Friday, June 28, 2013

Writing and Selling an eBook With Kindle Direct Publishing

By Michael S Mitchell
The traditional route to getting published was to create your book, and then find an agent to work with you, who will finally get a publisher interested enough to publish it. The problem with all this is that your chances of landing an agent these days are remote, and even if you do, they may not be able to get a publisher for you. Both agents and publishers are inundated with unsolicited proposals and manuscripts, and they therefore reject nearly everything. If you haven't put much effort into your book, then this is fair treatment, for example if it's full of spelling errors. But we'll assume that you have worked hard, and in your opinion, and maybe that of your friends, it's ready to publish.
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. However, if you just want to get to market as fast as possible, you can publish electronically yourself, at no cost, and without an agent or publisher in sight.
There are several eBook readers, but Kindle is the reader we're focusing on here. It's the best selling product on Amazon, and it looks set to dominate the market. But the principles are the same for other readers.
Putting it all together for publication
Writing your book for electronic publication is no different than for paper form. For example, a novel needs an effective plot and characters that the reader can recognise. A non-fiction 'How-to' book needs to be laid out in a way that readers can easily follow, with images as appropriate.
The first 10% of your eBook will be viewable on the Amazon site, as a sample, so make sure this is especially good, and tempts the reader to want to read more. In a novel, it's good to have some mystery in here, which the reader will want to unravel. In non-fiction, make sure you have a good topic early on, and in the TOC indicate some other tempting topics later in the book.
If you have it, use Microsoft Word, as this is the easiest to convert later to Kindle's format. But you can certainly write with other software. If you don't have a good word processor already, you can download a superb free one from OpenOffice.org (and get a free spreadsheet and other software with it).
You'll need to design a cover page at some point. If you were going the traditional route, the publisher would do this, but now it is you who are the publisher! There are free images that you can use for this at publicdomainpictures.net or you can take your own photos. Use Paint or similar programs to create an overall image about 600 wide by 900 high, pasting in any pictures you have, and finally putting your title and author name on there.
You'll also need what Amazon calls the 'product description'. Amazon say: "Write a compelling description of the book. The description of your book gives customers an opportunity to learn about your book before they make a purchase, so this is an opportunity to convince readers to buy your book." This is yet another task usually done by the publisher, and is what goes on the back cover. The ideal length is about 100 to 140 words. Not too short, as the reader won't feel they know enough to make a purchase. And not too long to be boring!
Amazon also recommends that you include a Table of Contents at the front of the book, after the Title page and copyright wording. For non-fiction this is usually straightforward, but novels often only have chapter numbers without titles. So consider splitting your novel into 4 to 8 major parts or sections, with titles, to make the TOC look good. NOTE: use the built-in TOC facility in the word processor - don't type your own, as it won't work in Kindle.
If you have kept things straightforward in your Word document, than that can be uploaded directly as your manuscript, and Amazon will automatically convert it to Kindle format. However, if it is at all complicated, or you want to monitor the whole process, you can convert it yourself, step by step as follows:
  • In Word 2003 or later save the document as Web Page Filtered. (If you have Word 2000, you can download free the 'Office 2000 HTML Filter 2.0' from Microsoft's site, and install it. Then in Word you can use File-ExportTo-CompactHtml

  • Next you need to download free software called MobiPocket Creator from MobiPocket.com, and use this to convert the HTML file to the upload format 'PRC'.

  • Yet another free download (from Amazon) is the Kindle Previewer. This lets you view the PRC file exactly as a Kindle would.
So now you are ready to publish.
Becoming a Publisher on 'Kindle Direct Publishing'
You should have your cover image ready to upload, as well as your 'product description' ready to copy and paste, and your manuscript either in Word or PRC format.
Your first step in publishing is to get an account at Amazon.com, if you don't already have one. Then you need to register as a 'publisher' with Kindle Direct Publishing at kdp.amazon.com. You can use your own name as the publisher, unless you've set up a company for this purpose. You can choose to publish to the Amazon.com site of course, but also in the UK, Germany, Canada, India, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and Brazil. You'll need to set up how you want to be paid your royalty, either by bank transfer or by check.
Now you are a publisher!
Publishing your eBook
Now it's time to actually publish your first book. So in your home page in KDP, you click the button 'add a new title'.
After that, you follow the guide to upload your manuscript, cover page and to past in the product description.
There are some other things they'll ask you, as follows:
  • What commission do you want? 35% or 70%? This sounds like a no-brainer, but if you go for 70%, your minimum selling price has to be $2.99. As a new author, you might want to sell at 99c, in which case you have to settle for 35% Of course, if suddenly you become very popular, you can raise the price later. But it has to be said that most of the best-selling 'Indie' books (from independent authors) are priced at 99c

  • So choose your price. You can set prices too for the UK and German sites if you wish to sell there.

  • Confirm that you own the copyright.

  • Digital Rights Management. Yes or no? Basically do you want to restrict people from copying your eBook or not. It's your choice.
Finally, you 'Save and Publish', and that's it. In about 24 hours, your book will be on sale on the Amazon site. And if you're lucky, it might get featured on their special section Amazon.com/kindleindiebooks.
Otherwise, any publicity is up to you. Tell friends, use Facebook or whatever you can.
And the best of luck as an author and publisher!
Copyright Michael S Mitchell

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