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.


  1. Extremely useful information. Thanks Sheila/Olivia!!

  2. Thank you for sharing your information. The one thing that worry me is do you have to do anything to your book file, or is it as straightforward as cutting and pasteing. Hmm, like uploading into, say an email, or do you have to prepare your file data. So it appears on the kindle like it does on your computer screen?

  3. Thanks Jo, glad it's useful.

    Paula - I expected to have to do all sorts of things to my book file, but tried just uploading it where instructed, on the KDP publishing form, exactly as it was. You then see a preview where it appears as it would on a Kindle page. And it looked perfectly OK! If not, you can take it down and try again.

    1. That's great to know, Thank you Olivia. If things don't work out with the agent I have interested in my book I might give Kindle ago. I have promise myself that when I get the time my first novel will be Kindle as all I've had is rejections. secretly, I think it because its a vamp type story and it's old hat until next time they become fashionable again. :-)

  4. Food for thought Olivia - thanks and good luck

  5. Part 3, about publishing with CreateSpace, is out now, everyone. Hope you find it interesting.

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