How to Self-Publish on Amazon: the beginner’s step-by-step guide to self-publishing their first book

Ready to self-publish on Amazon?

Considering self-publication on Amazon, but don’t have a clue where to start or what to expect? Take a glimpse behind-the-scenes, so when the time comes to push the button and create your own ebook, you already know what lies ahead of you.

Before you publish

Assuming your book is already proofread and edited, the next step is formatting. You can hire someone to do this for you from places like Fiverr, or you can spend an hour or two and format the book yourself. Though some people use HTML code, I’ve found that following Amazon’s free ebook of guidelines using Microsoft Word works very well and is pretty easy to do. You can download a free copy of their formatting guidelines here.

You also need a cover. Don’t rush this step. Almost everyone judges a book by its cover to some extent and you don’t want your months of writing ignored because of a sloppy cover, especially when you can hire someone on Fiverr to make a good cover for as low as $20. Amazon’s guidelines for ebook covers can be found here.

Finally, research categories and keywords. You’ll be allowed to choose two categories and seven keywords when you self-publish your book, so pick the best ones you can to increase your book’s chance of being found in a random search.

Categories can be found on Amazon’s sidebar, with subcategories and sub-subcategories. Once you click a category, the number of books for that category will appear in the upper left-hand corner, giving you an idea of the competition. If you click the first few books and scroll down to the book information, you can see what number the ebook is ranked in the kindle store, getting an idea of how popular the category is. Together, these numbers will help you figure out what categories will give your book its best chance.

Keywords are somewhat similar. Think of Amazon like a search engine and imagine what people looking for a book like yours might type in. Try out the keywords and see how many results you get and what the books are ranked.

Finally, set up your Amazon account. Even if you have one already, you’ll have to get a KDP account and enter in tax and bank information, as well as chose a payment option (electronic transfer, check, etc.).

The Publishing Process

On your KDP dashboard, right at the very top, you’ll have the option to create a new title. Once you’ve clicked it, you only have two pages to fill out.

The first page is metadata about your book. You enter in your title, subtitle, series name (if it’s part of one), author name, a description, categories (after all your category research, the categories you see here and the ones you see on Amazon aren’t quite the same. You might have to do some experimenting with them to get your book in the categories you want), keywords, and the age range of your book (optional, but if you want your book in a children’s or young adult category, you might need to use it). At the bottom of the page upload your cover and manuscript, and move on!

The second page is all about money. You set the price for your book and choose your royalty option. You can select between receiving 35% royalties or 70% royalties. To use the 70% option, your book must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Once you’ve chosen your price, you push publish, wait around 12 hours, and your book will be live on Amazon and ready to buy!

After Publication

You can’t set a book’s price to free, but if you want a permafree ebook for marketing purposes, you can upload it somewhere like Smashwords, then contact Amazon to ask them to price match your book. They’ll generally do so within a few days.

Also, if you find a mistake, want to update a portion of your book, or change a category or the description, it’s very easy. Just click on the book in your dashboard and it will take you to the same pages you filled in when you published the book. Switch or change whatever you like, push publish again, and the changes will be live around twelve hours later.

Set up an account on Amazon Author Central so people can look you up and see what else you’ve written.

And you’re set and ready to go! Don’t let the publication process scare you and if you have any questions, feel free to ask below!


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Posted by Hope Ann



Thanks for explaining it all! If I ever finish writing a book, I’ll definitely refer to this post. 🙂

I really wish I had had this when I published for the first time … and I didn’t know all of the stuff here even now! XD

I’m glad it’s helpful. It’s basically everything I wish I’d known when I started. 😀 I did know quite a bit of it, thanks to several courses and such, but I figured it would be nice to have all the information in one place. 🙂

Yes, that’s definitely a good idea! 🙂

Great post! Thanks! =D

Thanks for posting this, Hope! I will definitely be referring back to this when I have a manuscript to publish. 😉

I have finally gotten around to reading this. Definitely was worthwhile. When I do publish (whenever that may be) I will refer back to this. Thanks, Hope. 🙂

Reblogged this on San Diego Writers/Editors Guild and commented:
I ran across this post through Ryan Lanz’s A Writer’s Path and I saw some intersection with tips David Wogahn provided at our last meeting. I asked the author, Hope Ann, for permission to repost it. Hope Ann is a Christian fantasy writer who has self-published two novellas She has been writing for five years and enjoys retelling fairy tales, creating worlds, making fun of clichés, and blogging ( You can claim a free copy of her Beauty and the Beast retelling at

Great information. So many people struggle with knowing what to do with their books.

Thanks. 🙂 It’s basically a compilation of everything I wanted to know when I started. 😉

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