Here a format, there a format (Pt. 3)

(You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

You now have a story written, edited, proofed and formatted. What now? That’s easy and yet not so easy. You have a few business decisions to make. The first is where you are going to sell your e-book. There are four main sites most of us in the U. S. look to: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Smashwords. Related questions are whether you want to go exclusive with any of the sites and how you want to upload to them.

To go exclusive or not?

This applies mainly to Amazon. The decision to go exclusive or not has no bearing on the royalties you will receive from Amazon for the sale of your work. But it does impact you in other ways. If enroll in the KDP Select program, you are basically agreeing to sell your work exclusively on Amazon for a period of three months. In return for this, you get additional benefits. The first is that your work is enrolled in the Kindle Only Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited. KOLL isn’t all that important right now but KU is. For books read through “loans” under KU, you are paid per normalized page read.

This might seem a bit familiar to you. When Amazon moved to KU some months ago, a number of authors were up in arms about it because they knew the new system would bite into the profits they had been receiving under KOLL. Why? Because KOLL had paid a flat fee per title. KU adopted a more fair approach of paying per page which meant short stories no longer brought in the same payment per “read” as novels did.

Another benefit is promotional. KDP Select allows authors to offer their work for free up to 5 days during each 3 month enrollment period. There is also the ability to run what are called count-down deals. These allow you to set discounted prices, with incremental steps up if wanted, until your return to full price.

All of this adds up to additional monies in the author’s pocket. But it also means you need to have an idea of what you might have made from the other markets if you were not exclusive to Amazon. Because you need to be making an informed decision, and because not all readers know they can download apps for the other stores to their smartphones and tablets, I do not recommend going exclusive right off the bat. Just because it works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you.

To upload straight to the sales sites yourself or use a 3rd party site like Smashwords or Draft2Digital?

This is one of those questions that can drive you crazy. Uploading straight to the sites yourself gives you more control. But it also means you have to take time from your work schedule to do so. If you want to upload to iTunes, another wrench can be thrown into the works because you have to have a Mac with a certain OS. Don’t have a Mac? Then you need a friend who does, access to one through your local library or a 3rd party aggregator like Smaswords or Draft2Digital.

Another factor you have to look at is frequency of payment. If you upload directly to the retail sites, you will be paid on a monthly basis (once the initial 60 days is up). Smashwords pays quarterly. Draft2Digital pays monthly. However, both of these are constrained by how often they are paid by the sales sites. You can find more information about Smashwords here and Draft2Digital here. Both of these sites also take a portion of your royalties as payment for their services.

What price should you charge?

I’m going to talk here both as a reader and as a writer. Like most readers, I have an upper limit I am willing to pay for an e-book. Even though a number of folks in traditional publishing have tried to convince us that there is little difference in the price of producing an e-book and a print version of the book, I know differently. Even if a print edition isn’t released, the cost is much less for an e-book. This is because there is no print cost, no cost of storage, no transport cost, etc. Yes, you still have editing, copy editing and proofreading as well as converting it to e-book formats. You don’t have even that (except for conversion) when you have a print book because editing, etc., has already been done and does not need to be done a second time for an e-book.

So, as a reader, I will rarely pay more than $0.99 for a short story. I will rarely pay more than $2.99 for a novella (what I define as 20,000 – 40,000 words) and especially not if I have never heard of the author before. My start to cringe point on e-books is $5.99. For new authors, I will pay $2.99 – $3.99. I will pay up to $9.99 for established traditionally published authors but will grit my teeth doing so. However, I can count on three fingers the number of times I’ve paid more than that for an e-book and two of those were gifts.

Amazon has a nice little tool you can access from your dashboard when you set up a new e-book. When you are determining price, you can check it to see price vs. royalty vs. demand and choose where to set your price. I always look at it but I don’t always follow its recommendations because I also look at what is selling — and at what price point — just then in the genre and sub-genre.

The other thing you have to look at when setting your price is your royalty rate. Under $2.99 (for the major players at least), you get royalties that range from 35 – 40% (if I remember correctly). Over $2.99, your royalty rate jumps to approximately 70%.

What next?

After choosing where you are going sell your e-books and how you are going to get your titles to that/those outlets, you need to either upload your DOC file or convert it to the appropriate format and upload that. You can check with each of the stores and third-party sites to determine the best way for you to do it. Me? I upload the type of file the site sells. In other words, I upload a MOBI file for Amazon (although I will, on occasion upload the ePub version). When I was still selling through B&N and iTunes, I would upload ePub files.

I can hear some of you now wanting to know why I go through that extra step when I don’t have to. The answer is simple. I do it so I can check the way the e-book looks in the native format before uploading it. That means I can make any necessary changes or tweaks ahead of time. That means fewer chances of something odd happening on the store’s end when it comes to conversion. Yes, I do still download the sample file once I’m uploaded my file and I check it (which is why I knew I had uploaded the correct file before the Honor from Ashes debacle).

Process.

Once I have my final, ready to convert version of my Word document, I take a step a lot of folks don’t. I run the file through Atlantis. Atlantis is a cheap word processing program that, in my opinion, sucks for writing on but is excellent in stripping out a lot of Word’s junk code. So I open the file in Atlantis and then save it out as a new file. This becomes my working file for conversion now. Another good thing about Atlantis is it will save as an ePub, giving you the opportunity right then to set up your meta tags, descriptors, attaching your cover image, etc. Once I have the ePub file, I check it using either the BN app or Adobe Digital Editions (because I’m anal about this sort of thing, I usually look at it in both).

Once I’m satisfied, I can upload to any of the sites that accept ePub and be fairly confident that there will be no mucking with the file formatting. I say pretty sure because I learned long ago never to trust Smashwords not to screw up the conversion, no matter what the format. Also, while Amazon allows you to upload a ePub file, Amazon’s native format is MOBI, so there could be some tweaking needed after they convert the file.

If you upload the ePub (or, for that matter, if you uploaded a DOC file), your next step is to verify the converted file the e-store will put on sale. Don’t rely on the emulator. Download that file and look at it using the appropriate app or program.

If, however, you want to convert that DOC file or ePub file into a MOBI file, open up your handy dandy copy of Calibre. Add your file to Calibre and then convert it. You can use Calibre to add meta data, product description, etc. Once converted, check it using your Kindle app and make any necessary tweaks to the file. The nice thing about Calibre, you can edit your file and then save it, meaning you don’t have to go back to the original DOC file. Once satisfied, upload your MOBI file to Amazon and then, duh, check their “converted” file again.

Rinse and repeat as necessary.

Why do I add the additional steps of uploading the native files? As noted earlier, I want to give the e-book sites as little chance as possible of mucking up my formatting. That means giving them something as close as possible to what they use. I know a lot of folks have had no issue uploading DOC files but I’ve heard even more horror stories (and I’ve downloaded some of them) about what has happened in the conversion process. (I won’t talk about the way Smashwords turned half of one book into all small caps when there were NO FRIGGING SMALL CAPS ANYWHERE IN THE BOOK AS UPLOADED.)

I know this sounds like a lot but, once you get the hang of it, it’s not. I can do the conversions while I’m setting up the information page for the store in question.

Other things you have to be ready with.

You need to have a blurb for your book. This is the description that describes and, hopefully, entices readers to buy your book. Too little and you won’t hook them. Too much and you give it away and why should they buy your book? I recommend writing out your description before starting the upload process. Check it and double-check it for any spelling or grammar errors. Also, make sure you have a line between paragraphs when you paste it into the dialog box on the product page. I see a lot of authors who don’t do that and it doesn’t look good. So read it, check it and check it again before hitting the next button.

You need to know the two (or three, depending on the upload site) categories that best fit your book. You also need to know the best keywords to use. Amazon helps you with this by listing a number of them, and the genres they are associated with. You can find that list here.

You need a cover. Check other books in your genre and sub-genre to make sure you are cuing with your cover correctly. Look at the best seller lists. Not only do you need to be aware of what the image is but also the font.

You need to decide where (geographically) you are going to sell your book.

In other words, you need to follow the page(s) as you fill in the necessary information and be very sure what you are doing and what you are agreeing to.

Once you have done all this, you’re ready to hit the publish button. Then you wait. It may take a couple of hours or — if this is the first time you’ve uploaded a title — several days before your work goes live. While you wait, do some promo. Let folks know you have a book coming out. Oh, and start working on the next one.

Finally, once your book is live, check it. You can look at the preview. If your book is enrolled in KU, and if you are a subscriber, you can download the book for free. Just remember it counts as one of your 10 books you can have downloaded at any time. If you see any major problems, fix them and upload a new file.

Note I said “major problems”. A lot of authors look at e-books as something they can edit and change whenever they want. While that is true, it is a good way to piss off your readers and convince them you are a rank amateur. You should have uploaded the best book you could have written at that time, one that is well-edited and proofed. Sure, things slip by. Don’t start uploading a new version every time someone says they found something wrong. Be judicious with it.

Next up will be print formatting and whether you need to offer a print version of your work or not.

In the meantime, mandatory promotion to follow:

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3)

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

 

Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1)

War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails.

Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission.

Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.

 

Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4)

The one thing Lt. Mackenzie Santos had always been able to count on was the law. But that was before she started turning furry. Now she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the public-at-large. She knows they aren’t ready to learn that monsters are real and they might be living next door.

If that isn’t enough, trouble is brewing among the shapeshifters. The power struggle has already resulted in the kidnapping and near fatal injury of several of Mac’s closest friends. She is now in the middle of what could quickly turn into a civil war, one that would be disastrous for all of them.

What she wouldn’t give to have a simple murder case to investigate and a life that didn’t include people who wanted nothing more than to add her death to the many they were already responsible for.

 

About the author

Writer, proud military mom and possessed by two crazy cats and one put-upon dog. Writes under the names of Amanda S. Green, Sam Schall and Ellie Ferguson.

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