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:


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


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.


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 (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.