Mastering Amazon's KDP Platform

Well, now what?

I’m sitting in a haze of post-published, euphoric loss. I feel like I’ve had to say goodbye to one of my dearest friends. I gave him up to the world and now he doesn’t write me anymore. Wait, Marcus may be a storyteller but he’s not a writer. I don’t think. And even if he were, he couldn’t write me cuz I’m real. Pretty sure, anyway. After all, fiction is stranger than truth. What if we’re all in some funhouse mirror and everything is nothing and up is down and black is neon orange and cows meow and bleed syrup?

Leave this scary place!

At long last, I have smashed the publish button on Amazon’s KDP platform. I think, now that's it’s done, I can pass along whatever wisdom I may have learned from my experience. If there are any future budding indie authors out there currently freaking out and curious about what it will feel like when they cross the same finish line, let me tell you, it is at once exhilarating and fleeting. As I was hovering over and then finally hitting the e-book publish button, my son was clawing at me to pick him up so I really didn’t have much of a moment beyond, “Oh My God, I did it! OK, buddy, I got you. I’m sorry. Come ‘ere.” If there’s a point in here it is this: you accomplished something big, my future indie friend. Enjoy it. And also, life goes on. Don’t forget to feed and love your children. Or your iguana or whatever you have.

Six Things I Learned About Amazon KDP

1) It does not stand for Ken Doll’s Persimmons.

I cannot tell you how many hours I wasted contacting grocers near and far to inquire on whether a little, toy man could eat a fruit I seldom heard of outside of snooty British period dramas. I’ll never get those precious afternoons back. It stands for Kindle Direct Publishing, people! Don’t be stupid! Read the fine print! It’s all ripe for the picking.

Can I use this as an image without being sued by  Mattel  if I link to their site? I don’t see why not. It’s free publicity for them, right?  I’m so going to jail over these handsome, plastic adonises.

Can I use this as an image without being sued by Mattel if I link to their site? I don’t see why not. It’s free publicity for them, right?
I’m so going to jail over these handsome, plastic adonises.

2) A short, digital preorder is your friend.

I set my e-book up as a preorder about a week prior to pub date. Doing so ensured that the digital edition would be released on time at midnight on May 7. It really removed a lot of that particular worry. However, you CANNOT, as an indie, set up a preorder for your print book. I don’t know why this is a rule but it is. So try to schedule yourself time to make some sense out of how and when to publish your paperback. Which brings me to number three.

3) If you are aiming to release both your digital and print editions on the same day, best of blessed luck to you.

I’m sure it can be done but it beats the heck out of me how to do it. Amazon KDP does allow you to submit a proof of your final paperback which you can order (at cost) and have shipped to you. I did this several weeks before pub date. I found flaws in my first proof that were easily fixed. (Also, it was glorious to hold the “Not For Resale” physical copy in my hands.) The second proof I found to be A-OK so I approved it and sat on it until pub date rolled around. I had heard from various helpful groups on Facebook that it could take 24-72 hours for Amazon to approve a print edition of your book after you hit publish. “Sure,” I cockily thought. “But that’s probably for the fools who didn’t first proof their books!” Well, who’s the fool now, jerky? About 20 hours after I hit the publish button, Amazon reached out to me and told me some mumbo-jumbo about how my cover was misaligned by 0.025” or something. I didn’t really pay attention to the email because I have an amazing designer. I forwarded it to her and after some trial and error (thank you, Megan!!), she fixed it to their specifications and I was able to hit publish again. About 15 hours after that, Amazon approved it and my print edition went live. Now, if you’re keeping track, that’s approximately 35 hours after I first hit the button. So I missed my pub date by a day and a half or so. In the big scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. I’m just kind of a stickler when it comes to deadlines and it drives me nuts when things are beyond my control. Like this way-too-long-of-a paragraph. Well, I could have listened to the advice of the helpful, friendly Facebook group “Self-Publishing and Book Marketing” and hit the publish button on the print edition early. I also could have gotten myself out of this paragraph long ago. But I did neither. Let’s do so now.

4) KDP Keywords

This is a tough one. I’d say that if you wrote a book entitled "Potpourri and Scented Candles: How to Give Your Home The Freshest, Most Satisfying Aromas" then probably don’t use keywords such as “Skunky Garbage Farts.” It’s a whole algorithm game played with SEO. There are programs you can purchase like KDPRocket that supposedly give you access to all kinds of groovy tools. These tools provide you with real-time Amazonian searchable phrases. These are the words readers are typing into that search bar! I did not purchase KDPRocket so I cannot, in good faith, speak any more on it than what I’ve read from author testimonials and their own website. It seems to be a good thing. Especially if you’ve written nonfiction. However, this time around, I chose to go with my gut when it came to Keywords. I have no idea if the ones I chose will do my book a service. Perhaps someday I will have to revisit this. What I can tell you is that you want to use every single character Amazon allows for Keywords! There are seven bars; use them all and to their fullest extent!

Everyone who desperately needs free publicity is gettin’ some today!

Everyone who desperately needs free publicity is gettin’ some today!

5) Everything is searchable

This is somewhat of a follow up to the Keywords Tip. Your book’s title, subtitle, description, and review section are all potential SEO goldmines. From what I gather, the your title and subtitle are the most important. So have a normal, relatively short and interesting title but go ahead and load up that subtitle with Keywords galore. I of course ignored my own advice here and chose the perfunctory “A novel” for my novel’s subtitle so, in essence I suppose anyone who types “A novel” into Amazon’s search engine will discover I Am Marcus Fox after scrolling through 50 bigillion other titles first. You can’t buy that kind of stupid publicity!

6) It is absolutely incredible that writers can become published authors with the push of a button.

Although it is more of a click, really. Let’s not split hairs. And this isn’t so much as a tip as it is an excuse to drag this thing out to a happy conclusion. So let’s face it: technology is amazing. Stories are transportive. We should all, every once in a while, take a moment to reflect on the impossible, wondrous, creative age we’re looking in. KDP has over a million titles penned by independent authors. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are numerous other platforms to explore out there, if a writer is feeling adventurous and bold and decides to explore what strange worlds lie beyond the cool shades of the Amazon. Perhaps, some day I’ll meet you there.

I know there are more and better tips to be divulged. Some may even be on the tip of my brain. I actually intended for this to be a list of 9 but I just, can’t, remove them, from my, head, right now. I’m still in a post-published fog. Am I still on the internets? Are we still on this side of the funhouse mirror? If so, I wish us all good fortune and a plethora of wide-reaching audiences for our books. And God bless Tiny Tim because he’s so giving and his legs don’t work too good.

Hooray for indie authors!