How Do I Publish on Amazon?

I see or hear some version of this regularly. Authors call and specifically ask: How do I get published on Amazon? The answer is: You don’t. But the question (and the confusion around it) is understandable.

Amazon has made its name in books, and even though they now sell everything from vacuum cleaners to shampoo to build-it-yourself sheds, they are often the first to come to mind when people think about books, whether it’s buying or publishing.

But Amazon itself is not a book publisher, it’s a retail site with publishing arms: Createspace for print books and Kindle Direct Publishing for electronic books. So while Amazon.com is a place for your customers to find and purchase your book, it is not a place to publish your book.

So what are authors asking when they query how to get their books published on Amazon? I believe this question breaks down into three categories.

First, they are asking how to make their book available on Amazon. This part is relatively easy. If you are using a print-on-demand platform, such as Createspace or Ingram Spark, you will be able to make your book available, not just on Amazon, but though other online sellers, like Barnes &Noble.com and Powells.com, and also available to bookstores, libraries and more. Most self-publishing platforms make books readily available on Amazon through an expanded distribution system.

Second, because they have heard about Createspace, Amazon’s print-on-demand arm, authors are asking about how to make a book through them. CreateSpace is a publishing platform related to Amazon, but it also allows books to be distributed through other third-party sellers. Createspace accepts files that have been formatted for printing (but no longer offers author services), makes individual ISBNs available, and has an expanded distribution system. Ingram Spark is another print-on-demand site with similar services, also has wide distribution available. In order to make books available through either place, you need to upload your book files and oversee the tasks related to publishing.

Lastly, some people are asking about publishing ebooks only. Though Amazon isn’t the only company to sell electronic books, they are a go-to source for downloads. But there are numerous places to sell ebooks (and other formats, as I break down here) but, as with print books, you need to create and ebook file to upload to these sites. Proper ebook files are not PDFs, rather they are based on HTML code.

Making a book available for sale on Amazon, whether it’s a print or ebook, is ridiculously easy. But creating professional book files, recording metadata, setting retail pricing and obtaining your ISBN are the details you will need to focus on before you’re ready for online sales.  Createspace has a lot of information about book fomratting, and Ingram Spark offers a helpful file creation guide, or you can set up a free consultation with Luminare Press.