I fell in love with the idea of chapbooks when I learned about them at a residency during my MFA at Goddard College. Traditionally, a chapbook was a small/short book with a collection of essays or poems or stories, plainly bound and distributed cheaply or for free. My plan had been to find a few related stories I'd written and physically produce a chapbook to distribute by hand in my part of the world (I live right down by the NH, VT, MA border).
Covid got in the way of my plans, in that nowadays people don't pick up things that other people have left about; many people don't go out to bookstores and coffeeshops and parks, which were the spots I had planned to leave my chapbook.
Since I was still fond of the concept, I decided to go ahead, and the stories I'd written that most easily lent themselves to collecting were about, or dealt with, dogs. I worked with my wife to polish and edit the stories, discarding a few, adding a few that had felt as though they were 'missing' from the assemblage.
Having dropped the appealing idea of guerilla marketing through the action of distributing my writing throughout the local area in the hopes that people would like what they read and seek out more, I switched my approach to make use of gorilla marketing... more properly, 800-pound gorilla marketing.
Amazon, or more precisely, Amazon's KDP, is one of the largest publishers and distributors of print books and ebooks on the planet. If I couldn't go small, why not go huge, if I couldn't reach out locally, why not extend my reach across the whole planet?
That's what I did.
Using KDP's free website and production aids, I made my chapbook and it is now available all over the world. You can find my chapbook on my Amazon Author Page.
I write using a Chromebook for all sorts of reasons, so my output is in GoogleDocs, which works just fine for this process (although if you use MS Word, that's fine too, possibly a bit better/easier for reasons I'll explain below).
Recipe for a KDP Chapbook:
- 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'm planning to keep producing chapbooks, both collections and novellas, as time goes on... I hope you enjoy them, and that the word spread about this cool idea of smaller chunks of reading and writing.
If you have questions about the process, my process, my book or books, or about anything having to do with my writing, please get in touch. - JS
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