day four: the different platforms for self-publishing

In July of 2011, I had an idea. 

It was fresh off reading Sarah Mae's How to Market and Sell Your eBook. I was super-inspired by her go-gettedness and knew I had a story to tell. I looked around at everyone publishing their mini-memoirs and guides and eBooks and I thought why not? 

I compiled some published blog posts and filled in the gaps, telling the story of how Beauty pursued me. I'm still proud of myself for putting it out there, but it was rough copy at best. But once I was done, I had to figure out the platform. How would I get this book into people's hands?

I purchased an eCommerce package for WordPress and sold the eBook through my site. The whole process was easy enough, although it took some consistent leg work to make sure the PDF was linked correctly, the emails were being sent, and the payments were going through once purchased. Overall, it didn't work for me because of the required maintenance behind the scenes. It sold maybe ten copies. I needed something I could upload and then forget about (wrong idea, we'll deal with this later).

So I started learning about the different platforms. I was too lazy to deal with all of the different options, so with my first eBook, I just chose Amazon. Because I knew I wouldn't sell the book anywhere else, I enrolled it in KDP Select. Note: don't enroll in KDP select. It doesn't work and, if you are picked up by a publisher, the process will be delayed because of KDP's strict policies about only offering your book through them. Outside of formatting (we'll deal with that later as well) Amazon is a simple system to figure out and the one we'll focus on today.

You have the KDP dashboard, where all of your books are located. (See the two not currently published? They never will be seen again, folks. Thank baby Jesus for the un-publish feature). 

Setting up a KDP account was so easy.

Go to
Sign in with your amazon account.
Welcome to KDP.

The yellow square that says "add new file" is your next step, and this takes you through all of the questions about pricing, publishing date, and distribution. 

Your book title + a bunch of important pieces of information to your right.

Your book title + a bunch of important pieces of information to your right.

Do you own this book? Do you know the genre? Do you have a release date?

Do you own this book? Do you know the genre? Do you have a release date?

Book cover + manuscript (or other words, OHMIGOSH THIS IS REAL, NOW) 

Book cover + manuscript (or other words, OHMIGOSH THIS IS REAL, NOW) 

Pro tip: In the second graphic, you see "Release Options" — you want to make your book available for pre-orders. I promise. 

One of the biggest things I love about Amazon is their "What's This?" question off to the side of each section — hovering over this link will allow some more information about what they're asking you. 

The next page deals with pricing, and here's another hint: if you're using different platforms (and you should because variety and not everyone owns a kindle) uploading books on Nook or iBooks or Kobo first somehow makes Amazon work faster. Not sure why. This is especially true if you're changing the price and making the book cheaper.

We'll talk about choosing the right price later in the month.

As for other platforms, Nook & Kobo just might be the easiest in the world. NookPress even has the option of writing your book within their system, but I haven't tried it. Kobo readers are super-popular in the UK and Canada so if you're wanting to reach a wider audience I'd consider posting your book on their platform. 

Of course, there's Smashwords and other websites that offer formatting + distribution to all channels, but for me I've found it's easier to know how KDP, NookPress and KoboLife work in case something goes wrong in the release. I know some people love and swear by Smashwords. I just don't use it.

So what about making your book available in paperback? Createspace is amazing and even offers the Breakthrough Novel Award and free publishing resources. Their process has been so easy both times I've used it for my novels. Once you go through the steps of uploading your manuscript into their system, you'll order a proof and they'll deliver it to you for hands-on editing and proofing.

Another hint: when you find a cover-artist (or if you're creating your cover yourself) make sure they'll be able to give you the proper specs for your paperback. 

Once you proof the book and check the box signaling everything is good to go, Createspace works with Amazon on linking your paperback to your .mobi file. And, you can even work backwards and upload to Createspace first and then format your eBook based on the paperback files. I've never done this. But it's an option within their system.

Here's what's important: you can do this. I know that when you first begin to look at everything it's so overwhelming and you don't even know where to begin. We'll talk a little more about this tomorrow. But you can do this. I promise. When I first started putting my work out there, I got lazy and didn't research and refused to learn because I was "too busy" and "it was just an eBook" — resist those thoughts. It's scary, I know. It always is when you're doing something new to you. 

But you got this. You'll see. There's nothing like holding your words-that-fill-a-book in your hand.

What other questions do you have about platforms? Let me know. I'd love to answer them in the comments.

Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing. Come join us?

Posted on October 4, 2014 and filed under indie publishing, writing.