Self-Publish a Book in Five Steps

By the Fancy Comma, LLC Team

Updated October 3, 2021

Disclosure: Fancy Comma, LLC has affiliate partnerships to support its blog content. We may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.

Many people dream of writing a book someday. Did you know you can self-publish books for free on Amazon? This includes both electronic (eBook) and print (paperback and/or hardcover) versions. Amazon makes it easy for authors to self-publish and gain exposure via an Author page once they’ve published their first book. The online retailer also pays royalties based on book sales, so that you can earn money from publishing.

Keep in mind that, while these steps are simple, they are not always the most straightforward. Reviewing your manuscript for errors, both in the writing process and in the book formatting process, can be very time-consuming. If you find the minutiae of these steps to be a hassle, you can hire someone to complete them for you. Yet, if you’re willing to learn them yourself, you can self-publish for free. 

Keep reading to learn how to self-publish your book on Amazon in five steps.

photo of a stack of books, with the topmost book open
Photo by Studio Media on Unsplash

Step 1: Come up with an idea.

The most important part of self-publishing a book is having a good idea. There are many ways to develop a good book idea. Perhaps you are very experienced in a topic and are tired of explaining it to people. Maybe you have searched for a book on Amazon that you wished existed, but does not, and you realize that you could write that book yourself. Maybe you just want to self publish as a proof-of-concept that you can do it. Whatever your reason for self-publishing, make sure that you have a book topic idea first. Once you have a good idea for your book, you can go to the next step: writing.

The most important part of self-publishing is having a good book idea.

Step 2: Write your book and edit, edit, edit.

All you need to do to start writing a book is open a blank Google Doc and start typing. Google Docs is great for writing books because you can collaborate with others on your manuscript. You can easily bring in other people (such as your book’s editors) to take a look at the document and make changes.

The great thing about using Google Docs for book writing is that, once you’ve written your book in Google Docs, you can download the file as a Microsoft Word file. This is the format you need for self-publishing on the Amazon Kindle store. (I also recommend saving a copy to your computer throughout the writing process as a backup.)

Once you’ve typed up your book manuscript, it’s time to edit. Look for grammatical and spelling errors before you upload because once you’ve self-published, you can’t make any additional changes. Keep in mind that there are specific eBook formatting requirements that help your Amazon Kindle eBook look its best. Same for self-published paperbacks and hardcover books on Amazon. You can find the paperback formatting guidelines here. If you’re publishing a hardcover book, you’ll want to read the hardcover formatting guidelines.

If you’re going to publish as both an eBook and a physical book, remember to spell out any hyperlinks you include. Don’t use in-text hyperlinks, because they will only be clickable in the eBook version, and will not show up in the print version. Also, remember to add a Table of Contents.

Step 3: Download Kindle Previewer to preview your book.

Make sure your book manuscript is formatted properly by viewing it in Kindle Previewer before you self-publish. Kindle Previewer is a computer program available for both PC and Mac. While this software is meant for eBook previewing, you can also use it to review paperback and hardcover formatting. We like to use Kindle Previewer to review both eBook and paperback/hardcover manuscripts for things like typos and formatting issues.

To use Kindle Previewer, you’ll first have to download it from the Amazon website. Kindle Previewer is simple to use: you simply open your Microsoft Word file containing the manuscript using the software. Kindle Previewer will provide a preview of your published book. You can make changes in the Word file you are previewing, but you will need to reopen your manuscript in Kindle Previewer to see what your corrections look like. For that reason, it’s a good idea to make a backup copy of your manuscript before you get started with Kindle Previewer.

Step 4: Self-publish your book as an e-Book, paperback, and/or hardcover on Kindle Marketplace.

The main requirement to self-publish your book on Amazon is a digital copy of the finished manuscript in Microsoft Word format. You’ll also need to provide some information about the book and design the cover.

To self-publish a book on Amazon, you’ll need a finalized manuscript in Microsoft Word format. You’ll also need to provide some information about the book and its authors.

To self-publish your book, log in to Kindle Direct Publishing: If you already have an account with Amazon, you can use your account to log in. It’s easy to upload your book to the Amazon Kindle publishing website, and you can list a manuscript as an eBook, paperback, and/or hardcover. Keep in mind that you will need to go through a separate publishing process for each type of book you list on the Kindle Direct Publishing website.

If you are self-publishing a physical book as a paperback or hardcover, Amazon prints out a copy of your book every time someone places an order, and it is shipped via Amazon. Pretty convenient!

When you log into Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, click on “Bookshelf.” You’ll see this:

screenshot of amazon kindle direct publishing website
Screenshot from the Amazon KIndle Direct Publishing “Bookshelf” page

You can upload your Microsoft Word file as an eBook, paperback, or hardcover, or you can use Kindle Create to finalize the formatting for you. You can even self-publish a book series!

Step 5: Don’t forget to promote!

Once you’ve published your book, don’t forget to publicize it. You don’t have to hire an agent to advertise your book. There are many free ways to promote your book which take very little time. Social media is the easiest way to promote your book, and it’s free. You can tweet about your book or post about your book in relevant Facebook groups. You can also schedule promotions directly on the Amazon Kindle store to sell your eBooks at a discounted price for a few days each month. Remember to tell your friends and family about your book.

Once you’ve self-published your book, remember to promote it. There are many free ways to advertise your book which take very little time.

We hope you’ll find these five easy steps helpful in your self-publishing endeavors. They are derived from our own experience self-publishing our first book, which is called How to Get Started in Freelance Science Writing. For more information about self-publishing on Amazon, including answers to frequently asked questions, check out Amazon’s Prepare Your Book website.


5 thoughts on “Self-Publish a Book in Five Steps

    1. Yes, marketing a self-published work is definitely not easy! We are learning that it helps to have an established social media presence and/or network of colleagues who can help you with the marketing aspect. Thanks so much for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! All you need is a Word file to publish, basically. Sure, it’s a bit more technically complex than that, but Amazon Kindle Publishing has great documentation to help you. Definitely check it out – we are happy to answer any questions you have about self-publishing!

      Liked by 1 person

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