Welcome Back To The Fetal Position

For those of you who don’t already know, my go-to position whenever I have to tackle formatting issues for my ebooks is the fetal position.  A true classic, it really seems to lend itself to that particular activity and comes quite naturally to me in times of technology-induced stress.  It sure did this weekend!

Hard to type that way, though…

But anyway, I soldiered on because I’m hoping to make my books available on more than just Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and what’s cool about Smashwords is that an author can upload a manuscript to the Smashwords site, and then Smashwords will churn out appropriate digital versions that meet the technical requirements for a lot of online book vendors.  Like iTunes, Kobo, etc.  The only thing the author has to do is format his or her manuscript to Smashwords specifications.  Piece of cake, right?

Dang, my body almost went into “fetal lockdown mode” just at the memory.

But my books appear to have made it through the first phase of the approval process, the automated part; now I just have to wait for an actual human being to tell me if I screwed anything up.  Could take several days.  I predict much chocolate and ice cream will be consumed during that waiting period.  By me, at least.  I don’t know about the folks at Smashwords.

But while there’s a lot of stress involved with this particular side of writing sometimes, it’s alleviated a little bit when one wakes up to see a review like the one I got this morning from my first Smashwords sale:

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“I came across this book by chance and found the description intriguing. After enjoying the sample, I quickly purchased the entire story. Being a writer myself, it usually takes a lot to pull me away from my own work, but Playing Cupid did so with surprising ease…”

For those of you who would like to read the entire review (I’m talking mostly to my mother here, I know), click here.

And now I’m off to find chocolate…

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.  🙂