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The Antpod Faction
Alex James used Amazon’s CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and Kindle Direct Publishing to get my first book in print and on Kindle. Did it work?

My name is Alex James. I am a self-published author who lives in Leeds, West Yorkshire, in the UK. I write science-fiction and fantasy stories. I have written quite a few at home, but have only just managed to get my first book published: The Antpod Faction. I used Amazon’s CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and Kindle Direct Publishing to get my first book in print and on Kindle. I chose Amazon because I strongly believe DIY publishing is the future. I spent a few years trying to get my book published the traditional way, where sending submissions to literary agents and publishers was the norm. But after repeated rejections I started to wonder whether it would ever be accepted. I had heard of a lot of people receiving similar replies. I eventually came to the conclusion that the current publishing system is not able to publish every author and cater for every market. Besides, the road to getting published was incredibly long-winded:

1) Submissions to traditional publishers were either not accepted, or when they were, they had so many manuscripts that they could not reply (if they did reply) in a timely manner. Uniform rejection slips were common.

2) Submissions to literary agents were very common. I never personally succeeded in getting a literary agent. But getting a literary agent was only the first step; your literary agent still needed to convince publishing houses to publish your work!

3) There were many independent publishers. But deciding whether to trust them, or if they could deliver the book I wanted was always difficult for me.

On the other hand, self-publishing came with its own problems. There are hundreds of self-publishing service companies out there who are only too happy to publish your book. They demand an up-front cost to publish your work, market it, proofread it, and many other services. At first these options look attractive because it seems as if publishing your book is finally a possibility. However the prices always put me off. Surely you don’t need to pay £300 to publish your book digitally or £500 to get it in print? And then there’s proofreading and editing, as well as the front cover design. There are multiple marketing services to pay for, tailored publishing services, bespoke services, publishing packages, aaaaaaargh!


The cost would be astronomical and you haven’t even got a single printed copy or example of how your book would look. You haven’t sold any books yet, and you have spent this much? It didn’t take me long to realise that these companies, which I had always been a bit suspicious of, were taking advantage of others and were profiting at their expense.

The aim of self-publishing is to find a niche in the market for your book, and to identify, connect and profit from selling your books. But how do you do this when somebody has already profited from you?

When I found DIY publishing options the first thing that appealed to me was the free set-up. I could publish my book for free (I know, unbelievable). There was no setup cost. The idea was great: there was a platform for authors to set up their own titles and publish them. I immediately looked at lulu.com and Amazon’s CreateSpace (I already knew I wanted my book on Kindle). I wanted to take out the middle man (lulu), and so I signed up with CreateSpace. The aim these days for most authors is to get their book onto amazon. If it’s on amazon then people can find it easily. A lot of people use amazon to search for things. It helped that amazon had made the Kindle. I believed they cared a lot about authors, since there were author pages, communities, and help pages. It was the library and creative space of the future for aspiring authors. I regarded myself as a revolutionary author (in the sense that I wanted to try something different), and amazon had revolutionized publishing.


Aside from a few important things to keep in mind, I had made my decision. I needed a few things now. I needed a cover and I needed proofreading/editing. These things would cost money, but they didn’t have to. Proofreading is a choice an author makes to try and make their work as error-free or presentable as possible. Editing is something that is required, or it isn’t. I personally chose not to go for the proofreading. This was because I had read through The Antpod Faction probably nearly ten times over a few years, and I felt that paying for what I considered to be a light proofread would be a waste of money. My readers can decide whether I made the right choice…

As for the cover, this was very important to me. I could have created a cover at no cost. I could have designed one myself using amazon’s cover creator, or using some design software. But I knew I was helpless at these things. I decided to get one done for me.


Want to publish on CreateSpace and use Kindle Direct Publishing? Here are a few tips on challenges I had

 

1. Just to clarify for new authors CreateSpace is what you sign up to get your book in print (paperback) while Kindle Direct Publishing gets it on Kindle.

2. Do you have your manuscript ready to publish? Think again. Formatting your manuscript for Kindle and CreateSpace is one of the biggest headaches, because both require you to think about different things. I bought the kindle book Building Your Book for Kindle, which I would recommend to any author hoping for an introduction to formatting for kindle. It only includes the basics I believe, but that was all I needed and all I was capable of for I tend not to be proficient with computers, html or software.

3. For your print book you need to think about widows, orphans (last line of paragraph or section at top of page or single line of new paragraph/section at bottom of page) smart quotes (the proper curly quotes) and making sure your ellipses have the correct number of spaces between them or that they are consistent. You need to set your margins, indents, page numbers, headers and footers. All this needs to fit into CreateSpace’s Interior Reviewer, which although imperfect (so community members told me) is a helpful way of seeing what the interior of your book will look like when it is finished. When you have finished on CreateSpace there is a helpful option to transfer your print file onto Kindle, but I didn’t try this method for I had already formatted my kindle file.

4. Your cover design is very important for kindle and for print. But for print there are extra things to think about. If you don’t want a white border around your work then you are going to need bleed around the edges (where the image ‘bleeds’ to the cut-off/trim line). You’re going to have to think about your font for your title, the spine, and the back cover text. It is helpful to have your interior file complete before you do this so you don’t need to ask your cover designer, if you have one, to readjust the spine.

5. Your cover design will need to conform to kindle specifications on the kindle, which you can find on the website: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help

6. One of the problems I had was with tax. If you are a UK author hoping to publish your book and let amazon distribute worldwide then you need to apply for an ITIN number using a W-7 form so that the IRS in the US don’t collect 30% of your royalties. I have sent mine off, but it takes 6-8 weeks or longer for them to get back to you. Read the instructions on CreateSpace/Kindle help pages and prepare to be temporarily side-tracked from the publishing objective.

I recommend the community on CreateSpace/Kindle. There are some very helpful and intelligent members who dedicate their time to helping new members. I sometimes wish there was a way to properly thank them for their invaluable advice. You can also ring or e-mail CreateSpace or Kindle Publishing (but you can’t call CreateSpace regarding formatting or the process of publishing because they charge for similar services)

  

Good luck!

 

Writing

 

I first started writing when I was 21. It sounds like quite a late age to start writing. I had virtually no experience of creative or fictional writing. I had spent my life avoiding literature. The reason was that during literature classes I never could comprehend what everybody else saw in words. People would volunteer thoughts, emotions, feelings, and situational information about a piece of text. But for me the only thing evident about the text we were studying at that particular time was the text itself.

I passed school with good GCSEs and decided to go to college to do my A-levels. I tried quite a few A-levels. I finished with Film Studies, French, Sociology, and History. I tended to be good at writing exams at the time. I went to university, but shortly dropped out. It was only later that I returned to writing. I took a proofreading course, which I enjoyed a lot. I used to like checking text and making sure it was correct. And then the science-fiction and fantasy genre gripped me. I have since read nearly one hundred books in a few years in the genre.

My first story was an idea that had been in my head for a long time. At the age of 20 I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. It was an important moment in my life for it explained much of my life prior to that moment. I wanted a story that involved Asperger Syndrome and would focus on characters with different neurological states. I initially wanted my book to say ‘look at how diverse people can be’. I wanted my characters to display these differences in obvious ways, but to come together at some point in the story and put aside their differences in a bid for acceptance and solidarity.

Months and years passed but still I could not fit the ideas for this story together. I read books about Asperger Syndrome and Autism and even tried to think which bits would be useful for a novel, but to no avail.

It was much later that I decided on a different idea. I decided to change my humans with neurological differences into androids. These androids and the characters I would make with them would represent the variety of conditions, personalities etc. Only it eventually did not occur in this way. As I started writing about my main character, who was to be female, I put myself in her shoes. She represented everything I was. Her insecurities, ambitions, difficulties, hopes, differences, and experiences would mirror my own, but in a different world.

My first draft was very simple. It focused on the adventures of Mase and her female friends, who were also androids. It was at this point that I realised how little I actually knew about females and social interaction. I continued to plan my story. I looked at my new society from above, deciding on important events, the history of these androids, the technologies they used, and how society would change. I even planned out a few characters, but I couldn’t seem to be able to think of any other concrete characters but the main female android, who temporarily I called female4.

The next draft was very political, and would probably be very difficult to read. It read more like a political paper than it did a novel. It was very detailed and precise, but there was no story there. It was like being stuck in the vacuum of another world and being unable to realise why you exist in it!

The next draft I scored. I continued writing and writing, looking back at my numerous pages of planning and drafts and thinking about how the characters would interact in this world in more detail. A few months and much excitement later I had my first story. It was 120,000 words I believe. I was happy with it. The vague concept or idea I had had materialised. But it was very different. Mase (female4) was in line with my initial expectations, but the other characters were not examples of neurological differences. Instead they seemed to slot in and around Mase and the antpod society like pieces of a bizarre jigsaw puzzle. And what defined these characters was not their perception of antpod society, but their intentions. I had a hundred shades of good and evil, all centred on the political struggles of the concept antpod kind/antpod society.

Further edits cut my word count considerably, and sometimes eliminated the odd chapter which was only adding information that was already there. The story didn’t change though. My jigsaw puzzle was complete and I was very happy with it, even if it was not what I had planned.

The Antpod Faction was born.  


Alex James is a young writer based in Leeds and The Antpod Faction is available online through Amazon. 




 

      

 




 



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