Friday, 24 March 2017

Publish on Amazon and Kindle - How to do it

1 Feb 2016
Self-publishing on Amazon is amazing: It costs little or no money. It makes your book available worldwide. Setting up accounts and going through the proofing process is fairly straightforward and there is lots of How-to information on Amazon, and their customer service desk is efficient… Still, it will help you a great deal if you know in advance where to go and what to watch out for. So here are some useful links for self-publishing through Amazon:

·        Amazon Author Central
Create an account to establish yourself as an author on Amazon, and to set up f.ex. an author bio that will be visible on .com = the US site. To add these details to the Amazon sites in other countries, you have to set up an account there too. (It’s easy because the process is the same. Use when you’re doing the Japanese site J) Read this post too:
Note: Think about what e-mail address you want to link to all your accounts, because all correspondence will go through that address. The same goes for your login and official author name. You want it to be consistent.

·        Kindle Direct Publishing
KDP is the Amazon service to create an ebook (in their file format).

(Tip: If you plan to have a paperback edition as well, first read the CreateSpace info below.)

Uploading is free. You receive 70% or 35% royalties based on conditions like : location of the sale, file size, etc.
Great tip: Subscribe to and watch all the videos on how to prepare your manuscript for publishing on Kindle and on other platforms that exist: Nook (Barnes and Noble), Apple iBooks Store, Google Books, KOBO, etc…(There used to be a free trial period on Lynda. It might return...)

For instance, pay attention to how to set up a Table Of Contents. For Kindle it’s best to use the Insert Table option in Word. For other platforms (using format: .EPUB) it’s better to use the ‘universal’ way, namely: use ‘Insert Bookmark’ for every chapter title and make a table of contents from scratch via Insert Hyperlinks + linking them to the bookmarks of each chapter title. Otherwise the layout on non-Kindle e-book readers may not work or look bad.
KDP has a great preview option where you can see how your book will look on several devices (Kindle Fire, Android app,…)

·        CreateSpace
CreateSpace is the Amazon service for ‘Print On Demand’ printing = paperback edition will be printed whenever a customer orders a book.
Open an account and upload your book.
You need to set up your Author bio + book blurb again for this site. It isn’t linked to Amazon’s Author Central.
They offer 4 sales channels:
  • Amazon sites
  • CreateSpace site
  • Distribution channels (bookstores like the American Barns & Noble could order your book if their customer requests it.),
  • American Libraries. (Tip: To enable the sales channel ‘US libraries’ you need to choose the free ISBN number that CreateSpace provides!)

Note: CreateSpace autogenerates templates for the interior (the text) and the Frontcover-spine-backcover. Use these! I downloaded their templates that had the exact size, formatting and layout for my book containing 356 pages of a 6x9 inch size. Brilliant! In the proofing stage you’ll see a 3D render of the book. And if CreateSpace found printing problems, they’ll show you where to change the layout, fonts, etc.
You can upload a Word or PDF file on the site. Use one of the standard fonts they use. It looks bad on screen, but great in print (as opposed to fonts made for screens, like Arial).

Note: When publishing through CreateSpace, the site will prompt you to make the ebook (Kindle) version based on your upload. You can do that, but I think it might be better to upload a version on KDP specifically for that purpose. You may want to change the font, layout, page order,…

·        Embedded font
Embedded means that the font that your choose will be added to the book file.
Kindle has its own preferred font(s). Currently this is f.ex. ‘Bookerly’. It’s best to not select the ‘embed fonts’ when saving the (PDF) file, because readers might not like it, plus I found it complicated getting my book upload through the proofing process.

For the paper version, CreateSpace prefers their own font(s), like Minion.
You might decide to embed your own font. In that case change the PDF type from pages with text (that you can select) into pictures in Adobe Acrobat Pro or for example in Photoshop by ‘rasterizing’ the text. Google the best way to do this in the program you want to use.

·        Book cover. How to find a great book cover or have one made for you. Read my blog post on the subject.
Download a template contract online. Make sure that you own the full rights of the work! Make sure to ask for the complete Photoshop file so you can edit the layers yourself for promotional use later on, etc. Make sure the dimensions are exactly right to avoid headaches. Look up the suggested standard book size and resolution on the site.
Read the requirements on the website of CreateSpace and KDP (Kindle). Make sure the file is not downgraded in the process. You want to keep the highest possible quality.
CreateSpace and KDP offer additional services (at a cost) to help you with a book cover, layouting, etc.

·        DRM, protection
The Digital Rights Management approach differs on each platform. It’s basically software programming to restrict the usage of proprietary software, in other words, to combat piracy. Amazon gives you the option to enable or disable DRM. But once the book is published, you can’t change the setting anymore.
The debate around DRM is whether it prevents piracy or if it actually hinders sales. Tip: read up on it and make up your own mind.

·        ISBN number
This standardized number is simply a reference number to quickly find a certain book. A book can go without a ISBN number. Every country has its own service (for free or at a cost). 
Amazon adds free reference numbers (called ASIN numbers) to all its books anyway. In fact, on my Kindle book page, Amazon shows the ASIN number instead of my ISBN number.

·        Payment:
Amazon generally offers different ways (that can change in time), f. ex. by EFT, wire transfer or bank check. Within Europe, I assume the best out of those three is EFT.

Tip: And look into services like (sort of like Depending on which two countries are involved (f. ex. bank A in the USA transfers to bank B in Belgium), their transfer fee could be less expensive. But remember to take into account the hidden fees: the conversion rate from US$ to EUR. It might be worthwhile to look into setting up an account with one of those services, instead of using your usual home bank. (I haven’t tried this out myself yet.)
Amazon will not transfer money unless your Tax data are validated.

·        Taxes, ITIN number or EIN number, tax treaty
The below information is for people living outside of the US:
Amazon (an American company) will do a “tax interview” via your KDP and CreateSpace account, because selling books means VAT/consumer tax will have to be paid in the country where the sale takes place, and afterwards you will have to declare your foreign royalty earnings in your personal tax return.
By answering the tax interview questions, Amazon will draw up the document for you to (digitally) sign before sending it to the American IRS.
Tip: read up on this because you don’t want to make a mistake here. Amazon has recently updated their Help pages with more support and information on this.

To sell books in the US, I would need a Tax Identification Number. I don’t have one, so under normal circumstances, Amazon would have to tax and transfer (in my case) 30% of my royalties to the IRS. Luckily, Amazon can act as a withholding agent who deals with all of this. Once a year, the IRS will forward a tax document through Amazon to me.
Currently, I can fill in my local tax identification number in the tax interview. So I don’t need a US Tax Identification Number (TIN).
I could apply for a ITIN in the US but it requires quite a bit of administration and effort. Avoid if possible.
And EIN number is much easier to get (over the phone!), but for that you need to be an employee in your (own) company.

Luckily, the IRS won’t levy a % tax when there is a Tax Treaty between the US and your home country. In that case, the IRS the tax percentage is lower (or even 0%). You of course still have to declare your profits in your home country.
Tip: Read the info on the KDP Help pages and on the IRS site itself. (Brace yourself.)

You’ll come across the same tax interview when selling through CreateSpace, and through some ‘Aggregators’.

·        Aggregators
Aggregators are companies with distribution channels. They can get your ebook (.EPUB) up for sale on most well-known platforms, and also in hard to reach places - in my case, the Apple iBooks Store - but, of course, they take a percentage of the profit.

Smashwords for example is an aggregator who can act as a tax withholding agent in the States. The Apple iBooks Store won’t act as an agent (data: 2016). They pay out a ‘commission’ rather than royalties, so tax wise this is a problem for me. By going through an aggregator who does act as an agent (like Amazon does), it becomes possible to sell on the Apple store… but at a cost.
There are several aggregator companies. Probably some aggregators have distribution outlets that the competition has not (for example the French online FNAC store). It’s up to you to decide if it is worth the effort to join multiple aggregators, or any at all. Personally, I recommend it because you may want to not put all your eggs in the same basket.
Tip: make sure that they do not charge you (disproportionate) fees for every change you make to the book price, blurb,… because you will be making changes often!

Amazon has several ways to promote a book. (data: 2016)
For example, enrolling in ‘KDP Select’ ( gives access to:
·        Kindle Unlimited is a subscription program for readers that allows them to read as many books as they want.
·        Kindle Owners' Lending Library is a collection of books that Amazon Prime members who own a Kindle can choose one book from each month with no due dates.
When you enroll in KDP Select, your books are automatically included in both programs. Your books will still be available for anyone to buy in the Kindle Store, and you'll continue to earn royalties from those sales like you do today.
·        Amazon Giveaway is a service where the publisher pays for X copies of a book to give away for free to the winners. In that way the book gets exposure.
Make sure that you know if your book (and in what shape or form) may be on sale on other platforms or not when you enroll in these Amazon options.
·        Look Inside on Amazon is verrry important.
Many readers won’t buy a book unless they’ve had a chance to read the first chapter(s).
Both KDP and CreateSpace will automatically enable this feature (usually shortly after the book launch).
To ‘hook’ the potential buyers you may want to show 20% of the book instead of the default 10% for the paper edition (CreateSpace).
If in CreateSpace, you’d like to make your own Look Inside version, then you first need to sign up as a Seller on Amazon:
Then you can apply for ‘Search Inside The Book’:
Also, in KDP, you can send an email to the service desk and ask them to increase the Look Inside to X%. Bear in mind that the Look Inside window will often stop somewhere random inside a chapter.

·        Reviews are deemed very important. Potential buyers often want to read reviews on Amazon, Goodreads,… to decide to buy or not. Amazon has a very strict policy: If they suspect that the reviews have been bought or if they come from a close relative or friend, then they will delete those reviews.
Also, an author can get on the ‘Author behaving badly’ blacklist when (s)he directly emails a reviewer or customer through the Amazon/Goodreads platform. So be warned!
(Amazon now also adds a note to each uploaded review indicating that the reviewer was a verified buyer of the book or not. Both types are fine but a potential buyer might have more trust in a review by a verified buyer.)
Tip: read up on the correct netiquette (online etiquette) with regards to promoting yourself as an author on these sites.
Tip: join the Making Connections group on Goodreads to enroll your book in the Authors Requesting Reviews (ARR) group. You give your book for free, and interested readers ‘might’ later on add a review to your book page. The dialogue is handled by group administrators, so you are not in direct correspondence with the readers.

Create an online presence on social media to attract interest for your book. Often interlinking ‘feeds’ can be set up. For instance, my tweet on Twitter will also automatically appear on my Facebook author page.
Facebook “page” (, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Blogger (start your own blog), Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, Wattpad,…

This Amazon service is used by millions of readers. Goodreads will propose books to the readers in the genre that they have expressed interest in.
Open an Author account and link it to your published book via your ISBN or ASIN (Amazon reference number).

Millions of people read the free content on this site. Authors publish installments of their story (f. ex. one chapter per week) and get followers that may turn into fans. I have published the first 7 chapters of my book there ahead of my book launch (to get them ‘hooked’). Of course, after the launch, I keep these preview chapters up on the site. And, of course, from the start I stated clearly that I was only going to upload a part of the story.

·        Multiply formats available
Amazon will normally automatically link your Kindle book and paper edition in the days after their launch. So when you go to the Amazon page of one edition, you’ll see them side by side. It simply requires the exact same book title and the same publisher. If this doesn’t happen, then you can contact the service desk (link at the bottom of the KDP page) and put in the request.

·        Convert and check ebook file
Calibre Use this program to convert Word to .EPUB or .PDF or . AWZ, etc. yourself. It has the option to embed the fonts used. If you plan to publish on for example the Apple iBooks Store, you’ll need to provide an .EPUB version of your book. Calibre can do that conversion.
(I think it’s a good program but Amazon did find problems when I uploaded a converted file.)  This free website can be used to check if your EPUB file contain problems. Be sure to make use of this tool.

·        Copyright protection
One way to create proof of ownership of your rights is to send a (digital) copy of your book to a National Library or similar organisation in your region.
And, of course, put your own copyright text in your book. Open any book and you'll see examples. When you want to know more about a site or things connected to publishing, read about it on Wikipedia! And Google it, of course. It’s amazing how much info is available.

Amazon Associates
On your own (blog) site you may want to add a hyperlink to your Amazon page. Or you may want to add a widget showing your/a book inside an Amazon frame. When someone clicks on this link and buys the book, you get the commission (minimum 4% on click-through sales). If you want to make money that way, you need to give bank coordinates, etc. You will also need to have enough traffic, or Amazon will discontinue this service.

‘Universal’ URL: How to find the ‘universal’ URL to your book on Amazon (which redirects the surfers to the applicable Amazon site of their own country.)

Research: Buy (e)books on how to market your book, etc. For example:

·        Other major online bookstores:
Apple iBooks Store:

Google Books (part of the Google Play store):
Due to too many copyright infringements, it is not possible to sign up as a new author at this point in time. (Feb-17) Boo!

NOOK store (Barnes & Noble):
American (online) bookstore.

(Originally) Canadian online bookstore.
Uploading your book here is fairly straight-forward.

Did I forget a very important tip or website?
Then let me know, or write your feedback below in the Post a Comment box. Thanks!

- Jonen
novel writer of 'MINE LOOKS PURPLE' available at major online retailers.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Someone, draw my book cover! (How to find a graphic artist for your book)

You have written your bestseller (fingers crossed) and have done the research on how to get it up on but you still don't have a cover to go with it. Time to panic?
Luckily, that is unnecessary. In this blog post, I list some steps and useful tips on how to find your own book cover designer.

This topic is covered (hahah) on several other online place, of course, but here is my personal experience of how I got in contact with a graphic illustrator and struck a deal for my novel "Mine Looks Purple". The journey was both scary and exhilarating!

Useful places to look:

  • I first decided to make my own cover in Photoshop and save some money. Bad idea! Don't even try it unless you're actually good at moving pixels around. You wouldn't want to serve a gourmet meal (your story) on a garbage can lid either. Fortunately, I quickly saw the light. 
  • (Note: if you do use photos or illustrations, make sure they are not licensed/unavailable for commercial use. It's best to go to, for instance, and pay for good quality material.) 
  • I went to a local Comic-Con to get in touch with artists at their stalls. That didn't work out. The high-energy atmosphere didn't lend itself to chatting in detail. I did take home a couple of their business cards, and I discovered that I had been looking in the wrong place. It is at online portfolio sites where all the cool kids hang out...
  •, for example, is a great site with thousands of incredibly talented artists showcasing their work. Awesome! I spend hours browsing and I contacted several artists through the site. Sadly, none had interest in commission work... I wasn't going to freak out, but my deadline was getting closer...
  •, hopefully, was going to ease my troubles. The site exists specifically for artists looking for commission work. After posting my request, I received 20 replies within a day. Hurray! Although there were talented artists among them, they didn't do the style I was looking for. So I politely declined them all. (Always do this. It is common courtesy and they'll be grateful to you.) There are, of course, other sites like it:, to name a few.
  • was the next site I tried. It mostly features artists who have already worked for corporations in the entertainment business. Undeterred, I sent off messages and found out from one artist what he would usually charge per hour. Yikes! I mean, I'm convinced the cost would be worth it, but my budget didn't stretch that far.
  •, finally, was the site where I found Alexandr Pushai's portfolio page.
In total, I think, it took me 20 hours over a period of three scary weeks to find the graphic artist for my book. Hurray!

Step by step negotiation:

  • Keep the initial commission request short, but add in attachment a detailed description of what you're looking for, including info on: file formats, who will hold copyrights, the amount of revisions you can request without added fee, etc. It will save both parties time. The artist will ask for those things anyway.
My initial request
  • Make sure you know what you want: Cover concept, style, colours,...? Don't expect the artist to magically come up with this in your place. I found that out after contacting the first artist. Good communication is very important. If communicating with an artist feels like pulling teeth, look elsewhere or expect poor results.
The artist asked a simple sketch to explain the exact angle of the bathtub. Great!
  • Agree on the commission fee. You can try to haggle over the price, of course, but make sure it stays a good deal for both parties. As an example, for this cover, we agreed on two partial payments: one part before starting the detailed sketch. The second part before finishing the full-colour illustration as commissioned.
  • Draw up a contract and demand a (digital) signature. Obviously, do not make any payment before you've received the signed version. Add your detailed description and relevant correspondence as an appendix to the contract. You'll sleep better at night, I guarantee it. (Search online for 'template contracts for commissioned illustrations' to get examples.)
The initial artist's sketch

Useful tips to remember:

  • The cover is the first - and often only - impression you can make. So the cover needs to be interesting and it has to show the potential readers exactly what they'll get from your book.
  • Most of the talented artists are very busy, naturally, because they are so great at what they do. So start looking for an artist early, well ahead of the release date of your book.
  • It's a numbers game. Chances are, you'll get rejected by the artist whose work you really love. It happens. Maybe you'll get a No from the first three artists you contact... Maybe you'll only get a Yes from the fifteenth artist...
  • I strongly recommend you only contact artists who already have done artwork in the same style as what you are looking for. Otherwise, you set yourself up for disappointment. You wouldn't ask Van Gogh to paint Micky Mouse, would you? (Though, that would be interesting.)
  • Hang in there! Remember, you've put a lot of work into writing your book. It deserves a great cover.
The final version in colour

Did you like my personal journey of scary exhilaration?
Did I forget a very important tip or website?
Then let me know, or write your feedback below in the Post a Comment box. Thanks!

- Jonen
novel writer of 'MINE LOOKS PURPLE' available at major online retailers.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

And I shall name you.... what? (Tips on how to come up with a book title)

Why is it so difficult to come up with a book title? Beats me, it just is.
Well, okay, it's mainly because the title, somehow, has to condense all the aspects (theme, genre, style,...) of an entire story into just a handful of enticing words. No pressure.

That's a hard enough task to accomplish for non-fiction books - although 'How to cook acorns for squirrels' is pretty straightforward, I think - but for fiction books, the reader usually expects something extra. Namely, a title that only indirectly describes what the story is about and that makes the reader curious enough to pick up the book and have a look-see.

In other words, the title has to be perfect. Nothing less will do, because we all know how hugely important the title and cover are in our decision-making.

One of the earliest titles (with mock-up cover)
Before moving on to the tips, I'd like to share with you my personal tale of woe and wonderment, or, On how I found the final title of my first book after bouts of gut-wrenching disillusionment(Okay, maybe that title needs a bit of work.)

An epic search:

Ten years ago when I started writing my story, the first title floated into my head on a gentle breeze. The book was going to be called 'Hijinks'. How exciting, except... that word was really vague (and difficult to spell on Google.)
Halfway through writing, I worried that I wasn't going to find the right title by the time the book was finished. (Larks!) After a lot of brainstorming, I settled on 'Accidental Soulmate'. It was clever, and it fitted the story. Except... A year later I found out that were already another thousand books starting the same way: "Accidental dentist", "Accidental acid",... You name it.

My stress level was rising. Curse you, ill-tempered Fate! Won't I ever find the right title?
After a lot more effort, I came across this new title - Final title, damnit! - that was sure to never change again: 'Soulmate Pending'. I was convinced that this interesting sounding title was a keeper, and for a couple of years it was. But eventually, it just didn't sound funny enough for my hilarious story.

So I had another go at it. With reluctance, I released these others titles back into the wild: 'Love, Life and a Dead Sailor' (too romantic), 'Me and my dead sailor' (too zombie-ish) and 'Weird Boner' (Don't ask!)

Then, one morning, I got up and I saw the answer right in front of me. It became the title that's now proudly displayed on my book: 'Mine Looks Purple'. Hurray!
The good news is, anyone can find the right book title... eventually.

Another title idea I was mulling over.

Tips and ideas:

  • Brainstorm with friends. You'd be amazed at what more brainpower can do. Of course, don't go with someone else's title unless you think it's perfect.
  • Think about the major theme(s) of your story. What is it about? You may want to try and sum it up in a few words.
  • Look for a phrase in your story that sticks out and that might make a browsing shopper wonder.
  • Go to and type in a (boring) word that best describes the theme, and look for a great synonym that you can use. 
  • Look for a short sentence or expression that everyone knows and enjoys. But be careful not to use buzzwords.
  • Open a word processor and simply start typing as if you're thinking out loud... Type anything that comes up (or scribble on a notepad). Don't delete anything. Just press return and keep writing, finetuning the string of words. Abandon one idea and start a new one... Replace words... Change nouns into active verbs... Anything goes.
  • Of course, always check your title on and to make sure that it doesn't already exists. (Note: 'Lord of the Rings' is already taken. Tough luck.)
Another attempt at a perfect title. (Notice the typo.)

Tips on how to proceed:

  • The important bit first: once you've come up with your brilliant title, make sure to jump up and down your bed and sing loudly in merriment - You deserve it! - because chances are that that merriment may disappear shortly after.
  • Because the next important thing to do, is to get feedback: tell a friend
what the title is. Better still, show him/her the title on a piece of paper, and then watch the reaction. I would bet that in 95% of the time, the friend isn't going to cheer "Eureka, you've found it!". Usually, you'll get a "Yeah, that title is okay."
  • Devastating, I know. How come the friend isn't as excited about it as you are? News flash: A lukewarm response is normal. Don't feel bad. This is exactly the information you need. How else are you going to know if you're on track or not?

  • So, after the soul-crushing devastation, make sure to keep going and do these next steps:
    • Ask that friend for more feedback. (Why doesn't the title blow your mind? What type of book do you think it is, based on this title?...) The reason to ask is, when people on Amazon see your book title, you won't be around to explain how to correctly interpret the brilliance of the title. It has to work on its own.
    • Secondly, always go to at least two other friends and show them your title. Why? Because, when one person gives you a reply, that is just their opinion. When two people tell you the same thing, it's just a coincidence. But when three people basically give you the same feedback, then it is time to pay close attention.
    • Look for quality feedback. I am in a writers' group, which is a great luxury, because it means I can quickly get feedback from ten or twenty fellow writers. I think highly of what they have to say (and inveriably, I'll get ten to twenty slightly contradicting opinions.) How to find your own group in your area? This website helped me out:
    • In my experience, the feedback will often voice the same doubts that I had myself about (parts of) the title, but that I sort of hoped others wouldn't think was confusing, misleading, and so on. In those cases, take notice. You'll be glad afterwards that you kept looking for a better title.
    The final title (with another mock-up cover)
    So remember, don't get annoyed. Be grateful for people helping you out. Return to your writing desk, and keep delving deeper. It's all just part of the process. It would be great if you could find the perfect title as easily as snapping your fingers, but most of us, we're just all thumbs.

    Did you like my personal journey of scary exhilaration?
    Did I forget a very important tip or website?
    Then let me know, or write your feedback below in the Post a Comment box. Thanks!
    - Jonen
    novel writer of 'MINE LOOKS PURPLE' available at major online retailers.