Indie Publishing for the Raw Beginner


So, how many of you have finished a book or short story, and gotten cold feet?

This is a primer just for you. It’s based on MS Word, and publishing an ebook on’s KDP system. If you’re on a different system, you’ll need to hunt for the equivalent commands.

Then . . .

Got Beta Readers? They say go? Excellent. Now find a grammar nazi and turn them loose on it.

You will need a cover. Think 2000 x 3000 px .jpg

You will need a blurb, to entice readers to give it a try. Don’t how? Start here:


I work in MS Word, and upload my manuscripts in .Doc or .Docx . Some people like more control, but I don’t do fancy embellishments or drop caps, so this works fine for me.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. But if you don’t know how to use that “Styles” thing up there on the tool bar? Find out, because you’ll need it for the Active Table of Contents. Make the main body of your story “Normal” style. Chapter titles “Heading 1.” Subtitles “Heading 2.” I make scene break markers “Heading 3” just because it makes it easy for me to find them while writing and editing.


Everything but Title and Chapter headings is the same font, same size

All the chapter titles start on a new page (control enter for a hard page break, please) and are the same size/font.

All the chapter titles are the same style. And make it “Heading 1”. Make subtitles “Heading 2” and so on. Trust me, you’ll see how handy this is when we get to the Table of Contents.

One or two blank lines under the chapter title to the start of the writing. Whatever looks best to you . . . but it needs to be the same for every chapter. Ditto, the space above the chapter title, if any.

The legal page. Grab a couple of books and flange up something along those lines. If you are only publishing an ebook on Amazon, you do not need an ISBN.

Back matter. You know, the stuff at the back of the book. Have you got another book that will be coming out soon? A snippet is a good idea. Author Bio, if you want, and an active link list of all your other books, once you’ve got other books.

The Active Table of Contents for an ebook. You need the active TOC so when readers click on “Chapter Five: The Elopement” and it takes them right there. How do you do that? Dead easy. Get yourself a blank page after that legal page up there. Click on the “References” tab at the top blue tool bar. Far left, click on “Table of Contents” Ignore all the automatic stuff and go to the bottom of the menu. Click on “Custom table of Contents.” Uncheck the “Show Page Numbers” box and pick how many levels of chapter and subchapters you want in the TOC. Click on OK. Look it over. You can remove a few things you don’t want there, or remove it and do it all over again.

Right, now it’s really, really done.

And it’s time to publish.

The KDP Process

Use the same user name and password as for your Amazon purchasing, or not. Whatever.

Oh, and they’ll want a bank account number, so they can send you money every month. Your SS# so they can tell the IRS how much you made. They will mail you a W2 to file with your taxes.

So, on to the three page submission form.

First Page:



It starts out pretty easy.

Leave blank anything that you don’t have, like subtitles and contributors.

Then just paste that blurb in.

Then it gets nasty.



I usually start with the categories, and since I write SF with Fantasy elements, I try to pick one specific subcategory from each.

Then I go back up to the Keywords and think of what might work. This is something you might also want to research ahead of time. There are lists . . .



Unless you are specifically writing for children, totally ignore the age range stuff.

Unless you think you can whip up a lot of interest with a pre-order, I’d skip this too, and just publish the thing.

Click the Save and Continue.



Page 2:

[The site didn’t want to show me page two until I’d done page one (sigh) so I went back and grabbed a shot of my most recent. Sorry, but there’s not much change from the blank.]

Just say no to Digital Rights Management.

Now the big one. Upload your manuscript. Yes, the version with all the typos fixed, the legal page, the Active Table of Contents. (Don’t ask me often I sent the wrong file, because I’m not telling.)

It takes a few minutes, depending on file size. Go get a drink, kick back. Once it’s uploaded, it has to be processed.

While it’s chewing away at that, upload your cover.

And when they are both processed, do take a look through the online previewer. Tedious as all get out, just clicking through and spotting all the chapters that don’t start on a new page and things like that. Keep notes. Ditto that list of misspelled words. Some of them (hey, I write SF, I have a lot of weird names) are okay, other ones, make note of.

Then go back to your manuscript, fix them, and upload it again.

Rinse and repeat as needed, till it’s right.

ISBN if you bought some.

Publisher type name if you’ve got one. If you don’t, your name will be listed as the publisher.

Click Save and Continue . . .




Page Three:

I, personally, like to have my books on KULL. As a mostly unknown author, I need those frequent readers to try me. So yes to being on Kindle Select, which doesn’t show here, but would have if it had let me get to the blank page two.

If you want to “go wide” and publish on multiple platforms, then, say no to Select.

Territories. Unless you have a reason not to, go for worldwide.

Royalties and Pricing. 35% for less than $2.99. I sell my short stories for $0.99. *Personal preferences here* Once a story get up over 15K, and definitely over 20K, I jump to $2.99 and 70%. Over 40K $3.99. Over 60K $4.99 the first year then drop to $3.99. Over 80K stays at $4.99.

Your mileage may vary, and I’m not known for consistency or remembering when somethings been up for a year.

Matchbook is going away soon, not much demand for it.

Lending. Why not, but it’s locked anyway.

Read what you’re agreeing to.



Nothing to it. Really.

And since it nearing Halloween, how about Stone, who is a Shape Changer, not a werewolf, darn it!


  1. I’m going to disagree with Pam on one thing. While checking through the online previewer may work, it won’t show everything and it won’t give you a true picture of how the converted file looks on either a dedicated ebook reader or through the app. You can download the file and then open it either on your kindle or through the kindle app. Do that. See how you like the look, make sure your section breaks are right and that your chapters all start where they are supposed to. I have had books that look fine through the previewer but don’t when looking at them through the native app or on a kindle.

    Also, regarding the spelling errors Pam mentioned. Amazon will flag words it doesn’t recognize and generate a list of them for you. You can view them from your dashboard and tell Amazon to ignore them or not. You can also have the list emailed to you. Check them against your mss. Usually, most of the errors aren’t really errors but there are some they catch.

  2. Thanks for this handy checklist! I’ve been feeling guilty about farming out the formatting of my ebooks – oughta be a trivial task, but every time I’ve tried I get frustrated. This should make the task easy.

    1. It really is easy and, depending on what OS you are using, there are tools to add the more fancy elements of formatting without any problems. Email me and I’ll answer any questions you have about it in either Windows or PC.

  3. A note on working formats. When I beta read I’ll take just about any standard format, but I will only copy edit in MS Word because all it’s issues aside, I find the track changes feature essential for capturing any changes or corrections I make to the original manuscript. I also just about completely ignore the MS Word spelling and grammar checker as it is a pea brained idiot that detests text narratives of running conversations. It will on occasion catch a spelling error, but totally ignores totally wrong words if they’re correctly spelled. To/too/two, there/their/they’re, as well as numerous other such cases.

    1. I sometimes run the grammar check but I recommend that those who are not dead certain of their grammar to avoid it — it’s told me to introduce errors.

  4. I have two short stories that I considered done and I got cover art too, which people didn’t like, and now they’ve sat for a few years. I suppose I shouldn’t be so easily discouraged.

      1. Collections work better — I do tend to wait until I have at least 40,000 words — but then the issue is writing more stories.

  5. Thank you Pam and Amanda for the tips. Book 1 is out to beta readers and book 2 is being written. And, knowing me, the procrastinating in getting Book 1 up (assuming no massive overhauls are necessary) would be blamed on “trying to figure out Amazon”. So, you have destroyed my reasons for procrastination and for that I thank you both.

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