Tag Archives: formatting

Publishing on Amazon, here are a few things to remember


Phil: I spent quite a lot of last week swearing at my computer. It was not fun.

We use Amazon to publish both of our excellent books, and when we received the proof copies of the latest version of Kate vs the Dirtboffins, they were bigger than Kate vs the Navy.

While Mrs Picky was at it, she pointed out that the text on KvN was a bit small and dense on the page.

There was nothing actually wrong with either book, they just weren’t the same as each other. Told to go away and do something about it, I learned a few lessons on the way:

  • Preparation is everything. Decide how big you want your paperback, and stick to this. You can’t change once the book is published. I suggest comparing the options to a few paperbacks you have lying around.
  • While said paperback is in your hand, measure the margins.
  • Count the number of lines on the page. Most seem to have 32-36. Navy had over 40.
  • Set up your manuscript in Word (OpenOffice broke our text) and make sure the page size and margins are set to the size you will be published in. Yes, you can upload something different and let the Amazon machine do its thang, but it won’t do a great job. It doesn’t exactly replicate your layout even if the margins are right, so you certainly can’t trust it to do all the work.
  • Word is also a pain. Just because you have told it that the default for a paragraph includes an indent on the first line, don’t think it will bother applying this to all paragraphs, not when it can randomly leave some out. Check every page.
  • Be prepared to mess with your cover. If your page count increases, the spine needs to get wider. Our designer, Zoe, was brilliant and kept sorting out revisions for me as we found the system that only works in inches (why?) kept throwing up tiny errors.
  • Allow lots of time. This stuff matters and you are likely to need to walk away from it a few times to calm down or have a drink.
  • Proof the thing using the Amazon viewer. I needed to tweak our text to avoid odd-looking pages. We use asterisks to denote changes of scene, but a lone * at the top or bottom of a page just looks wrong.

All this is horrible, but a necessary evil if you don’t want to shell out £600 for someone to typeset the thing for you. I’ll admit that in the depths of despair, I did contact a company who would do this sort of thing, then baulked at the cost and time this would take. I’d promised to sort everything out by the time madame came back from holiday. I didn’t quite make it as the system uploaded our cover twice in the previewer and I had to wait for technical support to sort it out. Fortunately, she took a couple of days to recover from being back byt which time I could claim victory in my battle againast the forces of publishing.

The really worst bit?

Our precious reviews haven’t moved across to the new version of Dirtboffins. I still need to look at this, but as Amazon considers it a new book (because I changed the size) this isn’t likely to be possible.

Next time, I’m sure this will be a whole lot easier. So, dear reader, learn some lessons from my woes. You thought that the writing was the difficult bit…

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Filed under Phil, Publishing, Writing

Amazon Publishing – A few pointers for newbies

Our book in Kindle and iPad simulatorsPhil: It’s true, we are going to bring the book out using Amazon. That means someone has to get down’n’dirty with the mechanics of stuffing our words into their system so you can buy it. This sort of work is defined as “nerdy” so falls to me apparently.

I’m pleased to say, it’s remarkably easy, or at least appears to be so far.

Here are a few pointers to help anyone thinking of following the well-worn path we are currently walking:

Set all the text in your manuscript up using “Styles” rather than fiddling with the fonts. Define your own styles by all means but use them consistently.

For example, all our text is set up using “Body Text” style. This is currently 12pt Times New Roman but in truth it doesn’t matter. All the words in this style will be shown the same size, even if the reader makes the font bigger on their device.

(As an aside, e-readers are great news for those with poor eyesight. You can set the font size to massive, no need to search out large print books. Mahoosive fonts, especially with a high contract background, make reading a possibility for a huge number of people technically registered blind – accessibility needn’t mean special equipment, hooray!)

I’ve also got a chapter title style and one for e-mails shown on the page which we like to show using courier font.

If I’d set this up from the start, work at this end of the process would be reduced as the manuscript would be properly formatted already.

I’m hoping this also helps when we look at paperback print options. With large chunks of text defined by styles, I can alter the entire book with a few clicks.

*

Pay attention to the sign up process.

Even for non-US authors, there’s a load of American tax questions to answer. Mostly in the negative for us but it’s a bit of a bind doing them. Be prepared.

*

Amazon isn’t based in the UK. You’ll need the international versions of your bank account number.

I headed over to my banks’ website and after a little searching found a number generator that gave me the required information.

You can only pay royalties into a single account. Candice trusts me so it’s going into mine and I’ll transfer money to her. This is pretty safe. I’m only going to spend my cash on toy trains, old cars and unfashionable clothing. If I suddenly turn up in a flash car wearing designer labels, she’ll guess something is up and demand answers when I regain consciousness. If you are less trusting, set up a special account.

*

If the book is a joint effort, share the login details.

Seriously, if one of you drops dead, how frustrating would it be for the other not to be able to administer the book? I’m not sure it is strictly speaking allowed, but seems a sensible move.

*

Once your book is on sale, buy a copy.

This way, it will appear in the “People who bought this also bought this” bit of the page. The more people who buy, the more often you’ll appear. Don’t give copies to friends and relatives, make them buy it for added exposure.

*

You’re not going to get rich.

We’re going to sell at £1.99 or its equivalent in other countries. Amazon takes 86p of that for providing the service. Stop moaning, this is world-wide sales for a relatively small fee. Imagine the printing and shipping costs you are saving.

We are lucky to be realistic about this. Writing is very, very rarely a route to riches. However, if we do strike it rich, we are prepared to deal with this.

*

 I hope this helps. In a short while, once final polishing is complete, we’ll be doing it for real (I’ve tested everything so confidence is high). I’m genuinely surprised how easy all of this appears. Let’s hope I’m still saying this soon.

Then we only have the reviews to worry about!

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Filed under Phil, Publishing, Writing