Kindle Publishing!

In previous posts I have looked at how to publish a book in its physical form, and I will be returning to this subject in more depth soon, but today I am going to look at how to publish e-books and in particular how to use KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) to get your book onto Amazon with the minimum fuss and with zero expense.

I love to hold books and to feel the pages turning between my fingers but there is an inescapable truth: e-book readers such as the Kindle are the future of literature. I have a Kindle myself and it is a beautiful and practical thing, even if for me it will never replace my true love: the well worn paperback. Kindles are great for readers but they are even better for authors, as I have found out myself.

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As you may know, I have recently had my children’s novel, Tortoise Soup, published but back in the mists of time I wrote a thriller novel called ‘The Girl On The Bus’. The book had been more or less dormant for a number of years but suddenly it has been discovered by the Kindle generation and it is now selling hundreds and hundreds of copies every day. I have been propelled into the Amazon bestsellers chart, and am battling it out in the top 100 with writers like Dan Brown and Hillary Mantel! If you would like your own copy, just click the link here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Bus-ebook/dp/B004L2LJJE/ref=la_B00D0RPQR2_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1370184548&sr=1-1

It has all been a bit overwhelming, if very welcome, and in my next post I will give you my tips on how to become a Kindle bestseller but for now let’s start with the basics: here is how to get your e-book into the Amazon store.

Firstly, of course, you have to have the completed script of your novel. For printed copies PDF format is best but KDP prefer you to submit your novel in .doc format. This can be done in Word but also by using free software such as the wonderful Open Office Writer.

Editing is still essential of course, don’t let spelling and grammar errors ruin your chances of e-book success. Amazon allows readers to cancel an ebook and get a refund up to seven days after they have purchased it, and you don’t want too many of those!

It is still important, possibly even more important, to have a good cover. By which I mean, of course, a front cover. You don’t need to worry about a back cover for an ebook as you would for a print book. It is important that this cover can grab a browser’s attention from a tiny thumbnail as that it is all that most readers will see. My tip is make the cover small and striking – don’t bog it down with too much information or lettering as these will be unreadable on the small image that most people will see.

Once you have the .doc file and the JPG cover you are ready to publish! Go to kdp.amazon.com and sign up to their publishing scheme. The whole process is simplicity itself – if you can read this then you can do it all yourself.

Firstly, upload the text and cover. Now you have to provide the obvious information such as the book name and your details. You also have to provide details of how you wish to be paid. Yes, that’s right – you really can make money out of this, and big money as well as I am beginning to find out. And the best thing is that it is all 100% free. Amazon charge you nothing at all to publish your ebook online.

Next you have to click on a statement that you have worldwide rights to your book, which you do of course, and set the price for your book. This is a difficult one, some people like to price high and some go dirt cheap and hope to sell in bulk. I recommend the latter policy, it has worked for me and in my next blog I will explain how this has worked and how to exploit it.

You don’t need to use an ISBN for a Kindle book, Amazon assigns it’s own unique ASIN number. That’s how easy it is. Once you have followed the above steps you have become a digital publisher and within 24 hours your book will be available across the planet. And if you are talented and lucky, one day you might just see your sales start to rocket in the same way that I am with The Girl On The Bus.

If you have anything to add, any experience with KDP, or any questions then please do comment below and I will get back to you!

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Self publishing hints and tips

In my last post I took a brief look at self publishing and how it has become an increasingly viable option for the modern writer. Self publishing, also known as indy publishing, has become a boom industry but many writers are still a bit unsure of how to do it and what the benefits are.

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I was contacted this week by a budding writer on Twitter. (By the way, if you want to talk to me on Twitter then please follow me through @byrontinker). This writer is currently working an excellent collection of stories about cats, I really liked the preview that I read. They came to me for advice on how to self publish, and as I always like to help my fellow writers I sent an email with some helpful information.

After reading through my reply I thought to myself, ‘hey – my friends who read the Tortoise Soup blog could probably use some of this advice as well’. So, I am reproducing an edited version of my email below. In coming weeks I will be expanding upon lots of the points that I have raised so please do keep checking back in here at the Tortoise Soup blog.

“As you may know it’s incredibly hard to find a mainstream publisher at the moment, unless you’re a celebrity, and the economic hiatus means that agents aren’t taking chances on anyone either.

That’s why self publishing is an attractive option. If a book is good (and I’m sure that yours will be), and a lot of love and effort has gone into it then why shouldn’t it be out there in the marketplace? Good books shouldn’t stay locked inside a mind forever.

There are two main options: the first is using a service such as Lulu. This makes everything very easy, but the process can seem a little remote. You simply pay Lulu a fee (I’m not sure how much, around £100 I think – which is very reasonable compared to vanity publishers), send them your text, choose a cover template and hey presto in a week or so you have your book which will then be on Amazon. The quality is okay, but the cut that companies like Lulu take are very high so your book will be quite expensive for people to buy. For example, I have a friend who published a book through this route. It’s a 400 page book, and costs around £15 which is way too high really. They receive around one pound for each copy that is sold.

The other option is to use CreateSpace or Lightning Source. These are really printing companies, you have to do all of the creative work yourself but I liked that. They are similar entities, CreateSpace is owned by Amazon. I used Lightning Source but contrary to some rumours there was no delay in ‘Tortoise Soup’ appearing on Amazon and nor does it get listed as being ‘out of stock’.

I have heard people say that CreateSpace is easier for beginners to use but Lightning Source was easy enough for me – and I’m not really a computer wizard. To use Lightning Source you have to set up your own publishing company. This isn’t as daunting as it sounds – you buy ISBN numbers in a block of 10 for £120 and assign one to your first book. The purchasing of ISBN’s varies from country to country (for example in Canada it’s free), so to all my blog followers overseas Google should be your first point of call.

You then fill in a form with Lightning Source who, unless you make a hash of the form, will accept you as a publisher client. They then send you a template to fit your cover on and tell you what format the text must be in. Send it to them and again, hey presto – your book will soon be out there but this time under your very own publishing label! It’s a lot easier than it might sound.

Lightning Source gives you a choice of a gloss or matte cover and cream or white paper, I don’t think that CreativeSpace gives you that choice.

The overheads are much lower with CreateSpace or LS and you have complete flexibility on pricing. For example, my 234 page Tortoise Soup sells at £6.99 and over half of that comes straight to me from each sale. If I had gone the Lulu route the book would have cost more and I would have received less.
It costs around £40 to get the book registered with these companies, again much cheaper than using Lulu or similar companies.

There is more work involved though. I’m no graphic designer and it took me a long time to get the cover to fit their template and specifications, I managed it eventually though. I used completely free software to do it: GIMP and a free trial of Quark Xpress. The text has to be in a PDF format that Word doesn’t produce so I used a free word processing package called Open Office Writer.

Can you draw? If so then great, make your own illustrations. I can barely draw stick men but I found a great illustrator on Gumtree who did my drawings completely free. Everybody comments on how quirky and lovely there are. Keep your eyes peeled on Gumtree Artists – there are often budding illustrators on there looking for opportunities to do free work to build up their portfolios.

The other thing to consider is editing. The experts advise that you should always use an editor. You can read your own book a dozen times and because it’s so familiar you can miss glaring mistakes. If you do want to find an editor/proofreader there are lots out there so get some quotes. For Tortoise Soup I had quotes from £200-£500 – I went for the cheapest (Patricia Alderman) but I think she did a really good job, and she also helped me with my cover design. You could edit it yourself if you so wish of course, that’s your decision. I have an English language degree but I still made lots of little errors that Patricia corrected.”

I hope that there may be some points in the email that can help you, and I hope that my Tortoise Soup will continue to be useful to you in the weeks and months to come. As fledgling writers we have to look out for each other and help each other up whenever we can so if you want any specific advice then please contact me!

A lot of you have been asking about my own novel ‘Tortoise Soup’. It is out right now on Kimono Press, and can be bought directly from Amazon in either paperback or Kindle versions. It should be in some independent bookstores as well soon. I am pleased to say that it is getting some great feedback, such as this review by a book mad girl: http://mychildrensbookreview.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/tortoise-soup.html

You can buy copies right here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tortoise-Soup-Nick-Holland/dp/0957557205/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1367345532&sr=1-1&keywords=tortoise+soup