology of our back issues. However, I would also like to know how to publish our issue each month digitally on the kindle. Can anyone help me with this OR help me find a way to talk with Kindle Direct Publishing? Thank you!

  • Helen

    I am completing an educational/information book at present and would love to get it into ebook formula.
    Will love to follow any tips.
    Helen

  • Stephen

    pls can you provide more information on 1. How to complet the DTP screen 2.how to do the conversion of the ebook to acceptable format 3.is there any restiriction as to who can publish.e.g must you be an american. 4.can you publish ebook with private label right which you bought

  • J.C Clark

    Could question stephen, I was thinking the same thing

  • matthew

    Stephen,
    1. I’m not sure what you mean about the DTP screen. If you’re talking about the login, just go to that link and enter your usual Amazon account information.

    2. The conversion is simple. Just get yourself set up in a format you are comfortable with and you should be fine. There are plenty of programs out right now that will output directly to EPUB, which is what I usually go with.

    3. I believe the only restriction on publishing is that you must own the rights to a work in the country where you are publishing it. I don’t have significant amounts of experience publishing work I didn’t create myself, so I couldn’t tell you much more than that.

    4. PLR is a questionable area. Amazon is cracking down hard on repeat publications since the store was being spammed by PLR publishers. I would say that you might get away with it for a while, but that you shouldn’t be surprised if Amazon deletes the content eventually. In cases of repeated problems I’ve even heard of accounts being shut down entirely.

  • Kat

    How is a kindle e-book different from other e-books?

    Am i understanding it right that a kindle book can only be read from the kindle, and the reader has to be online? so the book cannot be downloaded onto a computer, and that is why they seem to be cheaper than other e-books?

    Is kindle the only way to sell e-books on Amazon, or is there also a possibility to sell “normal” e-books that can cost a bit more than a few dollars ($30)?

    Ta :-)

  • David Lang

    @kat,
    you are wrong in just about every aspect. you don’t have to be online, you can read the book on just about any device with the kindle app for that type of device (including computers), you can archive the book off to your own computer, and if the publisher didn’t require that Amazon use DRM when shipping the book, you can even convert it to other formats (if the publisher does require DRM, it’s fairly easy to break anyway)

    you can sell e-books at any price, the question is if anyone will buy them at that price. I have purchased expensive e-books, but they were reference books where the paper version was ~$100

    the only think you are correct about is that if you are selling e-books through Amazon, you are only selling them for the kindle (and kindle app). Similarly if you sell e-books through B&N you are only selling them for the nook (and nook app), or if you sell e-books through the apple store you are only selling them for the ipad and iphone

    You can sell books for the Kindle without using Amazon (although you cannot use DRM when you do so). Baen Books is an example of a publisher that has been selling e-books for all different devices without DRM for many years now.

    Kindle books are cheaper than other e-books because Amazon is encouraging more sane prices than other stores. In my opinion the idea of e-books being $9.99 is still too high, but it’s far better than what the publishers want. When I can purchase a paper copy of the book for less than the electronic copy of the book, the e-book is priced significantly too high. Yes it takes the same labor to write, proofread, and edit an e-book as a paper book, but there is a significant amount of money involved with printing, storing, shipping, displaying and handling returns of paper books that you just don’t have with e-books. These reduced costs should either be passed on to the reader, or passed back to the writer. What is typically happening in big publishing houses today is that the publisher is taking these savings as increased profit, not paying it to the writer and not reducing the price to the reader.

  • ibboykin

    What about embedding videos or links to videos in an ebook. Is this something that kindle supports.

  • Chris

    How are the earnings transferred to the author?

    Also, what limitations does Amazon have regarding descriptions of sex or violence?

  • Michael

    Do I have to (or should I)Copyright my ebook first or get any other legal claim to publish or at least protect my work?

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