Many authors have turned away from major publishing companies in pursuit of more creative control over their work. However, more control brings with it more responsibilities. In other words, you get to be your publisher, editor, designer, and critic. And let's not forget – your financial adviser.
It might seem frightening, but once you get the hang of it, it’s more lucrative than you'd think. So, if this is your preferred online business model and you want to learn how to make money self-publishing books on Kindle, make sure to keep reading.
Choose Your Category Wisely
As a self-publishing author, you need to have a clear vision of the type of book you’re writing. In other words, you have to pick your niche.
With Amazon, you're allowed to choose two niches, i.e., categories. That means your book will both appear as a search result and compete with other titles from the bunch, so choose wisely. If you’re serious about making money as a self-publisher, this can make or break it for you.
The solution is to be strategic. Instead of basing your decision on the actual subject matter, you should try finding a less competitive category for your book. Of course, it has to be at least somewhat connected to the topic. If you publish a cookbook under ‘Science Fiction,’ you didn't beat the system – you ensured your work would go unnoticed.
All it takes is doing a little digging before you publish. Luckily, Amazon makes it pretty easy to research categories on their website. Here’s how to do it:
- On the official Amazon page, switch your search filter from ‘All’ to ‘Books.’
- Scroll through the categories in the panel on the left-hand side. Next to each section, there’ll be a number of titles currently published in a particular category.
- Click on your preferred categories and comb through each one. That includes sub-categories, sub-sub-categories, and so on. It might feel like going down a rabbit hole, but the further you go, the better the research results.
- Find a sub-category that has the least amount of competing titles. Ideally, you want one with a few thousand books instead of the standard six figures.
Keeping track of the ‘Best Selling Books on Amazon’ is also a must. Researching the ranking system will give you a clear overview of the competition and help you pick categories. Once again, it only requires a few clicks:
- Find the top-ranking books in your category, and click on each one to view the ‘Product Details.’ For accurate insight, go through the top five or top ten titles.
- Pay attention to their placement on the ‘Amazon Best Sellers Rank.’ You can then determine the average rank required to compete in your preferred categories.
As a general rule, if the first ten or so books in a particular category consistently rank 50,000 (or lower) – you might want to rethink. It'll be tough to rise above the competition and generate a decent income in those circumstances. Instead, try searching for categories where the first ten titles rank in the top 100,000.
Think of a Catchy Title
Coming up with a snazzy title will make your book stand out among other KPD (Kindle Direct Publishing) projects. It’s the first thing your potential reader lays eyes on, apart from the cover (we’ll get to that later). You need to make it memorable and alluring if you want people to encourage people to buy your book.
There are some universal guidelines for creating a catchy KPD title. For instance, people tend to respond well to book titles that contain numbers. Gary Chapman’s ‘The 5 Love Languages’ is an excellent recent example. The author added some extra flair with an equally memorable subtitle – The Secret to Love that Lasts, another superb strategy.
Another way to make your title pop is to pique the reader’s interest. For example, Adam Silvera’s ‘They Both Die in the End’ may constitute a spoiler, but it’s also terribly enticing. Yes, you know they both die in the end from the get-go, but you buy the book to learn how and why.
Dichotomies and bold statements also make memorable titles. The legendary 90s best-seller ‘Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus’ is a testament to that. A more recent example would be Robert T. Kiyosaki’s ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad.’
All in all, it can’t hurt to turn to accomplished authors for inspiration. Though the title alone can’t guarantee your book’s success, it increases the chances of someone buying it.
Writing takes time and dedication. Although this article mainly focuses on the financial/marketing aspect, it’s important not to lose sight of the fundamentals. Yes, sometimes good books don’t get the response they deserve. But low-quality writing doesn’t sell.
Regardless of the subject matter, you want your book to read well. Creating an outline is the first step toward that. For some people, this is the most difficult and time-consuming stage. Therefore, you can always consider turning to Custom Writing or any other related services for additional help. Writers from such writing services are well-qualified and can help you with this work, give additional advice, review your ideas, and possibly supplement them. It’ll help you organize your writing in the most comprehensive way. That means arranging the chapter order, going over your main points, and answering the ‘what is my book about’ question.
When you’re confident about the general layout of your book, you can start writing. The first few weeks are usually spent setting up a rhythm, so don't worry if you're not productive. Not everyone has Alexander Hamilton's writing stamina, so remember to pace yourself. However, beware of procrastinating. Even if you're a self-published author, it’s a good idea to set a deadline.
Don’t Forget to Proofread
A common issue with KPD books is sloppy grammar, typos, and incoherent sentences. All this can be avoided with thorough proofreading. Self-publishing also means self-editing, which means you’ll have to take care of it personally. You can always ask your friends and family to read the manuscript and help detect any mistakes.
However, if you don’t trust your loved ones to be objective, you can always hire someone. Platforms like Upwork and Fiverr are packed with freelance editors who can proofread your book for a reasonable price. The cost can vary depending on the length, but you probably won't have to spend that much. You know the saying – ‘it takes money to make money,’ and investing in proofreading will definitely pay off when you publish your work.
Include Early Book Reviews on Your Page
While the ‘Best Sellers Rank’ doesn’t take reviews into account, they make for a solid selling point. You want to include them early on to add some gravitas to your book. If you can get an industry big shot to do it, it’ll resonate with a broader audience. Of course, it doesn’t have to be Time Magazine – you can also turn to your fellow authors.
Relying on readers for reviews this early in the process is risky. Needless to say, it's not even an option for first-time authors. That's why it's better to send a copy of your manuscript to a trustworthy colleague and ask them for an opinion. You might even get some valuable criticism and publishing advice.
The sooner you do it, the better since writing an insightful review takes time. Remember to not be pushy since you’re the one asking for a favor. KPD authors have an established network for writing reviews, so you want to keep close to those circles, especially if you're a fresh face.
It’s best to keep the book reviews short but impactful. People probably won’t bother to read an entire dissertation about a book they haven’t even read. Also, try to include as many reviews as you can. It doesn’t have to be more than 10, but try to get to at least that.
Of course, when it comes to your book’s introduction, you should have the final saying. That’s why you need to include the usual ‘Word from the Author.’
It doesn’t have to be too long, but it should be informative. In other words, keep it light but still let people know what they can expect after buying your book. You don’t want to misguide potential readers since it can backfire spectacularly.
Make Your Cover POP
‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ are great words to live by, but they don’t make for a successful marketing strategy. With over 6 million books on the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, you need people to judge the cover.
As a self-publisher, coming up with a design is your responsibility. You should strive for an aesthetic that’s both eye-catching and professionally done. Instead of intricate typography, stick to the basics – only list your name, the book's title, and potential awards on the front cover.
Make sure there's enough room between different sections; you want to avoid clutter. The imagery should draw attention but not be overwhelming for the senses.
Luckily, you don’t have to be a Photoshop wiz to make this happen – you can hire a graphic designer. Once again, go to the online marketplace where you can find a freelance artist that best suits your vision. Pro tip: Find examples of other book covers you like and send them as a reference.
Format Your Book According to KDP Standards
If you don’t know the right way to publish a book on Kindle, you won’t be able to profit from it. Uploading a PDF version is not an option, as there are specific guidelines for formatting e-books.
Kindle Direct Publishing issued an official eBook Manuscript Formatting Guide to encourage more authors to use their platform. You can find the step-by-step instruction manual on the Amazon website. It will show you how to correctly format your chapter titles, incorporate images, use the correct spacing, add footnotes, and much more.
Again – you’re not obligated to do this on your own. Formatting can quickly become exhausting, so most authors hire someone else to do the grind.
Manuscript formats also tie into the ‘how to make money by self-publishing on Kindle’ strategy. Offering your readers more than one version of the book increases your chances of profit. If you go for both the e-book and paperback, you now have multiple sources of income. While you’re at it, why not tap into the audiobook market as well? Many people like to spice up their commute by listening to an audiobook, making it a lucrative prospect.
Write a Detailed Description
A lackluster description can cost you an audience. While a snappy title and a popping cover are there to grab the reader’s attention, it’s the description that lands the purchase. It serves to sell people on the book idea and set it apart from other titles in the category.
Since it's not a hard copy of the manuscript, the word count is significantly higher. Kindle lets you write up to 600 words (4,000 characters) for your description, which is more than enough. Make use of the ample space and include as many elements as you can. For example, apart from a detailed summary, you can have your credentials, reviews, a short biography, or even a manifesto.
Pay attention to the format of the description. It's best to use H-tags for paragraph headings. You can use the standard outline: H1 for the title, H2 for the first lines, and H3-tags for the rest of the text. Some authors use HTML tags, but that's a tad more complicated.
The Key is Using Keywords
As the term implies, keywords are crucial for a monetization strategy. With Kindle Direct Publishing, you get to choose up to seven keywords or phrases that'll lead readers directly to your book. Of course, if your book is ranking high, it'll pop up in other searches as well.
Keyword placement is the key (pun intended) to success. You should aim to incorporate all seven KDP terms in various parts of your book page. Ideally, at least one of the words should find its way to both the book description and title. It might seem limiting, but it’s really not, given the different types of keywords. You can use them to describe the tone of your book, the genre, the overall message – pretty much anything.
Also, you're not married to the first seven keywords or phrases you come up with – you can always change them. It’s super easy and only requires a few steps:
- Sign in to your profile on https://kdp.amazon.com and open your Bookshelf.
- Click on the three tiny dots under the ‘Kindle e-Book Actions’ tab next to your book thumbnail.
- You’ll see a list of options, one of which is to edit your e-book. Click on the ‘Keywords’ tab and make the edits you want. You can update the placement, remove old keywords, add new ones – just play with it.
- When you're satisfied with the new setting, click ‘Save’ and then ‘Publish’ on the pricing page, et voila!
How to Make Money Self-Publishing on Kindle: Choosing the Right Price
You’ll have complete control in this department as well since Amazon lets the publisher determine the cost. Of course, the company offers incentives for particular price ranges. Right now, if you want to get the coveted 70% royalties, you have to price your book between $2.99 and $9.99.
As always, you're allowed to play the field and try a different range, but it's best to stick to the recommended value. It's the safest road to high royalties and more revenue, not to mention an increased number of sales. When publishing a series, set the lowest price point ($2.99) for the first book and gradually increase the cost for the rest with each purchase.
So when will you start making money from your book? The very next day, if you’re lucky. After you determine the pricing range and fill in some forms, your work will be officially published on the KDP platform. You can also attach a link to a printed version of the manuscript, provided it has the same title and content. That can sometimes increase sales and boost your rankings in the ‘Best Sellers’ category.
Is Kindle Publishing Still Profitable in 2021?
Yes! More so than ever, with the recent industry boom. Just last year, the total e-book revenue amounted to a staggering $2.04 billion. Sure, it’s not as much as the annual average for paperback editions (which is $22.6 billion, by the way), but it's still impressive.
Also, the Kindle library has significantly expanded in the last decade. A while ago, fiction was considered the most lucrative category on the platform. The three reigning genres were mystery, romance, and fantasy, while non-fiction books were mainly left on the sidelines. However, these days the ‘Top 100’ list features more and more books on business strategies, finances, self-help, and similar topics.
With the growing number of popular categories, it’s a lot easier to break through as an independent author. Of course, that also means more intense competition, and that's why strategizing is essential when picking a niche.
Ironically, another reason why Kindle is so lucrative for publishers is the affordability. KDP books are a lot cheaper than hard copies, so readers tend to gravitate toward them. There's also the ‘reel them in with a free copy’ strategy that's proven successful for many authors. All of this leads to a broader audience and more potential buyers. That's why you can share your work without worrying about how to make money by self-publishing on Kindle.
Is Kindle Direct Publishing Really Free?
It really is free. It may sound too good to be true, but Kindle doesn’t charge you for the publishing services.
Can You Make a Living Self-Publishing on Amazon?
If you want to make a living as a self-publishing author, you have to bring in some serious royalties. Amazon offers incentives for particular price ranges, but you’re free to pursue different options. Also, the royalty percentage is calculated differently for each book format. The standard Kindle Direct Publishing formula is as such:
As a self-publishing author, you can either collect 35% or 70% royalties. To be eligible for 70% royalties, you must meet the list price criteria. That means the list price of the e-book must be at least 20% less than the list price for the hard copy. Also, the book must be available for sale in all regions where the publisher has rights.
Paperbacks distributed on Amazon marketplaces are eligible for a 60% royalty fee. Keep in mind that this is only applicable in instances where KDP funds the paperback distribution.
Calculating the royalty percentage for audiobooks is a bit more complicated. It’s because the publishing process usually involves a producer. Most commonly, Kindle Direct Publishing offers two options for audiobook formats:
- 40% royalties + the right to exclusive distribution
- 25% royalties + non-exclusive distribution rights
Since there's a third party involved, you can split the royalties with the producer or pay them upfront. Of course, you can also keep the cash and produce the entire thing yourself.
Do I Need to Copyright My Book Before Publishing on Kindle?
You don’t have to copyright your book with the U.S. Copyright Office to publish it on Kindle. Instead, you’ll get an electronic signature that verifies you as the author and publisher of the book. The e-signature alone is enough to exert your rights in the event of copyright infringement.
However, if you want to press charges against a violator, you must register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office. You’ll be charged a fee, but it’s nothing too extravagant ($35). It’s also not a bad idea to hire a lawyer to walk you through the process since copyright laws are pretty confusing.
If you want to incorporate the copyright page in your manuscript, you have to do it yourself. Amazon doesn't include it automatically since it's not a prerequisite for publishing on Kindle.
Does Amazon Own the Rights to My Book?
There’s a myth going around that once you upload a book to Amazon, you automatically renounce your authorship. As said, it's only a myth – Amazon is an online marketplace that also owns a publishing platform.
Before your work is published, you sign a formal agreement that authorizes you as the owner of said intellectual property. Whether it’s an e-book, an audiobook, or a paperback edition – the author retains all the rights.
Amazon does own the Kindle app, but that doesn't mean you lose the rights to your book if it's available for download. The software was simply designed for reading e-books released in the Kindle Store. It’s similar to programs like Microsoft Word or Paint.
As commercially licensed software, it's protected under copyright law. That means readers can only view your book after purchasing it (or downloaded a free copy). They can't make any changes or appropriate your work without your express consent.
Kindle Your Passion for Writing
And that’s how to make money self-publishing books on Kindle. There are so many factors to consider – what keywords to use, what makes a memorable title, and what are the best front cover designs. Not to mention royalties and pricing ranges that baffle even seasoned authors.
However, it does get easier once you’ve published your first e-book. The ultimate goal of Kindle Direct Publishing is to make reading accessible to everyone while encouraging authors to seize control over their work. It might feel risky at first, but the statistics are on your side.