There are countless advantages to self publishing vs traditional publishing, but being an indie author is hard work! Self publishing requires you to become an expert in every aspect of the publishing process, from writing to formatting to marketing.
While tools like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing make self publishing accessible, they can feel overwhelming to independent authors. What do you need to use this platform? How do you ensure your book meets the required technical specifications while also enticing potential readers?
Here's how to hack Amazon's publishing platform so your book can be successful. Nine tips for KDP authors starting now!
1. Perfect Your Book Description
A good Amazon book description is crucial for your book to do well. Your book description gives readers a taste of your writing style and tells them exactly what to expect when they buy your book.
Your book description should look and sound professional. A poorly written description hurts your credibility before anyone ever reads your book. Run your blurb through a grammar checker like ProWritingAid to check for mistakes, style, and readability.
Aim for a genre-appropriate, keyword-rich (but not keyword-stuffed) blurb that is crafted carefully and professionally. We’ll talk more about keywords in the next section.
You can also format excerpts and review quotes. You're not limited to plain text. Amazon KDP uses HTML formatting for descriptions.
2. Research Long-Tail Keywords
One of the most important aspects of Amazon self publishing is the keyword boxes, which allow you up to forty-nine characters. A keyword is a word or phrase that people type into search engines to find what they’re looking for. Readers on Amazon will search for keywords to find books they want to read.
Aim for specific long-tail keywords. Instead of “regency romance” (a broad, short-tail keyword), you might enter “regency romance widowed heroine” (a specific long-tail keyword).
You can research these using a keyword research tool, hiring an expert in KDP categories and keywords, or simply using an incognito window to search yourself. Look for keywords that only give you a few hundred results, not thousands, to decrease your competition. You can use the analytics from KDSPY if you aren't sure where to start.
3. Request Extra Categories
Kindle Direct Publishing has preset categories for books, and it's hard to select the best one for your work. When you upload your print or ebook manuscript, you can select two Amazon categories.
Often, your book might fit into multiple categories. You also enhance your chances of being a bestseller in a category when you're in more of them.
The good news is, you can add your book to additional categories with a bit of extra work. If you call KDP customer service, KDP will allow you up to eight more categories for a grand total of ten!
4. Invest in a Quality Cover
The first thing potential readers see is your book’s cover. A quality book cover can make or break a potential sale.
There are a lot of factors that influence whether a book cover is appealing. Different genres have different expectations. A generic cover does not take into account genre trends and expectations. A nonfiction book should not look like a YA fantasy book and vice versa.
Unless you're an experienced graphic artist, avoid using DIY book cover makers, like the one offered by Amazon. Find experienced cover artists who are familiar with your genre and look at their portfolio. Reach out to other authors for recommendations or browse Instagram and Twitter to find artists who work with independent authors.
5. Hype Your Readers with Pre-Orders
If you want to have a successful book launch and be a bestselling author, you must offer pre-orders. Those pre-orders count toward your launch day's sales. With enough pre-orders, you can jump the line and end up a top seller in one or more of your categories.
When you self publish through Amazon, you can allow pre-orders 90 days before your release. Don’t worry—you don’t need to have your manuscript completed when you start pre-orders. You can upload the final manuscripts 72 hours before launch.
Use those three months to hype up your readers and get them to order your book in advance.
6. Focus on Interior Formatting
The quickest way to a one-star review is an ugly book. When your print books or your ebook format are a mess, you turn readers off before they get past the first page.
Don't gloss over this step. There are several programs, like Atticus, Vellum, or Kindle Create, that allow you to format your book and make it look professional. It's also affordable to outsource your formatting to an expert.
7. Adjust Your International Pricing
When you publish a book on the Kindle store, you set the price. Prices that end in .99 sell better: people think they're getting a bargain. But that same marketing psychology isn't just for the American markets.
KDP automatically adjusts the currency amount for other markets. You can manually change your international prices, however. Add a .99 to the end of each price for each currency. Just be careful that whatever change you make doesn't affect your royalty rates. Monitor the pricing boundaries for 35% and 70% royalties for each currency.
8. Determine Your Distribution
Amazon offers you access to the KDP Select Program when you self publish. That means you get access to Kindle Unlimited, a paid membership for readers to read free books. If you publish with Kindle Unlimited, you’ll get paid for the number of pages of your book that Kindle Unlimited users read.
The KDP Select Program can be a great option for certain genres and authors who may not want to publish on other platforms outside of Amazon. However, when you enroll, Amazon gets exclusive access to your ebook for 90 days at a time (and it defaults to re-enroll you automatically every 90 days.)
If you choose to enroll, you can't sell your ebooks anywhere else during that exclusive access period, including Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Books. You can also get in trouble for offering that ebook for free in your newsletter, Patreon, or website.
If you want to go wide, avoid enrolling in KDP Select. Going wide also allows you to publish to library services like Libby and Hoopla.
9. Become an Amazon Affiliate
There is one way to make more than the 70% royalties on your books. You can become an Amazon Affiliate and use affiliate links for your own book!
Use your affiliate link on your website, social media links, and anywhere else you link to Amazon. Your affiliate link allows you to earn an additional 4% on the selling price of your book. It's not much, but that additional 4% can add up quickly with enough sales. Keep in mind you only get this income when someone buys through your link, not from searching Amazon themselves.
In the End, Make KDP Your Friend
The Amazon publishing world can feel overwhelming. But KDP doesn't have to be your nemesis. Using tips like these can help you be an Amazon self publishing success.
Author and Freelance Writer
Krystal N. Craiker is a fantasy author and freelance writer for ProWritingAid . She is the author of the Scholars of Elandria fantasy series. When she isn't writing, you can find her playing board games and volunteering. Krystal lives in Texas with her husband and two adorable dogs.