22 Aug

So it is about a year since we published “Breaking Stones” and I think we still have a few printed copies left ( well more than a few to be honest), so maybe the time is not yet right for the Digital Revolution but who knows. During the lockdown in Italy, I accumulated rather more written material than I know what to do with. Some of it, I have been putting on the website as articles or blogs- but those are really extracts from some bigger projects. Possibly projects that only a handful of people may be interested in purchasing. With that in mind, I started to check out the prospects for digital publishing.

Really there is only one place to start, which is with Kindle Digital Publishing. Now obviously, KDP is a part of Amazon and we all know that for various reasons, Amazon is not everybody’s flavour of the month. However, I thought I would check out how it worked, in our own interests and in the interests of research for any other self- publishers who might be wanting to give it a try.

When we originally published the book, we had it printed locally and Dad has been posting copies from home or taking them to local bookshops to resupply. So firstly, I would like to thank all those people who ordered copies from the website and the local bookshops who stocked the copies. Clearly, distribution proved to be a bit tricky during the lockdown, but we managed in the end. “Breaking Stones” was a very local piece of history and most of our sales were in the immediate area, which is understandable. That said, I always hoped that maybe some copies would find their way, further afield and particularly to Germany. It would have been satisfying if somebody in Germany got a chance to read it and maybe found out what happened to a distant relative of theirs during the First World War. The trouble with self-publishing is that it is difficult to get any distribution outside of the immediate local area, although we did sell one copy in Switzerland but that was to a friend of mine. So since, I did not have any other projects ready to launch at present, I thought I would see just how easy ( or difficult) it was to publish something digitally and to use “Breaking Stones” as a trial.

I am happy to say, it was remarkably easy. The software from KDP was incredibly easy to use and I have just received an email from Amazon saying that the book is now available on Kindle. Basically, it took less than a day to get it all set up. All the instructions are available on KDP’s extremely informative website, which I read through several times before deciding to go ahead. From reading that, I knew that you must download the Kindle Create software in order to publish. That was my first problem. I had actually been writing stuff in my own time on my work laptop – which is fair enough since Word is already loaded on there ; however , downloading unauthorized software onto a heavily monitored office computer is not the best idea in the world, so I went out and bought a new laptop. I checked in advance and Kindle suggest the ideal environment is 8 RAM and at least 2GHZ for Kindle Create to run properly, so I had that in mind when I went to the local electronics store. My biggest problem was actually configuring the computer. Since I bought the laptop in Italy, it has an Italian keyboard. Italian keyboards are different to UK and US keyboards, because I am writing in English I had the bright idea to configure the system with a British English keyboard set up. Not a very good idea, as soon as I started to try and type @ for email addresses, it wouldn’t work. I sat there for several hours trying every combination of Ctrl, Alt, AltGr but the @ remained resolutely hidden. I had a long discussion via Message with Veronica from LeNovo’s customer support, which in the end resulted in “shut the whole thing down and try again”. But it wasn’t letting me shut down, every time I turned the computer back on, it opened in exactly the same place- blocked on the “enter your email address page” of the configuration. In the end, I got the credential through on a mobile phone and managed to finish the set-up, at which point I was able to reconfigure the keyboard. Could have done without that and it has nothing at all to do with KDP or how it works. Apart from perhaps demonstrating that even somebody of my limited technical  competence was then able to go and use KDP’s software very easily.

Anyway, once new computer was up and running, I set up a Kindle Digital Publishing Account. This was pretty straightforward, basically you have to enter the usual personal information. If you set up the market place as Amazon.co.uk you can specify to be paid in GBP to a British Bank Account. You have to set up bank account details, so you can get paid ( in the rare event that anybody buys the books) , but that was easy- you just need to have the IBAN and Swift/BIC code to hand. You do appear to need the SWIFT code, or you can’t go further, so you should have to hand during the set up process.  If you know the bank name and IBAN, the SWIFT code is easily found on the internet. You also have to set up some tax information, again not particularly arduous- country of tax residence, country Tax Identification number etc . The main point seems to be declare that yu are not a US tax resident, so that Kindle can make payments without US withholding taxes. The data that you enter, makes the payments traceable by tax authorities and presumably the information is exchanged under Tax Exchange of Information Agreements, so don’t forget to declare that £1 received in royalty payments in the future. Again, I would suggest that you have your National Insurance Number or HMRC UTR to hand when you do this part of the process.

Once you have all the basic information set up you can proceed to set up an e- book project. There is also the option to publish as a paperback, but we already have paperback copies, so I was not interested in that. The Kindle Create software downloaded very quickly and without a hitch and once that is done, you can start uploading your masterwork.

You must upload the Text and Cover separately. The text can be uploaded as either a PDF or a Word Document. Which you use seems to depend on how text heavy the document is. I tried PDF first. Once the file has been processed and uploaded, you can preview how it is going to look on a standard Kindle reader or on various Kindle mobile readers. The PDF did not work so well, it seemed that the pagination had gone wrong in various places. I tried again with the original Word File and got a much better result.

The cover was less easy to do. You can upload your original cover as JPNG or TIFF file but I did not have one of those. So, I used the Kindle Cover Creator. This was slightly trickier. When you set up the author information in the system, you can only set up one author and that carries through into the cover creator. You do not appear to be able to set up with joint authors. You can add additional contributors but they do not carry through automatically onto the cover. This  was a bit frustrating until I found with some trial and error that you can edit the cover text box with the author’s name and do iy that way. The cover creator offers a number of different styles, fonts and colours so you can play around with what suits you best. I had a JPG cover photo from the original book, and it did make a short while to work out how you do that. Again, you can preview the cover to make sure you are absolutely happy with that. If you don’t   you go back and start again. 

Finally when you are happy with both the cover and text you have a final preview of the finished product ( showing how it will look on a Kindle Device, before you press the button and authorize it for publication. The last stage is then to set a price and complete the pricing section. I had no idea what to do with this. E-books are usually priced substantially lower than the printed copy and indeed in the UK they also carry VAT, so I just came up with a net price which with the VAT would be lower than the printed book and put that in The system helpfully calculates how much Kindle will pay you for each copy. You can also set up the system so that it allows the e-book to be purchased as a gift or lent to another user for a period of time. I think it is each to his own as far as the pricing goes, I am not actually making a profit out of this, so any small amounts of extra revenue coming in are most welcome. Once you have done all that you press the button and approve for publication and wait.

I received a confirmation email after about six hours, saying the book had been approved for publication and would appear on Amazon.co.uk in the next 24 hours. It also had some helpful suggestions on extra marketing and so on.

In the end, it could not actually have been much easier. I had a few issues figuring out how to do the cover properly but managed to get round those- everything else was plain sailing. I look forward to trying to find myself on Amazon shortly. 

I just followed the LINK below to get started. 


* The email will not be published on the website.