In this blog I will explain how to publish a photography book through Amazon KDP (kindle direct publishing) by sharing my experience. I will show how I organized my photo book, and then share the steps I took to get it accepted on Amazon KDP. Though I include a few hints for using Adobe InDesign, this is not an instructional blog for that application.
Why I chose to publish a photography book through Amazon KDP
- There is no charge to use their publishing software
- KDP provides an ISBN number free of charge (vs. buying one for $125)
- Amazon is the largest seller of books in the US and worldwide.
- You can create a paperback, hardback, or e-book.
- The KDP website offers lots of helpful information plus real-person assistance.
- You get high-quality photo prints as long as you select Premium Color Interior with white paper.
- Inexpensive way to gift photo books, plus sell them on-line.
Cons to publishing through Amazon KDP
- They don’t offer photo paper – paper is not thick and glossy like you can get through a premium photo book company
- Royalites are so-so (paperback royalties are 60% of list price, minus the printing costs)
- Your book will only be available through Amazon (though you can order author copies and sell those privately).
First Step: Organize Photos
I gathered my best digital photos of Shoreline Park and divided them into categories/albums. I didn’t want to divide them into the typical areas of seasons, or bird/animal classifications. Instead, I chose to organize photographs by the feelings they provoked in me. In other words, their sentiments.
Began Writing Introduction to Photography Book
I wrote in Google Docs, but you can use any application (or paper!) as long as you save it for future edits and reference.
Answer some or all of who, what, when, where, why.
This was critical for answering these basic questions: where the photo location was, what was its importance, and why it interested me. Later, I wrote a book description for Amazon that also explained what I hoped readers would get from this book. (Who – the author, Karen Gough: “She hopes readers will be inspired to go outside and find their own place of natural wonders.”)
Wrote (and re-wrote!) Introductory Prose For Each Chapter.
I kept a nature journal and chose my favorite bits of prose. Also wrote on-the-spot. You can quote other writers too, but obviously you need to give them credit.
Here is an example of the introductory prose to my chapter, Relationships:
And here is a sample of prose from my Power chapter:
Decided How To Format Photography Book
I chose two of my favorite photo and illustration books and used those for inspiration. I chose the book size I wanted and checked Amazon KDP to see if they could print that size in paperback (8.5 by 8.5).
Then I decided on the type of cover I wanted (a wrap-around photo), and how I wanted to present my photos (this changed after a sample printing from Amazon).
I took note and copied the order of things like the title page, copyright & ISBN number, personal quote, dedication, contents, and introduction. I wrote all this down in Google docs so I could refer to it, or copy and paste as needed into Adobe InDesign.
Note that Amazon KDP requires you to upload your cover and manuscript as a PDF. You can use an application like Word or Adobe InDesign to produce that PDF. I chose to use Adobe InDesign.
Began Using Adobe InDesign
Warning – I signed up for an ANNUAL subscription even though you pay monthly. I did not realize this at the time. I thought I was paying month to month and could cancel at any time. However, if you cancel before the year is up, they charge you a fee that is nearly as high as what you would pay to keep the subscription. They don’t make this obvious in their ad. Read the fine print.
After I was done publishing my book,I wanted to cancel Adobe InDesign, because I no longer needed it. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way how much it would cost to cancel. So instead, I changed my current plan to something cheaper–Lightroom online.
Why Choose Adobe InDesign?
- Web-based subscription (my old computer could access it online)
- Powerful tools
- Can export final product as a PDF (required by Amazon KDP)
Learn Adobe InDesign by watching YouTube videos.
Hint: Just search “how to blah blah blah adobe indesign”
Here are some YouTube Videos to get you started:
Exporting Finished Document as a PDF for Amazon KDP – a few hints
- Do a separate document for the cover.
- Choose High Quality Print and export as Spreads
- Marks and Bleeds: just check the “Use Document Bleed Settings” box. Leave other boxes blank.
- Choose High Quality Print and export as Pages (Amazon KDP won’t accept spreads for a manuscript).
- Marks and Bleeds: just check the “Use Document Bleed Settings” box. Leave other boxes blank. (The first time, I mistakenly checked crop marks and bleed marks. This left crop marks on the amazon PDF and messed up the format of my pages)
Create Your Book in Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)
Go to https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/ (or google Amazon KDP) and sign in through your Amazon account, or Create a new account.
Amazon KDP will walk you though adding the title details including things like the title, author, categories, key words, publication date, and release date. For the release date, it’s important to choose Schedule my book’s release.
Schedule My Book’s Release
When you choose a scheduling date, give yourself plenty of time to make changes to your original PDF. I went out over a month ahead of time. This gives you time to change your original manuscript, book details, and even the release date. Amazon KDP allows these kinds of changes up to five days before the release date.
After uploading your cover and/or manuscript, your last step is to Launch Previewer. This will show whether there are errors that need to be fixed before the book can be printed. I must have re-edited my work and launched the previewer a hundred times–at least it seemed like it.
Finalizing your Amazon KDP product can be frustrating.
The WYSIWYG process between Adobe InDesign and Amazon KDP can be frustrating. Due to both user-error and post-processing issues, it can take a while to get true “what you see is what you get.” But take heart, Amazon KDP gives you the option of talking to a live person for help. I found the help teams to be knowledgeable, friendly, and patient.
At the bottom of the Book Preview page, click on Contact Us.
- Choose your help topic.
- Read their advice.
- Click on “I Still need help,”
- Choose “Call Us” or “Start Chat.”
Order a sample book!
The author can order a sample book for the price of printing plus shipping. The book will come with a “Not for Resale” stripe across the cover. I ordered a sample book three separate times–making changes to my photos and the format. Even when my last sample looked right to me, KDP said they could not publish it without some more formatting changes–mostly regarding margins.
The Final Product
I was so happy to receive my final Amazon KDP self-published photography book. It looked and felt great. Yes, the photos are not printed on actual heavy-weight photo paper, but the colors printed true, and the photos looked wonderful. Printing on Premium Color Interior With White Paper is the best Amazon KDP offers, and it does keep the price down. I am able to sell my book at a wide range of prices and still make a small royalty.
I chose to sell my book for $22.95. It contains 85 photos and is a handy 8.5 by 8.5 paperback size. If you’d like to buy a copy for yourself, it’s available on Amazon.
I hope this blog helps you to publish your own photography book on Amazon KDP.