Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pros, Cons, & Steps for Publishing Your Own Book on Amazon

by Jodie Renner, fiction editor and author of writing guides      

(updated 2017)

I get a lot of questions from newbie / aspiring authors interested in self-publishing their book. Many don't realize that it's free and relatively easy to publish your book on Amazon as a Kindle e-book. And fast! It takes about 12 hours to appear on for sale, and you receive your 70% royalties every month!
I’ve published seven books myself on Amazon since July 2012, as e-books for Kindle, and have published five of them in trade paperback as well. 
Here are some pros, cons, and tips, based on my experience:


- Amazon sells more books than all the other publishers combined.

- It’s free to publish on Amazon.
- You’re in control. You control the whole process from start to finish and retain all the rights to your book.

- It’s fast. You don’t have to wait around for agents to respond. You upload the book and it’s ready to sell in 12 hours or less. You can start earning money right away while you write the next one!

- More and more people are buying e-books. You can take a Kindle or other e-reader anywhere, with more than a thousand books inside it! And e-books are quick and easy to purchase from wherever you/they are – with one-click buying, the e-book appears on your/their Kindle within seconds.
- Readers can also read your e-books on their computer, tablet, or smartphone. Just download the free app from Amazon.

 - You get 70% of the list price of your book (if it’s priced between $2.99 and $9.99; otherwise 35%), as opposed to 10-15% from publishers – IF you can get an agent and publisher to accept your book!
- You don’t need to write a whole book. You can publish a short story or article and sell it for $0.99 (you get 35% if it’s under $2.99)

- You get to control the pricing, so you can raise or lower the price of your e-book whenever you want, to boost sales.

- It’s easy to upload your book to Amazon and you can revise it as frequently as you want and just keep replacing the one that’s there with a better version.

- You can check your sales stats daily (or hourly) and watch them rise. You can also view stats graphs over time (and geographically) to see what’s working and what isn’t to promote sales.

- You receive your royalty payments every month (one month’s delay), as opposed to annually or quarterly from publishers or distributors.

Amazon helps promote your book, through your book’s Amazon page, emails they send out mentioning it, and their feature, “Customers who bought this item also bought…”

- If you enroll in KDP Select, you earn money when people borrow your book, you can offer it free for up to 5 days out of every 90 as a promotion, and you can take advantage of other great Kindle promo ideas, like their Kindle Countdown Deals, and their Matchbook program, where, if readers buy or have bought the print version of your book, they can buy the e-book for free.


- You’re in charge of quality control! So you need to guard against publishing it prematurely. Make sure it’s polished and ready! The competition is fierce out there, and reviewers can be very critical if you publish a book full of typos or otherwise hasty or amateurish writing. Don't shoot yourself in the foot and damage your reputation by publishing a less-than-professional book.

- Although publishing it is free, you’ll still need to pay for editing, a cover design, and probably formatting. And you may decide to hire someone to promote it. You should have a budget of at least $1,500 to spend on all this. $2K or more is more realistic.

- You’ll need to do most of your own marketing and promoting (although Amazon does a lot, too), or hire a publicist. But traditional publishers now expect their authors to do a lot of their own promoting, too. Mid-list published authors basically are expected to do all or most of their own promoting, including paying for it.


1. Write with wild abandon.

2. Revise. See my articles “Revising, Editing, and Polishing Your Novel,” “How to Save a Bundle on Editing Costs,” and “How to Slash Your Word Count by 20-50% – and tighten up your story without losing any of the good stuff!”

3. Run it past a critique group or “beta” (volunteer) readers (smart people who read in your genre – don’t need to be writers themselves).

4. Revise again, based on feedback you’ve received from your critique group or beta readers (using your own judgment on what advice to accept and what to ignore, of course).

5. Find and hire a reputable freelance editor who specializes in fiction (if that’s what you write) and reads your genre.

6. Revise, based on the editor’s suggestions.

7. Hire a formatter (or do it yourself if you know a lot about formatting). See my article, “Basic Formatting of Your Manuscript (Formatting 101)”.

8. Hire someone to design an eye-catching, professional looking book cover. Be sure the title and author can be read on the thumbnail size posted on Amazon. Google “book cover designers.” or check the list of Resources on The Kill Zone blog.

9. Publish on, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

- Decide on two categories, add a great book description, think of 7 keyword phrases (search words), and write an interesting author bio, with links and a photo.

- Once it's been up for a while as an e-book and you've had a chance to tweak it if it needs it, consider publishing it in print as well. That's basically free, too. It's Print on Demand, so the books aren't printed until people (or you) order some. But it's surprisingly quick when they/you do!

10. In the meantime, you’ll have already been building up a social network and platform:

- Facebook, Twitter, author website, blog, guest blog posts for others

- Writers’ groups and organizations, Goodreads – lists, giveaways

I suggest, as a minimum, a Facebook page and either a website or a blog. If you don’t have time to blog regularly, create an author website instead.

11. Start actively promoting your book – but don’t be annoying. By the way, Amazon does an excellent job of promoting your book for you, for free, especially if you enroll in KDP Select. See my article on Crime Fiction Collective, "Thanks, Amazon, for Promoting my Book for Free!"

12. Start writing the next one. Or publish a short story based on characters from your book and price it at $0.99. Your second book will help sell your first one.

Good luck with all this! I look forward to seeing your book on sale!

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: FIRE UP YOUR FICTION,  CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, QUICK CLICKS: Spelling List and QUICK CLICKS: Word Usage. She has also organized two anthologies for charity: VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – Stories and Poems about Life in BC’s Interior, and CHILDHOOD REGAINED – Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers. Website: Facebook. Amazon Author Page.


  1. Timely and very helpful information, Jodie. I've been stalling the decision to go ahead with e-book publishing. Now that you've presented the process in a clear, itemized way...I believe that I am ready to forage ahead. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for dropping by and commenting, D.F. I'm glad you found my info and tips helpful!

  2. Thanks, Jodie, so much for clearing up inhibitions I have had recently about publishing. I appreciate that you took the time to write back via e-mail. Although I have placed queries out on the market earlier in the month, with every agent who passes on my query letter, I think more and more, "Who needs them?" They're as varied in opinion as book reviewers on Amazon. You've got me leaning toward putting my first novel out there. I drafted it six times now with educated reader feedback. Just need a nudge, I suppose. Tell me, is there a writer's tag or stigma once you join the "self-published" crowd?

    1. Steve, there used to be a stigma, but not any more! There are a lot of self-published authors making 6- and 7-figure incomes now and laughing all the way to the bank!

  3. As always I am doing my research on E-Publishing, when I came across your very useful blog. Like it was mentioned before the way you organized and presented the information made it very easy to understand. I also would like to thank you for the info on Goodreads, b/c I never heard of it, and after researching found it to be a great network.

    I just have a question about the KDP, if I join the program am I limited to only having my book listed with Amazon only? I also want to know if I publish on Amazon, will my book be available on Mac Products (ibook) or do I have to publish with them as well. Thanks Jodie in Advance.

    1. Hi, You can sell your e-book or book through Amazon and other channels all at the same time. But if you enroll your book in the KDP program, it can't be for sale anywhere else. But there are a lot of advantages to being in the KDP program, so I found it well worth it. Some people with several books have some of them in the KDP program and some available everywhere. Check out my article called "Thanks, Amazon, for Promoting My Books for Free": and also, "Indie Publishing - Lessons Learned & Still Learning" -

  4. I also have another question I would like to ask you. I want to include a free animation/audio with my book (its a children's book), and wanted to know how does that work?

    1. Sorry, I haven't done that. You can Google it, though. Good luck with all your writing projects! :-)

  5. Thank you so much Jodie, great information and tips!

  6. You're welcome, Alessandra. Glad you found these tips helpful!

  7. Hello Jodie.
    First of all, congratulations for your books!
    I am a writer and I would like to publish at amazon but it is a little bit scary haha.
    I have one question. Do you have to publish a hole novel?
    I have already written novels, but I want to start with something smaller. I have a short story but it is only 2 pages. Do you think I can publish this?

    1. Hi, Yes, I'd say 2 pages is too short to publish on Amazon. But if you write a 10-page short story, you can consider publishing that on Amazon and selling it for 99 cents. Or combine 3 or 4 short stories into an anthology and publish that. Price it at $1.99 or so. Good luck with that!

  8. Jodie-
    Thanks for taking the time to share this information with the rest of us. I have a quick question: Are all these benefits only for KDP Select members, or are some available to non-Select authors, too? Thanks.

  9. Hi Jodie, thanks for taking the time out to write this wonderfully informative article. It breaks down all the processes and makes them sound simple. Sometimes that's all the push one needs :) Congratulations on your books and good luck for the future!

  10. Hi Jodie, thanks for taking the time out to write this wonderfully informative article. You have broken down the processes and made them sound simple. Sometimes that's all the push one needs to getting started :) Congratulations on your books and good luck for the future!

  11. Hi, I am a young teenage girl who's heart is set on becoming a best selling author. I was considering, in the future, using KDP to publish a short story. I was wondering if I really need to spend the money on editors and such.

    Don't get me wrong, I know that I will need an editor when I get an agent someday and try to publish my books, but I'm pretty good at editing. I'm a beta reader for several people as well.

    So if I could do a good enough job editing and formatting so that there were only a few mistakes, if any, and had a few friends go over it, do you think it would be enough?

    And what do you think of the idea of posting a short story based on my original story?

  12. Hi, thank you very much for your information. I have a small question regarding author rights - do you know any website or place where it's possible to inscribe the book before publishing it so they can protect the rights in any case of ilegal reproduction?

    Thank you very much in advice for your answer.

  13. Thank you for sharing this information! I've been researching publishing with Amazon and my only hesitation has been a fear that I'd be completely on my own with promotion. I'm glad to hear that Amazon does some work with this as well. I also appreciate the idea of writing a second shorter, maybe novella, to help promote the first book. Thanks again for sharing your experience and good luck to you!

  14. Very interesting information Jodie, but, I am interested in publishing poetry. Is there another person who can advise me or you do that too? Thank you for responding

  15. thanks for this usefull article, waiting for article like this again.