Podcast 95: Publishing a Kindle ebook in 2020

In this episode of the Cherryleaf Podcast, Ellis describes his experience of writing and publishing a book on Kindle. He also discusses creating an audiobook for Audible and the latest options for printing a paperback book.

Transcript

00:00:03

This is the Cherryleaf podcast.

00:00:13

Hello.

00:00:14

And welcome to the latest episode, I’m Ellis Pratt. I mentioned in a previous episode that one of the activities that I did over the summer was to write a novel and I thought it might be of interest to talk about the process of doing that and specifically how to get.

00:00:34

A book, be it a factual book or a novel onto Amazon as a Kindle Book.

00:00:41

I know there’s a lot of technical writers who are budding authors. You can see that from their CVs.

00:00:47

What they put is their hobbies and also there can be a need in the context of technical publications of producing ebooks. So I thought it would be of interest to talk about this.

00:00:59

What I’ll talk about is why you might want to create specifically a book for Kindle.

00:01:06

The process of writing a novel or a book.

00:01:10

How to create

00:01:12

A Kindle specific book.

00:01:15

And a little bit about this marketing and promotion side of things. How you might want to make some money from having an ebook.

00:01:25

OK, so let’s start off by looking at why you might want to publish a.

00:01:31

Book on Kindle.

00:01:34

And the main reason is that you want your audience to be able to view the information that you’re providing on a mobile device. Now you can do that as a PDF, but certainly up until recently it’s been difficult to read PDF’s on a mobile device.

00:01:54

It may also be the case that you want to control who can and cannot see the information.

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And that you may want to charge for it, so having it on a platform such as Amazon, you can restrict access to those that are willing to pay for it.

00:02:10

And there might be specific reasons why you want somebody to view the information on a Kindle device. I’ve heard of instances where there have been people in remote situations without access to electricity, and there’s been advantages for them to read information on a Kindle device or device that can run for perhaps weeks.

00:02:31

Without needing to be recharged and can also can have a passive screen so you don’t lose night vision.

00:02:38

OK, so let’s talk about the process of writing a novel. So in my experience, I’ve not written a novel before. It, not something that had grabbed my interest, but an idea came to me.

00:02:51

And the approach that I took was very similar to one that you might take for writing a user guide, and that was to develop a structure of the things that need to be said, a plot.

00:03:02

And once that was formalized to then start writing.

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And by taking that approach, knowing what needed to be said because the plot was defined, it was straightforward to just start writing, and I found that it was possible to write 500 to 1000 words per day in the evenings.

00:03:22

Early in the morning before work started and to have by the end of a month 18,000 words written.

00:03:30

Now the situation that I was in I had an idea for a children’s book, so the plots were very simple.

00:03:38

And there are common plots that you have within novels. I looked up on the web some suggestions that type supports you might have, and I used some of those as the basis for the little stories or events that happened in the book or books that I created.

00:03:53

For example, you can have something that’s missing and there’s a need to find it. There’s a mystery that needs to be solved. There’s a mystery person, or there’s a mystery object.

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There’s a challenge or competition that people enter.

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Or there can be conflict between two people or two groups that needs to be resolved and you can also get from the web ideas and suggestions as to the types of characters. And then there’s the ideas of the monomyth. The hero with a thousand faces, and you can again identify the characters that you might need to have in your.

00:04:27

Novel, so there’s a hero that’s probably going to be a helper.

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Or supporter.

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That’s going to be probably a guide or sage that provides wisdom or advice. There’s an opponent or something that’s causing the conflict, and there might be a non-gender specific. We might say damsel in distress, somebody that needs your assistance.

00:04:51

Now, if you are in the situation where you want to write a book, there are people that can give you guidance. There are editors there publishing companies. There are people called book midwives that you can pay to guide you through the process to hold you to account. And if you have a really good idea, you can’t.

00:05:14

Write a synopsis or complete novel and submit it to a professional publishing company, book company and see if they wanted to publish your book. In my situation, it’s the first time I’ve written something. It was just a hobby, so it didn’t seem much sense in in doing any of those and I had.

00:05:33

The process of actually writing the content wasn’t a challenge. I had a good idea of a have a plot and I could just get going and write.

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Let’s talk about how to create a Kindle book so that has changed overtime and Amazon has introduced a number of tools to make it easy for people to create content that can be published as a Kindle book. And Amazon has its own.

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Proprietary format for creating an ebook.

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In recent times Amazon has published something called Kindle Create, which is an application that can run on Mac OS.

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Or on Windows it’s a free tool and it enables you to create quite a number of different formats of books, be it’s a textbook or a novel or comic or graphic novels that they’re also known that you might want to publish on the Amazon platform.

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And if we look at the websites that describes Kindle Create, it says that it offers four high-quality themes to customize your books, look and feel, and those are essentially things like the font in which the book appears, and so on.

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It enables you to insert images to books based on a Word .doc or .docx file.

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It has tools to enable you to prepare a text-heavy ebook. It has some image features like bleed, chapter start and full page images. It can automatically detect chapters and create a simple table of content.

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And you can insert edit.

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Hyperlinks within the document or to external web content.

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And it will automatically typeset your book so that it reformats and will work well on a tablet, a smartphone, or an E reader.

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And it’s also possible to insert some interactive features. This isn’t something that I did.

00:07:42

For a novel, but it is possible I understand to insert clips that might be audio, video or image popups.

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And these work if your reader is reading the content on an Amazon fire tablet. Within this app you can also preview your book.

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To see what it would look like on those different devices, the phone, the tablets, the E readers.

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So if you decide to use the Amazon Kindle Create app, then what you can do is you can write your book in Word format.

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So if we’re talking about a technical writing context, if you can output to Word.

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Then you can use your standard single sourcing tool.

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And get it to Word format. If you’re writing a novel, you can write in Word, which is what I did. Or again, you could write in another tool and then convert to the Word format. A tool like Scrivener for example. So what happens is you open up Kindle Create and you import your doc or docx file, and this is then converted.

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By Create into what they call a reflowable ebook. Reflowable ebooks allow the reader to resize the text and are available on all Kindle devices and Kindle Reading apps.

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So what you can use the Kindle Create app to do is format your text with styles and themes. You can create automatically table of contents.

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If you want to make changes to your novel, your book, you can edit and add text within the application.

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You can also add, delete, resize or align images and you can as we’ve said, preview your ebook and create a file ready for it to be published to Kindle Direct Publishing. The website where you would upload your file for it to be published on the Amazon website.

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What the app doesn’t do is it doesn’t publish outside of Kindle, so you can push the button for it to publish to the Amazon website, but not to other platforms.

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It doesn’t do the formatting of the cover, so you would generate or create your cover image in another application.

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It doesn’t do editing of tables, lists, footnotes, and certain paragraphs with complex formatting.

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And it doesn’t do image captions.

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But overall it does a very good job.

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Of course, if you do make edits within Kindle Create, you can have version control issues and you’ve got.

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Your Word version and your Kindle Create version and the two will then differ at that point. So the approach I took was if I needed to make changes, I would.

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Update my Word document and then re import them into Kindle Create so your Word document has to be in a certain format for the import to go well and Amazon has published an ebook manuscript formatting guide to help you with that.

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It’s pretty straightforward to adjust your Word document to make it import successfully. What you need to do is set your paragraph indentations and the line spacing.

00:11:08

And set heading styles for chapter titles.

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Now you can add in your Word document, front and back matter things like the title with Copyright and the dedication page and back matter like about the author and a bibliography of other books that you might publish.

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And a title page with the book title and the author.

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For those items is probably easier for you to do those within Kindle Create itself. It just takes a few clicks to do those.

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When it comes to things like spelling.

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It’s better to use Word’s built in spell checker and grammar tools.

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Obviously makes sense to proofread your book.

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Beforehand manually to read it out loud is another approach. Certainly get somebody else to do it.

00:12:00

To publish it as a PDF or print it and then review it that way so that you catch every error.

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An they also recommend that you insert images at their original size.

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That you don’t cut and paste images and after you insert any images that you don’t enlarge them because that would decrease the resolution.

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And they also recommend adding a single line of space before and after the images.

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Other thing regarding images is that you turn off image compression in Word.

00:12:36

Can you create will automatically do the page numbering or the Kindle viewer? I should say will do the page numbering.

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And that page numbering will differ if somebody is looking at the content on A.

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Mobile phone or looking at it on a tablet so you don’t need to do page numbering within your Word document and also something they say ebooks don’t have headers and footers so you don’t need to add them to your file. You don’t need to add text boxes and shapes. Amazon doesn’t recommend inserting text boxes.

00:13:08

And shapes to create diagrams. It says if you want to include visuals like those, insert them as images.

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And that’s the drop caps. Those large capital letters at the beginning of a block of text at the beginning of a chapter.

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They are supported, but they may not appear the way that you want them if you add them in Word. Amazon recommends that you use Kindle create to add elements like those.

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So you upload your file to Kindle Direct Publishing.

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You add some information about the book, a synopsis of it.

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But the author, the target reader, the age of the reader, you can put a little bit of metadata to describe it. You can upload your book. You can upload the image of the cover.

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And then it will take you through if there’s no formatting errors. Importing errors will then ask you to set the price and the countries where you want it to sell.

00:14:08

And then you can set it to publish immediately. Or you can set it to publish at some date in the future.

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And it’s probably worth you setting a date in the future so you have time just to review everything.

00:14:21

Check for any errors before you hit that final publish button, so let’s talk about the promotion side of the book and how that relates specifically to writing novels. I listened to a number of podcasts that gave me the idea really to have a go at writing a novel. One in particular where someone was interviewing.

00:14:42

John Locke and John Locke is a novelist, British novelist who has sold over $1,000,000 worth of Kindle ebooks, and he has particular advice on how to do it, so this is more his advice in terms of the success or not of the book or books that I published. Well, they.

00:15:02

Not really set fire to the Amazon list. I’ve not really been slow burners either. They more been damp kindling my intention really or gold with going through. This was more just to experience.

00:15:15

The process of writing a Kindle book, rather than necessarily hoping it would be a fantastic success and leading to wealth and riches.

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Anyway, back to John Locke. His approach is to offer a number of short books, so if you have one large novel to split it into a series of smaller books.

00:15:38

And to heavily promote the first book, have that as your last leader, offer it at a low price and then th ebooks that you created.

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Bundle those up and offer those as a bundle on Kindle at what looks like an attractive price. So it looks like if you were to buy those ebooks individually, it would be maybe 40% more expensive than if you having read the first book, decided that you wanted to read more and you then get persuaded too.

00:16:09

Buy the bundle of books and one of the things that John Locke recommended was to have a professional cover and that one. The key things that helped people decide whether to buy a Kindle book or not was the cover. His approach is to pay for the same professional illustrator that does some of the very famous.

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Offers to do his. If you don’t want to commit to that level of expenditure, you can go onto sites like Fiverr and there are people that will create a cover for you or there are platforms like postermywall.com where you can use pre-set

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Templates to the Kindle sizing.

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And you can create your own book cover and you can create the covers that are needed. Amazon themselves offer a Kindle publishing tool that can create a simple cover for you and the other advice that John Locke provided was that having published your book, you need to promote it.

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Like mad, the idea of the Field of Dreams that just publishing the book and expecting sales for it to stand out amongst all the millions of books that are available on Amazon.

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That approach doesn’t work.

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So he uses Google ads and Facebook ads to promote his book to forms that interested in those types of stories that he writes, which are thrillers and to use the profits that he makes from the first book in the series of these series of the ebooks that he’s written to plough the profits back from that.

00:17:52

Into the Facebook and the Google adverts to treat that as a loss leader. People having read the first book a certain percentage will then go on to read the 2nd and 3rd and 4th book and so on. So when it comes to pricing, Amazon offers 30% of the revenue to you. If it’s under 1 pound 77.

00:18:12

Remember correctly and 70% if it’s £1.77 or more they do charge for the data download of the book now if it’s a novel and it’s just plain text that will be negligible.

00:18:27

However, if it is a textbook, if it’s the context of a technical publications situation, of a technical book and you had large complex images, then that might be an influence on what price you charge. The other thing that John Locke talked about was another way to make money as an author.

00:18:47

Is to create an audiobook. Amazon has a site that can enable you to do that. To publish your book as an audible book. So for the audible platform only and that is acx.com. What you can do if you want is that you can pay for a professional actor.

00:19:07

Voiceover artist to narrate your book and on the acx.com website. They have a list of professionals who can do that for you for a charge or what you can do is. You can narrate the book yourself.

00:19:25

Either way, you can then upload your audio files onto the ACX platform.

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And Amazon will review your audios.

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Approve or reject it and that review process can take 30 days or more.

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And then your audio book will go onto the audible platform. If your audio isn’t good enough, it will be rejected. So you need to have good quality audio and then once it’s live you’re paid by the number of listens to your book. So if you decide to go the recording route, you need to record yourself.

00:20:04

And to record each chapter as individual MP3 files, need to edit out any changes or runs and Rs that you want to make to the files.

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It’s called mastering your file and then you can upload your finished files and Amazon has on theacx.com website something called the audio lab.

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And you can upload your files to the audio lab and that will give you feedback on how likely it is that your file will be accepted or rejected when it’s submitted. It measures it against seven important metrics, different audio, standard things like RMS peak levels, bitrates and more.

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The basic rules are that your audio book needs to be consistent in the overall sound and formatting.

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That it needs to have an opening and closing credit. All your files need to be either mono or stereo. The files only contain one chapter or section per file and with the chapter heading or section heading read aloud there must be what’s called room tone at the beginning and end of the files. But I think half a second to a second and a half.

00:21:12

At the beginning and end of each file.

00:21:15

And that your audios are between minus 23 DB and minus 18 DB Normes level and a peak of minus three, and that’s where it can trip you up if you’re not familiar with audio standards and those aspects, so there’s some good advice on the web on how to get good quality.

00:21:36

Audio one was that you can import if you’re Mac user your audio files into GarageBand and give advice on how to set the settings in GarageBand and export it so that it’s within those standards that Amazon has set for the audio. And there’s advice on how to record.

00:21:56

And Aeration If you’re doing it yourself so it’s good quality one is that you record in a cloakroom. Something where you’re talking towards coats that are in front of you and that can be a very effective way of deadening the sound and getting rid of the curse of all podcasters and narrators.

00:22:16

That is echo.

00:22:19

So what if you want to create a paperback as well as an ebook?

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Up until recently, the way that you would do that was you would upload your file onto Kindle Direct Publishing.

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You would go through the process of creating an ebook and then there would be an option to also create a paper bank and you could upload a book cover image for the front and the back.

00:22:48

And you could have Amazon publish the paperback version of the book for you, so it would be print on demand.

00:22:58

Now recently, and we’re talking about September 2020.

00:23:03

Amazon has updated Kindle Create, so it now has print support, not quote from a recent newsletter.

00:23:12

With the latest release of Kindle Create, you can now upload your Kindle, create file to KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing, as both an ebook and paperback of any trim size, creating both digital and print versions of your book simultaneously.

00:23:31

Routine, but challenging paperback tasks like margins, page numbers, left and right sides, page layouts, widow and orphan treatment, and table of contents creation are also handled automatically.

00:23:47

So if you’re interested in knowing more about that and you’d like us to cover that in another episode, let us know or explore it for yourself from a technical writing. Technical publications perspective that could be of value. It gives you a means by which you can create a printed.

00:24:08

Copy of your manual that people can obtain via Amazon within a few days.

00:24:15

Gives you the option of charging for that manual, although you will lose a percentage of the sale. Obviously to Amazon, but you won’t have the upfront costs of.

00:24:27

Publishing a number of books and having to store them.

00:24:31

He won’t have the issue of managing the sales process either, because Amazon will do that.

00:24:36

What also would be of interest is the production flow from a tool like MadCap Flare, FrameMaker RoboHelp.

00:24:45

Some of the digital tools to a paperback that’s being published by Amazon.

00:24:51

Process would be to create a Word file that would import.

00:24:56

Very cleanly into Kindle Create so that you wouldn’t need to do any amendments within until create or minimal ones and then up to.

00:25:05

Kindle Direct Publishing. That’s something else that’s worth exploring.

00:25:11

So to summarise, today, if you have that burning desire to write a novel.

00:26:04

Which does dominate ebooks and audiobooks at the moment, which can be seen as a good or a bad thing.

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But whatever way you do, having published that book, you do need to be aware that it’s unlikely that you’re going to have untold riches unless you also commit to doing lots of marketing and lots of promotion yourself.

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So that’s it for this episode will probably go back to a more technical writing themed topic for the next episode, but thank you for listening if you want to contact me. Its @ellispratt on Twitter and you can contact us at info at cherryleaf.com.

00:26:46

And it’s always lovely. If you can rate this podcast on iTunes and elsewhere.

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Until next time. Thank you again for listening.

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