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Gail at desk (1)

What a treat to see my book in print! You Can Only Go Forward is out there at last and I couldn’t be happier.

This is a great time for those of us who have writing ambitions. Just in the last ten years we have seen a vast expansion of options in publishing. Which route to choose depends on your patience and your goals as a writer. A few years ago when I was in graduate school, for example, I saw how essential the right publisher is for a career in academia. In my new role of retiree, however, I am free to take advantage of the new world of independent publishing. As an avid reader, I know what readers like me do. We browse. We go where the books are: Amazon, a bookstore, a library, an outdoor book sale, and browse our favorite genres. We might try searching under certain keywords or certain authors. But does anyone search under publishers?

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Who can resist an outdoor used book sale? Humboldt University of Berlin, 2004.

I hope on line browsers will discover my second book, a memoir of the seven years my husband and I struggled with multiple myeloma. I assumed that I would simply publish my second book the same way I published my first one—on Amazon using CreateSpace. But we live in a fluid digital world and that publishing platform had changed. As of April, 2018, CreateSpace has been consolidated with Kindle Digital Publishing, which now handles paperback as well as e-book publishing.

Like CreateSpace, KDP is free, but it does not offer the copyediting and formatting support that CreateSpace did (for an additional price). However you can certainly find outside online assistance for cover design, copyediting, and formatting to help you prepare to publish on Amazon if you want it. There are also many other independent and self-publishing options available, both free and for purchase. Barnes and Noble has a free publishing service. Lulu is another free print-on-demand option that has attracted former CreateSpace authors. I chose to stay with Amazon to keep my books together. I used KDP’s free templates for the cover and formatting. I found their on line support quite adequate for my purposes.

The transition to KDP was easy. When I logged on to CreateSpace I was prompted to move my first book, The Alchemy of Al-Razi, to KDP’s “Bookshelf.” Then I added my new title You Can Only Go Forward to the Bookshelf and filled in the book details, accepting the free ISBN, and saving each page as I went. For beginners, I would advise you to be careful about your choices for author name and book title. These cannot be changed. For example, I published my first book in 2014 under the name Gail Marlow Taylor, Ph.D. This time I thought maybe the “Ph.D.” looked a little pompous, but removing it from my name would prevent my books from being linked when published on Amazon. Anyway, I’m kind of proud of earning that degree at the age of 68, so I don’t mind keeping it out in the open.

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Together on the bookshelf now. (And a lesson on the importance of contrast in print).

Cover design in KDP is similar to CreateSpace, but with fewer templates to choose from. First I selected a photograph I took last year which expressed the journey theme of the title and then I tried it out on different templates. You can then choose from a variety of color palettes, preview them on your screen and select the one that looks best with the image you chose. They do have images available, but I preferred to use a photo that I had taken myself. To complete the cover, you will need an author photo and descriptive paragraph as well as a short paragraph about the book. Be sure that there is a strong enough contrast between the font color and the background so that your title stands out and your paragraphs are easy to read.

As your book’s first impression, of course your cover needs to make an impact. Many authors decide to have a professional designer. It all depends on your goals and resources.

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KDP also provides templates for the interior design. These give a clean and consistent appearance to the content of your book. I downloaded the Kindle Create Add-in which created an extra “Kindle” menu for me in Word that guided me through the process of constructing a coordinated interior for an e-book or paperback. You can choose your template, add in images, design front and back matter, and create an interactive table of contents. I found it very intuitive. Additional help is available through the Author’s Community on the KDP website or you can write a request for help and they will email or call you. They emailed an answer to my question the next day.

My second book was available on Amazon in less than 48 hours after I submitted it. People sometimes say to me that next time maybe I can get a “real publisher.” But I know what that takes and, believe me, I don’t care. I enjoy self-publishing—the quick turnaround time, the structural support, and the ability to tell my story my way. When I was taking care of my husband I devoured books about personal caregiving. They brought community and context into a solitary world. Now I send my story out into the world in hopes that it will help create that sense of community for someone else.

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