The giant of self-publishing

Why Amazon

There is little doubt that Amazon is the giant of self-publishing. One can hate the company, one can have so many complaints about them but in the end, one has to swallow pride and criticism as it has become difficult to avoid the giant. They can be arrogant, at times chaotic and messed up, their rules can be irrational and obscure. All that being said, they are difficult to ignore as they become bigger by the day. Yes there is Apple and some others but…
I considered my project of publishing my book of jokes as a learning curve: to produce the files for print and for the Kindle, to register as an author on Amazon and then publishing. I hit a series of walls, got desperate, persevered and finally succeeded. The book is out in Kindle and print, all through Amazon USA.
It was a frustrating experience… But in the end, success!

Sorry you cannot publish on Amazon

Here more details on the story, already mentioned in an earlier post.
Once I felt my e-book and my print file were ready I logged on the Amazon U.S. site to register as an author, the first step. I had prepared all I thought I needed, the description of the book, the keywords, the categories, the book blurb and my American ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).

The registration process was pretty complicated. I did it all very carefully, including the “tax interview”. I gave my official address in Beijing as well as my ITIN, getting the message back I could take advantage of the USA-China tax agreement. Hitting the final FINISH button, the operation never succeeded. There was “an error”, I should try again or contact their service. After many attempts I had to give up and contacted the service. And they replied – simply stating Amazon did not accept authors “based in China”. Do note this “rule” is nowhere mentioned on Amazon! What the hell, I am a Belgian national, my banking is located in Belgium. No way. I saw my dreams of becoming an indie author shattered.

Finally I switched to my official postal address for my banking mail, an address I use in Belgium. That however implied I could not use my USA-China tax advantage and I was notified I would have to pay the full USA 30% withholding tax. Yes, you can be on the moon but you are subject to U.S. tax. Sigh. Well at least I succeeded registering myself as an author.
If you reside in the USA it is all much more easy.

Important to note: one could say, why not register on Amazon China and to submit your book there? Well, books submitted there are rarely if ever approved for publishing.
Clearly Amazon wants to cozy up to the bosses in Beijing.
Also, it is not possible to publish a book in Chinese on Amazon. See the supported languages:

Next frustrating step: uploading my Kindle e-book

That resulted in a painful rejection as Amazon (I guess their automated Internet robots) found out “some of the content of my book was (freely) available on the wide Internet”. Of course it was true, due to the nature of my book.
I replied and explained in detail the reasons and did change a little my foreword. After a few desperate emails came an enigmatic reply: “please upload again”. I thought it was a meaningless thing to do. Guess what, it worked and my e-book was soon online.
The same happened submitting my print file, it was rejected again but soon after explaining and reloading – online too.
So, while Amazon seemed draconian one must admit they do listen to your explanation and are flexible. Thanks.

My books are for sale

So, both Kindle and print are on Amazon USA, and then also on all other Amazon sites around the world – except Amazon China.
I also decided to opt for the KDP Select program, for at least 90 days. That means I cannot publish anywhere else during that period.
Another strange thing: on Amazon USA when I check my book it says “This item does not ship to Beijing”. Some friends had doubts about that. So I ignored that warning and ordered ten copies to be sent to Beijing. Guess what, they arrived well in my Beijing home… Of course only ten copies as this is the maximum allowed to be imported per book (Chinese customs regulations).

And yes, my two books are now on sale in the Beijing Bookworm! See the pic. Toxic Capitalism is sold for 200 RMB and the Jokes for 150 RMB.

 

More copies of my books are with my daughters in Belgium and in USA and are arriving in Beijing. See the former stock in Brussels.

How to self-publish

I want to publish my book!

Once an author decides to become an “indie”, the question is how to self-publish.
Why do writers end up there? Indeed, one can say that for the great majority of aspiring writers the traditional publishing houses don’t work (again, read David Caughran). They rarely accept your manuscript and if they do, they take away most control over both your writing, the pricing and your net income. The other way is to be an “indie writer”, basically doing self-publishing.

What to avoid

There are a number of companies that claim to assist indie writers. They offer several “plans” to help the authors to publish their book, most often promising a lot and doing much less than what the author expected. The plans can be pretty expensive (easily over US$10,000). Some of those companies are real mafia-type and use deceptive tactics. The most infamous and biggest is the group of Author Solutions, coming on the market with different company names to give the author the false impression there is a “choice”. Unfortunately they are all the same with a different name. My first book, “Toxic Capitalism” was published through AuthorHouse, a member of the group Author Solutions.
My experience was pretty negative. The publishing of the book in print and in e-book were in itself OK. Marketing and payment of royalties were a total disaster.

Author Solutions

Author Solutions was acquired by Penguin parent company Pearson in 2012 and became part of Penguin Random House following the 2013 merger of Random House and Penguin. PRH has sold its Author Solutions division to an affiliate of the Najafi Companies, a private investment firm, in December 2016.
All those member companies of Author Solutions are to be avoided at all cost. For more, see the books and blog of David Gaughran who unmasks their shady tactics. See among others: https://davidgaughran.com/2014/06/03/the-case-against-author-solutions-part-1-the-numbers/

Those companies are also called “vanity press”, a publishing house in which authors pay to have their books published; vanity publishers have no selection criteria to accept a manuscript as opposed to the traditional publishing companies.

What to do?

The obvious choice for self-publishing: Amazon. More about that in other posts.

 

Why self-publishing

Why I write

Before answering the question “Why self-publishing?” I should explain why I write.
I felt an urge to write since I was a teenager. I wrote a short story when I was in middle school (Sint-Barbaracollege, Ghent). It was about a young man who invented some kind of beam (I called it then a laser I think) that helped him control the mind of other people. I forgot the details but it could be still somewhere in my archeological museum. Another short story was about an strangely-dressed lady I had seen on the tram when going to school. I shared it all with a Jesuit father of the school but received little or no encouragement, most probably because it looked pretty lame.

Later on I penned down a lot of personal thoughts, some kind of diary, all in scattered notebooks, mostly somber rambling. I have been trying to assemble the scattered notes into one computer file to prove to myself it was all repetitive garbage and how little has changed and how much has changed, yes, because that is in essence the story of our life.

I have now published two books. I never think it will make me rich. I simply feel the urge to write, to get it off my chest. I never write with the idea to please the readership. I simply write what I feel and think. Don’t ask me why. It’s just the way I feel and do.

Why self-publishing

I can simply refer to the excellent books by David Gaughran:His website: https://davidgaughran.com/

Main individual titles are, see https://davidgaughran.com/books-for-authors/:
Let’s Get Visible
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/149031041X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i3
Let’s Get Digital
https://www.amazon.com/Lets-Get-Digital-Self-Publish-Publishing/dp/1983680354/

I have bought several of the editions, and I have read them multiple times, considering it as my bible on the matter. I greatly recommend them to anyone who wants to understand self-publishing.

Another great set, not sure it is still available:
The Indie Author Power Pack: How To Write, Publish & Market Your Book
by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, David Gaughran, Joanna Penn
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23505393-the-indie-author-power-pack

One important lesson: if you think writing a book is difficult, well, that is just step one and the most easy one. Step two is getting published – for most an impossible dream. Then comes step three, the most difficult one: selling the book. An even more impossible challenge.

More about “Why Self-publishing”

There are quite a number of other books explaining the why and how. This one by James Altucher (ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SELF PUBLISHING) is freely available on his site:

The Ultimate Guide To Self-Publishing

JamesAltucher.jpg

 

The little brother is born!

A difficult delivery

As I commented earlier, finally the little brother is born!
I always looked at my second book as a learning curve on how to completely self-publish. As expected, I often hit the wall and for sure it will not be the last time.
First of all I got refused as author to publish on Amazon (Kindle, KDP) because I reside in China. Nowhere on their website or publishing media this is mentioned. Until you fill out all info then, the web page stops working. I had to contact the service to get the explanation. Why? WTF, I am Belgian. Oh well, I changed my profile to my Belgian contact address and launched my Kindle book.
But then I got shot down because “some of my content was on the Internet”. Yeah of course it is because it is in a way a study and compilation of what is going around on the Internet, in emails, in chat rooms.
I gave KDP all the explanations and clarified that better in the Foreword of the book. Well, thanks to Amazon staff who accepted it and approved the ebook.
I then launched the print version, same objections, same explanation, then approved. Whew!

I had a proof copy made of the printed version, sent to my daughter in Brussels who checked it and sent me pics back. All OK, online!

The little brother is born! What’s his name?

See here the links to Amazon USA. Both versions are on all the Amazon sites worldwide.

“LAUGH AND GET WISER! Jokes and witty wisdom for adults” is out! The Kindle version US$2.99: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H291Z61
ASIN: B07H291Z61
Leave a comment after reading!

“LAUGH AND GET WISER! Jokes and witty wisdom for adults” is out! The print version US$19.99
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1720004226
ISBN: 9781720004226
Leave a comment after reading!
If you buy the print you can get the Kindle for US$0.99!

More about the content later!

The pricing

As I am completely doing self-publishing, I can fix the price myself.
Some books and ebooks set a too high price, pretty unreasonable especially for ebooks. See here some examples, typical when you depend on a “real” publishing house such as Springer:

I opted for a pretty low price, so one has no reason to complain about the cost: the Kindle goes for less than the price for a cup of coffee!
As for now the ebook is on KDP Select, that means only available on Amazon.

My first book will soon have a little brother

No, not my new book

I posted a picture on Facebook of a shipment that arrived in my Beijing home forces me to clarify that my first book will soon have a little brother.

“Toxic Capitalism” was published in 2012, through AuthorHouse – a bad experience. I have been regularly importing 120 copies to Beijing, selling myself and through the well-known book shop “The Bookworm”. See: http://beijingbookworm.com/

The last shipment was a near disaster. Suddenly Chinese customs did not allow anymore shipments of foreign books of more than ten copies. There was no way around it and I had to send back the shipment to the publishing company in the UK, They then sent 120 copies to my daughter in Brussels and now we are slowly getting copies to Beijing. The picture shows a recent arrival of ten copies, celebrated with a Pussy. Yeah that was to wake up dirty minds. It is a passion fruit drink from The Netherlands, now distributed in Beijing.
So many of my Facebook friends thought it was my recent publication…
A friend posted this pic, yes it is still for sale in The Bookworm:

My next book

People talk about “writer’s block”. I think I have many more “blocks”. One is to upload my e-book to Amazon, supposed to be done this week. Please check the definition of “procrastination”! I must hold a PHD in that field.
So what is the book about? Well, you will have to wait till it is out, in e-book and in print, all through Amazon. Kindle will be first. Basically everything is done. I just need to do the electronic paperwork on Kindle website… A bit scary.

How I did it

My first book was done 100% on MS Word. It was a very complicated document. That went to the publishing company that made the e-book and the print version. The design of the (front) cover page was done by ourselves, with daughter Valerie being the final artist.
This time, 100% self-publishing and the second book is a bit of a learning curve on how to do it. Book number three is still a work in progress.
The second book was originally started using MS Word. Then I switched to Scrivener, a special software to write books and – produce the versions for e-book and print.
Learning Scrivener was OK but compiling for print and e-book was a real challenge. After many failed attempts I have now mastered the settings. The print output, in MS Word (exported from Scrivener) is done, for a format 6 x 9 inches paperback; page count is 359.
The e-book, Kindle version is also ready.
I did not use an third-party editor because of the special nature of the book (yeah, suspense), but my daughter Marianne suggested a few corrections. But after some searching I first hired a cartoonist to make a cartoon according to me ideas. Then the cartoon was used by a service company that makes the cover page for the e-book as well as the wrap-around cover for the print version (front, back, spine). All done.