How I Self-published on Amazon for FREE

My son Jackson and I make up stories together all the time and recently, with a lot of research and some hard work, we turned one of our pretend stories into a real PUBLISHED book! Fred and Joe Go to Egypt is now available for purchase on Amazon in both paperback and kindle ebook! How did we do it? I’d love to share so that you, too, can self-publish for FREE on Amazon and I hope to share some tips and tricks I learned along the way to save you some time and energy on your publishing journey!

Step One: Write the Book

Seems the obvious first step, right? But this is the hardest and most time-consuming part! Getting the actual words down on paper, well… screen… is the most important part!

For Jackson and I, we have been telling lots of “chapters” to our Fred and Joe adventure out loud, but we’d never written any of them down. I opened up a new Google Doc and wrote down what I could remember of Fred and Joe’s first adventure. Jackson and I read over it together and changed some wording several times until we were happy with how it sounded. At this point in our journey, I just wanted to write one of our stories down just for us – so we could remember and enjoy it for years to come, but once I saw it how it turned out on my screen, I realized it was a really good story that others might enjoy reading, as well. That is when my research on how to self-publish began.

Step Two: Artwork

Artwork was NOT my second step, the next thing I did was a lot of research and reading up on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) – but if you plan to hire someone to create artwork for you – whether it is just a book cover for a longer chapter book, or 20 + illustrations for a children’s book like me, you have to give that artist TIME to complete the artwork. So I would advise you to move this step up to number two if you are commissioning any artwork for your book so that you can work on the next steps while your art is being created.

You do not HAVE to have someone create artwork for you. It just depends on your book and what you want it to look like. Within your “Bookshelf” in Kindle Direct Publishing, there is a free Cover Creator (more on that in step seven) that you can use to create your cover as you are uploading and preparing your book for publishing within the KDP system. However, if you want an artist to design the cover or other artwork for your book, you can find artists with their prices listed at fiverr.com. This was the ONLY expense I incurred throughout the process of creating and publishing our first book on amazon – and it was completely by choice because I WANTED great artwork to help express the story line. I had a wonderful experience using fiverr.com – the artist I found gave me an estimated deadline, sent me rough sketches early on so I could share feedback, and kept me updated on his progress. I highly recommend.

Step Three: Create and Set up a Kindle Direct Publishing Account

Head over to kdp.amazon.com to sign in to Kindle Direct Publishing (or KDP) with your Amazon account information. Look around, watch their tutorials, and read more about the self-publishing process through KDP. When you’re ready, click on “Your Account” in the menu across the top and set up your Author/Publisher information (this is just your info), Getting Paid, and Tax Information. Even if you plan to sell your book at cost and do not wish to make a profit, you still have to fill out the Getting Paid and Tax Information sections.

Step Four: Copyright Page

This is not required, but a great way to protect your work from being taken and sold or used without your permission. There is no standard wording or requirement for a copyright page. I looked up several different examples and pulled them together to create our copyright page. Here is the wording from our copyright page if you would like to tweak and use:

Your Book Title

Copyright © 2021 Your Name

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or used in any manner without written permission of the copyright owner, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

To request permission or for more information, contact:

Your contact info here

ISBN: include yours here

First Edition Month Year

Step Five: Create a New Title on your KDP Bookshelf

Go to your Bookshelf on KDP and click on the plus sign to Create a New Title for your eBook or Paperback. Fill in the information you know. This can be edited numerous times before publishing.

Step Six: Format Your Book Content for Upload

Put your book content (not including the cover) in the correct format to upload to the KDP site.

For both paperback and ebook formats, you can use KDP’s Free Downloadable software called Kindle Create to format your manuscript.

I chose to use Google Slides to create our paperback – including which fonts I wanted and where and how I wanted the pictures arranged on each page. I started by setting up Google Slides to be the right size for the size book we wanted printed. I went to File, Page Setup, Custom, and changed the slide size to be 6 x 9 inches. Remember that each slide is a page and think about which pages would be “fronts” and “backs” as you create. Don’t forget to include a title page and your copyright information. I left some pages (slides) blank on purpose based on how I wanted it to appear in the printed book.

I chose to use Google Slides because I am very familiar with this tool and knew I could create a PDF to upload that would look exactly like I wanted it to with the pictures on every page. If I was creating a book with mostly text, I would use the Kindle Create tool offered for free through KDP to help format chapters, table of contents, and more.

For the eBook version, I learned a lesson that I hope will save you time. The KDP website says that it accepts the .docx format, so I create a Google Doc to the correct deminsions, formatted the text and images exactly as I wanted them, and then downloaded the document as a .docx, but no matter what I did, the formatting never turned out correct when I previewed the book on KDP. Save time – don’t create a .docx for your eBook – download and use the Kindle Create software onto your computer and copy and paste your content into that tool to get your eBook to appear exactly as you want it to.

Once your book content (all the pages minus the cover) are ready, upload it into the book title you created in Step Five (above) on your KDP Bookshelf.

Step Seven: Create and Upload Your Book Cover

You can use KDP’s Cover Creator or create your own and upload it. Although I played around with KDP’s Cover Creator a little, I didn’t end up using it to create the cover for Fred and Joe Go to Egypt. Our amazing artist offered to create a front cover for our book that was just perfect for the eBook version. Since a paperback needs a spine and back cover all in one file as a part of the “cover,” I used Google slides to combine the eBook cover with a newly created matching spine back cover. Within Google Slides, I went to File, Page Setup, Custom, and set the dimensions to 13.08 x 9.25 inches. I imagined a book opened in the middle and placed pages down on a table to help me design the cover. I placed the eBook cover image I had (front cover) on the right side of the slide and used the Color Pick Eyedropper Chrome Extension to match it’s colors exactly as I designed the rest of the cover. I used tools within Google Slides to design the shapes and text on the back cover. I made sure to leave room for the bar code in the bottom right corner of the back cover. KDP will add this to your paperback for you – just make sure to leave room for it. You’ll be able to see where the barcode will go once you upload the cover and preview your book. Paperback cover files must be in .jpg format to be uploaded to KDP for publication. If you use Google Slides like I did, just go to File, Download, .jpg. Here’s the image of our book cover for Fred and Joe Go to Egypt.

Step Eight: Complete All Other Information

On your KDP Bookshelf there is a button next to the book you started that will say “Continue Setup.” Click the button and ensure you have completed all of the prompts including writing a description, selecting keywords for your audience to use to search for your book on Amazon, categories that your book should be listed under, getting a free ISBN for your paperback (this is not required for eBooks), and setting the pricing for your book.

Before you complete these steps, I advise you to go look for similar books on Amazon or in your Kindle app to see what their descriptions are like. What catches your attention? What do you think would attract more readers? Look at the categories similar books are listed under. All books are ranked within these categories. For example, Fred and Joe is listed in the categories “Children’s Fox and Wolf Books” and “Children’s Bear Books.” There are LOTS of different categories that your book can fall under – choose the categories that have the least total books. Why? So that you have more chance of being higher on the top sales charts for your categories. For example, as of this post, Fred and Joe is ranked #22,098 in the category “All Books”, however, in “Children’s Fox and Wolf Books” it is ranked #32! That’s great! If someone clicks on that category, they’ll see it right there on the top 100 page.

Continue to follow the prompts on your book management page to set up the pricing for your book. When you type in a price, Amazon immediately shows you what you will earn on each one sold. I set our book up to earn us about $2 per paperback and $1 per eBook download. I wanted it to be affordable so others could enjoy it and hope that the little kickback will help us to recoup the cost of the artwork. Any extra funds will be used to hire an artist to help us create future books! Our goal was not to make a big profit, but to get our book out into the world and share it. What is amazing about this is that most self-publishing sites require you to purchase all the books you want printed upfront and then figure out how to sell them on your own. Here, with Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon doesn’t print one until one is ordered from their site. No money up-front from the authors. You simply make your royalty on each copy sold. There are even reports which are updated daily so you can track the sales and profits you are making. Earnings are sent to authors 60 days after each month’s window closes. So, you won’t get your first earnings until about 90 days after you publish, but you can see daily how much you’ve earned and what that payment will (eventually) be.

Step Nine: Publish

Once you’re happy with everything, you’ve read it all, re-read it all, had someone else proof read it all… you’ve read it all again just for good measure… then you are ready to click the Publish button! Both our paperback and eBook went live on Amazon’s website within 24 hours of me hitting the button. Boom! You’re a published author!!! So exciting!

Oh no! What if you find a mistake?! It’s no problem. Most of the details and even the content of the book can be edited and then re-published and the changes will be made live within 24 hours. So cool!

So Now It’s Your Turn!

What idea have you always wanted to develop into a book? I have MANY that I have never taken the time to sit down and flesh out, but now that I know how to do it, I have no excuse not to get those ideas out and share them. I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with all the steps above. It may seem like a lot, but it’s really not when you think of the benefit you are getting for NO COST. And there are sooo many more resources available from Amazon on the KDP website to guide you along as you go.

There are more books to come from the Akers’ family! My daughter, Madison, is already working on a book she wants to publish, and Jackson is ready for me to type up Fred and Joe’s next adventure for Book 2! His goal is to have a 4 book series. My books will have to wait – my kids have plenty of publishing work cut out for me!

Check out the Amazon website for our book Fred and Joe Go to Egypt to see our description, categories, how we set everything up and maybe even purchase your own copy! We’ve love it if you left a review!

4 thoughts on “How I Self-published on Amazon for FREE

  1. Nadine Ortega says:

    Thank you Meredith for sharing. Do you mind sharing an idea of how much an illustrator on Fivver would cost for a book like this? I don’t even know how to begin the hiring process of this. I would love to publish a book for my kids. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meredith Akers says:

      If you do a quick search on Fiverr, you’ll see a wide variety of prices for Children’s illustrations. I fell in live with one artists’ work and paid about $300 for 20 illustrations- more than I had set out to spend, but once I saw his work I just couldn’t settle for anything else! There are much cheaper options that are great- I just got stuck on this certain style I wanted!

      Like

  2. Naomi Oyadomari says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. My goal is to write a children’s book on losing my beloved cat. But had no idea on how to get started. You’re an angel for sharing this.

    Thank you! Naomi Oyadomari Lucerne Valley Unified School District ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

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