How to Self-Publish an eBook on Amazon

You may be familiar with my story about a post I wrote a few years ago: The Brutal Truth About the Third Child. It has been republished on a number of other sites, much bigger than my own, and as such – has always done a lot better for them, than it ever did for me.

Recently, I wanted to see if I could cash in on my own success, so I decided to turn The Brutal Truth, and a number of other posts about The Third Child, into a book which I self-published on Amazon.

The Brutal Truth About the Third Child by Shannon Meyerkort

The process was amazingly simple, and I am sharing it here – partly so I can remember it next time – but also for anyone who is considering self-publishing a book.

This is a really basic guide, and I do not pretend to be an expert. My book was text heavy with hardly any formatting and only one photo. If you have a lot of fancy formatting and pictures (such as a cook book) then I strongly suggest you head over to Kindle Direct and follow their much more comprehensive guide.

Before you start

When browsing on Amazon, readers can view the first 10% of your book free of charge. Therefore it is vital that you don’t waffle in your opening pages – move your acknowledgements to the back, don’t write a prologue about the time in Year 6 you decided you wanted to write a book. Put your best work upfront – this is what people will be basing their decision on.

Where should you start

Amazon supports uploading text in a number of formats, but for the sake of brevity, I am assuming you are writing your book in Word. Forgive me Mac users – I cannot help you today.

Make sure your text is 100% perfect. Find a professional editor or copyeditor if you can afford it, to ensure there are no typos or errors. That being said, one of the benefits of publishing an eBook is that you can easily ‘unpublish’ it, fix the mistake, and republish – and no one will probably even notice.

TIPS:

Do NOT add page numbers.

If you want chapters, then you must go into INSERT – PAGE BREAK.

If you want a contents page, then highlight

the name of each chapter and click on HEADING 1. Be consistent. All titles must be in the same style for the content page maker to recognise it. When you have highlighted all your chapter headings, go to REFERENCES – TABLE OF CONTENTS and it will automatically fill. Delete all the’ ……’ and page numbers. In the world of Kindle there are no page numbers (because every reader will choose a different font size to read in, each book becomes fluid and page numbers keep changing.)

Create an Amazon account

Create a Kindle Direct Publishing account.

You will need to complete all your normal personal details (name, address etc) as well as complete a section about tax and royalties. I won’t pretend it is easy, but even I managed to complete it (eventually). Keep in mind Amazon really tries to make the process as simple as possible for authors worldwide to do this, so don’t be put off when you initially see the tax interview section.

You will need to select which countries you want your book to be available in (there are at least a dozen different ‘Amazons’ worldwide) and nominate a bank account into which your millions of dollars (hopefully) will be paid.

Royalties are paid monthly – assuming you earn a certain amount. If you earn less than the set amount in a month, it simply accrues until you reach the minimum and your money (less tax) is deposited.

Upload your book details

Before you actually upload your finished manuscript you will be asked to upload certain details. Unlike the book itself, some things cannot be changed, so make sure you really think about the answers you give. Don’t rush this process in your eagerness to publish. It might be the difference in someone finding your book, and it sitting on the virtual bookshelf gathering dust.

You will be asked to give the book a title and subtitle (optional) and if it will be part of a series.

It will ask for a publisher (optional). Unless you are actually affiliated with a real publisher, leave this one blank, or make one up – such as (MMM Press) Meyerkort Magnificent Manuscripts.

The next section – description – is really important. This is the text that will appear on your book’s sale page – and will be the first thing (apart from the cover) that potential readers will see. This is no time to be modest. I trawled back through my blog and found some comments on my original Brutal Truth post by big-name bloggers. I then contacted them and asked if I could quote them (most responded, and all who did, agreed). My biggest tip here is to pretend you are a publicist rather than the author – write about yourself in the third person (or ask someone else to write it for you).

The next section is contributors – usually just a single author, but it also allows you to give credit to illustrators, editors, narrators, translators or if someone wrote the introduction or forward.

Verifying your publishing rights is straightforward: if it is an original text that you wrote yourself, then click the box that says you hold the necessary rights.

Target your book

You are only allowed TWO categories by which to classify your book, so you need to be very precise and honest. This is how people will find your book when they are browsing.

Start with the major headings and work your way down until you find the two categories that best suit your manuscript.

You can also nominate the age and reading levels that are appropriate/necessary for readers (or just leave this area blank). Unless it is full of sex and rude words, then perhaps put a minimum age limit on it.

The last vital section is to nominate 7 key words – again this is how potential readers will find your book. Choose wisely.

Upload a cover

Your book will need an eye-catching cover and you have a number of options. KDP offer the use of Cover Creator so you can design your own. You can also make your own in programs such as Canva, or you can engage a professional designer, or crowd source one (designcrowd.com; fiverr etc).

Be warned though there are a number of guidelines you must follow – I had my cover designed through designcrowd, and once I had chosen a winner, I still had at least three revisions afterwards getting the exact dimensions and approved colours right before Amazon would approve it.

You can upload a new cover at any time.

Upload your manuscript

It’s practically the last thing you do, but eventually you are asked to upload your book. It only takes a few minutes depending on how long your book it. Here is a tip – make sure you preview your book before you hit ‘save and publish’. The publish option may be given to you before your book is fully uploaded, but the preview option only appears when it is fully loaded. Do NOT hit save and publish until you are happy with how it looks (trust me, I made this mistake and had to wait three days for it to be approved and hit the shelves, before I quickly took it down again and checked the formatting). You may need to separately download the online previewer to do this.

Despite your best efforts, the formatting of the uploaded text may not be what you expected.

I think I uploaded and deleted the book a dozen times before I was happy with the layout. Little things like single lines to a page, a rogue hyperlink that somehow didn’t get deleted, a heading I forgot to highlight – all these changes needed to be made in the original Word document before re-uploading it to Amazon, and checking out the preview.

Once you publish, it can take up to 72 hours for Amazon to approve it and for the book to go live.

Choose a price and royalty

There are hundreds of blogs on what is the best price to sell your book at and you may have a specific figure in mind already, but you can either offer it for free, 99c or between $2.99 and $9.99 (or higher).

If you sell for 99c you can only get 35% royalty.

If you sell for between $2.99 and $10.99 (US Dollars) you choose either a 35% royalty and a 70% royalty.

You set the price in US dollars but it will automatically change with currency conversions to a different amount in other countries. For example I selected $US2.99 but it sells for $AU3.99.

(There is a lot more to the royalty issue, but one of the main issues is whether you are offering the book for sale elsewhere. If you are selling copies on your own blog, you will only ever be eligible for 35%. I advertise my book all over my blog but the link always sends people to Amazon to buy it from them.)

Claim your author page

Once your book is published you can claim your author page here.

The bio you create here will appear at the bottom of your book sale pages on Amazon, and you can also link to blogs and other sites.

Consider Kindle Select

This is such a big and subjective topic I will only touch on it – but if you enrol your book in Kindle Select, it means that your book becomes available FREE to the millions of Amazon Prime customers. But don’t worry about lost royalties, because for every page of your book that a Prime customer reads, you are will be paid a certain amount from the monthly pool. In June the pool was $13,000,000. Some authors make more from ‘lending’ their books to Prime customers than they ever do selling them to paying customers. Learn more here.

It also allows you to do certain ‘deals’ such as offering your book for free for up to five days each period (three months). It might sound counter-intuitive to offer your book for free, but I trialed it for two days, and saw the number of readers increase ten-fold. Sure, I didn’t receive any money but it pushed my book up the best seller lists for a while, and when the price returned, it was in a slightly better position than it had been before. And with any luck, all the people who read it for free might have mention it to a friend who will buy or borrow it.

Sit back and wait for the money to roll in

The Brutal Truth About the Third Child is currently ranked #68,794 in the Australian overall best seller lists, hardly a mentionable achievement. But it is also #33 in the Humour/Parenting and Families best seller lists, up against some awesome books like Darth Vader and Son and Go the F*ck to Sleep.

I won’t be paying off the mortgage any time soon, but it’s out there now and it’s certainly made me want to do it again.

 

 

Have you ever published an eBook? What advice would you give to people considering self-publishing for the first time?

 

 

Starting a New Blog – Mistakes I am Not Making This Time

Today marks the launch of my fourth blog: Fundraising Mums. Actually, if I’m being honest there was that other anonymous blog I started a couple of years ago and then freaked out and stopped publishing. It’s still out there in the virtual world, gathering dust and confusing people.

But Fundraising Mums is the first blog I have set up with an actual business plan. It is not just a place to collate memories like Relentless, nor a way to improve my clicks at WeekendNotes like Perth Food Reviews, and it is not all about me like shannonmeyerkort.com

Fundraising Mums was created because I identified an actual gap in the market and I wanted to fill it. I did my research, engaged professionals to help, I marketed, I sought advertisers, I spent three months working on it before I hit publish.

I am pretty happy with it today – but I cannot wait to see it in six month’s time when it really hits it stride.

Mistakes I made with Relentless

The biggest mistake I made with my first blog was not really thinking about the name I gave it. I was at a blogging workshop with the inspiring Amanda Kendle and even though I should have realised we would be expected to make (and name) a blog, I did not prepare. So gave it the first name I thought of: From Mum to Me.

Did you just wince? Or screw your face up? Because you don’t know what that means?

In my head it meant: I am starting this blog at a time when I am so heavily involved in being a mum to my (then) two daughters that I no longer remember who I am, or what else I am other than being a mum.’ The blog was meant to represent my journey from being ‘just a mum’ to being ‘me’.

But apparently that wasn’t immediately clear to others. You can read more about my ridiculous decision here.

After a year or so and the arrival of Baby Number Three suddenly it dawned on me that the blog should be named Relentless. Because that was what my life with three kids was like.

But it is not that easy to change the name of your blog – there is all this technical stuff with URLs and the like – not to mention the fact that you just confuse people.

Lesson 1: choose a name that not only suits your blog now, but will stay relevant as the blog grows and changes. You must LOVE it and it must make sense to others immediately.

Some might argue that Fundraising Mums is a sexist title that excludes not only Dads but teachers, coaches, grandparents and anyone without kids. I totally get that and I will wear the criticism, but it struck me as being a catchy title that was inclusive of about 90% of potential readers.

Mistakes I made with Perth Food Reviews

There were a few mistakes I made with Perth Food Reviews.

The first was that I was trying to break into an extremely full market already brimming with some top-notch and well established bloggers. Perth simply did not need one more food blog, especially when it was blatantly clear that my primary intention was to send traffic to WeekendNotes.

I am proud of my restaurant and cafe reviews on WeekendNotes and I think they are really useful, but I was constantly being asked by friends ‘where can I go in xxx to find yyy type of food’ or ‘where is the best xxx in Perth?’.

WeekendNotes doesn’t have the ability to search on questions such as this, so my thought was to create a new blog where people could search for particular types of food (Asian versus pub grub), certain styles of restaurant (fine dining versus share plates) or on particular requirements (child friendly versus views).

It was all rather noble, but apart from the cent per view I would receive if people actually clicked through to the WeekendNotes article, there was nothing in it for me. So I lost interest.

Which is a pity because I put in a lot of time setting it up, but it hasn’t been updated in ages and with the rapid rate restaurants go out of business here in Perth and new ones spring up, it is probably already outdated.

Lesson 2: don’t start a new blog unless you are really invested in it. Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and be prepared to commit both time and energy in the long term.

I see Fundraising Mums as a long term project, and it utilises all my talents and interests from writing, reviewing, researching, storytelling and project managing. I have hundreds of story ideas – my problem is going to be finding the time to write them all. The other point of difference is that this will be the first of my blogs that I monetise and offer advertising for. I have always been reluctant to put adverts on my other sites thinking it will annoy readers, but when people come to FRM they will WANT to see adverts for innovative fundraising companies. Win win.

Mistakes I made with shannonmeyerkort.com

I’d like to say this is a perfect site considering this is the one you are currently reading, but I acknowledge it is a small group of you who visit (thank you) and the content – while hopefully relevant and interesting to writers – is highly specific and also very personal. Readers often want broader information with no obvious author.

They don’t want to hear my voice, because frankly, they don’t care.

And I respect that.

I am the first to admit that I tend to spend more time on blogs that are less personal. Why? Because I make the (perhaps incorrect) assumption that the information is more universal and therefore, perhaps more relevant to me and my situation.

Lesson 3: personal blogs will attract like-minded followers who will engage and support you, but chances are you will have far fewer readers than a blog which is more universal and objective. Decide on your tone and style as well as your content, as this will influence people as to whether they want to feel involved personally, or more remotely.

Fundraising for schools is relevant to me (next year all three of my children will be at school) but it isn’t personal. I can invest more of my time in FRM without necessarily investing more of myself and my family. There is already plenty of that here and on Relentless. FRM is more business-like and while I really enjoy sharing great products and ideas, it’s not all about me, and frankly, that’s a good thing.

What are the main lessons you have learned from starting your own blog? What mistake won’t you be repeating?

PS. I have actually released my first book on Amazon: The Brutal Truth About the Third Child. You can buy it here. It will actually be FREE for July 1 and 2.

But that’s a story for another day.