Sunday, 24 July 2011

First Catch Your Hare...


A basic introduction to publishing for Kindle Ebook Readers.
Ebooks published for Kindle can also be read on PC, Mac,
iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone and Android using the FREE
Kindle App provided by Amazon.


First write your book.

Now rewrite it thirty-five times, get everyone you know to read it and tell you what's wrong with it, and rewrite it another thirty-five times. Done that? Congratulations, you're now ready to publish it as an ebook.

Except you're not. Now you have to make sure you format it perfectly and save it as a Word document. Ideally, start writing it as a Word document in the first place - this will save a lot of trouble if you want to publish with Smashwords. For our purposes though, we're concentrating on publishing with Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing.

KDP gives you several choices for uploading your book but here I'm outlining the simplest method, which is to use a Word .doc file. Not .docx or .rtf or .pdf or any other fancy suffix but plain old dot doc. If you don't have a copy of Word you can download the free Open Office Suite, and use that (saving as a Word doc).

Format your document using single spacing and a 12pt font size (the conversion process changes everything to Times New Roman so don't faff about with fancy fonts). Don't use a font size larger than 16pt for headings or anything else as it could screw up your formatting.

Indent your paragraphs (and be aware that unless you do some intricate formatting ALL paragraphs, including the first ones of a chapter or section, will be indented automatically in the conversion process. We're not going to worry about that. We're concentrating here on the simplest method of publishing. If you really want to, you can make the first letter of each chapter slightly larger (16pt max) or Bold to give it a more pleasing look. Don't waste your time on Drop Caps or Small Caps - they will be savagely eliminated!

At the end of each chapter hit the return key and then insert a page break (Ctrl + Rtn is the simplest way). If you have section breaks in your text, leave a ONE line space. You may put a tilde (~) or a couple of asterisks (**) on this line to show there is a break and to ensure the gap is not removed in the conversion process. Don't put line spaces before and after the line with the tilde or asterisks on it - just have the ONE line.

So, you've got your .doc file, you've spell-checked it, of course, and you've perused it to make sure your paragraphs are where they're supposed to be and not tacked onto the end of the previous one, and you've checked there are no odd symbols lurking anywhere. Excellent!

But what about a book cover? Amazon will provide a generic cover if you don't have one, but it is a far far better thing to have your own distinctive cover for your book. You can use a photograph or other image you own, or buy one cheaply from a stock photo site, and place your title and name over it so that they show clearly at thumbnail size. It will need to be a .jpeg (.jpg) file of no less than 800px by 1200px, portrait oriented. You can insert it into your .doc file at the beginning or simply upload it separately. If you insert it, make sure it's centred (right click on the image, select 'alignment', then 'centred'). Ideally, put a Return before and after your image. It's also a good idea to put the usual copyright statement, along with publication details, at the beginning of your book after the image but before the title page.

Now for the actual publishing. You will need to create a KDP account. If you already have an Amazon account you can use this to set up your publishing account and sign in with your usual password. Go to Amazon KDP and follow the instructions for setting up a new account.

Once your account is set up you're ready to upload. First you fill in your details - these are self-explanatory - title, author, price etc. You don't need an ISBN number but if you want to use one it will need to be brand new and not one used for a previously published version of your book. Neilson provide these for the UK and Bowker for the USA.

Don't forget to add some tags so your book can be found, eg: novel, crime, fantasy, romance or whatever. As for Digital Rights Management (DRM) the word on the e-street is to uncheck this as the supposed pros (prevents your book being copied) are outweighed by the cons (causes bugs, some apps don't like it, doesn't actually prevent copying, etc).

You'll need to decide on a price for your ebook - 99 cents is the lowest price that can be set. Prices for UK ebooks can either be set independently or allowed to fluctuate with the exchange rate based on the US price. There is no initial charge for publishing with KDP but Amazon will take a cut from each book sold. For books costing between .99c and $2.99 you will receive 35% of the cost; for books over $2.99 you get 70%. There is considerable debate on the KDP forums as to what the best price to set is. Some say Pile 'em High and sell 'em Cheap; others think writers should get a fair price for their work. Ultimately, it's up to the individual - experiment to see what works best for you. The price can be changed whenever you want. Incidentally, you cannot offer a free ebook at Amazon unless you first offer it free elsewhere and tell them about it.

So, now you upload your .doc file and your cover .jpg in the appropriate places, let it do it's whirly uploading thing, fill out the rest of the details (you'll need your bank account number and, if you live in the US, tax details), hit the publish button, and sit back and wait for a couple of days until it goes live.

While you're waiting you can check your book using the KDP small and awkward book checking widget on the publishing page. This will not show margins (even though they will be there in the ebook) and is fiddly to use but will give you an idea of how your book looks. If you spot any errors, put them right in your Word .doc and upload again. Once your book goes live Amazon will email you and you can then buy, yes that's right, BUY your book (you don't get a free copy, but hey, it's your first sale) to give it a proper check. Again, if you spot mistakes, put them right and reupload.

And that's it! From now on you will spend large parts of each day checking your sales until you drive yourself distracted.

For a slightly more sophisticated document format you can download mobi pocket converter and build your book with that - but that's a whole other process and will have to wait for the next blog.



Barbara Scott Emmett said...

Some of the info here is out of date now - but the basics still apply!

Kindle Self Publish said...

Great post. EBooks have changed the publishing world, and now offer you new options to publish. Of course, you can still go the traditional route to get a book published as a hardback or paperback, as well as in electronic form.