How to Publish a Book on Amazon: The Full Step-by-Step Guide

By Jason Hamilton
Last updated on September 28th, 2022

We talk a lot about self-publishing on this site, everything from beginner strategies to advance tactics.

But how exactly do you publish a book on Amazon? What is the actual process of taking this book that you wrote, turning it into something publishable, then actually getting it out into the world?

That is what we will cover in this article.

In this article, you will learn:
  1. What you need in order to publish a book on Amazon
  2. How to publish an eBook through Amazon
  3. How to publish a paperback or hardcover on Amazon
  4. How to set up your series page
Bonus offer: In addition to these steps, it is important to have a good launch strategy. Be sure to check out my checklist for a solid book launch, available completely for free.
Get My Book Launch Checklist Here!
Chapter 1

What You Will Need: Publishing Essentials

Unfortunately, we cannot simply open up Amazon and immediately start publishing books. We have to have a few assets already prepped and ready to go. In this section, we'll go over the most important ones.

Let's walk through a few of the essentials:

1. The Title and Subtitle

It may seem obvious, but choosing your title and subtitle may involve more than you think.

There are a few considerations, such as the genre that you are targeting, keywords you want to include, etc.

We recommend you pick a title that matches your genre (especially if you are writing fiction) and that you do keyword research ahead of time to know which keywords to include in your title or subtitle.

See our articles about how to title a book, and how to choose a subtitle that sells.

2. Your Author Name

You should also know whether you want to use your real name, or if you want to use a pen name. Many authors start with their real name, but there are multiple reasons why a pen name they might also be a good idea.

See our article about how to choose a good pen name.

3. Your Book Description

A book description is more than just a summary of your book, in fact it should never be that.

Instead, a book description is a piece of copywriting, i.e. a tool to sell books.

Your book description should hook your reader, make them feel emotionally invested, and spur them to action.

4. Your Keywords

I've already mentioned keywords for your title and subtitle, but Amazon also allows you to input seven more keywords, which is handy if there are keywords you wanted to target but weren't able to fit them into your title or subtitle.

Doing proper keyword research is a great way to get people to organically find your book on Amazon. But you want to make sure you have good keywords, not just anything. You will want to choose keywords with low competition, but still have a lot of people searching for them.

See our ultimate guide to selecting the best Kindle keywords.

See also our guide for selecting keywords based on fiction or nonfiction books.

Side Note: Use Publisher Rocket for Keywords and Categories

Keyword research is difficult if you don't have a good tool. It is possible, but requires a lot of work. Additionally, researching categories (see below) is equally difficult without help.

That is why we recommend Publisher Rocket as the best way to find low competition keywords and categories that are regularly searched by potential readers.

5. Your Categories

Amazon allows you to select two BISAC categories. BISAC stands for Book Industry Standards And Communications, and these are the main categories used by professionals throughout the publishing industry.

However, you don't need to worry about these too much. Simply select the two that best match your book, and move on.

Instead, you want to pay close attention to Amazon categories. You cannot select these during the publishing process, but you will want a list of 10 Amazon categories that best fit your book. Why? Because Amazon automatically picks your categories based on the BISAC categories you selected, and they are not always accurate.

So you want to contact Amazon after you have published to make sure that your book appears in those categories.

Like keywords, you want to pick categories that are low in competition but still get a lot of use. It's possible to do this manually, but a program like Publisher Rocket will make the process much easier.

See our in-depth article about selecting your categories.

6. Your Ebook File

In order to publish your book on Amazon, the single most important asset you need is your eBook file. Amazon accepts multiple file types, but the one you want is the EPUB.

If you don't have a good formatting software, you can use Microsoft Word, and then use a converter to switch your DOCX file to an EPUB file. Be sure to look it over, however, because doing a conversion in this way will often lead to mistakes. 

See our article on eBook file types here.

Side Note: Use Atticus for Formatting Ebooks

atticus logo icon

Formatting an eBook can be a tedious process if you don't have a good formatting software. It is possible in Microsoft Word or Scrivener, but very difficult.

That is why we recommend Atticus as the best formatting software around. It will not only help you create amazing ebooks, but will also help you format print books (see below).

Atticus is an all-in-one software that works on virtually every platform, including Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chromebook. Plus, it is over $100 cheaper than the leading alternative.

7. Your Print File

In addition to an eBook file, if you want to have a paperback or hardcover version of your book, you will need a print-ready file as well. This will need to be formatted as a PDF.

Formatting for print is even more complicated than formatting for eBooks, which is why we recommend using Atticus to do so. Atticus will make this process a whole lot simpler, and give you a print file that is ready-made to pass all of Amazon's inspections.

Read our in-depth guide to how to format a book for eBook or print.

8. Your Book Cover

Besides your manuscript file, the book cover is another of the most important assets that you will need ahead of time.

Ideally, most authors will need to hire someone to create their book cover, and they can provide it in the sizes that Amazon recommends.

Additionally, you will need separate files for your eBook cover, and for your print cover. The eBook file only includes the front portion of the cover, whereas the print cover will also need a back cover and spine.

If this portion seems overwhelming, I recommend speaking to your book cover designer to help you determine what you need.

See also our complete guide to book covers.

9. Your ISBN (Optional)

Many authors choose not to have their own ISBN, as Amazon will provide one for you. However, if you want to show up as the publisher of your book instead of Amazon, you will need your own ISBN.

Does this give you any advantage? Not really, but it can be nice to have.

See our two articles about what an ISBN is, and how to get one.

10. Your Price

While this is something that doesn't take as much time to prepare, it is good to have an idea of the price you want to set.

Many authors choose to price their book at $0.99 or $2.99 at launch, later raising their price. But the price you have on your book can vary anywhere from $0.99 to $9.99 (we don't recommend more than this, since Amazon gives you lesser royalties on anything over $9.99)

The best way to know what an appropriate price is, is to look at other books in your genre, and other books with a similar length to yours, and analyze their prices. Chances are, you want to do something in that same range.

Chapter 2

Setting up Your Amazon KDP Account

Before we can actually start publishing, you will need to create an Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account. Thankfully, this is an easy process, especially if you already have a regular Amazon account.

Start by following these steps:

  1. Start by visiting the Kindle direct publishing website.
  2. Sign in to your Amazon account, or create one
  3. Input your author and publisher information, which should include your full legal name (not your pen name), as well as your address and phone number
  4. Input your bank account information so Amazon can pay you when you earn royalties
  5. Input your tax information so that Amazon can correctly send you the tax forms you need at the end of the year

Once all of this is in order, you should be able to log into Amazon KDP, and see your KDP dashboard. There, you will see a big button labeled Create.

create in amazon kdp dashboard

From here, we can start publishing books!

Click on Create, and it will take you to a new screen with several options:

  • Kindle eBook
  • Paperback
  • Hardcover
  • Series page
  • Kindle Vella
project types in amazon kdp

We will spend time breaking down each one of these.

Chapter 3

How to Publish an Ebook on Amazon

We will spend the majority of our time discussing how to publish an eBook, as it is the most important, and publishing a paperback and hardcover follow many of the same steps.

The process of uploading a book to Amazon falls into three main steps:

  1. Ebook details
  2. Ebook content
  3. Ebook pricing

Let's break down each one…

Step 1: Input Your Ebook Details

Ebook details is the page where you input your title, subtitle, description, keywords, etc. Basically, it is all the metadata associated with your book. Let's walk through this page:

Language

language in amazon kdp

At the very top, you will see a place to select the language of your book. For most self publishers reading this article, you probably want English. However, if you are publishing a translation of the book, you will want to switch this to the appropriate language.

Book Title

amazon title in amazon kdp

Here, you will input your book title and subtitle that you have prepared previously. Note that the subtitle is optional.

Series

series in amazon kdp

If your book is part of a series, input the series title here, as well as the number of your book in that series (i.e. 1 for the first book in the series, 2 for the second, etc.).

If you are uploading more than one book in a series, make sure that the series title matches exactly.

You can make adjustments to the series after the fact, which we will talk about below.

Edition Number

edition field in amazon kdp

This is an optional field if your book is a specific edition. You are most likely to use this if you are writing nonfiction.

Author

author field in amazon kdp

This is where you put your name, or your pen name. Like the series title, make sure that this is exactly the same as other books that use your same name.

Contributors

contribution field in amazon kdp

If your book was cowritten with someone else, you will want to put their name here as well, though this is an optional field. You can also put the name of your editor, book cover designer, etc.

Keep in mind that these names will show on the sales page for your book.

Description

description field in amazon kdp

If you have already written your book description, you can copy and paste it into this field.

However, make sure that the formatting is appropriate. You don't want to end up with too many spaces between paragraphs, bolded text when you don't want bolded text, etc.

Amazon provides some basic formatting tools like bolding, italics, underlining, list making, and basic headings. If you are familiar with HTML, you can also format the source code this way. See our book description generator for a great way to get the HTML code for your book description.

Publishing Rights

publishing rights field in amazon kdp

You will find two options under publishing rights: publishing work that you own, and publishing public domain work. Selecting public domain publishing rights will restrict some of your options later on, so only select it if the book you are publishing is in the public domain.

Keywords

amazon keywords fields in amazon kdp

If you have done your prep work, you should have seven keywords to input in these spaces.

As mentioned above, we recommend using Publisher Rocket to do your research and come up with the best keywords to give your book maximum exposure.

Categories

categories field in amazon kdp

This is where you select your two BISAC book categories. Simply browse through the list that Amazon provides, and select the two that best fit your book.

As mentioned above, you can select which Amazon categories you want for later, after your book has been published.

Age and Grade Range

age range field in amazon kdp

This is an optional section that allows you to select your ideal readership age and grade range. I recommend leaving this blank unless:

  • You are publishing a children's book
  • You have explicit content for an 18+ audience

If you are publishing YA fiction, I recommend leaving this alone, since selecting an age range is likely to restrict where your book will show up.

Pre-order

preorder field in amazon kdp

In this space, you can select whether you want to hit publish as soon as you are done, or if you want the book to be published at a later date.

We typically don't recommend preorders, see this video for why, but it is often a needed tool. Use wisely.

Once you have completed this section, you can hit Save As Draft or Save and Continue to move onto the next step.

Step 2: Input Your Ebook Content

The Ebook Content page is where you upload the actual content of your book, making this a very important step.

Let's walk through each element of this page.

Manuscript

manuscript input in amazon kdp

This is where you upload the actual written portion of your book. Ideally, this should be an EPUB file, although Amazon will also take DOCX and KPF files (KPF is what Amazon's own Kindle Create produces).

Hit the Upload eBook manuscript button, and select your file from your computer.

Kindle eBook Cover

ebook cover input in amazon kdp

This is the section where you upload your ebook cover. Amazon does offer a Cover Creator to create a rudimentary cover, but we do not recommend this in any situation. Always have your own book cover file.

You will need to upload either a JPG or TIFF file in this section.

Kindle eBook Preview

previewer in amazon kdp

Once you have uploaded your ebook manuscript and cover, you can preview what it will look like on Kindle devices. I recommend you do this, as sometimes small formatting errors can arise that need to be addressed.

Kindle eBook ISBN

isbns field in amazon kdp

If you have an ISBN number that you want to use, you can input that here, and include the publisher name.

However, this is optional, and Amazon will provide an ISBN for you if you don't have one.

Once this is all complete, you can move on to the final step…

Step 3: Input Your Ebook Price

Like the last two pages, the eBook Pricing page is divided into various sections. Let's break down what they all mean:

KDP Select Enrollment

kdp select field in amazon kdp

KDP gives you an option to enroll your eBook in the KDP Select program. This puts your eBook in Kindle Unlimited, which is a subscription service for books.

However, there is a big price to pay for enrolling your book in KDP Select. Your eBook must remain exclusive to this program, meaning you cannot publish an eBook on any other platform (i.e. Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc.) if you are enrolled in KDP Select.

Thankfully, you can unenroll your book after a period of 90 days, so if you want to give it a try, you can do so without lasting consequences.

There is a lot of debate about whether it is better to enroll your book in KDP select, or to publish your ebook wide on all platforms. The true answer, however, is that it depends on your needs and those of your book. 

Enrolling in the KDP Select program can be quite lucrative for some authors, but so can publishing wide. 

If you are just starting out, KDP Select might be good for you, as it is simpler than publishing wide, and can lead to strong royalties.

However, I know many authors who choose to publish wide regardless of the financial circumstances, because they want to build an audience outside of just one platform, so not all eggs are in one basket.

What you choose is up to you, but this is where you choose whether to select it or not.

Territories

territories in amazon kdp

In most cases, you will want to select all territories so that your book is available anywhere Amazon books are sold.

However, if you only want to sell in specific regions, click on Individual territories and select your desired territory.

Primary marketplace

marketplace selection in amazon kdp

For many, this will simply be Amazon.com, although depending on where you live, you might want to pick something else such as Amazon.co.uk, or Amazon.ca.

Pricing, royalty, and distribution

pricing fields in amazon kdp

This is where you select the price of your ebook. First of all, you have the option of selecting 35% or 70% royalties. If you are selecting a price between $2.99 and $9.99, you should always select the 70% royalties.

However, there are situations where you will need to select 35% royalties, particularly if you are pricing your book at $0.99.

Next, select the price for your primary marketplace. This will automatically create an equivalent price for all of the other marketplaces, but you can adjust these on a case-by-case basis.

For example, as of this writing, if I input $4.99 in US Dollars, it shows a price of £4.27 in British Pounds, which is kind of an awkward number. I might want to change that to £4.99 in British Pounds instead.

Book Lending

book lending field in amazon kdp

Below the pricing is a checkbox to allow lending for this book. This will allow readers to temporarily lend their eBook to someone else for a 14-day period. Since more exposure is usually good exposure, and it is a good sign when someone wants to lend your book, I recommend you check this box.

Publish!

Once your details are all ready to go, it is time to hit the Publish Your Kindle eBook button!

It is now time to start getting the word out about your books. But wait! What about the physical books? Well, that leads us to our next section…

Chapter 4

How to Publish a Paperback on Amazon

If you have already gone through the ebook-publishing process, most of this will be very familiar to you.

In fact, if you have already published your eBook, you can simply find it in your dashboard, and select Create paperback to start, and it will automatically populate many of the fields.

The Book Details and Book Pricing pages are almost exactly the same as the ebook, and many of these fields should be filled out already, if you have already gone through the ebook publishing process.

However, it is in the Book Content page where things are slightly different.

Manuscript

Uploading your manuscript is very similar to uploading your eBook manuscript, except this time you specifically need a PDF manuscript that is formatted for print. We recommend using Atticus to create this, as it can be a long and difficult process with other programs.

Print Options: Book Interior

paperback interior in amazon kdp

You will also notice a special section called Print Options. The first part of this section is where you select the ink and paper type. You have four options:

  1. Black & white interior with cream paper
  2. Black & white interor with white paper
  3. Standard color interior with white paper
  4. Premium color interior with white paper

Which one you choose depends on you and your needs. For me personally, I choose Black & white interior with white paper for most of my books, but that's me. A lot of people like the cream color, or require colored ink for their book (i.e. in comic books).

Print Options: Sizes and Finishes

paperback size in amazon kdp

Below the ink and paper type, you will see a section to select your trim size, bleed settings, and paperback cover finish.

Trim size is the actual width and height of your book. 5 x 8, 5.5 x 8.5, and 6 x 9 are the most common, but there are many more. See our article on trim sizes.

You only need Bleed if you have images that need to extend to the edges of the book.

Finally, you can choose between Matte and Glossy finishes for your book cover. Which you choose is up to you.

Book Cover

paperback size in amazon kdp

Finally, you have the option to upload your book cover. A paperback book cover is different than an ebook cover, as it includes the back cover and spine to wrap around the entire book.

The width of your spine will vary depending on the length of your book, so it is important that you select a paperback template, so you know exactly how to size your book. You can also provide this template to your cover designer, so they can create a wraparound cover that works.

Chapter 5

How to Publish a Hardcover on Amazon

If you would also like to create a hardcover of your book, you can do this as well. Start by finding your book in the Amazon KDP dashboard, and select Create hardcover.

This will walk you through almost the exact same process as the paperback book.

However, there are two key differences:

1. Limited Trim Sizes

For hardcover books, there are fewer trim sizes than for paperback books, so if you have selected a trim size that is different than your paperback, you will need to provide a different PDF file in that size.

Once again, you can use Atticus to quickly change your trim size and generate a new file.

2. A Different Cover Template

Your hardcover cover file will also need to be different than your paperback cover file. Thankfully, Amazon provides templates for these as well, which you can then send to your designer to create a hardcover-compatible version of your book cover.

See also our complete guide to publishing a hardcover book on Amazon.

Chapter 6

How to Create a Series Page

If you have input your series into the series field of your ebook details, this automatically creates a new series that you can then adjust.

If you look at your book from the KDP dashboard, you will see a button called Manage series. Click on that, and you can make adjustments to your series from there.

However, you can also hit the big Create button from your KDP dashboard, then select Series page from the list of options.

Here is what you will find when you create a new series or manage an existing one:

Series title

series title in amazon kdp

In this field, you put the series title. Make sure this is consistent for all your books.

Reading order

series reading order in amazon kdp

In this field, you have the option to select and “Ordered” series or an “Un-ordered” series. Only select unordered if your series can be read in any order. This is common for nonfiction series, or a series of standalone novels.

Series image

series image in amazon kdp

Amazon has a section here for your series image, but this is not a field that you can influence. Your series image is automatically pulled from the first three books in the series.

Description

series description in amazon kdp

You can have a description specific to your book series page, which I recommend you do. If you do not have this space filled out, Amazon will automatically populate it with the description from your first book, which is not always relevant to the series as a whole.

Once you have filled out your details, and have more than one book in the series, you can manage and edit the series from this window:

series page in amazon kdp

Thankfully, Amazon lets you adjust things like the order of the series, and other useful features.

Chapter 7

How to Publish to Kindle Vella

From your KDP dashboard, you also have the option of creating a Kindle Vella story.

kindle vella in amazon kdp

Kindle Vella is a way of serializing your stories in 500 to 5000 word increments. It is considerably different than publishing a book, although some authors have found a lot of success in serialized storytelling.

For a complete breakdown on how to publish a Kindle Vella story, see our article on the subject.

Video: How to Upload a Book to Amazon

For a nice summary of this article, along with a few personal thoughts on the subject, be sure to check out this video on how to format upload your book to Amazon.

Want more videos like this? Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for weekly videos!

Go Publish Your Book!

Now that you have the basics down on how to publish your book on Amazon, it's time to get started!

Hitting publish for the first time is a thrilling adventure, and I wish you the best of luck in your publishing journey.

But what do you do next? Well, it is time to market your book. For a complete breakdown on how to do this, visit our Book Marketing 101 page.

Happy publishing!



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