Thursday, 31 March 2011

Kindle 12 – Publishing your e-book

This is the exciting bit… if you’ve been following my posts in this series, you’re now ready to make your book available for others to download and read on their Kindle or Kindle apps. To do this, you need amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform (the new name for the old Digital Text Platform). You can find it at kdp.amazon.com
The first thing you’ll need to do is register. If you buy books from amazon already, you can use your existing account. If not, then follow the instructions to set one up. At the top of the KDP home page you’ll see three different areas:

Bookshelf – which will be empty at the moment. Later it’s where you’ll see a list of all the e-books you have published for Kindle and their current status.

Reports – sales reports, where you can check how many copies you have sold and see your royalty statements. These sales reports are instant, which is a bit scary for those more used to having to wait six months to see these figures. But they can be useful for judging how effective your marketing efforts are.

Community – the useful KDP forum, where you'll find answers to all the questions you are sure to ask once you’ve published your e-book. This is also the place to go if you can’t make horn or unicorn-tail of my formatting instructions. There are experts here... ibigtoad and notjohn in particular were a great help to me when I was fumbling my way into my first Kindle publishing project (thanks guys!). Amazon have official guidelines, of course, but I found these strangely unhelpful, perhaps because the publishing process is continually being updated at the moment. From time to time, amazon also make important announcements on the forum so it pays to keep an eye on this.

Once you have registered and accepted amazon’s contract – and do make sure you READ IT, because this is a legal agreement between you as a publisher and amazon as the retailer – then you are ready to upload your very first e-book. Simply go to your Bookshelf, click “Add new title” and follow the instructions. The upload happens in two stages:

1. Your book details – title, product description, contributors, language, publication date, publisher, ISBN, ownership, categories, search keywords, product image, and the book file that you’ve spent weeks formatting and testing (you can upload either your Word document or the zipped HTML, depending which worked best for you during the testing process described in my last post).

When you upload your book, you’ll see an online previewer where you can do limited testing before you continue. This can be quite slow at peak times, however, especially if your broadband connection is patchy, so I'd recommend using it only for a final check through, or when you've made a minor edit. To test your book works properly on all devices and generations of Kindle, it's a good idea to download amazon's Previewer software and test it offline on that. (You can always save your book as "draft" on your Bookshelf and then return later to upload your updated file before selecting "publish".)

Think carefully about your product description, because this replaces the “blurb” on your back cover. Your potential reader will see just the first couple of sentences when they view your book details on their Kindle and will have to page forward to read the rest, so make those first sentences count! Muse tip: If you decide to write your description in Word and use copy-paste, be careful about speech marks and paragraph breaks etc.

If your book has a print edition and you want your e-book linked up to this for the existing reviews, this will happen automatically after a couple of days provided you use EXACTLY THE SAME title and author name(s).

Do not enter your print ISBN in the ISBN field. You don't really need an ISBN for an e-book, but if you want one then it should be a new one. Amazon will assign your book a unique ASIN for identification purposes, so you can leave this field blank.

Only enter as contributors those names you want to appear in the book’s product description (when it says editors, it means the editor of an anthology).

The product image is the same as your cover image, so you can use the same .jpg file you inserted at the start of your e-book.

2. Rights and pricing
Make sure you only claim the rights you currently hold. If you have a backlist title and it has been sublicensed in the US, for example, then you might not be able to exploit these rights even if the UK rights have reverted.

You can decide the price of your own e-book, but be aware that amazon may discount this if your book is available cheaper elsewhere. You have two options: a 70% royalty or a 35% royalty. Before you decide, read the guidelines on the kdp help pages to make sure you understand the pricing and royalty calculations, especially with regard to the new European VAT rules. Basically, if you choose 70%, you are at amazon’s mercy on discounting and e-book lending and will have to price within their guidelines. If you want more control, then you might want to go for the 35% option and up your price a bit – but not too much, because e-books seem to be quite price sensitive! But don’t stress too much this stage, because you can always change the price - just as you can change the product description, rights claimed, your book’s content, and anything else at any time you like. These changes will go live within a few days.

And that’s it. Click publish, and you’re done. The book will then appear on your Bookshelf with its status shown as “in review”. Within a couple of days this should change to “publishing” and soon after that to “live”. If this doesn't happen within 48 hours, check your email to see if you have been sent an Amazon Alert. Sometimes you will need to confirm copyright status before the book goes live  -you have 14 days to do this to avoid having your title "blocked" on your Bookshelf.

At this point, your e-book will be available for people to download from amazon’s Kindle store. I suggest you purchase a copy yourself to get it off the nil sales ranking and check everything looks as good as it did in testing. If you've followed my steps, it should do. Also download the free sample and check this out, too.

Congratulations! You are now a genuine e-publisher, and it’s time to start telling the world…

At this point, the Muse is going to bow out gracefully and direct you to the KDP Community forum, where you’ll find all sorts of helpful ideas and links to Kindle websites and boards (nearly all of them US based at present, though hopefully this will extend to the UK soon.) Good luck!

This post ends my Kindle for Beginners series. I hope you've found it useful.

(IMPORTANT: If you are reading this series after its original posting in 2011, please be aware that things have moved on considerably in the ebook world and some details might have changed. Keep an eye on the kdp help pages and forum for updates.)

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