Week 5: Where to Publish?
My answer to this is easy: CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing (which are both amazon.com). There are other places (LightningSource and BookBaby are the two main others), but after we here at Serenity Mountain Publishing have evaluated what we have done over the last few years I see no reason to go anywhere else. I did have “Why Kimba Saved The World” up on other sites for a while, but I saw very little in sales (if any) from places like Smashwords and Kobo. Where you sell your book is different than where you handle the publication process, of course, but I am happy just having all of my eggs in one simple, manageable basket at amazon.com.
Many people, especially authors, are all into hating on amazon.com these days because it has such a corner on the book market. It is the big, hairy elephant of book sales. But why hate? My feeling is that I need all the help I can get as an indie-author, so I’m just gonna jump on that big elephant and ride it around until it no longer serves my purposes. We are always poking at other options, I read what other authors are learning in their own journeys, but so far nothing has been compelling enough to drive me away from amazon.com.
Amazon.com publishes two kinds of books as two separate entities.
Let me be clear: CreateSpace = print books Kindle Direct Publishing = ebooks
My husband still has trouble with this and asks me questions about one when he means the other or calls it all amazon (maybe just to see the look on my face). They are linked, but they are separate files and book covers and set up.
Once your print book is formatted and ready, all you have to do is create a PDF and you are ready to roll. Setting up an author account at CreateSpace for your print books is not difficult. Block out a couple of hours and just go through the steps one by one. It’s better to start this set up before you format your book because there are set book sizes that are easiest to work with, and you’ll want to know what size you are going with before you start formatting. That’s one of those hundred decisions you are going to have to make. I made this error with “Miss Fatty Cat’s Revenge,” and even being off by a few bits of an inch made things a mess that I had to go back and redo. Major time gobble I could have avoided. Things also get tricky with the book cover size and how to format that cover PDF so the spine fits just perfectly and the back text is centered. My cover designer has this art figured out, and I leave it to her.
The ebook account at Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a separate step. You only need a JPG file for the cover (there is no back of book like in the print version), and the book file will be a totally separately formatted MOBI or PDF file.
With both of these formats, you can update the files as often as you like. When I have put out a new book, I add the name to the “also by” section at the front of the book and “buy” links to the new books at the end of the kindle version. This new ebook won’t go out to people who already downloaded, but it will be available for those who get it from that time forward (or who specifically ask for the new version through customer service).
There is one exception to this. If you discover that there is some MAJOR error in your ebook, KDP may resend it to everyone who has purchased it. Yes, I discovered this the hard way. I made a minor edit to part of the “Kimba” ebook. Somehow, someway that was never quite explained, in the editing process the ebook designer managed to drop the first paragraph of EVERY chapter in the book. I only checked what I asked them to change and then ran a BookBub free promo where 14,000 copies of this awful version were downloaded. It was a few months later when I was going through to update all of the black-and-white photos to color ones that I noticed something wasn’t quite right. I’m sure you can imagine the horror when I realized what had happened. I think there were some tears. Yep.
Fortunately, this is such an egregious error that I was able to contact KDP customer service and they agreed to resend it. This took six weeks. All that time those nasty, missing-text copies were being read (and, amazingly, reviewed well). Sigh. Yes, this is a lesson in always double and triple checking everything, but it is also a lesson in the fact that amazon.com is willing to work with authors when the unforeseen, major errors come into play.
At this time, I’m a big fan of KDP Select. It gives me promotions for my free or discount days, and I get 70% commission on sales. I can also do some free days if I want without trying to trick the system. I do see some activity through the Prime lending library at about the same price that my normal commission would be, so it’s all good for now. Being a part of this program does mean that you cannot list your book for sale anywhere but amazon.com, but I’m okay with that. I never saw any worthwhile activity from other sites anyhow. This could change when we reevaluate again, but for now I’m happy.
I also love CreateSpace’s “print on demand” feature. I can order one copy or 400 copies or 4,000 copies. It all depends on what I need for upcoming events or sales through my web site. No more do you need to order 1,000 copies to start a print book. You can order and fix errors along the way (you are sure to find some) and then order more later on.
I’ll leave the how to make the most of your set up at both CreateSpace and KDP to other sites. I still go in and tweak stuff and add review notes and change categories on KDP to see if it changes my sales numbers. There are whole books devoted to how to make the most of these setups. Mostly what we have learned with that is don’t try to play it too much. Call your book what it is. Put it in the right category. My biggest problem with having a children’s book about cats is that I have the whole “Warrior” series and all of its forms ahead of me in the rankings at all times. They take up around 30 slots. I did, however, beat them all when I did a 99 cent sale on “Vacation Hiro” through BookBub.com and hit #1 for three days straight. Yay, best seller status! Fight it out fairly and sell your book for what it is, not something that has fewer items in the category because it might get you a higher ranking. You may show up earlier, but if you are not what those readers want, they will ignore you.
Be sure you set up an amazon.com author page, claim your books so they show up on your page, and link your kindle and print copies so they show up together on searches. Here’s mine, so you can see how it works. If the thought of all of this freaks you out, one of those book guides we talked about in an earlier blog will be happy to help or talk you through it.
Where to publish has been the easiest part of our analysis of this self-publishing journey. We are thrilled with where we are and have no plans of changing that. For now. It can all change in the blink of an eye, so we stay alert.
Next Week: Live Events & Blog Tours
I’m going to move this one up in the list because I have a live event over the weekend and can share that experience too.
Winter is supposed to be my productive time while the guest house and book events are quieter. A book I’m proofing for Pen-L Publishers is ready for the final go-through this week. “Max’s Wild Night” is heading to the editor next week and book cover creation will start mid-month. So exciting! I’ll begin formatting by the end of February. Max will have his day on May 1st.
I have also submitted my MG/YA biography on Betty White to a local publisher. My goal for a busy February is to reach 10,000 words on “Kimba’s Christmas.” I don’t have release for that scheduled until Octoberish of 2016, but there are plot points between that and “Slinky Steps Out” (April 2016) that need unwrangling. I am also working on vocabulary activities for all three Cats in the Mirror books for homeschool and classroom use. I’d love to explore creating audio books for them as well, but time may get away from me. Things just keep moving forward. Never stop writing!
And I’d love to have you join me at the Kimberling Area Library on Saturday, February 7th for their annual Author Event. With over 40 authors, speakers, and fun activities planned, it should be an outstanding afternoon. Come on down!