Feldman’s How-To-Format-For-Self-Publishing Guide (Or…How To Wind Up In The Fetal Position)

Nearly every author who’s writing these days has at least considered going the self-publishing route, even if only for a brief moment.  Some authors then simply lie down until the feeling passes, but others decide to take the plunge.

After having a couple of books published the traditional way, I decided to take the self-publishing plunge myself to see what it was like.  And since I’m not exactly rolling in dough, I decided to save money on publishing costs by learning how to do the formatting myself. Lots of other people were doing it, and I figured I was a halfway-intelligent person.  How hard could it be, right?

Take Kindle formatting for example.  You’ll find plenty of technical advice online and elsewhere about how to go about formatting, but here’s my own personal approach and what worked for me:

1)  Scour internet for advice on Kindle formatting tips.  Wonder if you should be troubled by the fact that much of it is dated 2010 or thereabouts.  Keep searching despite the ominous cloud of doubt forming over your head…

2)  Stumble across assorted YouTube tutorials on Kindle formatting.  Start watching first tutorial.  Realize two hours later that you’ve somehow transitioned to watching funny cat videos instead.  Backtrack to original tutorial.

3)  Download help-guides such as Amazon’s Building Your Book For Kindle and read from cover to cover.  Discover you did everything WRONG when you first typed up your manuscript, including spacing, tabs, page breaks, etc. and will now have to figure out how to go back and alter it.  Weep gently.

4)  Eat ice cream.

5)  Go back and alter original manuscript to fit Kindle formatting parameters.  Wonder why your computer’s version of Word doesn’t seem to match ANY of the ones in the online YouTube tutorials.  Resist urge to go back and re-watch funny cat videos.

6)  Learn what that Hyperlink option is in Word that you’ve never even known you had before.  Use it to create a Table of Contents that allows you to hop around to desired spots in your manuscript.  Hop to every single one just to make sure they work, cackling with glee when they actually do and earning worried looks from your spouse/roommate/hamster.

7)  Upload cover art to Kindle Direct that you have either A) purchased from an experienced and professional cover artist or B) attempted to create yourself for free and now would like to burn before someone else sees it.  (Now while it’s true there are some folks out there who have great confidence in their abilities to doodle around with software and create something marvelous, I am not one of them, so options A and B were the only possibilities for me.)

8)  Try to convert your manuscript to HTML.

9)  Fail miserably and curl up into fetal position.  Unfurl after spouse has coaxed you out with offers of more ice cream.

10)  Eat proffered ice cream.

11)  Reread directions on converting to HTML.  Attempt conversion for second time.  Jump up and down with joy when it finally works.

12)  Enter book’s information on Kindle Direct website (description, keywords, etc.) and upload brand-spanking new HTML version.

13)  Preview book on the handy dandy Kindle Previewer tool.  Wonder why book has mysterious extra symbols showing up that you don’t remember putting there.  Find a gazillion typos that you’re positive weren’t there before.  Wonder if God is punishing you.

14)  Consider having ice cream pumped into you intravenously.

15)  Fix typos, convert to HTML again, upload revised file, and preview.

16)  See mysterious extra symbols are just as mysteriously gone now.  Don’t know why, don’t care.  Grab spouse/roommate/hamster and dance around the room.

17)  Publish.

18)  Celebrate by eating ice cream.

Again, this is just what worked for me.  You might prefer a different approach.  Some writers prefer to hire someone to do the formatting for them, which–in hindsight–might actually have been cheaper for me considering all the money I spent on ice cream.  On the other hand, I did feel a tremendous sense of pride afterwards, knowing that I had accomplished this particular feat myself.  After I stopped twitching, at least.

And on that note… best of luck in your self-publishing adventures.  🙂

Cover Reveal (Or, My Babies Are Growing Up)

An author’s books are sort of like her babies, and I love to coo over my babies as much as the next proud mama.  I haven’t started carrying photographs of my books around in my wallet yet, but that may not be far off…

Today I’m cooing a bit because my three Heavenly Bites novellas that have previously only been available as either Kindle or Nook ebooks are going to be available in paperback shortly, knock on wood.  Not as three individual paperbacks–because as novellas they would be pretty skinny and might wind up getting used as coasters more than as reading material–but as a collection.

So these three babies:

PastelsandJingleBells 200x300-1     LoveLessons 200x300     PlayingCupid 200x300

will soon be available in paperback with this cover:

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I’m expecting a proof copy in the mail any day now, and if everything looks hunky-dory, this baby will be up on Amazon soon afterwards.  Can’t wait to hold a copy in my hot little hands!

Yep, I’m a proud mama.  🙂

Have I Got A Girl For You…

Despite what the title of this post might suggest, I’m not actually trying to match anybody up with the girl of their dreams, although I do appreciate a good love match as much as the next person.  I’m thinking about book heroines today, primarily because I read someone else’s post about unlikable heroines, and it got me thinking:  what really makes for the best heroine in a story?

Personally, I like my heroines a little on the flawed side.  Not unlikable, just imperfect. You know, like most of us are in real life.  For me, that makes them more relatable, and I get more emotionally invested in what happens to them.  Flaws are tricky things, though.  Too wimpy, and they’re just annoying.  (I never cared for the heroines whose only flaw is something along the lines of “she’s too caring” or “she’s too generous;” give me a flaw with some meat on its bones!)  But on the other hand if flaws are too shocking, the author risks alienating the reader.

But a lead character has to have something to overcome if there’s going to be any kind of story, whether it involves an inner struggle or an outer struggle, and sometimes a really juicy flaw can lead to a more profound storyline in the end–just so long as there’s still something about the character that makes you want to root for her more than you want to throttle her.

Blake Snyder wrote a terrific book about that kind of thing called Save the Cat, and even though it’s aimed primarily at screenwriters, it’s a wonderful tool for novelists, too.  In it, he describes how it isn’t enough for a character to be “cool;” there’s got to be something about her that makes you care.  There has to be a moment early on in the story that somehow defines the character and makes us care about her and whether or not she achieves her goal, and that’s what he calls the “save the cat” scene.  It doesn’t literally have to involve saving a cat from a tree or a burning building, but I’m sure you get the general idea.

So what do you look for in a heroine?

The Things You Learn When Researching For A Story…

Part of the writer’s life includes researching all kinds of things for stories, from whether or not something besides a carbon-based life form could potentially exist on other worlds to zoning ordinances in Peoria, Illinois.  (Now if only I could figure out a way to combine BOTH of those things in one story, I’d really be onto something….)

Well, for Playing Cupid–the third Heavenly Bites novella–one of my characters is a history professor with a deep love for that particular subject matter, so I did a little research to see what kind of historical figures he might find particularly interesting or inspiring.  And that’s when I stumbled onto a man named Witold Pilecki.

I had never heard of him before, and maybe you haven’t either.  If you haven’t, he is apparently the only known person to voluntarily enter Auschwitz during World War II.  He was a Polish army captain who suspected something awful was happening inside the camp–at the time people believed it was just a POW camp–and he decided to get himself arrested and thrown into the camp in order to smuggle out intelligence.  For two and a half years, that’s exactly what he did, opening the eyes of outsiders to the real horrors going on inside of Auschwitz.  He even hoped to organize a mass escape but was unable to get the support he needed, and then finally–suspecting his death was imminent–he was forced to make his escape.

I’m sure he had his flaws like the rest of us, but I was floored by his story.  And then I read further and discovered the sad reason why I, and probably many others, had never heard of him.  There are several articles about him online, and if you’d like to read a little more about him, here’s a link to an article on www.npr.org called Meet The Man Who Sneaked Into Auschwitz.

Kind of makes me wonder how many other incredible real-life stories are out there that few people–if any–know about…

Next Countdown Begins

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Even though it feels like Pastels and Jingle Bells only came about five minutes ago, it’s actually almost time for the next novella in the Heavenly Bites series to be released:  Love Lessons.  It’s back from beta readers, edited, proofed, edited and proofed again, and finally formatted properly for Kindles and Nooks.  At least I think it is.  Guess we’ll find out for sure on December 1st after I’ve hit that little “Publish” button, won’t we?  Heh heh…

I’m excited about the second one coming out, but I have to admit I live in fear of sending it out into the wide world only to discover AFTER it’s been made public that there’s some sort of typo that I missed despite rereading the manuscript 15 times in the last two days alone, and that most unfortunate typo will turn out to mean something grossly offensive in some foreign language, and then I’ll spark an international incident, and…and…whoa, I’m getting dizzy…

[breathes into paper bag]

There we go.  Better.

Isn’t writing fun, boys and girls?  And the Release Day countdown begins…  🙂

It’s Here! It’s Here! It’s Here!!!

Release day for Pastels and Jingle Bells is finally here!  Yippee!  And it actually showed up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!  Woo hoo!  Now if I can just beat this cold I seem to have developed, I’ll be a happy camper…

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The first novella in my Heavenly Bites series is now up for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for the bargain price of 99 cents!  In celebration of that lovely fact, there are a few different spotlights and giveaways happening online right now.  Check them out:

Read Your Writes Book Reviews:  Review and Giveaway

Indie Brits:  Spotlight

So Many Reads:  Review

Romance With Flavor:  Giveaway

Heroes and Heartbreakers:  Extended Excerpt

And I’m hoping a few more posts and reviews show up later in the day, too.  I’M SO EXCITED!!!

Sorry, didn’t mean to shout…  🙂

So Here’s The Plan…

While I’m not doing an official blog tour for the release of Pastels and Jingle Bells, I do have several visits lined up on different blogs throughout the month of November that include guest posts, giveaways, reviews, and excerpts.  But now it’s become a little more official, thanks in large part to Sandy at The Reading Cafe, who provided this wonderful banner:

Pastels and Jingle Bells Banner 2-2-2

Thank you so much, Sandy!  🙂

Not all of the upcoming blog visits are written in stone, but here’s the tentative schedule:

Nov. 1:  Read Your Writes Book Reviews; Romance With Flavor; Two Sassy Chicks; Lusty Penguin Reviews; Indie Brits; Brooke Blogs; Heroes and Heartbreakers

Nov. 2:  Musings From An Addicted Reader; The Pen & The Muse; Style Reader

Nov. 3:  Reading Between The Wines

Nov. 4:  Forget the Housework, I’m Reading; Zemfirka Blogs; Rosanna Leo’s Room

Nov. 5:  Books A La Mode

Nov. 6:  Books-n-Kisses; My Book and My Coffee

Nov. 7:  The Reading Cafe

Nov. 8:    Hesperia Loves Books

Nov. 9:  Tina’s Book Reviews

Nov. 11:  Toot’s Book Reviews; Robyn Neeley (fellow Crimson author!)

Nov. 12:  Andrea R. Cooper (another fellow Crimson author!)

Nov. 13:  What’s On Your Bookshelf; The Book Pushers (tentative)

Nov. 14:  The Suburban Eclectic

Nov. 15:  Sarah Aisling

Nov. 16:  Mary’s Cup of Tea

Nov. 17:  Just Contemporary Romance

Nov. 18:  Ex Libris

Nov. 20:  Lisa Is A Bookworm

Nov. 21:  Bookfever

Nov. 22:  A Little Bit of R & R

Nov. 25:  The Book Cellar

Nov. 30:  Christine S. Feldman (just to wrap things up…)

Some of these were arranged quite a while ago, so it’s possible unforeseen circumstances could arise and alter things a wee bit, and there are a couple of others that haven’t confirmed dates–but this is a pretty good starting point!

And it all gets underway in just a few more days…

Valentine’s Day Sampling

Happy Monday!  Today I’m working on my Valentine’s Day novella, Playing Cupid, and I thought I’d share the opening excerpt with you even if it is a few months early.  🙂

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Aimee Beasley held the door open to their apartment building’s lobby for her beloved and bespectacled Gram and shook her head cheerfully as the older woman listed the many wonderful qualities possessed by her pharmacist, starting with his full head of hair and ending with his detailed knowledge of the common side effects of every medication known to humankind.

“But he’s such a nice young man—“ her grandmother protested.

“Nope.”

“I’m sure the two of you would have a lovely time getting to know each other.”

“Nope.”

Gram held a quivering hand to her heart and sighed dramatically.

“Knock it off, Gram,” Aimee said, unperturbed and shifting the bag of groceries she carried to one hand so she could dig in her pocket for her keys with the other.  “You know that won’t work on me.”

The older woman scowled, but the quiver in her hand abruptly disappeared.  “I don’t know why you insist upon turning down every young man I find for you.  I’d appreciate it if you’d keep an open mind about this sort of thing, Aimee.”

“And I’d appreciate it if you’d stop trying to pimp me out.”  Aimee finally

found her keys and pulled them out to shove the right one into their mailbox.

Pulling out the handful of envelopes and flyers inside, she closed it again and led the way to the elevator.

“But, dear, my pharmacist is really very charming.”

“Then you go out with him.”

Gram frowned at Aimee again and took the mail from her so Aimee could better balance the groceries.  “He’s barely thirty.”

Aimee let out a wolf whistle.  “My grandma, the cougar!”

“The what?”

The elevator opened, and both women stepped inside.  “It’s an older woman who likes to play with young boy-toys, Gram.  But if you do decide to bring your pharmacist home with you one day, do me a favor and put a sock on the door or something so I know not to go barging in, okay?”

“Young lady—“ Gram began, sputtering at her granddaughter as the elevator carried them up to the fourth floor.

Aimee grinned at her.

The older woman recovered her composure.  “Don’t think I’ll give up that easily.  I’ve got plenty of time on my hands and little else to do besides think about these kinds of things, you know.”

“Bring it, lady,” Aimee returned, and then planted a kiss on top of the other woman’s headful of white curls as the elevator doors opened.  “So, turkey or tuna today?” she asked as they reached their apartment door and she juggled keys and groceries again.

“Tuna.”

“Melt or mayo?”

“Melt, I think,” Gram decided, following Aimee into the apartment.  “With the cheddar, if you don’t mind.”

“Cheddar it is.  Give me five minutes to put this stuff away, and I’ll fix it.”

“Oh, dear…”

“Okay, three minutes.”  Aimee pulled open the refrigerator door and began stuffing groceries inside.  “Are you really that hungry?”

“What?  Oh no, it’s not that.”  Gram waved an envelope.  “It appears we’ve gotten another piece of Mr. Berkley’s mail mixed in with ours again.  Fifth time this month, I think.”

Aimee twitched at the sound of his name.  Actually, it was the sixth time this month.  Not all that shocking considering D. Berkley lived in apartment three-twelve and D. Beasley lived in four-twelve, but it was unfortunate all the same, because each time it meant Aimee had to go downstairs, knock on Doyle Berkley’s door, and then—she grimaced—actually speak to him.  Judging by the expression on his face every time he opened the door and saw her standing there, he enjoyed these little mail exchanges about as much as she did.

But this particular piece of mail didn’t look all that thick.  Maybe she could shove it under the door and make a break for it.  Sort of like pulling the pin from a grenade and then running.

“Dear, would you mind…?”  Gram held the letter out to her.

“Sure, Gram,” Aimee agreed, taking it and turning to go.

“Wait—here, take some scones,” her grandma said, hastily reaching into the

grocery bag for the pastries they’d picked up at the bakery minutes earlier and arranging some on a small plate.  “It’s the polite thing to do when calling on a neighbor.”

“I’m not calling on him—“

“Manners, Aimee.  You can’t go empty-handed.”

“I’m not empty-handed.  I’ve got his mail.”

But her grandma thrust the plate of scones at her anyway.  “Good neighbors are hard to come by, and Mr. Berkley is a good neighbor.”

Aimee snorted.

“He is!  He’s been very helpful to me in the past.  I don’t know why you dislike him so.”

“Because he walks around like he’s got a stick up his—“
“Aimee Elizabeth Beasley!”

“I was going to say backside,” Aimee returned piously.

“No, you were not.”

No, she wasn’t, but all Aimee said in response was, “Be back in a minute,” and then she slipped back out the door…

* * *

It’s still a work-in-progress, but…what do you think?

Write Some, Market Some, Repeat

I used to think that once I wrote a book, the hard part was done.  If you’re an author, you’re probably laughing as you read that sentence; I’ll give you a moment to recover…

Sure, writing is time-consuming, emotional, and fraught with perilous eyestrain–although at least papercuts are less of an issue these days, thanks to the modern age of computers–but as far as the whole publishing process goes, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Nowadays, of course, there’s all sorts of stuff you’re supposed to do with social media (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and maybe even eHarmony, I don’t know…), and that eats up a lot of time–especially if you get distracted by a certain Grumpy Cat (HE’S JUST SO CUTE!).  And in between bouts of social networking, writers are also supposed to be, you know, writing.

Plus if you’re venturing into self-publishing, there’s also the tiny matter of learning the technical aspects of the ebook business such as cover art design, proper formatting for manuscript submission to online distributors (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.), and determining pricing strategies that find a happy medium between pricing your book at “dirt cheap” and “who does that writer think she is, Kafka?”

Needless to say, I twitch a lot more now than I used to.

So I’m busy, busy, busy, but at least it’s a good kind of busy.  I’ve formatted the 1st of my Heavenly Bites novellas for Amazon and Barnes & Noble (hopefully correctly–release day will be a nail-biter), am nearly done with the 2nd novella, and am chomping at the bit to get to novella #3.  I’ve contacted 139 bloggers and/or reviewers, which I feel pretty good about until I remember advice in a self-publishing guide that advocates contacting 500; then I just sort of wheeze and fall over.

I’ve gotten a couple of reviews back on novella #1, Pastels and Jingle Bells; they liked it! Yippee!  Here’s hoping that trend continues.  If you’d like to check out these advance reviews, you can click on these links to read them at Goodreads and at Romance Reviews Magazine.

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Okay, off to work on that happy ending for novella #2…

Cover Reveal

Ta da!  Here’s the book cover for the first of my three Heavenly Bites Novellas, Pastels and Jingle Bells:

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And of course the official book blurb is now under the “Books” section of my website, along with the blurbs for the other two novellas.

Pastels and Jingle Bells is also up on Goodreads now, see?  Check out this link here, and please do consider adding it to your to-be-read list!  🙂