Thursday, 29 November 2012

Self-publishing for Amazon: Part 2 - Kindle

As promised, here's my feedback about creating a Kindle ebook for Amazon.

When it came to the actual process of submitting a book for Kindle publication, I found it didn't take very long at all; it's mainly just on-line form-filling, done through the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) website.  I tried to choose a day for this when I had some uninterrupted time to concentrate - but your submission can be saved, at any point, and completed later.

It's the preparation beforehand that takes time: checking the text document, writing a blurb, and creating a cover image.

* The text document: My previously-published books were professionally edited, but with my new self-published books, I'll always have at least two people whose editing abilities I really trust, to read through the manuscripts first to pick up any possible errors. Mistakes happen, but I want to lessen the chances!

I put a title page at the front of the document, and two copyright lines at the bottom of this page - one giving my copyright as the author, the other giving the copyright of the cover image. One thing I've found frustrating on previewing the document after it's been uploaded, is that there's now more than one size of Kindle page for the text to fit: Kindle Fire pages are bigger. I haven't found it easy to get the copyright lines at the bottom of the title page (rather than the top of Page 1 of text) in both sizes. Hopefully this is not too much of a problem for readers if it isn't right, though!

The blurb:  This is to go on Amazon's sales page. I found it best to write this, and create the cover image, and have both ready before starting on the submission process. For the Kindle editions of my previously-published books, I had to write completely new blurbs, as the original blurbs were the copyright of my publisher. Starting from scratch with a new book, you'll need to write one anyway.

As an example, here's the blurb I wrote for the Kindle edition of my first-ever book, 'The Trouble With Ally':
Ally doesn’t particularly want to turn fifty – but it doesn’t bother her half as much as everything else in her life is bothering her right now. Still smarting from the fact that her husband left her for a younger woman, she’s trying to cope single-handedly with a sick elderly cat, a sick elderly mother and a sick elderly car – to say nothing of two daughters who treat the house much like a comfortable hotel.  And on top of everything else, she’s having trouble hanging on to her job.
So why does everyone else seem to think turning fifty is the trouble? And why does everyone seem to think she’s losing her mind? She’s not really going crazy ... or is she?

* The cover image: At first I found this the most daunting part - but now I enjoy doing it.
As with the blurb, I couldn't use the cover images from my originally published paperbacks, as these are the copyright of the publisher/illustrator, so I had to choose new ones.

According to KDP's instructions, the dimensions of your chosen image need to be:
• A minimum of 625 pixels on the shortest side and 1000 pixels on the longest side
• For best quality, your image would be 1563 pixels on the shortest side and 2500 pixels on the longest side

It's possible to use a photo of your own, if you have something suitable - I did this with a couple of my books. For the others, I used Shutterstock -  there are several similar websites. Some offer a limited selection of free images, and if you can't find what you want there, you can view a much greater selection of paid-for images. I found the cost for these very reasonable and as it was the only cost I incurred in this whole exercise, I was happy to pay. It's great fun browsing for pictures - I've probably wasted hours on that bit!

I've found the 'medium' size photo image from Shutterstock is the right size, but any website should show the dimensions of the pictures offered. Where I used my own photos, I used the 'resize' option on my picture editing programme to adapt them if necessary.

To add the book's title and my name to the cover image, I used the 'Paint' programme. If you have Photoshop, I'm told that's the best, but I found 'Paint' worked perfectly well. I'd never done anything like this before, and it was a bit of a learning curve. That's why I think it's best to tackle all this bit well before you want to begin the actual publication process! With patience and practice, I got the hang of it, but one thing I learned was to make a copy of my chosen cover image, to work on while I was practising and playing around with it, and keep one 'unadulterated' copy safe in case it all went wrong and for some reason I couldn't get back to where I'd started. 

For my latest Kindle book, 'Debra Being Divorced', I used a picture from Shutterstock, and superimposed the title and my name in toning colours using a nice font from Paint:-
Any image that isn't your own copyright, has to be credited to the source. That's the image copyright line I put under my author copyright on the title page.

The actual publishing process:  I was very impressed with how easy KDP makes this. Go to the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) website and have a look. There's a whole section on 'Getting Started', together with FAQs.  They've even produced a downloadable document about publishing your book for Kindle. Personally though, being me, I just plunged straight in! Once you click on 'Add a new title',  you'll see the two-page form you have to work from, and there are notes and help all the way through it.

Since I started 'Kindling', they've introduced KDP Select. This is the system whereby, as long as you don't publish your ebook anywhere other than with Kindle, you can offer your book for loan, to Amazon 'Prime' members. They can borrow any enrolled books free - but each time someone does borrow your book, you get a share of the 'pot' Amazon allocates each month to the Lending Library. Also, by enrolling your book with KDP Select, you are given the opportunity to offer free promotions. This is something I've found very helpful: and I'll discuss it in the summary at the end of this series of blogs. It's your choice whether to sign up to KDP Select, and if you're not sure, you don't have to decide straight away; but if you don't intend to publish elsewhere, you've got nothing to lose.

The bit where you upload your Word document is simple and straightforward. The conversion to Kindle is done automatically, and only takes a few minutes. But I found it vital to use the 'preview' after it's uploaded, as sometimes it doesn't look right, for one reason or another - often because of the fit of the page, as mentioned above. But it just means making some adaptations to the text document, saving it and uploading it again. You can do this as many times as necessary - and even after publication is complete, you can go back and change anything and re-publish it. KDP will alert you when the book has republished - I've found it's always been within 12 hours.

I found the trickiest decision to make was the pricing. To earn the much-quoted 70% royalty, your ebook has to be priced $2.99 or over for the US market, £1.49 or over for UK . Lower than that price, you get 35%, but you have to choose the same royalty for all the markets. I could write a whole other blog post about the pricing of ebooks ... but suffice to say, I think people expect them to be as cheap as chips (in fact cheaper!).  It's a gamble as to whether pricing very low, you sell twice as many books, and therefore earn as much or more by going for the 35% royalty. We all have to make our own decision on that!  But the good thing is, you can go back and change the price as often as you like, publicise it as a special offer/ price reduction, etc. So we can experiment and watch the sales!

Within 12 hours, my new Kindle editions had appeared on the Amazon site ready for people to buy - a very fast service. It's worth bearing this in mind if you want to do any publicity prior to the publication.

My next post will be about my very new experiment with CreateSpace - making a print paperback.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Self-publishing for Amazon: Part 1 -Introduction

I've been asked by a few people whether I'd care to share my experiences with self-publishing for Amazon, both for Kindle and through CreateSpace. I'm certainly no expert, in fact, I'm amazed with myself for having managed it at all, not being particularly 'techie'. But honestly, if I can do it, anyone can!

Of course, we've all read about those amazing success stories, right? I'm not going to list them - you all know who they are - the authors who sprang up out of nowhere, having self-published a Kindle book when no traditional publisher would look at them, and hey presto, they became overnight successes and suddenly all the publishers were begging them to sign contracts. Well, I think we're all realistic enough to know we can forget those! They're the exceptions to the rule, and good luck to them - they deserve their success because basically, we all do. But sadly, for the majority of us, it doesn't happen. I think with self-publishing, it's best to start out with the mindset that this is an interesting, exciting experiment for our own satisfaction - and if we have any success, or make any money, that's a bonus.

I was fortunate that when I started my self-publishing 'experiment' I'd already had eight books published the traditional way, so I already had a small readership following me. But each book still has to stand or fall on its own merit - and I was aware that if I self-published anything less than my best work, it could affect whatever popularity I may have built up with my previous books. If you're starting out with self-publishing as a completely unknown author, your reputation depends 100% on this first book you bring to the world - and you also have to make more of an effort to get your name known - but as we've seen, it can be done!

On the plus side ... the new accessibility of self-publishing has given writers everywhere an opportunity, at a time when so many doors have been slammed in our faces. As you will know, there are many ways of self-publishing - both for ebooks and print books - but my own experience has been limited to the Amazon route because, like it or loathe it, I believe Amazon gives the best chance of sales. Others might disagree.

I started with Kindle, and my first experiment was to publish my own backlist - those of my published books where the rights have reverted to me from my publisher. None of them had been published as ebooks, so it was exciting to be able to reach out to new readers, the growing number who were buying Kindles. I have to admit, I set out with the idea of looking to see how it was done, and then probably retreating and handing the job over to someone more technologically savvy! But honestly, Amazon makes it quite easy; as long as you take your time and can follow instructions, there's no reason why you can't do it yourself.  Once I'd got the hang of it with the first book, I continued with publishing all my backlist for Kindle, and then went on to publish two brand new books - Sophie Being Single and Debra Being Divorced - both under my real name, Sheila Norton.

Here's my page on the Amazon Kindle store website - as you'll see, Amazon has collected all my titles together, even my Olivia Ryan titles, as I've published them as 'Sheila Norton writing as Olivia Ryan'.

Interested in having a go?  In the next part, I'll tell you how I got on with the Kindling process!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Letter from a Dead Man

I know I haven't been a very active blogger in recent months, to put it mildly - family issues have somewhat taken over, and what spare time I've had, has had to be devoted to writing, and publishing my new books as you might have read on my last post!

But enough of the excuses! One thing I always try to make time for, even if it's only in the last little while before I fall asleep, is reading - and I've just finished a book that I really want to share with you. It's by one of my oldest writing friends, Dawn Harris - and as always I need to stress that I mean oldest in terms of acquaintance, not age! Dawn and I met back in the early 1990s when we were both winners of short story awards, and we've kept in touch ever since. She's been the most amazing support to me throughout the ups and inevitable downs of my writing career, so I'm absolutely thrilled that she now has a book published too. 

It's called 'Letter From a Dead Man', and is currently available on Amazon for Kindle, but is due to be released in paperback too. At £1.93, the Kindle edition is a bargain, and I can really recommend it.

The story is set on the Isle of Wight - one of my favourite places! - in 1793 - against a backdrop of the French revolution, the threat of invasion, and a culture of smuggling on the Island. From the beginning, I was captivated by the character of the heroine, Lady Drusilla, who for a wealthy lady of the time is quite a feminist! The plot is murder - and the sleuth-like work of Drusilla who sets out to uncover the truth - but there is humour too, in the interaction between the characters.  The best test of any kind of crime novel must be whether it's obvious 'whodunnit' - and in this story, I honestly had no idea. Well, I thought I did! And then I changed my mind ... again ... and again ... right up to the very satisfying surprise ending.

A very enjoyable read, and I'm now hoping to read more by Dawn before too long.

Click here for the link to the Amazon page for 'Letter From a Dead Man', and take a look for yourselves!

And I haven't forgotten ... as promised, my next post here will be about my experiences with self-publishing for Kindle and CreateSpace.

Friday, 9 November 2012

I've been busy!

 I mentioned a few days ago on 'The Next Big Thing' that my new book 'Debra Being Divorced' was due to be published very soon on Amazon for Kindle.  And in fact, things have moved faster than I expected!  The Kindle edition of the new book is now ready for you to download for only £1.24 at this page on

Debra has the perfect life: a perfect marriage, a beautiful house and three perfect children. Or so it seems to the outside world – and so Debra’s always convinced herself. To admit to less than perfection would be to deny everything she believes in, everything she’s devoted her life to and worked so hard to achieve. Divorce? It’s unthinkable – barely even in her vocabulary. So when everything comes crashing down, it hits her harder than most. Can she survive, when her life is changed beyond recognition, or will she fall apart? Maybe she’ll give in to the temptation to go completely off the rails, cavorting with gorgeous younger men and shocking herself as well as everyone around her? Or maybe she’ll discover that by losing everything, she can finally find herself – and find out what really matters.

 This is the second book in the series about the Jennings sisters, and I know some of you have already read Debra’s sister Sophie’s story in 'Sophie Being Single'. But several people have told me they were disappointed that this was only available as a Kindle edition and not a paperback.
So my other piece of news this week is that 'Sophie Being Single' IS now also available in paperback format - yes, I always listen to my readers!  You can buy it now, from this link on Amazon.
Maybe you could ask for a copy for Christmas ...  or buy a few copies yourself as presents for your friends and family!
Eventually I hope to publish 'Debra Being Divorced' in paperback too.  This has been a learning curve for me, as I've self-published through Amazon's CreateSpace platform - and as requested, I shall be sharing the whole experience with you on a new blog post very soon. 
Meanwhile - as always - please do let me have your feedback on these new editions!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Next Big Thing

'The Next Big Thing'

I've been tagged by my good writing buddy Christina Jones to join in with this idea - answering some questions about my next book and getting another writing friend to do likewise next week!

So here are my answers to the questions.

1.What is the title of your next book?  'Debra Being Divorced', written under my real name Sheila Norton.
 It's the second in the series about three sisters, following on from 'Sophie Being Single' which was released as a Kindle edition on Amazon last year (and is soon to be released as a paperback).
'Debra Being Divorced' will be out at the end of this month (November), also as a Kindle edition.

2.Where did the idea for the book come from?  I always liked the idea of writing about three sisters - devoting a whole book to each sister's story - probably because I have three lovely daughters myself! I think the sister relationship is fascinating, and a rich source of stories for writers - sisters have the same parents and the same background, but often quite different lives and personalities.

3.What genre does your book fall under?  Contemporary women's relationship fiction. Some might say 'chick lit' ... I don't mind.  But although the stories are light and humorous in places, there are also deeper issues being explored in the course of the stories. Debra in particular has some serious problems to face.

4.What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?  I needed a bit of help with this one! - and have decided on Rachel Weiz to play Debra, Colin Firth as her husband James, as long as he doesn't mind playing the part of someone bad-tempered and unpleasant! And definitely Jimi Mistry as Hamid. Now you're going to have to read the book! 

5.Will your book be self-pubished or represented by an agency?  Although I've had eight novels previously published in the traditional way, and I also have an agent hoping to find me a publisher for my next new series of novels - set in the 1960s - this series about the three sisters is being self-published. It's been a whole new experience for me - and quite an enjoyable one. I do think it's good for writers to grasp new opportunities in this way, and self-publishing is a whole lot more respectable these days - and easier!

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?  I don't write full-time or every day - my writing fits around everything else going on in my life! And I write short stories too, as well as often working on more than one book at a time. So I'd have to guess: probably a total of about 6 to 9 months.

7. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  This series, in a way, reminds me of Marian Keyes' books about the Walsh family - five sisters! - eg 'Rachel's Holiday', 'Anybody Out There' etc. If only I dared mention my books in the same breath as someone so good and so successful!!

8.Who or what inspitred you to write this book? As mentioned above, my own daughters, in a way - although I'm pleased to say they're all happily married with lovely children! There's also an element of the NHS in parts of 'Debra Being Divorced' - and this is definitely inspired by my own previous employment in hospitals. They are very inspiring places to work!

9. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
I think readers who enjoyed 'Sophie Being Single' will be interested to read about the different lives of Sophie's two sisters. I also hope readers will find Debra an inspiring character, as she struggles to turn her life around against the odds.

For next Wednesday's 'Next Big Thing', I've passed on the baton to my fellow Essex writer
Maureen Lee.