Self publishing a paper book

10 years ago I discovered Leanpub that allowed me to publish e-books. Ever since I published lots of books. It started with Who is agile, which turned into a whole series of books of local Who is agile in xyz. I never had the intention to turn these books into paper books. I loved the fact I could get feedback from real readers. (who had paid for the book) I also created the manuals for my workshops into e-book. The fact I can keep working on them and people that participated in a workshop can 2 years later download an updated version brings a lot of value. Then I helped my daughter create a manual for her arduino workshop. That inspired me to create a paper version of that book. What 11 year old can say she published a paper book

When this year my leanpub  “Tips From The agile Trenches” book was finished, I wanted to create a paper version of it.  Since I did this I had many people ask me how I did this, hence this blogpost. 

Why publish on amazon? 

Amazon is not only the biggest bookshop in the world, they also have a service called KDP that allows independent book publishers to create their own paper book, just by uploading a few files, giving in a few settings. Then amazon does some checks (like do you own the copyright of this text) and a few days later, your paper book is available on all the amazon site you select. (If you are an author using a publisher and your book is not available on an amazon site, it’s because your publisher has chosen not to offer it)

Order an ISBN number

A paper version of a book needs to have its own ISBN. Amazon can create such a number when they generate the book, yet I prefer to have my own number, so I am not limited to creating my books on amazon. All countries have their own system and company for ordering an ISBN. And you have to order the ISBN from your own county. 

Hence I ordered my own ISBN number from the local Belgium ISBN organisation. The ordering can take a few days. And you have to answer questions like language, NUR code (not sure if this is just a Belgium invention), themes etc.

The ISBN regulation is not adapted to today’s world, in theory you need a new ISBN for every version. I created more than 70 versions of TFTaT trenches. I published the first version of the book, when I only had 10 tips and then republished the ebook with every new tip I received. As everyone who bought the first edition can now download the current version, I don’t consider it necessary to buy multiple ISBN numbers.

Leanpub settings:

I played around with leanpub settings a bit on Geike her book, as I’m happy with them, I just copied them for this book . 


Links: footnotes

Footnoted and Endnotes

Create footnotes and endnotes as: As footnotes when inserted with ^, and as endnotes when inserted with ^^.

Endnote Location
Insert endnotes:
at the end of each chapter
Line Spacing: 1
Font Size: 1
Body Font: Linux Libertine (serif)
Title Font: Open Sans (Sans)
Footnote Font Size:

Page Size: US Trade 

⇒ this one is important as its related with the size in amazon

Show Chapter Name in Ebook Header:  turned on
Inner Margin (inches): not set
Outer Margin (inches): not set
Top Margin (inches): not set
Bottom Margin (inches): not set

Advanced Margon Options (PDF only)
Hyphenations Penalty: 1000
Tolerance: 1000
Emergency Stretch (em) :3
Text Justification: turned on
Paragraph Style: No ident, small vertical space between paragraphs
Paragraph Spacing (LInes): 1
Table Row Lines: turned off
Table Row Spacing (pt):  0,0

Vertical space above and below lists
Top Level Lists: 1.7
First Level Nested Lists: -1
Second Level Nested Lists: -0.8
Third Level Nested Lists: -0.8

Vertical Space between list items
Top Level Lists: -0.7
First Level Nested Lists: 0
Second Level Nested Lists: 0
Third Level Nested Lists: 0

Page Breaks 

page breaks after every section: turned off
page breaks after every sub-section: turned off
page breaks after every sub-sub-section: turned off

Chapter and section Titles
Alignment Left Aligned
Table of Contents : Parts, Chapters, Sections
Show Dots in the table of Contents: Turned on  

Section Numbering: Number everything
Do not Number Parts: turned off

Horizontal Rules and Scene-Breaks
Display a scene-break as: Horizontal line

Vertical Spacing above and below figures: 4


Background color for Asides: White
Show Border on asides: turned on


Code Font: Anonymous Pro (mono)
Inline Code Font Size: 10
Code Figure Font Size: 10
Line Spacing in Code Figures: 1
Vertical Spacing above and below code figures: 0
Code Samples: Show line numbers on Code Samples turned on
Inserted Code Styling: Default
Page Numbering:  Show Page Number o the first page of chapters turned on

⇒ that last one, my children think looks strange the way it’s standard in most books (aka the numbering on a different place of the book, would indeed be nice if Leanpub offered us a way to select the location of the number for the first page of a chapter
(Yes our children are helping out with debugging these settings and how the books look like)

Create as PDF settings 

Formatting options
Show chapter names in page headers: turned on
Show “tweet this book” page: turned on  ⇒ I will remove this in the future.
Show “Also by this author” page: turned on ⇒ In future books I will write this myself, so I can move it to the end of the book.

Verso Page Content
Show publisher info on Print: turned on
ISBN: added my ISBN number
Links: show links as footnotes

Footnotes and Endnotes
Show Footnodes and Endnotes as: Either
Endnote location: end of chapter
Choose Print Book Page size

US Trade (no option to change it here, as this depends on the size of the PDF version)

Create a Cover

Amazon wants us to create a pdf file that is a cover for the front, spine and back of the book, all in one file. KDP helps really well by giving feedback on what they know the borders of your book will be. The size of this really depends on the size of the book. (Logically as the book and thus the spline is thicker.)
I wanted to use all the pictures of the people who wrote a tip on the cover, I knew that was a lot of puzzling to get this done. I decided to use keynote for it.
I created a large picture that I assumed was the right size and I added lines where I hoped the borders would be, I generated a pdf from this and uploaded it to KDP. There I got the feedback to adjust my lines. Yes this took a few iterations to get it correct. Only when I got this correct, I started to add the pictures from the people who wrote tips. This avoided in a lot of lost time. Still adding 90 pictures and moving them around to make them all visible in the available space took me a long time. I could have saved me a lot of time if I would have outsourced this. Yet because I had to over and over check if everyone was still visible, I now recognize better some of these people who shared tips. Especially nice as I’m really bad with linking names with faces. My children were not impressed with the cover, yet from the community, I received a lot of feedback that they loved the cover. That was nice to hear, as I was really unsure after the hard feedback from my teenagers. (Usually, they are right)

If you want, you can generate your own barcode of the ISBN number

yet I have noticed that when it’s on the wrong place, amazon will still add an ugly ISBN sticker on the book. Hence I decided for the future to no longer add my own barcode anymore. I just tell amazon my ISBN number and they add the barcode where they want it. 

(And I adjust my cover to it, as they also add that to the preview in KDP)


Amazon Settings

Go to ​​//

I don’t remember anymore why, yet I created a separate amazon account for this. 

I did have some strange side effects, as this meant when I want to order author copies of our books I need to use this account also, so I probably would not do that anymore. 

I started with a paper book, as this was what I wanted to have, the ebook we are already selling on leanpub. I still did add the ebook to amazon, as many people like myself, buy their ebook, directly from their kindle. 

KDP settings:

Language: can’t be changed after the book is published
Book title: can’t be changed after the book is published (Important as with leanpub, you can keep changing this)
Subtitle: can’t be changed after the book is published
Series: if your book is part of a series. Can be changed later (eg if your book is a success, you can later decide to turn it in a serie)
Edition: if you make large changes, you can create a new edition. This too can’t be changed after you published the book
Author: can’t be changed after the book is published
Contributors: You can keep adding or changing contributors after you publish the book.

I screwed up with the name of Gerald Weinberg, who wrote the forward, I only noticed it after I published the book, luckily I could adapt it, a few days later amazon accepted this change. 

There is a maximum nr of contributors you can add. I wanted to add all 89 people who wrote a tip; yet amazon did not allow this. So I added them all to the description of the book.
Description: Also possible to change it. After publishing, one of the contributors told me I forgot their name in the description. I quickly fixed this and verified I did not forgot anyone else (I did) and fixed that one too.
Publishing Rights: Amazon wants you to tell them you have all the rights 

And yes they check if they find a text online that is the same as in the book, they will ask you to confirm again, which I had to do when Kevlin posted his tip on his blog. 

Keywords: you can select up to 7 keywords that are linked to your book , I’m not sure where and how they are used, probably to link books to each other.

Categories: you can select up to two categories for a book
Which is strange as I have found that other books can be found under three different categories

Adults content: amazon needs to know this is adult content, to hide it when children are browsing for the book. Before you joke that agile is really for adults, I advice you to check the number of people who use agile ad home.

ISBN: this is the place where you tell amazon you have your own ISBN number
Publication Date: optional yet can’t be changed after publication.  I chose to enter the date of the first publication date of the e-book.

Print options

the most important settings and they can’t be changed after publication.

I selected Standard color interior with White paper
Has as disadvantage (that I only discovered after publishing) that my book can not be printed in certain areas of the world. ( and Hence if people in these area want to buy it, they have to pay expensive import taxes.
(if you know how to fix this, please tell me.)

Trim size: can’t be changed after publication. I selected 6*9  based on leanpub settings
Bleed settings: no bleed
Paperback cover finish: Glossy this looks best for the pictures I find.
Upload the manuscript: this is the print ready pdf version that leanpub generates when I ask them to.

Upload the cover: this is where I upload the pdf of the cover I created
Book preview: when you upload a new content or new cover amazon wants you to verify; Especially the first time I go and check all pages.

You can now see the printing cost for your book.  The next page allows you to set your own price.

Territories: here you select what countries your book will be available. Only if you have limited rights should you select individual territories. I think globally, I want my book to be available in all countries at the same time. 

Primary Marketplace: The location where you think the majority of your books will be sold. I think this only used to let you select the price in that market and adapt the other prices based on that. I’m probably wrong..


You can set different prices for each country, I let amazon calculate that based on my price in the main amazon marketplace. I have chosen, because that is where I buy my stuff. Amazon does not allow that your amazon book is more expensive than the same book somewhere else online. Especially important for e-books. 

On the paper books, there is also the option: expanded distribution. That way bookstores and libraries can find your book and order it. I discovered that the locally populair website offered my own book that way, before I set up my own & Ingram sparks shop. 

Amazon sets the royalty rate for these sales (currently at 40%) As these are sales I would not make otherwise, I was ok with it as long as I did not have my own shop.

BOL.COM is a rather populair e-commerce shop that ships in NL & BE. I created my own partner shop and started to sell the books there.  In this case I have to send the books myself.  (Thanks to my friend Ben Linders for the idea and the support in setting it up.)

I do this mostly because I want to have experience with the local selling and to see how this goes. I started just with my own books, I can add other stuff later.

Future ideas:

Considering adding an index to my books, using the index process described by Jutta Eckstein on the leanpub website: Or I could us an indexer from //
Though Johanna Rothman has advised me against doing it. My TOC already contains all the info needed.  

Selling also on Ingram Sparks, still need to figure out how that works


What I should do better:

I now published it as fast as I could. I should have set a publishing date in the future and encourage all my friends to pre-order it, and then on the launch date, have many sales, which put the book higher in the sales charts, which helps for more future sales. 

Also I ordered author copies for each and everyone that wrote a tip, and did send that using amazon to these people. Ordering author copies allows me to send it at a cheaper price, yet I don’t think it shows up in the sales charts. Yet not ordering the books for the people who created the tips, was never an option in my mind.

A big thanks to the people who helped me along the way: LeanpubBen Linders, Johanna Rothman, Jutta Eckstein

If you liked this blogpost, and have read one of their books (I can’t imagine many people who read my blog, that would not have read at least one book of one of these three great people) 

Will you help them in return, and post a review about your favorite book in your prefered book shop?  And if you haven’t read any of their books, just write and publish a review on your favorite book. It’s a nice way to tell your authors you support them.