Formatting your own book for print-on-demand on Amazon…I’m proof that anyone can do it

As you can see in my post from a few days ago, I recently accomplished what seemed like the impossible–I successfully uploaded my book to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), the self-publishing arm of With the final click of a button, I became a (self) published author of a Kindle book.

But I didn’t just want a Kindle book–I wanted the real deal. A book. I wanted to feel the weight of my own book in my hands. I wanted to be able to flip the pages, just like I’ve been imagining since I started writing it years ago. However, with KDP, you need to create an eBook first.

For the Kindle version of my book, I used Kindle Create. It was challenging–see my previous blog. And for the print version of your book, Kindle Create offers the option to convert your eBook to paperback. However, when I read the pros and cons, I realized that I’d need to format and upload my manuscript manually for the print version. My book is large, non-fiction, and has lots of images.

KDP has a file called “KDP build your book: paperback interior formatting” that you can download. It’s a 16 page PDF that, upon first glance, had me worrying that I’d never get it right. I’ve read more than one online post about how manuscripts have been rejected repeatedly for not meeting the criteria. I was briefly tempted to Google “pay to have manuscript formatted for paperback for Amazon”, but I didn’t want to give up before I even tried. I figured I was in for a long haul.

There are definitely advantages to formatting your manuscript yourself. For example, you have control over the font type and sizes, which you give up with Kindle Create. When I realized that I was creating the actual PDF file that would be used for printing, I took my time and went back through my book to create the look I wanted. Of course, I had to keep in mind the formatting guidelines while I was doing my tweaking. But I found that you can stay within those parameters and still have a lot of flexibility. After editing and formatting my Microsoft Word document, I followed the directions on how to export it to create the PDF. Then using the PDF and the “Preview” of the book for a final look-through, I was able to find a few more things to tweak and refine. I liked the amount of control I had in the process.

As I did with the Kindle version, I used the Cover Creator to create the cover for the paperback. I uploaded a photo I’d taken (formatted to their specifications) and then picked the template and font type–the Cover Creator auto-loads the title and author’s name. Finally, I added a little blurb I’d written for the back cover. Once again, the cover was the easiest part of the process.

And like with the Kindle version, I had to build up the courage to finally hit the “Publish” button. What if they accept it? There might be typos (or something worse) that I missed. Should I read through it one more (gazillionth) time? And what if they don’t accept it? Will I be able to figure out how to fix what I screwed up? After I got up the nerve to hit the publish button, I felt like I just handed in my answers for a final exam, one that I’m pretty sure I didn’t study hard enough for.

After spending the evening checking my KDP account every half hour or so, I finally went to bed. After all, they notify you that it can take up to 72 hours to find out if your manuscript has been accepted or not.

But when I woke up early, right around 5AM, and tried to convince myself to not reach for my cell phone, and go back to sleep, of course I couldn’t. What if the results to the final exam were in? Bad or good, I needed to know.

And yes, there was. An email from Kindle Direct Publishing with the subject line “Your paperback book is available in the Amazon store!”

What an exhilarating, terrifying, terrific way to start the day 🙂

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