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Sunday, December 12, 2021



It's a conundrum.  Which to choose when publishing your book?  

There are many choices with producing a digital book.  Amazon, obviously, is the biggie.  Their publishing arm is KDP.  You produce a single page-sized jacket converted to pdf, and then upload your manuscript as a word document.  If you want details, my blog Publishing Your Novel on Kindle has been a standby for many since I put it up a bunch of years ago. 

I've had many, many thank you notes and comments since then.  About a thousand, last counting. People have found it very useful, which is terrific.

Not much has changed since then.  It is still possible to design your jacket on powerpoint, though you get better text definition with adobe.  But powerpoint is a lot, lot easier.

As for the interior, don't bother with adobe. A good word manuscript is best.

With KDP it is easy.  With Draft 2 Digital  it is very easy, too, and you get a prettier book, as they offer all kinds of fancy embellishments.  So I always go for both.

The hard part is the paperback (or hardback, if you are really ambitious).

The two big platforms are Amazon's KDP and Ingram Spark, an umbrella that includes Lightning Source. And so, with Daughters of the Storm, I looked at both.

There is plenty on the internet if you want to compare the price and pricing structures.  

I recommend OldMateMedia  and the Alliance of Independent Authors' Watchdog. The second is somewhat out of date, as CreateSpace, alas, is no more, being taken over by Amazon's KDP, but the tips are still good.

The conclusion I came to was to use both.  Amazon is great for selling KDP books on the labyrinthine Amazon site, and even seems to give preferential billing to books that are published with them.  But they are not as good at selling print books as they are with digital, in my experience, which goes against the statistics of the bookselling market, where eBooks have never surpassed 25% of sales.  You can opt for extended distribution, but the financial return is not very good.

With Ingram, on the other hand, you have the chance of getting your book into actual stores.  By paying $150 you get it listed in their catalogue, so while the stores might not actually stock the book, they can find it easily if a customer asks for it.  And the author's cut for international print book sales is definitely better than Amazon's.

But how hard do they make it to publish your print book?

The robots at KDP are very, very picky. With the text, you have to watch the page breaks, as blank pages will slip in if you are not very careful.  The formatting problem seems worse with a pdf manuscript, and I found it was best to upload a good word document.  And it has to be good.  Investing in the new Microsoft 365 turned out to be a must.  It's expensive, but can be shared with five other authors.

Creating the cover is truly awful.  KDP have a so-called Cover Creator which has six designs to choose as a template.  All are terrible, in my honest opinion.  The back is cluttered, and the front has badly placed text.  But you might like it, so go ahead if you do.  But I warn you that glitches are so frequent that it feels as if they are embedded.  It is much better to download a template with nothing but guidelines, so you can create your own. Fill in the boxes with the trim size of your book, and the number of pages, and then have fun with your images and text.

Luckily, KDP does not charge for changes, because that message that your book needs further attention will come up often.  The problem is the spine.  The title of the book, and the author's name have to be within a strict parameter, so that if you add a little image, a glyph, or a colophon, it has to be ridiculously tiny.

And then, when I ordered proof copies, the damn spine did not look right.  It bled over to the front.  Grr.  

Ingram has a template generator.  You have to subscribe, which is free, and you also have to have an ISBN.  When you explore their site you can find a free one, so try that, if you don't have your own ISBN ready. But when you have filled in all the boxes on their template generator page, they will send you a free template for your cover.  Open it on adobe, save, and work away.  Be careful to save every change under a different name, so that you keep a record.  And it also pays to cut out the ISBN on the template, save it as a jpeg, and crop off the pink and blue surround.  Then you will have it ready to insert after you have done everything else.

Your interior has to be a high-quality pdf. Their website has plenty of tips, and the community is also very helpful.  Which is lucky, as the robots -- and the people -- are very picky indeed.  And every time you change, it costs, so it pays to get it right from the very beginning.

First, you start with your word document, complete with front matter, back matter, copyright page, list of previous publications, any acknowledgements, a table of contents if you use one, maps, images, and author biography.  

Then you convert it to pdf by PRINTING to adobe.  Don't use the "convert to pdf" option in save, as it does not work.  You hit "print" and choose "adobe" and you alter the properties from standard to PDF/x-1a2001.  

Don't worry about page size.  Because once you have your interior as a pdf, you have to crop every page to your trim size. KDP do that for you, whether you submit a word doc (recommended for them) or pdf.  But Ingram does not.

If you have trouble, the community helps a lot, and I also found that the staff in Australia were very proactive, maybe because Ingram has only recently set up there, and it is all new and shiny.

The cover needs a lot of care.  There is the same pickiness with the content of the spine as there is with KDP.  So keep your title and author's name well within the guidelines, and be very particular with any small image or colophon you might add.

So, what is the result of all this hard work?

KDP, remember, is free.  But the return for extended distribution is small.  And KDP is very mean about passing on royalties in any currency save the US.  With every market, your royalty has to be more than $100 US for you to be paid.

This does not happen with Ingram.  Daughters of the Storm is the third book I have published with them, the others being The Discovery of Tahiti and Tupaia, and I have been very happy with both their reporting and their payments. There is that upfront $49 US plus $150 if you want to get into their catalogue, but I covered the costs quickly.

Quality of the product.  Ingram wins hands down.  The book looks and feels great.  The paper quality is wonderful, and the jacket is very slick indeed.  The KDP product is second-rate, when the two are compared.  

But I guess you get what you pay for.

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