Publishing for Kindle

Webmaster’s Note: This is the first in what I hope will become a regular series of posts written by Maryland Writers’ Association members discussing the art, craft, and business of writing. If you are an MWA member and would like to contribute a feature to this blog, e-mail me. Authors retain all rights to their work published here.

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Greetings! My name is Carol Plotnick. I am an MWA member, free-lance writer, and small business owner. Recently, Paul Lagasse invited me to write about my Kindle publishing experience with Amazon.com. The following is an account of my journey into cyberpublishing:

The economy made me do it! Good excuse, but not totally accurate. When banks went belly up and the stock market took a dive in October 2008, I was on the verge of publishing my novel Flying Wires in paperback. However, with belt tightening now part of my business plan, I decided to publish a PDF. When I announced the release of my book in December 2008, a friend said she would buy my novel if it came out in Kindle format. At that time, Kindle was about two years old, but from what I’d read in the September 2008 issue of IBPA Independent – the journal of the Independent Book Publishers Association – it sounded like another avenue, albeit a road less traveled, for my self-publishing company to explore.

Publishing in the Kindle format is easy. Finding my way, however, through Amazon.com’s maze of instructions, file format requirements and legal documents was another matter. I compounded the confusion with a couple false starts on my part.  So, with copious hypertext and without further ado, here’s my version of “Kindle for Dummies,” along with a shameless plug at the end of this article for what I think is a really exciting love story.

Amazon.com’s web site states that authors and publishers can publish their books in the Kindle format. Since I’m both an author and the CEO of Chrysalis Publications, LLC, that qualification was met. The next step is to open an Amazon Merchant account with Amazon.com. When I created my self-publishing corporation in March 2008, the Merchant account was still called “Amazon Business.” The account is free; however, whenever a book is sold from the Kindle store, the author/publisher receives 35% of the sale price.

That figure was a bit off-putting to me at first. Still, this is how Amazon.com collects for the use of their publishing software, their on-line store and their marketing service. It comes with the publishing business territory – COB – cost of doing business. In my opinion, since Amazon.com is the biggest online bookseller, publishing in Kindle is an fairly inexpensive way to put a book “on the shelf,” so to speak. Amazon has a good reputation and their products are highly visible. With a link at an author’s web site and blog and by posting to popular blogs, the author can attract the attention of potential Kindle readers. Which brings me to a little-known fact – due to public demand for a digital reader, other than the Kindle readers, that can read the Kindle-published file, Amazon.com responded with two options to the Kindle reader. Kindle books can now be read on the iPhone and iPod touch.

Moving right along – once the Amazon Marketplace account has been created, the next step is to enter and set up the Digital Text Platform (DTP) account. The Amazon Marketplace account e-mail address and password are used so that the two accounts will be linked. The DTP  legal documentation is in the terms and conditions area. Read these over carefully and if there’s anything you have questions about, consult an attorney. Contracts are a personal thing, so make sure you know what you’re agreeing to before jumping in. If everything looks okay, create your account and enter the basic information in the “Account” section and then go to the “My Shelf” area; also referred to as the “Dashboard.” [Because the Dashboard and subsequent pages are within the secure area of my account, I have not created links to these pages.] This area of the DTP is where the description and other facts about a book are recorded and it’s where the book is uploaded, converted and published. The Dashboard can hold as many books as a writer/publisher wants to publish and the start-up procedure is basically the same for all of them.

Under the “Enter Product Details” heading, enter the ISBN, title, description/synopsis, search keywords and product image [e.g. cover art]. In addition to adding the name of the author, the “Authors” area is where you can add credit for your editor(s) and graphic designer/illustrator(s). At some point after the book is published, the author/publisher may want to change some of the information; the synopsis, for instance. All changes are made on the DTP Dashboard. However, the editorial process also requires a re-publishing of the book. Even if the text of the book doesn’t change – only the synopsis, in this example – Amazon.com still takes a couple days before the changes appear at the book’s web page. The good news is, the book is still available for purchase during the time lag.

Under the “Enter Price” heading – after browsing the Kindle Store for books similar to yours – enter whatever price you feel is reasonable. Be aware that whatever price is entered for the book, it may change. For example, I entered $8.50 for the price of my novel and Amazon immediately put it on sale for $6.80. The answer for the discrepancy lies in the terms and conditions document, “… [Amazon has] sole and complete discretion to set the retail price to our customers for Digital Books.”

I’ve left the steps for the “Upload & Preview Book” heading for last. This is where books are uploaded and published. However, I highly advise that before you forge ahead, read carefully the information in the Formatting Documents Guide.  Definitely DO NOT overlook the Modify Converted Content link. The step-by-step directions help create a clean, converted file for Kindle book publication. I found the process a bit tedious; however, I was able to produce a product that I’m happy with. By clicking the “Preview” button, a fair representation of the published book can be viewed before actually submitting it for publication. Although I don’t have a Kindle reader and couldn’t see exactly what the finished product looks like, two of my friends told me it looks fine on their Kindle readers.

As an aside, although the first published version of my novel is a PDF, the PDF format doesn’t convert and publish well in the Digital Text Platform. Because my PDF shows my novel exactly the way I want it, I tried to convert it with the DTP anyway. Ugh! Centered text was jammed to one side, line spacing changed; you get the picture. I wound up saving the original MicroSoft Word file in html format and then I followed the steps in the Formatting Documents Guide.

Once the book is converted, it’s ready to submit for publishing via the DTP Dashboard. At the time I wrote this, turnaround time from submission to final product takes a couple days. Amazon doesn’t send notifications when books go “Live.” Logging into the DTP and finding “Live” posted under the “Status” heading on the Dashboard indicates the book is for sale in the Kindle store. Click “Live” and the book’s Amazon.com web page appears – with the previously-entered description, book cover, price and hopefully, book reviews entered by your colleagues, family, friends and other readers!

So that’s pretty much it. Kindle may not be for everyone. As the old saying goes, “Your mileage may vary.” If you’ve published with the DTP for Kindle, I’d like to hear from you. If you have questions, I’d be happy to try and answer them.

Shameless Advertisement:
Chrysalis Publications, LLC is proud to announce the release of Carol L. Plotnick’s Flying Wires. The first novel set among the Dacron wings of ultralight aircraft, this love story will lift your spirits and carry you away! The author says, “It’s a thrilling story about the love of flying these small aircraft, the love of good friends and the love that ignites passion.”

Throughout the story, engaging dialog brings the characters to life. Through E-mail messages and eavesdropping on conversations at the airfield, the reader watches the years pass and the relationships change. There is humor as the characters tease or taunt each other. There is frustration and fear, as the students struggle with their flight training. There is enthusiasm and joy – on the ground and in the air. There is loss and sorrow when tragedy strikes.

“This is a real page turner!”
Arty Trost
Ultralight Adventurer

“Just wanted you to know that I finished reading your book and enjoyed it a lot!”
Jim Mason
Pilot

Visit my web site to purchase and download the PDF version for $5.50:
http://chrysalispublications.com
or
Visit the Flying Wires web page at Amazon.com for $6.80:
http://www.amazon.com/Flying-Wires/dp/B001UV41YO

My blog:  http://chrysalispublications.com/wordpress

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10 Responses to “Publishing for Kindle”

  1. Great article. I was curious how this works. Kudos to Amazon for helping us break free from the old, corporate method of publishing!

  2. Thanks for your observations. Very well put and have helped ease my pains as I go about setting up my own book via the Kindle/Amazon process.

    Thanks,

    Shawson H

  3. Dear Carol:

    I am currently in the “Publishing” phase on DTP of my book entitled “A Teacher’s Journey Out of Darkness,” which is based on my inner city teaching experience in Waukegan, Illinois. My simple question is, what did the “Review” phase entail? I sent out several queries to agencies in the past and never got a positive response so this seems ego gratifying, but does Amazon actually read what I wrote before they publish it?

    Brian Jacks

  4. A lot of really good work you put into this. Very helpful! Yeah I also like to write some e books in kindle format.

    When I got my Kindle I realized how much BETTER e-ink is for reading. Still really like my iphone, for the tasks I use it for, but reading is not one of those tasks.

  5. Carol,
    I read with interest your article on publishing on Kindle. Did you have difficulty uploading and editing your manuscript via HTML? I’m having a dreadful time getting the formatting the way it should be, e.g, underscoring in the HTML file when it doesn’t appear in my original Word document. A large part, I’m sure, is due to the fact I don’t know what I’m doing with HTML editing. Any glimmer of hope would be most appreciated. Thank you!

    • Marsha,

      I am so sorry for the extremely long delay in responding to your question. I closed my self publishing company early last year and unfortunately, have not turned off my company email account yet.

      My reply now may be a moot point, but here goes. I didn’t edit my manuscript in HTML. I worked solely with MSWord. The transfer was fairly smooth; however, some graphics that I used in Word did NOT transfer to the Kindle format. I was rather disappointed with Kindle for two reasons: 1. the formatting issue and 2. the meager royalties. I found the Lulu system much more user friendly and it offers a higher royalty, too.

      Best of luck to you. I hope you have a good 2011!

      Write on!

      Carol

  6. Dear friend,
    I am starting to learn about publishing on Kindle. It seems that every article indicates UNDEFINED terms.
    Please tell me what is meant by your term:DASHBOARD.
    Thank you

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