Longer than I intended, but still just a little bit of the process and things I’ve learned (am learning!)
Amazon and Kindle Create pretty much walk you through every step.
I write fiction, and though I am not expecting to win a Pulitzer, I agonize over every word and even the typesetting, and my publishing journey continues on Amazon. I vividly remember months ago after an extensive round of line-editing from 3 different author friends who took on the challenge, thinking I had finally published the perfect, error-free book. Ummmm… no.
5000 mistakes and changes later, weeks of additional work, I was ready to move the manuscript up to get a first printed draft.
My thought was to use Amazon as both a testing platform and publishing platform before I expanded, maybe with Ingram Spark to other marketplaces.
Why on Ingram at all? Their additional reach in stores around the world, the possibility of bookstores and libraries carrying the book, and the fact that with just a few people I had asked to read (and hopefully buy and support the book with reviews) I was already running across a very few who were ‘anti-Amazon.’
I reminded myself not to take it personally that their denial of Amazon and the micro royalty I would receive was their stand and protest of Amazon and Jeff Bezos. Little to do with me and my efforts.
But, okay. I get it. Kind of. I guess. It’s not my place to tell people how to think other than the ones I create in my stories.
But Ingram charges every time you make a change to the cover or interior pages, so I wanted to make sure it was perfect before uploading on their site. I anxiously moved up the cover to Amazon and…
Okay. We can solve that. Soon I was chasing the rabbit down the hidden paths of various forms and flavors of PDF. Being a designer of film posters and printing my photography for limited edition prints, I thought I knew everything I needed to know. Still, my experience was limited to a world of mostly one-off printing (or very limited) where RGB and massive tiff files are uploaded and spit out by printers and machines that I could actually see and sometimes control, certainly contributing to the result with printer profiles and internal conversions. The myriad flavors of PDF were not on my radar. Yet.
After a few hours reading, and only that long because I have an insatiable appetite for knowledge of even the most mundane things, I had a basic understanding of the why. And the flavor that Kindle Direct printing handles best: PDFx 2003.
Got it. Exported from my original project to new files. Accepted!
But not happy. The digital proof showed it was ever so slightly off-center and the spine could be further adjusted. Okay. A quick redo and export and upload again. And again. The overlay of crop marks and safe areas feel a little imprecise to me, but I was happy to adjust again. Instead of frustration, I took on the challenge and was having a bit of fun, agonizing over pixel adjustments and imagining how it would all turn out.
Okay. Done. Kind of. Time for the interior. Sure, the manuscript upload is a couple of lines on the page above the cover upload, but like a kid, I wanted to see the pictures! Upload… rejected.
Back to InDesign and export again as PDFx 2003. Rejected. It seems the script font I used for the dedication did not have a commercial license. So an exhaustive search for an alternative. You’d think out of thousands of available free fonts and the seemingly endless catalog Adobe makes available, it would be easy. But this was MY book… the search, I confess, went on much longer than it should have!
Upload and… SUCCESS! Now, wait a few minutes for Amazon supercomputers to check out my work.
And then the message that it had found 9 possible misspellings! A quick check and I confirmed 6 were what I wanted… but thankfully it pointed out three misspelled words. Okay, back to InDesign. Fixed on the paperback version. Fixed in the larger, eventual hardback version. Jump into Sigil where I could adjust the Kindle version. Then a quick check with Kindle previewer, then Calibre, then BOOKS on my Mac. Hey, this was the first ebook I had ever taken on and I wanted it to be right!
Upload and success, again.
Amazon now gave me the option to order proof copies. Of course, I would order them! Two. As I wanted to check the consistency.
Amazon said it might take a few days… but 3 days later they were delivered.
Now I understand what the thrill I see in unboxing videos is about! I was both thrilled and… disappointed. The cover was just dull. Okay, okay. I can fix that. I thought.
My cover is actual artwork, good or bad, a mixed media work that abstractly reflects the story. Filled with subtle and vibrant details that were now lost. As always, my first guess was it was something I had done wrong. Back to the export of the art. A few small adjustments.
On the good side, I loved the feel of the cover, the print, and paper quality, the heft and feel of the book. At just 330 pages, and printed in a trim size of 5.25 x 8, it indeed felt like a book!
People can talk about what you should do and how to lay it out, but even with all of that, I hadn’t done it before. I could now begin to see how Amazon’s process, things like binding, affected the margins and decided I could make adjustments that would make it just that slightly better.
Okay. Adjust. Double-check. And double-check my double-checks a few more times. Upload. And Wait.
2 days later, less than 48 hours, the books were on my doorstep! What magic they must use to accomplish this! Margins and interior perfect! Cover… hmmmm… still dull.
Yes, I’m crazy, but 4 rounds of proofs, always in twos to check the consistency, and they are off by millimeters from each other, but a trip to the closest Barnes and Noble to see the traditionally published books on their shelves told me that mine was certainly better than a huge percentage at the box stores.
The vibrancy of the cover from the original to the final signed-off version was so subtle, only I could tell the difference, and I’ve finally accepted it. Besides, the muted colors were growing on me. A word about the stripe across the book declaring it’s not for resale. It’s there, no getting around it, but it is not so bad or annoying. I could see exactly what the book would look like when printed. More annoying was their version of a barcode printed over mine. Much larger, and besides the effect on the layout, it stopped me from knowing that I had done my barcode correctly.
Still, I made the book live. Like most of you, even those who have created a following beyond your social media outlets, I hit up Facebook and Instagram to let people know it was done! The book that I had talked about writing and working on for the past year was now a real thing!
Putting it out there is exciting… and terrifying. I’m a filmmaker, actor, and screenwriter. I’ve had some festival and critical success, and my share of bad notices and harsh reviews. How would people react to this new adventure in storytelling?
One of the great thrills I’ve had in these early days is people sending me snaps and pics of the book on their desk or in their hands… genuinely exciting!
I’m not sure how to get it across, but I’m extremely thankful for all the people, some of who I’ve interacted with for years but never actually met, who bought the book. Others who have been in the trenches of film production and or martial arts with me over the years. My efforts to get the work out to them were never about the tiny royalty and return I hoped for, but about sharing the story, about entertaining them, a way to be a part of their lives, and letting them know they were a part of mine.
Then the first review. In LOOP’s case, from someone I didn’t know and had ever heard of. 5-stars! “Best read I’ve had in a long time…”
Then a couple from friends. Of course, they’re generous, and I’ll need those to steel myself against the haters that I know from experience will come. Then first sales from overseas. Australia, Germany, then the UK. Then Austria and Switzerland. One in France. It’s a start!
None in India or Japan or Mexico… yet. These are markets that I truly think would love it, and India and Japan are on my list as places I’d love to make films, so I dream of finding an audience there.
The little bit of marketing I have done so far has brought in 14 ratings and 11 reviews on Amazon. All 5-stars and some fantastic comments. Another 13 on Goodreads… 12 5-star and one 3-star. Those are incredibly important as they let me begin to see how others see and perceive the book, not only how I intended it. They let me begin to think about further marketing and how to let the story reach a wider audience, and even to reexamine my writing.
My favorite thing about publishing on Amazon so far? That I can fix things. Three more typos were corrected. Added an article to a sentence to make it more clear. Moved the page numbers in the header 3 pixels further outside to better please the eye. Hey, I can, so why not?
I’ve already tweaked the description and the keywords and categories several times. And I may again as I learn more and more about how people react to the book and how Amazon works.
The most important thing I think I’m learning and accepting is that it’s a process. Without teams of publishing people supporting and agonizing along with me, mistakes were made, nothing that changes the story in any way, but the presentation and maybe someone’s enjoyment of it.
Even without the Pulitzer nomination, I do my best to respect the time and interests of my readers.
It’s all an adventure, and I’m embracing the entire journey, anxious to discover where this all takes me!
LOOP, the newly adjusted, even better version than yesterday, is available in paperback and Kindle now!
“Mostly I keep learning how little I know. Soon I’ll probably know nothing at all.”kely