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Measuring Up Outlets For Indie Publishing

The early days of publishing reinforced the image of self-publishing as a sort of back alley: rough, dangerous and not very nice. The early days of publishing reinforced the image of self-publishing as a sort of back alley: rough, dangerous and not very nice.

To an extent it was right, too.  There were rumors of people selling hundreds of copies on Smashwords, but that was about it.  There was not a big enough market to warrant it, since relatively few people owned portable e-readers.

The first Kindle reader had a greenish screen and though some of us got very excited over it because we thought it would be a better way to carry books we were reading for friends, it was still not a very good reading medium.

And then Amazon opened its doors to indie publishing, and brought out the Kindle 2, also known as kindle keyboard.  I got given one for Christmas and was very doubtful about it.  Until I started reading on it.  Other than the fact that – having a cover on it – I tended to forget what it was and lay it down with its face down, as I do other books (yes, I know.  Horrible person) and then forget where I’d put it, it was almost exactly like reading a book.

At that time, putting up a book daunted someone like me.  Six months later, I took a workshop on indie publishing (Run by the redoubtable Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith) and learned to do my own books and put them up.

And now, two and a half years later, I’m learning a bunch of more sophisticated methods of doing everything from covers to interior formatting. However, one thing hasn’t changed – Amazon started all of this, and Amazon is still the greatest source of my indie income.

As a reader I know why this is.  They have my account, and I can buy with one click and get it “beamed” (whispersync sounds a little silly) to my kindle.  Whether I’m at the airport or waiting at the dentist, I don’t need to transfer files or do anything else.  (I suppose the same is true of the Nook, but more on that later.)

From my point of view, without Amazon there would never have been indie.  And Amazon is still the most successful and easiest outlet.  In fact, I know many successful writers/publishers who haven’t bothered to learn how to get in anywhere else.

The Amazon platform is self-explanatory, both to sign up to publish, and to put a book up.  When you sign up to publish, at least for now, I would have a “publisher’s name.”  Ideally this entity should have legal existence, either through DBA or incorporation, depending on your state’s laws and whether you intend to publish other people or just yourself.  (And please, if your name is Bob Smith, don’t call this Bob Smith’s books.  Some people are still mired in the anti-self-publishing past)  Consult with someone in your state as to the advisability of one type of legal entity over the other.  Or just buy some books about it.

Still, Amazon is easy to sell your book through. Putting a book up, you get prompted for everything from title to description to price, to rights you can sell. I’m not going to tell you it’s not possible to do stuff wrong.  My very first story that went up I managed to mark as public domain and price at $999.  I corrected it almost immediately and, dang it, no one bought that first copy.  However, if you’re even minimally attentive, and not so nervous you can’t read, you can get things up without much trouble.