Up until very recently, the process of publishing a book was limited to the select few who were able to successfully navigate the hurdles of finding an agent and negotiating a contract with a traditional publishing house.
And although the Kindle ebook reading device has been around for several years, the ebook market has recently skyrocketed with the release of the Kindle app, which allows users to read their digitally-downloaded books via computer or mobile device.
Now, industry opinions vary on whether this shift towards greater media consumption via technological device truly strikes a death knell to the printed book, or whether there’s room for both in an increasingly tech-savvy world.
However, it’s reasonable to assume that as smartphone penetration continues to increase around to world and as more and more people become comfortable with digital book formats, the market will continue to grow over the next few years – whether it does so beside or in place of print books. And that makes this an excellent time for internet marketers to get in on the digital publishing industry.
What is the Amazon Kindle Publishing Program?
In short, the Amazon Kindle publishing program allows anyone and everyone to develop digital content to be distributed through Amazon’s network.
– Kindle Direct Publishing – The Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program handles the publishing of full length books, whether from traditional authors and publishers looking to make print novels available to a wider distribution channel or more unconventional “indie” authors who are looking to share content without jumping through the hoops of the traditional printing industry.
– Kindle Singles – A recent addition to the Kindle content distribution network, Kindle Singles are 10,000-30,000 word essays sold for a few dollars each. Think of them as longer essays or editorials that expand on a single topic, without the level of complexity of full books published through the KDP program.
– Kindle Publishing for Newspapers, Magazines and Blogs – Although these newer Kindle programs are still in the beta testing stage, Amazon has begun to introduce publishing models that would allow you to distribute your newspaper, magazine or blog content via Kindle.
How do I Get Started with Kindle Publishing?
Well, the first step – as you might expect – is to come up with the content you’ll use for your Kindle book. If you don’t have a book, you can’t publish on Kindle – simple as that.
Now, if you’re a published author with a full length novel to your name already, coming up with content for your Kindle ebook won’t be a big deal. Simply contact your publicist to learn more about how your publishing house handles digital distribution.
But for the purposes of this article, let’s assume that you’re an internet business owner looking to expand your brand’s reach or add a new revenue stream to your portfolio. You don’t have a novel ready to go, but you shouldn’t let that deter you from exploring this new and growing business model.
As with generating content for your website, your email newsletter, your backlinks or your products, you have options when it comes to content creation for your Kindle ebook:
1. Write it yourself. Drafting your own content is a free option for generating content for your Kindle ebook, but it can be time-consuming – especially if you aren’t a particularly talented writer.
If you’re struggling to get started with a project of this magnitude, mind-mapping your ideas can be a great way to come up with a central theme for your Kindle ebook, as well as the specific subtopics and chapters you want to include. Sites like MindMeister allow you to create a limited number of these helpful diagrams for free (paid accounts with more features are available as well).
2. Hire a ghostwriter. A good ghostwriter will write content on any subject for you, and should be able to customize the writing to suit your unique style and brand. Ghostwriters may be paid by the word or by the project, and you can find them through sites like Guru, eLance or Freelancer.com, or on the classified ads sections of internet marketing forums.
Just remember – not all ghostwriters are created equally. The skill set required to draft humorous fiction pieces is very different than the talents needed to create research-intensive reference materials. When choosing a ghostwriter, be sure to look for someone who’s written the type of content you’re interested in purchasing and who has a record of positive feedback and repeat buyers.
3. Use PLR. The use of PLR in Kindle ebooks is frequently disputed, but when used correctly, PLR can help you to dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes to go from initial thought to completion on your Kindle ebook.
Be careful, though, not to simply copy PLR word-for-word and paste it into a single document. Instead, follow my advice on using PLR correctly to find a good PLR writer and modify the content as needed to suit your own business.
4. Repurpose public domain content. Plenty of sites teaching Kindle publishing strategies recommend using public domain content to create Kindle ebooks. After all, it’s free, it’s widely available and it’s already formatted as a book.
Now, the problem with public domain content is that everyone has access to it – including Amazon itself, which has published plenty of public domain content under its “Free Classics” program. So the key to using public domain content correctly is to add value by expanding on the topic. Include an updated commentary, add current resources or put together a collection of public domain works on a specific topic in order to create a public domain product that’s uniquely yours.
One final tip on putting together the content for your Kindle ebook… Unlike with traditional book publishing, there’s no editor that will step in to proofread your work and correct obvious errors. It’s up to you to be sure the content you publish to Kindle reflects well on you and your business.
So don’t just run the “spell check” tool on your word processing program and hope for the best. Instead, print out a copy of your ebook text, spend some quality time going through it, and ask a friend or family member to go through it with a fresh set of eyes. Although you will be able to correct any errors that you discover once the book is published, it’s best to spend some time on this up front to prevent any copies from going out with mistakes in them.
Publishing Your Kindle Ebook
The first step to publishing your ebook on the Kindle network is to sign up for an Amazon account. If you already have an Amazon account, you may be asked to provide some additional information before you’re able to publish your ebook, including your business name, address and how you’d like your royalties to be handled.
Once you’ve entered your account, click on “Add a new title” to begin uploading your book.
In the first half of the publishing section, you’ll enter details about your book. If you have any questions about what a particular field requires, check out the helpful FAQ column on the right hand side of the page.
Step 1 – Enter your book details, including the name, description, language and other relevant information, as shown below:
Step 2 – Confirm that you do, in fact, have the appropriate rights to publish your ebook:
Step 3 – Select categories and keywords to assign to your ebook. Spend some time navigating similar products on Amazon to find the most helpful data for your book.
Step 4 – Upload your cover, following the guidelines provided by Kindle and the recommendations at the end of this article.
Step 5 – Upload your actual ebook text as either a Word document (.doc only), plain text file or HTML document. Although you can upload PDF files, they don’t always format correctly, so it’s best to stay away from this file type.
It’s also a good idea to read through Amazon’s Kindle complete formatting recommendations guidelines before uploading your ebook, as certain elements – such as bullet points, headers, footers and special fonts – won’t format correctly in Kindle.
Once your book has uploaded correctly, you’ll be given the option to preview your ebook in the Kindle Previewer. Definitely take the time to go through your ebook in this format, as it’s much easier to make changes at this point, instead of waiting until your book is published to see it!
If everything looks good, click “Save and Continue” to move on to the “Rights & Pricing” section:
Step 6 – Select the territories in which you own publishing rights to your ebook. If you’ve written your own Kindle ebook, select the “Worldwide rights” option.
Step 7 – In step 7, you get to choose your royalty level. If you’ve priced your book between $.99 and $2.99, you’ll only be eligible for the 35% royalty level, while publishers whose books retail for $2.99 and up can choose the 70% option. Amazon’s calculator will help you determine which level is right for you, as well as estimate your delivery costs (based on the size of the file and the expected data transfer).
Step 8 – In the final step of the Kindle publishing process, you’ll decide whether or not to offer lending permissions and – if everything is set up correctly – save and publish your book!
Alternatively, if you have content in other formats that you’d like to convert to Kindle ebooks, Amazon offers two additional tools that you may find useful:
– KindleGen – Amazon’s KindleGen program is a command line prompt tool that allows you to convert HTML files into the Kindle format. You can also use this tool to convert any ePub files you’ve already published through Apple’s iBooks program to Kindle documents.
– Kindle Plugin for Adobe InDesign – If you’re a more sophisticated designer who is looking to convert Adobe InDesign files to Kindle ebooks, you can use Amazon’s plugins to ensure that formatting and graphic elements aren’t lost in the conversion process.
The download files and documentation for these two tools can be found on the Kindle Publishing Programs page.
That’s it – you’re on your way to becoming a published author! Your ebook will appear in the Kindle store within 72 hours (unless you specify a publish date for some time in the future).
Getting the Most out of Kindle Publishing
So, the good news is that publishing a book on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program (as well as on Apples iBook marketplace and the Barnes & Noble PubIt program, if you choose to expand your ebook distribution to these channels) is incredibly easy. The bad news is that actually making money with this business model isn’t quite as simple.
Although most people think of Kindle publishing as a “set-it-and-forget-it” kind of deal, there’s no “Rotisserie Magic” here to help you. Once your ebook is accepted into the Kindle collection, you can’t sit back and wait for the sales to come rolling in – they won’t. Instead, you’ll need to take specific actions to ensure that you get the most out of your Kindle ebook.
Choose the Right Topic
The key to launching a successful Kindle ebook actually begins in the planning stages. When picking a topic for your ebook, most newbie publishers set out to find an untapped niche and write the first book on a subject that hasn’t been covered before.
And although this might sound logical, the obvious issue is that there’s no good way to test for demand for a subject that hasn’t been covered before. Just because you think a topic is interesting and because there seems to be a wide open space for it, doesn’t mean that readers will be interested enough to shell out money to read about it.
But the great thing about books is that few people who are truly interested in a subject only ever read one single book on it. Think about golf enthusiasts. Do you really think they’re only going to read one book on how to improve their technique? Chances are they’re going to read dozens – if not hundreds – of books on the subject, including everything from technique advice to course guides to player biographies.
Now, if you’re planning to use your Kindle ebook to promote your blog or website, you might not have as much flexibility in selecting a topic as someone who is simply interested in building a business as a Kindle content publisher. However, there are a few tools you can use to find which specific subtopics within your niche are in highest demand on Kindle.
One in particular is the free website, http://www.novelrank.com. This site tracks the sales data of both print and ebook content on Amazon, and by tracking specific books in the subtopics you’re considering, you can see how well these subniches are selling. If you find a subtopic of your niche that tends to rank higher and sell faster than another, pursue the busier niche to capitalize on existing interest in a topic.
Another great tool that you can use to find great Kindle topic ideas is Jungle Search to really dig into Amazon’s sales data. For example, if you find a niche of physical books that’s selling well, but doesn’t seem to have as many related options available as Kindle ebooks, couldn’t that be a sign that the market is ready for a digital version?
To confirm how many Kindle ebooks have been published in the niche you’re considering, visit EReader IQ. You can even drill down your searches to see what ebooks are currently available in the Kindle market place by genre or keyword, price point, language or target reader age. Using these three sites together can help you to put together a picture of where you can meet a currently untapped need in the Kindle marketplace.
Design a Professional Cover
Even in the digital world, people judge books by their covers, so designing a professional cover graphic for your Kindle ebook is an absolute must. If you don’t have the graphic design skills to create one yourself, hire it out to a professional on Guru, eLance or Fiverr – but don’t assume you can get away with some cheesy graphics slapped together to form your cover.
Now, one interesting thing is that many Kindle publishers have found that the faux “ecovers” we use so often in affiliate marketing (you know – the ones that look like 3D paperback novels, with mock shadows and everything) don’t convert as well as the flat 2D graphics used by traditional publishing houses for their ebook conversions.
So when choosing a design for your ebook cover, it’s best to take a look at the best selling ebooks in your niche and see what kinds of cover graphics they’re using. What stands out to you? Which elements of their covers catch your eye? Mimic (but don’t explicitly copy) these elements on your own ebook cover.
Since Amazon has changed the way tags are utilized with Kindle ebooks (namely, making them significantly less user friendly by requiring users to start with tag searches at the specified tag cloud pages), ebook publishers need to make even more of an effort to connect readers with their books.
One way to increase your Kindle ebook’s visibility is by getting it reviewed. This adds credibility and social proof to your ebook and may make it easier to get included on best seller or recommended reading lists. Check out some of the following options:
A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing (search here for content on getting reviews)
Recommend Your Products or Services
As you can guess from Amazon’s royalty rates, you probably aren’t going to get rich simply selling Kindle ebooks. For example, if you launch a new ebook at $.99 (which can be a smart move if you’re a new publisher without a set audience), you’ll only earn $.20-.30/copy, depending on your delivery fees. And at that rate, you’re going to have to sell a lot of books to get rich as a Kindle publisher!
Instead, plenty of marketers use their Kindle ebooks to promote their own products and services. Consider the following:
– Affiliate links that promote the products mentioned in your ebook
– Special coupon codes for readers to receive a discount on your products or services
– In-text recommendations that send readers to your squeeze page or opt-in form
Now, there’s some debate as to whether or not advertisements are truly allowed in Kindle ebooks based on Amazon’s terms and conditions. The specific language from Amazon’s TOS that has publishers concerned is the following:
“You may not include in any Digital Book any advertisements or other content that is primarily intended to advertise or promote products or services.”
Of course, there are a number of different ways this language could be interpreted. Can squeeze pages that offer free information or free trials to membership programs be considered advertisements, as they offer additional value to readers? Would traditional publishers who include announcements about upcoming volumes be bound by this restriction as well?
As you can see, this is a gray area where it’s best to use your own judgment. There certainly are Kindle ebook publishers out there using all of the methods described above successfully, although your own tolerance for risk may differ.
Translate Your Kindle Ebook to Other Languages
Yes, the majority of Kindle readers will purchase their books through Amazon’s US or UK stores, and most will prefer to read your content in the English language. But don’t let this dissuade you from offering your content in global markets, as ebook downloads are increasing far faster in some of these countries (Germany especially) than they are in the US and the UK.
If you don’t speak a second language well enough to translate your Kindle ebook, you can always pay to have your content translated through sites like Guru, eLance or Freelancer.com. Or, if you’re starting your publishing business on a shoestring budget, contact local language groups in your area or the foreign language department at your local university for referrals to individuals who may be willing to barter for translation services.
Although Kindle is the largest ebook retailer online, it isn’t the only game in town, as both Apple’s iBook marketplace and Barnes & Noble’s PubIt program are gaining traction in the growing digital book space. So once you’ve mastered publishing on Kindle, it’s a smart move to expand your publishing empire to these arenas as well, in order to reach more potential buyers and increase your earnings.
Now, if learning about the different publishing and formatting requirements of these different services sounds too time consuming, consider looking into an ebook distribution service like SmashWords. As a SmashWords author, all you have to do is upload your ebook once – then, their service submits your content to the big three ebook networks listed above, in addition to a number of other smaller digital content distributors (like the Sony Reader Store and the Diesel eBook Store).
There is no upfront fee to use the SmashWords service, although they will take another cut off the top of your ebook royalties. Currently, you’ll receive 85% of the net sales proceeds from sales of your ebook on their site, or 60% of the list price of your ebook from purchases made through their retailer network. Although this can cut into your profits, the convenience of publishing your ebook once and having it distributed automatically is worth the cost for some publishers.
(As a note, SmashWords does not accept PLR content ebooks or public domain content ebooks.)
To get started with the SmashWords service, check out the SmashWords Book Marketing Guide and the SmashWords Style Guide, both of which are available for free in the Kindle Store. These two guides show you exactly how to format your ebook for maximum success with the SmashWords format, and how to market your published ebook effectively.
If you’re lucky, your Kindle ebook will be a winner from the day it’s launched. But if not, don’t worry – most publishers find that they need a portfolio of several books in order to earn a reasonable income. Try to figure out what worked in your first effort and improve on your publishing and promotional methods with your next release. With time and by expanding your portfolio, you should see a definite increase in your Kindle income!