Thus begins my series of posts about how to self-publish an eBook on Amazon.com’s Kindle store and Smashwords.com. As I warned before, if this is not something you’re interested in, click away and I’ll see you when the series is over. I’m not sure how many parts this will run, though, so I hope at least some of you with stories you feel are entertaining and would be enjoyed by others but don’t think you have a market for them will stick around and consider this.
J. A. Konrath also suggested if you’ve got a manuscript which did its rounds – that is, you sent it out for representation and an agent didn’t pick it up or your agent sent it around and no publisher picked it up – you consider doing this with those as well. What have you got to lose? At the worst it languishes just like it is now. At best, you have an eBook bestseller on your hands and who knows what doors that will open.
So, let’s get going with this; I’m eager to tell and you’re presumably eager to learn.
A word about self-publishing
First, I have to say this: I’m generally against self-publishing.
I know that sounds contradictory but look at what I’m saying. I’m against print self-publishing, and for a lot of reasons. For one thing, most of the places providing “self-publishing” services are actually vanity presses. They are there to separate authors from their money by charging outrageous fees, demanding more and more copies be purchased by the author, forcing you to buy a set number of copies upfront, staging themselves with “publishing packages” and other such gimmicks. There are websites devoted to self-publishing scams, most notably Writer Beware! but also places like Predators and Editors, et al. Before you decide to do anything with a manuscript through a self-publisher for print, please avail yourself of the resources available to check them out.
Further, most self-publishing services don’t provide any sort of real services. Your book might be typeset, but that will be about it. Most of them accept your Microsoft Word document manuscript and slap it onto a trade paperback-sized template, and voila! – you’re an author. All the typos, inconsistent formatting, the bad grammar, misused words (then/than, their/there/they’re, too/to/two, etc.) will all still be there. The manuscript could be as unprofessional as a high school term paper, but it’s gone to print and the author paid for it with a smile and a pat on their own backs, never knowing how the “publishing service” snickers behind them all the way to the bank. Honest, if you just have to see your words in print, get a blog.
In addition, most of them “generously” offer you an ISBN identifying number. This way your low sales numbers follow you throughout your publishing eternity like the ghost of Jacob Marley and cause traditional publishers to turn their nose up at you. Who wants an author with a bad sales record?
Vanity publishing isn’t the same as a Print-on-Demand service, but those carry some of the same pitfalls. Not just anyone can write a novel, and not everyone who publishes through a vanity press or “self-publishing” service is going to recover their costs. In fact, most won’t. Again, caveat emptor. Do your homework.
All that being said, I’m arrogant enough to believe my work is good enough, professional enough and strong enough to survive the traditional gatekeeper system in mainstream publishing. I believe my work can garner an agent’s representation and will then garner an editor’s. So why am I doing this?
Make up your mind! Why’d you do it?
I published my eBook for a number of reasons.
- Short story markets are generally non-paying and take months and months to respond, in general, to submissions. Not all, but some. The benefit is a publishing credit, and you know what? I have those already from a non-fiction book. Why do I need them from non-paying markets?
- My situation isn’t stable and my future’s a little rocky. I wanted to see results now.
- I believe the buying public will let me know if story collections are still interesting or desired by the readers of the world.
- EBooks are the way of the future. As many people as there are bellyaching about I’ll never give up books, I’ll never give up books, lots of figures show eBooks are currently outselling print books by a fair margin, which is only going to grow. Get with the program or be run over by it.
- I can get 70% royalties with Amazon’s Kindle program. Try THAT with a mainstream publishing house. Go ‘head, I dare you.
- My stories were already on my blog for free; why not try to make a little money from them?
I could keep going, but you get the point. All the money I’ve made so far is that much more money than I made with them by not publishing them on Amazon and Smashwords. I’m already ahead of the game. That’s why I did it, and it looks like I was right so far.
You gonna tell us how, or preach all day?
Okay, okay, you want the process. I get it. I just want to make sure I don’t come across as a hypocrite. Self-publishing eBooks on Amazon and Smashwords: Good. Self-publishing in print: Bad. Got it? Good. Let’s go.
First things first: What you need
You’re going to need a few things, but you’ll already have most of them, and what you don’t have is free, so don’t freak. Just go get it.
- A good text editor. Something like Notepad++ would be ideal, but you can use Notepad – which comes with Windows – if you’d like. If you’re not using a PC, or if you’re using a PC without Windows on it (AHEM, Bryce), you’re on your own. But I think Notepad++ is multiplatform, so I use it and I’m going to assume you’re using it too for the rest of this tutorial series.
- Amazon’s Kindle for PC or Kindle Previewer software. I prefer the latter, but I have both. I can’t speak for how Kindle for PC works; never used it. The previewer does everything I want it too. I need this; it’s the only way I can test the behavior of the file and get an idea about how it looks on a Kindle. You can’t skip this one; go get it from Amazon’s Kindle publishing page.
- Microsoft Word, or something which can save as a Microsoft Word document, like OpenOffice Writer or such. Try to avoid Wordperfect; it does strange things and no one recommends it. Also Smashwords ONLY accepts Microsoft Word documents. Go figure.
- Mobipocket Creator. This is the program which will transform your file into a Kindle-friendly format for you. This is completely optional; many, many people upload their HTML document straight to Amazon’s DTP (Digital Text Platform) and the conversion to the Kindle-native file format is done for them. No hassles, no hair-pulling, no cussing. What fun is that?
- I like to use KompoZer – which is a free, multiplatform HTML editor (like a word processor for HTML) to do some of the heavy, repetitive lifting. It’s not necessary, but you’ll see why I use it when we get into the process.
- Patience. Yep, you’re gonna need it. It’s gonna take a couple of days to get this right, but by the time you do, you’ll be a pro and can do it in your sleep.
Okay, once you’ve got all that stuff together, you’re going to need a story. Of course, that story should be imported or copied and pasted into Microsoft Word if you didn’t write it in Word.
The part where you have a story, I’ll assume is done.
Next time, we’ll get to the nuts and bolts.
See ya then!