Rules from a noob who tried to publish a book with a “well-laid out” plan
Being a first-time author and first-time book formatter, I figured hiccups would happen during my indie publishing journey.
The last thing I expected was my book not to be available on its release day.
You know how demoralizing that was?
One of the best days of my life turned into a complete nightmare.
A waiting game that led to nothing but disappointment.
Like most Philadelphia Eagles’ seasons.
My sadness didn’t even include the money I spent on marketing and advertising.
What a waste.
Even worse, my marketing plan worked.
My websites spiked in traffic.
(But how impressive was it really?)
People were clicking my links.
But they couldn’t buy my book.
(Unless they had an Amazon Kindle.)
How did I fuck this one up?
Let me tell you, so you won’t make the same mistakes as me.
(And maybe we can get Amazon to update their service a bit … because it’s great. Well, minus the whole not releasing my book on release day thing, or the day after.)
How We Got Here
Since Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing doesn’t allow authors to schedule their book release ahead of time, I stared at my computer screen half awake.
Gazing at the “Publish Your Book” button.
Between the last-minute marketing tactics, updating my website and bios with new links and copy for Last Chance California’s release, planning how I’d spend my book release day, the White House telling me a whole bunch of people are about to die for the holidays, and the fact that half my starting lineup was on the COVID reserve list right in the middle of my NFL fantasy football playoff matchups, sleep wasn’t happening much.
But I had hope.
My first-ever book was on the verge of its publication.
A childhood dream about to come to life.
As soon as the clock struck midnight, I clicked the “Publish” button.
My book was on its way to being a REAL BOOK!
The next New York Times Best Seller.
The greatest book ever written.
Fuck you, Hemingway.
8 a.m. EST
The overpriced news release I purchased that announced my novel crossed the wire.
Social media influencers shared posts and stories about Last Chance California.
Bookstagrammers highlighted Last Chance California on their blogs.
My advertising campaigns kicked off.
It was going to be a good day.
12:15 p.m. EST
Social media posts were being shared about Last Chance California.
More clicks and website visits.
My marketing strategy was building momentum.
People messaged me on social media.
Some texted me.
All had the same question, “When is your book going to be on sale?”
“I thought it was supposed to be today, but things aren’t looking great.”
There was no book listed on Amazon’s website.
No word from Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing on why either.
I thought Jeff Bezos made his money on books and quick service?
2:54 p.m. EST
Most of the day was spent lying around in my own self-pity.
Finally, an email for Amazon Direct Publishing.
Fourteen hours after submitting my manuscript for publishing.
The team at Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing emailed me and informed me that the barcode (which I purchased at the only service that provides ISBNs in America – specifically for this novel) was no good, despite Bowker’s insistence I needed a barcode to sell my book.
Waste of money.
The Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing team also informed me that the page size of my book was incorrect.
This made no sense to me.
I ordered four proof copies and reviewed the book on Amazon’s Direct Publishing’s book reviewer software weeks before the release. Hours and hours spent formatting and perfecting the manuscript, and when I got the book, it looked like magic, baby.
But not to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
I didn’t have time to argue with a service rep.
It might take a customer service rep hours to get back to my email, considering how slow the review process was.
5:45 p.m. EST
Most of my book release day had gone by.
My website traffic continued to spike.
And no one could buy the book.
I spent three hours reformatting my manuscript.
On Microsoft Word.
If you know anything about formatting books or Microsoft Word, you know what kind of hell this is.
I was also being flooded with messages asking me when the book would be available.
Having to tell potential customers, “I have no idea when my book will release” is pretty demoralizing, especially considering I had planned this day for six months.
And practically my entire life.
I reached out to Amazon’s Customer Support via email and live chat.
Never heard back from any emails.
But on the live chat, the representative apologized, but told me, the manuscript reviews take as long as they take. The rep didn’t have a response when I asked what the point of the print previewer tool and printed proof copies of my manuscript were since Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing had final say?
(Even though, Amazon’s dedication is to quality not my deadline. Corporate doublespeak gaslighting bullshit if you ask me.)
(30 hours after my initial submission to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing)
An email from Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
We checked your files and found issues you need to fix before your book can be published on KDP:
Add 0.125″ (3.2 mm) to your book’s page width and 0.25″ (6.4 mm) to the page height to ensure that the images in your manuscript extend beyond the edge of the page. Once you have added the size, extend any images or backgrounds that you want to reach all the way to the edge of the page 0.125” (3.2 mm) beyond the trim line. This prevents manufacturing issues when the file is trimmed to size. See examples PDF page(s) 4 – 7.
Where possible, we give pages numbers with examples. To make sure your entire book meets our guidelines, please review your entire manuscript file and fix all issues.
To update book details, go to your KDP Bookshelf. If you update your manuscript or cover, you’ll have to upload the revised file to KDP. We’ll review your book again to ensure it meets our requirements.
More bad news.
Fucking book formatting.
10:55 a.m. EST
After adjusting the paper size, all the pages got messed up.
There were weird spaces throughout the manuscript.
I hope I caught them all.
Four more hours of formatting.
Resubmitted the Last Chance California manuscript.
4:17 p.m. EST
My book was still not available.
I hadn’t heard anything from Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
I reached out to Amazon’s customer support.
Explained to another agent my situation.
I was chatting with an Amazon online customer service agent.
I explained my situation.
Asked me for an update on the manuscript I submitted a little before 11 a.m. EST.
He let me know the changes I made, per Amazon, caused another issue. One letter was in a restricted area and needed to be change.
“Can you reject the manuscript, so I upload a new one?”
“I cannot,” he said. “We can’t interrupt the review process.”
7 p.m. EST
I awoke after numbing myself to sleep.
Still nothing from Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
No responses to my emails.
Still no Last Chance California on sale.
I start another chat with Amazon’s Customer Support, this time, going full Karen, and asking for a manager.
But instead, the rep asks me to explain my story again.
It’s standard procedure.
Relive the horribleness of what was supposed to a triumphant day.
But the good news is, everyone I talked to on Amazon’s customer support team and chat was wonderful, kind, and compassionate human beings.
They didn’t necessarily all help me, but they were kind.
And that’s gotta count for something.
Especially if you know me.
The customer service rep connected me with a supervisor, John, saying he will email me a file from the KDP team, which they will format and fix the single error in my manuscript, ASAP.
7:36 p.m. EST
John, who I spoke to via chat earlier, sent me an email letting me know the Amazon Direct Publishing team was going to fix the single error in my manuscript and email me it to review. It’s mighty kind of them to offer this. I feel grateful, but still uneasy. I have a problem trusting people. And had a feeling “quick fix” and “quick turnaround time” were just words with no real meaning.
11:11 p.m. EST
(Almost 48 hours since Last Chance California was set to release)
I haven’t heard from Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
I wonder if all those warehouse strikes have something to do with the delays.
My patience is lost.
I want to scream like a maniac.
What a huge, colossal failure.
Another day gone by.
No book for sell.
Thank God I didn’t plan a release party or virtual book tour.
That would have been miserable.
I watch the spikes in my website traffic dwindle.
With no product to buy, another customer lost.
I look like an unprepared fool.
And maybe I am.
Hire a professional to format your book.
Use a service that allows you to schedule your book release ahead of time to avoid any last-minute hang-ups. (Especially if you do-it-yourself.)
Read all those three thousand pages of the tiny, little fine print rules, terms and conditions that lawyers and corporations write up to protect themselves from their own mistakes. Seriously, we should ban fine print. Fine print is like those bullshit kickbacks politicians sneak into bills.
I guess all of this could have been avoided if I wrote a book that publishers would actually want to sell.
It’s been a pretty terrible last two days.
Going on three.
What was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life turned into another shitty holiday.
But at least the Birds won last night, and I have another story to tell.
On the right side, maybe my book will be on sale before the year ends.
And not ruin Christmas after all.
Side Note: The customer service representatives were kind and as helpful as they could be. They were following rules, trying to offer support, and doing their best. I don’t want that to be lost in all of this. There’s a lot of great people in our world, we’re just constantly shown shitty ones.
The issue, besides my utter lack of experience, and maybe my reckless confidence that it would be easy to self-publish a book with Amazon, is the turnaround time. I was unable to schedule my book’s release ahead of time, which most other self-publishing services offer.