Picture the scene. You have a great idea for a book. You write, re-write, delete the whole thing and start again. You polish your draft into a shiny little word-strewn bundle of hope.
And then... you try to get it published.
Not so long ago, the debut author's journey could easily have ended right there - and in most cases, it did. But then those clever chaps at Amazon invented the Kindle, and not long after that there was Kindle Direct Publishing, a platform that allowed authors to release their own work direct to the e-reader. Authority to the authors! Power to the people! Joy and jubilation, etc. Self-published works began to flood the market.
It was a family member who first suggested KDP to me. I'd been working with a good agent but my novel had been turned down by several publishing houses; deflated, I was ready to retire the manuscript and start work on something else. My aunt thought this was a waste. So I did a bit of research. The more I read, the more encouraged I was: I kept hearing stories of authors who had succeeded in introducing their work to an entirely new audience through e-publishing, whilst word filtered down that the 'traditional' publishing industry seemed to be a bit lost, with print sales falling and electronic sales rising.
beats per minute, my debut novel, was published to Amazon a few weeks ago. But - despite being a keen Kindle-user myself - the process wasn't quite as easy as I thought it would be. Sales (thankfully I've had a few), reviews (ditto), marketing: these were things I expected to worry about. However, just the process of getting your manuscript 'KDP-ready' can be a lengthy one. Here are a few things to consider:
Get a great front cover. If you're a debut author and not exactly awash with cash (like me), it's tempting to ask your friend's brother/sister/cousin who has a bit of experience with Photoshop to whip something up for you - but I'd avoid this. I worked with a graphic designer on mine and in the end we went for something fairly simple but striking. Bear in mind that your cover needs to have impact when viewed as both a thumbnail and a larger image, so it's best not to over-complicate things.
Write a kick-ass blurb for the product page. This is a pitch that must convince readers to buy your book, but it should be short, snappy, and not give too much away. beats per minute is an otherworldly, suspenseful, coming-of-age fantasy - a good yarn that will appeal to fans of Harry Potter or the Hunger Games - but it doesn't fall into Amazon's key fantasy categories of wizards, vampires or werewolves. Indeed, the book has its own mythology, and this can be more difficult to explain in a succinct manner. But persevere - your product page is your 'storefront', so it's worth the time taken to get it right.
Leave plenty of time for proofing and formatting. Forget about how the book reads for a second; first, it needs to look like the real thing. It's a given that your text should be free of spelling errors and line-spacing oddities, but there are other elements to incorporate, such as a table of contents and bookmarks (which you'll need for Kindle's 'go to' function to work correctly). Then there's your title page - Kindle doesn't accept funky fonts, so you may have to design and embed a suitable image if you want this page to have suitable impact. These sound like small and obvious things but they add up - and getting all the elements right can be a lengthy process.
Do your research: pricing and keywords. Research shows that a 'one size suits all' pricing model isn't necessarily the best way to go: there are a huge number of 99p book sales in the UK, but in the US people are more likely to pay around 5 dollars. I'm not suggesting that a debut author should necessarily market his/her first self-published e-book at $5, obviously (!), but you might want to make slight adjustments depending on the local market. Keywords and categories are worth careful consideration, too: there are a bunch to choose from, and it's made more confusing by the fact that the categories you're presented with do not match those you would find if you searched on the Kindle store yourself.
Preview, preview, preview... and good luck! Amazon's online tool allows you to preview your uploaded book on multiple devices (including the Kindle Fire). Be prepared to discover formatting issues and missing images aplenty - and bear in mind that you can't edit from within the previewer. Each time you make corrections, you'll have to reupload the draft. But, again, it's worth spending time to get this right.
No matter what happens after you hit 'publish', there is an undeniable sense of achievement and even euphoria that comes with seeing your work in 'print' - enjoy it!
Alex Mae's debut novel, beats per minute, is now on sale.