Friday, 24 July 2015

The rocky road to setting up a book on Amazon

I’m nearly there. My new book, Dark Place to Hide, is available to pre-order on Amazon and there are only six sleeps to go before the launch on 30th. Phew! 

Getting a book ready for sale is, I’ve discovered, both a terrific adventure and a massive undertaking. I’ve had to take on so many jobs – not only as the author of the novel, but formatter, proofreader, layout-checker, publicist, project manager, marketing manager and more. I’ve written features, done interviews, answered Q&As, set up a ten-stop blog tour, designed a ‘blog tour poster’, organised giveaways and competitions (pestered lovely authors for their free books), set up advance blog posts, newsletter posts, posted live to Twitter, Facebook, G+, Goodreads and Pinterest... *comes up for air*...

...and...I’ve been totally wired  – very excited, very stressed – especially trying to manage the timing for everything (with a holiday abroad booked right in the middle).

Which takes me neatly to ‘the order’ of things. My first two books were traditionally published in France and Germany and my previous agent set them up on Amazon through the White Glove programme, so I hadn't done it 'direct to Amazon' before. I didn’t know how long things would take and what had to be done first. Take the print book, for example – you need an ISBN (unique book number) before you can set up your copyright page and you need the exact number of pages (using the CreateSpace template), before your cover designer can work out the size of the spine. I’ve learnt odd little bits of detail on the way, such as cream pages are thicker than white, apparently, and certain (standard, in my view) book sizes are not permitted for expanded distribution. (What’s ‘expanded distribution’? you may ask – I tell you, the world of Amazon publishing will take your mind into realms it has never dreamt of!)

My first job was to find documentation about ‘how to set up print and ebooks on Amazon’ from start to finish – (preferably ‘step-by-step for absolute beginners’). One book was particularly helpful, Self-Printed (3rd Ed.): The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard. There’s also lots of helpful information on Rachel Abbott’s website and blog. I worked out a timeline and ended up with about eleven A4 pages of ‘tasks’ – what to do, when. The manuscript had already been structurally edited through my agent, so I had to hire a copy-editor, proofreaders (two, for different stages), a cover designer and an ebook converter (see below).

Copyright and dedication pages
The print book requires those extra pages we all take for granted, like the title page, copyright, dedication, author biography, ‘also by the author’ and ‘coming soon’ pages – some at the front, some at the back. I also needed a ‘blank’ page to make sure my book started on a right hand page. The word document has to be set up on the CreateSpace template and for some reason, mine seemed to shift lines around (it took a great dislike to certain indents too).

There were some tricky moments, such as choosing the right font (book text is a lot smaller than I imagined), how to get the pages to start at ‘Chapter 1’ and not at the extra pages, and lowering text at the same height for chapter headings. Also, the margins have a different size depending on whether they are the left/right hand page – and there are those ‘widows’ and ‘orphans’… (another learning curve - I’ve been expanding and condensing character spacing in my sleep!).

The eBook, however, was more complicated. I never got to grips with how to format this – something about taking out all the existing formatting, removing tabs and replacing them with ‘line-indents’ and re-inserting different ‘styles’… My head nearly exploded trying to sort this out, so I handed the manuscript over to a company that formats and converts files to ebooks, to save myself the nightmare. It still wasn’t straightforward. The first version came back looking like there were spaces between every sentence and the text wasn’t justified on the right… I thought these were basic ebook standards, but you have to spell everything out, exactly as you want it. In that state, it was unreadable and I had to send it back – taking more time. When it came back looking like an ebook, I suddenly saw more of my own blinking mistakes!! Punctuation mostly – or repeated words, clunky sentences or continuity issues where I’d fixed a passage, but had created fresh issues in the correcting… Back and forward it went, until I dared to say it was ‘final’. I now had both versions ready to upload. Phew!

But the worst was yet to come.

The scariest bit was at the end. I wanted to set up the ebook for pre-order: on pre-order from 9 July for release on 30 July. Simple. On 3 July, I set it up expecting there to be boxes to tick for these two key dates. Did I want to publish straight away – No. Did I want to pre-order? Yes. I punched the date in for pre-order as 9 July and WHAM! – Big mistake. Here came a cheery message saying that my book was already available on Amazon and would be published on the 9th. No, No, NoI’ve got three weeks of advance publicity to create that magical buzz, all geared up to the big launch on July 30th

To be fair, Kindle Direct Publishing were brilliant. They answered my queries within 24 hours and they guided me through the process so I could set up the correct dates – plus I won’t forfeit pre-orders for a year (the usual penalty for messing up). There was a similar dilemma with the print book – by uploading it, you set it up 'there and then' – there’s no way (I could find) to set it up for a time in the future (I knew there was no pre-order for the paperback). So I had to work around this by disabling the sales channels – I have to reset them around 3-5 days before my launch to get it live in time – and the timing will be a bit hit and miss.

So now both versions are ‘ready’ and I have three weeks of letting people know about the book in an ‘informative and compelling way’ without annoying them! I’m not very good at this bit… I’m a hardened introvert and find it difficult to be ‘chatty and engaging’ online, but I will try my best. I have a blog tour set up from 30 July to 11 August with a fabulous bunch of supportive bloggers/authors and I hope the bestselling book giveaways, from 28 July on my blog, will appeal. You can also enter for the Goodreads Giveaway here until July 25th - for a free paperback!

Most importantly, I’ve kept a record of the process, because in about six months’ time - *takes big breath* - I’ll be doing it all again for my next release, No Longer Safe.
Bestselling Author Giveaways start on this blog from July 28, with FREE books offered from acclaimed authors: Kathryn Croft, Mel Sherratt, Nuala Casey, Luana Lewis, Jane Isaac, Daniel Clay and a signed copy of The Lie by CL Taylor - all up for grabs!

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  •  Girl on a Train also became a Number One Bestseller in the entire Kindle Chart in Australia (2015)
  •  Awarded Amazon KDP All-Star Bonus for being a Top 100 most-read Author in UK (2015)