Shahnaz Radjy

Self-publishing on Amazon KDP: 6 Lessons 

Back in March, I self-published my first novel. It has been an exciting journey, and I thought I would share some lessons learned about the whole process of self-publishing using Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (or “Amazon KDP”).

Going in, I decided I would keep things as stress-free as possible, understanding that as a first-time self-published author, there would without a doubt be snafus. Instead of losing sleep over them, I wanted to learn from them so as to do better next time. 

Another important caveat is that I am writing and publishing for fun. It has been amazing to see my book out in the world, but just having a book published is my definition of success. Beyond that, if I sell 100 copies, I’ll be over the moon (and if I don’t, I’m ok with that too).

With that said, here are six lessons I learnt that may be useful to anyone about to undertake a similar journey (or my future self for when Book 2 is ready):

  1. Give yourself time
  2. Dealing with cover and barcode challenges
  3. Some do’s and don’ts to making manuscript updates
  4. Unexpected issues ordering a print proof and author copies
  5. Amazon can be unpredictable
  6. The Amazon KDP support system (or lack thereof) = information overwhelm

Give yourself time, it will save your sanity

My decision to self-publish my first book was made in the fall of 2023. It took me a few more months to finish my last round of edits and get the book back to my editor for a last read-through while grappling with the best timeline to announce to the world. 

Pregnant and with a due date of April 20, and I wanted to get my book baby out before my human baby made its appearance – so I opted for a March 20 book launch as that’s the Persian New Year. It all worked out, but if I had to do it again – and when I do it again, I’ll make sure I give myself a LOT more time. As in, 12-18 months. Here are some of the reasons why (note: I don’t cover anything marketing related in this post, but self-promotion is a huge other reason to pick a book launch date with a solid lead time!).

Dealing with cover and barcode challenges

I got my cover design done by Miblart. I love the end result, but when I tried to upload it to the Amazon KDP backend, it just wouldn’t work. Miblart is a platform where you as a client deal with a Miblart employee who is the go-between with the graphic designer. 

I ended up asking a friend of mine who is a graphic designer to check the file, and he worked his magic so I could upload the file to Amazon KDP’s backend. 

Then, when I checked the “Preview”, I saw something weird going on with the barcode – I got my own, but didn’t realize that Amazon would add it’s own visual QR code (I freaked out, asked a bunch of indie authors about it, and finally crawled through enough Amazon KDP Q&A pages to understand that it was all ok). 

The "Flight of an Orphan Thief" barcode preview on Amazon KDP
The “Flight of an Orphan Thief” barcode preview on Amazon KDP – I didn’t expect that QR code and “T” visual to be there

Some do’s and don’ts to making manuscript updates

Uploading your manuscript to the Amazon KDP backend is easy enough, both for the ebook and paperback formats. However, what I had not realized is that if you want to update your manuscript, Amazon takes the book offline to “review” everything before it can go live.

If you’re in pre-order mode, or just uploading things ahead of time, that’s fine. If you’re dancing on the line with a very close launch date (which is what happened with yours truly), it can cause a delay to when your book becomes available. Oops.

In my case, I ended up launching with just the ebook and having the paperback come out a few days later. That said, the paperback is still not available in all markets ( had the paperback option but removed it and it still hasn’t come back, sigh) – and I suspect that has to do with me re-uploading the manuscript. 

Lesson: Give yourself time to upload your manuscript, potentially spot new ninja typos, have them fixed, and re-upload your improved manuscript all well-ahead of your launch date.

Unexpected issues ordering a print proof and author copies

My current mailing address is in rural Portugal. Not sure if the “rural” makes a difference, but when it was time to order my print proof – and later my author copies – I found out that I couldn’t just click three buttons and be done.

Portugal doesn’t have it’s own Amazon website, so I knew I would have to go through,, or – except I kept having to try different options because they didn’t work. 

My print proof ended up coming from once I signed up for the Amazon Prime 30 day trial. It did arrive within the 10 day predicted delivery date (not something I assumed would happen!). My author copies, which I ordered later, came from also thanks to an Amazon Prime 30 day trial.

My point is, don’t assume that Amazon can deliver to you, or do it quickly, or do it without you signing up for Amazon Prime. Yet another reason to give yourself extra time ahead of your book launch.

(Note: I wasn’t sure I wanted to do a book launch event, but then I realized I couldn’t get author copies in time anyway, so I didn’t do a public event. No regrets, but having a longer lead time would have given me more choices on how to plan any book launch event with an author signing.)

Amazon can be unpredictable

It turns out that despite being a well-oiled machine, sometimes Amazon KDP can be unpredictable. I randomly couldn’t upload my manuscript, though there was no error message and nothing wrong with the file – when I tried again a few hours later, it worked like a charm.

My contact at Cutting Edge Studio, who did my interior formatting, told me that this had happened to him before. It turns out, sometimes there’s a glitch in the system and you can’t process things.

To a first-time self-published author, experiencing this was nerve-wracking, because I assumed I was doing something wrong or that there was an issue with the files I was provided. 

The Amazon KDP support system (or lack thereof) = information overwhelm

As mentioned, Amazon KDP has a zillion Q&A pages with all sorts of information about how to upload your books, how to set royalties, and everything else you can or must do. It’s quite impressive, but also overwhelming. Especially because by design, that’s the only real source of information – there’s no chatbot or helpline you can call (though if there’s really an issue, I’ve heard you can reach out by email).

At times, the information wasn’t quite detailed enough for me, but ultimately, almost everything I needed to know was there. I just had to take my time to dig long enough to find it!

One additional sanity-saving resource is the write-up Travis Baldree (author of Legends & Lattes) did on his self-publishing process, “Self Published Book Launch A-Z”. It’s my go-to to understand how a successful indie author did things, and I have borrowed his approach when my research and experience left me unsure of how to proceed.

A screenshot of the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing backend, which I used to self-publish my young adult fantasy debut novel, "Flight of an Orphan Thief"
A screenshot of the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing backend, which I used to self-publish my young adult fantasy debut novel, “Flight of an Orphan Thief”

Just to close, I want to add that for future books, I plan to publish on Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark, so that will lead to a whole other learning curve – but then, that’s what this journey is all about: putting myself, my words, and my stories out there, and constantly learning by doing, improving, and growing.

If you’ve published on Amazon KDP, any other lessons you can share, or things you wish you knew your first (or second or third) time around?

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