Self Publishing tips for Amazon KDP!

In this blog I will be looking at how you can get your own book published on Amazon via their KDP programme – and it’s all free! My latest thriller novel, The Last Of The Heroes, was released this week and so it’s a very exciting time for me! It is the follow up to my earlier thriller ‘The Girl On The Bus’ which has been a smash hit, selling over 10,000 copies a month at one stage and spending over 9 weeks in the Amazon top 100 best sellers chart! So if I can do it then so can you!

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I am revisiting an earlier blog because I found it so useful myself when publishing The Last Of The Heroes this week – I hope that you will find it equally useful. The main tip that I can give you is GO FOR IT!! The only thing that is stopping your book becoming a potential best seller is your reticence. Don’t put it off – if you have a book that is ready to go then don’t hide it away, get it out there!

There is no cost at all to upload a book to Amazon via KDP – the only costs that you may encounter are the costs for proofreading and the costs for a cover. I find that Gumtree is a good place to find budding illustrators, many of whom will do a great job for a very reasonable price. My cover was created by a brilliant Italian artist called Anna Chiarini, she replied to my ad on Gumtree and she has done a great job for a very reasonable price. I will certainly be using Anna again. Alternatively you can search on Google for pre-made covers that can be personalised for your book for a small fee.

Proof reading is important, readers do pick up on typos and grammatical errors. This will be the major cost to you but I feel that it’s worth it in the long run. The following link gives a directory of professional proofreaders:
http://www.sfep.org.uk/directory/directory.asp
This is an invaluable resource – these people are highly qualified and experienced editors and proofreaders. Their rates vary but expect to pay in the region of £300 for a 40,000 word book. This sounds like a lot but you can recoup this in two or three days if your well proofed book takes off!

Now you are ready to upload your files! KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing. In effect you are becoming a publisher – how exciting is that! The sign up process is very simple – if you have the ability and chutzpah to write a book then you certainly have the ability to sign up to KDP!

You will have to decide on a name for your publisher – make it something different and fun (Blue Robot Press maybe?), or something personal like Joe’s Gran Books. After this you can upload the cover and the text itself. The cover should be in JPG format – 1200 pixels wide by around 1800 pixels high seems to be the perfect dimensions, remember that you want your cover to stand out when it’s seen in miniature on the Amazon shopping page.

The body of the book itself, the text, should be in Word format. I myself don’t have Word or any of the Microsoft suite on my computer – I use something called Open Office. It is completely free (I like freebies, can you tell?) and can save things in Word’s .doc format without any compatibility issues. Once you have uploaded your ‘Word’ file you have the opportunity of previewing how it will look on various Kindle devices as well as how it will look on an Ipad and Iphone app. This is vital – it only takes a few minutes and allows you to see whether the format needs changing. If it looks too messy, small or cluttered then simply change the font, or the style or the layout and upload the file again. Only click the final publish button once you are happy with how your masterpiece looks!

On the subject of fonts, many people use the standard ‘Times New Roman’, but this can make it stand out as being independently published because it’s so ubiquitous. Try a different font – I personally like the ‘Georgia’ font but there are plenty to choose from to give a little individuality.

You also need to create a sales blurb! This is of primary importance because unless the blurb stands out and grabs a reader then they are never to going to read your brilliant book. Here is a big tip: Amazon will tell you that you can’t use HTML tags on your blurb but this is incorrect. The Tortoise Soup tip is that you simply must use HTML on your blurb! If you don’t then it will all come out in one paragraph and look plain and boring. Get the HTML in and stand out!

Don’t know anything about HTML, huh? Don’t worry – neither do I, but you only need to know the very basics that can be found via this very helpful link! http://www.tckpublishing.com/how-to-use-html-to-format-kdp-kindle-book-descriptions/ HTML is the language of the Web, it tells the Interweb thingy how to display information. The main ones to use in your blurb are b to put something in bold and i to put something in italics and finally p to create paragraphs. At the end of an effect the same letter must be used with a / in front of it. For example /b will end the bolding and /i will end the italicisation. Believe me, this is a lot easier than it sounds and will make your blurb stand out. Have a look at how my blurb, the product description, looks – it’s better when it’s not just in one bland lump.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Last-Heroes-John-Halle-ebook/dp/B00GFPWC4G/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1383996473&sr=1-1&keywords=the+last+of+the+heroes

You next have to set the price – you can price them high or go low and try to sell in bulk. That’s what I do, for a book that costs 99p you will make 34p for each one sold. That doesn’t sound a lot but if you are selling hundreds a day it will soon add up to a nice little pile! There is also the option to enroll your book into ‘KDP Select’ – again this is a personal choice. If you go down the ‘Select’ route then your book cannot be available in any other e-book format (although you can have a paperback version). The advantages are that Amazon Prime customers can borrow your book and you can take advantage of free promotional tricks that Amazon has available. You actually make more money out of people borrowing the book than buying it so my personal opinion is that it is worth joining the KDP Select club.

And there you have it – you are now an independently published author, with your book available across the world. And when your masterpiece takes off you can sit back and wait for the monthly transfers directly into your bank account from Amazon – that is a truly great feeling, making money from something that you have truly loved creating!

Good luck, and as I say – don’t hold back, get your book finished and get it out there! If you have any comments on my article or any further hints and tips regarding KDP publishing then please comment below!

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

Tortoise Soup out now!

These are exciting times for me as besides creating the Tortoise Soup blog, my children’s novel Tortoise Soup is now officially released!

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In my blogs I have shown how to find a publisher or how to publish your own novel. In future blogs I will be looking at publishing essentials such as editing, cover design, the use of social media, ebook choices, and fonts and typesetting. I have learned a lot about publishing in the run up to the release of Tortoise Soup, and I hope to be able to give you lots of good advice so that you can see your book in print as well.

Nothing feels as good as holding your own book in your hand, seeing the birth of your own print baby. Early reviews have been fantastic, and the feedback from readers has made all the effort worthwhile. I wrote Tortoise Soup to appeal to children aged 8-11 but the feedback that I am getting shows that adults love it just as much and that really makes me happy.

You can buy Tortoise Soup on Amazon, http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tortoise-Soup-Nick-Holland/dp/0957557205/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365876289&sr=8-1&keywords=tortoise+soup

Or you can get a signed copy here: http://kimonopress.com/buy-a-signed-tortoise-soup/

I hope that you will enjoy the book, I’m sure that you will, and I look forward to reading your books in future as well. If you have a book out then why not tell me about it in the comments box below?

Oh, by the way – I am a contestant on the UK TV show ‘Countdown’ on Channel 4 on Monday – I talk about tortoises a lot but forgot to mention the impending release of my Tortoise Soup book! I still have a lot to learn about generating publicity!

Self Publishing

In my previous blogs I have looked at traditional publishing and vanity publishing, well today I am giving the Tortoise Soup treatment to self publishing.

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Self publishing is becoming big business. More people than ever are writing, and why not? They say that everybody has a book in them so it makes sense to let it out. Unfortunately, the recession that has our planet in its vice like grip is making it increasingly difficult to find a publisher but many people are finding self publishing to be an ideal solution.

Self publishing is sometimes called indy publishing because it gives a writer the chance to be truly independent without having to follow the advice of agents and publishers: if you want a pink cover, just go for it. If you want to write a sci fi cowboy novel featuring vampire goats, well nobody will stop you.

Let’s be clear about one thing: self publishing is very different to vanity publishing. As I said in my last blog, no writer should ever pay a publisher to have their work publisher. There are costs involved in self publishing but on a much smaller level, and the costs are clear and justified.

There are two ways to self publish. The first way is to use one of the many ‘self publishing’ companies such as Xlibris. These companies do a lot of the hard work for you, all that you have to do is supply the text. They also often have ready made covers that you can adapt and use. For a relatively modest fee (compared to the vanity publishers) they will make your book available online, but will offer next to nothing in the way of support or promotion.

The second option is the true essence of self publishing – going it alone! To do this you will have to strike a deal with a printer, find a distributor, design the cover and the book itself and become your own marketing and PR consultant – to say nothing of essentials like editing.

If this sounds too daunting then maybe this option wouldn’t be ideal for you, but if you love the freedom that self publishing can bring – and if you have a creative and entrepreneurial streak a mile wide, then you might find self publishing your book to be the most rewarding thing in your life. And because you are doing nearly all of the work yourself, the costs are surprisingly low and the potential rewards can be very high.

So have you decided which publishing option is for you? Let me know your thoughts below. In the coming days and weeks I will be giving lots more hints and tips about getting your book into print. I will also be looking at the technical side of getting your book into print such as which design packages to use, and how to format your work.

Keep tapping away at that keyboard, Tortoise Soup friend, and remember that your only enemy is procrastination!

Vanity presses and subsidised publishing

Today, the Tortoise Soup blog is looking at the world of the Vanity Press and assessing the pros and cons of using a vanity publisher to get your book into print.

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As my last blog made clear, it can be very difficult to find an established publisher who is willing to take a risk on a new or unknown author. Getting rejection letters and emails by the score can soon become depressingly familiar and you may feel like filing your book away forever and putting it down to experience. Don’t give in! There are two paths still open to you: vanity publishing and self publishing. These are two very different options, I will examine self publishing in more detail in my next blog.

Vanity publishing has a bad name: who wants to be thought of as ‘vain’? It conjures up images of a desperate writer paying large sums of money to print books that nobody will ever read. For this reason many of the vanity press companies now refer to themselves as ‘subsidy publishers’. Do not be fooled by this semantic trickery: they are one and the same thing.

The golden rule is that the publisher should pay the writer, not the other way around. If a publisher asks you to pay them in advance then the alarm bells should be ringing. The sums of money that they ask for are substantial and in reality there is little or no hope of recouping the initial outlay.

So how do these companies work? They will ask for a large sum of money in return for publishing the book. A typical ploy is to pretend that they are simply ‘sharing’ the publishing costs but this is simply not true: as I will show in my next blog the costs of publishing a book are far, far cheaper than these vanity presses ask for as a so called ‘subsidy’. Once this money has been received they will print the book and send a small number of copies to the author, typically the book will also then be available for purchase from online retailers such as Amazon. They will often offer ‘marketing’ services and arrange book signings, but all of these extras have to be paid for through the nose.

I contacted one of these vanity presses whilst researching this blog, and asked how they could help me with ‘Tortoise Soup’. They asked for £5000 up front, for which they would print 1000 copies of my book at an extortionate price of £10 each. In the unlikely event of each copy selling at this price I would still have been at a financial loss, and that is before taking any of their ‘marketing’ packages that they were so keen to push. Needless to say, I politely but firmly declined their offer.

How do you know if a publisher is actually a ‘vanity press’? They often do all that they can to seem respectable but remember that you should never have to pay any money to a genuine publisher. The website ‘Absolute Write’ lists many vanity presses and so this is always a fabulous website to consult if you are unsure about a potential publisher.

Do vanity presses have their place? I have spoken to several authors who have used vanity presses, and read some of their books, and in truth some of them were happy with the service that they received. If money is not an issue and you are desperate to see your work in print then by all means consider this option but do be aware that the publisher’s business plan revolves around getting money out of you the author rather than selling books. The sad thing is that many of the books taken up by vanity and subsidised presses are of a high quality and could thrive if they had a different publisher.

My advice would be to avoid the vanity presses and look at self publishing or ‘indy publishing’. This involves a lot more work on your part, but you have more control, the costs are much lower and the rewards potentially higher. I will begin to look at self publishing in my next article. I will also be bringing you some very exciting news about my children’s novel ‘Tortoise Soup’.

Please comment below and let me know of your experiences with, or views on, vanity presses. Remember my mantra: keep writing and never give in!

Finding A Publisher

Writing a book is hard but fun, getting your book into print is harder still and not as much fun. As Tortoise Soup nears publication, I will look at the three main options once your masterpiece has been completed: finding a publisher, using a vanity publisher or self publishing. Over the next few days the Tortoise Soup blog will look at each in turn, starting with mainstream publishing.

Tortoise Soup took me two years to write (admittedly I did have an 18 month ‘writer’s block break’ in the middle so the writing process itself took around six months). Once you have completed the last word, it is tempting to think that you will soon see it in print. Whoah there – the difficult part is just beginning and the path to print can be frustrating and interminable.

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Most new writers will want to be published by an experienced publishing house: perhaps Bloomsbury will sign you up to become the new JK Rowling? This is the most difficult, time consuming and frustrating option. Most publishers, especially the large ones, are profit driven. They won’t care what the book means to you, they care about what the book will mean in pounds, shillings and pence.

So how do you find a publisher? The best place to start is with the Artists’ & Writers’ Yearbook. This book is essential for any writer: as well as containing oodles of good advice it lists publishers and agents in the UK and abroad. It is worth taking time looking at their websites and finding a publisher that suits you: if they don’t publish your genre of book then don’t waste your time approaching them.

My golden rule is to approach several publishers at once: most publishers will take between 3 and 6 months to respond so if you approach them one at a time once ten have rejected you (if they do, of course) you could have wasted over five years! I told you it was a long, frustrating process. The websites will list the publisher’s submission process: typically it will involve sending a one page covering letter (a ‘query’) and a one or two page synopsis along with the first one to three chapters of your masterpiece.

Spend a lot of time on the query and the synopsis – they need to be perfect. Any spelling mistakes here and your book is toast before a page has been read. Publishers receive a huge amount of submissions, and it is so difficult to get over this first hurdle so do all that you can to make your ‘sub’ stand out.

Here is another important point: as Baden Powell once said – be prepared for rejection. I know that we all dream of getting snapped up by the first publisher that we contact, but in all likelihood that isn’t going to happen. Don’t take rejection personally, you could have written an absolutely fantastic book (you have, haven’t you?) but unless it reaches the right person at the right time then you will struggle to get accepted.

You may get five rejections or twenty five rejections, but keep going. Perseverance and indefatigability are your main weapons, because one day you might just strike lucky! Many publishers will send you a one or two line standard rejection letter or email, some won’t even reply at all. Some publishers will reject you but send a detailed reason why: these are the exception rather than the rule and they are something to treasure because they provide both encouragement and pointers as to how your work can be tailored or improved.

Should you look for an agent before finding a publisher? Agents can be harder to find for an unpublished author than finding a publisher. Again, the good ol’ Writers & Artists is the place to look for contact details. I wouldn’t put you off approaching agents as well as publishers, but in my opinion contacting publishers directly can be the best option.

Independent publishers are a good target for new writers. They don’t have the financial clout of a Hodder or a Random House but they are very committed to what they do and have an eye for spotting potential talent as well as potential sales. Some of these independent publishers are gaining mainstream success themselves – for example Salt Publishing gained a Booker shortlist place last year for their excellent novel ‘The Lighthouse’ by Alison Moore.

I myself found an excellent independent publisher for my children’s novel ‘Tortoise Soup’ – they loved the story, appreciated what I was trying to achieve with the novel and were prepared to do all that they could to get it to the audience that it deserved. There was one drawback: they wouldn’t be able to publish it for another two years. Did I agree to wait or did I take another route? For the answer you will have to wait until the third part of this series.

I hope that this article, and the forthcoming articles, has been of use to you. Coming soon is my article on vanity publishing, I hope that you drop by to check it out. Remember to keep going – your book is great and I look forward to reading it one day! Please share any hints and tips below.