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Part of this article was published in the Topanga New Times, January 2021.

Laptop on table by window looking out to Sea of Japan from a ferry.
Writing on the ferry, Sea of Japan.

Comic book, cookbook, travel guide, children’s classic, educational text, memoir, manga series, or the next great novel … 2021 is here and it’s time to finish the book you’ve been writing and present it to the world.

Perhaps you’ve decided to publish your book and market it on Amazon, the world’s largest bookstore. In so doing, you will maintain creative control of your work and own your copyright. Print-on-demand means no minimum orders. You will not have to shell out money for boxes of books that live in your trunk and garage. And your book will never be out of stock as Amazon presents it to readers throughout a behemoth international distribution network.

Since it’s owned by Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a convenient self-publishing platform for many indy-authors. Books published on KDP link directly to Amazon and earn royalties of up to 60% of the set list price (minus printing costs), 70% for ebooks. But there are many other self-publishing platforms including Lulu, IngramSpark, BookBaby, Blurb, Draft2Digital – all offering author support for every step of the publishing journey. If your heart is set on selling your book as a hardcover, for example, IngramSpark would be a better fit than KDP. Before committing your time and money or signing any agreements, research your options and find the print-on-demand platform best suited for your objectives, or use a combination of services.

To make a self-publishing income stream a reality, you will wear a lot of hats and accomplish the 25 tasks listed below. Read all before you start. Many steps should be worked on concurrently. Don’t worry about making some “mistakes.” The process is forgiving. Jump in!

Decide which jobs you can do yourself, and which you will contract out. Use every business and artistic decision as an opportunity to reinforce your author brand.

1. Write the best book possible.

If you need help getting started or finishing your manuscript, non-profit organization NaNoWriMo offers tools, structure, community and encouragement. Or you could hire a ghostwriter.

Writing is rewriting. The process goes something like this: Write your first, second and third drafts. Submit pages to your critique group. Rewrite. Submit your manuscript to beta readers. Rewrite. Hire an editor. Rewrite. Polish your manuscript to a glossy sheen. Now you have the body of the book.

2. Decide how you want your book to physically look and feel. Stack up books you admire and study them. Educate yourself to the particular trim sizes, fonts and other characteristics that are conventional for different genres. Notice, for example, that young adult fiction may have a more playful or graphic look to its layout and elements than does narrative non-fiction.

3. Hire an artist or graphic designer for illustrations, tables, maps or chapter heading designs. Or master Photoshop and do this yourself, ensuring all images are a resolution of at least 300 dpi (for print), 96 or 72 dpi for an ebook – for fast loading.

4. Prepare the Front Matter (most of which is optional): the frontispiece (illustration facing the title page), title page, copyright page, dedication, epigraph (quotation or saying intended to suggest a theme), table of contents, foreword or preface, prologue or introduction.

The one requirement of the copyright page is the copyright notice, i.e. the copyright symbol © or the word “copyright”, the year of the first copyright, and the copyright holder’s name or identifier.

Other elements of the copyright page may include:

• International Standard Book Number (ISBN). Acquire the ISBN free of charge when you set up your title on KDP (Step 12 below) or purchase ISBNs from (the company which handles ISBNs for the United States) and type the 13-digit number on the copyright page.

• Library of Congress Control Number – Apply for one (no charge) at

• Rights and permissions

• Disclaimer

• Edition information

• Design, production, editing, illustration credits

• Publisher’s address or city

• Ordering information

• Trademark notices

• Author website

• Country where the book was printed

5. Prepare the Back Matter Again, much is optional and may include: epilogue or conclusion, appendix or addendum, chronology or endnotes, bibliography and references, list of contributors, end notes, copyright permissions and acknowledgements, glossary, author’s note (including contact invitation), and a teaser for the next installment in the series.

Link the Front Matter + Body + Back Matter = That’s Your Book!

6. Design the book or hire a book designer. This is a centuries-old art form, not pages slapped between a cover. Every element from font type to chapter headings and scene-separating symbols is an opportunity to tell your story and reinforce your author brand.

7. Format the book or hire a book formatter. Microsoft Word is capable of formatting many projects. Adobe InDesign is also a powerful formatting and design tool. Formatting is a focused, detail-oriented task involving running headers, pagination, beginning chapters on a right-facing page, and banishing widows, orphans and unintentional blank space. Be thorough and consistent. Don’t be intimidated by terms like recto, verso, kerning and leading. You’re a publisher and an author – master the language! Kindle Direct Publishing has a Tools and Resources step-by-step formatting guide, and Kindle Create, a free desktop app, offers templates. The Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker is the boss for ebooks.

Turn your formatted book into a single pdf file, which is the interior of your book.

8. Design the cover or hire a cover designer. Write the back cover copy. Despite the adage, readers will judge your book by its cover. KDP offers Cover Creator, a free tool to design a simple cover that meets KDP specifications. Whatever your design method, choose simple elements so your cover will read well and stand out among Amazon’s thumbnail images.

To get the exact dimension needed for the cover, you’ll need to know the precise width of the book’s spine. To know the precise width of the spine, you’ll need to know the precise number of pages in the book, and the interior paper type (white or the thicker cream color). When you input these details, KDP provides a cover template with the exact dimensions needed, and space for the bar code. Format your cover accordingly, and save it as a pdf.

Note: the bar code will automatically be specific to your book’s ISBN number and (optional) the book’s pricing information.

9. Plan the book launch campaign. Shall your release date dovetail with Latvia’s Centennial Celebration, or something significant to your subject matter? Plan virtual/remote events with readers during the excitement of your new book release by scheduling a calendar of promotions now. Write a press release and set up who will receive it and when. Prepare a list of reviewers who will receive an advance reader copy (ARC) of your opus.

Amazon rankings are influenced by a flurry of sales activity in a short period of time, within your book’s specific category. So take advantage of the initial hoopla to effect a spike in sales, and definitely push pre-sales.

Build, maintain or augment your author platform, which includes your website, mailing list, social media activity, signings, readings, and reviews. You want your book to arrive hot-off-the-press to fanfare! Don’t let your social media presence lapse just because you are in formatting purgatory. Schedule six months of posts in advance.

Printing bookmarks, a display poster and buy-sheets was customary before the pandemic put the kibosh on physical book signings. You may want to print collateral marketing materials anyway, and mail them to your target audience.

Practice performing readings before a Zoom or remote audience, or a camera.

10. Use your e-mail list to keep fans and readers in the loop, inviting them to pre-purchase the book, and let them count down with you to the release date and its celebratory events.

Congratulations! If you have completed the above ten steps, you’ve accomplished the work of a team of publishing professionals. Authors who select Amazon’s KDP will find the platform to be straightforward and user-friendly. Other self-publishing platforms will have very similar next steps. Onward!

11. Make sure your browser is updated.

12. Set up your KDP account.

13. Go to your Bookshelf and Create A New Title. Most of the info required is obvious, but the Book Description, Keywords, Categories, and Price should be carefully considered.

• Your 4000-character Book Description will appear on Amazon, and must catch a reader’s interest and motivate a purchase.

• Provide 7 Keywords or short phrases that will make your book discoverable.

• Select the Categories appropriate for your book. For example, on what aisle(s) of a brick-and-mortar bookstore would your book be shelved? Choosing your categories as specifically as possible, may move your book higher in Amazon rankings.

• Set the Price, which may be changed at your discretion. Get ballpark ideas from comparable titles. Do you want to start with a high price reflecting your book’s specialized information for a niche market? Or do you want to go low, enticing the reader to get hooked on the first book in a series?

If you didn’t purchase an ISBN from Bowker, Kindle will assign a free ISBN with KDP Print as the imprint.

14. Select trim size, page color, and cover finish, as prompted.

15. Upload the pdf containing your paperback’s interior.

16. Upload the pdf of the cover.

17. Launch the Previewer. Any problems that will impact printing will be reported. Some errors will have to be corrected. Others may be ignored if you want to risk a suboptimal outcome. You may inspect a digital proof by downloading the Print Previewer, or order a physical proof, or both. When approved …

18. Press “Publish!” This submits the files for a Manual Check. After your book passes, it is available for sale on Amazon.

19. Format the manuscript file for an ebook, which is similarly uploaded, proofed, submitted, reviewed and published.

20. Savor holding your book in your hands and the effort it represents. Your KDP Bookshelf will show that your books are Live and Available for Purchase on Amazon! Purchase a quantity of books for your promotional needs.

21. Go to Amazon’s and set up your Author Page -- an important and potentially juicy component of your platform. Through this portal add editorial reviews for your book, track book sales, see and respond to reader reviews, chat with your readers and fix issues with your book listings.

22. Don’t forget to create a direct link from your website to your book’s detail page on Amazon. Post this link on your social media sites.

23. Get Reviews! You may pay for a critique from Kirkus Reviews; submit your book to literary reviewers or pundits in your subject area, or ask your friends and readers to post reviews on Amazon. Potential readers may ignore a book that has zero reviews.

24. Promote! Move up Amazon rankings with flights of intense promotional activity in a short period of time. Drop the price of your book for five to seven days. Or invent a giveaway, hoping that many of the winner-readers will return a favorable review. Do a virtual book or blog tour. Get more ideas on KDP Select, Kindlepreneur, and K-Boards.

25. Deposit royalties. KDP pays royalties every month, approximately 60 days after the end of the month in which they were earned.

Remember, as indy-author you are the ultimate and ONLY source for your book. If you’re new to this, you may make mistakes. Correct them. You are not Simon & Schuster. You offer an artisanal product, and have adopted a savvy model that maintains 60% royalties. Put forth your best effort, and build ethical, personal relationships with your readers and publishing associates.

Writing and publishing a book takes effort. The result will be an asset that has legs, that helps establish your brand and defines your legacy.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact Diana Mathur at


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