So, how do I do it??
(I don’t call ’em ‘aspiring authors’, because as far as I’m concerned if you write and you’re researching self-publishing, you already are the real Slim Shady …)
So you’ve got a book, a novella, an anthology or some other wonderful and unique permutation of the written word, and you’ve decided to go indie. Good for you. This means you skidded exuberantly through a first draft, survived the long dark tea time of the soul known as editing, discovered just how bad MS Word spellcheck can be, found beta readers, revised their feedback into your Meisterwerk, edited some more, and you’re getting to the point of wondering WTF comes next.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP for those of us in the biz, is the one that comes immediately to mind. After all, Amazon is well-known, they’re everywhere, and best of all, they make it really easy for novice authors. I’m going to talk about this one first, because it kind of is the shit.
However, don’t forget that there are other options (yes, free to use). I’m also going to talk about Smashwords, Kobo, and Google Play in the subsequent posts. These also all let you get your stuff out there, and take a very small percentage of your book price for it – no up front costs.
Disclaimer – I publish with KDP, among others.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
- Working Internet browser.
- Word processing software, ditto functional.
- Your Amazon user name and password, if you have them (no worries if not, you can set this up as you go).
- Manuscript, ideally in Word .doc / .docx. Make sure it meets the KDP formatting standards. (No, I don’t think you’re an idiot. This is a 101 guide.)
- Your teaser / blurb / back cover text.
- Book cover – for the love of all and any deities, if there’s one thing you’re going to splurge on, splurge on a professional cover. Seriously. Really. Don’t photograph your four-year-old niece’s really cute finger painting and then use MS Paint to stick a title on it. Go and find a good cover artist and get a cover that you can be proud of. Read the KDP cover guidelines.
- I use Joshua Jadon design, because I happen to think the guy’s a genius, but there are much more affordable options out there. Do your research.
- Your bank account details, including the international codes. Probably your bank’s online help will give you this, but if not, give them a call and hold out for a human with a clue.
- Your tax details (Amazon won’t pay you unless they know that you’re either paying tax in the States, or where you are paying it. Go figure). If you aren’t American, or lucky enough to live in a country with a tax relationship with the USA, this bit will get tedious. Fair warning.
- A LOT of patience. Don’t rush this. Don’t hit ‘go’ before your book is set to be the best it can be.
Go and find the KDP site. Your first step will be to create your KDP account. They’ll tell you how to do that in their Help section, so I won’t go into it again here. You’ll need that user name and password, your bank account details, and the tax details for this bit. (Oh, yeah – good luck. This is the most tedious, frustrating bit of the process.)
Once you’ve got your account set up with KDP, you need to click through to your Bookshelf. You’ll be faced with that ‘Create new title’ option. (Also, seriously, go and look at their ‘Getting started’ tips.)
Enter your book details. Hopefully by this point, you know your title, your own name (please don’t tell me if not), and you have some back blurb.
Don’t automatically go with ‘Enroll in Kindle Select’. The pros are that you get some promotional options, and people with Kindle Unlimited can read your stuff for free (yes, you still get paid), and this may make them more likely to take a flyer on you. The big con is…you can’t publish on any other platform while you’re in Kindle Select. Choose wisely.
Work your way through the options – they’ll be different for each book and author.
Pick your two categories. I’d recommend one fairly generic catchall, and one category that’s a little smaller, so you aren’t #3,895,923 in both categories.
Spend a bit of thought on your keywords. These are the opportunity to grab the attention of a wider audience, beyond your categories. Is your work ‘character driven’? Is is a genre crossover with anything? What would you type into the search bar to find your book? Also, clearly, use all seven. It’s free publicity.
Now – upload your cover. Because you weren’t an idiot (right?), you read the cover guidelines and/or used a professional cover designer, and it meets the file type and formatting standards. Now you get to look at it, looking all official in your set up page.
I would stop right here and spend a moment gloating. Think of it as a reward for slogging through the mire of bank account and tax set up.
Next is the big bit. Now you upload your beautiful, formatted manuscript, complete with table of contents, copyright wording, the flowery dedication to the corner pub for the inspiration, your local café for letting you write all afternoon for one cup of coffee, your Great Aunt Mae for being your beta reader, etc., etc. If you did your homework, and read the formatting instructions, and did a reasonable job on the editing (don’t skip editing. First, it makes you look like a cretin, and second, Amazon is bringing in the option for people to flag your book if it reads as if you just graduated elementary school), then it should upload nicely.
Now – preview your book. Yeah, we know, you spent all that time formatting it, and getting the table of contents just right was murder. Suck it up, princess. This is actually another gloatable moment, because…there’s your book, right there, looking like a real ebook. Flick through and make sure everything looks the way you thought it was going to look.
Now you get to click ‘Save and continue’.
Next page sets up your royalties and pricing.
Basically, Amazon lets you set up shop on their site for free. They make their money (as do you) when you sell a book. They charge you an amount from your book price based on some alchemy around storing and transferring your book file to the reader. All the rest is yours. Not a bad deal, compared to the pittance a traditional publisher will give you when they sell a copy of your book.
Pick your book price. Oddly enough, cheaper isn’t always better. (Yes, I am going to stand this up with some sources – patience, grasshopper.) For an average novel length (75K – 150k words, let’s say), the recommended price point for sales versus being taken seriously tends to be about $2.99 – $3.99 USD for most genres.
Who died and made me God? Here’s some articles on book pricing you can check out.
- How to price an eBook, Mill City Press
- The definitive guide to pricing your book, Wise Ink Blog
- How to set the right price for your self-published book, MediaShift
Then set up your royalties. I go for 70%, because eh, why not, but where you live, whether or not you enrolled in Kindle Select, etc., will all impact your options here. You can also decide if you’ll give people who buy your print book a free ebook version (assuming you do decide to go with a print copy).
Now…hit ‘Save and Publish’.
Congratulations, you’re a published author!
You can add it to your resumé. Actually, I recommend adding it to your resumé. And your LinkedIn. And tell your friends. Not to mention, Tweet all about it, and make a snazzy Instagram image or Pin it on Pinterest (I like Pablo by Buffer for creating nice images for Tweeting, Pinning, etc.), or whatever your social media vices of choice are. After all, no one will know about your book unless you tell them about it.