Early Retirement
How to Publish Your Paperback Book on Amazon
The site’s cover design tools are actually quite good; they even provide
images you can use for free. For instance, the image on our cover of a roll of
dollar bills comes from their free-for-use collection. They also provide multiple
cover layout options, so you can experiment with different looks until you find
the one that’s right for you. They walk you through the process one step at a
time, from choosing your book size, to adding text to the back cover, to
uploading an optional photo of yourself to include on the back cover. You can
immediately see the results on-screen as you complete each step. Green
checkmarks indicate the steps you’ve completed so far.

Inside Pages
This is where the real work is. The easiest approach is to format your book
directly in Microsoft Word; that's what CreateSpace is primarily set up for. The
stronger your skills in Word, the better off you’ll be. You’ll need to use mirrored
margins, for example, so that inside margins are slightly wider than outside
margins (to account for the space lost to the spine). You'll also want to set up
separate headers for left- and right-facing pages. For a professional look,
consider using odd-page section breaks so each new chapter starts on a right-
facing (odd-numbered) page.

I recommend using another paperback you admire from a formatting
standpoint as a sort of template. Try to mirror the formatting of that book as
much as possible. Note:
Several how-to books are available for purchase on
Amazon that provide a detailed step-by-step approach if you’re not sure your
Word skills are quite up to the task.

Graphics can sometimes be a challenge. A resolution of 300 dots per inch or
higher is required before CreateSpace considers them good enough for
printing. Blurry graphics certainly don't make your book look professional so
it's wise to spend the time to make them look sharp. Remember that your
graphics need to be in black and white if you want to keep the price of your
paperback reasonably low.

Once you have a solid draft of your book, you can upload it to CreateSpace
and see a nice electronic demo of what your book will look like once it's
printed. This can help you discover problem areas so you can go back and fix
them. Of course, the more professional your book looks, the more likely it is to
reach its target audience, so it's worth going through several iterations before
hitting the publish key.

You always own the copyright to your own work so the only thing you really
need to do is include a basic copyright page that has the copyright symbol, the
year, and your name on it, along with the words "All rights reserved." You can
register your book with the Library of Congress if you so choose, but this isn't
necessary. When I looked into it, it seemed like too much effort for too little
return, so I didn't bother. Again, it's easiest to find an example of a copyright
page from a book similar to your own and use it as a model.

CreateSpace provides a helpful tool that lets you calculate your royalties
based on book size (i.e., dimensions), number of pages, and black and white
vs. color for internal pages. You can set your own book price -- it's completely
up to you, except that the price cannot be lower than what it costs to produce
the book. We set the list price of our book at $12.95, for example, and the
royalty we receive per paperback book is $3.90.

You can experiment with different pricing points on the CreateSpace website to
see what your royalty would be. For instance, we tried plugging in list prices of
$9.99, $12.95, $14.95, and $19.95 to see what the results would be. Amazon
incentivizes you to charge a bit more for your book by giving you a higher
percentage of the returns. You might only get one-quarter of the list price at
$9.99, for example, but one-third of the list price at $14.95. You can look at the
list prices of other books in your category to get an idea of what to charge.

If Amazon chooses to lower the selling price of your book at some point, that
has no effect on your royalty. For example, Amazon frequently lists our book
for $11.66 (10% off) but we continue to receive the full royalty payment ($3.90)
for each paperback sold. On the downside, we have no control over whether
Amazon discounts our book or not. For the first month or so the book sold at
full list price, then it came down by 10%. For awhile it was offered at 15% off,
then returned to 10% off. Authors have no say in the process -- nor should
they, in a sense, since the discount comes out of Amazon's share of the
profits. But you can always change the list price of your book.

Proof Copy
You can order a proof copy at significantly reduced cost plus shipping. This
lets you see the physical layout of your book with your own eyes before you hit
the "Publish" key and put it out there for the world to see. After reviewing the
proof copy, I went back and made several last-minute changes to the book
before deciding it was ready to publish.

Ordering Book Copies
You can order copies for yourself if you want to distribute them to friends and
family or for marketing purposes. You get these copies at a significantly
reduced price, but you don't make any royalties off them, obviously.

Getting Listed on Amazon
The book is automatically listed on Amazon.com usually within a day or two
after you hit the "Publish" key. Paperback books are published on demand so
there is no inventory. Amazingly, Amazon is able to print each book as it is
ordered and send it out the next day in most cases.

Picking a Title
It makes sense to pick a title for your book that is highly searchable on Amazon
and Google. For instance, we chose a completely obvious title --"How to Retire
Early" (along with a more specific subtitle) -- because no other books showed
up on Amazon with that title (amazingly enough) and because people are likely
to type in words like "retire early" or "early retirement" in search engines. Your
book will appear higher in the listings if the title has keywords in it that people
frequently search for. This is contrary to the prior wisdom which suggested you
pick an obscure but eye-catching title like "What Color is Your Parachute?"

I'm not sure what the exact algorithm is that Amazon uses to rank its books
when a search is performed, but it seems to be a combination of title keywords,
positive customer reviews, book sales, and possibly publication date (newer
being better). You might as well do all you can, therefore, to make your book
appear as high as possible in the listings.

Our book currently appears first on the Amazon website if the words "retire
early" or “early retirement” are typed into Amazon, but earlier on, before
positive customer reviews started rolling in, it appeared much lower in the
rankings. Since the title has remained unchanged, this must be the result of
other factors such as customer reviews and book sales.

Benefits of Self-Publishing
First and foremost, you're your own boss: you don't have to wait for an editor
to tell you your book is ready. It's ready when you say it is: you simply hit the
"Publish" key. Getting published is no longer a measure of success in and of
itself: rather, success is measured by how well your book sells and what kind of
reviews it receives.

You actually get a higher royalty payment per book than you would with most
traditional publishing options. Unless you're already famous, there's a lot to be
said for this approach. Royalty payments can be set up to transfer
automatically into your bank account once per month. The whole process is
surprisingly easy and transparent, and we would definitely recommend it based
on our own experience.

Why Amazon?
Well, it's the biggest and best distributor of books these days, in our opinion.
Just about everyone uses Amazon, and book orders can be combined with
orders for other stuff to get over the $35 free shipping mark. The CreateSpace
tools are genuinely useful, and Amazon has made the process of self-
publishing about as painless as possible.

Amazon's powerful online presence also helps when it comes to marketing. For
instance, if someone clicks on your book, it may appear later on in a Facebook
sidebar ad for that person without your having to pay a dime. Their listings
also tend to appear higher up in Google searches.

Amazon has an international presence, so you can even sell copies of your
book overseas without any special effort on your part. And CreateSpace’s
Expanded Distribution option lets you make your book available for order to
other online retailers, bookstores, libraries, and academic institutions.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and publish that paperback!
If you've ever dreamed of seeing your
book published on Amazon, that dream
may be within easier reach than you
thought. My wife and I published the
paperback version of our book,
How to Retire Early, using a subsidiary
of Amazon called
CreateSpace. You
can go to their website and watch a
great little
tutorial on how it all works.

Using the free features on Create-
Space, I was able to put together and
self-publish our book at no cost
whatsoever since I did my own editing,
formatting, and cover creation. Each of
these steps can be farmed out for a fee
if you prefer, but if you have decent
Microsoft Word skills and are willing to
push your knowledge boundaries a bit,
you should be good to go.