So this past week I published my first ever short story on Kindle Direct Publishing (K.D.P) (and you can get it here). It sounds simple when I type it out like that but, for me, it was a big moment. I wrote the short story last year for a University module called Science Fiction and Fantasy and it was the first thing I’d actually written as a part of my degree that I was 100% in love with.
I decided to publish it on K.D.P on Saturday morning and by that evening, it was being reviewed for publication. It was painfully easy. However, I spent the next few days rushing to do things I should have already had finished. So that you don’t freak out like I did, I’ve decided to list the things I think you need to do/be doing before even thinking about publishing something on K.D.P.
1. Social Media
Sure, I had my personal accounts and a multitude of Pinterest boards that I use for character inspiration, but it wasn’t not enough.
I’ve made an authors page on Facebook for myself where I’m planning to post updates and excerpts of future stories and projects. I’ve made a professional Instagram account where I’m posting similar things to Facebook, sort of like a Bookstagram (my personal Instagram is very casual and doesn’t really say buy my story). I’ve fixed my Pinterest account so that all the boards I don’t want to share with the masses are on private. And finally, I braved Twitter.
Now, Twitter isn’t something I’m really interested in. I don’t know how it works – there, I said it. I’ve Googled and searched for basic tutorials but I just can’t seem to figure it out. Sure, you can tweet your own stuff but how will people find you? Via hashtags? It’s definitely something I need to put more time and effort into.
I know, I know, publishing things on KDP is free. That’s the big appeal. But unless you’ve got thousands of followers on your blog/professional social media accounts who are all saying that they want to buy your book, it’s not going to be an easy road.
K.D.P has a Marketing service where you promote your book or short story etc. for pretty much any amount of money. Depending on which Campaign you pick, it can be as little as 1p a day. However, the more money you put into it, the more likely it is that your book will ‘win the bid’ to be advertised on a specific search page.
If you pick Sponsored Products, like me, you will have to pick several key words that are related to your book. Examples of words I chose are: short story, science fiction and superpowers. For Sponsored Products, your book has the chance to be advertised whenever someone searches one of your key words. The more money you put in (or bid), the more likely it is that your book will be displayed. An added bonus is that you only have to pay when someone clicks on your advert. There’s no guarantee of sales but it means you don’t have to splash out £50 and risk it going to waste.
So, for example, if you put a budget of £10 a day on your campaign and then set your keywords’ bid price for 20p, you would be charged 20p every time someone clicked on your advertisement until £10 has been spent. Then it will reset at midnight and there’ll be another £10 to spend. You can also have different amounts of money for each keyword. For me, I have Science Fiction worth more money than superpowers. That’s because more people are likely to have Science Fiction as a keyword for their promotions so I need to make sure I can compete. However, superpowers is more of a niche and so I don’t have as many people to compete with. The best part? If no one clicks, it costs you nothing. You’ll be given an impression statistic, which is basically how many people have seen your advertisement. This doesn’t cost you anything either as you’re only charged when someone clicks.
For the other option, Product Display Ads, your book will be displayed on other people’s product description page as a ‘If you liked this book, you should read…’. However, there’s a minimum spend of £100 so unless you’re ready to put some serious money into your career as an Author, make sure you read everything carefully.
Another popular form of marketing is through Facebook and, to be honest, I was surprised by how easy it actually was to promote my story. This ties back to when I created the authors page on Facebook for myself. I took my book cover and posted it as an image with a brief synopsis of the plot and a link to where people could buy it. I then had the option to ‘boost’ the post and that took me to Facebook’s advertising process. I filled out all the information and then decided how much I wanted to spend, and how long I wanted to boost the post for. Again, the more money you put into this, the better your post will do.
After you’ve submitted all your information, and filled out your bank details, your post will be sent off to be reviewed by Facebook. For me, it didn’t take very long at all and in no time it was a fully fledged advertisement. You can click on the post to see how well it’s doing – i.e. how many people have seen it, how many people have clicked onto it and so on so forth. However, be careful! It’s very easy to add more money to your promotion. I accidentally clicked to add an extra £10 and there was no pop-up box making sure that I absolutely wanted to do this. While it didn’t matter too much to me, I could just have easily clicked to add £50 to my campaign – something I can’t really afford at the minute.
Before I post my next story, I’m going to make sure I’ve set money aside for advertisement purposes. I suggest you all do the same.
For University, we had to make sure our work was in a generic, readable font, double spaced and size 12. I never even thought about changing any of that before sending my story off for publication. Luckily, it was all fine as K.D.P automatically changes things so that your text is compatible to be read on things like a Kindle. However, I would recommend reading this page (shown below) as it gives a really simplified outline of everything you might need to consider – such as line breaks if you’re publishing a novel etc. so that all your chapters don’t run together.
You can also use the left-hand side bar to find out more information.
You can then submit your own cover, or K.D.P offers a free Cover Creator. I thought, oh, yeah, this will be fine. At first I was happy with the cover I had made but after a few hours of comparing it to other books on Amazon Kindle, I realised just how cheap and tacky it looked. I read an article about how it’s definitely worth spending money on getting a professional cover designed, and I was seriously considering it when I found Canva.
Canva is a website that allows you to make about a million different types of image-based things. From social media posts to marketing materials to book covers. Yes, you can pay to unlock extra but the basic version is of much better quality than K.D.P’s Cover Creator. You can upload your own photos, or pick from a variety of free ones that are already on the site.
There are high quality pre-made covers you can choose to start with, and then edit as much as you need/want to. You can have a simple background and add in illustrations and text. The fonts are all beautiful and you can save the cover as a JPEG (one of the few formats of images K.D.P will allow you to submit for your cover).
Here are three covers I’ve made with Canva. Two are very similar as they’re part of a series (also this is a sneak peek into the next short story of my Technicolour Blood series, Matches) and the third is a separate short story – and potential series – about a girl and and an alien who meet in a dystopian alternate-present.
Another thing I totally forgot about until a few days after publishing my story was a copyright page. Luckily, you can go in and upload new, edited text as often as you’d like – but each time you change something, your book needs to be review again by K.D.P. I don’t know if it’s because I only published a short story, but my work has usually been reviewed within six hours or so. I wouldn’t be surprised if it took longer for larger word counts. But don’t worry, while your new edition is being reviewed – your book is still available to buy on Amazon Kindle.
As for a copyright page, I took a quick paragraph of text from this website and added it in as a page between the title of my story and the beginning of it.
4. Author Page
Everyone knows that authors on Amazon Kindle have Author Pages. But, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to get one. I was eventually emailed by K.D.P asking me if I’d made a page yet – so I followed the link and was taken to Author Central. I had to log in using my Amazon account. However, it all made sense as soon as I began to build my profile. In order to have an Author Page, you have to have a book published on Amazon. It brings up a bunch of books, all by authors of the same name, and you have to find yours. There’s a handy search bar so that you don’t have to scroll through what could be hundreds of pages of books.
One thing I haven’t figured out yet is whether or not I can add social media links. It seems strange that there’s nothing obvious but you can always paste links into your author description.
It was at this point in the week that I realised K.D.P has different websites for everything – something I didn’t really understand. An example of this is that the only way I can find my way onto Author Central is by using the link I went sent via email. Because of this, I’ve created an Amazon folder in my bookmarks where I can save all the important sites; K.D.P, Marketing, Author Central and the sales page for my short story. Now, I’m a tad over-organised but I really recommend doing this just so that you can access things easily. I thought everything would be accessible from my K.D.P homepage, but that’s not the case. Plus, I’ve added my ‘professional’ social media links to this folder just so that I’m not having to search for them on a day to day basis.
Well, that’s pretty much everything I can think of. The reality of publishing your work on K.D.P is that you’re not going to make much money to begin with, unless you’ve been hyping your book up on a blog with thousands of followers. It will take time and patience – but don’t get disheartened. Seeing something you have put so much time and energy into for sale on a website is such an inspiration. I haven’t written so much since I put my work out there. It makes you – as an author – real. You know that if you keep writing and engaging with our community, you will succeed. And, on a less romantic note, you know that if you keep writing and engaging, the more followers you will get and the more copies of your book will sell. Self-publishing your work makes your writing your job. Sure, you might not get paid anything to begin with, but if you’re willing to put in the work, then you’ll soak up the rewards further down the line.