Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pros, Cons, & Steps for Publishing Your Own Book on Amazon

by Jodie Renner, fiction editor and author of writing guides      

(updated 2017)

I get a lot of questions from newbie / aspiring authors interested in self-publishing their book. Many don't realize that it's free and relatively easy to publish your book on Amazon as a Kindle e-book. And fast! It takes about 12 hours to appear on for sale, and you receive your 70% royalties every month!
I’ve published seven books myself on Amazon since July 2012, as e-books for Kindle, and have published five of them in trade paperback as well. 
Here are some pros, cons, and tips, based on my experience:


- Amazon sells more books than all the other publishers combined.

- It’s free to publish on Amazon.
- You’re in control. You control the whole process from start to finish and retain all the rights to your book.

- It’s fast. You don’t have to wait around for agents to respond. You upload the book and it’s ready to sell in 12 hours or less. You can start earning money right away while you write the next one!

- More and more people are buying e-books. You can take a Kindle or other e-reader anywhere, with more than a thousand books inside it! And e-books are quick and easy to purchase from wherever you/they are – with one-click buying, the e-book appears on your/their Kindle within seconds.
- Readers can also read your e-books on their computer, tablet, or smartphone. Just download the free app from Amazon.

 - You get 70% of the list price of your book (if it’s priced between $2.99 and $9.99; otherwise 35%), as opposed to 10-15% from publishers – IF you can get an agent and publisher to accept your book!
- You don’t need to write a whole book. You can publish a short story or article and sell it for $0.99 (you get 35% if it’s under $2.99)

- You get to control the pricing, so you can raise or lower the price of your e-book whenever you want, to boost sales.

- It’s easy to upload your book to Amazon and you can revise it as frequently as you want and just keep replacing the one that’s there with a better version.

- You can check your sales stats daily (or hourly) and watch them rise. You can also view stats graphs over time (and geographically) to see what’s working and what isn’t to promote sales.

- You receive your royalty payments every month (one month’s delay), as opposed to annually or quarterly from publishers or distributors.

Amazon helps promote your book, through your book’s Amazon page, emails they send out mentioning it, and their feature, “Customers who bought this item also bought…”

- If you enroll in KDP Select, you earn money when people borrow your book, you can offer it free for up to 5 days out of every 90 as a promotion, and you can take advantage of other great Kindle promo ideas, like their Kindle Countdown Deals, and their Matchbook program, where, if readers buy or have bought the print version of your book, they can buy the e-book for free.


- You’re in charge of quality control! So you need to guard against publishing it prematurely. Make sure it’s polished and ready! The competition is fierce out there, and reviewers can be very critical if you publish a book full of typos or otherwise hasty or amateurish writing. Don't shoot yourself in the foot and damage your reputation by publishing a less-than-professional book.

- Although publishing it is free, you’ll still need to pay for editing, a cover design, and probably formatting. And you may decide to hire someone to promote it. You should have a budget of at least $1,500 to spend on all this. $2K or more is more realistic.

- You’ll need to do most of your own marketing and promoting (although Amazon does a lot, too), or hire a publicist. But traditional publishers now expect their authors to do a lot of their own promoting, too. Mid-list published authors basically are expected to do all or most of their own promoting, including paying for it.


1. Write with wild abandon.

2. Revise. See my articles “Revising, Editing, and Polishing Your Novel,” “How to Save a Bundle on Editing Costs,” and “How to Slash Your Word Count by 20-50% – and tighten up your story without losing any of the good stuff!”

3. Run it past a critique group or “beta” (volunteer) readers (smart people who read in your genre – don’t need to be writers themselves).

4. Revise again, based on feedback you’ve received from your critique group or beta readers (using your own judgment on what advice to accept and what to ignore, of course).

5. Find and hire a reputable freelance editor who specializes in fiction (if that’s what you write) and reads your genre.

6. Revise, based on the editor’s suggestions.

7. Hire a formatter (or do it yourself if you know a lot about formatting). See my article, “Basic Formatting of Your Manuscript (Formatting 101)”.

8. Hire someone to design an eye-catching, professional looking book cover. Be sure the title and author can be read on the thumbnail size posted on Amazon. Google “book cover designers.” or check the list of Resources on The Kill Zone blog.

9. Publish on, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

- Decide on two categories, add a great book description, think of 7 keyword phrases (search words), and write an interesting author bio, with links and a photo.

- Once it's been up for a while as an e-book and you've had a chance to tweak it if it needs it, consider publishing it in print as well. That's basically free, too. It's Print on Demand, so the books aren't printed until people (or you) order some. But it's surprisingly quick when they/you do!

10. In the meantime, you’ll have already been building up a social network and platform:

- Facebook, Twitter, author website, blog, guest blog posts for others

- Writers’ groups and organizations, Goodreads – lists, giveaways

I suggest, as a minimum, a Facebook page and either a website or a blog. If you don’t have time to blog regularly, create an author website instead.

11. Start actively promoting your book – but don’t be annoying. By the way, Amazon does an excellent job of promoting your book for you, for free, especially if you enroll in KDP Select. See my article on Crime Fiction Collective, "Thanks, Amazon, for Promoting my Book for Free!"

12. Start writing the next one. Or publish a short story based on characters from your book and price it at $0.99. Your second book will help sell your first one.

Good luck with all this! I look forward to seeing your book on sale!

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: FIRE UP YOUR FICTION,  CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, QUICK CLICKS: Spelling List and QUICK CLICKS: Word Usage. She has also organized two anthologies for charity: VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – Stories and Poems about Life in BC’s Interior, and CHILDHOOD REGAINED – Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers. Website: Facebook. Amazon Author Page.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Checklist for Before You Submit or Publish Your Novel

I recently discovered an excellent article by James Scott Bell, published on The Kill Zone blog in 2010. Here's the beginning of Bell's post, with a link to the rest.

Before You Submit

by James Scott Bell

The May/June issue of Writer's Digest has a sidebar from YA editor Anica Morse Rissi, wherein she gives nine things you can do to elevate your manuscript before submission.

The list is right on, not only for getting a manuscript ready to submit to agents or editors, but also if you're considering self-publishing. So I'm going to give you the tips with my own commentary on them.

1. Revise, revise, revise.

As the author of a whole book on the revision process, I'm not going to quibble with this one. You can, however, become "revision obsessed" and spend way too long on a project. In my book I give a process for getting over that, but you can just as well come up with one of your own, so long as you eventually send your work out. Not too soon, but not too late, either.

2. Start with conflict and tension.

This is perhaps the most important tip of all. Some of our highest traffic here at TKZ has come from posts on what to do -- and what not to do -- on first pages, as well as the numerous first page critiques we've done. Search those out in the archives. Now, conflict or tension does not have to be "big." It can really be any sort of disturbance to the Lead's ordinary world.

3. Don't start with backstory.

An obvious corollary to #2. Backstory is best when it is delayed, although little sprinkles can be added to the first pages for depth. Just make the action primary up front.

4. Give the readers something to wonder about.
For the rest of these great tips, with Bell's commentary, click HERE.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Key Essentials for An Authentic YA (Or Adult) Voice

by Jordan Dane

Purchased from Fotolia by Jordan Dane

This excellent article by Jordan Dane appears in full on The Kill Zone blog. Click on the link at the end to go to the rest of the article

On Oct 17th at the KILL ZONE blog, I critiqued the first page of an anonymous author’s work –A Game of Days. Some interesting comments on the YA voice came from this post and I wanted to share more on what I’ve learned from writing for the teen market. My personal epiphanies. 

Writing for the Young Adult (YA) market and capturing the voice of YA is less about word choices (and getting the teen speak down) than it is about getting the age appropriate decisions and attitude right. Urban fantasy or post apocalyptic plots can build on a world that is unique and unfamiliar. Books like the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or the Divergent series by Veronica Roth can have its own voice, so teens are familiar with reading books like this.
When I went looking for solid examples of teen dialogue or introspection to share at a workshop, I searched some top selling YA books, only to find the voice I expected wasn’t there. Sure there are YA books where authors can sound authentically teen, but to keep up the realism for a whole book can be a challenge and an overabundance of “teen speak” can date the banter or be too much for adult readers to catch. (Yes, adults are HUGE readers of YA.)

As you read through this list, think about how each of these tips might also apply to writing ANY voice, even book intended for adults. Many of these tips work for cross-genre writing.
Key Essentials for An Authentic YA Voice:
1.) Use First Person or Deep Point of View (POV)

For the rest of this excellent article, click HERE.