Kindle’s Direct Publishing’s new paperback option

Up until now, self-publishers who went with Amazon usually used Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to produce Kindle books, and Createspace to produce paperbacks.

I did this with Castle Falcon, and it worked quite well.

Now Amazon is pushing an option to produce a paperback from the KDP interface, bypassing Createspace.

I’m quite happy with my Createspace edition, and too many of the KDP paperback features fall under the “not yet” category. That, and I never, ever, use the “beta” version of anything. I think it’s likely that Amazon will eventually phase out Createspace in favor of an integrated e-book/paperback KDP, but I’ll deal with that when the time comes.

Sending an updated Kindle edition to previous customers

I created a new edition of my book, Castle Falcon, including a new map. While updating the book was simple enough in both Kindle and Createspace, I was hoping I could convince Amazon to provide free updates of the improved book to previous Kindle purchasers.

Guess not. From their Help section:

“Some examples of corrections that don’t justify sending updates to customers who previously purchased your book are:

•   New Content Added: Chapter(s) or page(s) added, deleted or revised; new images added; bonus chapter added.”

Oh, well.

For the record, there is a list of changes that do justify an update to Kindle customers at Amazon’s help site.  Mostly they involve major mistakes.

Switching to a new edition on my book’s Amazon page

After I officially published the new edition of Castle Falcon (under the new Golden Spider Books imprint), there were two paperback editions for sale at Amazon.

With some excellent guidance from Createspace support, I managed to gently ease the old edition off the book’s page at Amazon.

The first step was going to the Createspace production site, and my dashboard there. I opened the old edition up, and went to Channels (under Distribution). There I just unselected all the channels, and the old book went off sale.

A request to Createspace support then “retired” the old edition. Everything on the page survived the switch, and it was basically effortless.

tableset

The old edition still survives under the surface: if you click on “all 3 formats” on the book’s Amazon page, the Kindle and new paperback edition come up. Opening a dropdown under “paperback” shows the May 2012 edition, still available as a used book from four vendors. That’s okay by me.

For a short time after the switch, when I did a general title search, the Kindle and old paperback popped up, but that got fixed. Only thing I’m waiting for now is for the preview to update. I’ll keep an eye on the Amazon book page to make sure everything stays sorted out.

Self-publishing: creating your own publishing company

After having had my book Castle Falcon on the market for a few years, I decided it might look a bit better if it had a company as the publisher instead of just me.

Of course, this doesn’t make any real difference in how things get done, but I think that a book gets taken just a bit more seriously if there’s an imprint on the copyright page. Okay, maybe not, but I still thought it would look better.

I’d picked the publishing name a while ago. In Castle Falcon, a major character is Aurachne (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose), the Golden Spider. She loves reading. So the company would be Golden Spider Books.

I whipped up an icon, which was a lot of fun:

Spider_Icon_Text

The hard part was finding a 3D spider model online that was stylistic enough to not look creepy. As it is, I still had to delete the mandibles.

Then the work part:

Step One was creating the company. How you do this depends a bit on where you live, but here in California, you have to set up a “DBA” (Doing Business As). There’s a form to fill out for your county, and a small fee to pay to get registered. You also have to pay to get an announcement in the business section of your local paper. That’s pretty much it as far as I know, at least to get started.

Step Two was to go to Bowker, where I’d originally purchased my ISBN numbers for my various editions. I was pleased to find out that I could simply transfer my existing ISBN numbers to Golden Spider Books by request, and not have to buy a whole new set.

Step Three was going through my various editions and updating the copyright page and covers to add the new imprint and logo. Since I didn’t have to republish most of them under new ISBNs, this mostly involved updating the interiors for e-books and Lulu editions, and updating the cover image file (Createspace version below) for the latter.

Cover_Castle_Falcon_12.0_GSB_Createspace_200dpi

The Createspace edition was a bit more difficult. When I originally published at Createspace, I just ran it through using Createspace as the publisher, where they provide their own ISBN number and add their barcode box to the cover image. Most people do it this way, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

To replace this with my own imprint and ISBN number required me to create an actual new edition, a second Createspace publication. I had no problems with this, updating the interior and cover (including logo and new ISBN barcode). I’m currently waiting on a proof copy of the new version. The only visible difference is the logo on the cover and some copyright text. I also added an “about the author” page at the end.

The real trick will be shoehorning the new Createspace edition into my Amazon setup and still retaining all my links, access to my five hard-won reviews, and other information. Particularly since I probably have to take the first edition off the market. More on this later (I hope).

 

 

 

Nook’s new POD service

Nook Press has come out with a Print-On-Demand (POD) service.

Note that this isn’t like Amazon’s Createspace — Barnes and Noble isn’t going to put your paperback up for sale online or in stores. It’s more like an alternative to Lulu.

I fed Castle Falcon into the system to see what I would get. Like Lulu and Createspace, you upload PDF files for interiors and covers.

The purchase price is lower than for Lulu books. My hardcover dust jacket version would cost me $16.42 at Nook versus $22.55 for the Lulu version. A Nook casewrap version is $14.92 versus $19.55 at Lulu. A Nook Press 9×6 paperback is about $10.00, compared to $6.80 if I order a copy of my Createspace version, so they don’t beat Amazon’s price for author orders. They barely beat Amazon’s $11.69 retail price. There don’t seem to be any quantity discounts.

I don’t know what the binding and printing quality for the Nook version would be. My main complaint so far is that the Nook cover creator is primitive compared to the options available for cover creation at Lulu or Createspace.

Nook lets you upload a front and back cover PDF image. That’s it. For dust jacket covers, front and back flaps are plain white. Nothing else. You get to pick a spine color: black, white, or tan. Spine text is in a font of their choosing (see my Nook Press cover below).

Nook_Cover_Castle Falcon_Casebound_200dpi

Check out that elegant spine art. Not sure where that white rectangle under the barcode came from either.

On the other hand, Lulu and Createspace have several methods for making covers ranging from easy-to-use online template options all the way up to advanced single-image options where I can upload one image, an actual layout that wraps all the way around the book, flaps and all (see my Lulu dust jacket below). The latter is a pain to create in Photoshop, requiring careful attention to size and positions, but at least I control everything and the spine looks like it belongs to the cover.

Cover_Castle_Falcon_11.0_HC

It’s possible the Nook POD system will improve. It’s cheaper than Lulu, but I won’t be using it unless I can bring things like covers and fonts up to my standards.

Kindle Matchbook

Okay, maybe the name is just a little off, but the idea is good.

If you have a paper book published through Amazon’s Createspace and a Kindle version as well, you can offer an automatic discount on your Kindle version to someone who buys the paper version.

Details here.

To set it up, go to your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) site.

  1. Select your Kindle book title on your Bookshelf, go to the “Rights and Pricing” section, and check the “Enroll” box for Kindle MatchBook.
  2. Set the discount for your book by choosing a promotional list price from the options given.
  3. Save your Kindle MatchBook preferences.

As far as I can see (I could be wrong) books published by conventional publishers don’t seem to be eligible. But those publishers usually set the Kindle prices anyway.

ISBN adventures

I finally had to spend some money on my self-publishing odyssey, but at least I put it off as long as I could.

I’ve been researching marketing and review opportunities for my book, and discovered that some places don’t take a book seriously unless it’s got an ISBN, particularly paper versions.  My Kindle version has an ASIN assigned by Amazon, and Amazon gave the Createspace paperback an ISBN, but my Lulu-printed hardcovers had no numbers, and the dust jacket hardcover is the most professional-looking edition and the one I’d prefer reviewers to see.

Lulu will give you a free ISBN if you sign up for their distribution programs, but there’s some baggage attached to that.  Nothing sneaky, but for maximum future flexibility and control, I decided to cough up cash for my own ISBN numbers, which will list me (not Lulu) as the publisher of record.  Besides, I’m not interested in their distribution programs just yet.  My hardcovers are only being sold through the Lulu store (you might have noticed the subtle links on the main page).

Bowker, the place where you buy these numbers, charges $125 for one ISBN number.  Ouch.  But you can get ten numbers for $250!  How’s that for a price break?  Each edition of a given title needs its own number, and I have three Lulu versions, so I went with ten.  That leaves me seven for future use.

Bowker also has an interface that records and organizes book information for each ISBN number you buy.  I’m just starting to explore it.  I don’t think it’s mandatory, but it might be useful.

Lulu, in its revision process, has a step where you can add your own ISBN to the book.  I did that.  Then I had to revise and upload a new text file because I added the ISBN number to the copyright page (required).

The next step was revising the cover to add the bar code. That’s this thing on the back cover:

How you do that depends on how your cover was created in the first place.  Cover wizards sometimes generate these automatically.  I usually import a one-piece cover image, which is harder to do but gives me more options.  When I imported the cover image for Amazon’s Createspace paperback, Amazon automatically assigned the ISBN and pasted the bar code on the book cover image.

With Lulu, you are responsible for adding the bar code image to your cover graphics.  They are pretty good about reminding you of this during the process.

Bowker will gladly sell you bar codes for your numbers for $23 each, but I suspected I had other options.  Here’s one of them I found, a website that will create bar codes for you and deliver them in PostScript and PDF formats.  I used the default 90000 code in the price part, but you can plug a price in there if you want.

After that, it was simple to use Photoshop to convert the PDF to an image file I could paste into my cover on its own layer.

I also found a nice tutorial on the process here.  Be careful not to scale the image, as this will change the nice sharp edges of the bar codes into aliased gray edges.

Once I had modified all the cover images I uploaded them, and my Lulu books with ISBNs were ready to go.  Here’s my one-piece cover image for the casewrap hardcover:

I found out that Lulu does change the price structure on ISBN-equipped books, even if you don’t use their distribution.  The books immediately developed a more expensive purchase price for Lulu marketplace customers (the purchase price for me was still the same).  Fortunately, by using their price discount function, I was able to twiddle the price back down to the same price it had before.

Now the book will be more appealing to reviewers, libraries, and such.  I hope.

I ordered a bunch of copies to send to reviewers (getting reviews as a self-published author is a major topic of its own).  Which also set me back a nice chunk of money.

Oh, well, at least it’s deductible.

Final self-publishing notes

So, this basically brings me up to date on my first experiments with electronic and paper self-publishing.  Mostly I covered the mechanics of creating product.  The wide world of marketing is yet to come, and I have a lot of research to do and more decisions to make.  I’ll be posting on this. (Occasionally.  This isn’t a daily blog and never will be).

There are a lot of places that have much more detailed information on things like formatting than I’ve discussed here.  Amazon, Createspace and Lulu offer instructions and advice at every level.  Some of it, like the detailed HTML manual for Kindle formatting, is over my head.

All of these outfits will be more than happy to do extra things for you for a fee.  Editing.  Artwork and cover design.  Professional formatting.  Marketing.  You name it.

That’s up to you.  The way I see it, I’m just dabbling in this, and I didn’t want to spend money on the project.  Of course, I already had some decent publishing and artwork software, a manuscript that had already been professionally edited, and some experience in manipulating documents.  Your own mileage may vary.

Just be aware that these companies will happily take large chunks of cash for services they will try to sell you.  This isn’t a rip-off:  the services are probably good ones.  But how much are you willing to sink into a product that’s going to earn you a couple of bucks at most for every sale?  Always calculate how many books or e-books you’ll need to sell to make it back.  It’s usually a lot.

This is why a lot of professional authors are using these methods to publish old works that are out of print.  The product is already there, and ready to go except for possible conversion issues.  What’s to lose?

And me?  Why am I doing it?

I wrote Castle Falcon for my kids.  Finished the first draft on Midsummer Eve of 2006.  I started out, completely naive, to find an agent.  With a book over 200,000 words long.  The first agent who was seriously interested, in the beginning of 2008, wanted to cut the length (no problem.  I shaved 30,000 words on the first try).  But then she wanted to cut out all the adult characters, too.  I agonized over this, and decided to keep looking.

A year later, another agent was very enthusiastic about the book (at this point about 143,000 words long).  This was after over 120 rejections.  He signed me on almost immediately, but had trouble selling it to publishers.  Based on feedback, his editorial assistant recommended–yes–cutting all the adults out again.  Apparently the school of thought is that a book for young people where you haven’t kicked all the grownups out of the picture won’t sell.

This time, I did it.  Chopped huge chunks of story and characters out, knocking it back to 100,000 words.  I didn’t have anything left in me to drop the agent and go back out into the query cycle (not to mention the world was running out of agents for me to query).  But to ease the pain, I constantly kept a “director’s cut” of my own vision going in parallel with the “abridged” edition that I was working on for the agency.

Two years passed, and a number of publishers were approached with the “abridged” version.  The agent, to give him credit, made his best efforts.  But no sale.  Eventually, the agent started focusing on non-fiction, his original strength, and we parted company amiably, with all rights returned to me.

So Castle Falcon has already been through the wringer, and I frankly don’t see how further attempts to go the agent/publisher route are going to get different results.  Now here I am, taking my “director’s cut” (145,000 words), and trying the Road Less Traveled By.

The point is, I’ve got little to lose now by sticking Castle Falcon out there on self-publishing venues. It isn’t cost me any serious money (so far), and I’m learning a lot about how to put a book together, both physically and electronically.

However, this may not be the right road for other people who are just starting out with their books.

This is just my opinion, but if your dream is to really see your book in your local store, with a major publisher’s name on it, don’t go the self-publishing route until all the others have been exhausted.  I mean, really exhausted.

Maybe you’re looking at your tenth query rejection, or your twentieth, and feeling kind of low. You know what?  That’s a lot less than the 120 rejections I clocked before I signed up with an agent who loved the book.  I made a lot of mistakes early on (like trying to pitch a 200,000 word book), but learned as I went.  Try to find reliable critics and readers (not easy, but possible).  Tune your queries.  Get advice.

Getting your work published through the conventional routes requires the persistence of a glacier, and skin like a rhino.  Believe me, you will need to cultivate these traits.

Keep in mind that I have another completed middle-grade book that I’m still shopping to agencies, and a third YA fantasy in progress that I also intend taking through the conventional publishing routes when it’s done.  After all I’ve been through, it’s still my preferred way of getting my work to the bookshelves.

To all the other aspiring authors, wherever you eventually go to make your book real:  Good luck!

That was fast.

A Createspace update:

I ordered a proof copy of Castle Falcon yesterday (May 25).  This is one method of checking your work, and recommended.  It’s really the only way to spot issues like cover alignment, large enough gutters for the binding, and whether or not the book manufacture is any good.

The e-mail confirmation of the order came in yesterday (May 25) at 2:33 PM.

I found the e-mail confirmation of the shipping of my order on my e-mail this morning, dated May 25, 6:41 PM.

How do they print a book that fast?  Even a softcover?