Lessons In Kindle – Twelve Things I Learned When Publishing My Book on Amazon (Part 1)

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My first published novella, on Kindle

I recently published my first work of fiction, an Alternate history/Sci-Fi novella, The Battle of Watling Street, using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

This may turn into a short series of posts, but for now I want to limit the discussion to the technical/formatting challenges and benefits I discovered with KDP. Hopefully this will help someone, somewhere with their own self-publishing journey!

The advice in this post could be summarised by the 5 Ps of preparation: (or 6 Ps used where I work – hey, it’s a utility/construction environment, these guys are plain talkers!) proper planning prevents (piss) poor performance. Here are 12 specific ways in which you can prepare, and make the process as painless and productive as possible.

  • 1.There are KDP resources and guides to help with uploads, formatting requirements etc – do read these before you start. There are some important things to note about which format to upload your book, as each type has its own requirements and limitations. For example…
  • 2. If you are uploading to Kindle (eBook as opposed to print version), you will need to set up styles in your document for chapter/section headers, and also to create and format a table of contents that will work in your Kindle book. Be warned, if like me you had to juggle between two different word processors to get all the required formatting (I have Word Starter and Kingsoft WPS Writer at present), things can change between formats, especially font type and size. I encountered an issue where some paragraphs changed font and size, and I had to manually change them all back. Check your uploaded file carefully for any font discrepancies!
  •  3. Page Numbers – for Kindle eBook uploads, which are ideally uploaded in a Doc. or HTML (filtered) format, you need to remove page numbers from your book, and from the table of contents, as Kindle will format your pages differently. Don’t do what I did initially, which was to then save that file as a PDF for my printed book upload. The first few copies of my paperback were sold without page numbers, much to my embarrassment.
  • 4. Page breaks: If you are uploading a Filtered HTML document, you need to insert an extra page break at the end of each chapter or section, to prevent the pages running on together in the Kindle version.I did this while the file was still in DOC format as it’s easier to confirm it has created the breaks.
  • 5. Zipped Files: for your Kindle format, if you have any images in your document, you need to create a zipped file that contains both the document and any images. When you save a Word document as filtered HTML, it should create a folder; drop your images in here. If not you can manually zip your files together. If you don’t do this, images will be missing from your eBook.
  • 6. KDP offers a paperback print option for your book but you have to format your document (I used PDF) to fit one of the default paper sizes, usually 6 x 9 inches. My Word document was 8 x 11 but it’s quite easy to change; go to Page Layout/Size and select from there. (NB, sizes on Word are displayed in cm. There is also a custom size option at the bottom of the page, which is what I used.)
  • 7. Viewing and approving your document: as part of the upload process, you are prompted to review your uploaded document and cover image, and approve them for publication. The online reviewer is long and a bit cumbersome and requires a screen with minimum resolution of 600 x 1200 (I had to move from my laptop to my desktop to see the “Approve” button) but it’s essential to getting the formatting right. You are looking to check that there are no errors (red crosses) as these will prevent you approving the document. You can approve a document if the errors are only warnings (yellow triangles). Check that page breaks etc are in the right place, images have come through correctly, table of contents and tables/tabbed paragraphs display correctly.You may also be prompted to check that page numbers are within margins, and that your cover image is of high enough resolution.
  • 8. Your Blurb: you’ve been messing about with document formats, zip files and cover images, but have you prepared your book blurb? Your blurb is the (semi) short description of your book, and it’s your chance to shine: don’t write it on the fly, have it ready. I searched Amazon for the top 10 books in the categories I was planning to list my book in (Historical fiction/Sci-Fi/Mysteries) and I looked at what caught my eye and made me want to read a book. I came up  with a short paragraph that summarised the premise, but also a few short and choppy sentences, each headed by a teasing title. I also did a quick author bio, for readers who didn’t click through to my author page. Here’s what my blurb looks like:
    blurb
  • 9. The waiting game: when you’ve finally approved and uploaded your files, set your royalty rates and done everything else needful, be prepared for a wait. Your KDP Bookshelf will show you progress, from “Live – In review”, through to “Live”. This can take a while; the paperback version took about 4 hours for me, the eBook was the better part of 8 hours initially. Edits and updates are a little quicker once your files have been initially uploaded.
  • 10. Once your books are published, you should head on over to the Amazon Author Page (here’s my UK author page) and fill it full of interesting information about the newly published author. But be aware, this Amazon Author page isn’t universal; you will have to create a separate one for the UK, US, India, Australia etc. So far I’ve set the UK and US pages up as I think these will be my primary markets, although I will complete duplicate pages for commonwealth countries. The US page in particular has some additional nice features such as a unique author URL; do use these!
  • 11. Giveaways and promotions: if you want to feature your newly published book in a free or reduced price giveaway, you will have to enrol in Amazon’s KDP Select programme; this isn’t currently an option on KDP. I haven’t yet enrolled in KDP Select as I need to read up on the pros and cons; while your book is featured in KDP Select, it must be published exclusively with Amazon, although it can be marketed elsewhere in print format.
  • 12. Your book on other platforms: so you’ve uploaded your book, it’s live on Amazon, and you have a nifty new author page (or two). Now you’re keen to head on over to Goodreads, Bookbub etc and set your author page up, offer your book as a giveaway etc. Be warned, it takes a few days (a week for me) for your book to show up on their search pages after being uploaded to Amazon, so be patient.

I hope these pointers help you in your self-publishing journey; if you have any more or have had a different experience with Kindle DP, please let me know in the comments!

The Battle of Watling Street is Published!

I am a published author of a historical/science fiction novella!

Yesterday was D-Day. After feverish last minute formatting and some tiny revisions (how can I still find things to tweak after dozens of self-edits, software edits, beta readings and more edits?), I took the plunge and submitted my book to Kindle.

I’ve entered Amazon’s Storyteller 2017 competition, so I also had to make the book available in print, which added a whole additional learning curve and some drama – chez McGoverne was tense! In fact, the uploading process was pretty simple and well explained; preparation is key.

A couple of tweaks later (I forgot the keyword for the competition, I didn’t zip file the Kindle edition so an image was missing and I had to reupload both versions, which took ALL day), and both book formats were live on Amazon! A quick Author update later and I am an Amazon author – yay!!!

Margaret McGoverne Amazon UK Author Page

I am really pleased with the covers, especially the paperback version, which was easier to create than I thought, thanks to the proofing and formatting tool on Kindle DP. I’ve linked the images below back to the books on Amazon if you’re interested!

paperbackcovers

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It was such a rush to see the back cover of the paperback version, complete with barcode and ISBN (free from Amazon).

As you can see, the paperback version already has the free Amazon “Look inside” previewer; the Kindle version should be up and running within a week.

And look! Look how prettily it renders on a Kindle! Oh, the formatting that went into this, the sneaky Word/HTML reformatting that I had to manually adjust, the mucking about with paragraphs, styles, and headings!

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I am so thrilled to see all the hard work translated into a thing, a book, that looks professional, has a working Table of Contents, has an engaging cover (I think), and is all my own work!

I let my personal Facebook friends, family and colleagues know, and have tweeted a link to the book, and the response has been great; purchases have happened, in both formats! Now I need some reviews; my mind already turns to promoting this book, and I’m looking at services such as Bookbub and The Fussy Librarian, but both require at least 10 4 star Amazon reviews. I’m not sure if Bookbub accepts novellas, and they are notoriously choosy!

I’m also promoting with local news outlets, Twitter interest groups etc.

I haven’t registered for KDP Select yet so I’m not sure if I can do a free promotion; these are things I need to research ASAP!

It’s been a tiring, an emotional and ultimately a hugely rewarding journey, with lots of learning curves. The work isn’t over for The Battle of Watling Street; I want to make it visible to as many people as possible, but I also have to crack on with the sequel, and the other novel I’m working on; no laurel lounging allowed!

My last note on here is a request/plea: I’d like to guest blog on your blog! I’d be happy to blog about the book, the writing process, the subject matter or the process of publishing with Kindle DP. I’d also love to do interviews, and have already compiled some great questions I’d love to ask my fellow authors in return!

So if you would like to include a guest blog from me or interview me, please do get in touch, and thanks to everyone, to all my dear constant readers and commenters, for your support!

Pinterest Boards for Books: The Battle of Watling Street

I already have Pinterest specifically for my writing, with boards for my two novels-in-progress; you can view them here and here  – please do follow the boards if you like what you see, I do follow back!

I’m slowly amassing followers on Pinterest, and it seems that with the very targeted appeal of each board, it could be a useful means of attracting new readers; a book’s subject matter, locations, and themes are all there, on display, so with this in mind, I’ve created a new board for the imminent release of my first novella to be published: The Battle of Watling Street

Having a strong collection of Pinterest boards is one of my aims, as I feel the visual nature of the curated boards adds another dimension to the wordy nature of books!

I’d be very interested to hear any views on using Pinterest boards to promote your writing or suggestions for other social media apps? I feel that Instagram, being app and phone based, is too bitty for me; I prefer using desktop, but I’m always open to new suggestions!

“The Battle of Watling Street” is here! Calling Beta Readers…

thincovertbows5(Edited to add spiffy new cover design!)

At 3.30am this morning, while putting the finishing touches to the edited and expanded second draft of my first completed work of fiction, my laptop froze, and I lost 5,000 words of creative frenzy. Half an hour of despair followed until, predictably, a youngster rescued me and found the Backup files for the Kingsoft WPS programme; my wonderful son.

So after running the draft through every grammar and spelling checker known to man, as well as the Google docs consistency checker, I’m ready to release my 17K words historical fiction/Sci-Fi novella to the kind people who have offered to beta-read for me.

I’m so excited! And so proud of myself. As usual, I went into the project seriously underestimating the amount of research required; boy, this one was heavy going. The story is set in 1st century AD occupied Britain, and there was LOTS of fact checking, not helped by the cheeky Sci-Fi twist ending.

This story is actually a prequel to one of my novels-in-progress, The Bondage of The Soil; I had the idea of a back story, and thought it would be a good exercise in world building and an interesting teaser to the main story, as well as a good place to start my publishing journey. I plan to self-publish Bondage and this prequel, whereas I want to try the traditional publishing route for my other book in the pipeline, And the Buntings Flew

So this post is just to tell you all, constant readers, what a great feeling it is to have finished a 17k words work of fiction, and to ask for your help; if anyone is interested in swelling the ranks of my beta readers and reading a pre-publication copy of the story in return for some feedback, please do get in touch!

Margaret

My Second Work-in-Progress: The Bondage of The Soil

Church, Icknield Trail, Bedfordshire
Church, Icknield Way, Bedfordshire

I love reading spooky tales at Christmas; M.R. James is a firm favourite, and I usually reread H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Festival” to celebrate the Yuletide season. The idea for a short horror story in the tradition of these greats came to me last December when I was deep into my ghostly reading season; I have a new route to get to the M1 on my commute to work, and the idea was born as I drove past an unfamiliar, isolated and very atmospheric church (pictured above).

Having put together an outline, I found enough historical/geological weirdness in the location in which the story is set, which happens to be near my current home town, to write a longer story; the current outline is for a forty thousand word or so novella. Prepare to be unsettled. I aim to write this up quickly as an exercise in increasing my word count productivity, as the story needs considerably less research than And The Buntings Flew, so I hope to have a first draft by the end of 2016.

“The Bondage of The Soil”

Forty-five-year-old divorcee Stella Travis might be having a nervous breakdown. Her daily prosaic cross-country drive to the nearest motorway junction has taken a very strange turn. Can her visionary experiences be related to the new bypass being excavated from ancient green belt land that lies sleeping alongside Britain’s oldest road?

Brooding and suspenseful, spanning the ages from before the Roman invasion of Britain, the Iceni rebellion led by Celtic Queen Boudicca, the story stretches from the prehistoric earth to beyond the stars.

Why a Novella?

I originally thought of the story as a Horror/Sci-Fi tale, but having looked into these genres, I’m currently leaning towards describing the story as Sci-Fi, with perhaps an element of Low Fantasy, which I recently learnt about; Low Fantasy is usually set in the real world or a fictional but rational world,  but with elements of the fantastical or at least the ambiguous to leave the reader asking; what (in term of the fantasy elements) is reality and what is psychological in origin?

My favourite reading subjects/genres include fiction and non-fiction relating to ancient Rome and ancient Britain; I also love Sci-Fi and horror, and I wanted to incorporate all of these elements into one story, but imbue it with a contemporary feel and a bigger story ultimately about modern people and the challenges they face; dealing with change at an ever-accelerating rate, and finding your place in the world.

I’m in the middle of writing my longer novel “And The Buntings Flew“, and although it’s great to have two projects to work on and alternate when one gets tough, I decided that two full-length novels was a stretch too far for me. In addition, I think that this is at heart a simple tale with a fantastic premise, and a novella is the right vehicle to tell a story that deals with one, maybe two main characters and a single event; the story has a central vision that deserves more than a short story telling, but probably isn’t suitable for a full-length novel treatment. My article about fiction lengths has  a section about The Novella if you’re interested in the standard definitions for fiction based on length.

Where Did The Title Come From?

I read a poem at the end of last year by Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet who became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. The poem is from 1928 and is titled “Fireflies”; it contains the following lines:

Emancipation from the bondage of the soil
is no freedom for the tree.

Tagore’s poem is structured like a series of Japanese haiku; he had translated many haiku into Bengali and “Fireflies” reads like a series of epigrams and haiku dealing with the forces of nature and time as distilled by a wise observer. You can read the unabridged poem here.

I’m about 25% through the write up, and the plot and characters are all fleshed out. Watch this space for updates and news on publication, and the inevitable heartache before I get to that stage! I’ve included a link below to the Pinterest board I’ve created to showcase themes and locations in the story.

Flash Fiction March 2016 – “Wireless”

Electrical plasma globe glass
Diliff Wikipedia – Electrical Plasma globe glass CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=448163

This is just a quick post to proudly announce that one of my 100-word stories has been published by John Xero at 101fiction.com.

Please check the site out, now in its sixth year online, it has some fantastic flash fiction.

My story’s title is “Wireless” and it is published in the March 2016 issue. The theme of this issue is “air”.

It’s an unsettling little Horror/Sci-Fi tale that’s inspired by my day job; I work in the utility/energy industry and I often marvel at the almost-magical and very scary properties of electricity. Maybe it’s also a mini revenge tale…

What do you think?

My 2015 Writing Review (and plans for 2016!)

2015 Writing Review: margaretmcgoverne.com

When I was younger, I heartily disliked New Year’s Eve; for my mother, it was a time of looking back and rehashing old tragedies, old regrets. She cried without fail, and to younger me this was painful and put a real pall over the end of the year. But I’ve learned that like Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, the end of a year is a time to both reflect back on what’s gone and also to look forward! Further, in reflecting on what we haven’t managed to do, we can take stock of the positives, and use our achievements to spur us to greater things in the New Year.

2015 was the year I launched this blog, and started to write up my first novel, And The Buntings Flew. I also published my very first piece of fiction this year! I’ve learned so much about writing, blogging and publishing and although it sounds corny, about what I can strive for, and achieve.

So in the spirit of reviewing, learning and setting what we call at work “stretch” targets for 2016, here’s my review of the year; hopefully it resonates with some of my readers? I’d also love to hear your thoughts on what worked, what emerged and what gave up the ghost in 2015.

And The Buntings Flew – my debut novel

My target was to complete a first draft of And The Buntings Flew, which I envisage will be around 85,000 words long. 2015 was when I actually started the draft; up to that point I was merely flitting between a couple of MS Word documents with a very rough plot, some research on the period and some ideas for characters. Although I haven’t met my target to have a complete first draft, I am now more than 40,000 words in, that’s half way, and have just finished chapter 8. The plot has shaped up and my characters are, I modestly feel, well-developed and rounded in my head, if not yet in the draft! I have a chapter by chapter plan, a couple of spreadsheets with timelines, main events etc. and each main character has a fully drawn word sketch. More; I feel like the ideas have evolved into a creative work, which I will soon finish, edit and one day say; “this is my first book.” I passed my driving test on my second attempt; as we rounded the final corner and set of lights back to the test centre I knew it was in the bag; the feeling is the same for the book, as a creative venture. The next step is to nurture it into a successful one!

To have a read of-the synopsis and some excerpts from chapter one of And the Buntings Flew, please click the links below

My Writing Blog

If you’re reading this, you’ve found my  blog! And I’m very glad you have. This time last year I was pestering friends and relatives to like and subscribe to a landing page and some “About me” info; I’m now proud to have more than 100 followers of the blog, and in turn I’ve discovered some great blogs that inspire, entertain and inform me.

I’ve added some pages, and picked up some great blogging know-how and widgets along the way; my plan for 2016 is to transfer the blog from the free WordPress.com platform to a paid, WordPress.org site. A move to the hosted platform will allow me to customize my theme, remove ads from the blog, add a raft of useful widgets and plugins not currently available to me, and generally remove any restrictions from my blog.

If you’re interested in a comparison between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, this article helpfully broke it down for me:

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: a definitive guide for 2015

My Other Writings

Writing earlier in the year about short fiction, I became intrigued by the popularity of micro fiction, as well as the resurgence of the novella; (you can read my blog post on short fiction here) I’ve had plenty of ideas for short stories over the years, and did complete one or two supernatural tales in the late 1990s; interestingly, I’ve outlined a short story over the Christmas break that has a distinctly Lovecraftian/M.R. James feel, blended with a couple of very modern horrors; rampant development, especially on greenbelt land, and the daily commute.Watch this space in 2016 for the finished tale!

My first foray into micro fiction went really well, with my short short “New Beginnings” being published by Tim Sevenhuysen at fiftywordstories.com ; it blends my love of gardening and all things weird; please have a read, it won’t take long!

New Beginnings, by Margaret McGoverne


Writing Habits

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” (Mark Twain)

Mark Twain had his tongue very firmly in his cheek with the above quote; writing is a craft like any other. In Danse Macabre, Stephen King talks about the knife we are all born with; the knife is called talent. Some people are born with huge knives, and these people are called geniuses, but even the largest of knives have to be honed if they are to work, and to be “wielded with great force.”

I have tried to hone my knife this year in as many ways as possible, home life and a  full-time job permitting. A couple of things have worked really well for me, requiring as they do varying levels of commitment; if you are interested in ways to improve and share your work, some of these methods may help.

  • Scribophile

Scribophile is a free to join online writing and critique group; it also has a wealth of learning resources, articles and tips. There are as many communities as sub genres, and I’ve become much more comfortable with sharing my work for critique, as a result of engaging on Scribophile. Basically, you earn “karma” points by critiquing the writings of others, the longer the critique the more points you earn. These points allow you to post your own works. It can be a commitment in your time to critique enough works to post your own, and there is a recommended word limit for each piece of writing to be critiqued (generally 3,000 words) but once you are in the swing of critiquing and have found some like-minded writing/authors it is a very rewarding and useful resource.

  • Open University (OU) and Other Writing Courses

I took a creative writing course online with the OU in 2014 and enjoyed many aspects of the course; it was a very helpful starting point for me. I am actively looking to build on this foundation by taking additional courses in 2016, either with the OU or with a more specific , writer led class with experience in the genre I  wish to work in (contemporary literary/historical fiction) as well as in general writing craft. Suggestions welcome if you have taken a course you can recommend!

Social Media

  • My Facebook page for my writing (Margaret McGoverne, Writer) has attracted some great feedback; via this page I’ve also made contact with people on my personal FB page with some great family and contextual information relating to the background story of And The Buntings Flew. I also love how interconnected the different social media sites are, and how each one leads readers to more information about your work!
  • A great idea I borrowed from Joanna Penn over at The Creative Penn was to set up Pinterest boards with pictures related to works either completed or in progress; I had literally never thought of complementing my writing with visual social media, so this was a wonderful idea to come across. I created a Pinterest account for my writing  and created a Pinterest board with pictures from locations and themes which will feature in And The Buntings Flew. I’ve picked up some Facebook page and blog readers from the Pinterest boards and I have also  found it a very useful exercise to think of images that will feature in or outline the story; in this way I’ve come up with some additional features and angles to the novel which will enrich it , I feel, historically and geographically.
  • Reddit Writing Hub

If you’re not already a Redditor, Reddit is a site where users post content (pictures, links, news items etc) divided by subject matter into “sub-reddits.”

The Reddit writing hub (r/WritingHub) is an index of writing sub-reddits designed to help writers find communities and content relevant to their interests. The largest sub-reddits in the writing hub are r/writing, r/screenwriting, r/writersGroup and r/selfpublish. There are also writing contests and writing prompt sub-reddits, all of which have proved useful to me over the last year.  If you subscribe to the writing hub, your Reddit front page will include updates from the writing sub-reddits, and in this way targeted writing related content is delivered to your effortlessly!  While not a primary resource, I have found the writing hub at times encouraging, informative and a place to discuss issues with like-minded redditors.

A couple of the social media platforms I didn’t get to grips with this year although they were on my list were Periscope and Twitter. The former is a live video streaming app; my idea was to have a regular (OK, semi regular!) live stream broadcast of my novel-writing in progress, complete with feedback from any viewers; the ultimate in hot off the press promoting! I still think this is a great idea but for me right now it’s one I will return to; as I still have a full-time job, finding and keeping a regular time commitment is difficult, I commute to and from London, so getting home is an exercise in variable times. The other thing that made me shelve the idea for now was feedback from my son, an avid gamer and watcher of Twitch, a video streaming app for gamers. My son’s opinion was that the live streaming approach would be more appropriate when I have a completed work that I can promote and direct people to: as an unknown my audience would likely be non-existent, and the time and effort/reward formula just doesn’t seem worth it now. However it’s definitely something I will return to. However I’d love to hear from you if your experience differs!

Twitter is something I don’t use in my personal life; I don’t think I have the commitment to keep readers constantly informed and entertained, and so this is a personal choice, but again I will review and revisit this decision if its seems that the time and effort of updating a Twitter stream would seem to offer rewards.

Lastly I have gained an interest in podcasts during 2015, thanks once more to my son, who avidly consumes them, in a plethora of subject areas. I am definitely interested in recording podcasts that discuss the writing process, and the historical and social background to my novel; I think this would be a great way to get a feel for eventually recording an audiobook version of my novel, either with the help of a professional narrator or narrating my own novel. An interesting question occurs to me as I write this post; for a novel set in Northern Ireland, would the narrator ideally have a “Norn Iron” accent? Something else for me to delve into in 2016!

If you’re still with me, constant reader, I want to thank you for your time and support in 2015; never before has there been so much to tempt and divert us, and I’m profoundly grateful when anyone takes time to read my words.

My resolution, or rather my strategy for 2016 is to write, write write; to reach and reinforce my daily/weekly word count targets , and to explore new ways to improve my craft as a writer, and to reach out to potential readers and fellow writers.

I wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year!.

Margaret x