Friday 28 August 2015

The process of self-publishing

THE past week has seen my writing feature in not one, but two books on Amazon - and both have gone through the self-publishing route.

Here's the shameless plug bit - the first one, Quartet, a collection of four stories of mine, is available here   while the second, Tales From The Tavern, a fantasy anthology featuring writers from around the world including one story of mine, is available here.

But a shameless plug isn't the point of the post. Rather, I thought I'd talk you through the process of self-publishing - because it seems like a very intimidating thing to do, but isn't as scary as you might think.

The first task is the hardest one: write. Creating work that you think is ready to put in front of others and ask them not only what they think but to put down money to find out if they like it can be a frightening prospect. But if you want to write, then you more than likely want to find out what others think of your work. I'm also presuming that if you're reading this then you've reached the point of wanting to make your work widely available to others - so you most likely have some writing ready to go.

The second task is to ask if it is really ready. Editing the work is crucial. When you read what you have written, you don't read what you actually wrote but what you think you wrote. Nuances that you may not have noticed in the writing, outright errors, unfortunate double meanings can all be easily missed by the writer as they re-read their own work. So you need extra eyes - ideally a couple of readers and an out-and-out editor who will sit there with pen and paper and mark up anything out of place or that jars. People will be put off by errors as they read, especially if you've asked them to pay for it! Think how annoyed you would be to find typos or mistakes in a book you have bought and be professional enough to eradicate them from your own work. Where to find an editor? I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by editors in my working environment - I'm a journalist - but if you don't have anyone you can call on then it's worth considering paying someone to edit your work. There's various avenues of doing so - from freelance sites to recommendations from other writers. Which avenue you choose is of course up to you - but just remember the end goal of a polished product.

Once your writing is complete, you will need a cover - again, there's various ways of doing this but remember for your design that it will appear as a small thumbnail on Amazon. Make the words stand out so that they are readable and accessible.

Compile your completed work as a Word-compatible document. You may also need to add a table of contents. Amazon recommends following the steps here to complete that. A table of contents can help your reader navigate their way through your book, to hop to another chapter quickly and easily.

Then it's a simple matter of logging on to your Amazon account and going to the Amazon Kindle Direct section. You link up your account to Kindle Direct and then go to the bookshelf where you are given the option of adding a new title for sale. You will need to fill in some tax information for the US if you're using - that's my base area so I had to, I can't vouch for what happens if you're not, but then that is the biggest Amazon market so for availability you'll likely want to. That process is simple, and can all be completed online with straightforward questions and answers. Make sure you're logged on from a secure location though - filling in tax questions is not the thing to do from a web cafe!

After the essential paperwork is completed, Amazon then asks you to fill in the information about the book - title, author, etc - and upload your completed document. You upload the cover image as a separate file, and it asks you to do that.

Once that is done, you click to complete the process and your document goes into a stage called REVIEWING. This is when the Amazon algorithms check to see if your document works, if it will convert fine into the mobi files that Kindle uses and all the other necessary checks to ensure that when Amazon sells the product that it works as intended.

Those checks completed, Amazon then moves the book to PUBLISHING status. This is the point at which it is placed in the various Amazon stores, keywords are added for searching and book description is added. When that is finished, the book moves to LIVE status.

For each of these stages, it says that it can take up to 72 hours for Amazon to complete the process. In practice, I've found that it takes two or three hours. You can sit there feverishly hitting refresh if you're a crazy obsessive like me. Or you can leisurely wait for Amazon to send you an email telling you the process is complete.

Upon publication, the next area you will be checking regularly is the reports section, which will show you a chart of the daily progress of your sales and a summary of the amount of royalties received in each currency. You'll need a way of course for Amazon to be able to send you money, but there are various options for that.

And that's it. From start to finish, from pen on page to customers purchasing from you over the internet. Of course, now comes the hard part... convincing people to buy your book. But that? That's a whole different story.

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