January 1st 2014 was a bit different to all my previous new years. I decided it was long overdue that I did something about my parked and buried writing dreams. I bought a journal, and I wrote stuff in it. I wrote down exactly what I wanted to achieve.
And what I wanted to achieve was publishing a book.
So, here I am, three years later . . .
The road to publishing a book is a long one, but for all that, an enjoyable one. With hindsight, publishing a book was both the hardest and the simplest thing I have ever done. Simple, because basically, a book is just a bunch of words written down. But hard because you drag those words out of your imagination and then go over those words many, many times before you feel anywhere near ready to share them, and after you do, you realize you were still not quite ready!
I will liken my experience publishing a book, to my experience emigrating from the UK to Australia. It took me a couple of years to make it happen, nine months to get the residency visa, another nine months to sell our house, cars, and most of our furniture, buy a plane ticket and leave. But once I did emigrate, I realized that it wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as I originally expected. Sure, it required planning, and effort, and there were a huge number of steps along the way, but it wasn’t impossible.
I didn’t know what I would find on the other side, I had no job, no home, and I knew no one besides my husband. Moving country, and especially to the other side of the world, requires a certain leap of faith, and so too with publishing a book.
I published my science fiction novel, Divided Serenity, on 8th December 2016, ten years and five months after I arrived in Australia.
There is no connection between the two events, other than they both happened to me, and that in some ways they were life-changing, and in some ways they were not.
I still get up every morning, go to work, enjoy my cappuccino, and the rewarding aspects of my day job, and then I come home and write. None of that changed because I am in a different country or because I published a book.
The difference is all on the inside.
I love that I was brave enough to move to another country and that I was able to start again, to reinvent myself, and to be someone new. Moving to another country is invigorating, and it instills a sense of self-belief. I still miss my friends and family in the UK, and I know I always will. I miss the funny, quaint little villages and the British sense of humor. I swapped my umbrella for sunglasses and factor 50 sunscreen, and if I ever leave Australia, I know the new list of things I miss will be just as long.
I love that I was brave enough to publish my book, even though I had no idea how it would work out or whether people would like it—I still don’t. Publishing a book is an amazing feeling, but what’s more amazing is the support I have had from my family and friends, and the encouragement from the writing community.
The funny thing about being brave is that it’s all kinds of addictive, and you realize that you can do this, whatever this may be. And you realize too, that whatever happens on the other side you will get through it.
I have learned something about the other side of life changing events, and that is, they don’t really change you, or your ideals, or who you are, at least not in my case. You still get up and do the same things, say the same things, laugh and love the same things, but inside there is this little happy glow that knows—I did it—and nothing can take that away.
So if I had one wish for 2017, it would be for all the people who have a dream or wish or hope that they have been sitting on, to be brave and make it happen.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH KDP PAPERBACK PUBLISHING (BETA)
There is a new option with Kindle direct publishing to add a print book along with your ebook through their site. Formerly, most people would add a print version of their book via CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon. Now you have the option to do this directly via KDP Paperback (beta).
I have no experience with CreateSpace, but prior to deciding to go with KDP Paperback (beta) I had looked at this option. In summary, CreateSpace is a separate company, although owned by Amazon. You need two accounts, one for CreateSpace and one for KDP, and if you are entering tax and personal information for payments, you will need to do all this twice.
It’s my understanding that not all KDP users have the ‘Print Book’ option yet, but that may have changed over the last couple of months (See KDP Print – Amazon is Beta-Testing a Combined Kindle and POD Dashboard). If you don’t have the KDP print option you may not be able to open some of the links supplied below. I really hope they do roll it out soon if they haven’t already, I found it easy to use and was delighted with the finished book.
FORMATTING THE BOOK CONTENTS
In my last article FORMATTING A PRINT BOOK, I covered the details of preparing my manuscript using the templates supplied by KDP Paperback (beta).
THE BOOK COVER
I had my cover created by a designer using 99 Designs (a topic for a future post). Whether you create one yourself or use a designer, here are some considerations:
You have a full wrap opportunity, so why not take advantage of it and select an image that goes all the way around.
You need to be mindful of the space for the binding…and the space for the binding will depend on:
Cover v format v trim size…which comes first: My cover was designed before I got into the details of formatting…not the best way round as the ebook page count can be very different to the print book page count depending on the trim size…but a lesson learned. I definitely recommend you format your manuscript for your preferred trim size before you get the cover design finalised, and better still, before you start designing in case you need to try an alternative to your preferred size as the picture can look very different.
My cover is 6″x9″ which is a large book, and if your book has a smaller number of pages this can look a little slim. At 320 pages on the 6″x9″ format mine looks fine, but at 75k word count you might want to consider a smaller book trim size. Once you have your final number of pages, the binding needs to be adjusted based on the page count / colour option you select.
The above amazon guide has details of the correct cover size and binding size for each book format.
If you are looking to create your own cover, I have always found Canva easy to use, but if you want an alternative, Amazon now also offers a Paperback Book Cover (Beta).
CREATING THE NEW TITLE
When creating a print book on your KDP virtual bookshelf, you have the option to add the Print version to the existing ebook (Select the ‘Add bar’ next to your existing ebook rather than the big ‘Add’ button at the top of the bookshelf page), and this copies all the book information across – bonus! All you need to add is the new ISBN if you have your own, and to select the print options.
KDP PRINT STYLE OPTIONS and UPLOADING YOUR BOOK
The main print options are:
Trim Size: There are numerous book size options, as I mentioned above I went with 6″x9″, which is fairly large, but the most common. Depending on your word count and whether your book is fiction or non-fiction, this is an important consideration and very specific to your own book.
Page colour: White / Cream: A personal choice, but fiction is more commonly cream, and non-fiction is more commonly white.
Cover finish: Matt / Gloss: From reading the forums, matt is a new offering both for CreateSpace and KDP print, and everyone seems to love it. The general feedback was that the matt looked more professional, but again this is a personal choice. I went with matt…and love it!
Bleed: For books with images or drawings that extend to the edge of the page.
Uploading: Once you have selected your print options, got your cover ready, and your manuscript formatted, you can upload. Both the cover and the manuscript (recommended) are uploaded in PDF format (unlike the ebook which takes a JPG for the cover and word, mobi etc for the manuscript).
It is pretty easy to upload the manuscript and cover, and if you have done the ebook version it is all the same. Just select the file and click to upload, and you are ready to preview your book.
KDP PRINT PREVIEWER
Just like with the ebook there is a print book previewer, and the usual spelling check on the manuscript. The previewer here is a little more detailed and throws up all kinds of checks and warnings…I guess the greater consequence of getting your print book wrong! In particular the cover and binding size. I uploaded several times before I was happy…and that was fine by me. You have to press ‘approve’ before you can proceed to publish, or return to the upload page if you need to tweak it. My advice is take your time, have a good browse around the book, zoom in on the font, and make sure everything looks good before you hit approve and move on to publish.
KDP PRINT COSTS
Before you get commission, there is a printing cost, and, Amazon set a minimum sales price. So even if the printing costs x, you can only sell your book for a minimum of printing cost /royalty %. It’s not huge, but just something to be aware of. Unlike an ebook that you can give away for free, the print book minimum sale price is the printing costs + extra. See Paperback Pricing (beta) for more details. From looking at the overall royalty received via CreatSpace for the same trim x page count, my book royalty earnings is exactly the same for sales through Amazon.
Author printing discount: At the moment there is no option to print your own book at less than this minimum cost. However, on CreateSpace I understand you can print your own copy(s) for just the print cost and the shipping. Since I am not intending to print a large number for distribution myself at this stage, I was Okay with the extra couple of dollars for my own copy (and since I live in Australia I get a hefty slug on the exchange rate and shipping anyway – we do not have a printing centre here). If you want to print a batch for friends, family, or personal distribution this is worth considering before you chose KDP Paperback (beta). I am hoping they provide this feature in the future on the KDP one, but will have to wait and see…but definitely worth considering before you commit.
Finally, as part of the listing, you have an option to let paperback purchasers have an ebook version for free or at a nominal 99 cent.
TIME TO PUBLISH
When I published my ebook it was available within a few hours.
The print book took several days before I could order it. It was reviewed within a few hours, appeared on the site but independent of the ebook the next day, and then finally sat in a status of ‘not available’ for 2 days. Once it reached this ‘not available’ status the two books were already connected.
I found KDP Paperback (beta) easy to use. There was plenty of guidance along the way in terms of formatting the manuscript and the cover. And now that I have a copy, I am delighted with the result!
Would I use KDP Paperback again? Absolutely. The worst part was the manuscript formatting, which took me a good day and half, but much of this was pausing to research the various options along the way.
Having no prior account with CreateSpace, publishing both versions of my book with KDP made the job easy, and I can now see all my earnings and sales stats in one place.
Formatting a print version of your novel can be tricky, so when it came to tackling my own book I approached this task with caution. I own a kindle so I was comfortable in self-formatting the ebook version, and have been putting my own books on a kindle for review purposes for many years. Printing a book is very different, and you never really know what it will look like until the book is sitting in your hand.
I have recently published my paperback through KDP Paperback (Beta). I will be covering details of my experience using this in my next article Publishing a book with KDP Paperback (Beta), but I will also make some reference to it below in the context of the formatting.
Formatting – Font
Getting the font right on a print book is vitally important, and perhaps more so than with an ebook where the reader has an option to select a preferred font for themselves. You want the book to be readable such that the reader is not thinking about the font at all. On the other hand you don’t really want to be boring and just settle for Times New Roman. So, I started researching printing fonts, and was delighted to find a wealth of stats out there on the most common and easily read fonts.
The following article was one of my favourites (The Wisdom of Fonts – 10 book typefaces that can’t go wrong). Some of the other articles I found started going into 30+ fonts and giving each a write up, which as a newbie to print publishing was just way too much information. This article narrows it down to the top 10 best fonts (5 print, 5 ebook), and provides a nice straightforward explanation on each of the most common fonts.
Serif typeface is best for printed book body text.
Sans Serif type is best for ebook body text
There are a few more options when it comes to titles and headings.
Different fonts take up more or less space and so this should be considered as part of the overall formatting.
For my book I decided to use Garamond for the body text. My novel is fairly chunky at 100k word count, and Garamond is slightly more compact, which gave me the option to add some line spacing while keeping it to a reasonable number of pages (see below for line spacing).
Formatting – Template
As I mentioned above I decided to use KDP Paperback (Beta), which has 2 book formatting templates for you to use (Paperback Manuscript Templates – Beta). I did all my formatting in Word using this template and then, as was recommended, saved to PDF for upload.
One template is blank and one is pre-populated. I tried using the blank one, but after a few failed attempts found it easier to use the populated one and then carefully pasted my work in a section at a time. I would recommend you turn the Word Formatting option on while pasting otherwise it is easy to cut out the section breaks, which are vitally important if you want the finished book to look professional.
For example, the pre-populated one comes with all the headers and footers so that each chapter will:
Have no header for the first page
Have a alternating author / book name for the rest of the chapter pages.
If you chop out any section breaks it will mess this up!
It also correctly formats the book so that the alternating pages have a space where the book will be bound…perfect!
So for me the template was a win, and although I had to paste each chapter in (and I have 55 chapters!) it didn’t take that long.
Formatting – Front Matter
Every book needs its front matter and the pre-populated template comes with all usual sections.
Add your copyright, (and editor, cover designer), and the important all rights reserved / this is fiction bumph.
Here is a copy of the ones I used:
The this is fiction bumph…
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
The all rights reserved bumph…
All rights reserved. This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the author.
Formatting – At the End
Most books use the end as an opportunity to sell the reader another book, and why not. I added two more pages at the end of my manuscript. One page for the details of book 2, and one ‘about the author’ page with my website address.
Formatting – Details That Make it Look Professional
Among all the websites and blogs I viewed while researching, I came across this little gem by Derek Murphy (The 8 brilliant fonts you NEED to use in your book layout). While I ultimately did not use one of his lovely combinations for my own book I could immediately see from his examples how a little care could make a book look professional.
So my tips would be:
Think about how your body text works with your titles.
Think about how your internal heading / titles and book cover titles work together.
Think about your book genre in relation to all the above.
You can get a little funky with your chapter titles and book cover font, but approach body text with caution. People need to read it easily!
Formatting – Other Considerations
Line Spacing:The template is set to a single line space. This looked a little tight to me so I hit the google forums and found a wide range of people swearing by a print book line spacing of anything from 1 to 1.5, although most were closer to 1. I played around for a little while but finally landed on 1.25 as a line spacing I felt comfortable with for my selected font. I put no other paragraph spacing in, and left the first line indent as per the template.
Drop Cap: I love drop cap…it just lends a sense of professional to the finished product IMHO. So I used a drop cap at the start of all chapters of size 3.
Book Title and Chapter Headings: I elected to use the same font for my book: title on the cover, the internal title page, chapter headings, and the page headers. I used Dolce Vita, which has a bit of a reemerging retro-scifi-feel and I was very happy with it. Not the clearest font when small, so I kept my chapter headings reasonably large, and since I was only writing numbers i.e. there was no specific chapter name, I was happy to stick with that font.
Finishing the formatting…
So, by this point I had a beautifully formatted book, with headers, footers, correct binding space, all my front matter, copyright, correctly sectioned chapters, I added a flourish with my drop cap, and finished with a couple of closing pages.
As per their recommendation, I saved a copy as PDF and it was ready for upload. Done!
Lets talk bad guys. Most stories have one. Well crafted or otherwise, speculative fiction is full of them. Not that any one actual character is essential as the obstacle the protagonist has to overcome. Sometimes its simply the environment they’re in, other times its a whole alien species in the vein of StarshipTroopers or Ender’s Game. Maybe the story is more reflective, and the protagonist is on a voyage of self-discovery in which the only real obstacle to them achieving their goal is themselves.
While reading for Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, I’ve come across all of the above, and they each have their own merits and drawbacks. The main trade off I’ve found with stories of these types is that they tend to be able to bring forth more intellectually complex and morally ambiguous plot development than the simple good vs. evil narrative, but in doing so…