Welcome back! Today’s subject is uploading your ebook to Amazon and Smashwords.
Now, the important thing to remember here is that you don’t have to go to just Amazon. Or just Smashwords. Or even to either of them if you don’t want to. Amazon is a huge chunk of the market but they’re not the only place to sell ebooks by a long ways. And Smashwords, while lovely about distributing your books to other sites, isn’t the only distributor out there.
You can go direct to Kobo and Barnes & Noble. There’s another distributor that I recently found (and have yet to investigate) called DraftToDigital. You could go there. Plus virtually every place that Smashwords distributes to you can go direct with.
Where you choose to upload your books is entirely up to you. I’m describing the process for Amazon and Smashwords because those are the two I’ve used to date. I plan on going direct to Kobo and Barnes & Noble over the next year or so. I just haven’t done it yet. Choose the sites that make sense to you, though I highly recommend making sure that your books are on every single site that you can reach.
Onwards to the information!
I’m assuming that you have signed up for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). The process is pretty simple. They’ll need to know your name, where you’re from and you’ll have to provide a way for them to pay you. Have my royalties paid directly into a savings account set aside for my publishing activities.
KDP as several pages. They are Bookshelf, Reports, Community, and KDP Select. The ones that you’ll use the most are Bookshelf and Reports. Community is the forum where you can ask questions and get technical support. KDP Select is where you can enroll a book into KDP Select (which I’ll discuss later) and, presumably, work with any books you have in the Select system. (I’m not sure about that as I’ve never enrolled anything in Selects).
To upload your book go to Bookshelf and click the button on the left that says Add New Title.
A new screen comes up. The first thing on it is the option to enroll in KDP Select.
Now, KDP Select has worked for some authors. When you enroll a book in Select you are forbidden from putting it up anywhere else. Once enrolled (with a 24-48 hour period where you can change your mind) the book stays in Select for 90 days. So that’s 3 months where your book will be available exclusively on Amazon. That’s very good for Amazon–they have exclusive content.
It’s not necessarily good for authors or readers. If you go Select it means that everyone who reads on a Kobo or Sony or who prefers Barnes & Noble is out of luck. You’re automatically losing somewhere between 40% and 60% of your customers. No one out there that I’ve read or spoken to has any idea why a book takes on in one place or another. Some books do incredibly well on Amazon. Some take off on Kobo. Sometimes its iBookstore.
I firmly believe that going exclusive is reducing your likelihood of having a book take off. It is, of course, entirely up to you whether you enroll your book in Selects. There are perks (promotions, lending library, some other things) that you can only get through Selects. I don’t consider them worth the potential loss of customers on other sites.
So! Either skip the Selects box or click on it if you want to enroll. Up to you.
Next you enter your Book Name. This is the title of your book. Be careful to type accurately!
After that you can enter a Subtitle–make sure it matches exactly with the subtitle on your POD book otherwise Amazon won’t be able to match the print and ebook together.
If your book is part of a series then click the Series check box. Once checked two more boxes will come up letting you enter the Series name (again, it has to match exactly with the series you entered on CreateSpace) and the number in the series (1, 2, 3, etc).
Next you have the option to enter the Edition. Don’t worry about that. You’re publishing a new book so it’s unnecessary. If you went back later and substantially revised a book (say added a new afterword, reformatted dramatically, rewrote sections) then you might issue a new edition but for the most part it’s not a problem.
Publisher = your name. I put in my legal name. If you decide to set up a publishing company this is where you’d enter the name of the company.
Description = Story Blurb. Copy from your file and paste it in.
Book Contributors. There’s a button that you push to Add Contributors. Then you get a pop up screen that lets you put in the First and Last names (no middle name so if you have chosen to publish with a middle name then put both First and Middle in the First box), and then you can select the title from a drop down box. If you’ve got other contributors (say for an anthology) then you would continue adding names and titles until everyone is covered.
Language defaults to English. Change if your story is in a different language.
ISBN is optional. If you have an ISBN number for your ebook you would enter it here. However, Amazon doesn’t require ISBN numbers so you can publish your book without it and save money. I never put in an ISBN.
Verify Publication Rights. This is where you declare officially that this is your book. You wrote it. It’s perfectly possible to take a story that’s in the public domain and reformat it as a new book. Then you can publish it yourself. So there are two boxes, public domain (which I’ve never pushed) and one that verifies that you own all rights. It’s your story. Push the You Own All Rights box.
Next you need to choose what readers to target. This is a series of drop down boxes where you choose increasingly precise categories for you book, just as you did on CreateSpace. On Amazon, though, you get to choose a primary and a secondary category. So you can have Fiction>Science Fiction>Cyberpunk as well as Fiction>African American>General, for example. Try to get categories that most closely match your story so you’re more likely to reach people who will like your book.
Next you have the option to specify an age range and a grade range for your book. It’s optional, meaning you don’t have to fill these out. I generally write stories that are aimed at adult audiences so I set them for 18+ and the grade range automatically goes to 12+.
On to Keywords! These are the same keywords that you used on CreateSpace but you have the option to add two more keywords on Amazon. It’s got the most keywords of any sight.
A new feature that Amazon has implemented for self-published books is Preorders. You can choose to release your book immediately (which is what I’m assuming you’ll do) or delay release to a specific date to drum up interest through advertising. I’d suggest just releasing the book right now rather than doing a preorder on your first book. Advertising is its own huge subject that takes a ton of effort to get right.
Next you get to upload your book cover. Click the Browse button and upload the JPG file of your Ebook Cover. It’ll show up in thumbnail size so that you can make sure that you grabbed the right one.
Then it’s time to upload your book file. Again you browse and then select the file, making sure that you choose the right one.
First off you have the option of enabling DRM or not. I never do enable DRM. That’s a personal choice on my part. If you’re very concerned about someone pirating your book you can enable it but frankly I think that DRM causes more piracy than it prevents.
The computer will convert your story to Kindle format, checking for spelling errors as it goes. This step takes a while, sometimes up to a couple of minutes depending on the length of your story. Be patient and it’ll show up.
Once the book has been converted you need to preview your book. There are two options: Online or through a downloadable previewer. I’ve tried both and tend to just go with the online version. No matter which one you choose, you need to check the book out, page by page, in multiple formats. Amazon lets you check for the various readers they have, phones and reading on the computer.
Make sure that your Table of Contents looks right. Scan for errors, formatting weirdness and anything that looks wonky. If you find anything then go back to your Word file and make corrections. Upload the new version and repeat until you get a clean file that works.
Save and Continue!
You’re now on a new screen that handles the publishing territories. You can choose Worldwide or you can select individual territories one at a time. Unless your story has had the rights sold for a specific region there’s no reason not to pick Worldwide. Since you’re indie publishing you own all the rights for everything, everywhere.
Next step is to set your price and royalty percentage. There are two options on royalties. You can take 35% or 70%. Pick 70%. There are specific countries where you won’t be allowed to have 70% if you’re not in Select but that doesn’t stop you from getting 70% everywhere else. Get as much money as you can!
Next, enter your price. To get the 70% royalty rate you need to have your price between $2.99 and $9.99. I charge $2.99 for short stories and generally $5.99 for books and collections. Check other books in your genre to see what they’re charging. Romance tends to cost less. Mystery tends to cost more. (I could spend a whole post just on pricing, and may yet do so, but for now, just go with a price that you’re comfortable with).
The system will calculate out the prices for other countries. Now, it’s considered a good idea to go in and adjust the prices for other countries so that they look more normal. I… haven’t done that yet. I’m unsure exactly what the normal price looks like in each country so I just leave it alone. Eventually I’ll take the time to go do a survey of other country’s prices but I just haven’t had the time yet. Either way, you can leave the prices as calculated and move on down to the bottom of the list.
The next question you have is Kindle Matchbook. This is a really neat program. If someone buys the print copy of your book they can then claim a reduced price copy of your ebook, as long as you’re enrolled. You get two sales, with less royalties for the ebook of course, and the reader gets to have your book in the formats they want for less than normal. Win-win all around as far as I’m concerned so I always enter my books into it. You can choose the price for your book, from free to around $3.99 for books that are over $7.99. The program will give you a range to choose from. Pick the one that works best for you.
Note: You do need to have POD version to enter in the Matchbook program but you already created one so it’s not a big deal.
Now you have two buttons left to push! First, click on the check box that says you’ve read and agreed to Amazon’s terms. (You did read the terms when you signed up, right? If not, go do that now!) Then click Agree to Terms.
A pop up box will appear saying that it will take 12 to 24 hours before your book goes live. When you click OK there, you’ll be taken back to your bookshelf where your brand new book is now listed, showing that it’s Pending. Over the next 12 hours or so it will eventually go Live and then your book will be available on Amazon for people to buy. You’ll get an email with a link to your book when it goes live.
Congratulations! You’ve published on Amazon! *cheers wildly*
Now, you need to head over to Smashwords and publish your book over there, too, always presuming you didn’t chose to go into the Selects program. (If you did then you’re done and you get to celebrate and tell everyone that your brand new book is available on Amazon for them to buy! *Confetti explosion!*)
First off, if you don’t already have an account, sign up for Smashwords (and as always, read the terms of service! They’re really quite reasonable.). You’ll have a bar across the top with options of things you can do. What you want is the button Publish. Click on that one.
Another screen will come up that will let you publish a story. It’s pretty similar to both CreateSpace and Amazon’s (no surprise–very similar functions after all).
It starts with Title (no more than 250 characters). Make sure that you type it in correctly. Then you get to choose the release date: Immediately or Preorder. Once again, I’d suggest going immediately for your first book.
Next you have Long Description and Short Description. Remember how you had to write a condensed version of your story blurb? Well, this is where it comes in. Put the long description, the same one that you uploaded elsewhere, into the box and then copy and paste your short description into the Short Description box.
Language defaults to English (dialect unspecified). Change as needed.
Next is Price and Sampling. You have three options on Price: Free, Let Readers Determine Price and Charge a Specific Amount. I always chose to specify the price. Barnes & Noble requires a specific price (or free for promotions) so letting the Reader determine the price results in your book costing $4.95 automatically on every site other than Smashwords. Just enter in however much you’re going to charge for the book. Make sure it matches Amazon’s price because otherwise they’ll adjust your price on their site to match. The minimum price is $0.99.
Next you can choose to allow people to sample your book. It’s automatically assumed that yes, you will. That’s how people decide if they want to read your book, after all. It defaults to 20% but I always set the sampling amount for 35% to give readers just a little bit more.
Time to choose your categories! You have a Primary and a Secondary category on Smashwords. Chose the closest you can get to your book for both.
Next, you have to indicate whether or not your book has adult content (i.e. is it erotica?) It’s assumed that it’s not. Change it if it is.
Tags! Smashwords lets you enter tags to your heart’s content. I generally go with the same tags that I used on other sites because figuring out tags is a pain.
You can choose specific Ebook formats if you want but why? Smashwords will convert your file into all the formats for you so I always leave all of them checked.
Note: You can upload an EPUB file to Smashwords but I recommend uploading the DOC file first and then uploading the EPUB file second. That way you have all the formats available and you get to put up your properly formatted EPUB file, too. If you only upload the EPUB then none of the other formats will be available and that’s one of Smashwords’ strong points. You can buy any format you want.
All right, browse for your cover, selecting the Ebook JPG file. Then Browse for the file of the book and upload it. They recommend a DOC file and can’t accept (at last check) a DOCX file. The maximum file size is 10MB, which hasn’t been a problem yet for me.
Next, you have the check box where you agree to their terms of service, state that it’s your book that you have rights to, and agree to let them distribute the book for you.
The last button is Publish Immediately. (Or Publish to Preorder if you chose Preorder)
Note: If you have multiple pennames (say for regular stories and another one for erotica stories) you’ll need to get a Publisher account. That’s a free upgrade, pretty simple, too. If you do that then you’ll have one more step where you choose the ‘ghost’ account to publish under, i.e. which penname to assign the book to.
You’ll switch to a new screen where it shows how many people are ahead of you in the conversion queue and then which formats your book has been converted into. This can take either a minute or so up to an hour if you’ve got lots of people ahead of you. The longest I’ve ever had was a 45 minute wait when I uploaded in the middle of a rush. I tend to upload on Thursdays or Saturdays and it’s normally not too bad.
Once the book has been uploaded and converted you’ll get an email with your Book Conversion Results. Look to see if there have been any errors in the upload. If so, go fix them and upload again. If everything is okay then go to your Dashboard (there’s a button for that on the bar on top) and you’ll see a message saying that you need to assign an ISBN number to your book.
Click on that message and you’ll be taken to a page specifically for assigning ISBN numbers. Now, Smashwords allows you to use their free ISBN numbers or to enter your own ISBN number. I always go with the free number. Select free, click assign ISBN and OK. That’s done! You’ll get another email saying that you’ve assigned an ISBN number to your book.
Next, go back to your dashboard and look under the Operations column. In there you’ll find an option Upload a New Version. This is how you a) update your book if you find errors, b) upload an EPUB file or c) change the cover, should you choose to do so later on. Click Upload New Version, Browse and then select your EPUB file. EPUB files upload way faster than DOC files do. I’ve never had it take more than a minute. You’ll get a third email saying that you’ve uploaded an EPUB file. It should say whether or not your EPUB file passed the automatic checks. If you followed the instructions earlier you should be fine. If not, fix whatever is wrong.
Over the next day or two Smashwords will verify manually that your book meets all their quality requirements for Premium Distribution. This is what gets your book onto other sites. I highly recommend fixing anything they might find (hopefully nothing) because it’ll get you more potential buyers.
One nice thing about Smashwords is that you can make your book available to libraries for a reduced price. On your Dashboard page you’ll see a Pricing Manager link. If you go there you’ll see that you can enter in a different price for libraries. I tend to set my library price at $1.99 but you can set it wherever you want.
Also on the Dashboard page are Series Manager and Coupon Manager links. If your book is part of a series then go to the Series Manager to create the series and add the book. And if you decide to offer a special coupon to readers (with discounts determined completely by you, all the way to free), use the Coupon Manager. You can set how long the coupon lasts for and you’ll get a code to share plus and email with the coupon code.
That’s it! Your book is now published everywhere!
*huge party* Let everyone know and celebrate your accomplishment!
Next week I’ll have some thoughts (just thoughts, not rules) about pricing, advertising and patience. Because publishing takes a lot of patience and persistence. Good job on getting this far, guys!
I hope that you enjoyed reading this. Please do ask questions if you have any. I like sharing my world building but writing these takes time away from writing stories that I could publish. Thus, it would be greatly appreciated if you would consider leaving a donation. All money received goes toward keeping me writing and posting these columns. Thank you very much!