Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Publishing for Kindle Amazon early lessons learned

To be honest, I never anticipated the anxiousness I would feel pressing a publish button. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable and experienced in trying out new technologies or new digital options but … having my own words out there for everyone to see, read and critique is a tough realization. Nevertheless, one has to go out there and explore options, for gathering new experiences is part of life.

These lessons listed were learned after publishing my MOOC eBook via Kindle Direct Publishing, which does not demand a Kindle, you can use free kindle apps to read the book.

First some realizations I got after publishing:
Have a distribution/dissemination strategy. There are A LOT of authors out there! When I looked at new releases from the kindle store only three days after publishing my book, I realized that there were over 200 new titles … in the non-fiction education section alone already!!!! This made me realize that publishing an eBook is just the same as eLearning: you cannot offer it and expect people to buy it… you need to think of a strategy for dissemination, and understand that every one book sold is already fabulous!
Provide access guidelines for readers with different technologies. Another thing I realized was that choosing Kindle led to some disappointment for those people not having a Kindle reader. Understandably for in technology, making a specific choice means you exclude other choices from access. Luckily I found out that Amazon actually offers free Kindle apps, which allow anyone with a computer (Windows XP, 8; Mac; iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android smartphones, Android tablets and Windows 8 tablets) to be able to actually read the book (also later on).
Understand the “look inside” option. The “look inside” feature that you can see on some of the books, needs to be activated by becoming a member of that Amazon service. I did not realize this until a few days later. So I registered for the service. After reading the guidelines I noticed that Kindle books do not need to be uploaded again, they will automatically be transformed into the “look inside” feature, but only after one week. This made me wonder whether next time I might upload the book, but wait for a week before promoting it, as this would immediately enable possible readers to get a feel of what the book is like. Waiting for the feature to activate till date, so not sure which pages are selected and such.

Why did I choose for Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin ) option?
Simple. Because it seemed easy enough to do, they provide very helpful documents on how to get your book published for both Mac and non-Mac (https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A2MB3WT2D0PTNK )
No cost. It does not cost anything to actually get your book published (or it does not have to cost anything, a nice cover, some layout, pictures … all of these might cost money, but you can do it yourself as well)
Quickly updateable. You can easily update a version of your book. Nice, certainly in fields of interest that evolve rapidly (like technology based learning)
Interesting royalty scheme. The Kindle Direct Publishing option also offers a 70% royalty option. Which I found of interest, because it combines low-cost for the buyer with more of a return for the author.
It also allows you to publish in multiple languages.
And it gets distributed globally.

So what I have learned so far:
Ask people to review your draft manuscript. It is amazing how blind one becomes after rereading one’s own manuscript over and over again. And although reviewers can pick up a lot of mistakes or doubles… you are still in for many surprises (or at least I was). But then again, I could have asked a reviewing company to have a look, but that would probably take away any earnings I might hope to acquire (if any). 
Write a manuscript without any formatting. This includes rewriting stuff you already wrote in draft documents, as these might bring along fonts or paragraph spacing that might interfere with the final formatted version. If you do copy paste from other documents, you can copy all to notepad (no wrapping!) and get rid of any formatting that way.
Follow the Kindle Self Publishing guidelines to get your manuscript ready. Once your manuscript is finalized and cleaned from any formatting, you can put in the suggested options provided by the Kindle publishing options from Amazon (put in bookmark toc at the table of contents so kindle users can use the ‘go to’ option, put in headings so you can integrate a table of contents, put in your pictures straight from a designated book folder, get your bullet lists straightened out,  …).
Be meticulous at all stages of the process. Next thing (but this is definitely due to my own eagerness): checking the book for spelling and grammar is one thing, but remember to double check the details you put into the Kindle publishing site (I for example managed to put the title of my book in twice! Argh).
Use the preview option and look at possible errors (with me again I saw that a table was completely warped – took it out, and I saw paragraph spacing that was not visible in the original word document => which led me to the notepad option guideline above)
Get your rates straight. What I did was indicate that prices for my book should all be linked to the US price of the book (so using exchange rates). And although there is a clear indication that Amazon will adjust the prices to the required KDP minima or maxima, it just does not feel that comfortable. Luckily I could change them within 24 hours which felt nice.  
Take the VAT into account. Another thing I did not realize was that once I put in a price for the book, the actual selling price was higher as VAT was added to the initial sales prize.
Be online. The publishing goes quickly if your manuscript meets the technical guidelines provided by Amazon. But make sure you publish at a moment that you can check your ‘your manuscript is published’ mail, as this will offer you links to alter some details and/or add an author profile page which is always nice to be able to edit as soon as your manuscript is published (I published at a moment I would not be online for 18 hours, which resulted in some errors in details that could only be rectified after people had already bought the book, which inevitably leads to possible reviews affected with the mistakes that are in at that time). But then again, as a first time eBook author, people will most likely not go wild buying the book.
Author bonus. Once I got feedback from Amazon that my book was published, I was redirected to an author field, where I could upload a picture, add my blog, put in my twitter id … this made me feel like an actual author (I know, I am not, but … it just felt that way which makes it a nice mental bonus)
Accept and learn. And last but not least, I expect to be in a potential uncomfortable place: people will write reviews and I need to be prepared for that: unknown people writing about something you put your heart and soul in for weeks, if not months.

Looking at the numbers
As a newbie author I was obsessed to find out if my book was selling at least one copy … so I was surfing to get an idea of which analytics were out there.
First of all you can keep some kind of track of how you book is doing using the Kindle Rank Calculator (http://kdpcalculator.com/ ). You go to your author page, you copy the Kindle rank of your ebook and you fill it in the Kindle Rank Calculator and … you get some idea of how your book is doing currently.
Then you have the Kindle eBook reports (but they take 15 days to get data, so be patient … I was not at first, so was anxious until I finally saw them), which give you an overview of how many book you have sold and how this relates to the royalties you might get (admitting here that my math skills are so basic nowadays that I just look at the basic numbers). The reports for the Kindle eBooks can be viewed https://kdp.amazon.com/mn/reports (make sure you are logged in with your Amazon account.

… what can I say, it is clearly an adventure, but it is fun. And at this point, I am already thinking about my next eBook. Interested in whether establishing some frequency in book publishing might affect sales.