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It's the start of production season for an author whose book I've just edited. His collection of essays will be in print and might become a hardback, too. It's time for him to consider how he will manufacture his self-published indie book. I'm not calling what we're doing publishing yet, because the plans for marketing, sales, and publicity aren't set yet. The first job is to manufacture the book, including the writing and editing, design, and printing.
Amazon now wants the business of creating paperbacks for sale in its online retail store. Author copies, useful for sales to consignment booksellers like Austin's Bookpeople, can be purchased for the cost of printing from Amazon. As you might imagine, selling a book that's printed by Amazon makes the paperback available on Amazon.com sooner than through other methods like IngramSpark. Readers buying paperbacks can sometimes be in a hurry.
Once your manuscript has been edited and proofed (two separate steps) you're ready to start the production process. Kindle and ebooks are easiest to make, and both Barnes and Noble as well as Amazon's KDP have online tools to do the formatting for ebooks.
If you'd like to know what your book will look like on an e-reader, you don't even have to submit it for Amazon production. Kindle will accept Word files and format them for reading on pads and Kindles. Email the Word file (.doc or .docx) to your Kindle email address of your account. Then you can look at the work in progress as if it's a book. Free — and this is a powerful tool to use in development editing, workshopping, or being a beta reader.
Amazon has good pages on how to produce a printed book through their services. They’ve got free software and videos. People have strong feelings about the Zon, but at the end of the day they're a book retailer who wants titles to sell and use for data collection and promotion purposes. Everything you sell or offer on Amazon is tracked, and some of that data is used to help sell other books, too. It's just the way the Zon does business.
Getting your books up for sale on the Zon is essential, unless you're ready to hire your own sales reps and ship out books after you process orders. It's not your only sales outlet, just the biggest one.