I spent a chunk of yesterday putting together the pre-order (really, the release, because the only difference between the two is choosing a future date of publication) for Riven, my next novel, which should be coming out Tuesday, May 30th. I say should because, while all the pieces are there, catastrophic alien attack or a server asleep at the wheel are always possibilities.
And I like hedging.
Anyway, the following is a list of things to think about before you start down the data-entry-tastic road of getting a book onto Amazon. Most of these things apply to other vendors too, and while they’re not all necessary to have in advance, it’s a little like getting slapped with a salmon to be so close to publishing only to realize you’ve missed an essential item.
So, without further ado (this isn’t exhaustive, but should have the major items):
- The Title – OK, yeah, obvious, right? Except there’s a difference between the working name for your word doc and what actually goes on the cover. Ideally you’ve locked this in with your cover art, but, you know, be sure. Sidenote: Be careful with the subtitle field, as these can make the book look messy on the Amazon page. You can change this, so experiment, but I wouldn’t put things like “A Rogue Lobster Wizard Fairy Tale”. Or maybe I would. That might get some readers…
- Description/The Blurb – This is the paragraph or two of awesomeness where you get to describe your book and how its going to change the reader’s life. Sell your glittery vampires. Pitch your prose poem picaresque parody of Peter Pan. Books have been written on how to actually write these, but I change these with regular frequency, just to see what works. For example, with Riven, I’m trying a “first person” description in the view of the main character. It might suck.
- Categories – Again something worth researching, but essentially where your book would fit on the shelves of an infinite bookstore. Amazon gives you two of these for free, and it’s worth noting that you should strive for as “niche” a category as possible. For example, selecting Fiction -> Science Fiction -> Military Science Fiction -> Thundercats -> Snarf as the category for your talking cat-creature romance would get you into the overall Fiction, Science Fiction, Military Sci-Fi, and Thundercats categories along with a coveted slot in the Snarf section.
- Keywords – Essentially Amazon’s version of cheat codes, your keywords are your chances of getting your book in front of readers in different categories or genres. Riven, for example, blurs the lines between Fantasy and Steampunk. It’s also fast-paced and action-driven, so by using those keywords, I can get it into categories like Action and Adventure without actually setting that as one of the two main categories. There are zillions of posts and resources to help you choose your keywords – remember, too, that these can be adjusted. If you’re not seeing the sales you want or your book has vanished into the miasma of giant categories, try swapping these up to get into a more appropriate niche.
- About the Author – I tend to use a stock thing that I have on my Amazon Author page for all of these. You could, of course, make this into a series of running gags and/or riddles pushing people to check out all of your books to get the answer. Or, you know, you could use that time to write more books.
- The Book Text Itself – Here it is. Your manuscript. Now, you may have reams of raw text glory waiting to burst forth into the world, but wait! What about all the fiddly bits? Does your file have things like an Also By page with links to your other books? Does it have a mailing list sign-up? An ask for reviews? Acknowledgments? A dedication honoring that particularly stubborn dandelion that, by surviving weed killer and your own grubby hands, inspired you to write in the first place?
- The Cover – Ideally you’ve already had this made by a designer, or yourself if you’re particularly savvy (or good enough) in the world of art. Note that designing a cover is its own skillset – a good illustrator or painter or even web designer doesn’t necessarily make a great book cover creator. Ideally you’re looking for a title and genre that can be read from a thumbnail size. Upload a file with good resolution. You can, of course, switch this up too, but messing with covers can quickly become a time-sink. If it’s comparable to the best-sellers in your target genre, and people you show it to don’t immediately vomit, you’re probably on the right track.
- The Price – This is one that you’ll definitely want to tweak throughout the book’s life. Right now, I’m launching Riven at $.99 to encourage some sales, get some reviews, etc. After the first week, I’ll likely raise the price to actually earn a little bit off of that popularity (having money for food, I’ve found, is a plus). One thing to pay attention to – anything under $2.99 gets you a 35% royalty, so that’s part of why $2.99 is a good minimum threshold. Another thing – the foreign currency conversions. Take a couple of seconds and take a look at what prices ought to be in other countries. Particularly the ending values. Europe, for example, sets prices to end in .49 or .99. Japan prefers whole values (100, for example). If you want to sell internationally, price for it.
- Publication Date – When do you want the book to go live? Anything more than a few days out pushes the book into a pre-order status. You’ll still have to upload a manuscript for the pre-order, and then it’s up to you to upload the final version three days prior to publication. Amazon will harass you about this, as will other vendors, but I prefer to put up pre-orders when I’m done with the book. Set it and forget it.
Now, there are a few other fields. DRM (don’t do it – pirates are gonna pirate). Kindle Matchbook (paperback and ebook dual-buying), which is worth it if you’ve got a paperback version. Kindle Select/KU, which I’ve talked about before.
Anyway, if you have the above items more or less determined before you click that “Create a Book” button, regardless of vendor, you’ll find the whole process pretty smooth, rather than a rage-inducing parade of horrors.