Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Electronic Revolution: Self Publishing for Kindle.

Last week we explored how to use to turn your manuscript into a physical book.  This week it's time to check out Amazon's Digital Text Platform and how you can self publish for Kindle.

First and foremost, if you don't already own one or have it on your computer, go get a Kindle.  Kindle for PC is a free download, and it's worth the few minutes of time to have one.  Then as soon as you have one, download  Publish on Amazon Kindle with the Digital Text Platform.  It's free and has step by step instructions on how to go from logging in the first time to getting your book online. 

While the CreateSpace page is rather romantic, seducing you with images of your book dancing in your head, the DTP is rather utilitarian.  There's nothing to buy here, no spiffy packages, no offers of editing or illustration or publicity.  Just a simple service that lets you put your book online.  First things first they want you to sign in and provide tax documentation.

Once you've logged in and taken care of your tax information your next step is to prepare your text.  Unshockingly enough the way to get your text to look like it does in your book is to get it into HTML format and make sure it looks right.  Now, they will reformat if you start off in .doc or .docx (word), .pdf (doesn't transfer all that well), .mobi (works very well), and plain text.  If you're already working in word (like I am) save your document as a "webpage" and that will rewrite it into HTML.  You can then fiddle from there.  But, if you don't turn it into HTML first, then you have no guarantees that the spiffy format you set up will transfer from your original document into your Kindle book.

Next up, fill in the information for your book.  Title, author name, description, etc...  If it would be on the cover of your physical book, you'll fill it in here.  This is followed by the rights section, where you select what geographic region you've got the rights to publish in.  If you are the author, and you haven't sold any rights to the book, you maintain the rights to publish everywhere, so you can hit the world wide option.   

You'll pick your categories, up to five of them.  This is probably an area you want to spend as much time thinking about as your cover text.  What category is your book?  With five to choose from you've got lots of opportunity to get readers who may not usually look in your direction interested.  Granted, do not put your fictional tale of life in a kitchen in cookbooks unless it has recipes, but in addition to lit fic and food writing, you might aim for romance if there's an underlying tale of that, or possibly organic farming if you spend a lot of time talking about organic sustainable agriculture.  Still, of the five you have, make sure three are really close matches to your work, and if you can come up with two more close matches, get them, too.  Head out on a limb when you're out of close matches.

Next up keywords:  You get five to seven of them.  Obviously your name and the book title are good matches, but what next?  Here's the thing with keywords, you have two options: You can aim for words that will help to locate your book for people who already know something about it (character names, places, things in the book, etc...).  Or, you can aim for people who know nothing about your book with general terms.  I'd say how you do this will have a lot to do with how the rest of your marketing plan works.  If you expect a lot of people to know something about your book, ("I don't remember the title, but there were horcruxes, wands, and a school called Hogwarts.") then by all means use those sorts of keywords.  Most of the rest of us will need a combination of keywords, some very specific to get people who already know something about our book to it, and some very general to attract those who have never heard of us. 

Then up goes your novel and the cover image.  Make sure the cover image is a .tiff or .jpeg.  Once again the text should be .html.  Upload each and away you go.

Now comes the fun part:  Money!

How you get paid: you have two options, a paper check can be mailed to you, or the money can be deposited directly in your bank account.  Now, unless you are somehow allergic to technology, (And if you are, how are you reading this blog?) you want the second option.  Here's why: each month you accrue a certain amount of sales.  Those sales result in royalties.  If you chose the electronic deposit option, each month that goes by with more than ten dollars of royalties in your account results in a payment to you. (A payment sixty days post accrual.)  If you go for the paper option, not only do you have to wait for 100 dollars to accrue (on top of the sixty days for the check) but they will also charge you an eight dollar processing fee for each check they send out.

As for those royalties, you also have two options.  You can get a seventy percent royalty or a thirty-five percent royalty.  I assume most of you are thinking, why pick the thirty-five option?

Here's why:  The thirty-five percent royalty is good everywhere.  There is no "delivery fee" attached to the thirty-five percent royalty.  You can't charge less for your work elsewhere, but you can get the price down to $0.99 or set it as high $200.00.  So here's the calculation:  List price*.35 = royalty.

On the seventy percent royalty it works something like this.  You still cannot sell your book for less anywhere else.  If it goes for less elsewhere, Amazon will match the price and pay your royalties accordingly.  The seventy percent is only good in the US and the UK (No, this doesn't mean you can't sell elsewhere, it just means that you'll get the thirty-five percent royalty from your Canadian, Aussie, and French readers.)  You have to set a price between $2.99 and $9.99 and no more than the cost of the physical book minus twenty percent.  (If the physical book is $14.00, you can not set the price of the kindle book at more than $11.20.)  And your royalty is calculated by the price you set, minus the delivery fee.

Delivery Fee?!?  I mean, it's an electronic document.  They aren't boxing anything up or mailing it off.  However, a fee of $0.15 per megabyte will be assessed to you.  If it's a tiny book, then not less than $.01 will be charged.  They determine how many megs your book is, and no I didn't see how they determine this, or if the cover image is part of the calculation.  But here's how it works out, if that fee ends up costing more than half of your cover price, go with the thirty-five percent royalty.  If it costs less then half, you come out ahead with the seventy percent royalty.  Here's the calculation:  .7(list price-delivery fee) = royalty  I want to price my book at $4.99, so as long at it comes in at under 16 megs (and, granted, its long, but not that long!) I come out ahead on the seventy percent option. 
And that's pretty much that on the publishing end of the story.  You hit the save and publish button and wait two days for the book to be reviewed.  Once it has, you get an email telling you it's gone live. 

Sit back, relax, check the reporting data to see how many books you've sold, and sooner or later, money shows up in your bank account!

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