Monday, April 23, 2012

DIY: Creating My Own eBook, Part One

One of the major things that has changed between the first time I explored the world of fiction publication (early 1990s) and today is the nature of self-publishing. Back then, it typically involved laying out hundreds or thousands of dollars upfront and was very much considered the last refuge of a writer who had failed to find a market. There was the occasional self-published item that went on to have some certain degree of success, particularly in niche markets, but most self-publishing left authors with boxes of unsold books in their garage or basement.

To say there has been a sea change would be an understatement. The growing acceptance of eBooks by readers has led to a whole new marketplace for digital titles. Turnaround times are miniscule, overhead is small to nonexistent. It's literally possible to take an existing work and turn it into an eBook ready for sale in an evening. In fact, that's exactly what I did one night last week with my science fiction story "Gravity's Pull" and my experience is what I'll be discussing in this series of posts.

Here are the steps I followed:


  1. Prepare your cover art and book file. The cover art will be a whole separate blog post in and of itself. Key things to consider are that many people will be looking at your cover in thumbnail size, possibly even on handheld devices. Fine details or complex fonts can be hard to read. I went with a very basic look for my own first cover. The book file needs to have your text. (I'm assuming you've already written your story and taken it through whatever process you go through before you are willing to send it out into the world.) I created mine from a .DOC file (Microsoft Word) of my short story. I removed out the headers and other items which had been in the file for submission to periodicals. Other than that, I had to do very little in the way of re-formatting. A book with chapters which might have a Table of Contents could require additional work if you wanted to create links between the ToC and the chapters. In my case, about all I had to do was add a title and copyright page.
  2. Sign up for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). For this initial experience, I planned to work with a single vendor. Potentially other vendors would be added if my experience led me to believe that more effort was warranted.
  3. Select the "Add New Title" button within the KDP dashboard. This leads to the forms where you'll go through the heart of the publishing process.
  4. Fill out the "Your Book" page. The first question you'll be asked is if you want to enroll the book in KDP Select. If you do this, you're committing to not make your content available "in digital format on any other platform" for the duration of the enrollment. In exchange, you get a potential of sharing in a monthly fund from the Kindle Owner's Lending Library and the option to make your book available free on up to five days out of a 90 days period. Once you've made your choice there, you'll go through some more basic items: Book Name, Description, Contributors, etc. The last two items on the page allow you to upload your cover art and your book file.
  5. Move on to the "Rights and Pricing" Page. On this page, you'll be asked whether you want to restrict the countries in which your book is made available for purchase, what price you want to set for your book, etc. An important note about pricing is that anything below $2.99 or over $9.99 is restricted to the 35% royalties option. eBooks between those two prices can receive 70% royalties but the delivery costs will be subtracted from your royalties if you choose that rate rather than the 35% rate. In my case, since I knew I would be listing my short story at $0.99, I had no option -- 35% was my rate.
  6. Click "Save and Publish." You're done. There are other things you might want to do, such as create an Amazon Author page and make some preliminary announcements of your book being available for sale. But as soon as you click that button, your eBook is in the process of being evaluated by Amazon and will appear for sale on their site in the near future.
That's what I did one night last week. I plan to talk in more detail about the cover art soon and then will have a third post about lessons learned and what I would consider doing differently the next time.

There are aspects of modern self-publishing which I'm not going to touch on at this time because I haven't personally experienced them. For example, I haven't looked into print books through CreateSpace or similar suppliers. And my initial experiments with eBooks are likely to remain entirely Amazon-centric. If I start seeing enough momentum that it makes sense to learn about other platforms in more detail, I'll proceed at that time. And, if I do look into those, I'll be sure to post more DIY tips here.

Finally, it's important to have your expectations grounded in reality. I've done a tiny bit of marketing to existing connections and that has resulted in enough sales that I could buy myself a (very) modest dinner at a fast food restaurant. I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple more sales trickle in through these channels over the next couple of weeks, but unless I put more effort into getting eyeballs to the eBook it's probably going to have very, very few sales from month to month, especially since it's the only one I have out there so there's no opportunity for cross-sales where someone reads and likes one of my titles and then buys more.

Put bluntly, if you simply do the six things I described above for a single title and nothing more, there's a very good chance your time would have been better spent doing something recreational.

I'll consider this particular title a success if I sell 100 copies by year end. That almost certainly will not happen if it's the only eBook I release but I'm planning to spend a smallish portion of my writing time over the next six months or so making additional inroads into this field to see if I can start to build some momentum. Only time will tell if taking an intermediate-term approach to this will produce positive results or not. Still, I'm hoping to enjoy the ride.

11 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm considering going the same route very soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome. If you have any questions that you'd like to run by me, to see if I have any thoughts to add, feel free to do so!

      Delete
  2. I’m writing a novel that I hope to self-publish, but was thinking of putting up a short story to test the waters. This post is really useful, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're quite welcome. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  3. I'm also looking into self-publishing. This will be a very informative series for me. Bookmarking.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the post. I'm looking into publishing on ebook and was wondering about the details. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Glad that you found the post useful, Esther and James. Assuming I get my Dissecting the Short Story post finished in time for it to by my Thursday post this week, I will likely have the Cover Art post up on Monday of next week.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for the lesson. I've been wanting to try it just to see what it is like.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome!

      If you give it a go, I hope you find it an interesting experience.

      Delete
  7. I'm late in getting around to this post, but it sounds like such a great topic. Looking forward to your insights.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Nicole! I hope you get something useful from the series.

      Delete