I released my first Kindle ebook a couple weeks ago. Here are 6 things I learned while self-publishing my first Kindle ebook, including how it became a #1 bestseller.

1. The whole process is surprisingly easy

Amazon’s self-publishing service/website is called Kindle Direct Publishing, also known simply as KDP. You can get there by going to kdp.amazon.com. The whole publishing process is really easy. Once you sign in to KDP with your Amazon account information, you click “Add New Title”, enter in the standard details (ebook title, description, author name, keywords, etc.), upload a cover image, upload your ebook text, and press the submit button. You also have to enter your social security number for tax purposes. I’m not sure what you have to enter in if you’re outside the US, but the process can’t be much more difficult than that.

I should say that the process was easy after I figured out how easy the process was. It takes some trial and error to get the formatting of your ebook right (see #2 below), but the publishing process really is quite simple. Now that I’ve done it once, I could publish another ebook right now in less than 5 minutes.

2. You can directly upload a Word document

This was probably the most important thing I learned. I was under the impression that if you wrote an ebook in Microsoft Word, you’d have to convert it to .mobi (the format that Kindles read) in order to upload the file. But nope, not true. You can directly upload a Word document and Amazon will convert it to the Kindle format.

In fact, I kept repeatedly uploading my Word document, using the Kindle preview option (you can see what your ebook will actually look like on a Kindle), changing the formatting so it looked good on the Kindle, and re-uploading the Word document. I did this until I got it to look just how I wanted it to.

And I’ve been saying “Word document” but I really just mean a document in the .doc format. These can also be created using Google Docs or OpenOffice. And save your file as a .doc file, not .docx.

3. Amazon is fast

It took about 6 hours for my ebook to show up for sale on Amazon.com. I’ve heard that some people’s books go live in as little as 3 hours, and I believe Amazon says it can take them anywhere up to 12 or 24 hours (I can’t remember exactly and I can’t find it now, but either way it’s not too long).

4. It’s easy to be a #1 bestseller

My ebook became the #1 bestseller in its category. And the best part? You don’t have to sell too many to be #1! I think I sold 24 or 25 on the first day and then a few each day after that for a few days. I now sell about one a day and have sunk down to #15, which is fine by me.

Of course, I realize that it’s easy to have a #1 bestseller in a sub-sub-sub-sub category and that it’s nothing at all like having a bestseller overall. But still… It’s fun to say that I had a #1 bestseller on Amazon :D

5. A good cover is worth it

I paid $15 at iStockPhoto for the image I used on my ebook’s cover (the illustration of the guy sitting at the desk). So I’ve actually just about broken even :D But I do think it was worth it. A couple people have told me that they bought the ebook because they liked the cover. I spent a while browsing iStockPhoto for a good photo to use. At first I was looking for someone sitting at a laptop or something, but all of those photos just looked too sterile, stiff, and boring. I wanted to convey a more lighthearted appearance (since the ebook is written in the more casual tone I usually write with), and I knew I had to use the illustration when I saw it.

After buying and downloading the image I wanted to use, I edited it a bit and then used the colors that were already in it as inspiration for the rest of the cover. I did all that in Adobe Illustrator.

Of course you don’t have to pay for an image to use on your cover. Your cover can just be text. Or you can use a photo or illustration of your own. But I’m glad I paid for one. I think it was money well spent.

6. The ebook’s price will be higher in most other countries

You can set the price of your ebook in all of the countries that currently have Kindle stores (the US, the UK, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy). The US price will obviously be in dollars, the UK price in pounds, and the other prices in euros.

But I found out that while people outside of those countries can indeed still buy your ebook, Amazon adds a $2 surcharge (at least it was $2 for my ebook; it might vary?). So my 99-cent ebook costs people outside of the above-mentioned areas $2.99.

And while we’re on the subject of pricing… You might be wondering how much of an ebook’s price you get and how much Amazon takes. If the ebook is priced below $2.99, the author gets 35% commissions. If the ebook is priced at $2.99 or above, the author gets 70% commissions.

Final words

The point of publishing this ebook obviously wasn’t to get rich doing it (I’m making a whopping 35 cents on each one that’s sold), but to learn more about the Kindle publishing process. No, I haven’t sold a ton, but I’m happy with the numbers, and I have indeed learned a lot about the Kindle publishing process.

Will I be publishing on the Kindle more in the future? Yes. I’m working right now on turning posts from an old rock climbing blog of mine into a Kindle ebook.

I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about self-publishing on the Kindle. I’m obviously not an expert, but I’ll try to answer as best I can.

And of course you can check out my $0.99 101 Blogging Tips ebook on Amazon :)