Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Gonzo Guide to Publishing to Kindle

The first thing you need is an Amazon account. I just mean the bog standard buying stuff from Amazon type. I assume you've got one? Assuming that you have, go to https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin and log in as you would normally to your Amazon a/c. I wasn't publishing under the same name on my Amazon a/c which caused me some problems, but if the Amazon a./c is the same as your writing name there won't be any problems.

Logging in brings up a screen which looks like this (although without the book titles obviously, since it's my screen!)

You'd click on Add New Title bottom left. You get what's shown here -

This is a 2-page screen from which you will enter everything necessary to publish your book, from the text itself, the cover design, through to the blurb and the price. it is fairly self-explanatory and if you have all your materials ready, takes no more than an hour. Then you wait about 24 hours and hey presto your book is live and available to buy. The first thing on this page is about whether to opt into KDP Select which I'll leave until the end as it's probably the most confusing, though ultimately it's only about marketing.

Step 1 - Title. Make sure you type exactly what the title is and that this matches the title as it appears on your cover. This is what will appear in all the search engines and Amazons own listings. Is it part of a series? Just tick if it is and give the series name.

The next two are optional and likely to be left blank as you are self-publishing.

Then comes Description. this is vital, cos it's the blurb that's going to appear to sell the book on your Amazon page. If you've got a print copy too, the two blurbs should probably be the same. Draft it out properly before you sit down to upload your book on kindle, otherwise it will hold things up.

Book Contributors - Anyone with a role in your book that you want to credit. Cover Designer is a usual one. If you've got illustrations inside the book, then you ought to credit whoever did those.

ISBN - Amazon Kindle generates its own number which is not an ISBN, but rather one from its own system of classification. But if you're doing a print version, you'll have an ISBN number which would be entered here. But then that means you'll have to wait for the print version to be ready before you can upload to Kindle. Maybe just consider leaving it blank if you're keen to get the book out and re-edit these Amazon details when the print version is out.

Step 2- Verify your publishing rights. Tick this is not a public domain work. If you're not sure what this means, click on the blue "what is this" hyperlink. These hyperlinks are very helpful on the amazon kindle site.

Step 3 - Target your book:
Add catergories - you get 2 of these. One is fiction, don't use a second unless it's a really appropriate fit.

Labels or tags. You get 7. Think SEO (search engine optimisation) and Amazon's own way of dividing the millions of titles they have from one another. Genre is important. Horror? Fantasy? It can be both. Then you've got 5 others. Any sub-genre? Is it a serial killer, or humour, or historical? You can say novel. You could even say Mongolia if that's where it's set and it's important to the book. When the book is finally published, check these tags are on your book's page, sometimes they fail to show up. Readers are encouraged to add labels or agree with yours. The genre labels are important for getting in the right charts.
* I haven't uploaded a book since Amazon said they were doing away with tags, so I'm not too sure about the status of this stage of the publishing process. 

Step 4. Upload your book cover. You must have a high-res thumbnail JPEG design for the cover. You don't need a back cover or a spine like you would for a print version. Simply click Browse For Image and from there click on your JPEG of the cover.

Step 5 Upload your book File. Before you upload, you have to choose whether to enable digital rights management. It's about the rights of your book when it comes to lending. Read their hyperlink guide to make up your own mind.

And now we come to the book upload. You have to have the formatting all sorted before uploading, otherwise it gets very tedious and time consuming.

I assume your book is in Word format.
  • Kindle will translate the basic html behind bold, italics, underlining, strike through so these are fine.
  • You can indent lines to open paragraphs. But do not use spaces between paragraphs, indent instead to distinguish a new paragraph (as with print books - take a look).
  • Do not under any circumstances use tabs, kindle will screw them up.
  • Don't do fancy fonts - Times New Roman 11 or 12 point is advised. Chapter headings can be larger, size 14. But remember the reader determines font size not you. You upload a very basic, stripped down format and the kindle software transforms it into the size-flexible text that appears on screen.
  • No page numbers on your document, because the pages will vary according to the text size the reader opts for.
  • Don't right Justify either for the same reason.

So if you're confident that any stylistic flourishes have been removed from your Word document, that you have every one of the extra page bits you need, like contents (if required), acknowledgements, dedication, index, any of these you deem necessary all in the same document and in the right order, you convert it into HTML code. The simple way to do this on a Mac is simply to save the Word document as a Web page - I assume it's similar on a PC. What you'll get then is a continuous version of your book, (a file called MyNovel.html) and this is what you'll upload to Kindle and which kindle will convert into it's own programme. You might just want to check through this to make sure there's no odd looking spacings or weird looking bits where you hadn't stripped out the formatting in your original Word version, and which comes through once converted into html.

Click browse for book and then click on your html version of the book. Then click upload. You have to sit back while this happens, the time depends on the length of the book, but it's not too bad. While it's doing this, it offers you to continue on to page 2 of the process which is all about pricing and stuff. But when your book has finished uploading, you MUST MUST MUST view it in the preview option - either on screen or you can download it to a kindle-compatible viewer on your PC, like Calibre. You have to check through every page, because this is what will be available to the reader. You need to ensure the spacing in particular hasn't done anything odd. If it is, then you have to go back to your Word version, fix it there and then save it anew in HTML and reload the new HTML version. This is where it gets really tedious, so try and avoid it by having the formatting right in Word. It took me 3 flipping months with my debut novel to sort, but that's because my Word version was cobbled together from different versions of the book over the 9 years it took to complete it. All my books since then have been straight forward in this respect.

If you get in a tangle, the Amazon Kindle forums are pretty good for asking a technical question and getting an answer.

Page 2 is about pricing in different countries, whether you opt for 35% or 70% royalty and make sure you have your bank details that you want the money paid into, unless you prefer them to send a cheque.

Royalty statements are viewable at any time on your Kindle account screen see below- just hit reports tab.

Royalties are paid 3 monthly, except from the US - you have to have $100 worth of royalties before they send you a cheque.
* I have heard that Amazon.com is willing to pay direct into UK banks, so this threshold may not remain in place. However, I haven't looked into this yet myself.

Right, back to the opening question, whether to join KDP select or not. This is a service whereby you can promote your book with up to 5 days of free give aways (taken all at once or individually) and you get enrolled into a Kindle lending library. There are other benefits, you can gift copies of your book to reviewers. You have to decide if you want to do this or not. I've done it only for one of my books and that was for a global flash fiction promotion I was part of, otherwise I wouldn't have. I've blogged about my experience of promoting with free giveaways here: I don't think it works, but it does depend on the genre of the book. People find they get in the top 10 "Free Chart" for their genre on such giveaway days, but it doesn't last. If you do it, make sure you image capture the chart with your book in it! And when you hit publish, that's it. 24 hours or so later you're book will be out & available to buy. Although there's often a further lag before people actually can buy it, so don't start telling your mates until you're sure it's actually there to buy. There are periods when Amazon is doing spring cleaning where the publishing thing takes 48 hours.


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