Kindle Publishing: A Brief, Encouraging Guide

September 9, 2011 § 8 Comments


Have you considered putting your own craft essay, brief memoir, or other shorter work out in an inexpensive Kindle edition?  It’s easier than you think.

Two months back, we featured a brief excerpt from Thomas Larson’s craft e-book  What Exactly Happened: Four (Excellent) Essays on the Craft of Memoir.  This week, we asked Larson to tell us how he did that, why he did that, and whether, in his opinion, we all should be doing more of it.  Here is his excellent response:

To do an eBook with Amazon, go to the bottom of the homepage and, under “Make Money With Us,” hit “Self-Publish With Us.” That link, Kindle Direct Publishing, begins the journey. I won’t detail the steps; Amazon will show you. But you may want to buy a cheap guide to formatting your work for Kindle—here’s one and another—which you do in Word, and is easy. Your MFA has, at least, prepared you to follow instructions.

What to publish? That depends on how you conceive your audience. I define my audience as the memoir community, which buys my book, The Memoir and the Memoirist, and my short eBook, What Exactly Happened: Four Essays on the Craft of Memoir. (Reader feedback from the latter work tells me such craft talk is needed and appreciated.) Who is your audience? Figure it out. Our literary/monetary future as writers depends on audience and how we link to them.

Why do I like the eBook format so much?

Unlike lit journals, that may take a year for your work to appear, an eBook is published right away. Direct publishing (let’s quit using “self-publishing”; its vanity stain belongs to a bygone generation) offers us the journalistic equivalent of making our writing news.

An eBook can be read on a laptop, iPad, iPod Touch, or any eReader.

If you make mistakes, you can change the contents, make a new cover, raise/lower its price. Try doing that with a traditional book.

If you price it between 2.99 and 9.99, you get 70% of the sale.

One downside, since anyone can put up anything, is who will judge the content? We need aggregators, critics, if you will, who will sort the good eBooks from the bad ones.

Take a look at the stunningly well-done site, the Atavist, “a boutique publishing house producing original nonfiction stories for digital, mobile reading devices.” Its technology costs are high, so it’s unclear how the writer makes much money having to propose, research, and write the product.

Meanwhile, I continue to put up new work at Amazon Kindle. “We Are Their Heaven: A Family Memoir” is a 7600-word piece that tells one story of how those I have loved live on in me. Since it’s $1.99 (below the threshold), I get only 35%, $.70 per unit. Now all I need to do is sell a thousand of them. Wouldn’t that be nice?

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§ 8 Responses to Kindle Publishing: A Brief, Encouraging Guide

  • Tom, thanks for this guide. I bought and enjoyed and learned from your Amazon craft essays. It has surprised me with the Kindle that my reading experience is the same as with physical books, with one exception. That is that e-readers flatten structure, so one does not see section breaks (as in a book) coming or going, which I like as a writer. That’s an immaterial objection for essays, since e-readers do of course preserve line breaks, which work the same on the screen as on the page.

  • Carol Frome says:

    It’s good to see credible literary authors supporting eBooks and “direct publishing.” Technology will be the great democratizing force, if not leveler of literary works. Though they may never buy a literary journal, more people than we ever dreamed of may now read a short story or a poem or two.

    Yeah, there will be a lot of crap — there is already — but to some extent, readers will carry out the vetting process, just as they do on Amazon. Yet given that there’s a lot of very popular chaff out there, reader vetting is obviously not enough to sort the wheat from the chaff.

    But maybe it doesn’t matter. People who like formulaic writing and whose tolerance for grammatical gaffes is high have always been around. With eBooks, they are at least more likely to pick up something better — and perhaps to develop higher expectations.

  • I love seeing established authors and writers embracing the new technology– it’s where our readers are going anyway, we might as well join them.

  • […] Kindle Publishing: A Brief, Encouraging Guide (brevity.wordpress.com) […]

  • Tim Elhajj says:

    Tom, You might get your thousand sales of “We Are Their Heaven”, but it might take a while. The good news is that while you wait, you don’t have to produce anything else (unless of course, you want to produce another blog post that tells us more about the work!).

    I appreciate and feel encouraged by your post. I wish you luck with your digital publishing. I am ready to jump into the market myself.

    • Tim, I realize that I was not able to say much (the blog post must be kept short) about “We Are Their Heaven.” As I say in the Amazon blurb, it’s
      the uncanny story of a woman who waited every day on a corner for her husband, killed years before in a car crash, to come home. The old title of the piece was “The Woman on the Corner,” which had no punch. So I retitled. I think that the Kindle format of short pieces (all of my writing is getting shorter and more fragmented) is ideally suited to these memory essays or stories. The other thing is for a couple of years I put stuff up on my website for free. Now I think twice about that and am holding back pieces (most previously published) so I might charge something nominal for them. It’s like buying the kilo and breaking it down into lids (or does that age me).

      But I really think that what is at the core of digital technology is not the technology per se but the economic opportunity of making and remaking ourselves as writers in dialogue with our audiences. I think about Bob Dylan and Marshall McLuhan. Dylan has said that he wrote the songs so he could sing them. McLuhan wrote his books so he could go on TV and talk about them and his ideas. The idea is now for the writer to use one medium (print) to reach a live audience (online and in person) with direct publishing and interactive media. This is a watershed in the development of our art. Nothing like this has happened since we abandoned oral language as our primary communications media for print in the 1500s.

      Eventually we will all step through the portal. But it’ll take time. Please jump in, Tim. The river is wide. TL

  • Thank you for the encouraging words. It’s nice to know the more we improve our craft, the more publishing opportunities await us.

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