Learn to Self-Publish an eBook
Tim Lewis: I was originally planning to have Ben Roberts on the show for this episode, but due to some scheduling conflicts, mainly on my side, he will be on the next show. But this week, I’m having a one-off show where a friend of mine, Holly Chessman, who is a very influential woman from the Boston area in the U.S., who reached out to me and said, “Well, I’ve already written the book. I’ve already had it edited. I’ve got a cover, but I don’t know what to do next.” And I’m like, “Hmm, I’ve got a spare slot on the show,” and I think there are quite a lot of people in Holly’s position who, they’ve done all the hard parts, but they just don’t know the final bit of getting their book out there.
Tim Lewis: So, I thought it would be interesting to have this interview with Holly, where I just take her through the last stages of getting your book onto the e-book stores and out as a paperback. With no further ado, let’s go over to the interview.
Tim Lewis: Hello, Holly. Welcome to the show.
Holly Chessman: Thank you, Tim. I’m psyched to be here.
Tim Lewis: I’m going to recapitulate what we said before this official interview started, which is my understanding is that you have basically done most of your book project already. You’ve written the book, you’ve had it edited, and you got a cover design. But you’re almost like in the situation of somebody who’s run a marathon, but you really don’t know where to go for the prize givings. Is that kind of a reasonable assessment of where you are with your book project?
Holly Chessman: Yes, that is exactly right. I was so excited. I had a great time writing it and getting all the pieces ready, and then suddenly, I was like, “What do I do now?”
Tim Lewis: I suppose I should go through some basic questions, A, because I probably should know the answers to these anyway, but … First of all, when you were deciding you want to release a book, you want an e-book and a paperback?
Holly Chessman: Yeah.
Tim Lewis: Or is it just e-book? So, the e-book and paperback, okay.
Holly Chessman: Yep, exactly.
Tim Lewis: Presumably available on Amazon.
Holly Chessman: Yes.
Tim Lewis: Now, this is sort of a question that a lot of self-publishers … Where I know the answer a lot of people would say would be yes, but the realistic answer may be no. Are you of the opinion that you may at some future stage want these books to be available in book stores to be ordered?
Holly Chessman: Possibly, yes.
Tim Lewis: The reason why I say that everybody will say yes to that question is that it’s kind of like that’s a no brainer. But it does actually make a difference in terms of pricing of the book, because the margins you get through a paperback are a lot lower than an e-book anyway. And when you factor in selling it to a book store, they take half of the revenue anyway. So, you have to factor that in with your price, as opposed to if you’re just selling on Amazon, where you haven’t got that half the cut going to the book store. So, it’s kind of where I was coming from on that point.
Holly Chessman: Yeah
Tim Lewis: I suppose the next question is where is your book? Is it on a Word document, or have you used Scribens or some other piece of software for it? Where does your book currently exist?
Holly Chessman: It is in a Word document. That was the template that I ended up using. I wrote it originally in Google Docs, and then I transferred to a Word Doc.
Tim Lewis: And where did you get the template from? What’s this template for? Is it just a book writing template, or is this a format for a book or something?
Holly Chessman: No, I purchased a template from a company that sells book templates basically.
Tim Lewis: Okay, slight background hum there, but I think it’s gone now. And the other question is how long is this book?
Holly Chessman: Now you ask me, of course my mind goes blank, but I think it’s about 200 pages.
Tim Lewis: Oh, okay.
Holly Chessman: It’s not very long.
Tim Lewis: it’s a reasonable length book. And I suppose the next obvious question is what is your book about?
Holly Chessman: It’s called Amplify: Grow your Reputation in the Kick Ass Career you Love. It’s about teaching people, women in particular, but it really can be for anybody, how to grow their voices online and off in a business setting, in order to build their reputation. It started because I speak on that topic anyway, I speak to some general groups, and then I speak to women’s groups in particular. And I’m teaching this and at the end of the conversations and lessons, people would say, “Okay, so where’s your book? Where can I learn more?” And I would say, “I don’t know, where is my book?”
Tim Lewis: So the main purpose of this book is following up for people who have heard you speak, and kind of as an authority building thing. It’s not really to be the next rip-yarning sales book that’s going to be the number one bestseller in the entire world, it’s more to be able to demonstrate your ability. Is that a reasonable thing to say?
Holly Chessman: Yes, that’s correct. I would not complain of course is this suddenly because the world’s bestseller or anything, but no, that’s not really my purpose. So for me, what’s important is that when I talk, people get some value out of it, and they can then take the lessons and apply them to their lives, and really learn how to speak up for themselves. So, if they have something they can take back afterwards and then really take that to heart and use it as almost a reference book, then that will make me the happiest. That’s really the purpose.
Tim Lewis: Okay, I’m going to ask you a very personal question that some people may massively object to, but are you a Mac or a PC person?
Holly Chessman: I’m a Mac person.
Tim Lewis: Okay. Actually for self-publishing, you’re better off being a Mac user, because there is software available for Mac’s that’s actually better than on the PC versions. It’s a bit peculiar in that regard.
Holly Chessman: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tim Lewis: So, fundamentally … have you heard of Amazon’s KDP service, Kindle Direct Publishing?
Holly Chessman: I’ve heard of it, but I don’t really know anything about it.
Tim Lewis: Okay. So, a large chunk of what you’re going to have to do now is go onto I think it’s kdp.amazon.com, which is Kindle Direct Publishing. And you can use your Amazon account to do this, or you can use a different Amazon account. I’ve actually got a different one, but then I’m UK based.
Holly Chessman: Okay.
Tim Lewis: Have you got Amazon Prime by any chance?
Holly Chessman: Yes, yes I do.
Tim Lewis: Okay. So something to consider, are you going to be doing this as an individual, or via your company? Have you got a company, or are you just going to be Holly Chessman?
Holly Chessman: It’s going to be through Holly Chessman Marketing, which is the company, but also kind of me.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, because I mean you know when you log onto Amazon, you’ve got your Amazon account or whatever. So, you will just use your normal Amazon account and you’ll log in to … well I say that, you could use a separate one for your company, I’m not quite sure about … because you will set that account up to pay to a particular bank account for where your royalties go. So, I’m not sure, I think you’re probably all right to begin with just with your normal Amazon account.
Tim Lewis: And if you’ve got Amazon Prime on that account, then you can use the Amazon Prime for deliveries. So that’s why I’m kind of like hmm okay..
Tim Lewis: So, that is not going to be your first port of call, your first port of call is getting your Word document into a format where Amazon can publish it. Now, you can actually upload Word documents to the KDP Amazon service, but then you’re very much kind of however they decide to interpret your Word document format.
Holly Chessman: That sounds dangerous.
Tim Lewis: Yes. I know people have done it, I’ve seen plenty of books where people have done this. But you are very much in the position where you’re vulnerable to how they decide to format it.
Holly Chessman: Yeah.
Tim Lewis: So, there are two main formats that you’ll need. One is an EPUB format, which is electronic publishing document for the e-book. Well, actually there’s a specific Amazon format called .MOBI, but it’s so similar to EPUB that it’s not really an issue. And the other is a PDF document version, which is print ready for the print book.
Tim Lewis: Now, it used to be the case that there were two separate services for print and e-book, so there was Amazon KDP for Kindle, and then there was Create Space for the paperback version. But they’ve recently just been merged together, all into KDP. So, now you can do everything within the KDP interface, and it’s probably worth you setting up in the next day or so, setting up a KDP account so you can get an idea of what it looks like.
Tim Lewis: So, you basically go onto it, and then you can say create a new book. And you’ll need to set up account information, and where you want payments to go, and that kind of stuff. So, one thing you will need to do before you actually publish your book, is you’ll need to create an EPUB and MOBI file for the e-book, and you’ll need to create a PDF for the paperback book.
Tim Lewis: Another thing to consider is that you need to give some thought, and I always forget to do this, but give some thought as to what your book description is going to be. So, that bit of text that you see on Amazon for the listing of your book. And also what categories, certainly in the e-book store, you want your book to be in, because you may have overheard that I’m now an Amazon number one bestseller. Admittedly, in a totally scammed category. But, a lot of people, like you may want to look for your book as to what categories in can fit into in the Amazon e-book store, because there’s an awful lot of not particularly competitive non-fiction categories.
Tim Lewis: And also if your book charts in a category that’s reasonably competitive, then that will help sales of the book, because people well see it in the charts that book. So when they’re buying another book in that category, they think, “Well I like that one,” they’ll see it in the charts with your book and potentially buy your book.
Tim Lewis: So, give a lot of thoughts as to what categories your book can go in to.
Holly Chessman: How many categories can a book go into?
Tim Lewis: Well, it lets you set up two on the KDP interface. But, you can actually go into up to 16 categories. You have to basically email Amazon KDP support to ask them to add you into these other categories. And they’re a little bit hit and miss as to which ones they actually put you in.
Tim Lewis: There’s also specific words you can use, and there’s a keywords section as well. And you can put specific words that force you into other categories. It’s more complicated than it should be, but it’s worth doing the little bit of research on the Amazon store to see how many … because you can tell when you look at a book category. If you look at the number one book in a book category, you can see that its whole rating within the whole Amazon store. So, if you see that your category has book number six in the whole Amazon store, then that’s going to be a harder category then if the number one book is number 350,000, or something like that.
Tim Lewis: So, you can tell the relative level of competition in the categories. That’s something to consider, the book description. Another issue that you … if you want to distribute to book stores as opposed to having it as a paperback just on Amazon, you’ll need to consider buying an ISBN number, or a set of ISBN numbers.
Tim Lewis: Now, I’m based in the UK, and we’ve got different ISBN regulator to you. We’ve got Nielsen, where we have to go online and buy ISBN numbers. I think you’re in the US, it’s Bowker or something. So you can probably Google US ISBN numbers. And what those numbers are, are they are the equivalent to the barcodes on the back of the books. So, without an ISBN number you can’t … well, I’m complicating it a bit here, but if you set up a book on KDP as a paperback, they will give you their own ISBN number. But the trouble is that if you then make the book available in bookstores, you have to go through KDP Print, and the publisher of record won’t be your company, it will be Amazon.
Tim Lewis: And a lot of the smaller book retailers don’t like Amazon at all. And also, if you go through a different service called Ingram Spark, which is a totally different print on demand service, which I’ll come to in a minute, they have much better discounts with the bookstores. So, this is why I was saying about the bookstore stuff makes it more complicated, but it also means that you get wider coverage.
Tim Lewis: So, it’s going to cost more to get ISBN numbers, but you will be able to register that book with Holly Chessman Inc, or whatever your company name is, or whatever publishing imprint name you want to give it. So, Holly Chessman Publishing, or whatever.
Tim Lewis: Depending on the country, they’re not cheap. In Canada and France they’re free, but I bought 100 and I think it comes me like £150 or something like that. So, then I can publish up to 100.
Holly Chessman: Right
Tim Lewis: Yeah, it’s usually more expensive. If you just buy one ISBN, I don’t know what the costs are for Bowker, but I guess it’d be like $10-$15, something like that. Or you can buy a set of them. So, have a look at the Bowker site. I think it’s Bowker who does it for the US.
Tim Lewis: I’m trying to think, what else do you need for the KDP process? So, coming back to the EPUB and MOBI file, now for the e-book, you could potentially do this with just free software. In fact, you could do the whole thing with free software if you want to.
Tim Lewis: In fact, you could do the whole thing with free software if you want to, but there is a really great programme that’s available on the Mac called Vellum.
Holly Chessman: Can you spell that?
Tim Lewis: V-E-L-L-U-M.
Holly Chessman: Okay.
Tim Lewis: I’ll just try and bring up … I can’t remember what their website’s called. Unfortunately, if you type it into Google, you get a load of other stuff. It’s vellum.pub is the website for it.
Holly Chessman: Okay.
Tim Lewis: Vellum.pub
Holly Chessman: Okay.
Tim Lewis: And, I mean, that’s not a cheap tool, but for my last book I actually invested in that, and I’ve got a little virtual Mac that I run it on. That’s like $249. It’s admittedly is a lot, but it does produce absolutely beautiful paperback books in the correct format for … so that’s probably the most expensive way to do it.
Tim Lewis: Now, there were cheaper ways to create, certainly, epubs, anyway. There is a programme that you can download from the KDP site called Kindle Previewer. Now, what that will do is you give it your work document, and it will create an epub and a Mobi file from it, which you can then preview on your computer. It will give you a whole load of devises. It will show you what it looks like. In effect, it’s doing what the KDP thing would do if you uploaded the word document, but at least you’re able to see what it looks like. If you use that, that will then create you the epub version, so the actually ebook version of the book.
Holly Chessman: What’s the advantage of Vellum versus the Kindle Previewer?
Tim Lewis: Well, one advantage of Vellum is that it does both ebooks and it does paperback. Paperbacks are more complicated to do because … well, they’re both complicated, right? The fundamental difference between an ebook, so something that you read on a device, and a published, print book is an ebook is much more like a mini website, basically. It’s more or less you get a website, and you zip it up, and that is an ebook. It’s not quite … that’s a simplification, but so an ebook has to be reflowable on any device. The font is not … things like the font and positioning are not really fixed on ebooks. You just tell it, and then the device adapts it to make it fit the right kind of size. Well, in a print book, every last detail of positioning is specified, and what it font is, and what it looks like. It’s very much like the old, traditional print kind of idea. That’s what PDF represents. When you see these people say oh, download a PDF, it’s a print file. It’s not based for web viewing or for online viewing, which is what ebooks are for.
Tim Lewis: The main reason for using something like Vellum is that it actually … it produces absolutely lovely looking books. If you do it yourself, it’s not going to look as nice. It’s going to look a bit crap, basically. Now, I was going through the ebooks idea. You use Kindle Previewer. If you wanted to do the print side yourself for a low cost, right, free, I’m pretty sure … well, they used create space, but I think they’ve still gotten, on the Kindle Print, they’ve got sample template files of what they want the word document to look like. You would have to convert your, the format of your Word document, which may be, if you use the template in the first place, it may be already in a correct format for your uploading to create a PDF, and then you basically just save your file as a PDF and upload that PDF. ‘Cause I think the latest version of Word, even on the Mac, will let you save as PDF, so you save that, and you can upload it to your Amazon print site.
Tim Lewis: There is a bit of a complication in that … I’m slightly all over the place here. Apologies on my logic. But we were talking about bookstores earlier. Now, generally speaking, if you want bookstore distribution, you’re better off to, as well as releasing the book as a print book on Amazon using KDP, there’s also another service called Ingram Spark, which has nothing to do with Amazon. They are run by Ingram, which is one of the world’s biggest book distribution companies, so they are literally like … I think there’s two or three systems in all the bookstores in the world where they type in a book ISBN number, and it will bring up a listing for the book. Ingram’s one of them. It’s the biggest in the US, in my understanding. They’ve got their own print-on-demand service called Ingram Spark.
Tim Lewis: Now, the problem with Ingram Spark is that the kind of PDF files they take are proper, what are called print ready PDFs. The files produced by just doing save as on Word often aren’t correct for that format. You often need to either use something like Vellum, which will produce that kind of higher quality PDF file, or you could be lucky. It could just convert the file correctly. Often those … so you will get in trouble if you want to release it to Ingram Spark because it won’t accept the right file format. That’s another reason for using something like Vellum for producing your books.
Tim Lewis: I mean, to be fair, I’ve only used a programme like Vellum for my seventh book. The other six I did it all the cheap way, so you can do it.
Holly Chessman: It just comes out better if you use Vellum.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. I mean, the other alternative is to find somebody on like … well, not Fiverr, but Upwork or something like that, who will do the formatting for you. There are people who do formatting. If you don’t think you’re ever going to write another book, or you’re not going to write that many books and it’s not worth investing in, it’s just software, you can find somebody who will do the formatting for you. I mean, that could range anywhere from … well, something on … there’s probably people on Fiverr who would do it for you for like $5, but they aren’t going to do a very good job, I would guess, too. There are people who charge hundreds of dollars through it, but you’ve got to ask, really, is it worth it for one book to pay that. That’s another option. You just pay somebody else. They may be somebody who just goes onto their PC and formats it in Vellum for you.
Holly Chessman: Yeah, well, that’s what I keep thinking while you’re talking is I don’t know if it’s worthwhile to pay somebody else to do it if I could just get Vellum for $250, if I’m already going to be spending a couple hundred dollars on somebody else, it’s not a repeatable thing. I would have to continue to do that if I did another book later. I might as well bite the bullet and figure out how Vellum works.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, well, it’s pretty straight forward. It works with Word documents. I had a few issues with my book, which may, depending on the structure of your book, may be an issue of yours. With your book, is it just chapters, or have you got sections within it? Or is it chapters within sections? Or have you got? How is the books structured?
Holly Chessman: There are three main sections of the book, and then within each of those there are chapters. Then within each of those, there are some exercises for people to do.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. But those exercises aren’t really separate sections or anything. Is that a way of looking at it?
Holly Chessman: No, they start on a separate page, but it’s not an entirely different section.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, so I think that’s probably … because I had, the way my book was structured, I had chapters, and then I had sections, and I had sections within sections. I had to do … I had to get to Vellum support to get … because it’s got a very opinionated way of how it formats books. With my book, it was a bit of a trouble to get it working, but I did in the end. Once you get it working, it’s actually really, really good. It produces really beautiful formatting files. It’s why I would recommend it as a programme.
Holly Chessman: Okay.
Tim Lewis: That’s one thing. You’ll need to get your, basically your files, with what the book looks like. We need to get the book description. I would … Now, I don’t do this myself, but I should do. Give some real, full as to the book description and what it’s going to say. You also want, with the ISBN numbers, if it’s anything like the UK service, you want to be looking into that today. And because, with Nielsen, when I bought them originally, I was thinking, oh, I’m going to get some ISBN numbers, and then I realised it took a week and a half to get them. I don’t know what the situation is with Balker in the US, but I wouldn’t … They’re all very old fashioned.
Holly Chessman: What information do you have to give them in order to get an ISBN? What do they need? Other than your money.
Tim Lewis: Mainly your money. You need … You do need some sort of book description, but I think that’s for the listing in the ISBN service. I mean, it’s … people kind of get it wrong. These are just numbers for signifiers, almost an identifier for the book. The barcode, literally the barcodes you see on the back of all books are a visual representation of the ISBN number. It’s just the way that bookstores, or anybody else that listed the book, can know … Well, it’s one thing is it lets them track the sales of your book across all the platforms ’cause you’ve got a common ISBN number. But it is mainly for listing it, and it’s … it’s a bit of a magic number.
Tim Lewis: I mean, Amazon will give you one for free if you use their service, but then you’re basically locked into the Amazon print ecosystem. They’ve got an option on their … well, I’ll talk about that in a minute, actually. There are some extra things that are choices you have to make in terms of how you distribute your book to begin with, both for ebooks and for print. I’ll tell you my advice, but you can feel free to ignore it when I get to that.
Tim Lewis: But anyway, you’ve got … you’ve now used Vellum or paid somebody or done the cheapo option. You’ve got your ebook and your paperback book. You’ve set up your KDP account, and that needs things like … you’re lucky to be based in the US because if you’re not based in the US, we have to do a whole load of extra tax information to get withholding tax not paid in the US. You’re based in the US, so you don’t have to worry about withholding tax, I don’t think. Yeah, so you get your account set up, and then you’ll get an add book option, and you’ve already got your cover design.
Tim Lewis: Is your cover just for the ebook, or that for that?
Holly Chessman: It’s for either. Yeah.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, just an ebook. Yeah.
Holly Chessman: No, it’s for either. She said also, it’s a friend of mine who’s doing this, as well, and she said whatever you need, I can make adjustments as necessary. It can be for whatever format.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, so I’ve done it … again, I’ve done it both ways. I’ve paid designers to do the … well, I’ve actually always paid the designers for the ebook cover. It’s just the paperback one you can kind of do it yourself, or you can … you’re better off to get a designer to do it if you got one.
Holly Chessman: I have no graphic skill. I need a designer for this sort of thing. Good at the writing, not so good with the pictures.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, so this is like if you want to release everything all at the same time, this is another thing you need to consider. When you get your book formatted, however you do it for the print side, you will get a number of … you will know how many pages your book actually is, and that is important for the designer to know because the spine width, IE, the bit on the … when you put a book on its side, that bit is called the spine, so when you’re looking at a bookshelf, and you see all the books all stacked up, that spine width is based on the number of pages of the book and also what kind of paper you go for. There’s options you get on the print side where you got the cream or white paper, and depending on the … depending on the actual options you pick and the number of pages, that spine width, the designer needs to know about it.
Holly Chessman: Okay.
Tim Lewis: She will need to make changes because you’ve got the front and the back, but you’ve got that spine bit, and that spine bit varies depending on the size of paper you use and how many pages you got in your book.
Tim Lewis: Now, what I did for my last book is they’ve actually got their own inbuilt cover designer programme in KDP, where they just let you basically paste on your ebook cover, and you enter you’re own text on this formatted thing where it creates the spine and the back for you. So that’s another option, but it looks better if a designer does the whole thing rather than just, like with my book were the back is me just writing on their template.
Holly Chessman: So the designer would create the design for all of that, and is that something that I then put into the-
Tim Lewis: Yeah, you upload. You get that as PDF as well, and you upload that cover PDF. That’s the front, the back, and the spine, all as one folded out thing.
Holly Chessman: Okay.
Tim Lewis: They would have … well, I mean, it’s literally like if you took a book, and you basically ripped the inside out, and you just laid it all out on the table, that’s what the design of the spine, the front, the spine, and the book looks like. The cover’s on the right, and the spine’s in the middle, and the back’s on the left.
Holly Chessman: Okay. And then is that something that I add into Vellum? Or is that something that I add in straight through Kindle?
Tim Lewis: You add it in Kindle. The cover and the … Vellum’s all about the interior. They’re all … it’s good to use a programme like Vellum because there are little rules that a lot of us will miss, like chapters starting on the right or the left, and this kind of stuff. It will just do all of those conventions for you. I’ve always … it’s very easy to just end up with something that looks a bit strange ’cause you just don’t appreciate because you never formatted a book before.
Holly Chessman: Right. Exactly.
Tim Lewis: What did I forget? Well, I don’t know why I’m doing this. I could just bring up KDP. I mentioned there were some options within the KDP interface for, I would suppose, distribution options. There is something called KDP Select that you could choose to join for the ebooks. Now, if you click yes to that then for three months, you are limited to only being able to release your ebook on the Kindle store. And you say, well, why would you do that, ’cause that’s stupid, ’cause you’re just doing it with them. But you get advantages for being just in the Kindle store. There are an awful lot of self-publishers do this. I don’t anymore ’cause I like going to the other ebook stores that are available out there as well.
Tim Lewis: But the advantage you get is that they make your book available for free download for people who have … I can’t remember the service it’s called. It may be called Select, actually, but you can actually … There’s a service on Amazon where you can pay to get free books, free ebooks. In effect, they rent your book. Being on KDP Select, means that people can rent your book. You will get paid for everybody who reads your book on the KDP service, the KDP Select service.
Tim Lewis: You’ll also get access to a number, well, two potential-
Tim Lewis: … You also get access to two potential promotion options. One is what’s called Kindle countdown deals, where you see, they will let you gradually do a promotion of your book where the price goes down every day. The other option is to have up to five days where your book is free on Kindle. So there are advantages either way.
Tim Lewis: I mean, one advantage to being on KDP Select is you don’t have to worry about going to other ebook stores to monitor your sales or to release your book or anything. Which is something else we need to talk about if you want to go down that route.
Tim Lewis: The disadvantage is that you can’t sell your ebook anywhere else. You can’t even sell it on your own website, because you are committed to be … Under the rules of KDP Select you can only have up to 10% of your book available anywhere else, including your own website and other stores. So you are very much exclusive to Amazon.
Tim Lewis: Now on the print side, there isn’t an equivalence scheme, but they’ve got a lot of what’s called expanded distribution. I’ve never checked expanded distribution, even though I’ve never actually got round to distributing my books anywhere else. But that’s a whole … that’s a …
Tim Lewis: Expanded distribution makes your book available in bookstores from Amazon. Now the reason for not really doing this is that the rates that they give bookstores … The way bookstore selling works is that the bookstore gets a cut of the book. They’re the first people who take their money from the book. And usually they take over half the amount of the book, possibly more, and then you get your cut. Well then the print costs come out of it and then you get your percentage of whatever’s left.
Tim Lewis: Now for expanded distribution I think they only go up to about 40% discount for the bookstores, so the bookstores are used to getting like 50%, 55% of the book. So a lot of bookstores just, over and above the fact that your book will be seen as available on Amazon and the rest of it, the bookstores are just not going to even want to stock your book even if they did … I mean, you could say that there’s an argument that your book is now orderable. Somebody could go into a bookstore and ask them to order your book. But no bookstore has ever really ever going to …
Holly Chessman: No.
Tim Lewis: Well, unless it’s a real hit, they’re not really going to order it through that expanded distribution service.
Holly Chessman: Right.
Tim Lewis: So that’s why most self publishers who want bookstore distribution don’t tick that box, they don’t tick expanded distribution.
Holly Chessman: Yes.
Tim Lewis: They just go for the release to Amazon option.
Holly Chessman: Yeah. No, that makes sense. If you choose KDP Select, does that also mean that you can’t print it or do any of the other [crosstalk 00:32:45]?
Tim Lewis: No, it’s just for ebooks, so …
Holly Chessman: Oh, okay.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. I mean, in terms of the other ebook stores around now, it’s very easy to fall into this trap of thinking that Amazon are just huge. Because they’re huge in the US and the UK, but outside of those countries in the world, other ebook retailers are often bigger.
Tim Lewis: So for example in Canada, Kobo is about the same size as Amazon as an ebook distributor. And in lots of places, in like Africa and Asia, there are loads of other ebook retailers that are kind of …
Tim Lewis: Realistically, how many people in, say, Taiwan are going to buy your book? I don’t know.
Holly Chessman: I was just going to say that. That’s probably not my main market. There may be people from Canada, and I have actually gotten people from Africa before reaching out with interest around it because they’ve seen it on social media. But I would say the vast, like 97% to 99% are going to be US based.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. So it may make sense for you to go down … I mean, one good thing about KDP Select is that it is a three month … They will auto-renew it for you, you have to make an effort to cancel it. But so you could put your book in KDP Select for three months and then take it out and put it everywhere else.
Tim Lewis: The other big ebook stores in the world are Kobo, Apple. Google Play has it, even though it’s like … And also Barnes & Noble have still got their NOOK eReader service, though I think they’re trying to sell it continuously or close it down. So how long NOOK’s going to keep going I don’t know.
Holly Chessman: Yeah.
Tim Lewis: Now there are several ways to get into those other stores. The easiest is to use a service like PublishDrive, which you just upload one EPUB file and they’ll distribute it to those platforms for you for a cut. They take like 10% of the revenue you get from them for distributing it.
Holly Chessman: Sorry, they’re called PublishDrive?
Tim Lewis: Yeah, PublishDrive. There’s a number of different alternatives. I just happen to know the people at PublishDrive. There’s Draft2Digital is another potential service. Smashwords. I mean, PublishDrive are probably the one I would go with, because they’ve got quite a wide range of stores and they can get you into Google Play where someone like Draft2Digital can’t, but it’s very much a kind of personal thing, which one you go for.
Holly Chessman: Yeah.
Tim Lewis: But obviously you can’t use that service if you’re using KDP Select. And it does give you another place where you’ve got to look to see where your sales are. So there’s an argument for just keeping everything in Kindle, in the KDP interface. At least to begin with. But your book is not as available, as I say, really as it would be if it was wide. This is called narrow and wide. Wide is where you don’t put it in KDP Select and you can make it available everywhere.
Holly Chessman: Right.
Tim Lewis: So, yes. I mean, I think that’s … I’m trying to think of any other … Yeah, I mean, you could see, when your book’s out in the year, the way that the publishing prices works, you could publish the paperback first or publish the ebook first. You basically submit it, and then the two or three days later, or usually about a day later actually, you’ll get an email from Amazon saying it’s available.
Tim Lewis: Actually there’s a slight extra item I’ve forgotten about on the print side. On the print side you could ask to have proof copies sent to you, which I generally don’t do, which might sound a bit cavalier. But for you it may work better. The reason I don’t do it is for some reason they keep sending proof copies from the US, so it takes ages to get over here.
Holly Chessman: Right [inaudible 00:36:25].
Tim Lewis: So you may want to get a proof copy and then just check that it looks okay. I mean, it should look fine. They give you a digital proofing tool when you do it. So that’s something to consider. And you can also …
Tim Lewis: There’s a new feature about KDP Print which is quite nice. In that you can go onto your KDP Print dashboard and order author copies. So rather than having to go onto the Amazon store and buy books to send to yourself, you can go to KDP Print and it’ll create an order within your Amazon account for the books at a cost price, so actually the print costs. That might be two or three dollars, rather than whatever price you set the book at.
Tim Lewis: That’s a nice feature. If you want to go to a conference say …
Holly Chessman: That sounds just what I’m wondering. Exactly that.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. I’ve heard that actually Ingram Spark, if you go down that approach and setting that account up, they are cheaper than the Amazon print copies.
Tim Lewis: But to begin with, it’s kind of like, yeah, you probably just want to start ordering the offer copies. That’s one option. Trying to think if anything else …
Tim Lewis: The other thing I’d say is give some thought about your marketing and how you’re going to launch the book. I’m usually too busy at the of day to do that … But the biggest tip to book marketing is to, in the first month of so, you want days when get … you want your sales in a clump of a few days. You don’t really want one person to buy your book everyday for the whole month. You’d rather have 10 people on day one, two and three, because, as I say, that’ll get your book into charts on Amazon.
Tim Lewis: And Amazon is almost like a nuclear chain reactor from a marketing perspective. It will sell books for you if you get enough traction on the Amazon platform. You almost want a spike of sales. You don’t just want one days because they’ve got wise to people doing that, but you want a consistent … Say you want all your marketing to be focused on into a short period at the beginning so that you can get into charts and you can get exposure for your book that way. And then hopefully your book will get … it’ll be in an Amazon chart where people actually looking at it. And you’ll get sales sweeping in the charts.
Tim Lewis: And then, beyond that in the ebook store you get what’s called the also bought’s. When you look at book in Amazon you’ll see people who booked this book also booked this book. Once you get into the position where you’re appearing as an also bought on other people’s books, that’ll get you sales as well.
Tim Lewis: That’s kind of the advice I would say. Try and focus as much … And the other great advantage to being in the first on so is there ought to be new release charts in Amazon as well. That kind of helps. I think I got into some new release chart with my book. Not that it really helped at all in terms of sales, but …
Tim Lewis: Yeah. Trying to think of anything else that’s … There’s probably major stuff that I’ve forgotten about. I suppose probably the best thing to do was that you could obviously message me after the show. And maybe, we’ll have you up … Because you’re kind of like … you’re on the show because there’s a bit of a gap in arranging the other people having interviews. So maybe once all this process is all over, I’ll get you back and you can kind of tell me how totally wrong I got it … And all the things you forget about. We’ll just go and complete you. But maybe that’ll be quite a way away, I expect. Probably next year by now.
Holly Chessman: I hope that I can get the book out and actually I’m getting my act together to get everything together before then so it actually goes out so I can tell the stories …
Tim Lewis: We’ll get you back on when the dust has settled and see how good my advice was. Because I’m sure I’ve missed something major but it’s always good to … I think I told you … I mean, basically most of it could be like go to KDP dot Amazon dot com and by Vellum, it sums up …
Holly Chessman: But it still helps a lot to hear you walk through it. I really appreciate it. It’s hard to tell sometimes just from doing research online where exactly you’re supposed to go. Everybody seems to have a different idea of what’s supposed to happen.
Holly Chessman: And I figured it couldn’t be that complicated because plenty of people seem to do it, but I just wasn’t really sure where exactly I was supposed to go next so this was super helpful for me. Thank you.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. Well the trouble is there are lots of ways to skin the self-publishing cat and everybody’s got their different view on how to do it. I think this is probably accepted as the best … Well. At least amongst the best, non-stupidly expensive ways to do it. That’s the advice I’ve given you. And hopefully you can come back and tell me how great and wonderful it was, next year sometime.
Holly Chessman: I’m excited. Thank you. I really appreciate your help.
Tim Lewis: It was great to have you on the show, Holly.
Holly Chessman: Thanks Tim.
You can find out more about Holly at https://www.hollychessmanmarketing.com/ and if you liked this show you might like Meet Ben Roberts and Making TEA Right Book Decision with May King Tsang