Tag Archives: self-publishing

Quick Guide to eBook Publishing with Amazon KDP – Part 5

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This is the last in a series of five posts designed to help you if you’re publishing your first eBook with Amazon KDP. It aims to give you a few hints and tips as well as some links to other sources of help. If you’ve just stumbled upon this post today, you can catch up with all the previous parts using these links:

Now we’re at the final stage:

Part 5: Marketing your eBook

Actually, it’s a bit misleading to say this is the final part, as the promotion and marketing process should really be on your mind from the moment you have the idea for the book. But I’ve left it until last in this series as, if this is your first eBook, getting the darn thing written and formatted is daunting enough.

One of the hardest things about self-publishing is the fact that you have to learn to wear a lot of different hats. Yes, you’re a writer, but you’re also a copyeditor, proofreader and cover designer. You’ve had to learn how to deal with the technical aspects of eBook creation. Now you also have to become the Marketing Department for your writing business. If you’ve been able to develop some or all of these skills in other roles prior to embarking on your writing career, then you’ll have a head start. For most of us though, not all the skills in the self-publishers toolkit will come naturally. If you’re a creative writer and a dreamer, if you like to spend vast amounts of time in your own head with just your characters for company, chances are you’re not going to be the sort of person who enjoys public speaking or self-promotion. So yes, marketing your book can be hard – but you’re a creative person (you must be, else you wouldn’t have written a book in the first place) so you should be able to come up with a strategy which suits both your book and your personality.

Fortunately there are loads of great resources out there for self-published authors. For instance, you can try Mark Dawsons’s Self Publishing Formula  or Joanna Penn’s site The Creative Penn. Both contain free resources as well as their own books and courses, and links to other useful sites. There are also loads of great articles in print magazines such as Writers’ Forum and Writing.

Read as much as you can about marketing and promotional strategies for eBooks, but don’t get carried away – keep in mind all the time what you are trying to achieve. Your eBook is available – what you want to do is let people who might be interested know how they can find it. There are lots of ways to go about this, including:

  • Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. are great ways to reach a fairly wide range of people relatively quickly and easily. But there is so much promotional activity on the internet that you have to have an integrated approach to publicizing yourself and your book. Ramming it down people’s throats by repeated posting “BUY MY BOOK!” is not the way to go. Yes, you need to run a few ads, but more importantly, you need to get involved in discussions, and engage with people about topics relevant to your book. Make online friends. Treat social media in the same way you would any other social interaction. You’re aiming to raise awareness and generate interest in your writing – you do this by building an online presence, and developing relationships.
  • Telling all your friends! It can seem incredibly embarrassing to talk about your writing with people you know (the non-writing people that is!). It’s difficult to work into conversation, and we Brits find it particularly tricky to talk about our own achievements. I always think of the bit in Blackadder Goes Forth when George says “Well you know, one doesn’t want to blow one’s own trumpet,” and Blackadder says, “You might at least have told us you had a trumpet!” That seems so true when people you know well say things like, “Oh, I didn’t know you write!” And you’re then embarrassed that you didn’t say something before. You’ll also be amazed when the people you least expected to be interested in your writing are the ones who end up being your biggest fans! Incidentally, you’ll probably know lots of people who don’t have a Kindle, but you can tell them how to download the app for their phone or laptop so they can be part of the eBook experience.
  • Sending press-releases to local newspapers (I’ve sent out a couple of press releases, and they were used – local papers are desperate for copy!). Though I’m not wholly convinced that this does generate any additional sales, it can lead to other opportunities, and does raise your profile as a writer.
  • Blogging about your writing (or chosen specialised subject if you write non-fiction). Or getting other people to blog about it! Or commenting on other people’s blogs… Or going on a blog tour…
  • Giving talks to writing groups or other interested parties. Or taking part in an event at a local library, bookshop, or other local community activity.
  • Paid advertising on Facebook/Amazon etc.
  • Building a mailing list.

Whatever you decide to do, remember to keep it up. Maintain that social media presence. Attend those events. Keep talking to your readers.

So, that’s my quick guide in a nutshell. To sum up, it is possible, if you do your own cover design using your own images, to create an eBook with absolutely no outlay, but if you want professional help, be prepared to spend money on cover creation, editing and proofreading, and marketing and promotion. Be realistic about how much you can afford to spend given your likely earnings – eBooks are not a get-rich-quick scheme.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, and picked up a few tips on the way. If you’re about to have a go at creating your first eBook, I’d love to hear how you get on.

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Quick Guide to eBook Publishing with Amazon KDP – Part 4

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If you’re publishing your first eBook with Amazon KDP, this five part series is designed to give you a few hints and tips, as well as some links to other sources of help. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here, Part 2 is here, and Part 3 is here.

Part 4: Uploading your eBook to Amazon KDP

OK, so you now have your perfected manuscript correctly formatted, and your super front cover which looks good not only in full size, but also as a thumbnail. Now comes the exciting part – uploading it all to KDP.

First, you need to go to https://kdp.amazon.com/ (There’s a cute little video on this page which tells you all about publishing via KDP.) If you already have an Amazon account, you should be able to create a KDP account and sign in with your usual details. This then takes you to a page with tabs for “Bookshelf”, “Reports”, “Community” and “KDP Select”.

The “Bookshelf” is where you create your new eBook, and where the information for this book is then stored. In the future, as you write and upload more books, you’ll add to your Bookshelf.

Before you go any further, I recommend you buy a copy of Sally Jenkins’ eBook Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners – it’s £1.99 and will take you through the process step by step. I found it incredibly helpful for my first eBook. Without Sally’s straightforward explanations, I would probably have wasted hours trying to work it all out for myself, particularly the financial aspects which you need to complete in detail for the first upload. (This includes your author/publisher information, and payment, banking and tax details so that Amazon can pay you any royalty monies owing – these are paid two months in arrears.) Subsequent eBooks are always more straightforward since you don’t have to complete all this information afresh each time.

Briefly then, in your “Bookshelf” you click to create a new eBook title. You then need to fill in all the details for the book, including the language it’s written in, the title, author etc. Next you’ll be asked to provide the book’s description – the blurb which will appear on the book’s Amazon page. This is really important and you need to take time to create something which will engage a potential reader’s attention, and make them want to click and download your book. This is surprisingly tricky, and it’s probably best to draft it offline and cut and paste it into the description box.

Next come the keywords and categories. These are also extremely important to enable potential readers to search for and find your book from the kazillions which are now available. You can have up to seven key words or phrases – and it’s important to spend time thinking about these. Put yourself in the mind of a potential reader. Imagine how you would search for a book. Think about what you would type into the search bar. Try searching for other similar books to yours.

You’ll be asked to select two categories in which you wish your eBook to be displayed. Think of these as akin to the areas or shelves in a physical bookshop where your book should be found. Try to be as specific as Amazon’s sub-sections will allow. (This is easier if your book falls into a clearly defined genre.)

Next you need to upload the manuscript file and the cover. When you upload the text, the upload process will check for spelling errors and inform you if it thinks there’s something wrong – you can then check and either amend or choose to ignore the issues raised. (I assume fantasy books always generate lots of “errors” as they are more likely to contain names or words which Amazon’s text checker will not recognise.)

At this stage you can use the previewer to check how your eBook will appear in an e-reader. It’s amazing how the odd formatting problem may still appear. If this happens, go back and amend your manuscript file, and upload again.

One of the important things you have to decide is whether or not you tick to join “KDP Select”. The plus side of Select is that anyone who is a member of Kindle Unlimited can download and read your eBook for free, and you’ll receive a (tiny) income per page read, and (arguably of more benefit) you may gain more reviews from this wider readership. The downside to Select is that it demands you publish exclusively with Amazon. This means you cannot market your book through Kobo or any other platform. If you tick to join Select, this is for a 90 day period. Once the 90 days is up, you can review the situation and decide if you’d like to continue.

Whether you decide to stick with Select or not, you need to choose your royalty plan and set up your pricing strategy. You will be asked to choose your primary marketplace (for me, this is Amazon.co.uk), set the price for this marketplace and then Amazon will automatically generate the prices for the other territories.

Now comes the exciting moment when you hit the button: Publish Your Kindle eBook. Whoop! Amazon says it can take up to 72 hours for your book to go live, but usually it’s much quicker than this. You will receive an email when the process is complete.

So there you go – now you’re a published author! But don’t go thinking your work is done. Read the final part of this series next week to find out what you should be doing post-publication.

Quick Guide to eBook Publishing with Amazon KDP – Part 2

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This quick guide is a five part series to help you if you’re publishing your first eBook with Amazon KDP. If you missed Part 1, you can pop back to read it here. Part 2 is below:

Part 2: Formatting

Once you are happy that your eBook manuscript is complete and error-free, you need to turn your attention to formatting. I’m not going to go into the mechanics of this in great detail as Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, has written a free style guide which is available for your Kindle or as a PDF here. I would thoroughly recommend that you get hold of a copy of this book as it’s comprehensive and will really help with your first time formatting.

Briefly, the idea is that you strip out any of the usual formatting used by your word processing software – and for the sake of argument, I’ll assume you’re using Word to create your eBook. You might not have thought much about the standard built-in formatting, as Word tends to use it without you really noticing, but when you’re attempting to format text for an eBook it can cause some real problems. For instance, if you are writing fiction, it’s usual to indent the first line of each new paragraph (the exception being the first paragraph at the beginning of a new chapter, or after a scene break – if you want to check this, take a look at any traditionally published novel to see how they’ve done it). Most of us use the “Tab” key on our keyboards to create this indent. When formatting your manuscript for upload, you need to get rid of any Tab-key indents, or additional Spacebar spaces, or Return-key line spaces and instead use the “Styles” menu in Word to add specific styles to your manuscript. You’ll need a standard paragraph style, as well as at least one heading style for chapter titles etc. The Smashwords guide will give you more detail (in fact, it will give you too much detail – but you can select the useful bits depending on your specific project).

One of the most important things to understand at the outset is that you are not formatting a book in the way you would for print. There is no such thing as a page. Anyone reading your eBook can do so on an e-reader, or their phone, or their tablet, or their PC. As a result, every “page” will be different according to the size of font, screen etc. This means that you are attempting to create a seamless stream of text which can accommodate any size of screen. You can use page breaks so that a new chapter shows clearly after a break, but it is extremely difficult to deal with something which needs specific formatting, such as poetry.

Another really useful thing explained in Mark Coker’s eBook is the use of hyperlinks. These are links within the text which allow the reader to navigate through the book. For instance, if your eBook is a collection of short stories, you can use hyperlinks to enable your readers to click on a story title in the contents page and go straight to that story rather than having to read every story from the beginning of the book to the end. You can also use hyperlinks at the end of every story to enable the reader to go straight back to the contents page. This is also useful in a non-fiction eBook which may not necessarily be read in a linear fashion – hyperlinks mean the reader can select the next topic they are interested in without having to scroll through large chunks of text.

Once you’ve formatted your text, email it to your Kindle, and check that the text, chapter headings and page breaks look correct, and that any internal hyperlinks work. You will usually find a heading which has centred when you wanted it left justified, or vice versa, or a random space generated by an undetected return-key! Go back and amend the original document, and email it to your Kindle again. Complete until the text looks exactly as you want it, and now you have a correctly formatted version of the contents of your eBook.

Next week in Part 3 I’ll talk about another very important step in the eBook creation process…

Platforms for Publishing your ebook: To Select or Go Wide

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In my last blog post about smartphones I mentioned I was now hooked on podcasts – in particular I’ve been listening to The Creative Penn, The Book Marketing Show, and the Smart Author podcast. Listening to a writing-related podcast at the same time as doing everyday chores is great because at least I feel like I’m learning something new about the indie-author world, and making a positive impact on my own writing, even when I’m not able to be at my desk. It’s also really inspiring to listen to the experiences of other writers – especially those who’ve had lots of false starts or disappointments in their careers, but have ultimately been very successful.

One of the topics I’ve been thinking about as a result of this is whether or not I should continue to stay in KDP Select, and thus stick exclusively with Amazon for my eBooks, or whether I should consider striking out to Kobo, B&N Nook, Apple iBooks, etc.

There’s no doubting that Amazon is currently the major player in the eBook market, and it’s difficult to imagine a future in which this is not the case. As a newbie to self-publishing last year, it seemed entirely sensible to trial my initial ebook upload through KDP, and having done that, it also seemed sensible to maximise my potential readers by clicking to join KDP Select. Now though, with a couple of ebooks under my belt, I’m considering my longer term strategy.

The ebooks I’ve published to date, The Camel in the Garden and Beyond Words are both short story collections, but I’m currently working on a non-fiction project. One of the reasons I’d like to consider cross-platform publishing for this project is to enable it to be borrowed via public libraries (though applications such as OverDrive). I’m also coming around to the view that the all-eggs-in-one-basket approach may not be sensible in the long run – especially when the basket it owned by such a huge, powerful organisation. In order for us as indie-authors to have choice in the way we self-publish, alternative platforms have to exist – and in order for them to exist, they need authors and customers.

So at the moment, I am exploring Smashwords and Draft2Digital and learning as much as I can about opportunities to publish across multiple platforms. I’d be really interested to hear any other self-published authors’ experiences of and opinions on either staying with KDP Select, or using a multi-platform approach. And if you’ve come out of KDP Select in order to “go wide”, please comment below to let us know how you go on.

 

Author (R)evolution Day

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Today is Author (R)evolution Day in New York City – a conference about writing in the digital age, and all things “e”.  Amongst other things, they’ll be discussing intellectual copyright, revenue streams, self-publishing, publicity and sales.  If you’re interested in online promotion and digital distribution, might be worth taking a look, and keeping an eye out for follow-up info.

http://www.toccon.com/toc2013/public/content/author-revolution-day