By Lyn Horner
Howdy, Y’all. My handle is Lyn Horner. I’m a friend of Sharla Rae’s. We used to belong to a critique group here in Fort Worth, where I hang my hat — until Ms. Sharla picked up stakes and moved away. Thank goodness email allows us to keep in close touch.
Shar and the gang at Writers in the Storm have asked me to write a series of blogs about my newest adventure in writing: self-publishing a Kindle book on amazon.com. Before I lead you along that winding trail, however, I’m supposed to tell you a little about myself. Kind of a dull subject, but here it goes.
To begin with, writing was not my first career. I graduated from college with a fine arts degree and worked in the visual arts for a number of years. Only after quitting work to stay home with my two young children did I begin writing for fun (and to save my sanity.) I loved reading historical romances and thought maybe I could write one. Years of researching, writing and rewriting later, I finally worked up the courage to submit a proposal to agents and editors. By then I was living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I joined Romance Writers of America and became active in the North Texas chapter. I entered contests, placing high in some, and received encouraging words from one or two editors, but I never made a sale. Growing discouraged, I gave up writing until Sharla talked me into entering the Orange Rose Contest a couple years ago. As you may know, that’s one of the Big Mamas among romance writing contests, so I felt pretty good when my entry reached the top ten semi-finals. It also drew interest from the editor who judged it, but she could not offer to buy my baby because the publishing house she represents had just contracted for a three book series with a setting similar to mine. Timing is everything! Again, I set aside my WIP, this time in favor of ancestry research. Take my word, that is addictive!
Okay, enough about me; time to get down to the trials of e-publishing, specifically, how to format and self-publish a Kindle book on Amazon. If you need info about other e-pub sites, you’ll need to look elsewhere. You should also keep in mind that I’m no expert. I’m a newbie at this and am still going through the process, so you’re going to learn along with me. If you are looking for expert advice, do some research on the net. That’s what I did. One helpful site belongs to BV Larson [http://bvlarson.com]. I came across some of his posts on Amazon’s community message boards. He seemed very knowledgeable so I visited his site, where he gives detailed instructions for formatting an Amazon E-book. He also discusses pricing your books and touches on the difficulties involved with publishing via the Ibookstore. If you want to go that route, he suggests using a service such as smashwords.com. They will charge you, but it will save you some headaches.
One point where I will likely differ with BV is in his tutorial for embedding images (including a book cover) in an Amazon Ebook. He advises us to install Mobipocket Creator and use that to combine the cover with the text. Instead, I plan to embed my book cover – if I ever finish it! – via the Kindlegen untility program, which is available free direct from Amazon. According to comments on the Amazon message boards, Kindlegen is essentially the same as Mobipocket Creator, and since my son the computer expert already downloaded and installed Kindlegen for me, I sincerely hope I can make it work. More about that in a later blog.
Publishing on Amazon is easy – according to their support pages. Right. You might want to take that with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, you do need to read through their support help pages to gain an inkling of what they require. So, before we get into the sticky morass of formatting, I’m going to give you some homework. Ha! Didn’t know you were back in school, did you? Just remember that old saw, “No pain, no gain.”
First, go to amazon.com, scroll down to the bottom of their home page and click on “Self-publish with us”. That takes you to a page listing four options: CreateSpace (print-on-demand service), Kindle Books, Advantage (how to sell on Amazon), and Search Inside! (book previewing). Take time to read the brief descriptions for each; then click “get started” under Kindle Books. This takes you to the Digital Text Platform (DTP) Support page. DTP is the vehicle that converts your uploaded book, which you have already converted to html, to the Kindle format. The support page offers several links. If you don’t have an Amazon account, you should first click the “Create an Account” button and follow the steps for setting up your account. If you already have an account that you use for making purchases, you can use the same one. Just check to make sure your account information is up to date.
Next, go back to the DTP support page and click on “Content Guidelines”. Read this section carefully. You need to know this stuff. When finished, again return to DTP Support. At the top of the page click on “Community”. This leads you to the message boards, where you will find abundant information (more than you need) on various aspect of publishing on Amazon. Do some investigating here, but prepare to be confused. Opinions vary greatly about how things should be done. Still, I want you do some clicking around, maybe post a question or two of your own, just to familiarize yourself with the discussions. Try not to let them overwhelm you. The process of formatting your book really is easier than some of these folks make it sound. But I will save that for my next blog. Happy writing!