Well, I did it! I published my first novel on Amazon. Although it wasn't a simple process, I do believe anyone who uses a word processor could do it. Amazon makes publishing for the Kindle pretty straightforward, even providing a free e-book with step-by-step instructions titled Building Your Book for Kindle. I began by spending about three weeks doing a final edit, which the book really did need. I've learned quite a bit since I finished The Rogue Queen, thanks in large part to a pair of friends who also write. They very kindly read Novel #2, offering salient editing advice, which I then applied to Novel #1. Meanwhile, Patient Husband photographed Duchess Angharad Banadaspus Drakenhefd for the cover, and I think she did a great job! A friend from work offered to turn the photo into a cover. The blue of the duchess's dress simply leaps off the page. That part I doubt I could've done by myself, although there are workarounds for that as well. You can use Amazon's cover creator, or you can find someone to do it for you via Fiverr or other sites. I'm glad I had talented, helpful people around me to help me create a one-of-a-kind cover.
Formatting for the Kindle was also pretty easy. The worst part was having to go through a 400-page manuscript, changing the indents one by one. Not difficult, just tedious. I also had to add a table of contents, but since Word can do that for you it was just a few mouse clicks. The most important step is saving the Word doc as a Web Page, then uploading the right format. I had a brief moment of panic when I accidentally uploaded the Word doc, but it was a quick fix. I carefully checked the book using Amazon's online previewer, added the cover, and went on to the next step: pricing and distribution.
I spent some time thinking about how to price the book. Some people advise giving it away for free, but I decided against that. I worked too hard for too long to simply give it away. In the end I priced it at $3.49; inexpensive, but at a point where I can make 70% royalties. I also chose to participate in Amazon's KDP Select program, where readers can borrow the book through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library or buy it if they read more than 10% of the text through Kindle Unlimited. Either way, I still make money. There are a couple marketing tools I can use through the program, like running a promotion, and although I can't sell the book on any other digital platform I can still sell it as a paper book or an audiobook. And I can choose not to continue with the program after 90 days.
Which brings us to the print-on-demand part of the story. I'm a die-hard real book user, I admit it, so I knew I had to create a paper book for others who also prefer the format. This was more complicated than the Kindle formatting. I struggled for at least two days getting the pagination and page breaks right. This, oddly, is one place where Amazon doesn't make it easy. There are some idiosyncrasies about real books, such as page one beginning on a left-hand page and having all text right-justified. The latter was simple; the former not so much. Separating the front matter, which is not paginated, from the text, which is, proved difficult but with some help from Microsoft Office eventually I prevailed. My front cover needs resizing and the back cover requires a headshot (!), which Patient Husband will take care of for me. After that I think all will go smoothly.
Getting the book into the hands of readers who will enjoy it is the next step. If I wanted to spend money it would be easy to get reviews, but with less than $100 in royalties earned so far I didn't want to go that route. I eventually thought to Google folks who blog about historical fiction. Some won't review books published independently, which I can understand, but it doesn't make my task any easier. So far I've contacted half a dozen bloggers who might agree to read and review TRQ. Once the paper copy is ready to roll I'm going to re-join the Historical Novel Society; they also review for free. Amazon (surprise, surprise) has master reviewers who will read and review. It's not a speedy process, but since it took more than a decade to get this far I'm willing to wait a little bit longer for the book to take off. One of the benefits of e-publishing is that the book never goes away. There's time!