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Self-Publishing 101: Part II

Welcome back, everyone. Please take your seats. Quiet down. It’s time for the next three steps.

Step 5: Get set up on KDP/Amazon.

Here’s what you do. Get on Amazon. If you don’t have an account, make one. Scroll down to the very bottom of the page, to the dark gray footer. It has four sections: “Get to Know Us”, “Make Money with Us”, “Amazon Payment Products”, and “Let Us Help You”. At the bottom of the list under “Make Money with Us”, you will see Self-publish with us. That’s your ticket. Click it.

Now, the next page is a minefield that must be navigated very carefully. On the left, you will see three buttons. Publish to Kindle, Publish to Audio, and Publish to Print. Sounds perfect, right? Wrong. Don’t use those buttons.

In the middle of the page, you’ll see the same three options, expanded with more details. At the end of each is a Get Started button. Perfect, right? Wrong. Don’t use those buttons.

By all means, you can click around these various buttons and gather some more information. But here’s the thing--if you are looking to publish a printed book, not just an ebook, those buttons are there to deceive you. Ask me not why, but they don’t work. If you click on one of the publish to print buttons, you will be taken to a page about CreateSpace, and given the chance to set up an account there. It will seem as if this is a requirement, and you need to use CreateSpace to publish a printed book. But this is trickery--do not be fooled. You don’t need CreateSpace. In fact, CreateSpace doesn’t even work. The gist of it is that you used to need CreateSpace for paperbacks, but that is no longer the case. It’s merged with Amazon’s publishing platform, KDP. Why Amazon hasn’t updated these pages, I don’t know.

Instead, keep it simple: either click the Publish to Kindle button, or the Kindle Direct Publishing button. I know, I know--you want to publish to print, not just to Kindle! It’s okay. Trust me on this. Unlike Amazon, I am not here to lead you astray.

You will arrive at a page with a fun video of a stickman that tells you a bit more about publishing with Amazon, and some links to learn more. Watch the video, click the links, fulfill your heart’s desires. But when you’re done with all that, the top right corner has a box to sign in with your Amazon account. Do so.

Now, without having taken all the unnecessary loops and back alleys that Amazon would have taken you on, and with the help of your trusty traveling guide, you have arrived at your destination.

The page you are on now is your “Bookshelf”. It will have a Create a New Title box for you to create a new book.

Step 6: Format your book

At this point, or perhaps some time ago, you may have questioned why I was skipping a step--don’t you need a cover? After all, as you’re creating the book on Amazon, it will ask you to upload a cover.

Fear not. I have not swindled you.

You see, for your designer to create a cover, they will need to know the dimensions of the book. These dimensions will need to be given them in a “print-ready PDF” or a “book cover template” (I’ve heard designers use both terms). And to acquire this, you need to have the manuscript finished, formatted, and uploaded to KDP. (Henceforth, KDP--Kindle Direct Publishing--is the publishing facet of Amazon. The two of you should become friends.)

So, let’s finish this step, and we’ll get to the fun cover design process later.

In the aforementioned Create a New Title box, you will see several links. The first is Get started with Kindle content creation tools. Click that one.

You will be taken to a beautiful list of resources. First, the manuscript formatting tools, both for ebook and paperback. For most books, you will use either Kindle Create, or the step-by-step guide (Word for PC). Both of those links can be found under the ebook diagram/chart/thing. A lot of people vouch for Kindle Create. I tried it, and was not successful. So personally, I vouch for the step-by-step guide for Word, which I found much more useful. Even more wonderfully useful is the template. You can find the link for “manuscript templates” under the paperback diagram/chart/thing.

Between the guide and the template, you should be able to get the job done. Don’t get me wrong--it’s tedious and quite exasperating. But it’s doable. I am horrifically un-tech-savvy and I still managed it, so it’s definitely possible. And you know what’s great? Once you’ve got the manuscript formatted, you’ve got it done for both ebook and paperback. All you have to do is save one as a PDF for the paperback, and the other as a Word doc for the ebook. You may have to make a few changes between the two (for example, the table of contents on your paperback should have page numbers, while the one on your ebook should not) but that’s not too hard. And ta-da! Your book is formatted.

The same list of resources has info on cover design. It does have a tool to create your own cover. Myself and every other author, editor, publisher, etc. recommends against this. The simple fact is--if you’re not a graphic designer, you probably do not have the skills to create a quality cover. Sorry. So my advice is to ignore this tool. Instead, read up on the info they have to offer.

Step 7: Upload your manuscript to KDP

Using the same Create a New Title box, now that you have a formatted manuscript, you are ready to create your book.

That process is not only simple, it is also explained step-by-step by Amazon (and in this one instance, they are not deceiving you), so I won’t bore you with the details here. As you are walking through this, take advantage of the various links and explanations Amazon offers to make sure you understand as much of the process as possible. There will be several steps you’ll need to skip for now--like uploading a cover, setting prices, etc. That’s okay. Just do as much of it as you can and save it as a draft.

“As much of it as you can” includes details about the book (the description, series number, ISBN, etc.) and also, for a paperback, the physical details. You’ll get to decide size, paper color, glossy or matte cover, etc. Here are my recommendations for making these decisions:

  • Size - Head to your bookshelf (your real bookshelf, in your house. Not the KDP one) and browse books that are the same or similar genre as yours. They will probably be in a couple different sizes, some a little taller than others, some a little wider. Decide which you like best, measure it, and voila. Decision made.

  • Paper color - You will have the options of white or cream. Almost all fiction is printed in cream, so go with that. Standing out from the crowd is good...but probably not in this instance.

  • Glossy or matte - This is a matter of personal preference, but also of what fits your cover best. Again, look at some other books of your genre. See if you like the glossy covers or the matte covers better. That’s a good place to start, but you may need to change it later. I first started with a matte cover. But later, when I ordered my proof copy, I discovered that it made the colors of the cover dull and dark. So I switched it to glossy, and that kept the colors vibrant.

Once you have made all these decisions and uploaded the manuscript, you should be able to download the print-ready PDF or book cover template, based on the size, trim, etc. that you chose and the thickness of the book (based on page count). So, you are now ready for a cover.

But alas, the hour grows late, and this post is a hefty piece of words. Let us adjourn once more.

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