First steps taken in process of self-publishing with KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)

After putting this project aside for several months so I could focus on finishing my degree, I’ve been back on the case for a couple of days and have actually started the process now, rather than just talk about doing it.

The first thing I did was sign up with KDP on their website. I suspect the hardest step in this entire process will prove to be reading the terms and conditions, but I survived to tell the tale. God knows what I’ve signed up to though.

The next thing to do was complete some online documentation for the IRS (the US equivalent of what – in the UK – used to be called the Inland Revenue), in order that they don’t deduct tax at source should anyone ever deign (dare?) to purchase a copy of my book in e-format. I’ve read some horror stories with regard to this part of the process, and was not looking forward to trying to read the instructions on Karen Inglis’s website, but it all seems to be very simple now and I completed it in about 5 minutes, so I won’t link to Karen’s site, kind as it was of her to spend the time blogging about it for other people’s (non-US residents’) benefit.

The next stage was to re-format my manuscript and I’ll go through my thoughts on this next, so if you’re not interested in the detail look away now. Not for today the cutting political observation (Armando Iannucci has got nothing on me, let’s face it), or impassioned defence of Sepp Blatter’s work at FIFA, after all this blog was supposed to be about the self-publishing process…

My manuscript was initially formatted in the style expected by (UK) literary agents, according to information I gleaned from places like the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, and possibly via various web-sites.

The first stage of re-formatting (if following the helpful and free-downloadable ‘Building Your Book for Kindle’ guide on the KDP website) is to ensure that paragraph indents are made via Word’s formatting menu rather than using the tab key. KDP’s pdf guide is for a Windows version of Word, I think, but I know my way around Word for Mac 2008 (WfM08) reasonably well so I knew how to carry out the necessary task even if the menus are different to those on WfM08.

The first issue I had was that the instructions state that an indent of 0.5″ is recommended. This seems incredibly high to me. My MS (=manuscript, not Microsoft!) had an indent of 0.42cm, which is the horizontal equivalent of the vertical distance of size 12 font, thus the first character of an indented paragraph is indented by an invisible cube 0.42cm wide and tall. I hope that makes sense! I decided to ignore the instructions and retain this style, as it looks aesthetic on the page. However, I am sure the 0.5″ guidance is there for a reason so I suspect I will have to go along with it down the track, if my uploaded manuscript doesn’t display properly on an e-reader (Kindle or otherwise).

The second stage was to remove all spaces between paragraphs (created by hitting the return key). The guide advises to highlight the preceding paragraph and use the paragraph sub-menu to insert blank space at the end of a paragraph. The guide advised a 10-point space, but when using a 12-point font I feel a 12-point space is appropriate so I used that. Again this may be something I need to come back to once a draft has been uploaded either to an e-reader or a program that previews how a text will look on an e-reader.

Here I got into a mess. After identifying each final paragraph of a section and going through the few steps to insert the space at the foot of that paragraph, I decided to work ‘smarter’ (so I thought) by using the copy-format icon. Mistake. Having stormed through several chapters like this, I realised that it was copying every aspect of the format down, not just the additional space element. Using an example to show what I mean: I often put the thoughts of a character in italics. Where I pasted the format down, any words in italics in the ‘paste to’ paragraph were being set to non-italic. Damn. In the end I had to go back through the entire document, correcting all these pasting errors. Several wasted hours.

When this was done I then had to go through the document and remove all the spaces between sections that I had originally created by one press of the return key, and had highlighted with a central-aligned hashtag icon (the standard blank line notation for an MS submitted to (UK) publishers/agents).

Inserting page breaks between chapters was easy enough, as was removing the headers and footers that had been used to give each page a number (header) and author name and title (footer).

Then it was on to using Word’s Heading feature for chapter titles. The instructions for this were harder to follow as they pertain to a different version of Word to mine, but I managed to find a video on Vimeo (or YouTube or somewhere) that showed me how to do it.

At this point I realised (or rather assumed) that any blank line created by hitting ‘return’ would (probably) need to be removed: not just those blank lines between sections. Again using an example to show what I mean: each chapter of my original manuscript began at line 10 on the page, about a third of the way down the (double-spaced 12-point font) page (as advised by W&A or whoever). I had created these lines by hitting ‘return’ 9 times at the start of each chapter. Now, I re-created these by adapting the methodology described above for adding 12 points of space after a section. In other words, I added blank space before the section (in this case the section being a single line chapter heading) of 108 points, being 9 lines * 12 points (for 12-point font). As before I then deleted the 9 lines of space I’d created using the first method (hitting ‘return’). Except I didn’t. If I deleted 9 of these lines it wrecked my document formatting. However, if I only deleted 8 everything was fine, so I did that. That means each chapter heading is currently preceded by a line represented by the Word formatting show icon (the one that looks like a backwards capital ‘P’). Whether that will cause me problems down the track I don’t know. I suspect I will have to come back to this later.

Font size is deemed to be irrelevant by the KDP help pdf, as readers can adjust the size of the font. The good thing about this is that I didn’t have to go through the document looking for widows and orphans: those single end lines of paragraphs that have drifted onto the start of the following page, or single start lines of paragraphs that are left behind on one page when the remainder of the paragraph drifts down onto the next page (I can’t remember which of these is a widow and which an orphan but it doesn’t matter). I’m sure Word has functionality to deal with widows and orphans, indeed I must have used it for my MS, but as I say, it doesn’t matter, as the e-reader will handle these (we hope!).

The next tasks to perform were building the ‘front matter’ of the book (title page, copyright page, dedication, preface/prologue) and the ‘table of contents’ page. I won’t go into these here as the KDP help pdf was easy enough to follow, albeit with some extra help from a Vimeo/YouTube vid specifically related to WfM08.

That’s all for now folks. I hope some of that proves useful for any self-publisher coming to this process down the track; someone who somehow manages to navigate to this tiny little page amid the galaxy of the internet (seems unlikely!).

The next step will be to begin creating a cover. This is the bit that will probably really try my patience, but the TV and lounge window are both still intact as I write. I’ll give it my best shot but hope I don’t have to bring in reinforcements as designers cost money and I want to produce this book myself, for nothing more than the cost of an ISBN. We’ll see how that goes…

I’ll now take a break from this for a day or two, and carry on preparing for teacher training in September by reading ‘Animal Farm’, ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘An Inspector Calls’, and getting my own ideas about those down on paper (alright, hard drive).

That was a long post so as a reward for my endeavours I might have to have a gingerbread-man-flavoured soya dessert. Pretty rock and roll this writing business eh?