(You can find my previous entries here!)
My book was finished and I was ready to take the next step: self publishing. I must tell you, that while I am no expert on self publishing, I figured it out and so can you!
Amazon, aka Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is without a doubt, the name of the self publishing game. They have the largest share of the e-book market. The Amazon subsidiary, Createspace, allows you to self publish your novel in paperback format, too. Both KDP and Createspace have straightforward, step-by-step guides for uploading your book.
Two things to have ready before you start:
- The “book blurb” or synopsis. Write a paragraph or two that summarizes the book’s plot without giving too much away! (You need this if you’re sending query letters to agents, too.) I had trouble with this. I wanted to convey the mystery and suspense of the book, but struggled with being concise! Here are the blurbs for both Seeing Red and Three Empty Frames.
- Second, write an author bio. I also had trouble with this. It felt really weird to talk about myself. This was my first book. I had no accomplishments to talk about, no writing credentials, no awards, no “best selling” status, nothing. I suppose I could’ve bragged about my angsty teenage poetry… Anyway, I did a little reading on writing a bio and I found a nice bit of advice. (Somewhere, I can’t seem to find it now!) Basically, write something unique about yourself. What motivated you to write, or what do you love about books? Add something a little personal and/or quirky. (If you are not a quirky person, ignore!) You know what? I was going to show you my author bio but I hadn’t looked at it in a while and I now realize how much it sucks! However, the author bio on the back of the paperback version is much better, (I have to fix the other one.) And I expanded it to a greater degree on my Author page once I created it. Look at that one instead!
Once you have those two things composed, you are ready to start the process. Here’s how it goes:
- Enter the book’s title (hopefully, it rocks!), the subtitle (if there is one), the series title and volume number (if you are writing a series) and the book’s description (blurb). Under this section will be a box for you enter an ISBN (International standard book number). You don’t need one for an e-book. They will instead assign it an ASIN (Amazon standard identification number). I’ve linked to Wikipedia rather than try to explain here.
- Establish publishing rights. Wait, what? This threw me for a loop at first. Fortunately, there was a handy dandy little question mark to click on for frequently asked questions. Bottom line: you wrote it, you own the rights to it automatically. Do read about it though, if you have any concerns.
- Target your customers. This is where you will select the category/genre your book will be marketed in. There are subcategories, so be as specific as possible. My book is “Fiction: Romance: Suspense,” for example.
- Release options. You can choose to publish immediately or have your book ready for pre-order and release on a later date.
- Create your cover. This was the fun part. However, I changed my initial cover after using Createspace for the paperback edition. I highly recommend using a unique photograph, maybe even one of your own to prevent any kind of duplication between you and another self published author. Trust me.
- Upload your manuscript. If you write on a Mac like me, you need to first export your file to a PDF or Word document before you upload.
- Preview your uploaded work. The online previewer shows you exactly what it’s going to look like on your e-reader. Some funky issues might arise. In Three Empty Frames, I had included diary entries and letters in the manuscript. On my computer, I had typed them to be indented on both sides and they looked perfectly fine. On the upload, however, they were all over the place! I had to go back and change all the indents so it didn’t look like a monkey had typed it!
- Rights and pricing. First, choose where the book will be distributed. Why you would choose any other option than worldwide, I have no idea. Next, KDP will suggest a price for the book based on the word count, but you can set the price wherever you like. You can also choose two options for your royalties: either 35% or 70%. The 35% option is for books priced less than $2.99 USD. If you price it at $2.99 or more, then you can select 70% royalties. I assume it works the same for other currencies.
- Enroll in KDP select. Hold on, now. What’s this? This option gives KDP the exclusive rights to publish your e-book. In exchange, they do a little promotion and marketing for you. I did not do this. Why? Because I buy some of my e-books on Apple’s iBooks. People use Nook and Kobo to read their e-books. I also didn’t like the idea of being totally beholden to Amazon. (Not that I’m complaining about them; my experience with KDP has been good). Anyway, I’ve read differing opinions on the subject, which only serves to muddy the waters. I won’t share them here. You must decide for yourself.
- Hit publish!!!! Yay! You did it! Within a few hours (they always say 12 but it never takes that long) your book will be available for purchase for Kindle and the Kindle app on a multitude of devices.
I also wanted to have my book available in paperback. You don’t have to use Createspace to do this, there are other ways to get your book in paperback. Boutique and small press publishers are available for this, but I haven’t explored that option. Createspace is a really cost effective way to go. They print on demand. That means you don’t have to shell out your own money to have a run of your books printed. Each time a customer orders your book in paperback format, one copy is printed and shipped to them. Amazon’s website will advertise the two versions together.
Uploading your manuscript to Createspace is slightly more involved. Now, you do need an ISBN for your print version, so here’s another link. Hopefully, that list of frequently asked questions will address one of yours! You can also have Creatspace assign one for you, for free. That’s what I did. Some would say that’s not the best way to go because it lists Createspace as your publisher. If you buy your own ISBNs, then you are listed as the publisher. Perhaps that’s more professional? Either way, your reader will know you are a self published author. And seriously, when is the last time you even looked to see who the publisher was? Opinions welcome!
The document needs to be uploaded to their website in the size in which the paperback will be printed. In other words, 6×9 or 7×10, etc. You will have to either do this manually to your document or download their template and “copy and paste” your document. Then, the new format will need to be uploaded to their website. It’s not super hard, just tedious. One you have it uploaded, it takes 24 hours or so, for the manuscript to be approved. There may be errors that need to be corrected and the Createspace team will alert you to them.
Next step is, once again, previewing. You have the option to order a paper proof of the book or download a PDF. I ordered a paper copy, because, well… FUN!!! I was dying to see my novel in print! It also revealed another issue with the margins. I was able to fix it and submit the final proof to be available for printing. The pricing for your paperback is going to be significantly higher than for your e-book. Paper and ink are more expensive than electrons! I set the price for the e-book at the suggested $2.99 but the suggested paperback price was $11.99!
Ok, Smashwords. Almost done! Smashwords is the site to use for getting your novel onto Apple’s iBooks, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Kobo and other e-book sellers. It also has a similar walkthrough process for uploading your manuscript. The only trouble I’m having is getting my book cover up to the standards for their premium catalogue. (Their premium catalogue takes your e-book beyond just Smashwords’ online store). If anyone has any suggestions here, I’d love to hear from you. They are telling me the image isn’t a high enough quality. I’m not entirely sure what to do. Beyond that, they do some really neat things for their authors.
Once you get into their premium catalogue, they will push your book out to all their e-book retailers as well as list it on their own website. You can participate in an “author interview” in which you select 10 or so questions to answer. It will be added to your author profile on their website. I really want to get this straightened out because I’ve heard Apple is really great about featuring new authors, and especially book series. (That’s me!)
Phew! That’s enough. I hope you hung in there with me! Until next time, when I talk about something personal: the reaction of your friends and family. Adieu!