This week we’ll talk about many of the decisions you’ll need to make in regard to where you’ll sell your book, how much you’ll sell it for and many other details. I’ll also walk you through some best practices for laying out your print and eBook, as well as cleaning up your Word document to make conversion to print and digital easy. Last, we’ll go step by step through the process of setting your book up on Amazon.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!
Who would like to share their next steps?
First, your publishing platform, which is the means you use to produce your book and get it into the marketplace.
You have two options; you can work directly with each retailer or you can use an aggregator. We’ll get more into the pros and cons of each approach in a minute, but if you choose to go direct, here’s where you’ll be placing your book. Amazon, which is the biggest book retailer, B&N which is struggling but still has a loyal following, the iTunes book store, and Kobo, which is very popular in Canada and Europe. You don’t have to choose all of them, but these are the major players.
Some of the retail sites allow you to create print and audio versions of your books. Amazon will allow you to distribute your print and audio to other retailers, but I can’t say for certain about the others. Be sure to check their terms of agreement.
Your other option is to use an aggregator, which is a single upload and distribution point for multiple retailers, plus services like Overdrive which provide books to libraries. They also provide sales data, author pages and other services, including an ISBN. I’ve listed the four main aggregators. Not every retailer works with every aggregator and it’s possible to use an aggregator for certain retailers and work direct with others. Some retailers, including Google Play, currently accept placement only through aggregators. Agreements change frequently, so it’s a good idea to visit the different sites and see who their retail partners are.
Opening accounts with retailers and aggregators is free,
through Ingram Spark has a setup fee of around $100, but is said to offer a
higher quality print book than when you get through Amazon’s KDP. If you’re
going direct you receive a royalty check directly from each retailer, if you’re
using an aggregator, they pay you and deduct 10-15% for their services.
Uploading your book is a fairly easy process, especially if you use an aggregator. Going direct means repeating the process with each retailer, however you have the ability to customize your sales links in the back of your book, which is nice if you’re selling a multiple title series.
Pricing- Aggregators allow you to set your price once and have it posted across all retailers. Going direct means that you go into each retailer’s site and change it. The advantage here is that you have more control over how quickly the change goes into effect, but the downside is the time it takes to actually make the change. Going direct allows you to create customized sales links to your other books sold by that retailer. In other words, a book sold on Barnes and Noble must include sales links only to Barnes and Noble– not Amazon. So if you have multiple books for sale, it’s a benefit to be able to have custom buy links so readers can easily purchase more of your work.
Uploading your book might sound like its difficult, but it isn’t. The book needs to be correctly formatted, which you can either hire someone to do, or do yourself using some tools I’ll talk about in a moment. Again, your choice.
Finally pricing. One of the advantages of self-publishing is the freedom to change your book’s price quickly and easily. You also get to keep all of your royalties, rather than pay an aggregator for their service.
A disadvantage is that dealing direct with each retailer can be time consuming and confusing.
The biggest advantage to an aggregator is that it’s a single place to upload your book, change prices, change sales copy, on so on. Draft2Digital, which I use, has a very simple upload interface, and good customer service, which to me is worth paying a little extra, since I find troubleshooting tech stressful and frustrating.
Typically the aggregators provide an ISBN for your book, and offer other benefits, like an author page, a universal sales link, which you can use in the back of your book. The universal link takes readers to a page where they can select the retailer of their choice to purchase your next book. While it’s an extra step in the purchase process, it’s a good workaround for the retailer-specific sales link, and the aggregator sets it up for you.
An aggregator will also provide access to smaller retailers and to retailers and services like Google Play and Overdrive that don’t allow you to upload your work directly.
They’re paid through
a commission of your book’s retail list price—10-15 percent, which come out of
the royalties you’re paid by the various retailers.
Related to the question of whether to work direct or use an aggregator is the question of distribution.
Choosing wide distribution means that your book is available with all of the major online retailers, and possibly smaller ones. While the bulk of your sales are probably going to come through Amazon, there are readers who are loyal to the other retailers as well, especially Kobo, which is popular in Canada and Europe.
Going wide means you’ll either use an aggregator, or go direct, as we just talked about.
Finally, it helps more readers discover and purchase your books– especially if you have books available through a traditional publisher, which tend to use wide distribution.
Going exclusive means your book is only available with one retailer– Amazon. If you enroll in the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program, you’ll also be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, which is a subscription service that allows readers to pay a monthly fee and download as many books as they want. Authors are paid from a pool of money, based on the basis of downloads and pages reads. KU authors also have promotional opportunities not offered to authors outside the program. Some authors have made a lot of money being in KU, and for an unknown author, it’s a way for new readers to discover your work.
It’s also a short term commitment, of 90 days and at the end, you can decide whether to re-up or not. Some authors like to release a new book through KU to get the extra promotion offered through the program, and then switch to wide distribution at the end of the first three or six months.
Your book’s ISBN, which is the number used to identify it. EBooks aren’t required to have one, but print and audio books are.
Aggregators and publishing platforms will offer you a free one, but whomever issues the number will be named as the publisher– whether that’s the retailer, or the aggregator. If you leave that aggregator or retailer, you can’t take their ISBN with you. You’ll have to assign a new one from your new aggregator, which can be a hassle. I had my books with a different aggregator before I went with Draft2Digital, and when that aggregator closed, I had to relist my books to the retail sites using a new ISBN issued by Draft2Digital. Not fun.
If you are looking at self-publishing as something ongoing,
it might make sense to purchase a bundle through Bowker.com. Not only can you
keep the same number attached to your book permanently, you will be issued as
the publisher. If you want create a little imprint of your own, than you can
attach that name to the ISBN and give your book a nice professional touch. I believe a bundle of 100 ISBNs is around
$500, and it’s something I’m considering in a couple of years, when the rights
to my books with Carina Press revert back to me.
I included this because the issue of plagiarism comes up frequently when I present on writing and self-publishing.
While I’m not a lawyer, and my comments on copyright comes from a layperson’s perspective, it’s been my understanding that by creating a work you assume ownership. Yes, work is plagiarized but the likelihood of someone swiping your prose– when there is much more visible work out there, is pretty slim. Also when people ask this question, it’s often their idea that they’re worried about someone stealing. And ideas aren’t subject to copyright.
That said, on the chance that someone does steal your work– and I mean your actual work, not just your idea– having registered copyright will allow you to sue them for infringement. Registering your book with the U.S. Copyright office is fairly simple matter. It can be done online and costs around $50, so if it helps you sleep at night, go for it….UNLESS your first choice is to sell your book to a traditional publisher, and are looking at self-pub as your second choice.
If you are considering submitting your book to a traditional publisher, it can complicate the process because if the publisher buys the book, they’ll submit it for copyright in the author’s name. I listened to some bad advice that I should have one of my books copyrighted, and when the book sold to a publisher, their lawyers had to undo the copyright I’d done, and have a new one created which was a huge headache and came close to derailing the entire deal.
Digital Rights Management is a way of protecting your work from piracy. In theory this sounds like a good idea, but in practice it can prevent readers from reading your book on both their phone and reader, it can prevent you from distributing free copies of your book to reviewers and contest winners, and if someone gets a new digital reader, they would have to repurchase the book. My trade pub books are not DRM protected which was my publisher’s decision, and I’ve done the same with my self-published books.
Piracy is a bigger worry for well-known authors, so this is
a case where obscurity is your friend. For a new author, you’ll probably spend
more money on advertising than you lose to pirates, so you can always look at
it as another tool for people to discover your work.
There’s no exact way to price your book, other than to look at other books on the market and use that as a guideline. Aggregators allow you to set your price once and have it posted across all retailers. Going direct means that you go into each retailer’s site and change it. It also allows you to run site-specific promotions, though the other sites will eventually price match your discount. The advantage here is that you have more control over how quickly the change goes into effect, but the downside is the time it takes to actually make the change.
Authors will often price their new release at a lower price for a set period of time, while they’re doing heavy promo, and then raise it when the promotional push winds down.
With print books, the retailer will show the production cost and how much you will make at various price points. Since my print books are primarily a tool for hand-selling at signings, and conferences, where books typically are priced at $12-$15, I have my online price set right around that.
You’re going to layout your digital book a little differently than how a print book is laid out.
One of the biggest things is that page numbers, font size, headers, footers, are irrelevant in a digital book, because the file needs to be flexible enough to fit different devices and reader preferences.
You’ll also want to keep front matter to a minimum. Amazon requires the Table of Contents and the copyright page to be in the front, but everything else should go at the end. This allows readers who are using the Look Inside feature to read a sample (usually the first 10 percent of your book) to actually get a taste of your book, rather than wade through pages of extra stuff.
For the back of the book, this is prime promotional real
estate, so your goal should be to encourage readers to purchase your next book,
if you have one. Include a sample chapter of your next work, and links to
purchase or pre-order it. If you don’t have another book, lead off with a
mailing list sign-up, or invitations to follow you on social media, so they can
learn about your public appearances, new books, and other things. Your acknowledgements, about the author
section, should go in the back.
The first thing you want to do is a Save As of your manuscript, so if completely mess it up, your original copy is intact. Give the Save As a unique name. I used my book title, then added FORMAT at the end.
Open your duplicated copy, and in the ribbon at the top, under the HOME tab, select the Paragraph symbol, which looks like a backward P. This will show things that are usually hidden, such as spaced indents, tabs and returns.
If you used manual tabs for paragraph indents, you want to delete them, and use the Paragraph indent setting under Paragraph. Click the little arrow at the bottom of the Paragraph heading,
Remove any decorative fonts and dropped capitals at the beginning of your chapters. Keep your fonts and the look of your eBook as simple as possible.
Use the Find and Replace to search for double spaces, and tabs. To do this, go to Replace and when the box opens, choose Special at the bottom. Click FIND WHAT and then select what you want to replace from the drop down list. Click on REPLACE WITH and type in a single space or in the case of Tabs, nothing at all.
Select Heading 1 for each chapter heading, or heading you want to show up in your TOC. A small dot will appear just to the left of each chapter heading, or heading so that tells you the page break you inserted at the end of the previous chapter comes before the start of this one.
When you’ve finished with these steps, go to the Reference tab to create your TOC
The Table of Contents icon has a drop down. Select it, and go to the bottom to select Custom Table of Contents.
That opens a box that gives you the option to turn off page
numbers and use hyperlinks instead of page numbers. Check the box and click
okay. The links won’t actually show up until you convert your Word document
into digital formats.
There are a number of different converters available for you to look at your book before you upload. One of the more popular is called Calibre (caliber) and it’s free to download.
The bar across the top has a Convert Books function that will take a Word document and create a MOBI, EPUB, PDF and other formats very quickly. It’s an easy way to see if there are problems that you need to fix before the upload. Calibre also has an Edit Books option which will let you fix problems within the program, but it takes you into HTML code. For some that’s not an issue, for me it is, so I do my fixes within Word and keep doing conversions in Calibre until I like how it looks.
It’s also possible that once you upload, Amazon or your aggregator will flag issues that you need to fix. In that case, it’s the same process of going back into the Word document and making the changes before you try your upload again.
The first step is to know the size of book you want. Amazon will give you various options. For fiction, I like 5.25 x 8. But what you choose is a matter of personal preference.
Amazon offers a print template that you can download and simply follow, to set up your print layout.
If you’re not using this, you should decide how you want to set up your front and end matter. Because your print book won’t have sales links, you can list your other books, include your acknowledgements in either place.
As with digital, you should start by creating a Save As of your MS, turn on the proofing marks, insert page breaks, remove tabs and use the paragraph indent tool I talked about earlier.
Headers, footers and chapter headings should be consistent, but you have more leeway to use decorative fonts.
Finally, you’ll want to decide which pages you want numbered and divide the manuscript into sections which will be numbered a certain way. This can be tricky, so I suggest practicing on a manuscript draft before you try it on your actual book.
Finally, if you are using Ingram Spark, you’ll need to save
your book as a PDF-A. Otherwise, Amazon and most other platforms will accept a
This is where you find the Amazon print template, along with tabs about other topics related to your print book.
The Kindle Direct Publishing site and the discussion forum Kboards offer a ton of information that you can access once you’ve opened a KDP account, which we’ll do in a few minutes.
You’ll walk through the initial account set-up.
I’m not sure if there’s a link to KDP through the Amazon retail site. How I always get there is by typing Kindle Direct Publishing into my browser.
Once you’re there, you’ll create an account, or if you have an Amazon retail account, the site may recognize your existing user name and password and allow you to sign in with that.
Right below the sign-in are links that will take you to
popular KDP topics. Even if you’re not ready to publish, it’s worth setting up
an account just to have access to the articles.
The bookshelf is your starting point. It will show other books you’ve published and give you the option to create a new project.
But before we jump into setting up our book, I want to call your attention to the topics across the top of the page.
Reports will give you all kinds of information about how your published book is performing in the Amazon store.
Community is your access point to the Kindle Boards user forums.
KDP Select is the program that puts your book exclusively on Amazon for a minimum of 90 days. It also enrolls your book in the Kindle Unlimited subscription program where members can download it for free. The Select program is voluntary. Some authors love it, some avoid it. For a new author with one book, it can be a good way to build an audience, but the choice is up to you.
The box below it, announcing that Create Space is moving to Publishing is just an announcement that Amazon’s Create Space print book platform, which used to operate separately, has been rolled into KDP. If you don’t have any books published with Create Space, ignore it.
Below that is your new project box that you’ll use to set up your eBook and print book. We’ll start with an eBook, so select that one.
Since I’m not setting up a new project at this time, I’ll walk you through the steps using my existing book, Heating It Up.
You’ll start your new project with the Kindle EBook Details page, which takes you through a long list of prompts.
Remember when I said this was decision week?
This is where you’ll be making them.
We’ll walk through each option together.
Language- select English.
Book Title- Enter exactly what you want to go on the cover.
I titled this book as Heating It Up for the main title, and used a subtitle, A Red Hot Russians Novella. You may not use a subtitle at all, in which case, leave subtitle blank.
If the book is in a series, even if it’s the first book, enter the series name and book number here.
Edition- in most cases, this is going to be left blank, unless you’re substantially revising a book you’ve published before.
Author is you, or your pen name.
Contributors this gives you the option to credit others who worked on the book with you. This might apply in the case of a ghostwriting situation, for an anthology of others’ work, or a children’s book that has an illustrator. This is not the acknowledgements section, o if you don’t have a direct contributor, leave it blank.
Description- here’s where you’ll use your back cover copy that you wrote this week. You can also add the book’s tagline in if you like. Whatever you think will entice readers to buy your book.
Publishing Rights is where you specify that you own the rights to publish the book.
Keywords and Categories are where you’ll enter the terms that people will use to search for your book. Ideally, you’ve done a little research into this earlier, when you were working on descriptive copy, or finding other books similar to yours. If you haven’t, this might be a good place to Save your work as a Draft, and search for some of these keywords. There are various ways to do this, what I’ve done is type words that describe my book into Amazon’s search bar, and see what other terms show up. You can enter up to seven, and your entries can have more than one word.
For Categories, these are the sub-categories where readers
might be browsing for books like yours.
You get to choose two only, and you want to get as specific as you can.
Not all subcategories are available for fiction. I used a non-fiction category
for Polar Regions because there was no fiction equivalent, and so far, Amazon
hasn’t booted me out. Again, these are
easy to change, so feel free to experiment.
This applies to children’s books, so you can target your age range and reading level. If it’s not a kids book, you can ignore it.
The last item is an option to set up a pre-order, which means that people can place advance orders up to three months before release. This is nice if you’re doing a lot of advance promotion, because on release day, all those sales will post and it will give you a nice little bump in the rankings, which means some extra visibility.
If you’re not doing advance promotion, you don’t need to worry about this one either.
The next page, eBook content, has these items
Digital Rights Management is the means that your book is protected against piracy but it can also create other issues if you’re interested in distributing free copies of your book to bloggers, reviewers or using them as prizes. I decided that piracy wasn’t a big enough issue to make the hassle worthwhile, so chose No. Other authors feel differently. Again, this is more about your comfort than anything else. If you’re unsure, save your work and do some additional research.
The next item is where you upload your edited and formatted eBook. As you can see it will accept a number of formats, include Word. However, if you’ve formatted a MOBI using Calibre or another software, you can upload this as well.
And below it, you can use Cover Creator to produce a cover of your own, or upload a cover you already have. I’m not sure why I checked the Cover Creator option for this because I had a designer produce it. Possibly because it was in PDF format…I honestly don’t recall. But obviously it worked, so we’re good.
Next is the option to view a Preview copy of your book so you can see how it looks in kindle format. Even if you’ve used software to perfect it, it’s still a good idea to take a final look.
For ISBN, I chose not to have Amazon issue an ISBN for my eBook, because I already had an ISBN issued through my aggregator Draft2Digital, which I use to distribute to other retailers. But I can’t use that ISBN on Amazon. So rather than have another ISBN only for Amazon– which I felt would be very confusing—I opted not to have one for Amazon. Amazon issues their own ID number called an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) that functions as an ISBN does within Amazon.
ISBNs aren’t required for eBooks, but they are for print.
The final page lets you select where you want your book sold, and how much to sell it for.
Here’s where you can opt to enroll in Kindle Select, which means that your book is available only on Amazon. Again, it’s up to the author, there are pros and cons to wide and exclusive distribution. I’ve not used Kindle Select, so I can’t speak from experience, but I’ve heard it’s a nice option for brand new authors publishing their first book. If you’re not interested in enrolling, skip to the next item.
Territories refers to the countries where Amazon publishes. You have the option of choosing all of them, which is what I did, or cherry-picking where you want your book sold. Keep in mind that even if you choose overseas distribution, your book is still in English. That means you’ll probably have minimal sales in non-English speaking countries, but I still get a few here and there, so I’ve stayed with worldwide distribution.
If your book is priced at $2.99 or below, you must select 35% royalty. Because this is a novella, I chose a lower price point to encourage readers to try it.
This page also shows your royalties per book, and if you click the drop down for other marketplaces, you’ll see what the book is priced for each of them, and the royalties you’ll earn.
You can play around with this, raise or lower your price to fit your promotional strategy.
Matchbook lets you set a lower price on the eBook for customers who purchase a print book. I don’t know that this has added many sales to my book, but it’s an option I’ve enjoyed on books I’ve purchased, especially reference books that are nice to have on my phone, when I’m working away from home. I have a friend who is publishing a religious reference book, that’s fairly expensive and I encouraged him to use this option as an incentive for people to purchase the print book, that they would get the eBook for free.
Lending allows someone who has purchased your eBook to share it with someone else. Again, I’ve used this option on other books I’ve purchased and appreciate it when authors allow me to do it.
Terms and conditions means you agree to Amazon’s rules for publishing your book.
The last item, is Publish. Keep in mind, that even if you’re just making little changes, such as your price, you still have to hit Publish again, to save those changes.
After you’ve selected Publish, it can take up to 3 days for your book to go live, but in my experience, its much faster.
Congratulations, you’re about to become a published author!
EXTRA: This article has some helpful tips to improve your descriptive copy, which we covered in Session 2. It also talks about Keywords, which we cover in this session.