An experiment with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and fast, lean publishing.
My sister Bridget is a journalist and author. She’s also diabetic. This hasn’t stopped her from living a full, active and happy life. Bridget has launched a magazine, travelled the world, had a kid (my delightful nephew Art), launched a start-up and published a novel, Strange Nervous Laughter. Her novel was published and distributed the traditional way, through a traditional publisher. As anyone who has gone through this process can attest, it can be time-consuming with many a hoop to jump through. Bridget recently wrote a (short but sweet) book about her life with diabetes and how she manages to stay positive, despite having a chronic illness. The subject matter is niche and she would have struggled to get it published the traditional way so we decided to look into Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) service, which allows you to publish e-books cheaply (pretty much free) and quickly (almost immediately).
Bridget already had the book manuscript ready, written in Google Docs. She shared this with me and I put my English Masters to good use and did a (light) edit. Her manuscript was ready to go but needed to be ‘typeset’ into an e-book. Amazon provides a handy guide to developing an e-book and their platform can ingest a number of formats, including Word, HTML, Mobi (Kindle book format) and Epub (open e-book format). We decided to go with Epub as it a format I am familiar with and, if we wanted to distribute it through other channels, can be ingested easily by other online retailers. Epubs can be created using InDesign, a code editor or an online content management system such as PressBooks. Built on the WordPress framework, PressBooks is an easy tool to use and once the e-book has been set up, can be edited in WYSIWYG mode by the author or editor. Using PressBooks we set out the manuscript into chapters, added pull quotes and textboxes where needed and uploaded the e-book’s cover. As luck would have it, Bridget’s husband Mark is a creative director and put the cover together (see right) free of charge. Once completed and proofed, we paid our $20 to PressBooks (to upgrade to a distributable e-book) and downloaded our Epub. The great thing about PressBooks is that all the book content remains stored in the cloud and is easily accessible and editable. A revised copy of the e-book can be made quickly and easily.
With our Epub ready, we logged into KDP and selected the option to create a new title. This process consists of two steps. The first screen has a number of fields where you can input meta information about the e-book, such as title, author’s name, description and category (e.g. Self Help). You also need to upload the cover image and the Epub file here. Once complete, you navigate to the second screen where you define the territories, confirm your rights and set your price. The territory can be worldwide (if you own the copyright outright) or restricted to certain countries if you have licensed some elements. It is here that you can also set the price. For e-books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 Amazon pays a 70% percent royalty. Anything outside of this receives only 35% royalty, so there is a strong business case to stay within their recommended pricing tier. We decided on $3.99, a ‘frictionless price’ that will hopefully encourage readers to buy the e-book. On clicking save and publish, the title moves on to a review phase, which can take up to a day to complete. Once reviewed, and if no changes have been suggested by the review team, the title becomes live on the Amazon platform, available for the masses to purchase. Check it out at How to Live a Happy Life (with a Chronic Illness).
All in all, from completed manuscript phase until the time we clicked publish on KDP, the entire process took less than 24 hours. Now let’s see if anyone buys it 🙂