Self-Publishing on Amazon

Anyone can write a book, self-publish, and send it out into the world for sale. It’s easily done using Amazon direct publishing tools and services, or so I thought. There are some twists and turns along the way as I recently discovered so I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned.

SarongSmBut I don’t have a Kindle!

There are two kinds of direct publishing on Amazon. One is for print and one is for Kindle. The most common reaction when one is considering making a book for Kindle is whether or not people can read your book if they don’t own the device. Yes, they can! Amazon supplies free Kindle apps for lots of devices: android phones, your PC or Mac computer, Blackberry, and just about any other device where you have Internet access. You may not have a Kindle, but you can stretch out comfortably with a cuppa and read the latest bestseller on your laptop! How cool is that? You can also get lots of the classics for free. Just connect through your Kindle app and browse the store for what you want to read and it’s delivered in seconds.

Okay, so now we know everyone with an Internet connected device can read magazines, newspapers, blogs, books, and anything else Amazon carries. What’s next? Are you thinking of publishing in print, too? Decide now. It will matter later.

Your book is ready!

grammarWell, no it isn’t until you have someone edit it professionally. Seriously. This is the biggest mistake anyone can make when sending their work out into the word. If you absolutely can’t afford an editing service, at least be prepared to spend a couple of hundred dollars and find a good English teacher who can do the job. There is nothing worse than sloppy text. It will kill your book sales and any respectable reputation as a writer you had hoped to build.

Once that is done, save your master manuscript in several places!

Visuals are key

photoGalIf you were wondering why there is a photo of a woman wrapped in a wet sarong at the top of page one, then it has done its job. You noticed.

The cover of your book needs to do the same thing.

Hire a professional to do your cover design. A designer knows how to use layout, photos, graphics, fonts – and all that other wonderful designy stuff – to best advantage to sell your book. If you can’t afford it, at least use professional photography. Everyone can afford a photo from places like Shutterstock or iStockphoto.

You want to sell your book, right? Your cover counts! It’s the first thing, and sometimes the only thing, the public will see of your work. You want it to make a good first impression.

Now that we have the raw materials assembled, what’s next?

The hard work is done. Well, not quite. It’s just beginning. Back in the first paragraph, I mentioned that deciding on a publishing platform is important. That’s because the requirements for each one are different. My advice is to prepare for both. You never know what the future holds and you don’t want to be caught short. Your ebook may be in such demand that creating a print version becomes very important. If all your photos and graphics are set for web, you are in trouble.

Intent is important!

For print, your photos and all graphics need to be submitted with minimal compression and a resolution of at least 300 pixels per inch. Full guidelines are available on Amazon. And no, you can’t just scale web-sized photos up to print size. Well, you can but they will look terrible and that’s as detrimental to your work as sloppy text. Just don’t do it. Work from the original high quality and high resolution file! Do not save anything in JPG ever, ever, ever unless it is for final submission and you have saved with a compression of 10 or more. Tiffs are better. For print, your text must fit within guidelines that vary according to the size of the book. This is all laid out very nicely in Amazon’s CreateSpace area.

Kindle Direct Publishing or CreateSpace?

These are two distinct areas where you can self-publish in Amazon and you need to create an account for each one.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is for publishing ebooks and everything submitted must adhere to the formatting guidelines. They are readily available on the site so I won’t go into it here. We will, however, go into how to get that formatting done without tearing your hair out. You do not get an ISBN with KDP.

CreateSpace is for printed books, CDs, DVDs and other similar products. Books are the only product I’m addressing in this article. Guidelines for print are exceptionally well done on Amazon and in fact, there are templates supplied to make the job of getting it right even easier. If you have a designer, that works too. You don’t have to use a template but your final product MUST meet the requirements or your book will not publish. Amazon even has book cover templates to make that job easier. If you aren’t a pro, use them. Your work is guaranteed to fit the print specifications properly. Everything needs to be submitted in PDFs and not in one single file either. Read the rules carefully. You get a free ISBN with CreateSpace and also have options to pay for one.

Be sure and read the Terms & Conditions for both KDP and CreateSpace. They are important!

Your eBook cover

smallCoverThe most important thing I learned – the hard way, I might add – is that the book cover for your Kindle must be as readable and interesting in a thumbnail size as it is full size. That means the gloriously romantic script font you chose will probably not work. If your photo relies on detail, don’t use it. It’s all about composition, negative space, and impact.

Keep it simple!

That doesn’t mean boring though. If you are creating your own cover art, check the thumbnail image often. It will help you decide on fonts, graphic placement, where you should put your text and everything else. You don’t have to be able to read everything perfectly but you should at least be able to read the title and see the image properly. If the image is hard to appreciate in a thumbnail, don’t use it.

Done with the old 600×800 format. Now the same cover would be 1563×2500 pixels for Amazon

The current size recommendations for your ebook cover image is 1563 x 2500 pixels which is a 1:6 ratio. That is the least complicated and works fine. The inside image (your cover image usually) will be in black and white on the earlier Kindles but it converts surprisingly well.

If you are using other images throughout the book, they must be included separately when uploading your file. Follow the directions on Amazon.

A while back, I created this quick sample book cover so you can see the difference. See what I mean about sizing and how differently they ‘read’? This one was done before the new ratios but it still demonstrates the point. if you want to see more, go to my Portfolio.

Easiest way to convert for Kindle

KindlePreviewerOkay. You are on a PC and have your work in Word in a .doc format. Now you are ready to upload your book. But wait! How will it look when it’s finished? Can you see it first? Yes. And be sure you do.

For people on PCs it’s pretty easy. You can download a converter for Mobi directly from KDP. Then you can convert your Word file and open it in your Kindle. Sounds good, right? Not so fast! What you see in your computer Kindle is not what you will see on an actual Kindle or other device. It’s not even close.

Download the Kindle Previewer. It is worth its weight in gold. What you will see is very close to what the reader will see. One exception is the margins on either side of the previewer. It may look like your book is not formatted properly and the text is too close to the edge but don’t worry. It’s just the previewer. The margins will be there so don’t waste time frantically trying to re-adjust things. It’s fine.

But what if you are on a Mac?

This is the point at which I decided self-publishing using KDP on a Mac was just a cruel joke. But no, there was a brilliant solution.

Problem: You can’t download the converter for Mobi because it’s for Windows so you need a program that lets you save in that format. Yes, you can just upload a .doc file that you have created and exported from Pages or Open Office but you will not be able to check how it looks as a Mobi first and believe me, things shift.

Solution: It’s called Scrivener and it is not expensive. You can even use it in trial mode for 30 days to see if you like it and you know what? Even if you never plan on writing another book, you will want this program! It allows you to import all kinds of media for all kinds of publishing, even reports. When I first published this, I was not an affiliate but now I am. They are just good, that’s all.

You can create your book in Scrivener and then export it as a .mobi and check it in the previewer. It’s a great way to find mistakes, too! When it’s perfect and you are ready to publish, just upload to Amazon as a .mobi and that’s all you have to do. Your inside photo is already there.

Important! Save a lot of grief and time and do the interactive tutorials first! Yes, this is one of my favourite programs but please note that I am an affiliate for Scrivener and receive a commission if you purchase. If you would like to buy Scrivener, I would really appreciate if you use my link. Buy Scrivener

Another favourite method of mine is to use Calibre. Import your book directly as an .odt file from Libre or Open Office, convert to EPUB first and then from EPUB to MOBI. It works like a charm. UPDATE: Now I use a program called Sigil to convert my writing to ebooks and I find exporting from Scrivener in plain text and then formatting inside Sigil is painless and accurate.

I hope this saves some of you some hair-pulling and helps cut back on the blood pressure meds. Oh yes. One more thing. Check your book description once your book is published. Computers sometimes garble things and the last thing you need is your description text looking like you didn’t care enough to correct typos. It happened to me but thankfully, Amazon was very quick to fix it.

Busking for Writers

Self-publishing works. You can choose to be part of the Amazon lending library and get your book read. Some people are hesitant to do this because people are able to access books for free but it is an excellent way for a new author to become known. Don’t forget to promote your book!

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