Want to Self-Publish a Book on Amazon? Try This: Start Small

You want to write a novel and self-publish on Amazon.

That’s understandable.

It’s so easy these days to become an indie author. And nothing would fill you with self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment like publishing your very own novel for the world to read.

So why haven’t you done it already?

Could it be because writing a novel is hard frickin work?

First, there’s the fear of beginning, which you may have gotten over. I know that I have a ton of half-completed novels gathering dust on my desktop hard drive.

It’s the dreaded middle that always gets me.

Does that middle get to you too?

The middle is where you begin to think – is this any good? What if I’m only wasting my time? There are tons of other writers who are a hundred times better than I am.

Before you know it, you have a half-completed project that is no closer to being finished than we are to having robot maids doing our dishes and laundry.

Maybe you’re taking the wrong approach.

Perhaps it would be better to think simpler.

To start smaller.

Don’t Succumb to the Pressure

Much of the fear of writing comes from the anticipation of this monumental project that’s going to take ages to finish.

Take a novel, for instance.

You have to come up with multiple characters, and all of those characters have arcs – at least the major ones do – and their arcs have to diverge at some point.

Then you have to describe everything and build tension.

And then there’s the ending that has to leave the reader at least somewhat satisfied (unless you’re Stephen King). (Just Kidding, Mr. King).

That’s enough to freeze even the most confident of writers. And it’s the reason few people who claim to be writers ever finish the works they start.

The lesson?

Stop putting so much pressure on yourself. No one says you have to write a novel as your first self-published project.

What if you published something a little less significant, like a short story?

Put Your Novel On Hold

Think about it. If you were to climb a mountain, getting to the summit would seem like a monumental task.

It would also take a lot of time.

And if you’re inexperienced, it might be a dangerous task at that.

Wouldn’t it be better to climb a little bit of the way, camp out for a while, then climb a little more of the way, camp out, and so on?

That’s how I think you should approach self-publishing on Amazon.

Writing a short story won’t take up nearly as much of your time.

You won’t have as many characters to write, situations to come up with, and you’ll be able to finish the story and become an indie author in far less time.

Think Smaller

So now, what I want you to do is come up with a short story that you will write and self-publish. This week or at least this month.

Start with the outline, even if you’re a pantser.

A pantser, in case you didn’t know, is one of those people who likes to fly by the seat of their pants. They don’t use outlines; they just make it up as they go.

I have identified as a pantser many times, and I never finish a god damned thing.

So now I’ve learned that an outline isn’t something to throw my nose up at. It’s a framework to get me started, a ladder to help me reach (and surpass) the middle, and a guide to help me achieve a workable ending.

Just because you create an outline doesn’t mean you have to follow it to a T. You may find, as I do, that your outline diverges as you write.

But at least you have a beginning, middle and ending in case you get stuck.

So your first task is to write an outline, then write your story, and polish it enough to publish it on Amazon.

Once that’s done, then you can start thinking bigger.

Develop a Series

Once your short story is complete and it’s polished enough for publishing, that’s when you can start thinking more long-term.

Don’t immediately jump into writing a novel.

Instead, come up with a series for your story.

You might plan a five short story series that will entice readers to pick up each subsequent book. The biggest earners on Amazon are series writers, after all, or at least many of them are.

You may not get rich writing short stories, but you can sure build a following if your stories are engaging enough.

Don’t worry if your stories aren’t engaging right now. Though, you’re probably not the best judge of your own talent.

If you tend to be harsh when gauging your own work, you should let readers decide if your writing is good or not. That’s why putting short stories out there is the best move, before you get to novel writing.

If you’re scared of putting your name out there, publish under a pen name. That’s what I did for a series I’m currently writing, and I’m now working on book two for the series I’ve published.

Polish Your Draft

But first you need at least one book that’s ready to be self-published.

When your short story is polished, you only have one step left, and that’s to secure a cover that will draw readers and create intrigue.

Get a Book Cover

You have many choices when it comes to getting a cover to go with your story. I recommend Designran on Fiverr, who I use for my book covers.

Simply send the description of what you want and you can expect your cover in about 24 hours.

You can also look on Upwork for designers if you’re not comfortable using Fiverr.

Or, if you are handy with Photoshop, by all means create your own cover.

You can also use Canva, which I use for my blog images. The platform can make a designer out of anyone, including me.

Upload Your Book to Amazon

With your cover secured and your book written and edited to your liking, now it’s time to make it live for the world to read.

The process of publishing to Amazon is a simple one.

First, visit the KDP platform and sign up (if you haven’t already).

When you’re ready to enter your first book, visit your dashboard and click on Create New Title.

Create New Kindle Title

Before you enter your book information, you’ll need to decide if you’re going to enter the KDP Select Program.

KDP Select

KDP Select

KDP is a program that allows subscribers to read books on Kindle for a flat monthly fee as opposed to buying each one individually.

You, as the author, will get paid according to how many pages they read.

The only downside to KDP is that you can’t make your book available on other platforms like Kobo or Smashwords.

But I make my books available on KDP, so it’s up to you. I recommend you do your research before you click that check box that Amazon offers you.

Enter Your Book Details

Now you are ready to fill out the most important details of the story you’ve just written.

You’ll be asked for your book name, the subtitle (if applicable) and the edition number (in case you previously published the book and are now updating it).

You’ll also be asked if this book is part of a series. Again, think about creating a series. Readers love books in a series, especially if they’re short and easily digestible. And guess what? A short story falls nicely within those guidelines!

Book Info 1

Now comes the most important part, aside from your book’s name and subtitle: The description.

People looking for books to read are going to judge your book by its cover, title and by the description. If your cover and title have enticed them enough to get to the description, the latter can be the most deciding factor.

For this reason, really Bring It with your description. Tell enough about the topic to create a bit of mystery, but don’t give away the whole enchilada.

In other words, make the description sing.

For best results, I recommend that you write at least five different descriptions. Hell, for that matter write five different titles while you’re at it and choose the best one of the bunch.

Next, you’ll add your name as the author and any other book contributors (such as an editor, if you have one).

Next, you’ll be able to enter your book’s ISBN number. This isn’t entirely necessary.

You can purchase ISBN numbers on the web, but as Amazon states the number will only be used as a reference and won’t actually appear with your book’s details.

None of my books have ISBN numbers, and they sell just fine without them.

Book Info 2

In the next section, you’ll be asked about your publishing rights. Since you wrote the short story you’re publishing (I assume), you will choose the option that reads: I hold the necessary publishing rights.

Now comes the time to enter categories for your book.

Pay special attention to the categories you enter, as readers of your book will generally find your book this way.

If your book is a horror novel, for instance, you’ll want to enter that category.

I recommend that you go through the various categories on the Amazon Kindle platform to see what other book titles resemble yours. This is a very important step and should not be glossed over.

You can then target specific customers, such as their age range if your book is a Young Adult novel or grade range if your book is designed for second graders, for instance.

Book Info 3

You will now enter your book’s keywords. Again, spend some time finding keywords that will lead readers to your book. Think about the keywords people will enter to find your title and topic. You can enter up to seven.

Next, you’ll be asked if you want to make your book available now, or you want to allow people to pre-order.

Book Info 4

Now comes the time to upload your book cover. Simply browse for the image, upload and you’re done. Easy peasy.

book cover

Next, you’ll upload your book file. When it’s finished uploading, you’ll be able to use Kindle’s handy Digital Previewer, which will show you exactly how your book will look on a variety of Kindle models. It’s pretty cool.

You’ll also be able to select whether or not you want to enable digital rights management. If you do select digital rights management, people won’t be able to share your book as easily.

Choose wisely, as you can’t change this option later on.

Then click Save and Continue.

Book Info 6

You’ll now choose where you want your book to be available. I always choose Worldwide Distribution, as I want everyone from all four corners of the Earth to be able to read my titles.

Book Info 7

When setting your royalty options, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting as much profit from your book as possible.

I always make my short stories available for $1.99. The royalty option you choose will limit the way you price your book.

For example, for 35%, which I choose, you can make books available for as little as $.99. If you choose 70%, the least you can set your price is $2.99.

Book Info 8

When you set your price, Amazon will automatically configure your pricing in other currencies. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

Book Info 9

The last options include the Kindle MatchBook program (which is only applicable if you also have a print version of your title available) and the ability for people to lend your book out.

Choose accordingly, Save and Continue.

Book Info 10

Now you’re done. Your book will go live in about 24-48 hours.

Now Reward Yourself – You’re Finally Self-Published

As your book is processing, you should be planning the other short stories in your series. You can add as many as you’d like, and the practice will get you used to writing longer works.

The more stories you publish, the better writer you’ll become. Soon, you’ll feel like such a pro that writing a novel won’t seem like such a monumental task.

That’s when your dreams of Amazon novel publishing may indeed come true. Until then, think smaller, start with short stories and build up to longer works as you go.

That’s what I’m doing, and I highly recommend that you do it, too.

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