Thanks Kat for the invitation to ‘guest blog’ and for the web sites you have recommended. Great stuff, great blog and thanks for your encouragement with regards to my eBooks and the whole ‘indie’ publishing thing.
Not that long ago I heard somewhere that everyone had at least one book in them. This is all well and good but if you are going to get that book out of you, what should you write about? Well, standard advice was to write about what you know. Having spent a bit of time in Japan, it was a place I knew quite well so that issue pretty much decided itself. I didn't want to try anything like a travel guide or a sociolinguistic analysis of contemporary language and culture, as I like to have a bit of fun with what I write. So I used my experience to create some fiction loosely based on people and places I knew and came up with two novellas with a third in the pipeline ready to finish the trilogy.
Although, I am tempted to tell you the whole story about finding friends to edit my work, my journey with coming to grips with the conventions, mental challenges and other disappointing indie-publishing moments, I have promised Kat that this piece will be limited to advice for newbies on publishing an eBook. I’ll leave the rest to another blog spot on another day.
I suppose the first question to ask is why publish as an eBook? Well, firstly, it sounds really cool. It is very contemporary and suits the times. It is also a lot cheaper than publishing the traditional way and is instantaneous, meaning that as soon as it is uploaded, it is live and available to people all over the world. You don’t pay them to publish your book and you can set your own price.
Having made the decision to publish, the question then becomes, whom do you publish with? Well the main players in my opinion are Kindle (https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin ) and Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/ ) and you can publish on both at the same time. Smashwords has affiliate arrangements with Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Sony etc. so you are guaranteed distribution. Kindle has a gigantic distribution network of its own. The beauty of Smashwords is that you get your fifteen minutes of fame after you upload as the works appear in the order that they are loaded. They just scroll down as the next book is uploaded. The book then sits there as Smashwords puts it in places on the web that make it more discoverable. It is a good idea to really think about what genre your book sits in and the tags you are going to use as this can help readers find you – the key to eBook publishing these days being discoverability.
Kindle is different as the eBook is loaded directly to a category or genre. I don’t entirely understand the process but you find yourself added somewhere in the middle ranking and quickly rise or fall in rank as your eBook is downloaded or ignored. Again tags and wise choices with regards to genre can aid in your potential discoverability. Kindle is much larger than Smashwords so you could soon discover that you are being downloaded by a factor of 100 in comparison to Smashwords. Of course this may not be the case, it depends on your eBook.
Kindle has a range of forums that allow you to reach a range of readers and other authors and Smashwords relies on a Facebook page. A new Kindle feature is the KDP select fund. KDP requires that you publish exclusively with Kindle in exchange for inclusion in a premium user lender library. Every time you are borrowed, your percentage share in a fixed fund goes up. In February, Kindle allocated $500 000 to this fund. The December 2011 fund yielded $1.70 that you may have earned in addition to any other sales on Kindle. One downside however is that you forfeit any sales from any other publishers by joining the fund.
If you are going to take the plunge and publish it goes without saying that you must first write a book. Obviously, the better the writing the more popular it will be so you really need to spend the time on this before you even consider publishing. I can’t stress enough the need to have your work checked, then double-checked then professionally edited. It will save you a lot of hassles, particularly with Kindle. Smashwords readers are much kinder but you should be uploading only your best work, something I wish I had done when I started out. I found my copy editor at the Society of Editors (WA) Inc. http://editorswa.com/
Notwithstanding your best efforts, Kindle reviewers can be harsh on the newbie so toughen up Princess; you may be reviewed harshly… or not, depending on your eBook. There are a lot of publishers on kindle so get ready for a range of tricks that may or may not include strange 5 star ratings for eBooks that don’t necessarily deserve it and 1 star disappointments with savaging reviews that cannot really be justified.
Publishing is easy if you use a standard word document and you follow the style guide that Smashwords provides at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52 You don’t have to worry about special file formats as Smashwords and Kindle do all the converting for you. All you need to do is to follow the prompts. You have to prepare a cover and organise some artwork for your creation. This gets uploaded as a jpeg or a PDF. I would advise spending some time on this and there are links on the Kindle web page and plenty of offers on the Smashwords Facebook page if you want to pay for this. The final thing is to make sure you have organised a précis that appears with your book’s cover image. You have to type it in when you upload and there is nothing worse than having to compose this during the technical stage so best have in prepared. Make it a good one, as this is what readers will base their decision on whether to download or to keep browsing. The next step is promotion but I’ll leave that for another day.
Anyway, that should be enough as an introduction. It is a lot of fun to see your work appear on your very own e-reader and I recommend the experience. If you are interested in the two novellas I have on Smashwords they can be found at the following addresses.
‘Memoirs of a Vending Machine’ is free at
‘Kujira’ is available for $0.99 at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/37636
BUT… If you use the following coupon ( TC43Z ) when you check out, you can download if for free until the end of March. I also have a blog where I discuss issues relating to my publishing journey at the following link:
Note from Kate: