The Road to Digital Publication – Part 6

by Amanda S. Green

Before we get to the actual uploading of your file to Amazon KDP, B&N PubIt or Smashwords, there are a couple of things you need to consider. The first is whether or not you need an ISBN. If you are putting your work up on either Amazon or Barnes & Noble, the simple answer is “no”. Both have their own identifiers for e-books. If you are only putting your book up on Smashwords and are not part of their premium catalog (where they distribute your e-book to other retailers), you don’t need an ISBN. However, if you want your e-book to be sold in the Apple or Sony stores, you must have an ISBN. There’s another reason as well to have an ISBN — without one, you can’t be listed in Books in Print.

So, how do you get an ISBN? The easiest way is through Smashwords. If you don’t have your own ISBNs (something I recommend, although it can be pricey), Smashwords has two ways you can obtain them. The first is the free version and the second is what they call “the premium ISBN”. Now, everyone loves free, right? Well, the problem with the free ISBN is that, according to the terms of your agreement with Smashwords, you’d have to list Smashwords as the publisher of your e-book. This may or may not be a concern for you. My concern about this is the fact that, by identifying Smashwords as the “publisher”, you have just announced to the world that your e-book is a self-published title and, at least on Amazon, there are more and more readers who are starting to stay away from self-published e-books unless it is an author they are familiar with or if that author has a track record.

The second ISBN option through Smashwords is their “premium ISBN”. For $10, you will receive an ISBN that identifies you as the publisher (which means you can list your DBA if you have one) and Smashwords is listed as the distributor. While it doesn’t completely do away with the self-published “taint” so many associate with Smashwords — although that has been changing some — it does at least put some distance between it and your work. As for how you pay for the ISBN, it comes out of your royalties. In other words, Smashwords will pay itself first and then, after you’ve repaid the ten bucks for the ISBN, your royalties will begin accruing.

Of course, you can always buy your own ISBN from Bowker through myidentifiers. Are they cheap? No, but as noted above, the more you buy, the cheaper they are. Here’s some more information.

The benefits of having an ISBN are several. The first is, as I said, being able to get into the Apple and Sony stores. The second is that it does get your e-book into Books in Print. Now, while most readers don’t look at Books in Print, libraries and retailers do. As more and more venues open for us to sell our e-books, we need to be sure information about them are in the venues where the professional booksellers, librarians, etc., will look for it.

So, it is something to consider when putting your e-book file together.

The other thing to consider is what to include on your legal page — you know what I mean. That page after the title page that lists who wrote the e-book, who published it, ISBN, Library of Congress information (if applicable), cover design and art information, copyright notices, contact information and that oh so important notice that this is a work of fiction, etc.

Once again, if you use Smashwords, they have specific language they want you to put at the beginning of the e-book after the title page. Also, on the title page, you are instructed to put in the words “Smashwords edition” or “Published by YOU at Smashwords”. While there is nothing wrong with either, it is a red flag that your e-book is either self-published or micro-press published. So keep that in mind. It also means that, for other outlets, you will need a separate file using non-Smashwords language.

Now, to uploading your files. It really is the easiest part of the process. First you need to create accounts where you want your books to be distributed: Amazon KDP, Barnes & Noble PubIt and Smashwords. Let’s start with KDP.

When you open your account with them, you will need to give over your tax identification information, whether it is your social security number, your DBA’s tax ID, etc. You will also need to input your bank account information for direct deposit payments. You can get payment by check, but you have to earn much more before payments are made that way. So I recommend direct deposit. Then, of course, you give them contact information, etc. Once the account has been activated, you can start uploading your e-books.

While you’re waiting for your account to be activated, go ahead and set up your Author Central account as well. Add your bio, link your blog and Twitter account, etc. It is one more way to get some free promotion because, as you add books and link them to your Author Central page, readers can click on your name and see a list of your titles.

Now that your KDP account is active, you simply go to the homepage and sign in. You will automatically be taken to your “bookshelf”. If you look at the top of the page, you will see tabs for your reports, the KDP community and KDP Select. The latter will tell you everything you need to know about the new Select program. The community tab takes you to the discussion fora where you can promote, ask questions, and get help. The report tab is where you can see your up to date sales, previous months’ sales, etc.

Your bookshelf is just that. Your bookshelf. As you add titles, they will be listed here, along with “contributors”, price, date submitted, status and whether it is enrolled in the Select program or not. This is your starting place.

Click the yellow “add title” button on the left side of the page and then it is basically fill in the blanks. The first thing you have to do is decide if you are going to put your title into the KDP Select program. If you want to, click the check box. However, remember that membership in the program means you can’t sell your e-book anywhere else for 90 days. This is an exclusive program.

The next thing you need to think about is the description. Too little and you won’t grab the reader’s interest. Too much and, well, you’ll lose them. This is when you think about that elevator pitch you practiced as well as the TV Guide description and find the happy medium. A few lines for a short story is fine. A couple of paragraphs for a novel will work. But do not do what I saw yesterday where the author started the description by saying they think this is the best thing they’ve ever written. Note, too, that there is a limit on how much can be put up.

A bit further down is “Target Your Audience”. This is where you can choose a couple of areas or genres that your e-book falls into. Think about this very carefully before making your choices. Then, once you’ve done this, you can add up to seven keywords that will bring your title up if someone uses one or more of those words as a search term on Amazon. Don’t put your name or publisher name here. Those are already search terms.

Now you get to upload your cover. I’m not going to talk about that here because we have someone who will be talking about covers next weekend.

The next step is uploading your e-book. First, you tell Amazon if you want DRM attached to your title or not. Don’t use DRM. Please. Don’t make me come beat you with a wet noodle. It’s an insult to your readers, imo, and a red flag to the haters to break it.

Now you can upload your e-book. You can upload it in various formats, including DOC, HTMLz, and MOBI. I recommend doing it as a MOBI file because that is what the native format is for the Kindle, although they tweak it a little and add their own extension to it. But it is the format I’ve had the least problems going through the conversion process.

Once your upload has finished, you can preview it. Do. This is your chance to make sure there are no problems before the e-book goes live and you have readers telling you about the problems.

When you are satisfied, click the save and continue button at the bottom of the page and you will be taken to the rights and pricing page. This is where you choose where you will sell your e-book, how much you will sell it for, royalty rates and whether you are basing overseas sales on the US sales price or not. Once you’ve done all that, and once you’re satisfied you’ve included everything you need to, click the box near the bottom of the page saying you’ve read and are accepting the terms and conditions, etc., and then click “save and publish”. Now you wait.

It generally takes less than 24 hours for new titles to show up on Amazon. However, expect that to be a little longer if you’ve never put anything up before. Once your title has gone live, go back to your Author Central page, link your e-book there, and then go tweet and facebook and blog that you have something for sale.

Now, before you run screaming into the hills because of how long it has taken to get to this point, reading this blog had taken longer than posting your title for sale. Nor am I going to repeat this process for PubIt because it is basically the same process, although a bit streamlined. It does take longer, generally, for titles to go live on PubIt than it does on Amazon through KDP, at least that’s been my experience.

Smashwords is just a bit different. First, Smashwords will pay to Paypal or your bank account. Smashwords also takes longer to go through their approval process, especially if you are wanting to be included in the premium catalog.

So, what is my recommendation? Use all three. At least until you have at least five or six titles, one of them a novel, and you have another title related to the novel  about to come out. Then I recommend considering using the KDP Select program for the 90 days.

Questions or comments?


7 thoughts on “The Road to Digital Publication – Part 6

    1. Paul, I’m basically the same way, especially since Smashwords has such a lousy search engine, imo. Besides, it really is still fighting against that earlier stigma of being just about the only place where authors could self-publish an e-book. Even though indie publishing is becoming the new “legit” there is still the stink that has to dissipate.

  1. A minor correction: Smashwords does NOT pay to your bank account, at least not directly. The only option other than Paypal is paper check (and that’s only available to US residents).

  2. I hope you don’t mind if I pass along your advice to my fellow writers. Some have been looking into this method of publishing and your information ill prove helpful to them. Thanks for posting it.

    1. Please do. The reason Sarah and Dave started MGC was because they firmly believe in the fact that writers need to help writers, especially given how the industry is changing. In fact, if you or your fellow writers have any questions, post them in the comments here or email me with them and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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