Where do we begin?
Kindle. Self publishing. Amazon.
These are things I had zero knowledge about, a little more than a year ago, before I decided to take the plunge and self publish two of my short stories. I hemmed and hawed, found excuses not to, and distracted myself from actually considering self publishing my work.
Well, stigma for one. I mean, come on, they aren’t books…well, not real books, anyway. Also, I didn’t know what to do. How to do it. Well, I wanted to share with you some of my experience with Kindle and self publishing so far.
First thing I did? I bought a kindle. I wanted to see it, to know how other books looked when read on one of these devices. (Especially maps, which are key for fantasy, and are horrible on an eReader.) I took it with me everywhere, stocking up on deals, some free stuff, and of course a few classics. I wanted to see how my own stuff would look, would feel in my hand. There’s a great program called Calibre you can use to access your Kindle and put your own books on it. Calibre isn’t used when publishing on Kindle, but it’ll help get you thinking about eBook formats, as well as the metadata your going to use.
Hang on. Back up a step.
Before we get too far, I should make something clear. I love books. Real books. I have shelves full of the little things. I’m one of those weirdos who fans a book and smells the pages. Digital formats will never take out real paper and ink. Ever. Alright? Alright.
So, without further ado, here’s what I had to do.
You’ve heard it before.
Write. And then write some more. Even though you’re going to self publish, that doesn’t mean you’re not going to be critiqued and judged by your readers. Make it as good as possible, as good as you would if you were submitting it to an agent. (Because, in the end, you kind of are.) An agent wouldn’t let you get through the door with a bad or sloppy story. Don’t let yourself do it either. (Trust me, I’ve learnt this the hard way. Embarrassing, but don’t let a few typos stop you. Ever.)
Next. Edit, and re-write. Edit again. Get some friends to read your work, though choose an honest friend who will tell you if it sucks. (Or, just bite the bullet and hire someone. I didn’t do this, maybe I should have.) We good? Good. You’ve got a story in hand, which you probably did a second ago, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again.
Here is a link to KDP’s guide for the formats they accept. This is another thing to pay attention to. Your formatting may or may not get through to the final version. In all seriousness, just use a good old fashioned .doc file. (The graphic designer in me cringes at saying those words, but in this case it applies.) If you’ve got pictures….eh…they’re probably not going to look to great across all devices anyway, so pay special attention to what these pictures are doing.
This is probably a good place to mention your table of contents (TOC). Research this as well, if you want one and have a book big enough to warrant it. Here’s a link that may help.
Get a kindle account. An Amazon account. It’s called Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and it’s pretty slick. If you already have an Amazon account, great. It’ll link up with it.
Alright, first thing, don’t panic. You have to fill out some payment info/tax form stuff. Take this seriously. While Createspace doesn’t mesh perfectly with Canadians (yet), KDP is cool with us. KDP pays direct deposit, so pay attention to all that info and those numbers. There will be a withholding rate, usually 30%. It sucks, but come on, you don’t have to pay a monthly fee, you pay by sale. There’s some info on it here if you want. Fill in your info, stare in shock at the percentage you’re going to lose, and then click save and get to the publishing bit.
Get a cover. A good cover. A great cover. Get what you want, something you can stand behind. Pay a designer to do it, spend the cash and have it done right. (If you do, let your designer know what it is for, say to them it is to be publish on Kindle, and give your designer this link.) It has to look good in colour, and in black and white, because people used different eReaders. It has to look good on a computer screen, and also in a small, dingy, grey and off-white thumbnail.
Give your designer the dimensions for the end product, designers need that info. If you don’t, don’t go whining when Kindle scales your once-perfect artwork because you gave a cover made incorrectly. I am serious about this, don’t screw your designer.
Give them as much info as possible. Always.
Alright. You’ve got it. A near perfect word document. You’ve got a kick ass cover. You’ve had some close friends, and some not-so-close friends, read you work. You’ve tweaked and edited and you’re really, really frustrated wondering if this is even going to do anything.
It’ll be great.
I’m not going to get into detail here about the forms and fields on the KDP site. They’re easy enough to understand, and there are hints along the way, as well as many other sites on the specifics. I will say you need to pay attention to your categories, of which you get to choose 2, and your keywords, of which you get to add 7. These will help you get found amidst all the other books.
Your book description will be entered here as well. This, of course, is important. You’ve written your book, your story, your tale, but now you have to write the copy that makes or breaks a sale. The pitch, those faded words on the back of the worn dust jacket. Stop here and go to your bookshelf. Pick your favourite book. Read the back. Pick another. And another. Mimic parts of those, make it your own. This might be the hardest part. Wash you face, have a sandwich. Write your description. Your pitch. Whatever you want to call it.
Step Four and a Half
Pricing. Choose how much you want to charge for your masterpiece, anywhere from $.99 and up. Amazon takes more of a percentage if you charge between $.99 and $2.99, and you get more if the book is $2.99 or higher. Take a look at what other books are going for, and once more, keep doing research. Don’t sell yourself short. You can choose different amounts for different countries, but the default is to base your pricing on the US dollar.
Once this is set, you’re ready to click that publish button. Good luck.
Unfortunately, you’re nowhere near being done. Now you have to promote your book, tell people about it, get it out there. Get reviews, honest and good reviews. When people, and by people I mean strangers, make suggestions take it seriously. Not that you want to change anything drastically, but you can always re-upload your word file on top of your previous fie and Amazon will update it.
Review other writer’s works, and get connected. This is all stuff you can do long before you publishing yourself, and you can still do it after.
I am sure that I’ve miss one or two (or a dozen) things here. Much of this I have learnt the hard way, and am still learning now. In the end, a good tale is a good tale. When you done, and your book is on kindle and you’re wondering what comes next…write some more.
Do it all again. And do it better.