Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Guest Post: Choices When Self-Publishing With Amazon

by Robert Courtland

Thanks to its impressive scale of business as a bookseller, being the company that made the ereader popular, and having a streamlined process for submissions, Amazon is the leader in self publishing and many authors don’t even explore other options. That makes it vital to understand how to publish your book through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

The perfect self publishing solution would be a one-stop publishing solution that would distribute to all the major booksellers, but that doesn’t exist. Smashwords comes close, but they are having an issue with Amazon (their competitor) and only distribute to Amazon if your business is above a certain level. So if you are just starting out and haven’t reached that level yet and you want to see your book on Amazon, you have to go through Amazon.

There is a caveat to that. Createspace, one of the self publishing solutions for print-on-demand paper books (and an Amazon subsidiary company), has an option to convert your print ready book to a Kindle ebook and upload it to Amazon for you. I haven’t tried it and don’t recommend it because Amazon has made it so easy to publish a professional looking book directly with them.

Before I delve into the specifics of how to publish using Amazon’s KDP services, let me first go over how to format your book. To be blunt, there is only one good source out there and that is The Smashwords Style Guide. You need to use Microsoft Word or a clone (Open Office or SoftMaker Office) and use paragraph styles for formatting. You don’t want page numbers, headers, footers, or anything fancy, you just want to start with your text. Of course, when following that style guide for publishing using KDP, you do have to make sure you substitute Amazon for Smashwords. And when you have your Word .doc file ready and fit for upload to Smashwords, there is one last step needed for good results for your Kindle ebook, export it using the filtered web page .html settings. While it is true you can upload an MS Word .doc file on the KDP site, I have had much better luck using the .html file. The results have been more consistent and much more professional looking. I could go into more detail, but that should be a blog post of its own so I’ll save that for another time.

Once you have your book properly formatted and have created a cover, it’s time to publish. But you have some decisions to make about how to publish. KDP gives you several options. First, to include DRM or not (never use DRM, it is annoying to the reader and doesn’t provide enough benefit), to allow lending or not (definitely allow lending), and whether to sign up for KDP Select or not. DRM and lending can’t be changed once you select them, so make sure you select carefully. KDP Select can be changed, but not on a whim. Once you sign up for KDP Select (and I’ll get to the benefits and drawbacks in a moment), you are committed to it for 90 days and it has implications beyond Amazon. You’ll need to weigh your decision carefully. However, for all the weight of some of the things it asks you to decide, the KDP submission process only has two pages and provides you the opportunity to preview your Kindle ebook before you submit it. This gives you the chance to review it and correct anything before it goes live.

That brings us to the final topic in this post, KDP Select. This is probably the single most confusing piece of publishing on Amazon. There are benefits and drawbacks. The biggest drawback is that by participating in KDP Select you agree to make Amazon your exclusive ebook outlet. That means this book cannot be published as an ebook anywhere else. You cannot publish it with Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple, or even on your own website. The term runs for 90 days and can be renewed. If you have already published it elsewhere, it must be taken down first, before you sign up for KDP Select. Now, if you have decided that because Amazon is the largest bookseller out there that you are only going to go through them, then this is a no-brainer and you should do KDP Select as Amazon already has your exclusive business. Also, this is not an author specific program, it is a book by book program. You can choose to use KDP select on a single title or all of your titles.

There are three benefits to using KDP Select. First, for 5 of the 90 days, you can make your book free for a promotional day. You can use them individually or use multiple days at a time. Second, your book becomes part of the KDP Select library which can be used by any Amazon Prime member who has a Kindle. The best part is, you will get paid every time it is checked out. Third, your book gets preferential placement in lists over non-KDP Select titles. This is important because it brings your book to the attention of potential readers. These are three very powerful reasons to enroll your book(s) in KDP Select, the only drawback in the exclusivity. Some people see enough sales from other retailers to negate these advantages. Either way, the choice to enroll in KDP Select is yours.

There are, of course, more things to cover, such as pricing, international sales, more detailed formatting instructions (especially if you want to include images other than the cover), using Author Central, and more, but in this post I have focused on the larger publishing issues when dealing with Amazon. A lot of people get confused by the many different options and, with luck, you now have enough information to get your book published with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

Robert Courtland writes epic fantasy tales from his home in Colorado at the foot of the majestic Rocky Mountains. His main goal in writing is to bring something new to epic fantasy. In his first novel, Counterpoint to Chaos, he created an Asian inspired setting and inserted a young woman from Pakistan as the heroine. Look for Counterpoint to Chaos at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords. Visit Robert’s website for the latest updates on what he is writing.


Robert Courtland said...

Thanks for allowing me to be your guest. I hope this information is helpful.

E.B. Black said...

I wish I had gotten to read this before I self-published.

I thought about it for awhile, but didn't have anyone to discuss the possible advantages and disadvantages of DRM. I chose to have it for my book and now regret it, but you can't get rid of it.

I won't have it on my future books though.