Dear Indie | eBook Formatting Tips & Hacks for Kindle

Hi Indies!

Over the last week, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the best “free” ways to update the formatting for my books. I wasn’t happy with their blahzay interiors–and I also wanted to add content to the Back Matter that I didn’t have before.

I already shared the new chapter graphics in a previous post, but what I really wanted to know was how to use a drop cap that KDP wouldn’t automatically strip out.

There is one surefire way to have drop caps in your Kindle books: Use Kindle Create and sacrifice all control over font styles, graphics, etc. just for a drop cap. If you don’t care how unoriginal your book will look, then KC is a fast, easy approach to formatting your interior.

I do care, and I didn’t want to lose all of the work I’d already put into getting my interior the way I wanted, so I finally accepted that unless you’re good at coding (which, I’m not), there is no easy way to add drop caps for Kindle.

Note: If you are good at coding, then check out Derek Murphy’s video on inserting Drop Caps to Kindle.

I went through eBooks I’ve read by other authors just to get a feel for how they format their interiors. Of course, the best selling authors have professionals doing everything for them, so I skipped those.

Normally, drop caps wouldn’t cross my mind unless I was preparing a paperback file–BUT, when I added these chapter graphics, it didn’t quite look right with an ordinary First Paragraph. Viewing other author’s books that combined a graphic with a drop cap was easier and more pleasing on the eye. Here’s what I was stuck with:

Avarice Unleashed w/New Graphic, No Drop Cap

I soon discovered that wasn’t the only mess my books were in. As you can see in the image above, I was using Times New Roman, Single-Spaced with a jagged right alignment (technically it’s the Left alignment, but you know what I mean). None of the books I read on my Kindle app look like that. What the heck was I thinking?

After diving into more research, here is the best advice I’ve come across for the cleanest, easiest to read combination that Kindle will accept:

  • Georgia Font (12pt. for body)
  • 1.5 line spacing
  • Justified alignment.

It makes a big difference. And maybe I’m the last to learn this, but I’m sharing anyway. I also noticed that no one uses the “link back” to the Table of Contents anymore on their chapter headings–that was an old formatting tip from Smashwords. It’s an outdated practice, so I took all of those out, as well. Here’s what those changes left me with:

New Font, Spacing, & Alignment.

As you can see, those simple changes have already made my book 100% easier to read compared to the first image. Still, I was burning with determination to spice up that first paragraph. I went back to my Kindle and checked out other author’s books again and noticed that some of the ones I “thought” had drop caps really didn’t. It’s actually a simple hack, and this is what it looks like:

New “Fake” Drop Cap

Capitalize each letter for the first 2-3 words, then enlarge the first letter only (I used 24pt.), and select “Bold.” Voila, it has the similar appearance of a drop cap. Unfortunately, this has to be done manually each time, but that’s still a heck of a lot easier than coding. I’ve seen this used even when there isn’t a graphic and it still looks good.

I also noticed a lot of people inserting an image of the first letter for a more genuine drop cap effect, but this requires a lot of tweaking to get the spacing just right, which again takes some ability to mess with the coding, and I just don’t have those skills.

Now, that I finally had everything the way I wanted, all I had to do was upload my updated manuscript to KDP, right? 😐 Since I never had these formatting elements in place before, I’ve always just uploaded a .doc (Word) file. But here’s what Kindle did with that:

Collar Me Foxy .doc file in Kindle Previewer

Yep, it attributed the 24pt. size of that “fake” drop cap to the entire first paragraph’s spacing. And I’m ashamed to admit that I tried fixing the problem in the .doc file for about 30 minutes before remembering that KDP accepts other file types for publishing. Ugh! It was one of those days.

I use Calibre to preview all of my books before publishing because it will convert your .doc or .odt file to any other file extension you want. It’s 100% FREE and easy to use – I highly recommend it.

After messing around with conversions and viewing them on the KDP website, I chose ePub over mobi because it stayed truer to my formatting.

The biggest -ish is mobi’s answer to “justified” alignment, which is to stretch each line from margin-to-margin, resulting in irregular spacing between words. You’ve probably noticed this before in eBooks you’ve read, where random lines will have gaping spaces in between shorter words. It’s glaring, nobody likes it.

Mobi was also shrinking my graphics and/or moving them too far away from the Chapter heading. ePub doesn’t do any of that nonsense, and looks more like the .doc version. Here’s the final result:

ePub file in Kindle Previewer

Perfecto. 🙂

Two valuable pieces of advice to follow when formatting, is: 1) Make sure the layout and font styles match the genre of your book, and 2) Practice the Keep It Simple motto. You want your book to look like it was customized by a pro not Bedazzled by a 5-year-old.

Many best selling authors don’t even use images, or maybe just an ornamental divider, and those look really nice, too. The bottom line is you’re not using these graphics to sell books, that’s your story’s job.

Now, I have noticed a rise in graphics in the Back Matter of both best selling and non-best-selling books, usually for promoting other books, fan pages, and newsletter subscriptions. Again, you don’t want to go crazy, but at least these images aren’t in danger of distracting readers from your story. Here’s a couple of examples:

Promoting Hexed at the end of Avarice Unleashed
Using my Logo on the Newsletter Subscription page

Remember you are a brand name, so don’t feel bad about slapping your logo onto your work. That’s what it’s for.

Okay, that’s all for now, Indies. Hopefully, some of these tips and resource links help out in your writing/publishing journey.

❤ Stay Safe & Healthy!

Dear Indie | Book Formatting: More Error than Trial

First, Happy Free to Consume as Much Chocolate as You Want Without Feeling Guilty About It Day! ❤ I mean, why else do we celebrate it, really? 😛

Hi Indies! Long time, no post. I’ve been up to no good this past week, which has given me a ton of new resources and info to share with you about the nasty, tedious self-publishing step of formatting your book. Dun-dun-duuuun…! As such, I’ll have to break these up into separate posts (oh, darn).

The Biggest -ish With Book Formatting?

Money. Most writers are on a tight budget, so you’re probably not paying a professional to format and style the layout of your book. I made the mistake of hiring a cheap formatter with my first Indie book and ended up not even using the file because I was able to make one that was more attractive. This lesson taught me two valuable things:

  1. You definitely get what you pay for sometimes, and
  2. If and when you can, always ask for an example of a professional’s work BEFORE you hire them.

The second biggest -ish, is experience &/or training in professional formatting. Many of us just don’t have it. This whole issue came about for me, not because I’m awesome and have a new book coming out – but because I noticed that even on Kindle Unlimited, people who read the Avarice books never go on to read Hexed, which is the next book in line for the series.

It dawned on me that Avarice “looks” like a trilogy, rather than the beginning of a series, and added to that, there’s no information about Hexed in the back matter of those books because it didn’t exist at the time they were published. I decided that needed to be updated ASAP.

That’s when the publishing gods pushed me down the rabbit-hole and straight into Formatting Hell. Don’t laugh, it’s a real place.

The madness that ensued sounded something like this: “Well, since I’m already updating these files, I might as well make them look prettier while I’m at it!”

When you’re done laughing, we can move on…

What’s So Hard About Formatting, Anyway?

As readers, I’m sure you’ve noticed that some author’s eBooks have stylized fonts and decorative elements – even on Kindle! If you’re an Indie who’s formatting your own books without extensive, professional training, then you know that mobi is the only file extension that won’t support your beautiful font choices and will immediately change them when you upload to KDP or convert via Calibre.

That’s because Amazon likes to give people the choice of changing the fonts on their Kindle devices to one that’s easiest for them to read. So, how is that some authors manage to have these spectacular looking books that stand out in the competitive crowd? If you guessed it’s because they’re paying fancy professionals, that would be correct.

Unfortunately, after taking many avenues, all of which led to dead ends, I have hoisted my white flag and surrendered to the fact that there is no way for a non-professional, non-experienced formatter, to create a book file that KDP won’t strip bare upon arrival. Pervs.

So, if you’re in the same boat as me, my advice is this: just use a supported font like Times New Roman and apply ‘font effects’ such as Small Caps or Italicize to spice things up, so mobi won’t have a hernia. Save yourself the head-and-heartache, I already went through all of that for you the last few days.

‘Twas Not All in Vain

During this painful process, I managed to find some good sites and after a couple of days of vicious tweaking, I finally got one of my files completely updated and polished with a prettier interior than before. Wanna see?

BEFORE
AFTER

And I also changed out those ordinary **** scene break indicators for a decorative divider. See?

Vjola!

On top of those items, and adding all of the info for Hexed, I went ahead and cleaned up/reorganized some of the other front and back matter pages that were suffering from “This was the first book I ever formatted” syndrome. LOL I haven’t uploaded the new file to KDP just yet to know if there will be any issues – so fingers crossed!

Quick Note For Aspiring Writers: Never worry about updating books you already have published on KDP, it doesn’t render that book unavailable, your original version will stay active for purchase until Amazon approves and publishes the new file.

Up Next, I will go over the sites I found with links and details for fonts, clipart/vectors, graphics –  plus my experience with two different eBook editing programs so far!

❤ Seriously, who’s got the chocolate?

Catching Up & Changing Routes

scavenger-banner-1

Yes! I’m happy to announce that I finished the rough draft of Scavenger, got it cleaned up and shipped off to my beta readers! 😀 I’d do a happy dance, but I woke up with a kink in my neck this morning. Ugh, hate those but I don’t exactly practice proper ergonomics, either – my bad.

I’m also happy to say that I got the final cover for Scavenger done. It’s so hard keeping it to myself, I can’t wait to share it with you! Since I made Collar Me Foxy’s cover, I just decided to stick with it for the rest of the series. The nice thing about Canva is that you can make a copy of your complete cover and that way the same color theme, fonts and everything are already in place, all you have to do is replace/adjust the photo and choose the proper filter setting (if you have any) and tweak it to your liking. No need to start from scratch – so, that’s just a little insight for those thinking about making their own covers. Of course, it’s more complicated if you’re using vignettes or multiples layers.

Another little insight I’d like to talk about with my fellow Indie’s is regarding publishing platforms. First I’ll start off by stating that everyone’s experience is different, so this is in no way a guideline on what you should do – I think we all should try everything for ourselves and come to our own conclusions on what works best for us. I’m going to be unpublishing my books from Smashwords and enrolling them into the KDP Select program at the end of this month (the end of Smashwords’s quarter).

I love everything about Smashwords, why it exists and everything it provides for Indie Authors – this is admittedly a business decision, not a personal one. Unfortunately, Smashwords’s Reporting & Payment policies are not competitive to Amazon’s. I’ll break it down for comparison:

Smaswords Reporting & Payment Policies:

  • 3 months per quarter + 30-40 days for payment, so for the quarter of July/August/September an author gets paid around the end of October, beginning of November.
  • A 30-60 day lag between end of quarter and when third party retailers send payments for sales (if any) to Smashwords. (according to their FAQ)
  • Smashwords purchases reported right away.
  • Third party retailer sales updated every 48 hours under Daily Sales.
  • A $75 minimum for payment by check. A $10 minimum for payment by PayPal, no exceptions.

Amazon KDP’s Reporting & Payment Policies:

  • 60 days after each month you make a sale, you get paid. (i.e. I got paid in August for June’s sales.)
  • Your sales are updated 24 hours after they happen – worldwide.
  • A $100 minimum for check or wire transfers. NO minimum for EFT payments (direct deposit) – whatever you make, you get.

So far, I’ve only sold 1 of each book available on Smashwords, a total of under $3.00. So not only am I unsure of how many books I may have sold at third party retailers, I don’t even know if I qualify to get paid at the end of October/beginning of November. Yet, my books have been selling fairly regularly on Amazon. So, for me, this is a smart business decision to take my books to where they’re selling. Also, since both of my books fall under the 35% royalty range, rather than the 70% royalty range, going Select could be more lucrative than staying normal KDP. Here’s why:

Amazon KDP Select Reporting & Payment Policies:

  • Sales reported 24 hours after they happen – worldwide – for regular, non-KU/KOLL customers.
  • Sales reports generated the 15th of every month for Kindle Unlimited & Kindle Owners Lender Library customers.
  • KENP reports as it happens (number of pages read through Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Owners Lending Library).
  • You get paid your regular sales 60 days after the end of each calendar month for non-KU/KOLL purchases.
  • You get paid from the KDP Select Global Fund for all books read through the Kindle Unlimited or Kindle Owner Lender Library programs – from my understanding, this is paid the same way KDP payments happen – 60 days after the end of each calendar month – if this is wrong, please let me know in the comments below!

Like I said, this is a choice I’m making for my own books, not something I’m recommending for yours, unless you want to. Another new experience I will happily share with you in a future post to let you know how it works out. In the meantime, I hope everyone is doing great and making progress on their own beloved projects and I have so many blogs and emails to catch up on, I better get back to it! 😀

In Scavenger, Tessa faces a typical sub conundrum more than once. Which is: giving Master too much information, because you’re forbidden to tell lies.

“You don’t like yellow, pet?”

“I hate it, Master.”

“Good to know,” he smiled deviously.

Personally, I think Master Felix just likes having a full arsenal of future punishments at the ready. Which do you prefer in books: blatant attacks, subtle unravelings or a good mixture of both?

 

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Dear Indie ♥ Weekly Resource Post

Independent

Alright Indies, before we get down to business, I’ve noticed a couple of things this week that I think are important to share.

  1. There seems to be a small flaw to the social media managing site Crowdfire. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, I just realized that any post I publish or schedule through Crowdfire doesn’t show up under my Twitter profile like all of my other posts do (If you’re familiar with this site and have additional information – like what I’m doing wrong – please let us know!) or I’ll stop being lazy and go look on their FAQ page. Also, none of my Instagram posts show up anywhere on my Instagram, whether it’s on my feed or profile. It shows up as being published under the Archive section on Crowdfire, but nowhere else. I don’t think it’s being posted. So for Instagram, I’m sticking to posting the traditional way. Which is better, anyway, since I use the NoCrop app in order for my entire picture to show up without getting cut off by Instagram’s Square photos only policy.

    NoCrop

    NoCrop Logo – courtesy of Google Play

  2. I received an email from a newsletter that I subscribe to that gave me great pause. I’m not going to name names, as I really like the site the email is affiliated with and they have really low, affordable author services on their MAIN site. This appears to be a spin-off or sister site. And the very first thing in the email is the fact that they are offering a new service that will charge you for reviews [insert gobsmacked expression here]. Paid-For Reviews are 100% BANNED on Amazon, as well as every other retail site, and Strictly Prohibited on Goodreads. Even if by some chance they can promise the review only reads: “Was provided a free ARC in exchange for an honest review” – it’s a big fat lie, because regardless if that money goes to the person who actually wrote the review or not – you, the author exchanged MONEY for that review, not a free ARC.
  • Please Indies, check out other resources before ever paying for a review. There are countless legitimate Reviewing companies out there that will review your book for free – there are countless Reviewing groups, folders and individuals all over Goodreads who are also willing to review for FREE. Granted, you have less control over if your book gets chosen or if you get a good review, or when you might ever see that review, but why would you pay to get a bad review or worse… a fake one? Reviews are important, yes, but they are NOT the end-all-be-all that sells your book – Your dedicated readers are! So focus on your readers, your followers, your newsletter subscribers more than your reviews. Just as with Beta Reads, you should never have to PAY for a review and in my humble, personal opinion, it’s just another unethical practice that ‘tricks’ consumers into spending money, on top of scamming authors!

Okay, now that I got that out of the way, this week I promised we’d cover Pre-Orders. Have you considered the process, or the purpose? Is this something you’d even want to try? There was just a lively discussion about this on Goodreads a week or so ago, and even though it only covered the ‘marketing & sales’ side of it, I did learn a couple of things on the Print end – which I’m unfamiliar with as of yet. I’m going to share those things here with you today, so you have more insight, too. 🙂

Print On Demand: There are no pre-order options with this service (I did not know that). One of the commenters warned us of that, followed with how she gets around it. She simply direct-publishes her POD books a few days before her eBook goes live so that her POD reviews seamlessly merge with the eBook version shortly after its release. So, if you’re interested in going that route, it may be something you want to research deeper. I will have a future post on POD’s, because I truly do want to try CreateSpace when I can.

eBook Pre-Orders: KDP, KDP Select and Smashwords all allow you to publish your book for Pre-Order (click on links for their guidelines). Smashwords then sends your book out to its affiliate stores (Kobo, iBooks, B&N) for pre-order as well. I would normally follow that up with a list of Pros & Cons, but there aren’t any Cons. It’s just a matter of preference and what your purpose for choosing Pre-Orders might be. The first question is usually: Does Pre-Order help with book sales? If you’re a well established author with a huge following, probably. Otherwise, you might not get a single pre-order. However, there are other benefits, and these are the reasons why I will always opt for pre-order:

When I tried to put Avarice up for Pre-Order on KDP, it came back BLOCKED. I spent 4 days pulling teeth (aka trying to get a straight answer from Amazon customer support), because they “retain the right to choose what they deem appropriate or not, without having to explain themselves” (almost a direct quote). The problem is that I had no idea if the issue was with the cover, the content or the book details – and they flat out refused to tell me – which tells me that they don’t know, it was merely something one of their algorithm systems picked up on. Luckily, I had also loaded my book to Smashwords for Pre-Order and when their infamous Meatgrinder kicked it out – they told me exactly why, without me even having to contact customer support! So I was able to take that mistake and apply it to a new upload on KDP and wallah! It went through the second time without a hitch.

Important Note: KDP will not allow you to remove or make changes to a BLOCKED book – you have to load it again, as if it’s a whole other book, under the “Create Title” option on your Author Bookshelf page.

How is that a benefit, you ask? Imagine if that had happened on Avarice’s Release Day. If I had waited until the 22nd when my book is due to go Live, I would’ve had a the worst Launch Day ever. No one would’ve been able to buy my book!

The fact is both Smashwords and KDP take 24-48 hours to APPROVE your book for publishing before they’ll even list it. Perhaps, publishing directly forces it to go through right away on KDP – I’m not sure, as I’ve never taken that route – but from everything I’ve read on Smashwords, even if you direct publish, it still has to make it through their Meatgrinder in order to make it into their Premium Catalog, before they’ll send it out to their retail affiliates. Therefore, your book may be for sale on Smashwords, but not on Kobo, iBooks or B&N until it’s been approved.

Going the Pre-Order route allows you to make sure that all mistakes (if any) are fixed, and your book is being released across ALL retail sites simultaneously, without any delays – leaving you completely free to spend your book’s Launch Day interacting with your tour hosts and readers, rather than trying to fix publishing issues. So, that is simply another aspect to look at other than just the ‘marketing & sales’ side of it.

DEADLINES: Both KDP and Smashwords allows you to put incomplete books up for pre-order. KDP limits some of your options if you’re only uploading the Rough version or what Smashwords calls “Assetless Preorders”: This is the unfinished/or unedited manuscript with or without a book cover. However – both of these sites also have Deadlines of when you MUST have your final versions with book covers uploaded. 10 days prior to its Release Date – and if you don’t, then you will not be allowed to use their Pre-Order options for a certain penalty period after that. *Note: this does not change your ability to upload an “Updated” version of your book, after you’ve met your deadline with the “final” version. You will always be able to load an updated version, even after it’s live. You just need to make sure you have a ‘final’ version up there first.

Well, that’s all I have for this week Indies! Next week’s post will be bittersweet, because I’m going to cover what to expect on your Big Launch Day! That means our Step-by-Step Guide portion is almost at an end – but worry not, even if Dear Indie turns into a Monthly post, rather than weekly, I will still be sharing every new trick, free and/or low-cost resource and anything else I continue to learn along this journey we all love so much!

Weekly Accomplishment: I’ve been diligently working on Scavenger, after having to go back to the very beginning and make changes throughout because somewhere along the way I lost my character’s true voices and was very unhappy with the tragic nosedive they were taking. Writing a scene should never feel ‘forced’ – and that’s where I was at. I’m quite happy with where we’re back to and hopefully will be soaring right to the end now. 🙂 What are you celebrating this week? Please share with us in the comments, if not for our drinking habits, then for yourself – every milestone, no matter how small should always be celebrated!

 

 

Dear Indie ♥ Weekly Resource Post

Independent

Good evening [she says in Bela Lugosi’s Dracula voice] – Yeah, I’m a nerd – But, I have an important update for all of you who might still be contemplating where to publish your books: Collar Me Foxy just hit its 102nd full download since going Free on Smashwords! Now, we celebrate not getting paid? YES! That’s 102 readers that may otherwise never have purchased my book, 102 people who might love it and then spread the word to all of their friends, coworkers, etc. – in other words, 102 free ads I didn’t have to pay for. 😉 So, is it worth publishing through Smashwords? Yes. Is it worth participating in any sale event that lists your book for free? Absolutely!

Of course, the sale is only through Smashwords, so my book is still selling at regular price on every other retail site. Even though I’ve been trying to advertise the free version, not everyone sees those tweets or posts, and some consumers are under the impression that if they have a Kindle they can only purchase through Amazon, when that’s not the case. Smashwords offers the MOBI edition, too. – Just wanted to let all my fellow Indies know for future reference.

This week, we’re entering the final stages of your publishing process. See that checkered flag up ahead? That’s the finish line, my friend! Let’s recap the steps you’ve already taken thus far: You totally nailed finishing your rough draft, conquered your fears and got those beta read revisions done, then shipped your MS off to your Editor. In the interim, you started building your Author Platform, got your Newsletter started, and have shopped around for – or perhaps, already ordered – your book cover. If you haven’t, now is the time to do that. Depending on how you choose to obtain it, depends on how long it will take for you to get your cover. For those who’ve been following these posts all along, this information is probably starting to sound a little redundant, so to save all of our times, here are the links for my articles on book covers: Post 1 , Post 2 , Post 3.

Here’s a Checklist of what you’ve already accomplished:

  • Author Bio
  • Blurb
  • Final Edited Version of your MS
  • Blog/Website
  • Social Media Accounts
  • Facebook Fan Page – different from a regular user account
  • Goodreads Author Profile
  • (Optional) Teasers, Book Trailer, Playlist
  • Book Cover (self-made, pre-made or professional) Done or Ordered

These are the things that your promoters are going to ask for when you order your book tours, which is something else you should be doing right about now, if you haven’t already. Also, if you’re getting ready to book your tours, that means you’ve already chosen a Release Date – Congratulations! It’s an amazing feeling to have that date circled on your calendar, an obtainable goal within your reach, so take a moment to revel in that feeling of accomplishment. You’re one step closer to becoming a published author. 🙂

Your next step is critical: Interior Layout Formatting. I also covered that a little bit in an earlier post here. Please take a moment to read it over and decide how you’d like to cover this step. I’ll give you my personal experience and opinion in a nutshell: I jumped the gun and hired a professional for my novella, Avarice, and now I’m not even going to be using the two formats I paid over $80 for. I needed to make changes I couldn’t pay the extra money for, and to be honest, I wasn’t impressed with the blahzay title page or chapter headers they used. I wanted to jazz it up a little.

Both Smashwords and Amazon have style guides, but one works just as well for the other, so spare yourself the extra reading. However, they are only for those using Microsoft Word – which, I do not have – so if you’re also using a free word processor like OpenOffice or Libre, message me and I can send you step-by-step instructions on how to apply the right steps to perfect your layout. It seems overwhelming at first glance, but trust me, once you get the hang of it, it’s easy peasy – and you’ll find yourself never using the TAB button again!

If you’re part of the Goodreads support groups, you may have seen an open discussion about this recently. To me, it seems those having a problem with doing their own layouts are not following each step – even though it warns in the very beginning that not following each step will result in failure – so, please have patience young padawan and follow those guides to a T. Collar Me Foxy never saw a lick of trouble in any format (mobi, epub, etc.) and never once got spit out of Smashwords Meatgrinder. If you decide it’s just too much to take on yourself, by all means hire a professional – just make sure your MS is completely done and final so you’re not wasting your money like I did! 🙂

It’s Decision Time, dear Indie. You can’t put it off any longer. You need to decide right now, exactly how you plan on publishing your book. Here’s another look at your options:

  • Smashwords: Who will upload it to every other retail site for you, aside from Amazon – including, but not limited to: Barnes & Nobel, iBooks and Kobo.
  • Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing: Which allows you to still have it listed everywhere else.
  • KDP Select: An exclusive platform that forbids you from selling anywhere other than Amazon, but has a lot of beneficial features that could possibly help sell more of your books.
  • eCommerce Website: Selling directly to customers from your own website at 100% royalties to you, and of course can be coupled with every other option aside from KDP Select.
  • CreateSpace: Amazon’s Print On Demand platform (it’s imperative to know if you’re going to publish here, since it requires a completely different Interior Layout and Book Cover than an eBook).

Keep in mind that you are not limited to your initial choice. You can always change your mind later on and add or remove your book with any one of these programs (KDP Select does have a certain time you’re obligated to fulfill first). That’s the nice thing about being Independent. Your book = your choice. A traditional publisher chooses the sites, sets the price of your book, and you don’t get a say in it. Next week, we’re going to look at more marketing adventures you can take to help pre-promote your book before its launch date!

Weekly Accomplishment: I got over a small stretch of writers block and started working on Scavenger again with a new found flow of creativity. Just started Chapter Five with only 1 or 2 more chapters to go! What are you celebrating this week? Please share with us in the comments below, so we can cheer you on!

 

Dear Indie ♥ Weekly Resource Post

Independent

Publishing Part 2

Welcome back! This is the second post this week, since I had to break this publishing segment into 2 parts.  In this section, I’d like to cover the #1 online retailer world-wide.  Amazon is actually an e-commerce search engine, but many view it as its own ‘store.’  With headquarters based in Seattle, WA, Amazon’s reach to potential buyers, new fans and readers is further than any other Indie Book Publishing platform available.  Here’s what they have to offer:

AMAZON

Kindle Direct Publishing: is the original and most frequently used Program that Amazon has to offer Indie Authors.  If you’ve already uploaded your book to Smashwords, then you’ll find Amazon’s process is quite similar and easy to follow.  Here are the most important things to know about KDP:

  • Just like Smashwords, KDP has an available walk-through style guide called Building Your Book for Kindle on how you’ll need to format the interior layout of your book – however – if you’ve already formatted it to Smashwords specifications, you’ll find that it is exactly the same as KDP’s so there’s no need to worry about formatting it twice.  The key difference is that while Smashwords only accepts MS .doc files, KDP only accepts HTML, so you’ll have to save your document in an HTML format in order to upload it to Amazon.
  • Your book cover can only be uploaded as a JPEG file, whereas most other places accept PNG, so make sure you have a JPEG version of your book cover – if you only have a PNG, open it in “Paint” and “Save As” a JPEG – this is the easiest way to convert graphics without ruining your cover or downloading a free converter onto your computer (though that is also an option).
  • This is a mistake I just made: KDP does not automatically assign you as the author of your book, you have to do that under the “Add Contributor” section of your Bookshelf.
  • Also, KDP does not allow you to make multiple changes to your book if you forgot to before hitting the “save and continue.” You must wait for it to come out of ‘Review’ before you can go back into your Bookshelf (the equivalent of Smashwords’ Dashboard feature) and make the other necessary change(s).
  • KDP also has a Pre-Order publication option, though they don’t seem to offer the same ‘Assetless Preorder’ that Smashwords does.  Plus, they require that the final version of your book be uploaded 10 days prior to the scheduled publication date – so to maximize this option, make sure you publish your Pre-Order books more than 10 days out from its release date.
  • KDP will assign it’s own FREE ASIN # for your book, if you don’t already have a purchased ISBN #.

*Note: I paid extra for a formatter to send me both a Smashwords and a Kindle formatted version of my book, only to find out it was an unnecessary charge – PLEASE do not pay for a PDF, Mobi or Epub version of your book, both Smashwords and Amazon convert your word document all on their own – and – after your book has been successfully uploaded to Smashwords, they allow you to download a Full FREE copy of your book in any format you want (mobi, epub, PDF, doc, etc.) or all of the above – So save your money!

*Note: For pre-publication ARC’s and Beta Reader Copies, you can download a FREE eBook converter called Calibre which will convert any document file or even ebook file to any format you need (mobi, epub, PDF, etc.)- make sure you preview the finished product before sending it out, as you may have to use their features to adjust the font, font size and page width to be more reader-friendly. The nice thing is that you don’t have to scrap it and start over, merely select the same file and re-convert it into the same format with the changes and it’s done! Calibre automatically overrides the first conversion so your computer isn’t filling up with unwanted files.

Calibre also acts as an e-reader in case you ever receive an epub copy of someone else’s book and don’t already have an e-reader – simply right click on the epub file, select “open with” and find Calibre (mine is on my desktop) – and voila, you can now read epub files!

Do you know the difference between KDP and KDP Select?  I haven’t done thorough research yet, but here are the most distinctive differences:

  • KDP Select is 100% exclusive – which means that you are not allowed to publish your book through any other retailer while you are active in the KDP Select Program – so, if this is something you’re considering DO NOT publish through Smashwords first, as it will render your book disqualified for the KDP Select Program.
  • KDP Select allows authors to lower the price of their books or make them FREE for a certain amount of time every 90 days – and this is why most authors join KDP Select, because nothing gives your book more exposure than listing it for FREE. (There are other ways to get Amazon to sell your book for FREE without tying your publishing hands, though – scroll down for that information.)
  • KDP Select takes full control over how your book is promoted and which promotional deals they will offer it in – but this is also a benefit, because it’s marketing you don’t have to pay for on the world’s largest retail search engine.

*That is all I know about the select program so far, so please follow the link above to learn more.

Another thing that Amazon KDP has is the Kindle MatchBook feature.  This allows customers who’ve purchased a Print copy of your book to purchase the digital version for $2.99 or less.  I haven’t looked into this too deeply, but it could be a good marketing feature!

How to Force Amazon to Sell Your Book for FREE:

According to Nick Stephenson, if you upload your eBook to KDP for $0.99 cents (that is the minimum allowed for new uploads) and then upload your books through Smashwords for FREE – you can then request that Amazon “Price Match” your books being sold everywhere else.  It might take some time for them to approve it, but this is supposed to be the alternative to the KDP Select program if you’d like to give your book away for FREE. – I am going to attempt this at some point, so look for an update on this topic in the future.

CreateSpace: This is Amazon’s Print On Demand (POD) platform.  I do not know anything about POD’s, except that the requirements for Book Covers and Formatting are completely different than your eBook version, as you can imagine, so you will have to provide a printable version of both in order to upload your book through a POD.  I know nothing else – and I do not know of any other POD’s by name, so if you do, can you please leave a comment about it below?  Thanks, that would be awesome!

Fun Fact: Did you know that Amazon has actual, brick & mortar Bookstores? I just found that out – all books are sold at the same price as you’d find on Amazon.com. Interesting.