How do you publish a book on Amazon?

🌙 Amazon is every indie author's first stop when publishing their book. When you're ready to publish a book on Amazon KDP, this easy guide will walk you through it. Plus a free checklist!
Photo of many open books stacked next to eachother.

So you’ve written your amazing book and now you want other people to read it, too. If you’re planning to indie-publish, then Amazon will surely be a stop on your publishing journey. Whether you choose to stay exclusive to Amazon or go wide (also release your book through other platforms like Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, etc.), you’ll most likely choose to get your toes wet with Amazon.

Don’t get intimidated by the publishing process. It’s very straightforward and even fun! Read on for an easy step-by-step Amazon KDP publishing guide + a downloadable checklist at the bottom.

Step 1. Create your KDP account.

Your homebase for all of your Amazon publishing will be the KDP website. You can login to KDP here using your normal Amazon account. If you’d like to create a separate account for KDP, you can, but keep in mind that you can only have ONE KDP account. A second account could get you banned.

When you create your KDP account, you’ll need to provide your bank information (so that you can get paid!) and your tax information (so the IRS can tax your income). You won’t be able to be paid until you do this step, but you can go ahead and create your books.

Step 2. Enter your book details

You’ll need to know your book information and metadata to proceed. I’ll provide a list of everything Amazon will ask for in a section below. For now, it’s good to know your book description, keywords, and categories because they are what will get your book in front of the right people and convince them to buy it.

Your book description, categories, and keywords are major factors in deciding how well your book does on Amazon. Don’t rush through these.

  • Description: Consider this the sales copy that will persuade a potential reader to take a chance on your book. What would they want to know? What would entice them to buy? The book description is often very similar to what a query letter would look like. You need to hook the reader in about 250 words.
  • Keywords: What would someone search for to find a book like yours? You get 7 keyword slots with 50 characters each, so plan out and use your 7 keywords well!
  • Categories: Amazon allows you to manually select the two BEST categories to “shelve” your book in. Imagine you’re in a bookstore—where would someone look for your book? Technically, you can write in to KDP and ask them to place your book in more categories (which isn’t a bad idea!) but you want to make sure your main two categories really represent your book.

Step 3. Upload your manuscript

For an ebook, you can upload .doc(x), .rtf, .epub, and .mobi. Yes, Amazon will accept an .epub even though they give readers a .mobi. Amazon will convert it for you.

For a paperback, you must have the book formatted as a print-ready .pdf file.

Step 4. Upload your cover

Every book published on Amazon KDP must have a cover. Amazon does have a cover creator, but I don’t recommend you use it. The cover is the first thing potential buyers will see, so make sure it’s:

  1. attractive
  2. genre-appropriate
  3. legible at thumbnail size

Ideally, you’ll have a professional cover designer create your cover for you. In a pinch (a real pinch) you can create one yourself using a program like Canva. N.B., if you go this route, you will really need to study the genre your book is in and do your absolute best to make it fit in with that genre, so potential readers will intuitively know that it is the kind of book they like to read. Creating your own cover won’t be very easy if you’re doing a fantasy or sci-fi genre where there’s a lot of illustration involved, or a romance/erotica genre where you’ll need to do mash-ups of stock photos. A non-fiction genre may be easier to pull off.

For an ebook, you can upload a .jpg or .tiff file.

For a paperback, you must upload a .pdf for the cover, as well. You cannot upload an image file (.jpg, .tiff, .png, etc.).

Step 5. Review

Before you publish your book on Amazon KDP, you’ll get the opportunity to review it. Amazon will provide you with a live viewer to see what an ebook will look like when a customer opens it, and if you’re doing a paperback, too, you’ll also approve that. Do note that you will have to do this process twice if you’re doing both ebook and paperback—they are set up as separate books, but easily linked.

Step 6. Hit publish!

After you hit publish, it will take around 48-72 hours before your book is approved by Amazon and live on the site for sale. If you’ve followed Amazon’s guidelines for formatting, cover, and content, you shouldn’t have any problems getting approved. You may be more likely to run into a snag publishing a paperback, as the cover guidelines can be confusing for newbies. If you’ve used a professional cover designer and book formatter, there shouldn’t be any problems here!

Decisions + information to have ready to publish your book on Amazon KDP

Amazon will ask you for the following information, so you’ll need to have it ready, and in some cases, you’ll need to know what you want to do.

  • Language the book is in
  • Book title
  • Book subtitle (optional)
  • Series information: If the book is part of a series, you’ll need the series name and the number the book is in the series (optional)
  • Edition number: Leave this blank if it’s the only edition (optional)
  • Author information: This is you or your pen name
  • Contributor information: If you had a co-author or another contributor, you can enter them here (optional)
  • Description: This is important! It’s the blurb that will show up at the top of the Amazon sales page for your book, and it should be optimized for selling your book!
  • Publishing rights information: This is where you’ll declare that you own the copyright to your book.
  • Keywords: 7 keyword slots with 50 characters each.
  • Categories: 2 BEST categories.
  • Age and Grade information: This is usually only applicable to children’s books or erotica. Amazon will want your book tagged for 18+ if it shouldn’t be shown to children viewers.
  • Pre-order selection: If you are putting your book on pre-order, you’ll enter the date here (optional)
  • Digital Rights Management choice: This is your one chance to decide whether you want to put a DRM on your ebook or not. You cannot change this after publishing.
  • ISBN: If you’re using your own ISBN, then have it ready; if you are not using your own ISBN, Amazon will assign you an ASIN instead.
  • KDP Select Enrollment: If you choose to be exclusive to Amazon, you can opt into KDP Select (Kindle Unlimited).
  • Territories: Where do you want to sell your book? You must hold the rights to all territories.
  • Royalty & Pricing: You can set your own price for your book, and Amazon will tell you exactly what royalty to expect for each sale at a given price, so you can choose the price that makes the most sense for you (and is in line with your genre).
  • Matchbook: If you have a paperback and an ebook, you can offer the ebook at a reduced price to people who buy the paperback.
  • Book Lending: You’ll make a decision to include your book in the Kindle Lending Library or not. If you are enrolled in KDP Select, this choice is automatic.
  • Terms & Conditions: You must agree to Amazon’s T&C.

Pin this Amazon KDP Publishing checklist for easy reference!

Infographic of everything you need to publish to Amazon KDP

Rather have a PDF? Grab one here!

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