How to get published on the cheap

Just yesterday I published a short essay on Amazon Kindle. A few years ago, I wrote “Slaves and Free Laborers in the Greco-Roman World” as an introductory chapter for a multi-author edited volume called By the Sweat of Thy Brow. For a couple of years a major publisher listed the book as forthcoming but, alas, it never forthcame. This situation left me stuck with a piece I put a lot of work into, but it didn’t fit anywhere. It doesn’t break new ground, so it doesn’t fit a scholarly journal. It’s too long and academic for a magazine like Christian Standard. What to do?

Enter Kindle. With a couple of hours’ work–mostly getting used to the software–I put the essay up on Kindle. In case you want to do the same, here’s a digest of my experience.


  • It’s free. You have to download a couple of pieces of software, but they cost nothing.
  • Your work becomes available to anyone with an internet connection.
  • Anyone can read it for free–after buying the book, that is. Amazon gives away free software apps for PC, Mac, and several kinds of smart phones. No one has to buy a Kindle.
  • You don’t get any editorial help or peer review. (My piece was kinda-sorta peer reviewed, because the then-editor of the volume accepted it for publication. But as far as I can tell, Kindle accepts most anything.)
  • Besides your manuscript you need a cover photo to which you have rights. This isn’t essential, but without a cover photo, Kindle gives you an ugly generic cover.
  • The process takes several steps, and the software isn’t completely intuitive. Once you convert the book file, the only way to change it is to edit the original file and convert it again.
  • For some reason the software wouldn’t let me offer the piece for free. I had to price it at $0.99, the lowest price allowed.
  • When it comes out, you have to buy your own book!

“Slaves and Free Laborers” is a trial run for a larger project I have in mind. I hope that this first run through the e-publishing process will make the second, longer process easier.

UPDATE 07/13/11: I uploaded the longer project yesterday, and I’m still not satisfied with the product. The Kindle upload process works OK for straight text, but enhancements like an active table of contents, footnotes, etc., require more help than the software gives you. And special characters are a total gamble. Now I can see why some authors hire a company to format their work for Kindle; if I were a professional author, I would do this.


5 Responses to “How to get published on the cheap”

  1. Greg Linton Says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I have also considered self-publishing some things that I have written, but when I read the instructions, I got overwhelmed with how to get something from Word format into Kindle format. I will have to return to it and see if I can figure it out.

  2. cbridges6159 Says:

    Greg, I just finished that larger project I mentioned. It’s better than the first one, but I still have a way to go in creating good-looking Kindle books. It’s easy to put something up quick & dirty, but harder to get a professional look. I guess that’s why we call them professionals.

  3. Tabi Says:

    I haven’t tried to publish an essay via Kindle, but I did consider making my book available on Kindle. If you’re trying to do a book, it does cost a certain amount of money. Something in the vicinity of $60. Or at least, it was when I tried.

  4. cbridges6159 Says:

    Tabi, are you sure that $60 wasn’t for hard copy publishing? As far as I can tell Kindle publishing is free, unless you contract with a company that formats books for pay.

    Maybe I’m wrong and it used to cost money. If you try again, go to KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing.

    Regards to Lucky Mike. If he doesn’t know what I mean, explain it to him.

  5. Tabi Says:

    Createspace is the print-on-demand publishing company that belongs to Amazon.

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