- Establish the basics of your chapbook on your KDP bookshelf by hitting the "Create a New Title" button and filling in the information they ask for in the blanks.
- Once you have the stories for the chapbook selected and edited, assemble them into one unified document.
- If you want, you can include front matter and back matter and a table of contents if you'd like, but you don't have to... I included a lighter version of all of these things in my chapbook, because I wanted to, there aren't any rules, so do what you want.
- Chapbooks are traditionally 40 pages or less, but mine was 83 pages, cover to cover... again, don't worry about it.
- I used some pictures of my own for the front and back covers, and used the KDP Cover Creator, which is free, and like all of KDP has exhaustive tutorial documents and videos.
- Once I had all of the above done, I went back in and adjusted the size of my book from 6X9 to 5.5X8.5... I did this for two reasons: first, I like the idea of a smaller book; second, this is a paper size that Gdocs has, so I didn't have to mess around and complicate my life trying to adjust or translate paper sizes.
- I saved/downloaded the unified document into PDF format because, for some reason, KDP likes PDF.
- Upload the PDF document to KDP using the buttons provided in the book "blank" you created in the first step of this recipe.
- Check over how KDP translated and presented your book, cover and all... I don't know why, but there are almost always issues with an extra page or odd header issues, but you can fix that in the document, resave it as a new PDF, and re-upload.
- Once you've got everything looking the way you want you can shift gears and begin thinking about pricing and distribution and making it an ebook as well as a print book... I priced mine at 99¢ for an ebook and $5 for a printed book; I did that because I like the idea of a cheap book, and getting my stories into the hands of anyone who want to read them (I also have to admit that I like poking a tiny stick into the eye of the publishing world that makes even tiny paperback $15-$20 nowadays, and routinely charges twice that for hardcovers).
- Once you've done all of that, you're ready to hit the "Publish" button, then waiting while Amazon does whatever they do for 12-24 hours before your book goes live.
I've gone this way with a number of my books for many reasons, the main ones being:
- zero initial outlay of cash
- ease of publishing in print and ebook formats
- reach for readership
At the end of the process, you upload a pdf or doc document, formatted to their specifications, and can have it produced in print, ebook, or both.
The real winner for me, as I imagine it would be for most writers, is the reach that Amazon, the 800-pound gorilla of the publishing world, has to offer for you and your book. My first book, Here Be Monsters, has sold about 10,000 copies worldwide since publication in 2013. I got feedback from a reader in Australia who was reading the print version within a month of hitting the "SUBMIT" button on KDP, and one day a few years ago sold a few dozen copies in Amazon's Indian market (I like thinking about a huge bookclub in Delhi discussing my Adirondack Murder Mystery).
If you're interested, and/or have questions about the chapbook or how I use KDP, please feel free to get in touch with me... I'll try to answer your questions, and if they seem to have a broad appeal, I might address them in a blog entry.
I recently read an article about Yo-Yo Ma, and how he's getting through the pandemic and isolation... it's a brilliant piece and he's an astonishing man, gifted and generous and kind and compassionate and thoughtful in multiple senses of the word.
|(picture from NYT)|
My family. Starting and ending the day with my wife, checking in with my son throughout the day, talking with my sister and parents on the phone… all these things make me feel secure that in a world I have very little control over, my social cornerstones are still there.
My tortoises. I live with five tortoises, a Redfoot Tortoise, a Hingeback Tortoise, a Black Mountain Tortoise, and two Russian Tortoises. Without me, specifically, they’d die; that’s an awesome responsibility in every sense of the word. The daily and weekly routines associated with their caretaking grounds me.
My Dogs. Puck and Olive love me. They think I’m a much better person than I am, which constantly pulls me towards that better Jamie. Gail and Ben could (and often do) care for them, so in a very real sense, the dogs give me much more than I give them. Puck normally sleeps spooned up with me (he’s the big spoon), and Olive checks in on me on a schedule of her own devising throughout the day and night, delivering kisses and flea-bites as she perceives that I need them.
My friends. I’m not as good a friend as I should be. I always mean to do better at the little things that maintain friendships, but they fall out of my head before long. As a result (possibly by unconscious or subconscious design), I don’t have a lot of friends. The ones I have managed to keep over the years are special and interesting people all over the world and hearing from them via FB or email or Teams meeting or the occasional phone call keeps me tethered to “The Outside World” in a way that the previous three things cannot. Friends are the $20 bills in your jeans pockets that mother-time steals when you let her do your laundry.
Music. Spotify is one of the drugs I use to maintain my sanity in the sea of craziness that the USA has become at the intersection of pandemic and race-riots and our idiot-king. I curate and steal and hoard playlists like a junkie, secure in the knowledge that this one or that one will come in handy when my mood jumps (or is pushed) off a cliff. I firmly believe that music can help to reprogram my mental state and body-chemistry.
Cooking. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in the kitchen since we locked out the rest of the world. A sourdough pretentiously named Prometheus has been a big part of recent experiments, but I’ve also been making pizzas from scratch, a Mexican hot sauce based on a Korean hot sauce, and fermented foods and drinks of all kinds. It’s a pleasant and useful distraction from worries about the things we all worry about, and utilitarian, since we can’t go out to eat (it’s amazing how much we used to eat out or order in).
Writing. Of course, who knows why I waited until number seven to talk about writing. I write every day, some for sharing online, some for future publication, some just to let off steam from a pressure valve that otherwise might sail past the redline and end up in some cartoony explosion. I’m working on a novel along with a quartet of novellas, a quartet of chapbook collections of shorts, and a couple of individual stories that don’t fit anywhere else.
News Aggregators. I read a lot of news. Lots of the news these days is depressing or fake or horrific or repetitive, so I use a number of news aggregators to filter and sort my news for me. I like reading a bit about Covid-19, a bit about the POS-POTUS, along with lots of articles about the environment, tortoises, cooking, writing, TV/movies, and a number of areas of interest… I get these things in nearly the perfect proportions from the apps I use.
Reading. Besides news, I read a fair amount of fiction (not as much as I should, or would like to, but I keep meaning to fix that). I’ve found in the COVID months that I enjoy re-reading stuff I’ve enjoyed in the past. Good stories are a shelter I can climb down into and hide for as long as necessary, letting the words wash over my brain, soothing things, letting the lizard-bits at the base of my skull do the repaired necessary to keep me functioning another day/week/month.
Drinking. I drink a lot. Certainly more water than anyone you likely know (thanks to Sjögren's Syndrome), probably more coffee than you’d think, and perhaps less bourbon than you’d guess. The act of bringing liquids into my body is control, controlling metabolism and health and mood and energy with a simple sip or swallow.
It's a lovely house near Boston... lots of room, lots of light, lots of privacy and quiet. I love writing in my home for all sorts of reasons, but sometimes enjoy writing someplace else for precisely those reasons.
I find things to do besides write. I noodle around in the SmartPig kitchen. I play with the dogs. I watch TV and cook with/for my family. I do laundry or dishes. I feed and soak and measure the tortoises. I go grocery shopping more frequently than seems absolutely necessary. There are lots of ways to distract myself from writing when I'm at home.
When I go to Starbucks or my parents' house or to Goddard to watch friends graduate, I generally get a lot of writing done. It occurred to me that I could make a habit of periodically finding a way to get out of the house for a few days of writing.
The next thing that occurred to me is that I'd like to find a way to do that without having to spend a ton of money to do that writing... I found a way.
Trusted Housesitters is that way, for me. I found their website and joined and tried to find a couple of housesits close by, in case they were a scam (they weren't). I'm staying in a person's house for four days while they're away, taking care of their cats, Taz and Mack.
Trusted Housesitter is the middleman, connecting a person in need of place to stay with a person in need of a person to stay in their house and take care of their beasts. They have them all over the world, and it seems like it could be a great way to travel.
I love staying in AirBnbs because you avoid the lifelessness of hotels, but with this, I get to stay for free and to hang out with animals (if you don't like animals, this might be a downside, but since I do like animals, a lot, it's an upside). I get to live, for a while, in a neighborhood, as a local. I can cook my own meals, walk around and get a feel for someplace new, and most importantly... write, in peace and quiet and private and for free.
The house I'm living in this week is spacious and lovely and has several places to write and read and lounge.
It has a lovely and functional and well-stocked kitchen. I've mostly made coffee so far, but also a few meals, and there's a beautiful grocery store a few minutes walk away from the house that I'm dying to explore for treats/rewards for myself for the excellent writing days ahead.
Another living room at the front of the house, on the quiet street. I've done some reading there as well as in the living room back by the kitchen.
Between the two, there's a room with a piano in it, and while I'm horrible on a piano, it's fun to noodle around on it, and the cats aren't judging me (out loud at least).
The house is filled with lovely and spacious bedrooms with great light... I could probably sleep in a different one every night, but that'd be more cleanup for me in the end (I want to leave the house, and cats, in good shape so that the owner will give me a good review upon their return so that I can get more housesitting gigs in the future).
The bathrooms are lovely and modern and make my shower-singing sound even better than usual... the cats don't agree, but that's fine with all of us.
I periodically look up from my writing to find the cats staring at me with murder, or at least distrust, in their eyes but as long as I'm opening cans for them every twelve hours (and scooping litter once a day) I'm pretty sure they'll restrain themselves for the duration of my stay.
If you're interested in Trusted Housesitters (and honestly, why wouldn't you be, even if you're not looking for a writing retreat), you can follow one of the links I've scattered throughout the blog above and check out the site. The bonus is that if you use the link I posted, you'll get 25% off their annual fee of $109 (adjusts to $81.75, if you were wondering)... on first look that might seem like a lot for a middleman website, but I figure mine's already more than paid for itself with this first stay (probably with the first night).
In the spirit of full disclosure, if you sign up with TH, I get two months added to my membership, but that's not why I'm sharing it... I'm sharing it because I think it's a wonderful idea, a wonderful service (for both parties), a wonderful way to explore the world while staying out of hotels, and a wonderful way to get some writing done.
Anyway, I wanted to share what I'm doing this week, and what I hope to be doing more of in the future... TH has housesits in Egypt and Iceland and Mexico and Australia and Scotland and Italy, and I want to try them all!
I'm working on my next novel, "The World Beneath the World", while I'm here, and so far, I've been getting some good writing done.
I've heard from a few people who loved the Tyler books that they didn't love this collection... that's OK. Not all books are for all people, not everyone has to like everything an author publishes. I like the stories in the collection, a lot, and think they provide readers with a clean window into what I'm writing and thinking about or was at the time I wrote them.
I'm currently about 20k words deep into my next book, a mystery novel, and am excited about the way this first draft feels. I'm hoping to finish my first pass in March, then start the process of rewrites and edits through the spring and summer, with an eye towards publication in the fall or winter.
I had a great visit to Goddard last week. I went primarily to see some members of my original cohort who were graduating a semester after me, but also to enjoy a few days of writing retreat with a friend and fellow MFAW graduate. Both were fantastic!
I'll be going to the AWP conference in San Antonio in March, representing Goddard, and remembering the Alamo. It's something I've looked longingly at previously but never been able to talk myself into before now.
I've got my CV in for a number of teaching jobs, fingers crossed, but will keep pushing for more and different work and writing options and opportunities.
Thanks for reading, and for spreading the word.
Luckily, you found this article, so you can be SAVED.
The worst possible interpretation of that dreaded advice is to literally force yourself into a chair every day and work on your novel, or poem, or creative non-fiction (if you believe in that particular unicorn)... cranking out continuous streams of words like piece-workers on an assembly line.
I think of that as little "w" writing... it's best suited to filling out forms or meeting deadlines on high-school essays. It's of necessity, a part of our lives, but it shouldn't be a part of our endeavors as creative writers.
No forced marches of storytelling, if the muse (or whatever facilitates your creative writing) is not available for comment or help on any given day, wander in some other, USEFUL, direction.
This is what I call big "W" Writing... an all-inclusive term that extends beyond stringing words together to make some new and creative assemblage of words to any activity that supports your writing and life as a writer.
It should also include blogging (along with making use of other forms of social media to check in with your audience and support/enhance/clarify your brand) and storyboarding or planning your writing projects...
I'm at a friend's wedding this weekend, officiating for the first time in my life... I'm nervous and my thoughts are, rightly, occupied with doing right by my friend, the woman he's about to spend the rest of his life with, and all of they're assembled friends and family.
I had a few hours this morning before the ceremony, so I wanted to do some writing, but my brain isn't geared up for working on the novel I'm currently writing, so I've been doing some big "W" Writing:
- I read first thing in the morning, a mystery in the same vein as the one I'm working on
- I checked in online, sharing some articles and answering emails related to my life as a writer
- I wrote an article for a nerdy website I'm curating on tortoises
- I wrote this blog, which will also be published on Medium
- I drafted a letter to the subscribers to my newsletter (it's somewhere on the margin of my blog), offering them an early chance to grab my new book (a collection of short fiction) at a discount in exchange for an honest review of the book as soon as they finish it
While all of the above was happening, some thoughts and worries about my current WIP were tumbling around in the back of my head like that noisy rock polisher I kept in my closet as a boy, and I think I've got some ideas about how to write my way out of a few corners I painted myself, and my protagonist, into... we'll see on Monday, when I sit down to see whether I'm ready to Write or write.
I was recently speaking with a friend who's also a writer, and we got to talking about the things we do outside of working on our current WIPs (works in progress for those who collect acronyms) to support our growth as writers, our sanity, or our connections to other people and other writers.
- Zen In the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury
- The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron
- Wired for Story, Lisa Cron
- The Writing Life, Annie Dillard
- On Moral Fiction, John Gardner
- Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
- Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
- On Writing, Stephen King
- Bird By Bird, Annie Lamott
- Writing Magic, Gail Carson Levine
- Steering the Craft, Ursula LeGuin
- The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp
- Writers on Writing, Collected Essays from the NYT
More than anything, I've learned that my writing needed, and needs, more (and more thoughtful) revision than I had previously done (or even considered). I've never had a problem with writing productively, but before my time at Goddard, I was unwilling to push myself to edit my work to the degree I've become accustomed through the last two years.
I found my way to Goddard two years ago, hungry to change my approach to writing, eager to improve and professionalize my stories and the way I produced and shared them with the world. My take on me was that I was more storyteller than writer, and what I wanted to get from my time at Goddard was to slide further along the continuum towards being a writer, while not losing the storytelling.
I was able to define my goals, choose my path, and make my own way, comfortable knowing that my teachers and advisers would support me and help me with course-corrections as needed along the way. Living and working and learning with a vibrant and vital community of motivated thinkers and creators only served to pull me higher and faster, along narrow paths to summits I'd never visited before.
My process has been to read and write, supported and nurtured by my peers and faculty. With their guidance, I've read and annotated an eclectic mix of books (fiction, poetry, and books about writing by writers), many of them titles and authors I never would have encountered on my own. Before, during, and after reading these dozens of books, I wrote ... and wrote ... and wrote.
Since starting at Goddard, I've written between 80 and 100 short stories ... lots of them pretty horrible. Some of them, however, were informed by something I'd read, a discussion I'd had, or a seminar or workshop I'd attended during one of the residencies; these stories are generally the ones I circled back to again and again to tweak and polish and prune and graft.
Of those many stories, I sifted and sorted about two dozen that I felt were both representative of my work and growth while at Goddard, seemed to hang together as a collection, and also meant something to me on a personal level.
Goddard has supported me, and my growth as a writer, in all facets of this process.
For me, that process included finding the time and energy to love editing and revising my work more, much more than I had previously done. As Storyteller-Jamie I loved the creation, making something from nothing; as soon as I was done with the initial creation I'd be ready to move on to the next thing, only grudgingly editing and revising my work as a necessary evil.
Post-Goddard, more-of-a-Writer-Jamie still loves the creation, but sees, and acknowledges, editing and revision as a part of the creative process ... that the creation isn't whole until it's as good as I can make it. That probably seems like a subtle difference to anyone still reading this interminable blog entry, but it's made a big difference to my writing, and to me.
Long story still long, I picked 27 stories and submitted them to my advisor and second reader at Goddard.
The feedback is still coming in, but I agree with what I've consumed and digested so far:
- a number of the stories don't work as well either on their own or with the collection as a whole, so I'm dropping five (my advisor lobbied for a couple more, but I know what the stories can be, and I'm trusting myself to get them there in time for my final submission)
- I need to work to polish and reorder the remaining 22 stories to present them in the best possible light ... only then will they, and the collection be done.