Free Self-Publishing – Do You Know The Rules?

When you use a free service such as Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), do you know what you are agreeing to when you publish your ebook?

What rights do you have and what rights do KDP have when you publish your book?

As with almost all free services, the KDP Terms and Conditions you need to agree to are not written with your interests at heart. You do not sign an agreement and have no rights to negotiate any part of it. You simply agree. But how many read these conditions? My guess would be very, very few.

We have all become so accustomed to clicking the ‘I Agree’ button on so many occasions. Whether it be a software installation or update, a subscription to a newspaper, registration with a site or blog or any number of other services that are provided online. However, each time you click ‘I Agree’, you have entered a legally binding contract.

When you publish a book with Kindle, are you aware that you are agreeing to the following:

We are entitled to terminate this Agreement and your access to your Program account at any time.

Or:

We may, in our discretion, reformat your Digital Books, and you acknowledge that unintentional errors may occur in the process of reformatting of your Digital Books.

Then from within these Terms and Conditions, you will need to find the small link to the Pricing Page, to really understand what you are agreeing to. This is where ‘Price Matching’ is mentioned.

Then there is a novel twist to your agreement. If you scroll to the bottom of these pages you will find ‘Recent Changes’, which apply retrospectively to your original agreement. These changes are not sent to you, and you just have to accept the new changes come what may.

So beware when using services such as this. A little reading before you click, ‘I Agree’ could save you some heartache later. Well, except for changes that will be forced upon you later.

Free Publishing – Do You Know The Rules?
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14 thoughts on “Free Publishing – Do You Know The Rules?

  • 10/11/2011 at 3:55 pm
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    If there was ever a case of ‘buyer beware’ Derek, its with contracts, terms and conditions. ;)

  • 10/11/2011 at 4:31 pm
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    Right now I’m in the process of trying to publish a book on Kindle (an SF novella entitled “Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder”). I’ve already done the book on CreateSpace and am waiting for the proof copy to arrive. I’m having a terrible time with Kindle, mostly involving the cover image, which appears to meet their guidelines but comes out looking like a blob on the little miniature. And I can’t get anybody to answer my questions. CreateSpace has a live-person help phone line. I haven’t uploaded any text on Kindle. What will happen if I never complete the process? I’m thinking about paying CreateSpace to put the book on Kindle. Can I do that if I’ve already started my own process on Kindle?
    I want the little piece on ebooks not because I love that medium but to make it available to the widest audience — I want my writings to be read. Do you think I would do better going exclusively with Smashwords?
    Derek, I would really appreciate your advice.

  • 10/11/2011 at 4:58 pm
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    Lorinda, you can count on Smashwords to keep you informed about any changes in their own terms, which will be on the updates page. But once they’ve distributed your book to retailers like Amazon, they have no control over how it’s priced or changed. The only place you can count on near-total control of your book is on the Smashwords site itself, so you have to make the decision about where you want it distributed.

    • 10/11/2011 at 5:06 pm
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      Just have to correct one point Catana.

      Smashwords do not distribute to Amazon as yet, and probably won’t in the foreseeable future. Even though Amazon is still listed on their site. Smashwords only prepare .mobi formatted ebooks that can be used on Kindles.

      To have an ebook available on the Amazon Kindle Store you must to use KPD.

      Regarding Createspace Lorinda, even though they are a part of Amazon, I’m not aware that they will prepare ebooks. Certainly not for free. If you check their ‘Services’ they may offer it as a paid service. Regarding your cover, so long as it is a high quality .jpeg or .png image it should look fine in any size.

      • 10/11/2011 at 5:28 pm
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        Thanks to you, Derek, and you, too, Catana, for replying. Yes, I’m aware that CreateSpace charges $69.00 for its Kindle Ready File Conversion service. Actually, I think the time saved would make it worth the money, plus then the books can be tied together by the cover. But I’m still wondering, do I really want the book on Kindle? I’ll have to make up my own mind on that.
        Re the cover … It’s a Word drawing that would not work in CreateSpace because the DPI was too low. However, I had hopes it would work in Kindle because it did meet all their criteria. But It doesn’t seem to. I’m about to obtain a vector graphics drawing program so I can create art that works with these services. I’m thinking of Inkscape.

        • 10/11/2011 at 6:29 pm
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          If I’m understanding what you’re trying to do correctly, this may work:

          Just do a ‘print screen’ of your artwork in word, and paste into a program that can save high-res jpgs (GIMP is excellent, and free).

          It’s as easy as it sounds: With your graphic program open, go to word, press ‘Prt Sc’ on your keyboard, then paste into your graphics program. From there you’ll have to crop down to your actual cover, as it will past your entire computer screen.

          • 10/11/2011 at 7:27 pm
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            I thought there ought to be some way to increase the DPI, but I had no idea how. However, I don’t have a separate graphics program at this point. I just draw using the drawing tools that are right there on the Word doc. screen, so what I end up with is a Word doc. I can select the graphic using the square that you draw around it, and then copy it and paste it into GIMP. Could that work?
            And I ask your pardon for being such an ignoramous, but when you say “Press ‘Prt Sc’,” do you mean that key I have never used in 12 years of having a computer — the one between F12 and Scroll Lock?

          • 10/11/2011 at 7:38 pm
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            Yep, that’s the key :) Although if your entire cover can be highlighted in word, you can just copy and paste it that way.

            The prt scrn key that you never use is relic but often useful — it just copies a view of your entire screen — start menu, taskbar, everything — and puts it on the clipboard. Very helpful when trying to copy things that don’t want to be copied.

            If you don’t have a graphics program, even microsoft paint will do the job — although if you’re working on a production cover that will represent your work, I would definitely recommend using a real graphics program. GIMP is the closest thing to photoshop you can get for free.

          • 10/11/2011 at 9:41 pm
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            I can see you’re going to be a useful contact! (I found you on Twitter, also, by the way. I’m @TermiteWriter). I think I will download GIMP and see what can be done with it. In the meantime, I just got an email from Kindle telling me two things: lst, that one CAN use the CreateSpace cover on Kindle (if they say that in their website I don’t where it is); and 2nd, that they checked my image and it did meet their guidelines, and that it often appears distorted in the thumbmail version and would appear much better in the final form. So now I have to make up my mind as to what to do. Thanks again.

      • 10/11/2011 at 6:32 pm
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        Derek, Smashwords has started distributing the books of a select few authors (top sellers) to Amazon. They’re still working out the process, and plan to expand distribution to more authors around the end of the year and then to all of them. No word on how any of that’s going, as yet. I’m not holding my breath.

        • 10/11/2011 at 6:39 pm
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          I’ll hold my breath too Catana. Life would be so much easier if Smashwords could distribute to Kindle.

  • 10/11/2011 at 7:53 pm
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    Great points. I hate legalese. I’d like to see it banned in most applications. No reason that fine print can’t be short, simple and to the point. Most contracts for similar items touch on the same things. Create some standard fine print, refer people back to a few publicly available forms that all say the same thing to cover their bases and there you go. I think that it should be a law that the longer the fine print is the more likely any action against a consumer will fail. Common sense should rule, and if not, anybody not acting with good common sense gets in trouble (as in: you can’t steal, reverse-write software and resell it, etc.). Simple enough.

  • 28/11/2011 at 3:38 am
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    I’m new here. I like your site and will be putting it on my Reader. I am still debating on how to publish my manuscript and need all the resources I can get. Great post.

    • 26/08/2017 at 10:32 pm
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      Try Ingram Spark – set up for Independent Publishers (1-30 books). Print is via Ingram Lightning Source and ePub from Spark to global partners including Amazon. (Amazon however, do require a 12 month gap between distributing to them and with another distributor. I would publish eBook with Smashwords in any case and get the ePub into the Premium catalogue.You would have to opt out of Apple and others which are distributed by Spark. Hope this helps.

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