It’s not a secret that digital technology and the internet are the bomb! Totally disruptive. Totally innovative. Totally liberating. Totally exciting… to some of us.
We, the unapologetic self-publishers of 2019, who want to tear down the barriers to success with getting our books published and in the hands of eager readers.
The User Experience Matters And Kindle Makes Good
Lots of people are afraid of technology because they find it cold, counterintuitive, and awkward to use. But technology is always improving, so shunning it does us no good. When we can find an instance of a place where the user experience of online design—an abstraction called UX by graphic designers—is logical, straightforward, and flows seamlessly in a clear progression, we should celebrate that to the max. Kindle Direct Publishing has drastically improved its UX.
Whatever you think about Amazon “taking over the world” and Jeff Bezos’ rapid climb to the top of the social hierarchy in the United States, I think you’d have to admit that he understood the possibility of online technology to make our lives simpler and flowing before we did. That’s why he is such a powerful influencer—and so wealthy.
Enter Kindle Direct Publishing
The admirably seamless user experience is nowhere more evident in the Amazon stratosphere than in its publishing arm, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). When all the other stores were poo pooing self-publishing, KDP started studying our writing and marketing habits and finding ways to serve us and invite us into partnership with them. It was an early opportunity missed by the arrogance of Barnes and Noble, which had the largest brick and mortar footprint across the nation. Now that everyone buys books online, B&N has been playing catch up. And as B&N catches up, KDP is forced to become even better so that we (self-publishers) remain loyal to it.
DIY authors are a hot commodity because we drive a lot of internet traffic to online stores.
Self-Publishing Resources Expand
In this “space race” of self-publishing, Amazon smartly bought a group of smaller companies and fit their offerings together to create a publishing jigsaw puzzle—the original print-on-demand paperback company, Book Source, was renamed CreateSpace. It remained as such until Fall 2018, when this system was retired and all the production files in it started to be rolled into Kindle Paperbacks—where royalty rates have increased to a desirable 60 percent of retail price!
Amazon/Kindle also bought Goodreads (a social platform where authors can interface with readers), Audible (an audio publishing company), and more. At each step self-publishers have been invited to participate and empowered to do it for little to no money upfront.
There were a few elements that had to be done exterior to the web-based platform until now, but as software designers cobbled those together, these features have been integrated into KDP. Now it is quite robust. One of my favorite words!
Writing and Design Come Together
A tipping point has been reached where the upgrades to the back office publishing experience have made it possible to write and design simultaneously, and with a push of a button have a respectable-looking book published in a manner of days.
The improvements benefit consumers too—because frankly, as convenient as portable reading devices like the Kindle are, the appearance of self-published ebooks was always pretty awful. it was hard to add more bells and whistles to a book design that had to be converted into a software that couldn’t accommodate them. Until. Recently. Now conversion of ebooks is better.
Progress leads to perfection, I suppose.
Advertising Tools Join In
With the upgrades to its systems, DIY publishers have access to advertising tools on Amazon. Beta testing is being done on features like the X-Ray, where clickable links add value.
The thing I like about KDP is that when the company wants us to adopt a new behavior they create an inducement to do so. And those inducements usually are tools that increase sales.
Savvy self-publishers need to know their own goals to discern which tools matter for them. Having tools available may empower some people more than others, depending on aptitudes for technology. But the good news is that help is definitely available, so authors can delegate the tasks that lie outside their own comfort zone to support personnel if they want to.
Stay In the Know
Where taking a good close look at KDP’s dashboard every month or two can be beneficial to those who recognize the space is constantly evolving, the best publishing practice is to be mindful of your books and not neglect them. Try thinking of online publishing as a video game. The more you know about the possibilities the more likely you are to be a winner.
Stay in touch with your books. Modify your description, pricing, and keywords periodically. And try out new tools to suss them out. It all exists because someone like you wanted it.
Come play with the rest of the kids in this DIY playground.
Stephanie Gunning is a publishing consultant, editor, and writer. An Amazon-bestselling author in her own right, she has helped over 600 other writers bring their books to market during her career, which spans more than three decades and began at HarperCollins Publishers. Stephanie has mastered the art of transforming powerful ideas into highly marketable books.