August 2, 2018 by Mike Madden
This article first appeared in the High Peak Review.
The revolution in self publishing is continuing at pace, with internet shopping giant Amazon at the forefront.
There are many reasons to self publish; a desire to produce something to share amongst friends and family, a specific subject matter with a small market, or even simple vanity! In the past this would have been an expensive exercise, however, today an author can see their name in print with very little outlay, and sometimes completely free.
In my case, I wanted to publish my novel “Stags!”, which is a comic fictional tale of an illicit stag weekend in Amsterdam. It is a book that features “grown up” male orientated humour, however it has already proven to have an appeal to both men and women alike. I had the manuscript professionally critiqued, and whilst they accepted that the writing was good, the characterisation was coherent and believable, and the humour was well constructed, they believed that there was little or no market for this genre.
This was a conundrum, however, as it is almost a self fulfilling prophecy. There is no market for this genre and therefore there are no books in this genre and therefore there is no market for this genre. I was convinced that this should be challenged, and after completing my final proof read and revisions, I decided that it was time for action.
One of the tools behind the self publishing revolution is the Amazon Kindle, generally regarded as the number one product in ebook readers. On the Amazon website they proudly claim that it has received more five star reviews than any other product, and the range of material available for download is continually expanding.
With my manuscript complete, I then got to work to make it available to a wider audience. First of all, I created myself an account at the Kindle self publishing website http://kdp.amazon.com. This took a matter of minutes, and then I was into the book set up screen. There were a number of obvious fields to fill in, such as title and author, then there were the sales type fields that are so important when it comes to selling your book. The strapline for Stags! is “Drinking, football, women. A hilarious window into the world of blokes being blokes”, and I followed this with a brief description of the storyline, without giving too much away. The Kindle image was tricky, however I had already taken a number of photographs for the printed version of the book, so I used one of these. Had I waited for the printed version to be completed first, I could have used the actuaI book cover, and that is something that I would consider in future. There are certain rules around pricing that have to be adhered to, and mine came out at £2.83, of which I receive £2.76 from every sale, far less expensive than a standard paperback. I assigned a number of categories to the book, in my case fiction and humour, and then I uploaded my manuscript in the form of a Word document. The key to this is to have no formatting in your document, as all of the formatting is specific to the Kindle and is done by Amazon. For instance, what might look like a good font on a printed page is almost certainly not going to be ideal to read when presented on a screen. This part of the exercise took a couple of hours, and then I waited for a response. Around 24 hours later I received an email from Amazon stating that my book was on sale worldwide, and that was that!
I then started to learn about the Amazon ranking system, which is recalculated every hour. Every product that has generated at least one sale on Amazon will receive a ranking. That ranking can go up or down dramatically as sales increase or decrease, and the recalculation is biased towards more recent sales. On one occasion Stags! was ranked at 4,812 in the Kindle store, as well as 74 in Books>Fiction>Humour and 92 In Kindle Store>Kindle eBooks>Humour. When I drilled down into the second of these rankings, I was quite pleased to see that I was one place below Roald Dahl, and just above Sue Margolis and PG Wodehouse.
There are absolutely no limitations as to what you can publish on Kindle, however, you should bear in mind that, although Kindle’s are selling fast, it is still a very limited marketplace. With this in mind I pursued my options for producing a paperback version, and once again Amazon came to the fore. Amazon have a publishing arm called Createspace (www.createspace.com), and for a very small outlay an author can use the site to take their project through the entire process of publishing, from basic formatting right through to distribution. The site is laid out in the sequence required to produce the finished article, and progress can be saved so that this potentially daunting task can be broken up into smaller parts.
First of all the obvious details are entered, such as title, author and genre, and then you choose the size for your book. Createspace is a big help here as they have templates available to help with margins, disclaimers and legal information. Next is the cover, and there are dozens of templates to choose from, each one providing space for text and illustrations or pictures. I had already decided on two photographs, the first being stag antlers draped in ladies underwear with a glass of beer in the foreground, and the second showing two football scarves with a passport on top of them, all key elements in the story. Although the photographs were not taken professionally, they were perfect for the book as the format gave them an instant snapshot look. The text involved the Kindle “strapline” that appears on the front of the book and which can be a huge selling point, as well as a summary of the novel that appears on the back. Finally, I uploaded an “Over 18s” logo to go next to the Createspace generated barcode and then I was ready for a proof. I ordered this for around $20, including postage, and it arrived just eight days later. It was definitely of bookstore quality, and after approving it online, my book was instantly on sale on my own customisable Createspace web page. I also bought the Createspace extended distribution package for $39, which not only makes Stags! available for sale all around the world in bookstores and online, it also allows me to get a significant discount on author’s copies. The book is currently available on the US version of Amazon, as well as other US based websites, and all I have to do with these is collect the royalties. I can obtain author’s copies direct from the US for less than £5, and this enables me to make the book available on eBay and the UK version of Amazon, although I have to manage the fulfilment of these myself.
For more information on Kindle publishing and Createspace, or to contact the author, please visit http://stagsbook.blogspot.com.
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