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.  🙂

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.

PastelsandJingleBells 200x300

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

Christmas In…?

So I finished my Christmas novella, Pastels & Jingle Bells.  And I’ve been working on a New Year’s novella, too, plus learning about self-publishing options on Amazon, and while I’m working details out little by little, one very important question remains:

When are you actually supposed to release holiday stories to readers?

I mean, I initially just had a vague idea that I’d publish my Christmas novella around Christmas time, because even I can connect those dots pretty well.  Unfortunately, “around Christmas time” isn’t all that specific, and now I’m trying to determine the actual point in time that would be best.  It’s not like I can really go by what I see department stores doing, because they start marketing Christmas stuff in, oh, maybe March.  A blogger I know (Kim at Read Your Writes Book Reviews) recently asked folks to weigh on when they start actually reading Christmas stories, but opinions varied.  I’m thinking sometime in November.

What do you think?

Cover Art Reveal

So for my first two books, I didn’t have to do a whole lot as far as the cover art was concerned because the publisher had its own resources to create that.  All I had to do was offer a little input and cross my fingers that the final result didn’t include a Fabio lookalike.  Mission accomplished, right?

ComingHomeCover                    TheBargainCover

Nary a hint of Fabio to be seen.  Whew!  [wipes forehead in relief]

But now that I’m also going to try self-publishing on Amazon, I need to tackle cover art myself.  Now I could hire someone to do it for me using fancy schmancy software, but that can get expensive.  Besides, I figure I’m creative enough to come up with something on my own, right?  And boy, did I!  I think I totally nailed it.  What do you think?

cover

I’d buy this book.  Wouldn’t you?

🙂

And The Week Winds Down

Hope you all had a good week!  Mine was very busy with book release “stuff” and life in general (how is it that a house can feel clean for about 5 minutes and then suddenly all the housework needs to start all over again?  Stupid dust bunnies seem to multiply as fast as the real thing…)

Had a few highlights this week:

*  Lots of guest blogs with giveaways of The Bargain that will be ending soon, so I’ve got  ebooks to send out to the winners.

*  I’m in the process of commissioning my first book cover for the Christmas novella I plan to self-publish on Amazon later this year.  Woo hoo!

*  Woke up to a lovely review of The Bargain this morning that made me feel warm and tingly all over, so either I’m happy or I need to go to the urgent care facility immediately.  You can read the review here, if you’re interested.

More about the cover art experience later…

Crayola vs. Photoshop

So I would be willing to go to some pretty great lengths to avoid having to learn how to use any kind of new software, since it makes me twitch and all, but I’m currently exploring some software options of my own free will.  Somebody check me for a fever!

You can’t write anything nowadays without hearing a lot about self-publishing options, and it’s something I think I’d like to try in the near future.  Which is not to say that I’ve got a grudge against traditional publishing houses, because I don’t.  I actually have a bit of a crush on them.  I daydream about them all the time, write their names next to mine in little hearts on my notebook, etc.  But as kind as the folks at Crimson Romance have been to me, they still only specialize in romance, and I have a few other genres I’d like to try out, too.  So I’d like to have one foot in each publishing world, self- and traditional.

Of course, if I do self-publish, then I have a lot of other hats to wear besides that of “author.”  Like “editor,” “head of marketing”, “choreographer”, or “body double.”  Okay, so maybe not those last two…

But one of those jobs I’d really have is “cover art designer.”  I’m a kindergarten teacher, so I’m more at home using Crayola materials to create pictures than anything else, but I don’t think that’s going to cut it in the world of ebooks.  So I guess I need to learn a little something about the world of graphic design.

I’m currently reading up on Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, GIMP, and others.  And I’m twitching.  Pixels and jpeg I kind of understand, but when I read terms like “vectors” and “layers” I get bewildered.  I mean, I hear “layers” and I just throw a sweater on over a turtleneck.  So I tried doing that, but it didn’t clear anything up for me.

But I think if I could wade through all the technical stuff without curling into the fetal position, playing around with cover art could be a lot of fun.  Maybe too much fun.  One might forget one has to actually finish writing the book first.  Heh.

We’ll see…