Self-publishing: a review of Amazon KDP

October 3, 2018



So, I have finally got around to putting my novel up on Amazon using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) - having previously only made it available on sites that would let me offer it for free (such as Smashwords).   I am hoping I can persuade Amazon to make it free for at least some of the time by pointing out that they are being undersold by numerous other sites, where it is free.  

But if I can't, I guess there is still some benefit of having it up there for people who prefer the convenience of being able to wirelessly download books to their Kindle (and don't mind paying £0.99 for the privilege).  Also, as noted below, there are quite a few book promotion sites which are only interested in linking to Amazon - presumably because of the affiliate marketing fees if the link leads to a sale.  So it does open up that possibility as well - more on that below.  But first, here are my thoughts on KDP so far:

Uploading the novel was fairly straightforward.  First, you need to create an account with KDP.  There wasn't anything particularly difficult about this, but some people might find the following useful:
  • Bank account:  You will be asked to provide bank account details - and for UK-based authors, it won't be the 8 digit account number and 6 digit sort code you're familiar with. Instead, you need something called an IBAN, which I'd never had to use before.  But it was easy enough to find - my bank displayed it when I selected print for any online statement.  If you Google it, you should be able to find instructions from your bank on where to find yours.
  • Tax details:  You will also be asked to provide a taxpayer ID number.  I used the Unique Tax Reference or UTR from my UK tax return - and that seemed to be acceptable.
  • Pen names:  KDP will let you use a pen name as author - but you need to set up the account in the name of the real you i.e. someone who has a real bank account, tax ID number etc.  You put the pen name in as the author of the book.  It seems to have worked OK for me i.e. so far, the real me hasn't been inadvertently "outed". 
Having set up your account, you can set about uploading your book.  You'll be asked for a blurb/description and various keyword/category details.  There's lots of stuff on the internet about how to game the system on keywords/categories (see this article for example), but for general/literary fiction I suspect this is quite challenging (and the results may not always be what you expect - see this article) - so I didn't spend vast amounts of time researching that, even though that is what numerous sites urge you to do. If it becomes apparent that I could do better, then I will just go back in and change the keywords etc (but if your book fits more neatly within a particular genre than mine does, then it may be worth investing more time in this than I did).  

When it came to uploading, I could have used an existing .mobi file which I had created for another site (I've explained how to do DIY ebook conversion with some free software called Calibre here).  But I decided to have a play around with Amazon's Kindle Create software (which is also free to download) and ended up creating a new .mobi file from a Word version of the novel.  I quite liked the extra control that the software gave me over page/section breaks and the ease of adding images (which also helps to break up the various sections).  This has allowed me to produce an ebook with a look and feel that is much closer to the PDF version I created in Word.  So I think the final product has been worth the extra investment in time (as compared with just uploading my existing .mobi file).  

Here's a screen shot of the preview functionality in Kindle Create, which allows you to see how your ebook is likely to display on a Kindle, tablet or phone:



My Kindle Create file uploaded to Amazon quite smoothly and having downloaded a copy, I can confirm that it does indeed display on a Kindle as you would expect it to based on the preview in Kindle Create.  But it doesn't look to me as if a Kindle Create file will work with anything other than Amazon's own platform - so if you want to create .mobi files for use elsewhere, you will need to use something like Calibre.

Having uploaded the novel, I then set about creating an author page via Amazon Author Central - and this is where I have some criticisms of KDP and Amazon more generally:
  • I started off on Amazon.com, assuming that my author page details would be replicated across other country sites, like Amazon.co.uk.  No such luck.  It seems I will have re-enter the exact same details for the .co.uk site if I want them to appear there, which is pretty tedious - for reasons which will become apparent shortly.
  • Why would I want these details to appear across other Amazon sites?  Is the author page really that important?  Well, among other things, the author page allows you to enter what Amazon terms "Editorial reviews" of your books i.e. reviews you have garnered from places other than Amazon. Obviously these may be useful in convincing people to download your masterpiece, especially if - like me - you currently have no reviews from Amazon users.  Now, the logical thing would be for Amazon to let you enter these reviews when you are filling in the book details, so it would appear across all sites - but instead you can only do it through your author page for each country site (.com, co.uk, etc).
  • Nor is entering these details a straightforward process.  Only the .com site will let you enter them yourself and it's quite difficult to get the formatting right (the site has a tendency to ignore any line breaks and squish all your review quotes together into a single paragraph).  You will probably need to do some fiddling around with html code (Amazon's site explains this here).  Worse still, it doesn't always seem to save properly or update very quickly (despite trying it through 3 different browsers).   That's just the .com site.  If you want reviews added to .co.uk, you need to ask the people at the UK Amazon Author Central to do it for you - when they really ought to have the same system across all sites.  None of this should be rocket science in computing terms and quite frankly, Amazon ought to be able to do a lot better.
Of course, I now need to somehow draw attention to the existence of my book on Amazon so that I am not the only person in the entire world who has actually downloaded a copy.  But as I mentioned at the top of this post, one advantage of being on Amazon is that it opens up a much wider range of book promotion sites - as illustrated by this article, which contains a surprisingly long list (see also this list and this one).  So that is likely to be the next stage for me, assuming I can persuade Amazon to price-match with Smashwords, iTunes and other sites where the book is available for free.

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About Me


Paul Samael Welcome to my blog, "Publishing Waste" which will either (a) chronicle my heroic efforts to self-publish my own fiction; or (b) demonstrate beyond a scintilla of doubt the utter futility of (a). And along the way, I will also be doing some reviews of other people's books and occasionally blogging about other stuff.
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