Archive | Amazon Kindle Publishing

Why Give a Book Away?

Blue Sky WEBSITE USEI sent out a notice to my mailing list that my short story, Blue Sky, is available free on Amazon this weekend.  (And now I'm telling you.  You can download it here.   For free.  And please tell your family and friends.  And enemies. Or the mailman and all your coworkers, and everyone else you know.)

But a client/friend emailed and asked me, essentially, why I was doing this.  And that made me realize that not everyone has studied the theory of indie publishing with Amazon as I have.  (Why would you? I never thought twice about it until I started hearing other author's success stories.)

So, why would you give away a book for free?

Let me be the first to say that I'm not an expert on this whole thing, so all I can offer is why I decided to do it.  Here's the deal.  When you publish a book exclusively with Amazon in their program called KDP Select, they offer you several sales tools.  One of the most-used is the freebie.  For every 90-day period you are exclusive with them, you get up to 5 days where you can offer your book for free.  

And–this is its own little mini-industry.   There are numerous sites that will list your freebie for free, or a small fee.  Some of them list it for free but then say they can't guarantee your book will show up unless you pay them that small fee (anywhere from $5-$50, at least on the sites I saw).   If you're interested, I found a page on Author Marketing Club that listed a bunch of such sites.

All this being said, why do it?

For me, its a matter of exposure.  I hope that people will read my short story, like it, and decide to buy my novel.  I also hope they will come visit this site (hello to you if this is your first time here) and keep an eye out for future releases.  And maybe keep coming back for more scintillating posts on writing and the writing life.  One of the great things about formatting a book for Amazon is that you can put anything you want to at the end of the book.  So, of course, I put a link to this page.  

I'm not sure how effective a free promotion would be if you had only one book or story up.  There's a whole school of thought that indie publishing is a numbers game and that the more books you have up, the better you'll do.  Hugh Howey, the poster child for indie publishing, said at a panel at AWP that he didn't do any promotion until he had five or six titles published.

So, I'll keep you posted on all this.  I'm approaching my foray into indie publishing as a grand experiment.  Why not try offering a book for free?  Of course, it helps that what I have to give is a short story, not a novel I slaved over for years.  (Though I did write the first draft of this story when I was doing my MFA back in 2002.)

Here are a couple of posts about publishing with Amazon:

So You Want to be a Kindle Author

Amazon for Authors, Part One

Amazon for Authors, Part Two 

Would you consider giving a book away for free?

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My Foray Into Indie Publishing

Blue Sky WEBSITE USEI've been writing so much about Amazon and indie publishing lately that I figured I better try it out myself.

And so I have.  As of last Wednesday, my first indie project, a short story, is for sale on Amazon for 99 cents.

Blue Sky: A Nell Malone Story

Here's the blurb (which I will no doubt rewrite a million times): 

Nell Malone's life is changing, big time. Still grieving over the death of her husband two years earlier, she grapples with the empty nest syndrome as her daughter leaves for college. But a visit to Santa Fe yields new insights into herself–and the tantalizing prospect of a relationship with an intriguing artist. A short story about loss and love.

And here's the inside scoop:  Nell Malone is a character who has been with me practically since I started writing.  She's a newspaper reporter and columnist with an artistic daughter and a husband who died two years earlier.  He was a cop, shot while on the job, and his killer has never been caught. I've got a novel about her all laid out and ready to write when I finish the book I'm working on now. (I'm thinking it will be a great project for Nanowrimo this November. )

But this particular story has been on my computer since my MFA days (and I graduated in 2003). Since Nell seems always to lurk on the edges of my brain, I pulled this story out, drastically gutted it, updated it, and edited it.  Then my writing group read it and commented and made more edits.  And I went back through it again until I was happy with every word.  And then the real fun began.

The Process

Let me just say, there are a few obstacles to the process of publishing a book.  

First of all, you've got to find a cover.  Now, let me be clear: this is a short story, as in short, not a lot of pages, not a novel.  I'm very proud of this story and I love that Amazon gives me a venue to publish it. All that being said, I didn't feel I needed to invest heavily in a cover, because, well, its a short story. And I knew a custom cover would be expensive, or at least more than my budget.

So I did what one always does in such circumstances: I asked the Google.

And I found Melody Simmons.  She does good work for reasonable prices.  I purchased a pre-made cover on her site which happened to suit my story.  It also happened to be on sale, which was a lovely bonus.  Melody has a good selection of pre-made covers on her site, and she also will do custom work. I recommend her.

And then after you get the cover, you need to figure out formatting.  Gee-zus.  It's actually an easy process to submit the file to Amazon.  They check it for spelling errors and send it back to you and then you preview it and realize that everything is wrong: tabs are wonky and things look awful.  So you go back over it again, trying to figure out what you did wrong.  And submit it again.  And it looks worse.  Finally, I got a writing friend with experience to help me with this and that solved the problem. There are also formatters that will do this for you. So that I don't have to rely on friends for help all the time, I'll probably buy this one.)

After you get all the wonkiness out, you submit it, et voila!  Your book is up on Amazon.  You can create your own Amazon author page, which I highly recommend, and feed your blog and Twitter onto it.  You can also create author pages for their UK, German, and French sites. (A tip: keep your English composing page open and you'll be able to figure out what they are saying.)

KDP Select

I opted to participate in the KDP Select program, which means I'm selliing it exclusively on Amazon for 90 days (and probably forever, most likely).  In return I get marketing tools such as the Kindle Countdown, which I haven't quite figured out yet, and the chance to offer my book for free. I'm still studying the best way to handle this promotion–when to offer it for free and so on.  

The Part Where She Asks for Reviews

Anyway, the story is available for purchase, and at the price of 99 cents, who can resist?  If you do buy it, I would SO appreciate a review!  Reviews rule the world, as far as the kings of Amazon are concerned, and I've not been good about asking for them.  (If you've read Emma Jean and feel like leaving a review, that would make me happy, too.)  So if you do decide to buy the story (and bless you if you do), writing a review would be awesome, too.  It's a really easy process!

Previous Posts

Here are some of the other posts I've featured about Amazon:

Amazon for Authors, Part Two: Tools and Thoughts

Amazon for Authors, Part One: Opportunities

Derek

PS

I've got a wee little book on writing about to come out, too.  I keep getting hung up on that one, for reasons to complex to list at the moment, but I'll keep you posted on it, as well.

And now, do tell: are you interested in leaping into the indie publishing process?  

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Amazon for Authors, Part Two: Tools and Thoughts

Book_books_pages_265007_lThe first part of this post, Amazon for Authors, Part One: Opportunities, ran last Monday.  You can read that here, and you probably want to do that before proceeding.

Ever since I wrote part one of this post, I've been obsessed with worry that I'm misrepresenting Amazon.  As in, presenting this rosy view of everything that you can do on the site without also showing the down side.  So, here's an article that does that.  And I want to state again that I fall down somewhere in the middle on the Amazon issue.  I like to think I can see both sides of the issue clearly.  In some ways, the issue is about much more than Amazon.  It's about the collision of the old style legacy publishing and the new digital revolution. But, of course, since Amazon spearheaded the revolution, it is difficult to take them out of the picture.

What I see is that each side often knows little about the other and it is my job on this blog to tackle the big picture–tackling all aspects of the writing life.  So I do my best to share what I learn.  And what I learned at AWP was that Amazon, love it or hate it, offers quite a range of tools and programs for writers.

Tools

Amazon Author Central.  Once you have a book or two published, you can create your own page for them.   The cool thing is that you can put whatever you want to on it, such as links to your site or sign-ups for your mailing list, an author bio, a rant about politics–anything.   You can also link to your blog so that posts automatically update, and your Twitter feed.  For an example, you can see my page here.   You essentially get your own web page for free.

Metadata on your book listing page.  I'm essentially clueless about this, but as I understand it, you can list keywords (and lots of 'em) of your own choosing in order to drive Amazon's search engines to your listing.  Read more about this here.

Amazon Programs

Create Space.  This is Amazon's service for creating hard copies of your book through print-on-demand technology.

Kindle Direct Publishing.  And this would be the Ebook arm of the indie publishing services.  Many authors start here and branch out to other formats.

ACX.  You can now also create audio versions of your book.  This website is essentially an exchange where you can find actors to read your book, and audition them.  You can then pay them upfront or with a cut of your royalties. Cool, huh?

Their own publishing imprints. Amazon also has their own publishing imprints, covering mystery, romance, women's fiction, science fiction, fantasy and horror, literary fiction, young adult, self help, non-fiction, memoirs and short stories.  In other words, just about everything.  Note, however, that their submissions page says they are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts at this time.  My idea is that they look for indie publishers who are doing well and offer them contracts.

Kindle Worlds.  Fan fiction now has a legitimate outlet that you can actually make money on.  I don't get it–either why you want to write in a world that someone else invented or how exactly this works.  But if you're interested, click the link and find out more.

Amazon Associates.  You can earn money just by putting links to Amazon to your page.  I used to do this years ago but it never amounted to much and didn't seem worth the time.  But I probably ought to revisit it.

Goodreads is a book-lover's site, and yes it is now owned by Amazon.  There was a big stink when they bought it last year.  People say Goodreads is great for authors, but I myself have never gained traction on it, which probably says more about me than them.

Kindle Singles.  The tag line for this is compelling ideas expressed at their natural length.  Ebooks have renewed enthusiasm for short stories and novellas and this program takes advantage of that.  And the good news is that you can submit to them manuscripts from 5,000 to 30,000 words.

No doubt, by the time this post is published, there will be even more programs and services for authors offered by Amazon.  You can see why people believe they are out to conquer the world.

And bear in mind…that many other publishing platforms exist, such as Barnes and Noble, Lulu, and Smashwords, to name only a few.  As far as I know, however, none of them offer quite the extensive range of services for authors that Amazon does.  If I'm wrong, please let me know.

My take.

Okay, that's it. That's all I know.  Over the next few months, I plan to experiment with Amazon publishing myself.  My novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior, was published by a small press that took advantage of Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle Publishing.   I think the book looks good (I'm not biased or anything).  But the marketing part has been hard.  And I'm hearing over and over again that the best way to market is to make sure there's more work up for people to buy, so…I have a few short stories that I'm going to publish myself to bolster my presence on the site, so we'll see what happens. And I have a few ideas for genre pieces, as well. I'll keep you all apprised on my progress!  I'd be crazy not to give it a whirl.

I also have a new novel I'm working on that I would love to see published by a legacy publisher.  Unless something drastic happens to change my mind, when I finish the book by the end of the year, I'll be going the traditional route and looking for an agent.  So I'm a believer that we need to be open to all the opportunities we have available to us as writers.

What's your take on Amazon?  On indie publishing?

Image by white_duck.

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Amazon for Authors, Part One: Opportunities

In my previous blog post on my time at AWP, I promised an article on how you, as an author, can utilize some of the many services Amazon offers.  So here it is.

First, let's get clear on a couple of things:

1. I am by no means an expert on this topic.   Many others, who have actual publishing experience with Amazon, are far better versed on the subject than I. Over the last couple of months I've been educating myself, however, and I've accumulated a bit of knowledge.  I also attended two panels at AWP last week and gleaned more information to share.

2.  I am not an apologist for Amazon, nor am I a hater.  I do not subscribe to the view that Jeff Bezos is the devil and his website the Evil Empire.  I think we have to admit that Bezos has changed publishing forever and that Amazon offers fantastic opportunities for writers.  On the other hand, I also lament the ongoing demise of bookstores, especially independent ones, that his reign has hastened.  In other words, I get both sides of the debate.  And I believe one of the reasons it is so heated is that we are standing smack-dab in the middle of a revolution in publishing.  Revolutions are always hard, because one side triumphs and the other slinks away.  But I take the view that there's room for both the old and the new.

So all that being said, let's look at what I've learned.  At one of the panels I attended, the moderator put up a slide with a quote from Jeff Bezos that encapsulates his goal: "Any book ever written in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds."

Yeah.  That tells you something right there.  Bezos wants to get every book ever written anywhere on his site.  This means he's probably going to some day rule the world.  Kidding.  Sort of.  But it also means:

Opportunities for writers on Amazon are incredible.

Not only does Amazon widen the reach of legacy published books, it offers the chance to others who are tired of knocking on the doors of New York houses to publish their own work.  (I'll write more about the actual programs to do this in part two of this post.)

Self publishing, now more often called indie publishing, is no longer quite so frowned upon, especially with the success of authors such as Amanda Hocking, J. A. Konrath, and Hugh Howey. Some stats I picked up from one of the panels: 

  • In 2013, 1/4 of the top 100 on Amazon were indie-published titles.  In 2014, the company expects that figure to go higher.
  • In Germany, the number of indie published books in the top 100 was more like 50%.  In the United Kingdom, 30%.  In India (where Amazon has only been established a couple of years) it was 20%.

Those figures astound me.  As some have said, it's the wild west for authors these days.  (I'm also not good at looking beyond the obvious with statistics.  I'm a writer, not a mathematician.  Though I did manage to raise one.  Anyway, if you see a way we should dig deeper into those figures, let me know.)

And I'm about to divulge some stats that will make you run for your nearest computer to upload your work.  The afore-mentioned Hugh Howey, a writer of science fiction, sold 40,000 Ebooks of his title Wool in May of 2012, to the tune of $150,00 income.  In one month.

Hugh Howey is the current poster boy for Amazon success.  He did so well with his Ebooks that when legacy publishing came knocking at his door, he decided to sell them only his print rights and hang onto the rest himself.  (That a writer was able to negotiate such a contract with the big boys and girls is somewhat of a revolution in and of itself.)

Hugh sat on one of the panels I attended and he's a lovely man, gracious and willing to share his ideas about his success.  He writes an informative blog about his writing and publishing and his books are pretty damn good–I'm currently reading Wool.

By the way, Howey recently created waves a tsunami across the internet, with his report on genre indie author earning.  Read it here.  You can also read a story about it here.

And, all those wonderful, mind-blowing figures aside, there's this:

Discoverability is still a crap shoot.

Discoverability is the new buzz word in indie publishing circles.  It refers, as you have no doubt inferred, to the process of getting your books found among the noise.  I consulted the Google for advice on how many books are published on Amazon and other sites each year, and wasn't able to come up with a definitive answer (though I did read some fascinating articles when I should have been writing).  But we all know that there are a lot of books out there, some excellent, some mediocre, some awful.

The question is how to make yours findable in the midst of the field.   The answer to that deserves a post of its own, one I will no doubt write soon.  But Howey said on the panel that spending time writing good work is the most important thing.  He had put up multiple titles before he actually spent much time marketing his work (and then he used mostly social media).  Many genre indie publishers are finding success with old-fashioned serials, releasing their novels one segment at a time, as Howey did with Wool.  Others augment their novels with shorter works set in the same world.  And most all of them write in series and write a lot.

Amazon says it is working on the discoverability issue.  And one thing I came away from the AWP panels feeling was that they really do have the interests of authors at heart, especially when said authors are making them lots of money. (Because, at the end of the day, Amazon is, after all a corporation, and corporations exist to make money.)

Okay, that's it for part one.  Look for part two in the next few days.  In that post, I'll talk about the various programs that Amazon offers.  And by the way, I'm certainly not against the other indie publishing platfroms out there, including Kobo, Lulu, Smashwords and a gazillion others.  It's just that I've learned more about Amazon, and let's face it, our buddies in Seattle dominate the market.

So what about you?  Are you planning to indie publish?  Or are you dedicated to going the legacy publishing route?  Do you have experience with either?  I'd love to hear in the comments.

PS.  I'm experimenting with the font size on posts.  It suddenly occurred to me the default font size was a bit smallish.  But this font looks big to me. Weigh in, please–which do you prefer?

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So You Want to Be a Kindle Author

Please welcome my good friend Derek Ayre to the site today, as he relates his adventures in publishing for Amazon. For more information on Derek, visit his blog, or this post.

So You Want to be a Kindle Author
by Derek Ayre

Writing for Amazon Kindle seems like a godsend for a new author. The fact that you can actually see your book up for sale on Amazon, available to a world-wide audience, is in itself a wonderful experience.

Over the years, like me, you may have submitted your manuscript to publishing houses and agents only to receive a generic letter of rejection. I have often wondered, whether or not a new author’s work even gets read… Anyway, for me, all that printing of hard-copy with the addition of supplying return postage and packing is now a thing of the past. I have written and converted two Kindle books, Gavin’s Music a story for adults based on my experiences as a musician back in the 1960s and The Corridor, a fantasy book for kids from the age of around 10 years.

My E-Publishing Experience

Uploads are made to the KDP section of Amazon kdp.amazon.com and if you already havean account with Amazon, you simply sign in with your e-mail address and password. Next you will be taken through a few forms requesting name, address, bank details for payment and the usual IRS forms for U.S and tax exempt declarations for non U.S. citizens.

And then you are ready to get down to the business of uploading your e-book.

The first thing I realized was that before it went live, my e-book would need a cover and using an artist or specialized e-book cover creator could be expensive, so I took a few photographs and then used my trusty Adobe Photoshop Elements to create a cover. My first book, Gavin’s Music, was the story of a young musician (pianist) working and playing his way through the world of the sixties British nightclub scene, which was based on my own experience. I have my own piano, so I took a photograph of the keyboard and as a background, a photograph of a musical score and layered one on top of the other. It took me quite a while tweaking the cover and showing it to writing friends before deciding on the finished article, but the finished cover can be seen here.

Before I went ahead with my first upload, I procrastinated a lot. This is something that did not occur when I used to send off my hard copies, possibly something to do with the fact that KDP was going to publish my book for all the world to see right now! Wow!

I also heard that getting the right format for the Kindle which is .mobi file, could be more than a little tricky. However, when I finally disciplined myself and got around to it, I found the whole process easy because I cheated… I purchased a software program specifically created for the task that really took the stress out of converting from my word processor to a .mobi file called The UEC (Ultimate E-book Creator).

This piece of software certainly didn’t disappoint and the format of my books proved to be excellent as I could create them as they would appear on a Kindle on my computer before uploading to Amazon.

What I Did

I copied and pasted my book chapter by chapter from my word processor files into the UEC software and then attached my Kindle to my computer and loaded the finished book onto it. There was something wrong though. The spaces between paragraphs looked huge on the smaller screen, so I decided to get rid of the double spacing between paragraphs and opt for indented paragraphing instead. Perfect!

For current price of $67, the UEC software, in my opinion, was worth every penny. It is available here and a full video demo of the product is available on their home page explaining how it all works in greater detail.

The Alternative

You can upload as a Word document or an html file, but I have heard that often times it can all go terribly wrong… the formatting can change in the conversion process. How true that is I do not know, because coward that I am, I never even ventured to try! But let me explain.

I consider myself fairly savvy at html and most other computer tasks, having written my own websites using html code, but I had a lot of “what ifs” regarding the technical side of presenting a whole novel, and what ran through my nagging mind was that I would risk embarrassment if the format of my book looked a mess to the first people who read it.

But through the process, I later discovered that whatever method you use you will get the opportunity to preview your e-book exactly how it would appear on a Kindle whilst still in draft mode on Amazon, and it will stay in draft mode until you select and click “Publish”. Amazon then does a spell check, and does seem to be able to detect names and nicknames and other obvious non-dictionary words and ignore them. I had practically proof-read my novel to death but Amazon found just one typing error. I quickly changed that, resaved my UEC .mobi file and uploaded it again within minutes. Another spell check and it registered zero spelling mistakes.

So my book is up on Amazon and now people need to know it is there. I need to promote it. So far I have tweeted, and also posted to my Facebook account. There has been some downloads and interest in the book from friends and I’ve had one review on Amazon. I have also started a blog on blogger.com and have done some Google searches on novel e-book promotion. But this is early days and I hope to come back sometime in the future with a post telling all about my great success.. Well, one has to stay positive!

Thanks for reading.

Book Links:

Gavin’s Music
The Corridor

My Blog

Do you have experience with Amazon Kindle publishing? Please comment!

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