Everyone can be a published author. All you need is a book idea and the determination to write it. I can’t help you with either of those, but as an experienced eBook author (not to mention author of two printed guides to publishing eBooks!), I can show you how to publish a Kindle eBook.
When you do that, it’s not only readers with one of Amazon’s E-Ink devices or Fire tablets who will be able to download your opus, but anyone with a phone or tablet capable of running the Kindle app.
By self-publishing rather than using a traditional publisher, you’ll have full control over your content, cover design, marketing and – crucially – the price.
Where a publisher might give you 5% to 10% of what it earns on each copy after its given bookshops a generous discount, selling direct through Amazon means you can keep up to 70% of the full cover price for each copy sold.
Admittedly, you also don’t get the support that a professional publisher will bring – editing and marketing in particular – but there are ways around the latter, as I’ll cover.
Publish a Kindle eBook: Writing and organising
You can write your book using whichever software you prefer. Amazon will accept Word documents and convert them on the fly, but having written and published many ebooks I recommend using dedicated book compilation software.
My app of choice is Scrivener, which lets you map out the different chapters, write and reorganise them as you go. It will also output them as a fully-formatted Kindle eBook.
Download a free trial from literatureandlatte.com, create a new book and define individual documents within the sidebar (which Scrivener calls the Binder) for each chapter.
Use the “+” on the toolbar to generate each one, then double-click its name to change it to something meaningful. The names you use here will appear in the Contents screen of your book to link to each part, so always use something logical.
At the very least, sequential numbers preceded by the word “Chapter” will help your readers find their way around. You can organise your parts into larger sections using folders.
Don’t be tempted to use too much formatting in your book. Bold, italics and headings are fine but without knowing for sure which app or device your readers will be using, it’s a waste of time going much further than that. Keep things simple for the best results.
Drag whichever image you have chosen for your cover into the sidebar, but don’t worry about using it right now. It doesn’t need to be added to a page, but you’ll need it later on when we come to compile the book.
When you want to rearrange the contents of the book, either drag the component documents up and down the sidebar or switch to the cork board view using the button on the toolbar.
This presents your documents as index cards, which can be dragged around using the mouse. When you’re happy with the order, it’s time to compile your work.
Publish a Kindle eBook: Building your eBook
Click the Compile button (the box with an arrow pointing up from it) and pick “Kindle Mobi Ebook (.mobi)” from the “Compile for” menu.
Before you can compile your eBook, you need to install Amazon’s own Kindle definition file, which tells Scrivener how to convert your content for an Amazon device.
Click the link that will have appeared when you chose from the Compile menu to download KindleGen. Save it somewhere on your PC or Mac, then click Choose… and locate the downloaded file. Once you’ve shown Scrivener where it is, you’ll be able to carry on with compiling.
Make sure all of the sections that you want to include in the eBook are checked in the pane on the right-hand side of the interface, then click the second button on the toolbar directly above this pane. It looks like a luggage tag.
Fill in as many of the boxes as you can on this screen. The more information you can give, the easier it will be for people to find your book in the future. Don’t worry about the “Use custom book ID” box at the moment. This is used for the ISBN numbers that you see by the barcode on the back of a paperback. Although they can also be applied to eBooks, Amazon doesn’t require them.
Click the fifth button along and pick your cover, then click the last button and decide whether you want Scrivener to build a table of contents. I usually uncheck this option and allow the Kindle to work out its own table of contents from our chapter headings.
Click Compile and save the file on your Desktop, ready to upload to Amazon.
But that’s not the end. In the second part of this guide, we look at the rest of the process: listing your Kindle eBook on Amazon’s site and getting sales.