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Ghost Note started life as five notebooks of pencilled words. 

In my ignorant enthusiasm, I figured this was the romantic way to write a book. 

It felt romantic at the time, but then I had to type it up to:

  1. Edit it
  2. Send parts of it to agents
  3. So the agents would rip my arm off for the manuscript, and I wouldn’t have to worry about setting it up on the web

When a friend told me that they got their ebooks direct through their Kindle, and didn’t really want to faff with sideloading a file that might – or might not – work okay, I thought: why not do it now? It’ll mean that I can start distributing it in a universal format, and maybe sell one or two at the same time.

So here’s what I’ve learnt  . . . 

  1. Type your manuscript as you go, rather than writing it longhand.
  2. Buy bags of coffee you like, and a large cafetiere.
  3. Keep number 2 on the go pretty much the whole time.
  4. These instructions are for windows and coffee – I have no knowledge of Macs, or herbal teas.
  5. This guide is for an ebook – I’ll deal with print-on-demand in a future blog.

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Account set up: spend your first morning doing this, without your manuscript anywhere in site. Worth every minute, and slurp of coffee. I went with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, as it had the largest market share of ebooks.

  1. You want to set up an account on Kindle Direct Publishing here
  2. You need to do a ‘tax interview’ online to avoid paying tax on any items sold in the US – good (but old) article here: http://catherineryanhoward.com/taxinterview/

Then:

  1. Download the kindle app for your laptop, tablet or phone, regardless of flavour.
  2. Get the free kindle book Building Your Book for Kindle
  3. Work through this book – it’s brilliant, and made a real difference to the speed and formatting of my ebook. NOTE – I only used this for my latest version because I thought I could figure it out, and never got round to downloading it at the time. Don’t skip this step!
  4. Upload your ebook – if you’ve got Microsoft word, I found it best to save as a word doc, AND to save as a filtered HTML page and upload the latter. I’ve got an opensource office suite called WPS, and that doesn’t have filtered HTML as an option, so I used a different computer to do the saving. Update: I’ve just found another way which worked for me: save as an html file, close WPS, open the html file in WPS and save as a .doc (with a clearly different name to your original) and upload this file.
  5. ISBN numbers – these cost £99 for a block of 10. Each version – digital / printed etc – requires a different one. HOWEVER, not wanting to spend a hundred quid is fine – Amazon will issue you a free Amazon ID number for an ebook. There’s different options when you are setting up your ebook.
  6. Design and upload your cover. I use a free software called paint.net to create my covers – my learning: work in layers – they rock! Different layer for anything new, each time. Save often.
  7. New fonts for covers: I uploaded a new font to my pc and use that (I want to create my ‘brand’ font for use on all my covers) – I spent quite a bit of time in bookshops and supermarkets looking at the font on the covers of other thrillers to get an idea of layout, colour, font etc. PC World article on fonts
  8. Preview: Use the downloadable Kindle previewer to preview your file before you approve it. Try your book on different devices on the previewer. Keep tweaking it and uploading new versions until you are 100% happy with the preview on every device.
  9. Royalties: you get 2 options with Amazon – 30% or 70%. You can get 70% by enrolling in the Kindle Direct Publishing Select option. I chose this, but it means you have to give Amazon exclusive digital sales for 90 days at a time, automatically renewable, but you can opt out during any of your 90 day periods. I went for this because: I wanted higher royalties, and because everyone I knew either would have a Kindle, or a Kindle app. It also gives you some useful marketing tools – like reduced pricing for a period of time. You also generate royalties from anyone with Amazon Prime that reads a page of your book.
  10. Pricing: you can go for anything from free to whatever. I wanted the price I set for my ebook to be the same as a cup of coffee. I wanted to sell some, make my fortune, and retire to a life of writing. Don’t we all. I also thought that the cheaper price for an ebook may generate more sales for an unknown author.I chose  £1.99 – this still gives me £1.11 in royalties after tax (you pay VAT on a digital book but not a print book, apparently) and Amazon fees.NB expect anything you put on for free anywhere to be copied and redistributed, which makes it hard to ensure Amazon has the exclusive digital sales for their select programme.
  11. Amendments: I launched Ghost Note last October – since then I’ve revised the content a little, and it’s really easy to upload an updated version of the file – again saving in HTML filtered – which goes ‘live’ after about 12 hours. You can then let people know that an updated version exists, which they can download for free if they’ve already bought it. Amazon will not let customers know if a new version with new content exists.
  12. Buy a digital copy of your book and read it on your Kindle app – it counts to your sales, you get your royalties back (so it cost me 88p) and means that you know what your customers are getting – it allows you to check the digital links to chapters are working, the spacing is right, AND you can add bookmarks and notes on your digital copy if you find errors whilst you are proofreading.

Marketing: you can set up your book for preorders before you approve it – this means you can be telling people about your book and selling it whilst your are getting it uploaded. And then you have to shout about your book. A lot. To everyone. Again and again.

Alternatives / additions to Amazon Kindle: I have set up accounts with Smashwords and Draft2Digital – both are ebook distributors (that don’t supply Amazon as at December 2016) which, between them, you can get your book out to KOBO, Nook, iBooks, Overdrive (libraries), Sony, and a whole bunch of others.

  • For my short story, I’m using the distributors and Amazon to give me the best coverage. Process is the same as for Kindle – set up account and tax details, upload cover and content, review, tweak to format, then publish.
  • Draft2Digital took my manuscript and reformatted it really easily.
  • Smashwords was more fiddly (a lot more fiddly, but done in 2 evenings), but Smashwords gives you a great author page (see mine here), including video, interview, and links to your other social media. Again all this is free, they take a commission on sales, though they will let you publish for free.
  • The trick to get Amazon to publish for free, is contact Amazon Kindle support and send them the links to the free competitors; and then usually Amazon will price match in a couple of days. That’s what I did for With A Bullet.

Other resources:

  1. I have found the Book Designer useful for all sorts of information from fonts to ISBNs etc, however I think there is a bug in their newsletter, so I unsubscribed to this.
  2. Ebooks which I’ve found invaluable (and free): Smashwords Style Guide, Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, and Smashwords Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (Find them here).They’re full of useful tips on how to get your book out to more people. I’ve changed my author email signature because of it, and have redone my email that I send out telling people about my short story With A Bullet – so far it seems better than my original email.

And that’s it. Thirty odd coffees (and the rest) later, and your ebook is on sale.

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Best wishes, and the very best of luck!

To paraphrase Scatman John, If I can do it, so can you.

Why not let me know how you get on?

Simon