By Lee Foster
There’s nothing like actually going through the publishing process on Amazon Kindle, again, with a new book, to refresh yourself on our rapidly changing self-pub world. I had last uploaded a book and cover file two years ago.
This past month I had a new book to upload. So, what has changed in 2019? My new book is the sixth in my self-pub career since 2006.
I uploaded the new book/ebook Northern California History Travel Adventures: 35 Suggested Trips. I was a little rusty. I had much to learn and relearn. And the publishing systems have changed their patterns and requirements. Most obviously, as you know, CreateSpace is now Kindle Direct Publishing. I even made a few mistakes, which you might avoid with some tips.
Settling on Your Self-Publishing Trajectory
The first question, which I continue to ask myself and which I offer my clients who ask for an analysis of their “publishing path,” is: How will you get your print book and ebook before a maximum audience, at maximum profitability to yourself?
My current pattern, personally and in my general advice, is:
- Use Amazon Kindle direct for print book as a paperback POD (print-on-demand).
- Use Amazon Kindle direct for ebook, but non-exclusively.
- Use Ingram paperback POD direct with Spark, moving my books over from Lightning Source to Spark, for bookstores.
- Use Smashwords for ebooks to everyone beyond Amazon. IngramSpark ebooks is also emerging. But I stayed with Smashwords again.
Your best judgment on trajectory may differ. It would be good to hear your rationale. And my own strategies may evolve.
For example, I did my first two ebooks, years ago, with BookBaby for Amazon and for everyone else. They did a good job. But then I changed to my current pattern, Amazon direct and non-exclusive, and Smashwords for everyone else. When I need to revise those BookBaby books, I may move them over to my current pattern. One variable always to keep in mind: What is your cost for revisions in each system?
Looking ahead, will I make more changes? For example, I will watch to see if IngramSpark might be an ebook option for me for “everyone beyond Amazon” in the future.
One enduring question: Who gives the author the best percentage of a sale?
Who knows how we will respond in two more years to the question: What providers will offer the most-advantageous pattern of publishing print books and ebooks for independent authors?
Details of my recent Ingram and Smashwords publishing experiences will be discussed by me in my next posts here, every five weeks. For today, I’ll concentrate on Amazon Kindle alone.
The Kindle Direct Print Book Setup
As everyone knows, Amazon CreateSpace books has now moved over to Amazon Kindle Direct. But have you actually checked your own Author Central area and your background admin area in Kindle Direct to see that all is in order for your “past” books?
It seemed to me that not all of my metadata in some “past” books made it over, or else I was inattentive to detail originally in metadata for some of those books. The allowable metadata may also have changed.
It’s important to pace yourself in these tasks. Don’t expect to crash through the process of uploading your book in an hour and completing everything. Think instead of some time commitment every day for a long time to keep improving your presentation and marketing of your books/ebooks.
Also, make sure you are officially logged in as you begin work on your book presentations. I did one elaborate session of touch-ups, only to find out it didn’t save correctly because I was not logged in appropriately.
I found the email and phone response from Kindle Direct worked fairly well when I figured it out. I tended to get a response for emailed questions from a live human being in a day or two. Phone calls went through quickly.
But it was infuriating to figure out how the system worked. These automated systems are all designed to train authors to find things on their own, rather than use valuable staff time.
When you go to the bottom of your Kindle admin page, you will see Contact Us. Click on the top item, Moving from Create Space to Kindle Direct, and the email and phone option appears. But click on any of the subjects below, such as Formatting, and various learn-it-yourself pop-ups will appear. You have to click on Other at the bottom in each category to get to the email and phone option. They don’t make it easy for you to figure this out. Every phone call is a cost to them.
Other aspects of Kindle Direct require your ongoing attention:
The Eight Keywords
This is worth studying. What will a consumer type into Amazon to discover your book? Putting yourself in the mind of the consumer is an ever-changing art form.
It’s also worth checking your past books on Kindle to determine if you used all the 8 possible slots in the keywords. And it’s worth putting some attention into whether your past keyword word-or-phrase choices could be improved for today.
Keep your phrase and spaces at 25 characters wide or less for the system to read it correctly.
The 4,000 Character Description of Your Book
Use all 4,000 characters. Did you use the 4,000 for your previous books? Check to see. Your book is worth all 4,000 characters. Give someone searching for a book on Amazon more aspects of your book to discover.
Also, when dealing with any major system, there will be maddening moments. For me, one came up in this 4,000 character field. I formulated the 4,000 characters in a Word doc, with spaces allowed for (in Word it’s Review–Word Count), and uploaded it.
But the paragraphs and line breaks got squished with zero spacing. My first solution: Just make the 4,000 character block one long paragraph with a space between sentences. I might have wanted some separate paragraphs, but couldn’t seem to do so.
I subsequently learned that I could use html code in the text to create boldface as <b>text</b> and paragraph breaks with <br><br>.
This is an example of the routine aggravations you will experience in any publishing situation.
Details to Keep in Mind
Other details to keep in mind when you venture into your Bookshelf tab on Kindle Direct:
- Study the Browse Categories to get your book into the best two slots, and do use your two slots allowed.
- Have your Covers ready in two forms, of course. The print book calls for front, spine, and back. The ebook has front only. I uploaded the print first, then concentrated on the ebook. You can copy over your print metadata when setting up your ebook.
- Get your ISBNs organized in advance and have them ready to go. Yes, get your own ISBNs so you will always be identified as the source, owner, and publisher of your books. Probably get 10 ISBNs from MyIdentifiers (Bowker) because you’ll need one each for print book, ebook, audiobook, new edition, etc.
- For Rights choose All Territories. For some reason I seemed to have chosen limited territories for an earlier book and got static when trying to change that one to All Territories.
- Royalty at 70% sounds good.
- No exclusive for me, but you may have a different approach. They make it appear you are leaving money on the table, stupidly, but I’ve seen too many exclusive deals in my long publishing life go bad, both for articles/books and photography. I will probably be non-exclusive for the duration.
- Lending seems positive, could lead to more sales.
- Matchbook seems like a reasonable merchandising approach, encourages a sale of your ebook to those who bought your print book, albeit at a lower price than your established retail price.
- Get your tax exemption set up for author copies if you are selling books to individuals and bookstores and paying your sales tax each January, as I am in California. You need to have your nine-digit state sales tax # at the ready. It’s not easy to find the tax exemption form on the Kindle system, but a phone tree expert can help you.
Got Your Blog on Your Author Central Page?
Improving your overall self-pub offerings and marketing on Amazon is a long-term process. It’s a marathon rather than a 100-yard dash. We gradually get around to things. Let’s not kick ourselves for the woulda shoulda coulda opportunities missed earlier.
One of those details is getting your Author Blog to show on your Amazon Author Central Page. Have you done that?
For years I have been doing a weekly blog at fostertravel.com about sometimes regarding my content in my books. The new blog item shows at the top of my website. I then present this in my Social Media each week.
I finally got organized, only recently, to put the blog on my Amazon Author Page. The Amazon system rejects a URL (Unique Record Locator) and asks for an RSS feed (means Really Simple Syndication). Get this organized. I found this a simple but unknown-to-many matter. My WordPress website structure just requires that I add /feed/ to the URL. The result was:
Now, each time I post a new blog, it shows as part of my Amazon Author Page. It works. The blog now shows directly below my graphic horizontal row of covers for my 18 or so books at
Take a look, and I suspect you will determine that you too should get your blog showing with snippets on your Amazon Author Page. A viewer can arrow to the right and see my last 10 blogs. That is helpful.
The Amazon Kindle Direct Print Book File Uploads
The interior file upload and the cover upload went well with Amazon for the print book. I used Joel Friedlander and Tracy Atkins’ Templates for the book. Then I paid Tracy Atkins to massage my files. There is a lot to discuss about all this file preparation.
My general advice is: Get Templates and do all the brutal book and cover preparation yourself, especially editing. Then get an expert (such Tracy Atkins if he is available, or someone else) to check your file. The PDF full-size print upload was a large file, about 65 megs, because I had 35 photos in this project.
Trust me, there are layout tricks you will not know. A magician such as Tracy Atkins or someone else dedicated to book interior and cover design has been perfecting these tricks during their waking moments for a long time. But try to do the most brutal and straightforward work yourself to save on paid expert time.
Evolution of the Possibilities
Many years ago, about 2012, I purchased, at a high but appropriate price, the good cover and interior layout work of the master, Joel Friedlander himself, for my book Northern California Travel: The Best Options. I have always enjoyed the cover look and the interior look of that book. His design was before the emergence of his Templates for do-it-yourself book interior and cover design.
Kindle Ebook Upload
For the Amazon Kindle ebook file, of course, one main change needed was hooking up the links between the Table of Contents and the Chapters, and checking that all the “live links” in all the texts were indeed working.
I asked Tracy Atkins to hook up the TOC to the Chapters. I did the brutal work of checking all the URLs in each of the 30 chapters to make sure they were working. My book was a non-fiction travel guidebook, so there were a lot of URLs.
This example is a good illustration of my theme: Do all the brutal work yourself, but let an expert handle the nuances.
For the ebook file interior file upload to Kindle (and Smashwords), I found the epub format worked best. I had challenges with the Word file. Perfecting an epub format was, again, just one more skill that I chose not to master. I left that up to Tracy Atkins. The epubs sailed through easily, while my Word Template files encountered some issues in both the Kindle and Smashwords systems.
The Kindle Suggested Price
The Kindle suggestion on price at $4.99 was helpful to me. I have long felt that we price our ebooks too low. Is that your feeling also? When a consumer will pay $10 in a restaurant willingly for a simple glass of the house Chardonnay or Merlot, why are we selling our ebooks for $2.99 or $3.99?
Amazon suggested $4.99, based on all their consumer-buying data, so I went with that. I will probably raise all my ebook prices to that amount. This will take time. I think our larger issue is making visible the existence of our ebooks above the noise. The consumer needs to become aware of our ebooks and want to buy the ebook. If we establish that need, I don’t think the consumer will find the slightly higher price that much of an issue.
There Is a World Beyond Amazon, Correct?
Granted, there is much more to discuss, such as:
- My Ingram print book setup, including moving my entire operation (five books) from Lightning Source to Spark.
- My Smashwords ebook-for-everyone-beyond-Amazon setup. Like all systems, Smashwords is evolving.
Let’s save these subjects for my future “every 5 weeks” contributions to Joel’s robust modern publishing insight ecosystem.
A start with Amazon is a good first step for all independent publishing of books/ebooks. If Amazon is selling 60%-70% of all books/ebooks in the U.S., attention to better Amazon success is the logical place to begin.