Everyone has one book inside them, so the saying goes. And, generally, this is assumed to be a novel. This is, I suppose, because a novel is entirely fictitious, and comes from the imagination, and most people, certainly by the age of maturity, have had enough experiences, and have enough memories, to enable them to write at least one work of fiction. But it needn’t be a novel. Many people have a knowledge or experience of something or other that others would like to share, or learn from, and so quite a few people, with a little bit of practice, will be able to write a non-fiction book that would be of interest to many readers. Nowadays, it is easier than ever to self-publish both types of book.
The two publishers I will concentrate on in this article are: Amazon, and Smashwords. I shall do this because I have experience of both. There are, I am sure, other good self-publishers out there, but these tqo, in my experience, are truly excellent imprints, and you won’t go far wrong with either one of them. Indeed, I would say you don’t need any other publishers.
I shall begin with Amazon. This is the largest of the three, and is, of course, truly international. Self-publishing via Amazon, is pretty straightforward. You set up an account, giving your personal details, name, address, telephone numbers, and so forth, for payment, and IRS purposes, and then you are ready to go. You log into your account, and get a page that is called a bookshelf. On this, you will find a box entitled: Add new title. You click this, and off you go.
In the pages that follow, you enter the title of your book, whether it is part of a series, the names of the contributors (which will generally be at least you, as author), and the publication date. (I’m leaving out some fields here, but those fields will be self-explanatory.) You confirm that you hold the copyright of the work (this, of course, is very important), and you show the category the book belongs to. You upload a book cover. Those of you familiar with creative computer programs can probably make a good book cover yourselves, and even those who use Photoshop, or other photo-editing software – such as your truly – can do a good job as well. You will want a good jpg – I size mine: 8X5 inches at 300 pixels/inch -, and it’s possible to purchase a whole range of stock jpgs from libraries such as Istock to use in the cover you are creating. Alternatively, you can get a professional to create a cover for you (which can be rather expensive) or, as a last resort, you can use Amazon’s own Cover Creator.
Next, you upload you your Book File. For Amazon, this needs to be an HTML document, so if you have a word file you need to convert it before trying to upload it. (Just click: File>Save As>HTML Document.) When you have done this, be sure to check your document has been uploaded correctly via the book pre-viewer. You don’t need to read every page; just ensure there are no blank pages. You then go on to the next step. This lists the countries you want to sell your book in. You set a price, and you set a royalty option. (This is either 35% or 70%, however, you can only choose the latter if the price is above a certain level. You also have to put the book in KDP Select for the 70% option to be available in certain countries. What is KDP Select? It’s giving Amazon exclusive rights to market your work, in return for which you get a share of a royalty pot Amazon makes available every month. Opinions differ on whether this is a good idea. I’m against it, because, bear in mind that if you are in KDP Select, you can’t publish the book with any other publisher.)
Finally, you confirm that you are ready to publish, and Amazon will publish the book about a day or so later – provided everything meets their requirements.
All of the above, and more, is gone into great detail in Kindle Direct Publishing Help pages and, really, nobody should have major difficulties with any of it. You can also amend any of the details you have entered for your book at a later date if you want to. Finally, there is a thriving KDP “community” in which you can ask questions of fellow writers and discuss almost every topic to do with your book and writing.
One topic of contention with Amazon is their policy of allowing returns. Most authors, myself included, believe they are far to generous in this respect.
Amazon will, in most circumstances, pay royalties directly into your bank account. In arrears, of course.
Now, I’ll move on to Smashwords.
Smashwords is a smaller publisher than Amazon, but it will not only publish your book under its own imprint, but also, if you wish, distribute your book to other retailers such as Barnes and Noble. Is it worthwhile publishing your book also via Smashwords? In my experience, the answer is a definite: yes!
Smashwords publishes an excellent “Smashwords Style Guide”, and I would urge anyone planning to publish via Smashwords to download this and try to read it. It’s rather detailed, but you really need to know what Smashwords want in order not to have your file rejected by their system. You go to what Smashwords calls your “Dashboard”, and then you are ready to begin. You enter the title of your book, brief and longer descriptions (the latter is optional), various other details, all of which are self-explanatory – and upload a cover image, and the book file. Smashwords differs from Amazon in wanting either a Word file or an .epub file. Smashwords also wants an ISBN number (with Amazon it’s optional). Smashwords will, however, provide an ISBN if you wish. Once again, be sure to inspect the material you have uploaded via one of the preview systems. Finally, when you are satisfied with the information you have entered, you click “publish”, and the book goes through Smashwords’ vetting and review procedures. If your book passes these, and most first time authors will find that it does not, and will need amending, the book is published on Smashwords’ own pages and via the other retailers you have indicated and becomes, in Smashwords term a “Premium” product. Smashwords reports sales via their own platform immediately. Some of the retailers they distribute to, however, report sales very much in arrears. Smashwords does also tend to be slow in paying royalties. They will, however, pay your royalties via PayPal.
© Dick Morris 2014