Self-Publishing Update — making an ebook

A note to my loyal, and greatly appreciated, readers:
You may be hearing a lot about my self-publishing activities in the next days. That’s where my mind is, and that’s where I’m spending most of my time. A lot is happening fairly quickly now. I know that not everyone is interested. I understand if you want to skim, or skip these posts. I feel it’s important to document the project for those readers who may be in the process, or have aspirations, of self-publishing.

Well, magic is happening. Kind of. I spent hours and hours Friday and Saturday formatting my book for the Kindle and other ebooks. I was surprised to find out that I may need to upload separate files, formatted by different means, to different sites. More on this later.

Bob Mayer has an excellent blog post on formatting ebooks. Between that and Mark Coker’s indispensible Smashwords Style Guide, I think things are beginning to come together. My book is particularly challenging because we wanted to separate the sections of each chapter by using separate fonts. Additionally, I have a lot of images in the book. I’ve still got some things to work through.  Anna revised the font and paragraph styles in the manuscript for me yesterday. And this morning I implemented them. I think the only way to find out if the file is okay is to upload it to Smashwords and try it out.

Publishing ebooks through Smashwords

Smashwords distributes ebooks through two catalogs: a standard and a premium catalog. You want to get your book into the premium catalog.  The premium catalog has a larger distribution to major online retailers and other distribution outlets, but the book has to satisfy higher formatting and quality standards.(Mark Coker)

Smashwords accepts a word doc. that they run through their “meatgrinder” to convert to different formats for different devices like the Kindle, iPhone or Sony Reader. In some formats page breaks are not maintained, so your .doc file has to be properly formatted to include blank lines between chapters, or any other place you want a physical separation of the text.

For the Smashwords file, I followed Mark Coker’s advice to go “nuclear,” and basically remove all previous formatting by copying the document into notepad on a PC. Rogue formatting that Word inserts into documents can cause ebooks to malfunction, so he recommends removing everything and then reformatting in Word without the aid of  the “autoformat” and “autocorrect” options that Word is not so helpful with. I spent Saturday doing that. I created styles for the chapter titles, picture captions, two main text sections, etc. And then I went through the document page by page, highlighting text and applying the appropriate style. I also reinserted all the photos I had re-sized yesterday to keep the book’s file size small.

Publishing ebooks on Amazon for Kindles

It’s my understanding that Smashwords, although they provide a Kindle option, does not publish the ebook at Amazon. If you want to be on Amazon, you have to upload your ebook there. (This may also be true for Barnes and Noble, I need to find out more about this.)

The Kindle is a Mobi file. You can upload a Word doc, HTML, mobi file or an ePub file. Bob Mayer does not recommend beginning with Word. He recommends starting with InDesign if you have a Mac, as I do, to make a ePub file. You can convert the ePub file to a Mobi file using free software called Calibre. The ePub file can also be uploaded to Barnes and Noble for their Nook.

Friday, I tried to follow Bob Mayer’s advice and work with an inDesign file of the manuscript. I tried to follow Mark Coker’s instructions about no tabs, no more than four line returns in a row, simple font styles, small picture sizes, etc.

The whole thing is a bit intimidating. I would be completely and irredeemably lost without Mayer and Coker.

Overall, my take on ebooks is that it is doable, but not as simple as falling off a log.

Self Publishing Project Overview:

Writer

I’m pretty much done with the writing portion of the project.

Editor/Publisher

If the third submission of our print book is okay, (and three is the charm), once I get the ebooks done, I’ll be pretty much done with this job.

Business Manager

I got my QuickBooks file started with a little help from my accountant. I’m still keeping handwritten records too. It’s a trust thing. I hope to give you an overview of this project’s finances in the days to come.

Marketing

Hello world. Here is where you will find me over the next week and months.

Yesterday I signed up for Google alerts as recommended by April L. Hamilton in The Indie Author Guide.   I will get e-mails if anyone puts anything on the web about “Dancing in Heaven,” “Christine M Grote,” or “Random Thoughts from Midlife.” It’s a way to catch anything good someone might have to say as well as monitor any negative press. Hopefully that won’t happen (the bad, not the good).

My first priority is a website. I feel the need to have something up soon. I created a page, although I haven’t added any content to it yet, for Dancing in Heaven that appears on the menu at the top of this blog. For the time being, I plan to put up a one-page simple website at christinemgrote.com (don’t go there, it’s not up yet) and link folks back to the page here.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me. If you have any good marketing, or publicity ideas, now would be a great time to tell me.

25 thoughts on “Self-Publishing Update — making an ebook”

  1. I have to be honest, I first noticed your blog because of the similarities in our names. But when I read a little farther, I noticed some other similarities: I just self-published an eBook and POD paperback myself. I did use Smashwords for some distribution, but I went directly through Amazon and B&N to distribute on their sites. Like you said, it wasn’t as easy as falling off a log, but it was fairly straight forward. Smashwords is definitely the most difficult, but they distribute to ibooks so they’re worth it if you make the premium catalog. As far as marketing goes, it all depends on how much your budget allows. It is my least favorite part of this gig, but I guess it’s a needed evil. The Marketing guide on Smashwords had a lot of good info, and John Locke’s “How I Sold A Million EBooks in 5 Months” (or something like that) is good as well. Best of luck to you!

    1. We do have similar names, don’t we?
      Thanks for all the information about publishing.
      How did you prepare your file for Amazon? Did you start with a Word doc? How did it turn out? Can you give us the link here to a sample online?

      What is your book about?

      I’m going to have to visit your site to find out.

      I’m with you about the marketing. I haven’t even scratched the surface and need to delve into this big time soon. Did you get book reviews? If so, how?

      Thanks for all the helpful advice, and the luck.

      1. The advantage to going directly thru B&N is that you get a little more royalties than if you use Smashwords to distribute on their site. B&N’s self-pub site is Pubit.com. As far as preparing the files, the Amazon and B&N requirements are fairly simple. With B&N, I uploaded a .doc file (with some formatting tweaks that they require) and they converted it to epub. With Amazon, I downloaded their recommended Mobi creator program and put my word file (again, with some specific tweaks) into it before uploading to Amazon. The last document I made was the Smashwords one. It is by far the most complicated, but if you follow their guide to formatting VERY strictly, you should be okay. I had quite the time with that one because my book is a collection of poetry (think Dr. Seuss for adults), with lots of *fun* requirements haha. I was very satisfied with all the versions, but it took me a few tries to get it just the way I wanted it. I haven’t sought out reviews yet, but I’ve gotten pretty lucky with a few other authors finding my book and enjoying it. I’m still working on figuring out the best method to find reviewers.

        As far as a sample, the Smashwords versions are free at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/81423

        The Amazon sample is at http://www.amazon.com/Hole-Between-Mine-Yours-ebook/dp/B005ES06JI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1315940082&sr=8-1

        The B&N sample is at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-hole-between-mine-and-yours-christina-m-grey/1104563058

        xoxo

  2. I have not tried going directly to B&N but I have checked their site and the Smashwords editions of my books are available there. Now if only someone would buy one. :-/

  3. Sounds like you are really busy.. and lots to think about.. Now there I was thinking once you had finished the Book.. and it was to be published that was that.. WOW.. now I know just how much more there is.. and just what alot goes into it..
    So heres to you Christine and the journey is just begun.. 🙂

    1. They actually say writing and publishing are the easy parts of the project. The real work is in marketing. 😦

      I may let this little book fly on its own after I announce its presence. We’ll see.

    1. I was thinking about you. I suspect your book is a beautiful and creative layout of images and possibly text boxes. Probably will be very difficult to format for the ebook. I was wishing my book was just simple text with no pictures. That would have been easy.

  4. For those who have told me to write a book…I’d like to send your posts their way. It ain’t easy! Saying it…doesn’t make it happen. Congrats for all your hard work. It’s for sure your book will be a hit…especially considering…you put your heart and soul into it…and that’ll be the selling factor.

    hugs for…mission accomplished… 🙂

    1. If writing a book is something you really want to do, you should do it. But it should come from you, not what others think you should do.

      I have no expectations for great success. I am just happy Annie’s story will be out there for others to read if they want to.

  5. Hi Christine .. great resource .. thank you – I know you’re here with all this wonderful information – thanks for keeping us up to date .. I’ve sent it on to someone, she may already have Subscribed to your blog – but in case!

    Cheers Hilary

    1. If I can help you by answering any questions, just ask. We all help each other along the way. I couldn’t have made it this far without all the terrific folks and their blog posts that helped me.

  6. Wow, Christine! You are doing amazing things.

    I haven’t been over here for a while, or anywhere else lately since like you I’ve been knee deep in writing–and the last two days trying to format a couple of things for an ebook. Yes, I decided to try self publishing.

    SO….this is SUCH useful information! A while ago I read the Smashwords style guide (and need to see if it has changed since then); and my son says he knows how to do Mobi (he’s a web designer for Indian Health Services and has created many impressive web sites) and says he’ll help me get my stuff on Kindle and will do a cover for me. However, I’m going to print out your post here for future reference! I’ve had the feeling that it’s not as simple as rolling off a log but that’s it’s doable even for someone like me. I CAN follow formatting directions.

    Thanks so much for posting this.

    And I’ll be anxious to see how it all comes out for you in the end. I’m eager to read your book!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Ann.
      I think I have the formatting figured out for the most part. I’m just having trouble right now going from a .doc to mobi. There are different suggestions on how to do it. The first one I tried converted all my apostrophe’s into an “O” with a “~” on top.

      Guess I’ll have to try again.

      Good luck with your book.

  7. I did the same thing. The problem was I had to go from a Mac to a PC, because Mobi Pocket Creator only works on a PC. Something got goofed up in the translation if you read my comment above.

    Ughh.

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