How To Be An E-book Publisher | Advanced Media

How To Be An E-book Publisher

Do you remember that cartoon of Snoopy where he was writing in his typewriter on top of his dog house, just to get his manuscripts sent back with a note Don’t call us, we will call you?.  Well, Snoopy would love this new brave world of self publishing electronic books.

Let me start by sharing a little secret with you: I’ve published 2 books in my life and the first one was a flop.  Back in 1996 when Internet was getting started, I created a web site with funnies where people could vote for the best ones. This was at the time when you had to code your CGI-scripts in C and Amazon was, for most people, still a geographical area in Brazil.  After several months of running the site I decided to write and publish a book with the best stories.

Back in those days you had to either get a literary agent to promote your work or use one of the many editorials that would publish the book for you, as long as you footed the bill.  Needless to say, I took the second path.  After getting the material together and the book printed I went to the Leipzig book fair in Germany to promote it. I found out I was not alone. I also tried to promote it locally, but found that I had to do more explaining on what the Internet was and how people could actually vote for the stories than read the stories in the book.  And I also found that English jokes do not always fit within the German-speaking humor. I don’t need to tell you that I ended up losing money, but gained experience and had fun in the process. (The human brain is a champion at rationalizing)

Fast forward to 2011: Amazon launches the Kindle Direct Publishing program allowing authors to create electronic versions of their work and submit them to the Amazon Kindle book store without paying a dime. I caught wind of the program thanks to a post by Guy Kawasaki on Google Plus and over a weekend got a collection of my articles on social media formatted as an eBook.

The process of submitting a book has the following steps:

1) Write the content

2) Format the content into an eBook

3) Create a book cover and other supporting elements

4) Submit to the Kindle shop and promote it

Amazon makes several set of tools to format your eBook here. There are tools for Windows and Mac users. I used the Windows-based Mobipocket creator tool and a Word document with my content.  Disclaimer: I know it is not the path that would be taken by professionals, but I believe it will be a popular path among the large use base of those tools. 

The Mobipocket creator does not have the most modern interface, but it is quite straightforward to use. You need to first export your text in Filtered HTML format. Word will create a directory where all the images you are using in the book are copied to be referenced by the final html document.  Make sure you format the chapter titles using the standard Word headings since this will come in handy when creating a table of contents later.  Also do not create a table of contents or an index in Word. See additional hints on KDP simplified formatting guide.

It is important to understand that a Kindle book does not have a static definition of “pages”. The user can change the font size and the pages will arrange themselves dynamically. Thus it is better to leave the page numbers away.  Note that if you use hyperlinks in your text they will be referenced by Kindle, provided of course that the user has WiFi access at the time the links are followed.

Within the Mobipocket creator you will need to provide your book metadata, including author information and a brief description.  While not mandatory I do recommend providing a cover page.  To use the Mobipocket table of contents generation utility you will need to know which HTML tags did Word use to export your chapter titles. If you used the default “heading 1” and “heading 2” formats they would translate into the H1 and H2 HTML tags.  You can enter the tags used and the table of contents will be generated automatically. You might need to repeat the generation process more than once until you are happy with the results. I recommend starting a new book from scratch since once imported, the tool does not seem to deal well with changes.

Once you have the final .prc file I suggest using one of the Kindle viewers to ensure the document looks the way you want it to. I used the Kindle previewer for this.  The next step is to submit your book for publishing.

For this you need to have an Amazon login, and to create a KDP account based on this login. The KDP program provides two pricing categories.  You can select from a flat 35% royalty or a 70% royalty where you pay separately for the data transfer of your book.  Unless your book is heavy on graphs and therefore large, the 70% royalty makes more monetary sense.  Note that the 70% royalty applies only for purchases from selected countries. This means that sales to users outside the 70% selected zones will be paid at 35% royalty. I also suggest that you enroll your book on all Amazon sites (.uk, .de, .fr, .es, .it, .com) since some users, especially in Europe, use these localized shops.

The KDP program provides you with an easy way to promote your book by either making it available for lending to Amazon select customers for free, or by making your book available for free for up to 5 days in a 3 month period.  If you make your book part of the KDP select program you will be paid if your book is borrowed by Amazon Prime members.  This is a great way to promote your book among your friends that are part of that program, since they do not have to pay to read it, but you still get paid for them borrowing it. The KDP, as the program is called, has a fund every month and you get paid depending on how often your book is “lent”.  For December 2011 the total fund was 500,000 US, and every lend paid 1.70 per borrow. Also note that if you make your book available for download for free, you will not be charged for the data transfer fees if you are using the 70% royalty model.

When promoting your book remind your audience that there are Kindle readers for many platforms: Android, iPad, iPhone, PC.

You will get paid royalties separately by each site, and only if the amount of money owed to you are above 10 USD/Euros/Pounds.  It is recommended that you provide Amazon with your electronic bank account so that they transfer the funds electronically to you.

I can only recommend would-be authors to try this new publishing platform first.  And I am sure that if Snoopy were to publish now his “It was a dark and stormy night” adventures they would be an electronic best seller.

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