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Digital Sunday

Next week, we’ll begin the Pacing Workshop, lead by Sarah but assisted by some of the rest of us. In the meantime, I’m supposed to find something to blog about today. The only problem is that my brain has gone on vacation. It’s mean that way. You see, it does this to me sometimes, leaving my body behind to do mundane things like clean the house while it lazes on a beach somewhere. It really isn’t fair. So, today’s post is going to be a mirror of latest installment in the digital publication workshop I’ve been conducting elsewhere. This installment is on how to publish to Amazon’s KDP platform.

Comments are always welcome. If you’d like more information about the workshop, leave a comment below.

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No matter how you feel about Amazon, this is a platform you can’t ignore. You can publish on it using Smashwords — and, as I suggested with PubIt, you might want to compare your sales of short stories (or anything priced under $2.99) via the Smashwords premium catalog with sales directly through Amazon to see where you get the most money for your time investment — or you can go straight to Amazon through the KDP platform.

Let’s start with the actual creation of a KDP account and the upload process. We’ll discuss how to prepare a file to be uploaded below.

Go to the KDP site. You can use your already existing Amazon account to sign in or you can set up a new account. If you are publishing under a DBA or pen name, I recommend setting up a new account under the DBA/pen name. My reason for this is simple: if you want to comment on the Amazon boards, any of the Amazon boards, under your professional persona, you will have the account set up.

Click “Sign up” under “don’t have an Amazon account”. On the next page, input the email address you want associated with your KDP account and then select “I am a new customer”. Now click the “sign in with our secure server” button. On the next page, fill in your name and select your password. Click “create account”.

When you are taken to the next page, you will first see a pop-up with the Terms of Service for KDP. Read them, read them again and then read them again. Once you are comfortable accepting them, click “Agree”. Repeat with the Terms of Service for Amazon European Union websites. You are now on your bookshelf page. You should see a yellow box at the top right of the page warning that your account information is incomplete. There is a link in the box you can click to take you to the next page where you can start entering the necessary information. Click “update now”.

Basically now, it is simply filling in the information. You will need the appropriate banking information as well as your taxpayer ID number (this can be your social security number, your DBAs EIN, etc). You can choose whether to receive your royalties via direct deposit or paper check. My advice, set up your banking information, including account number and routing number and accept payment via direct deposit. You will be paid quicker this way because you aren’t waiting for the mail and because you are paid via direct deposit once you earn $10 in royalties. You will not be paid via check until you have earned $100 in royalties (or pounds/euros).

Please, double and triple check your routing and account numbers to be sure they are entered correctly. You will save yourself some headaches that way.

Also be sure to tell them if you are wanting your funds from overseas sales sent to you in dollars or pounds/euros. For your own ease of accounting, choose dollars. Note that if you are receiving payment via check, you will receive your payments in the currency of the point of sale.

Once you have set up your account information click “save”. Once you get the message that your account has been set up, you can click “bookshelf” at the top of the page and go back to that page you were first taken to when you signed in.

To add a book or short story to your bookshelf, click “add new title”.  You will be taken to a new page, the first of two you have to fill out for you submission.

This first page is your details page. This is where you will enter the title, enter series information if the title is part of a series, description or blurb, language, ISBN (not required), publisher and date of publication.

Confirm that the title is not public domain (assuming you are only putting up your own work). Click “add categories” and select from the list that pops up. This is as important as your key words that you will enter next to help readers find your book or short story when they do a search for a particular genre or key word.

Next up is uploading your book cover. To review Amazon’s requirements, you can go here. Basically, your image needs to be in JPEG/JPG or TIFF format and a minimum of 1000 pixels long on the longest side. The ideal height/width ratio is 1.6 and Amazon recommends a length of 2,500 pixels on the longest side.

Click “browse for image”, find it on your computer and then click upload. Preview your image in the preview window on the KDP page. If you are satisfied, move on. Otherwise, make any edits or changes you need to make and then repeat.

Next up is the uploading of your novel or short story. First you have to choose whether or not you want to apply DRM. Then you will browse for the file to upload and upload it. Once it is uploaded, you can preview it in the Kindle emulator on the page — do so. It gives you a good idea of how your title will appear in e-ink format. But you can also download the mobi file and preview it in your Kindle app or on your Kindle. Please, please, please, do this because it will let you see if your links work and will let you see that your active table of contents is present. If there are any problems, go back and fix them and then re-upload your file.

File formats that you can upload are: DOC, DOCX, EPUB, MOBI, RTF, HTML, PDF and TXT. My recommendation is that you upload a MOBI file since this is the format the Kindle reads and you will face fewer conversion errors this way. My next preference for upload is EPUB. But absolutely, positively do not use a PDF upload file.

No matter what file you use to upload, be sure to check every page in the MOBI file you can download. I’m speaking from personal experience here. I was uploading a file last night for a client and had to change it three times because it would not properly upload the linked tabled of contents at the beginning of the book. It didn’t matter that the ToC worked in the MOBI or EPUB files I tried uploading. There was some glitch in the system that made it not work in the Amazon file. So I finally just took the ToC out, let my client know and promised to try again later. And no, I’ve never had this issue before.

Once you are satisfied with the file you’ve uploaded, click “save and continue”. You will be taken to the second page, the Rights and Pricing page.

Decide where you want Amazon to sell your e-book. Your default should be “worldwide rights – all territories”. Unless you’ve sold your e-book somewhere, then you should click this. After all, you want your e-book out there with the widest market available. However, if you want to limit where it is sold, click “individual territories” and then choose where you want it sold.

Next up is where you choose your royalties. Basic rule of thumb is that if your e-book is priced from $0.99 to $2.98, your royalty rate will be 35%. For titles priced $2.99 and up, you will receive 70% royalty (less a minimal fee for transferring it to the customer. This is usually just a few cents per sale).

Enter your price under “list price” and next to “amazon.com” and it will compute for you what your estimated royalty will be per royalty level.

In each row beneath the “amazon.com” price listing, choose whether you want the Amazon UK, etc., prices automatically based on the US price or not. If you choose not to, then you will set prices in those stores as well.

As with PubIt, KDP pays 60 days after the close of the month of sales, as long as you have the magic number of $10 in royalties if you are being paid via direct deposit, $100 if you are being paid by check.

Kindle book lending will automatically be active.

Once you click that you confirm you have the right to publish this book, and then click “save and publish”, your e-book will be submitted. It usually takes a day or so for the title to show up on Amazon. Don’t panic if the book shows up with pricing, etc., but no description for the first day. That happens sometimes but will be automatically corrected.

When you go back to your bookshelf, the title you just uploaded will be grayed out until it the e-book is “live”. Once it is live, you can edit any information you might need to — including updating the description if you misspelled something, etc.

Once your e-book is live, there is one thing you must do, in my opinion, to help yourself. Go to Amazon’s Author Central page. If you don’t have an Amazon account set up for your author name, do so now. Then sign into Author Central using that Amazon account. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, because I’ll touch on Author Central later, but read the intro page and then go to the Books tab. Click the “add more books” button and search for the e-book you want to add. When you find the cover for it in the window that pops up, click “This is my book”. If there is a problem with your selection, Amazon will tell you then and there — ie, if you are an author in an anthology and not listed by the publisher on the detail page, then you can’t add the book.

Author Central is important because it allows you to give the reader information about yourself, can be used to mirror your blogs and tweets and can show the reader your other work available through Amazon. Since it is free, use it. (This is why some author’s names are hyperlinked on a book’s page and some aren’t.)

The next thing to consider with Amazon KDP is if you want to go into the KDP Select Program. There are goods and bads about the program. The bad is that you can’t sell or give away your e-book anywhere else during the 90 days that you are in the program (and you will be automatically renewed in the program if you don’t opt out). So that does decrease your market presence.

The good about the program is two-fold. First, this is the only way you can easily take your e-book for free on Amazon. Every 90 days you are allowed to offer your e-book for free. You can split the days up or run them all together. As long as you make sure there are at least 31 days (61 days for other sites) between different free offerings of the same title, you will be listed on sites such as E-Reader IQ as a freebie. You can check out exactly what the different site requirements are. Better yet, you don’t have to do anything to get your e-book listed on E-Reader IQ or several other sites. For an idea of some of the sites available, simply go to the kindle discussion boards at Amazon.com.

These listings and the discussion that can start on the Kindle boards about your books is free promotion. Yes, each free download is money you aren’t earning, but you have to ask yourself if you’d have earned that money anyway. But there are some consequences from the free downloads that a lot of the naysayers about the program don’t consider. The first is that you will get reviews. Reviews, especially good ones that aren’t obvious sock-puppet reviews will bring in more readers. Second, it does create word of mouth and word of mouth drives sales. This pushes your e-book up the different ranking lists on Amazon and that, in turn, will drive sales.

But there is something else KDP Select offers that helps. Amazon Prime members can borrow books offered for free. You get paid for these “loaners”. Each month Amazon sets up a fund for just this purpose. What I’ve seen so far is that the payment for the loans will be much more than you’d earn as royalties for anything in the 35% royalty range. While it might not be as much as you’d make under the 70% royalty option, don’t let that keep you from using it. What Amazon is seeing is that a lot of the Prime members who borrow a book turn around and then buy it when they turn the book back in. So, you have the potential of being paid twice for that e-book. Not bad.

For more information about KDP Select, click on the KDP Select tab at the top of the page in your bookshelf.

The reports tab will take you to a page you need to be familiar with, but a page that can drive you crazy if you obsess. This is the page where you can see your up-to-date sales, sales for the prior six months and your prior months’ royalties. It is very, very important that when you receive your royalty statements from Amazon, you check these. Please note that when you go to one of the report pages, you will automatically be taken to the Amazon.com sales. But you can use the drop box to choose to see reports from Amazon UK, Amazon DE (Germany), Amazon FR (France), Amazon ES (Spain) and Amazon IT (Italy).

The community tab will take you to the KDP discussion boards where you can ask any questions you have, talk about what you are doing, etc. This is a good resource, especially if you are having formatting problems.

What file format should you upload?

As noted above, you have a wide variety of formats you can upload. My recommendation, however, is to upload a MOBI file for the simple reason that you will run into fewer conversion problems that way. So, how do you get a MOBI file?

There are two basic programs most folks use. The first is Mobipocket Creator. This is a good, but not great, program imo.

The second, and the program that I use, is Calibre. Like Mobipocket Creator, it is a free program. Unlike Mobipocket Creator, it is frequently updated. Once installed, open the program. The first time through, you will be asked a few questions about how you want Calibre to respond. This is mainly because Calibre is an ebook management system. However, it is also a pretty damned good conversion program.

Click on “Add books” and find the EPUB file you created using Sigil and click “open”. If you look at the bottom right corner, you will see the whirly wheel. That’s your clue that the file is being imported. Once done, highlight the book, click the “edit metadata” icon above and make sure the metadata is how you want it. Be sure to save an changes you make.

Now you are ready to convert to MOBI. Click on the book title again. Now click on the “convert books” icon above. A new window will open. In the upper right corner is a drop box labelled “output format”. Select MOBI. Click “okay”. Wait for the conversion to take place.

Once the book is converted, you can check it using the MOBI emulator built into the program. My recommendation is that you check it, page by page, either on your Kindle or in your Kindle App. You will find the file (for windows at least) in Calibre Library in your My Documents file, unless you specified a different path at install. If you are satisfied with how the file looks, then you can use this to upload to KDP. If there are problems, note where they are and go back to correct them. You can do this either by editing the HTML code or editing your epub file and reconverting.

You can load your Calibre files onto your Kindle or tablet (or other ereader) by syncing them viz USB.

Like Amazon or not, it is a major market for self-published authors and small presses. Take advantage of it and of all the tools it offers you.

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Book 1 in the Nocturnal Lives Series

Now for the promotional spiel. Nocturnal Origins (Book 1 of the Nocturnal Lives Series) can be purchased through Amazon. Nocturnal Serenade (Book 2) and Nocturnal Haunts (a novella set in the Nocturnal Lives world) can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Naked Reader Press webstore. And, because I was rightly chastised by someone for not pointing this out, authors get a larger slice of the pie if you buy your copies from the NRP store. Finally, as always, there is no DRM added to any of the Naked Reader Press titles.

2 Comments
  1. ppaulshoward #

    Very good.

    June 10, 2012
  2. TXRed #

    Thank you! I’ve been thinking about launching a collection of stories via Kindle to “see if it swims.”

    June 10, 2012

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