Luddite Author Enters 21st Century: Creating an eBook

by Heather Newton on September 11, 2012

I am the second most technologically-impaired person I know.  (First prize goes to my mother).  I am so inept that after ten years of living in my house I still haven’t memorized which switches turn on which lights, and my husband had to prepare a notebook for me with instructions for operating the stereo and DVD player.  He labeled it “How My House Works.”

I am therefore inordinately proud to report that I have created my very own Kindle eBook and uploaded it for sale on

To test the theory that Americans will buy anything if it only costs $.99, I chose a short story I wrote recently that isn’t linked to any others and is probably too quirky to interest most literary magazines.  The title is “La Gardienne” but I call it my “tax deduction story” because I mistakenly thought that writing it would allow me to deduct the cost of a trip to Paris I took with my family last year.  When we went to France I wrote every day and conveniently incorporated every tourist site we visited into my story ideas.  I kept careful documentation and thought I would at least be able to deduct my plane ticket and a share of our apartment rental.  Come tax time I made my case to my accountant, who gently showed me the federal guidelines for when you can deduct foreign trip expenses.  Turns out the IRS isn’t stupid.  I didn’t qualify.  So, no tax benefit but at least I got a short story out of the trip.

I knew about Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program from having made the semi-finals of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award one year.  Like the IRS, Amazon isn’t stupid.  In exchange for a cut of sales proceeds, Amazon offers contest losers (and anyone else) the option of self-publishing in eBook form. The software you need to make your work Kindle-friendly is free, and Amazon walks you through the whole process.  It probably did take me longer than it would most people because I’m so stupid when it comes to computers (I didn’t know what an HTML file was when I started) but even I was able to complete the process in a matter of hours.  Could my eBook look more professional? Yes, but at least I didn’t have to hire my teenager to help me create it!

Amazon’s pricing structure is interesting.  You can opt for a 35% royalty and price your book however you like, or you can opt for a 70% royalty, price your book between $2.99 and $8.99, and pay Amazon a “delivery cost” per copy sold.  Because I wanted to test the Value Menu theory and price my book at $.99, I elected the 35% royalty option.

Of course, I only get a royalty if readers download my eBook.  When my novel UNDER THE MERCY TREES came out in  January 2011 I could at least count on my mother buying a copy.  Not so with the eBook, since my mother doesn’t do Internet.  I won’t have the great distribution and marketing my novel has enjoyed and may not be able to get the word out on my own, but if no one buys it, I haven’t lost anything other than the two free copies I normally get when a literary magazine prints a story.

“La Gardienne” is about a spinster French teacher from small-town North Carolina who is forced to go to Paris for an immersion course when her employer learns she really can’t speak French very well.  Once there, statues and gargoyles start talking to her and asking for favors and she must make a choice which will change her life.  The next time you feel a dollar burning a hole in your pocket, buy “La Gardienne ( instead of chicken nuggets–you won’t be sorry.  And if I make enough money on royalties, who knows, maybe this Luddite will buy a Kindle of her own.


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