Question #3: How to Create Your eBook?
Traditional publishers have always timed book releases with holidays or events, if possible—and we need to do the same, especially because the main sources of publicity for eBooks are bloggers writing about things that tie into current events.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) for poets and anthologists, poetrymania sweeps the nation during National Poetry Month—and then dies down to polite passion for the rest of the year. This means that new poetry books need to debut in March or April. Sylvia and I got the idea for PoetryTagTime in November, which gave us only five months to get the book up on Amazon.com before Poetry Month. This would have been a very short time for a collection of poems by one poet, but was an absolutely crazy timeframe for doing an anthology with poets who would be tagged by each other one at a time and then would write connection pieces and original poems after being tagged. We were able to do this book only because our contributing poets made it happen; when their turns came, they dropped everything and sent us connection pieces and unpublished poems usually in less than a day.
Hiring an eBook Formatter
Expecting that we wouldn’t have all our poems until 3 weeks or so before our publication date, I started worrying in mid-January about whether everything would go well with our Kindle and Nook uploading processes. I had read that I could use Word and load a document myself—there are step-by-step instructions on how to do this in the Kindle forum—but I didn’t trust myself to be able to do it. Plus, we could not afford to have any glitches or delays. I decided to experiment with a quickly-assembled test book called Once Upon A Tiger: New Beginnings for Endangered Animals. A friend of mine, artist Sladjana Vasic, drew and painted night and day for three weeks, illustrating poems that I’d written about endangered animals. Our book took one month from start to finish, with Sladjana’s husband Milos Vasic (www.VasicBooks.com) doing the eBook formatting (converting the Word document into a .mobi file). I was quite thrilled with the work that Milos did, but we’d already contacted another eBook formatter for PoetryTagTime, so we used that firm for that project; Chris Casey (www.ebookarchitects.com) did an excellent job, too. As a result, I feel that I can recommend two eBook formatters! Formatting fees are quite reasonable, in the $200-$300 range, depending on the work you need done. I feel silly now for even considering doing the Word conversion on my own. I don’t cut my own hair, or change my car oil; why did I even hesitate about hiring an eBook formatter?
After the eBook is formatted, you need to upload the file to your Kindle (or other retailer’s) account. It’s a simple process; the only thing you might want to do in advance is to open a separate bank account for direct deposit of your royalties (to make accounting easier at the end of the year). You might also want to create a separate email address and amazon.com account for each of your Kindle titles, just to keep things simple.
A Few Things We Learned
You must give thought to what the reader will see in the first 10% of your book (which amazon.com selects as the “free sample”). One technique is to give the book a false beginning (our first page for PoetryTagTime is Jack Prelutsky’s page, and you need to go back to see the cover, title page, and table of contents). Or, if you want to start with your cover, which we did with Once Upon A Tiger, you might want to decorate your title page. I am astounded by the number of eBooks that show a free sample consisting of a simple text cover, nearly-blank title page, copyright page, and one or two pages of text; that’s not enough to compel someone to buy your book.
You can post revised versions of your eBook, but for the 24 (or more) hours of re-processing time, it might not be available for purchase. I don’t know if this was a one-time glitch or if it is the standard procedure, but while one revised version of Once Upon A Tiger was being processed, I wasn’t able to purchase the previous version of the book. There are some little things that I would like to change in PoetryTagTime, but I don’t want to jeopardize our steady daily sales; maybe we’ll make the changes in May, once the poetry world calms down again.
Spend a few hours reading the posts in the Kindle forum ("Community"): http://forums.kindledirectpublishing.com/kdpforums/index.jspa. The Kindle forum is an excellent source of information; if you speed-read through posts, you’ll find issues you never even considered. You will find discussion and instructions on how to create an account, how to clean up or convert a Word file for uploading, how to set a price for the book (and the corresponding differences in royalties), what to expect regarding payment details, and more.
As I mentioned above, create an email account that is dedicated to this project. If your book is about elephants, maybe you can create firstname.lastname@example.org and use that address to create an amazon.com account that is dedicated to this project. Register your account at https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/dashboard (and click on “Bookshelf” to get started by adding a title). You’ll want to bookmark this site.
Checking your sales every day is a lot of fun. Sign into https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/dashboard (the same site where you find the forums and Bookshelf, but click on "Reports"). One thing you’ll notice, if you’ve opted for the 70% royalty, is that an “average delivery cost” is deducted from your royalty payment. For our Once Upon A Tiger book, which is .9MB, the delivery cost is 14 cents. Our first version of that same book, which was 1.33MB, had a delivery cost of 20 cents. If your book is extremely heavy on illustrations, you might want to do some research to try to determine your delivery cost; it might be better, for instance, to price your book at $2.98 with a 35% royalty and no delivery costs than at $2.99 with delivery costs.
If your eBook is in the Kindle store, people can buy it and read it on their Kindles, iPads, iPhones, BlackBerry phones, Android phones, and regular computers. Please spread the word about this! You can download the apps you need here: http://amzn.to/dKazMq. You can feel good about urging your friends to download the Kindle software to their computers; think of the whole wide world of free eBook classics that you are making available to them. Note: Readers with Nooks need to buy eBooks from the bn.com store. The process for uploading a book to bn.com is similar to the Kindle store, but requires a few more pieces of info, a credit card, and takes a little longer (more than 72 hours for PoetryTagTime).
Janet Wong (www.janetwong.com) is the author of 21 books for children and teens published by some of the finest publishers (Simon & Schuster, Farrar Straus Giroux, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Candlewick, Charlesbridge, and Richard C. Owen)... her two latest books are eBooks which she chose to publish herself.