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NEW How To Self Publish on Kindle: 7 Things You Need To Know

This post first appeared on WAHM_BAM

Once upon a time, to publish your book you had to:
persuade a publisher to pull your submission off the slush pile of 1,000 other submissions;
hope he read it;
hope he liked it;
hope he invested his hard-earned money in it.

More often than not, after a few long months, a rejection slip finds you and you have to start all over again.

The on-line revolution has changed all that. Give three loud cheers! Now, you can publish your own masterpiece on Kindle for nothing, sit back and just wait for the royalty payments to flood in.

Well, it’s still not quite that simple. It’s a fact, though, that anyone can now publish their own work. My first Kindle eBook features proudly on Amazon. I’ve published a couple of books in the old-fashioned way before, and this time I’ve loved the feeling of being in charge of my own destiny.

Of course, there are downsides to doing it yourself. The workload can feel heavy. You have to make dozens of decisions with no one to tell you what to do. You have to learn new skills that go far beyond the joy of putting pen to paper. Worst of all, you can’t blame your publisher for your own mistakes. Still, it’s well worth the effort.

Why do you want to publish?

I think you need a special combination of characteristics if you’re going to enjoy your publishing experience. Ask yourself, do you:

love writing;
truly think your book has merit;
have something to say that no-one else has said;
like a challenge;
have enough resources so you don’t need an instant return;
feel prepared to work hard, for many hours, without knowing whether you’ll get a return on your investment of time and effort?
Now I come to think of it, that’s not really so different from how it’s always been to be a writer.

From my own experience and drawing heavily on the advice kind friends gave me, here are some tips.

1 Find your niche

I wrote my book, How to Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter, as part of a long-term effort to help the 50% of children who start school without enough language skill to understand their teacher. It’s a shocking statistic.

The content was straightforward. I knew what I wanted to say and I have a professional background in the topic. If you’re looking for something to write about, make a list of the things you know or are good at. Ask yourself what problems people have in that area, and whether you can help solve them better than any existing author has. If you know about knitting, for example, maybe you can write a book on knitting hats for poodles.

2 Lay-out

You read Kindles differently from the way you use physical books. You can do all sorts of things with your Kindle. You can highlight the text, build bookmarks and use the contents page to navigate. On the other hand, some things are more difficult.

For example, if you put a paperback down and forget it for a while, you can pick it up, then flip back and forward to re-orientate yourself. You read a line or two of the previous page and maybe check the chapter heading to find out where you are and what was going on in the book. It’s not always so easy to get your bearings with a Kindle.

My book is non-fiction, so I hope my readers want to dip into it many times rather than read it once and then put it aside. I needed a system to help them navigate and keep track of where they are in the test. Therefore, my content page links to different areas in the book. I’ve also included sub-headings within each chapter, and each sub-head starts with the name of the chapter. That way, I reckon, you at least always know where you are in the book.

Make sure you pay attention to the first few pages. Kindle readers can download sample chapters before buying the book. Your first chapter can give a real flavour of your book and encourage your reader to want to read the rest.

3 Edit

Once I had the layout, I wrote, re-wrote, edited and edited again. Then I edited some more. Editing is slow and not my favourite thing. If you’re writing fiction, I’d say don’t even think of editing it yourself. You’re too close to it: it’s your baby. Let someone else, preferably a professional, tell you all those things you don’t want to hear about the problems with your work.

If you decide to publish your non-fiction without an editor, at least let colleagues read it and comment. Take their comments seriously, grit your teeth and rewrite.

When you think you’ve finished at last, edit one more time. A good tip is to read your chapters backwards, one sentence at a time, so you concentrate on your spelling and grammar. No matter how many times you check, mistakes will get through. At least, when you publish a Kindle, you can go back and correct the text even after publishing. I’m currently doing that very thing.

4 Format

Now it’s time to get your book into shape for publishing. That means formatting. Unless you’re a computer programmer, get help. It’s possible to do it yourself and the free Amazon Kindle Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing has plenty of instructions, but it’s still really hard. It’s worse than editing.

I’m lucky enough to have a programmer in the family, so I used him. Shamelessly. We are back talking again now, though.

5 Cover design

At last, you have your work, correctly formatted for the Kindle. You haven’t finished yet, I’m afraid. Now you need a cover. This bit seems weird, as of course it never exists as a physical cover, unless you also publish through a print on demand publisher. Still, for marketing purposes, you need that front cover. You want your book to catch the eye of the Amazon browser. There’s plenty of advice around on cover design and again, it’s worth getting professional help.

If you do it yourself, my biggest tip is to make the title much bigger than you think you need, because it appears on Amazon as a thumbnail. You want people to be able to read the title and your name.

6 Upload

This is fun. Just follow the Amazon instructions, fill in a few details and within a couple of days, your book pops up on the site, for sale.

Can you sit back and relax? Well, I think it’s worth opening the champagne and having a quick celebration, before you take another deep breath and move to the next stage. This is where the real hard work begins, because now you have to persuade people to buy your book.

7 Marketing

If you want your book to sell, you have to sell it. No one else will do it for you. Even if you come from a big family, you need to do more than sell to family and friends. Here are a few tips:

Use social media to build a community of people interested in you and your work. Tweet, write on your Facebook page, write blogs full of content and syndicate them everywhere you can.
Use site engine optimisation (SEO) to get Google, Bing and other search engines to direct traffic to your site. This means choosing words or phrases that people will type in when they want to find a book. “Knitting hats for poodles,” for example. Think carefully. What would you put in a search engine if you were looking for a book like your own? Once you have your words and phrases, write articles that use those words in the title and first paragraph, to help the search engines find them. Submit your articles to the Ezine articles site, and to any others you can find.
Funnel your readers through your blog or website, giving them a good page of information and easy click buttons to help them buy your book. Make it easy for them, and be bold. Tell them about the benefits to them of buying your book.
Where am I now?

My book is now for sale. Reviewers have copies, so some reviews should appear on the site soon. Search engines are beginning to drive traffic to my site, and my community is growing. I haven’t made my fortune yet, but this is my first experiment with on-line publishing.

I’ve loved every moment, and I get a huge thrill when I see my very own book on my computer screen. It’s just as good as when I held my first book in my hand, many years ago.

What would I do differently? I’d plan the marketing before getting to publication. Much of the groundwork: the social media, the blogs and the SEO research can happen early on, ready for a grand launch. My launch is more of a gentle slither into the waves than a big splash.

On the other hand, the book is there for the long haul. It will still be available in five years time, and it’s a platform for building the next book. I’m already in the planning stages.

If you’ve got a book you want to publish, then go ahead. Take it step by step, read all the advice you can find, take your time and enjoy the process. Don’t expect to get rich quick. But then, how many writers ever have?

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