I am not a bestselling author, nor do I play one on television. I do, however, take a great deal of interest in how those who have managed to make it big with their self-published Kindle books have managed to pull it off. It’s a tough environment and authors don’t have the soft of support system that traditional publishing offers, so there is often a great deal of creativity that needs to come into play. If you are looking to follow in the footsteps of the KDP success stories that we have seen so far, however, there are a few things that are best kept in mind.
Treat Your Audience Well
You already know that social networking is considered the key to self-publishing success at the moment. What a surprisingly large number of authors seem to think this means is that you need to send out scores of random connection requests on Facebook and Twitter, then repeatedly advertise your book over and over again. This is the wrong way to do things.
Anybody who has access to a Kindle will already know that there are more eBooks out there than they can ever hope to read. Make yourself stand out by doing something besides badgering. Answer questions, share anecdotes, build up a conversation about your writing process, or just offer the occasional preview of your newest work. If you treat your readers like people, they will be more interested in what you have to say than any 140-character ad could accomplish.
Unlike with traditional publishing, you will not accomplish much on a book tour. Instead, harness the power of the internet to make your connections as virtual as your Kindle publication. Set up online gatherings, have a community forum on your personal site, make a Facebook fan page, and generally just keep your options open. Under no circumstances should you decide to buy into one social network at the expense of all the others. It doesn’t take much extra effort to at least cross-post news or check comments in a variety of places and you cast a wider net that way.
Build A Network
It is important to go beyond direct advertising as well. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by developing connections with other authors. Readers tend to take their favorite authors’ recommendations seriously, so it is definitely possible to form a circle of reliably interconnected readership with your peers. This is mainly just a way of directing the force that is the customer recommendation, but that can be tricky to get a hold on.
This should go without saying, but often needs to be said. You are writing for an audience. Whether it is a Kindle eBook or a paperback, that audience expects a certain amount of professionalism from you in return for their money. This means that you should exercise some care with your work. Give it an extra
While it is hardly the only place that media piracy is coming up these days, eBook piracy is very much on the minds of publishers and booksellers. There has been some informed speculation made that possibly as many as 20% of all eBooks currently loaded into devices like the Kindle are pirated rather than purchased. The number is almost shockingly high for some and seems to demand a response. The big question is what action could and should be successful.
Since I’m assuming that this reaches a relatively well informed and reasoning audience, I don’t need to spend much time on the fallacy of assuming that every eBook loaded onto a Kindle thanks to piracy is a lost sale. Naturally this is not the case as studies have shown repeatedly when looking into music, movie, and video game piracy. Most of these same studies have shown that piracy does not have any strong negative effect on sales at all, but let’s assume for the moment that at the very least it allows the market trends to shift based on where customers see the most value to be gained for their money.
This is where the piracy “problem” gets relevant. Publishers wish to control the perceived value of their product. It is problematic for them if customers are able to get the same quality of experience from a $3.99 eBook that they do from a $17.99 hardcover, as this has an adverse effect on a mainstay of traditional publishing. Unfortunately, this sort of control can only be exercised in a situation where the publishers can regulate the flow of new work being made available to customers. eBooks naturally render this impossible, especially given how simple it is to choose self publishing these days thanks to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others.
Do I agree with the idea that books should lose value in an environment where there are too many of them to possibly read? Not entirely, but that’s just the way things work. If you have two similar titles being offered for wildly different prices then the cheaper one is likely to win out, barring dramatically successful marketing efforts. The only way that piracy really plays into this is in allowing readers to still have access to their favorite authors in situations where they would feel unable to justify paying now-outrageous prices. This is not necessarily a view of the emotional or philosophical “rightness” of the act, just an awareness of the psychology at work.
When it comes right down to it, you can’t stop piracy. No matter how restrictive the DRM, there are always more people interested in breaking it than maintaining it. What you can do is adapt to the market and respect your customers. Publishers who insist that if they can just shut down piracy sites and force Amazon to set high prices for Kindle books then all will be well are deluded. The only way to control piracy is to make legal acquisition affordable enough and simple enough that the alternative is too much of a hassle to be considered. The problem is not that the Kindle allows readers to access files they pick up from anywhere on the net, it’s things like the Big 6/Apple Agency Model implementation that try to freeze an entire form of media into an economic model that no longer functions.
With the announcement that the Harry Potter series will be offered in eBook for the first time through the author’s very own distribution system (via Kindle, Nook, and pretty much any other device you care to name) rather than through the normal channels or in partnership with any publishing company, J.K Rowling has almost certainly upset some people. More importantly, however, her decision to release the incredibly popular series free of DRM constraints, relying instead on digital watermarking that will identify the original purchaser should a copy be found being distributed, brings the question of Digital Rights Management back to the front of our minds.
The philosophy behind this move will make sense to many people. If you buy an eBook, why should it matter what device you decide to read it on? If you own both a Kindle and a Nook, shouldn’t it be possible to move between them as desired? Publishing companies, as well as eBook distributors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, have traditionally felt that to be wishful thinking. After all, if you can read the eBook on whatever you want, what is to stop you from giving a copy to your friends and family, or even throwing it onto the internet where anybody who wants to read it can get to it for free? They see the restrictions as worth the price if it means that authors and publishers will continue to get their cut for each reader who comes along.
I look at this release as an experiment. We will get a chance to see how an author fares when she takes an already established and well known collection of books and releases them digitally with very little control. Will Harry Potter fans show up in huge numbers to buy the series yet again just so that they can read it on their Kindles? Is it too late to catch the attention of most now that the series has already sold so well? Perhaps the majority will even feel entitled to pirate the series, having already spent as much as $150+ on a complete set of the hardcovers. This last point, in particular, holds certain weight for me since it gets to the heart of the DRM issue at hand.
If you buy for one medium, be it paper or Kindle, are you paying for the specific instance of that product, or are you paying for access to the information it contains. If the former, then the DRM scheme we have now should be fine. If anything, it is fairly lenient. You would be paying for the opportunity to read a book on one specific platform and anything else is extra. If, on the other hand, we are buying the information contained in the instance, then it makes sense to be able to access it via any device we have on hand. Maybe paper books make more sense as collectables in a system like that?
Regardless of what the truth is, or how the public will choose to interpret it given this opportunity, Rowling is going to make loads of money. Kindle owners are going to show up for this one. The difference between tens and hundreds of millions of dollars could be how we have to judge the outcome of this experiment in the end. It could easily become a point in favor of the abolishment of restrictive DRM, if people are honest.
The 2011 Book Expo America brought all kinds of exciting events and upcoming projects for the Amazon Kindle and others. Amazon Publishing offered author signing and interviews, Kindle excerpts and more.
Amazon Publishing has a collection of free Kindle downloads that provide excerpts and teasers for upcoming releases. The new releases will be available in the Summer and Fall of 2011. Some full versions are available for preorder.
This is a great opportunity to test drive some books and authors that you haven’t gotten a chance to try.
We’ve already seen the competition heating up with the latest Nook releases. I actually got a chance to check ou the NookColor recently, and thought it was pretty decent. At the expo, Kobo introduced the new Kobo Touch. It depends mostly on touch screen with the exception of one home button at the bottom, which is similar to the iPad set up. Based on reviews, the Kobo touch looks pretty clean and can probably hold it’s own in the e-reader market.
The Kobo may sound great in theory, but in order for it to be accessible, it’ll have to have some kind of voice navigation feature. Currently, the Kindle is way ahead of both the Nook and Kobo readers because of its accessibility features and text to speech option. The iPad also has a lot of great accessibility features of its own, however, the iPad will be more competitive with the rumored Kindle Tablet than the current Kindle e-reader.
This isn’t a new topic, but it also doesn’t seem to be going away. There are some very loud people convinced that the Kindle spells the end of the book and they’re quite willing to say so. In a very, very limited way, they’re right. The problem is that they’re missing the point.
You see, books have come a long way already over the years. It doesn’t matter if you decide to cite oral tradition, serialized texts, or pretty much anything else as the origination point for the modern concept of the book, it’s not possible to deny that the book as we know it is an evolution from something else. The transition to the medium we know and love today, which is itself distinct from the books produced prior to the printing press for example, has allowed for more variety and enjoyment to emerge than ever before. The Kindle, and other eReaders like it, is simply the next stage in the ongoing progression. It takes the established situation and makes it more efficient to deliver, less restrictive in terms of publication, and more generally accessible overall.
In a way, this is the heart of the problem. The publishing industry isn’t built around the text. In the end, it doesn’t matter if they are selling the most amazing piece of literature ever written or the latest exploitation of the vampire romance novel phenomenon so long as people are buying. The industry makes its money by selling the book as a physical object and offering the person or people who produced the information inside a cut of the profit. If you take away the paper, their model seems less sustainable.
If anybody sitting at home can do the work to get a novel written, polished, and put up for sale with no need for a middle-man and at a higher percentage than the publishing houses are prone to offering, then what is the point of courting them? What we need to see now is some initiative on the part of these companies. What are they bringing to the table? It isn’t enough to cite history and what they’ve done before. If the Kindle is supposed to be single-handedly destroying publishing as we know it, you have to assume that it has more to do with what the public considers to be worth their money than it does with Jeff Bezos being an evil genius bent on taking over the world.
If they are going to stay afloat, people need to be informed about what advantages there are in going with a publisher. The doors need to open up a bit. If this isn’t enough, then it isn’t a sign that somebody is out to get them, it’s a sign that publishers simply aren’t providing authors with decent value anymore. The industry isn’t changing on a whim, it’s changing because things like the Kindle platform are making it possible for authors and readers to avoid the red tape and pointless markups that are left over from a time when successful publishing was literally impossible without an impressive backer. We’re moving on.
When writing a book that you intend to put out through something like the Kindle‘s self publishing platform, there are always going to be complications. There’s a reason that publishing houses are in business, after all. Doing it all yourself is difficult and many authors would rather just do the writing than spend their time on editing, proofing, distribution, accounting, and publicity, right? Still, that’s the deal you get when you go it alone.
As a result, sometimes problems will often pop up if you’re not careful! Maybe nothing important, maybe a lot. In the case of one self publisher, Jacqueline Howett, it was a lot. Now, I’ve heard many a time that one of the hardest things that authors have to come to terms with can be that as soon as the first copy hits shelves, and sometimes sooner, it is completely out of your hands. For better or worse, it’s out there. That’s even more true with Kindle books given that once something appears on the internet it is pretty much staying there. It is therefore a bad idea to send out unrevised copies of your book, let alone head to a reviewer’s website and confront them on a bad review over it. Let’s face it, the profanity didn’t add much either.
Basically what happened is that Howett sent out a poorly formatted initial release of her book, The Greek Seaman, out to be reviewed by a blog called “BigAl’s Books and Pals”. As I mentioned before, it bombed and walked away with only 2 Stars on account of consistent spelling and grammar errors. Howett herself was quick to jump into the comments on this review and point out that she had requested that the reviewer download an updated version released a day later and maintains that the review would have gone differently had this been the case. When the reviewer piped up that he had gotten the new version, she got a bit irate. Then she got a LOT irate. After several moderately long rants against both the reviewer and her fellow commentators, most amusingly including the line “You are a big rat and a snake with poisenous venom. Lots of luck to authors who come here and slip in that!”(spelling preserved), she apparently lost the capacity for even an imitation of rational debate and fired off a few comments containing nothing but profanity before fading out of the “discussion”.
At this point, Howett is basically a cautionary tale for new Kindle writers. While I doubt she’ll completely go away any time soon, her reputation is shot and it’s going to be difficult, even assuming it’s possible, to recover anything from this.
I suppose it gets the point across, though. If you write a book, roll with the punches. There will be bad reviews. Take what advice you can from them, if applicable, and move on. There’s really no point in confrontation over what, in the end, amounts to personal taste. After all, I’m certain there are a number of people out there who wouldn’t care if the book was badly written so long as the story was enjoyable. Making a fool of yourself in public won’t help, and what’s said in public can’t be taken back.
We can take it for granted today that the future of book publication revolves around the eBook. Yes, I will acknowledge that it is unlikely to ever be the sole medium available to readers, but I would definitely say that it will be increasingly seen as the standard from here on out. This was obvious even before Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) announced their recent comparison of paperback and Kindle book sales. So, where does this leave the publishing industry?
In many ways instances, new authors had come to see the big publishing houses as unapproachable. They had their big names that they were banking on and the chances of being the one new author in a hundred, or a thousand, to get a positive response was daunting. People have said that more authors are springing up than ever before. I don’t buy that. People write and it’s only now that it’s been possible for even hobbyists to get their work out there. That is what the move to digital book platforms like Amazon’s means for writers. A chance to survive, or fail, on your own merits without the need of attracting a patron. At least in theory. You’re going from a traditional payment play to some form of micro-payment system where every person with a Kindle is a potential backer of your work. Sure you lose security in the process, but you’d have only had that if you managed to break in in the first place.
It’s an interesting new environment that emphasizes different values than we might expect. The downside of self-publishing, no matter how easy the actual process of book creation is, is self-promotion. Not much of a chance that you’re going to be the next big thing if you can’t let people know that you wrote a book, that your book is about something they might be interested in, and, at a slightly later stage, that there are people who have read your book and enjoyed it. Word of mouth is useful, of course, but really this seems to turn writers into public figures to an unprecedented degree and would seem to cause success or failure to rest on the endurance and adaptability of the author rather than the strength of the work they have produced.
I’m going to admit that when I started writing this, I was taking a negative view on that. It seems to cheapen the experience and draw value away from what I really believe to be the only thing that should matter when you’re deciding what to read: the Book. But really, what’s new there? The only difference now is that readers really have a chance to vote with their wallets.
If you have a nearly unlimited field of books to choose from, it can’t be worse than an industry that seems to have basically coasted along on a couple dozen big names for as long as anybody can remember, can it? Yes, we’ll lose some great authors at the side of the road because they didn’t have the drive, personality, time, skills, or whatever, to be their own publicists, but there’s not much doubt in my mind that we’ve been losing far more than that before now than ever will be the case again. So…gonna go with the Kindle platform and its attached self-publishing options as being a good thing in my opinion. The draw away from the big publishing houses should help more than it hurts, I hope.
Any thoughts from you guys?
So, you’ve written a book? Congratulations. Whether it’s the work of years or simply your latest NaNoWriMo entry, it was almost certainly a difficult and demanding project that it would be great to get some recognition for. Sure, you can go through the traditional routes and send out your manuscript to the publishing houses in hopes that you get a bite, but should you be looking for another route, whether due to rejection, disinterest, or simple distaste for involving yourself with those companies, Amazon’s DTP(Digital Publishing Platform) for the Kindle might be right for you. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Create an Account
One of the advantages to going with the Kindle for your digital platform is that any Amazon.com account should basically be good for this already. Simply head to the DTP Log-in screen and enter your usual information. If this is your first time playing with the DTP service, you’ll be asked for some basic publishing-specific settings such as tax information and preferred payment method. It’s pretty straightforward and you should have little trouble.
Step 2: Format your eBook
Presumably you’ve already taken the time to do any sort of content editing you’d like to do. Dwelling on the details of that would turn this post into a book of its own, as I’m sure you’re aware. What is important, however, is making sure you’re setting things up properly to be accessible on the Kindle platform. The supported file formats at the moment are:
Unencrypted Mobipocket(.mobi and .prc)
This is pretty much the ideal, if you can do it, since it is the format that the Kindle-specific file format is derived from.
These should actually make the conversion very cleanly in most cases. It is basically the current generation of the old Mobipocket format(yes, I know I’m oversimplifying) and can be brought back to that earlier iteration in eBook formatting pretty easily. If you’re hoping to get your book set up for more than just the Kindle, you’ll likely be using this format anyway, at some point.
Obviously not much you can do wrong in this one, though it is a bit limiting.
Microsoft Word .doc File
Definitely usable, but with some complications. Avoid anything like headers or footers. No page numbers(remember that the Kindle reflows the text to respond to size adjustments and such). For the same reason, don’t bother playing with Margins or anything. Also, for whatever reason, Amazon recommends you add in images using the “Insert” command rather than copy/paste for best results. Something to keep in mind.
*IMPORTANT* Don’t mistake this for the new .docx file format. That is a different and wholly incompatible thing.
This is the poorest option, by all accounts, but it will still work after a fashion. There is simply too little formatting information in your average PDF to hope to get much of anything besides the bare text and most minimal formatting out of Amazon’s conversion process. You might actually be better off finding a third party utility to break down your PDF into something that can be played with in MS Word or a similar program that can be converted into a more useful format.
There are a number of specific things to be aware of in using an HTML document for your Kindle book. While this is the most finely controllable method for formatting your book, by most accounts, it is also complicated and requires great attention to detail. In most cases, until and unless you have extensive experience using this sort of an eBook format, you might be better off using something else.
To be honest, speaking from personal experience, the best thing you can do to get something ready for publication is to take what you have finished, convert it to either .mobi or HTML, and send it to your Kindle to see how it works. Flipping through on the device itself will save you a world of trouble in case something goes wrong.
Step 3: Upload Your Book
They’ve made this part really simple. Assuming you are still logged into the DTP system, you will see a button that says “Add a New Title”. Click on it and enter all the information it asks for. You’ll need to provide not only your book file and a description of the work to sell it with, but also any important publication data, an assurance that you have a right to publish the book, a decision about whether or not to enable DRM, and a cover/product image. The product image is important, since it is what will appear on the product page in the Kindle store.
You will then be prompted for information on countries where you hold the rights to your work, and to select a pricing/royalty option. You can choose from either 35% royalties, in which case you get to set your price in stone, or 70% royalties, which means that Amazon has a lot more say over how much your book is going to be costing if they decide they need to price match or anything like that and that they deduct a small delivery fee based on file size for each sale. Either way, you set your price(s) in the little box below that area and you’re done.
Step 4: Promote it
Let’s face it, getting the book on the Kindle marketplace is the easiest part of things. The hard part, aside from the writing itself, comes next! Now you’ve got to spread the word. Many recent authors have had luck with creating a public presence for themselves through creative use of blogging, web promotion, and plain old word of mouth. Whichever method you choose, you’ve got a good start going already. Good luck!
A while back, Amazon’s(NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle publishing platform made headlines for its remarkable offer of 70% royalties, under the right circumstances, to self-publishing authors wanting to make their products available through the Amazon.com site. Although authors are often confronted with a Kindle vs nook debate when it comes to where to move their stuff, since Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) launched a similar program, Amazon is making further moves to ensure that they remain the main source for all your independent author needs.
In the past week or so, Adobe(NASDAQ:ADBE) launched the beta for a plugin for their popular InDesign software that allows users to create documents specifically for the Kindle. It can currently be downloaded directly through the Amazon Kindle’s Publishing Program site. Previous to this, InDesign users would usually be faced with the annoyance of converting from EPUB to an acceptable upload format.
Users of this tool will enjoy several useful features:
- Expanded & refined font styling and text placement
- Easier placement of in-text links, including Table of Contents
- Smooth transition of images
- Easy content preview using the Kindle Previewer
The Previewer mentioned there is a neat little tool Amazon released early this year that will allow users on practically any OS to check out what their book will look like on the physical Kindle right down to font resizing and orientation changes. It’s something of a must for anybody really interested in getting things right, from what I hear, and it has been updated recently to account for the Kindle 3 release and the minor screen changes that that entails.
Since the Kindle is clearly taking the lead for the foreseeable future as far as eBook distribution platforms go, this will be a big help for all you aspiring authors and long-time fans of Adobe products. It would be nice if Amazon came around and started supporting more widely used formats, but since that doesn’t seem to be happening this makes accommodating their peculiarities that much easier.