Just Your Type

Type, design, writing and other funny stuff

How to Publish Your Book Using Amazon’s KDP Platform

by | Jun 28, 2021 | Design, Publishing, Typography

You finished writing your book, and it’s designed to perfection. (It isn’t? Then let us help design your book.) You’d think uploading the interior PDF and the cover to Amazon’s KDP service would be the easy part. It might be. But a lot of the questions they ask can be confusing your first time. So we’ll help with that too. Let’s get started.

If you haven’t set up an Amazon account, do that first. Go to kdp.amazon.com. Just answer the questions to set up your account. If you already have a regular Amazon store account, you’ll use that same log-in here. But make sure you stay on the kdp.amazon.com page. If you see book publishing stuff, you’re good. If you see random stuff for sale, you got bumped to the regular amazon.com page. Find your way back.

You should be seeing a page like the one below. Sign in here if you haven’t already.

Sign in page

You’re in! But are you seeing what you need to see? Here’s the #1 source of confusion: there are menu choices across the top: Bookshelf, Reports, Community, and Marketing. But they don’t look like choices. Make sure “Bookshelf” is selected, as below. That’s where all the publishing happens.

Select "Bookshelf"

Okay! Whew. Now we’re on the same page—literally. Things start making way more sense.

You can see what to do now: Click the + Paperback box. Voilá! Finally, we’re talking about your book.

#1: Paperback details

This first section is a snap. You know all the answers. Fill them in. And relax, you can edit almost everything later. The description section is what will appear on Amazon’s sales page for your book, so make this part sales-y.

EXCEPT… There’s one catch: you can never, ever again edit the title and subtitle. Change the description all you want, even after your book is published. Why is this? Blame the ISBN. Actually, don’t blame it—thank it. The ISBN is definitely your friend. We’ll get to that later.

Ignore the section about creating a series. Even if you intend to do that someday, you can’t create a series until the books in the series are already published. By the time you have a series, you won’t be reading this tutorial.

We learned the hard way that if you enter something in the “Edition” field, it doesn’t show up anywhere. So if it’s important for your readers to know your book is “4th Edition,” we suggest you put it in the title or subtitle, like this: [title] 100 Ways to Skin a Cat 4th Edition.

Once you’re done, you’ll encounter the “Save and Continue” button at the bottom of the page. So save and continue to…

#2: Paperback content

Pow! There it is, first thing: the dreaded ISBN, perhaps the most confusing and misunderstood item of the whole process.

Get your own ISBN?

Who’s afraid of the big bad ISBN?

Lots of people. But once you get what it does, you’ll be grateful for it.

When a bookstore wants to reorder more of your paperback books, they use the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) to make sure they get what they want. It’d be easy to accidentally order a bunch of the hardcopy version instead, or the audio book, or the Portuguese version, or whatever else you’ve come up with. All your editions have the same title and description, right? Every version of your book should have it’s own ISBN. For obvious reasons, then, two books can’t share one ISBN. That’d be like you and your dad sharing one Social Security Number. Ten editions? Ten ISBNs.

Now when a bookstore orders your 223-page paperback book Groan with the Wind using its ISBN, they’ll get the right book. That’s also why you can’t go back into your Amazon account and change the title, or change the paper style. Those are now defined—and locked—by the ISBN.

Get a free Amazon ISBN?

The KDP Amazon service cheerfully offers you a free ISBN. If you choose to accept it, click the obvious button, and… nothing happens. Not cool. But here’s the solution: scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, and click the “Save as Draft” button. Only then does Amazon do the work of assigning your ISBN. When you scroll back to the top, you’ll see your new ISBN there after all, as circled in red on the sample above.

Tip: get your free ISBN early in the process, so your book designer can include it on the copyright page. Remember, you can save your entry as a draft and come back to it whenever you’re ready to upload the finished work.

The free ISBN comes with a catch, but it’s not a bad one. Nobody else can publish your book using Amazon’s free ISBN. Amazon is very jealous. So if, for whatever reason, you have two companies printing your book, you’d need two ISBNs, because Amazon won’t share theirs. If you don’t intend to publish anywhere else, go ahead and use their free one.

One more thing: if someone looks up your book in the ISBN registry (which no one does), Amazon will appear as the publisher. Some authors don’t like that.

Or register and independent ISBN?

If you want the freedom to print anywhere, or you just don’t like someone else controlling your ISBN record, you can apply for an ISBN on your own at myidentifiers.com, run by Bowkers, the agency representing ISBNs in the United States. As of this writing they cost $125 each, and you fill out all the details online. (That’s a whole ‘nuther tutorial.) Click the checkbox where the arrow points on the sample above, and you’ll be prompted to enter your independent ISBN when you have it.

We register ISBNs for our authors

We can register an ISBN for you for just $59, and we do all the paperwork. How so cheap? You can see for yourself at the Bowkers website that they offer huge discounts to publishers who buy ISBNs in bulk. That’s us. So we pay just a few dollars for each ISBN, instead of the $125 they ding you for one. Plus we know our way around their registering system like the back of our hand, so it doesn’t take us long to register your ISBN perfectly, guarantee that it’s done right, and still make a little money. It seems too good to be true, but in the end it’s just getting the most out of a quirky system. For once, the easy way is the cheaper way. You can use our ISBNs with any printer of your choice, and as many as you want.

ISBN-10 and ISBN-13

ISBNs used to have 10 digits. There are so many authors writing books that they ran out of numbers. So they invented ISBN-13, and in the process revamped what the digits stand for. ISBN-10 is old and outdated and redundant. The old numbers were converted to the new ISBN-13. Don’t include an ISBN-10 in your book.

Meet your barcode

You don’t want to make retailers type in your ISBN every time they order books. That would be a drag, plus a grand opportunity to screw up. An ISBN is thirteen digits long, and digits are hard to proofread. So heaven gave us the barcode: a scannable symbol with the ISBN built in. Retailers will love you for including a barcode on your book. In fact, many will not carry your book if it doesn’t have a barcode.

When they scan your barcode, their computer will find your book in their system, and the clerk can ring it up. No searching, no goof-ups. Save work: that’s all a barcode does.

Notice that the ISBN appears both above and below. And the price is coded into that right side bit.

Double bonus: you can encode the book price in the same barcode. If you look at one, you’ll often see the ISBN, plus five more digits on the right, like the “51395” above. That’s the book price of $13.95. The initial digit identifies what currency we’re talking about. The “5” in this case signifies US currency. If your book price were in British pounds, the first digit would be a “1”.

How to get your barcode

When KDP Amazon prints your book, they’ll offer to include the barcode automatically. it’s free, but you can’t choose where it goes. They’ll put it in the lower right on the back, so leave room for it.

Another quirk I don’t understand: Amazon refuses to include the price in the barcode as mentioned above. Some retailers really want that price coded on the book so they don’t have to enter it manually. If you want the price in your barcode (I always do), or if you just want control over your cover design, you can order your own barcode and add it to your cover artwork yourself. Then it can go wherever you want it.

We create your barcode free as part of our cover design service and also as a free add-on to registering your ISBN. So you don’t have to worry about the barcode if we do your book designing.

Publication date

Leave this blank. Just do. In the end, Amazon will fill this in when you finally publish your book. Ultimately the publishing date isn’t very important, so if you want to lose sleep over something, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Print options

The fun finally begins!

If your book doesn’t include color photos, choose the black-and-white interior option. A color-interior book is waaaaay more expensive to print. I strongly recommend white paper because it has a harder finish and, in my opinion, text prints clearer on it and is easier to read. But if you prefer the yellowy look of old books, choose “cream paper.”

Ink and paper: size matters

Each paper choice—white, cream, or color-interior—has a different thickness. Not much different, but it adds up enough to affect the width of your book’s spine. So settle on your paper choice before finalizing your cover. Amazon provides free cover design templates to help with this. Just enter your paper choice and page count, and they’ll tell you how wide the spine must be. If we design your cover, we’ll handle that part for you, down to a thousandth of an inch.

Trim size

Your book is printed on big sheets of paper, then trimmed down to its final size. That’s how they get that clean, perfectly smooth edge. So if you want a 6″ x 9″ book, that’s the trim size. By the way, 6 x 9 is a great choice, and is well supported everywhere.

Bleed settings

Doesn’t that sound awful? Nobody wants to bleed. And that’s usually the correct choice, so follow your emotions, unless you want to know what you’re doing.

Remember how they trim the book to its finished size? That trimming is very, very imprecise. Amazon asks for at least 1/8″ of slop room in case they miss their target. That is, your book might actually end up 5-7/8 wide, or 6-1/8 wide. If it’s unprinted paper, no one will notice. But if there’s printing to that edge, like there almost always is on the cover, a slight overshot on their part will leave a thin white line, where you expected your cover art to be. The solution is to make all your images bleed beyond the edge 1/8″ extra on the top, outside and bottom. (See where this is going?) So your 6 x 9 book cover will actually have to be 6-1/8 x 9-2/8. They’ll trim off that bleeding edge (see what I did there?) as best they can, and if they miss it won’t leave any unprinted edge showing. If your cover art stopped right at 6 x 9, they’d never be able to hit that line exactly.

Interior bleed or no bleed?

But what about the interior? Is there any artwork or tinted box that runs to the very edge of the paper? If there is, you need to choose the “bleed” choice. That tells Amazon to expect the same 1/8″ slop room on the interior pages, and you’ll have to include that extra bleed area on the interior pages. For most books that have a little margin all the way around, you don’t have to include any bleed in the design, and thus you can choose the “no bleed” option here to let Amazon know they can relax.

Matte or glossy cover?

Glossy covers look like photographs, all shiny and reflective. They glare. They used to be the only choice from Amazon, so to me they also had the smell of “do-it-yourself.” Just my opinion, but I think the matte finish looks better and blends better with those from the big publishing houses, which rarely have glossy covers.

Uploading your interior and cover

It’s showtime! Finally. All your hard work takes center stage. Hit the “Upload paperback manuscript” button, and link to your beautifully-designed book interior. And, seriously Amazon, manuscript is the wrong word. A manuscript is the written original, which could be hand-lettered in a notebook. So just to be clear, only upload a finished interior design PDF here. Anything else looks magically easy, but will scream “shortcut!”

KDP upload manuscript

After you upload your interior design, the gears will grind, and quite a long time will pass before you see that green “success” response. Amazon analyzes that interior and does a great job of spotting problems before you spend any money printing. For example, you chose a 6 x 9 book size but you uploaded an 8.5 x 11 document. (Happens all the time.) It’ll say “processing” for as long as a few minutes before you get your success confirmation.

Uploading the cover

Amazon defaults to the “Cover Creator.” It sounds great. You upload the front and the back, and Amazon will take care of that tricky spine width for you. In reality, it all looks pretty junky. Just don’t go there. Upload a one-piece professionally-designed cover with the spine built in, and with that 1/8″ bleeding edge we talked about above on the sides. When we design your cover art, we take care of all of this for you, and your upload is guaranteed to be effortless.

When uploading your cover art to KDP Amazon, be sure to check the box whether the barcode is already on your cover art. If you want Amazon to create and add your barcode, leave the choice unchecked.

KDP upload cover

Again, that cheerful “Success!” result comes only after a few minutes of Amazon grinding away, meanwhile replying something like “Processing your cover…”

Launch the Previewer

Click and click and click that Previewer button, but nothing will happen until both your interior and your cover are approved. It would help if that button was grayed out until then, but hey — I don’t work for Amazon. But once it works, the Previewer is glorious. It’s accurate. You can catch all sorts of problems before you spend a penny on printing. If you like what you see, you could approve your book right now. But better not. See “Get a printed proof” below.

Remember, the cover needs to be 1/8″ bigger to provide that slop room for the trimmer, and you’ll see in the previewer where that happens. The black-and-white dotted line shows the expected edge. There’s a little extra art around the edges for insurance. And there’s a black-and-RED dotted line to warn you that the trimming knife might slop that far inside the edge, so don’t put anything important there.

Your spine text should be perfectly centered where indicated. If it’s off center, stop now and fix your cover design.

The rest of the pages don’t include all the fussy bleed lines, unless you chose “bleed” way back at the beginning. Now the dotted line represents their recommended margin. Your designer almost surely chose a much more generous margin, so don’t worry that they don’t align. If your content goes outside that margin, you’ll get a warning showing you where. Very helpful!

If you discover anything wrong, adjusting it is easy. Fix the original interior or cover design, and just re-uploaded it on this same Amazon page. Then you can preview it again. You can do this as many times as you need to. It’s all free.

Big bonus: if something bad turns up after the book is for sale, you can still fix it. Say, for example, you spelled your name wrong as the author. (Heh. I seriously did that once, and I can prove it.) You make the correction, then re-upload the PDF on this same page. Everybody forevermore will get the corrected version, because books are printed only when they are ordered. It’s a miracle.

Get a printed proof

Most people are in a screaming hurry to be published. Don’t skip this step. Order the printed proof. It takes about 10 days and is crazy cheap, probably $5 plus shipping. Things tend to look very different in real life compared to viewing on a computer. In particular, text looks bigger and the colors on your cover may shift hue a little.

“Printed proof” vs “author copy”

A printed proof is offered at this step. It’s a cheap one-off copy of your book so you can inspect your work. But for absolutely no good reason, Amazon slaps a big “proof only” banner right across the very cover you’d like to be able to review. And they put a fake barcode right on top of your actual one. And they add a big “proof warning” page on the interior that won’t appear in the book. That makes me nutz. Probably they’re trying to prevent you from accidentally giving away an unfinished book, but who knows.

An author copy is just as cheap, but it is exactly the book that everyone else will see, without all the warning gunk on it. You can order author copies anytime, for instance if you want to have 100 copies of your book to sell out of your car trunk, or deliver to your local bookstore, or to have at your book release event. You’ll pay only the wholesale price.

Once you approve your book to be published, the “printed proof” option is disabled and the “author copies” option is available. Thank God.

#3: Rights and pricing

It’s all downhill from here. All the pricing settings are entirely up to you. Unless you really hate an entire region of the world, or have other reasons to deny them access to your book, choose “All territories.”

The pricing grid looks intimidating, but it’s actually amazing. Enter your local book price in the Amazon.com box, and all the other boxes will iterate automatically to their best choices. Unless you need to get into the nitty-gritty, just accept these defaults and be done with it.

There’s no magic price for a book. Find similar books on Amazon and see what they cost. Average is good. If you’re too cheap, people will think something’s wrong with your book and avoid it.

Publish it!

Terms and conditions, yeah, yeah, yeah, blah-blah-blah.

Right there at the bottom of the page you’ll be given one more chance to order a printed proof your book.

Publish button

If you’re satisfied with everything, do it! Hit the big yellow publish button. And do you know what happens next? Do you know?!?


Well, not quite nothing. Amazon will take another day to go over everything you did. Then they’ll send you a “congratulations” email when they’re done. And then, instantly, if you go to the website link they provide you, you’ll see your book for sale. Your cover, your interior, the exact description you entered, and the price you selected, all there automatically.

Amazing. You did it. You are now a published author.

Now go get rich and famous. But don’t forget us little people who helped you along the way.

1 Comment

  1. Nimah

    I need help on uploading my books on Kindle Amazon, I’m in Zambia the platform does not allow my country to upload a book on Amazon.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Who's this guy?

"Mick" is Michael Campbell, a book designer, graphic artist and writer. His humor column, The Dumpster, closes every issue of Food & Spirits Magazine. Author of Are You Going To Eat That?, and the new 2017 book of seventy hilarious all new essays, Of Mice and Me.
A singer songwriter too. New CD My Turn Now is available now!