A few years ago, the idea of writing a book, let alone publishing one, was a distant, lifelong dream that verged on fantasy.
And yet, over the past few years I have made that dream come true by publishing, not just one full-length fictional book, but two, as well as co-authoring a biography.
It has been a steep learning curve and, as a complete non-technical novice when it comes to the mechanics of self-publishing, a frustrating one at times.
I started out by self-publishing on Amazon with the help of Michael Andrews from JAMS and I will be forever grateful to him for his generosity and patient support with this. However, over time I have gradually built up the knowledge and skills to enable me to do this by myself and weaned myself off my reliance on him. I pretty much managed to publish Trident Edge all by myself with just a little bit of handholding from him.
This year I decided to publish my books on some other platforms in addition to Amazon. This decision was prompted by the idea that I’d like to try and get a Book Bub deal one day. In reading around how to achieve this, it soon became clear that most books that are successful in being offered one of their, potentially lucrative, deals have to be available on a wide range of international platforms and have some evidence of sales success and positive reviews on these.
So, it was immediately clear that I was going to have to publish my books on some of these other platforms and I started preparing to go about this. After all, I had mastered the art of publishing on Amazon so how hard could it be … ?
Of course, as is to be expected for a mature, IT idiot like me, it has been a bit of a nightmare and after setting out to do this in the summer of 2022, I have only just completed the process. For those of you who are as baffled and bewildered by the challenges of tasks like this as me, I thought I’d share my journey in case it helps. For those of you that find the whole thing as ‘easy as pie’ … don’t bother reading any further.
Leaving Amazon KDP Select
The first thing I learned was that I was going to have to withdraw from KDP Select, as being enrolled in this programme means that your books are exclusive to Amazon. I was a little concerned about this as the majority of my sales at the time were coming from Kindle Unlimited and books are only available on this if the author has signed up for KDP Select. Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead with my decision. Both of my books were at different stages of the 90-day period so the first thing I had to do was wait for them to expire. Trident Edge was almost at the end of the time period but Wait for Me didn’t come off until October 1st.
The next thing I did was purchased some ISBN’s. When I published on Amazon I used their free ISBN’s but these cannot be used for books published on other platforms. Other platforms also offer free ISBN’s but the idea of having lots of different ISBN’s for different books on different platforms didn’t sit well with me so I decided to purchase my own.
For the UK, the recommended source is the Neilson ISBN Store. A single ISBN will cost £91 but you can buy 10 for £169 so it was a bit of a no-brainer to buy 10. A big expense but they never expire and given that I plan to publish more books in the future they will all be used.
The next step was to select where to publish and whether to use a third party like Smashwords or Draft2Digital. I decided I only wanted to be on four platforms other than Amazon. Remember my main objective was to be eligible for a Book Bub Deal. I went for Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google and Apple. I decided not to go with Draft2Digital or Smashwords as they appeared to be geared largely towards eBooks and I didn’t want to limit myself in this way.
Barnes and Noble
Barnes and Noble was a complete disaster! I still don’t really understand why. I had set up an author account while I was waiting to come off KDP Select but when I tried to log-in it wouldn’t let me. I contacted them and they told me my account had been cancelled but they couldn’t tell me why. I was advised to create a new account with a different email address. Not ideal but I went ahead. All seemed to be working until I got to the part where I had to enter my tax details and it blocked me because my tax details were already assigned to another account. I had numerous exchanges with B&N Customer Service who were extremely unhelpful. I chatted about it to other writers on social media. I spent hours of my life that I will never get back trying to work around the problem but eventually I gave up and moved on to Kobo.
Kobo was the most straightforward to use of all the platforms. I did have a few issues with the creation and formatting of the EPUB files including downloading and using a programme called Calibre which didn’t work and seems to have messed up my computer in ways that I have still not managed to fix. Nothing serious – just annoying little things like opening my book files in the Calibre programme every time I wanted to work with them and now my computer doesn’t default to Word so I have to select it when looking at any of my text files! Grrr! However, when I did some further reading about how to prepare a Word document for Kobo to convert to an EPUB file and followed all the steps listed, everything worked fine, and my books went live quickly. Even still, more hours of my life flashed by in what felt like the blink of an eye.
I also succeeded fairly easily on Google Play after a bit more fiddling around with formatting again. Generally though, the changes I made for Kobo seemed to make the process easier for Google. However, I think it was on this platform that I had some issues with the cover of Wait for Me (it might have been Draft2Digital but the issue and solution is still the same). Essentially, they rejected the cover because it was in CMYK colour mode rather than RBG. I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, what it meant, and how I could fix it! I then spent more countless hours of my, now much shorter life trying to sort this one out. I eventually found a free programme that would do the conversion but was dismayed to find that they offered 8 different RGB options. I had to go through a laborious trial and error process saving the file using each option in turn, uploading it and waiting to see if it was accepted or not. Yet more hours of my life consumed before I got the right one and the books were accepted.
Apple was a bit of a nightmare too, due in part to the fact that I work on a PC and not a Mac. Creating an account and setting it all up was a distinctly unintuitive process that had me tearing my hair out at times. I did manage to wade my way through this process though and finally uploaded and submitted my books. This time they kept being rejected due to some issues with the content. Apple sent me long comments explaining what was wrong, but it was written in such inaccessible IT nerd language that I couldn’t understand it. I spent a LOT of time farting around with Apple and getting absolutely nowhere. By now, I was truly losing the will and wondering why I ever started the whole thing in the first place! Eventually, I decided that I might have to admit defeat and work with one of their recommended partners and this was what led me full circle to Draft2Digital.
Wow! I cannot stress enough how easy this platform was to use. I uploaded my books in no time at all. As well as Apple, I decided to try for Barnes and Noble with them too and it all worked like a dream. They even explained what the issue was with Apple. Because my files contained some links to some of my other publications on Amazon, Apple (as their main competitor) had set up a firewall to reject any books with links to Amazon in them. Fair enough. I removed all these links from the files and the situation was instantly resolved.
The big conclusion here is that if you are not super-confident with technology like me, don’t bother trying all the individual platforms. The process will steal years from your life and drive you mad at the same time. I would recommend going straight down the Draft2Digital route every time. I wish I had, and will for my next book!
P.S. D2D also provide Universal Links so that readers can purchase your books from the platform of their choice.
For more information about Draft2Digital, have a look at this Reedsy blog post about it https://blog.reedsy.com/draft2digital-reviews/