Adventures in Self-Publishing

I’ve finally dipped my toe into the self-publishing waters with a paranormal romance titled UNFORGETTABLE. UNFORGETTABLE was originally published in 1999 by Berkley/Jove for their Haunting Hearts line. Long before paranormal story lines became so mainstream, Berkley’s Haunting Hearts line published books that all featured ghosts of some kind. In the case of UNFORGETTABLE, the ghosts are Laura and Johnny, teen sweethearts who died in (and are haunting) a 1955 Ford Fairlane.

The most common question I’m asked as a writer is “where do you get your ideas?” so here’s the story behind the story for UNFORGETTABLE. Years ago, our family was on a camping trip in Northern California. We’d taken something away from my older son (a video game, maybe? I don’t remember) and had locked it in the glove box. A determined kid, my son managed to get the glove box open, but he broke the lock in the process. Which meant he had to buy us a new lock.

A replacement from the car dealer was exorbitantly expensive, more than my son’s modest allowance could afford. So we decided to trek down to the local “pick-and-pull” wrecking yards. We spent a couple hours wandering the lots looking for the part, which we eventually found. Along the way, we passed one totaled car after another. Sometimes we’d look inside and see what had been left behind–fast food wrappers or a ball cap, or even toys. It was a hot July day, but it gave me a chill thinking about who had been the occupants of those cars when the accident happened. Did they survive uninjured? Could someone have possibly been killed?

That visit to the pick-and-pull planted the seed of an idea in my mind. It sprouted roots and with time, it eventually developed into a full-fledged book. I’d written maybe a third of the book when heard a Berkley editor speak at the San Francisco chapter meeting of Romance Writers of America. That editor suggested to those at the meeting that if you can, it’s best to submit to new editors. She gave us a couple names and soon after, I submitted a partial to one of those new editors at Berkley. Since I’d already published three books at that point, the editor was willing to offer me a contract based on an unfinished book. The rest, as they say, is history.

As I said, that was back in 1998-1999. I had the rights reverted to me several years ago, sold large print rights sometime later, then the book sat on my hard drive for years. I finally got off my duff recently and sent a copy out to be scanned, then found an artist who could do the cover for a modest price.

Then I had to get the darn thing properly formatted for Amazon. The problem was, I started off in the wrong direction, using fancy and over-large fonts for my titles and chapter headings. I also encountered contradictory instructions. One guide said don’t use page breaks for a new chapter, but Amazon said yes, use page breaks. The latter turned out to be accurate. Without page breaks, the chapters all run into one another.

The scan, while good overall, wasn’t perfect. Many, many paragraphs broke to a new paragraph prematurely (like in the middle of the paragraph) and the only way to find the bad breaks was to scroll through slowly enough to visually scan for them. Spell check can fix a multitude of sins, but not those erroneous paragraph breaks unless the break results in a misspelled word. For instance, “running” chopped into “run” and “ning” it will flag. “Backward” split into “back” and “ward” it won’t.

Then there were the weird characters sprinkled throughout–forward slashes and numeral 7 in place of I, the occasional quote mark interpreted as superscript, and these odd “optional hyphens.” The problem with the optional hyphens was that they were only visible when the “show all” option was turned on. When I finally spotted them, I couldn’t figure out what exactly they were called, which I had to know so I could do a search and replace for them. After much trial and error, I stumbled on “optional character” and was able to delete them all.

Then there was the spacing issue. Every time I converted the file to Kindle format, all the blank lines would be gone. They were stripped out in the conversion. I finally found a solution online. Where I wanted space, I had to go into the paragraph option and define 12 point or 24 point spacing before and after the paragraph, depending on how much white space I wanted.

There were other little bumps in the road that I’m not remembering (blocked them out of my mind, maybe). But the book is finally up on Amazon, waiting for hordes of readers to discover it and buy it. Feel free to go take a look. If you own a Kindle, or have the Kindle software on your phone, iPod, or PC, you can check out the free sample and be awestruck by my masterful formatting. Or maybe you’ll find the typos I undoubtedly missed. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know if I’ve blundered. Because with an e-book, I can fix the typos after it’s published. Isn’t that cool?


About karensandler

Lover of chocolate. A couple felines short of full-fledged Cat Lady. Author of the YA Tankborn Trilogy (TANKBORN, AWAKENING, and REBELLION), from Tu Books. Founding team member of We Need Diverse Books. Opinions expressed here are my own.
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