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Formatting Your Manuscript for Publishing on Amazon

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Oh, this is getting exciting! You’re about to publish your manuscript on Amazon, using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)!

(Cue record-scratch sound.) Wait a minute. You need to make sure you’ve got that document formatted correctly.

Ugh.

It’s okay. Calm down. It won’t be that bad. You can do this. And you can do it right within the Word program. Whew!

You see, when I went to format my manuscript for publishing, I read lots of information online. That can be a mistake. Yes, there was a lot of helpful information, but there was a lot of misinformation too. Or maybe it was just dated information. I read about downloading a document conversion program, to put my document into some other format (RTF, or something like that). Even the step-by-step instructions on Amazon seemed confusing and daunting. Anyway, make it easy on yourself. Word documents are compatible with Amazon publishing, just the way they are! Don’t convert your manuscript into any other form of document. Not even a PDF file. Forget about it!

There are several formatting things you need to do, though.

First, if you haven’t already done so, set up your Word document with page numbers. If you don’t know how, search “page numbers” in Word help (it’s the little blue circle with the question mark in the upper right), and follow the instructions. Unlike the document for your ebook, your paperback document needs page numbers. I found this out the hard way. Someone ordered and received my paperback and told me that there were no page numbers. Oops! My second edition now has page numbers.

Next, set up your manuscript’s paper size. “What size is that?” you ask. The answer: whatever size of book you want to end up with. Amazon allows you to choose your book’s dimensions. I chose one of the most common sizes for a paperback, which is 6″ width and 9″ height. Choose your size in the Amazon setup, and set your Word document to the same size. From the “page layout” tab, choose “size,” then “more paper sizes.” There you can enter in the dimensions you want. There, done.

Now, think about holding a paperback book. There’s what the call a “gutter” in the middle, between the two open pages. You need to account for that, so the printing doesn’t get lost in the gutter, making your book difficult to read. In other words, you need the right margin bigger on the left page, and the left margin bigger on the right page. (If this isn’t making sense, find an actual book, open it up, and you’ll see what I mean.) Here’s how to accomplish this: From the “page layout” tab, choose “margins,” then “mirrored.”

I didn’t know about all these steps until I went to upload my manuscript. I would get to the preview step, and there would be red warnings all over my pages. Yikes! So I managed to stumble through these steps one at a time, finding fewer and fewer red marks each time I re-uploaded and looked at the preview. It took at least a couple hours! I hope that I have saved you some time and frustration by describing the steps above.

Next we will have a look at uploading your book cover. That took me hours too, but I can help you so it won’t take you nearly that long. Stay tuned!

Also, please share with us your tips for uploading manuscripts, and what you have learned. More teachers please!

Your Book Description and Author Description: Are They Really Necessary?

dick-van-patten-high-anxiety-1977
“Yes, It’s Nessa!”

So you’re ready to publish the paperback version of your book on Amazon, and you begin going through the steps on the KDP publishing site.* (I won’t comment on each of the steps; some of them are self-explanatory, like “book title,” etc.)

But before you get to the cool part where you upload your manuscript, you encounter two steps that may cause you anxiety, or annoyance, or both. “What’s this about book description and author description? Can’t I skip those tedious things, and get right to publishing my book?” Tempting, yes, but don’t do it. Actually, the KDP system might not let you get away with skipping them anyway, because those paragraphs end up on the back cover of your book. And you definitely want them there, don’t you? How many times have you picked up a book in the bookstore and turned it over to at least skim the description of the book and its author? You want your potential readers to be able to do that as well. And the book’s description will also appear right on the ordering page for you book. Check it out; take a look at several books available on Amazon, and see the description paragraphs for them. It might give you some good ideas for your book’s description.

Which leads me to my next point: What should be in your book’s description, and in your author description?

Here’s what I think: Describe your book in the same way that you would describe it if someone asked you live, and in person. Perhaps this has already happened to you. You announce to your friends and/or family that you’re writing a book, and their first question, obviously, is: “What’s it about?” The gears in your mind start their raspy turning, because you haven’t thought about it. You think: “What do I tell them? How much of the plot do I give away? How do I make it sound appealing?” After my first few times of stumbling through the answer to this question, I came up with something like the following:

“My novel is a fictional story, set in the future. It takes place in a very controlling society, otherwise known as a dystopian society. My main character begins to question things, and ends up taking a journey, meeting friends along the way, and ultimately going up against the bad guy.”

That gives them an idea of the genre (sci-fi, dystopian), lets them know that it has a plot and conflict (therefore fun and excitement), and reveals just enough detail to spark their interest, and gives away absolutely no spoilers.

Of course my actual, written description for Amazon is more sophisticated, but I think it essentially accomplishes the same purposes. Here it is:

The development of a global transportation system has led to profound changes in the world’s culture, including the loss of privacy and the manufacture of a vast working class. One average worker begins to ask questions, which causes unwanted fame and an unplanned journey. The search for inner peace is interrupted by attacks from a mysterious enemy, leading to a conflict that could mean freedom, or further oppression, for the masses of humanity.

That paragraph is deceptively simple. I want you to know that it took a lot of time and effort to write it. I pondered a lot, scribbled and scratched, and wrote and rewrote. But it’s worth the effort, I think. It provides some teasers, includes what I want, and doesn’t include what I don’t want to reveal.

My author description is similar, providing enough information to let the reader know something about me (my variety of life experiences, and my interests other than writing), but without giving too much information (no stalkers, please). Here’s what I came up with:

Brian Dale Pope grew up in California, lived for a time in the Midwest, and now resides again in California.  He likes to think this has given him a well-rounded, rather than schizophrenic, life experience. He has also lived in the city, later in a small town, and now in a medium-sized municipality, giving him a rural-and-urban (rurban?) perspective. He enjoys reading and cooking, as well as writing, which makes him fancy himself to be an author. Brian enjoys making complicated things (whether ideas or instructions) understandable to anyone. When he is not working or writing, he enjoys traveling and going on dates with his wonderful wife.

Notice also that there are no hot-buttons, no political statements, no potentially volatile topics. Yes, I have definite personal views about politics and religion (and some of those even come out in my story), but I don’t want to turn off half of my potential readership before they even read the sample pages.

Think of your book description and author description as funnels, meant to draw readers in, who otherwise might “swipe left” and move on. I hope that helps!


*I imagine the steps are the same for the Createspace publishing platform, but having no experience with it, I cannot comment with certainty. Perhaps others can share their experience in the comments?

Publishing Your Paperback on Amazon: Introduction

Paperback Book1_RGB

You have already published your book on Amazon in digital format, so it’s now available for readers to purchase and download to their Kindle, tablet, phone, or computer.

Good job, you!

(If you haven’t, see my previous posts: Preparing Your Manuscript for Digital (e-book) PublishingPreparing a Book Cover for Online Publishing, Pulling the Trigger: Publishing (Uploading) Your E-Book, and Preparing a Book Cover: Update.)

So now you’re ready to publish your book in paperback format, so that your Aunt Martha can receive a copy and have you sign it at the upcoming family reunion in Tallahassee. Oh, joy!

Here’s the good news: You can do this.

Here’s the real news (not bad news, just real news): It’s going to take some time and effort.

Here’s the good news again: You can do this.

Here are the steps you will need to take to publish the paperback version of your book on Amazon:

  1. Preparing and submitting your book description and author description.
  2. Preparing and submitting your manuscript.
  3. Preparing and submitting your book cover.
  4. Setting your price and other details.

I will be posting on each of these steps, and how they went for me. I’ll tell you what was easy, and what was, shall we say, challenging.

Here’s the great news: There were some steps that I stumbled through because I didn’t fully understand them. Now I know what to do, and what not to do. And now you can benefit from my learning curve. You don’t have to go through all the false starts that I went through. You can jump right into the fast lane!

So stay tuned; in the next blog post, we will talk about your book description and author description. I know, you want to jump right into downloading your manuscript, but (to quote High Anxiety):

“Yes, it’s nessa!”

Preparing a Book Cover: Update

In a previous post, I wrote of my experience with preparing book covers frugally. See that post here. But wait! Stop the virtual online presses! I have more recently discovered a helpful site that allows you to design a book cover (among other things) for free! The site is www.canva.com, which came recommended by Kristin Lamb (see her super-helpful blog for authors here).

I’m in the process of writing my second book, and I didn’t want to pester my niece again for cover art (she so generously provided me with the cover art for my first book; see that cover here), so this time around I decided to give Canva a try.

I found a template that I liked, then found that they had a number of pictures, fonts, backgrounds, and other elements available for free, and others (fancier ones) available for sale. (They have to generate their income somehow.) Could the Frugal Author (me) come up with something that looked good, without spending for the deluxe items? Challenge accepted!

My book is historic fiction about the cosmonaut dog aboard the Russian Sputnik spacecraft, so I found a photo that I believe to be public domain. I used that and free fonts and a free background, and came up with this:

Laika
My Latest Book Cover

I know it lacks color, but I might want to keep it that way. I think it gives it a cold-war era feel. Maybe. I don’t know. I’m going to tinker with it some more. But I am pleased with the way the title came out. One question for you: Is it fairly clear that my title is Laika: Canine Sputnik Cosmonaut? I was trying to be creative graphically with the title, symbolizing the claustrophobic condition of the dog being enclosed inside the space capsule. Note also the curvature in the background, as if she’s orbiting the planet–see how I did that? I don’t often get such flashes of artistic creativity. Anyway, let me know what you think in the comments. Suggestions you make may play a part in my final design!

(BTW, No, I’m not being paid by either canva.com or my blogger friend. I’m just sharing what has been helpful to me, in an effort to support their efforts.)

After creating my book cover (as it is thus far), I downloaded it to my computer, and pasted it in this blog post above for you to see. Other than the little price tags on the upcharge elements, there was no pressure to have to pay anything anywhere in the process. Free cover art design–just what the Frugal Author ordered.

#frugaledit

You may know of other free or low-cost cover-creating and/or graphic design sites; if so, share them with us in the comments, along with your experience (good or bad) with them. Thanks for your participation!

 

Pulling the Trigger: Publishing (Uploading) Your E-Book

 

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From printablecolouringpages.co.uk

You have it all together: a perfect manuscript;  a great book cover. Now you’re ready to publish on Amazon and make your profound insights available to the hungry masses, yearning for your wisdom!

“Let’s get this published!” you scream into the infinite vastness of space. “I’ve waited long enough! My target audience has aged into the next generation by now!”

Okay, well then, go to “create a new title” and click on “Kindle eBook.” Now you’re on your way. I’m not going to walk you step-by-step through the process; most of it is pretty intuitive. I will only give you advice on a couple of things.

First, when you get to the “categories,” choose wisely.

Choose-Wisely

Be as specific as possible. Choosing the right categories will help your target readers find your book. It’s like placing your book in the right section of the bookstore, so that someone browsing there will find it. (You wouldn’t want your auto repair book stuck in among the cookbooks, would you?) If you don’t know the meaning of some of the categories, do a search and learn what they are. I thought my book was a sci-fi story about a journey, which it is. But in going through the categories, I learned that my story is a dystopian one. I had heard the term “dystopian” before, but it was one of those buzzy terms that I had dismissed in the white noise of pop culture. Who knew it was one of the most popular categories currently among young adults? (Think of Hunger Games and The Giver.) So I eagerly chose “dystopian” as one of my categories.

Coming to the “Digital Rights Management” (DRM) section, you might hear the sound of imaginary brakes screeching your mind to a halt. “DRM, What’s that?” Simple answer: Just pick “yes.” It means you want your work protected, discouraging others from violating your copyrights. I made an exception to this for one of my works (see it here,) which I want to basically make public domain, encouraging people to make copies for friends to distribute freely. If I could have, I would have made the story available for free, but Amazon requires that you price things at a minimum of 99 cents. So I chose “no” for the DRM setting, letting people know that they are free to distribute it to others without having to worry that I’m going to sue them.

Eventually you will reach the sections where you upload your manuscript, and also either upload your own book cover or use KDP’s cover creator. None of those steps requires explanation from me–you can do it!

Finally, after you have uploaded your manuscript and cover, click on the “previewer” and take a look at how things look. What you then see will make you say either “Oh, wow!” or “Oh, no!” or both. You may notice details that need to be tweaked. Maybe the title page doesn’t look quite the way you envisioned. Maybe a few things don’t line up quite right. That’s okay. You can tweak your document (using Word or whatever word processing program you used) and re-upload it. I tweaked mine 4 or 5 times, until it was acceptable to me. One of my tweaks was to indent the first lines of my paragraphs, on the advice of one of my test readers. And that was after I had already published! Yes, no matter what errors you may find, you can always update to a second, third, or 42nd edition! (And likely no one else will even know.)

Once you think your document looks great, or you’re just sick of tweaking (whichever comes first), then you’re ready to click on “Publish” (with trembling hands and a prayer on your lips). Click! There, you did it! Now you just have to  . . .

Wait.

But not for very long. You should have just about enough time to go to the refrigerator and pour yourself a celebratory coconut water while KDP says “processing” for a while. Then BAM! Your book is now available on Amazon, that great borderless marketplace of the world. You did it!

You are now a published author! Can you believe it? And you did it frugally.

#frugaledit