I decided to start my foray into self-publishing with my two Berkley Jove Haunting Hearts books, Unforgettable and Night Whispers. These were the only two books for which I did not have an electronic file. There were my original files, but I wanted to start with the final edited book. That I had only in printed form.
So I sacrificed one author copy of each book, sending them off to Blue Leaf Book Scanning. Since I was willing to let them cut the books up to make scanning easier, the cost for scanning two 300+ page books was quite reasonable.
They did a decent job, but it still took a good long time to correct the errors. Besides misinterpreting letters (a cl might become a d), paragraphs throughout were often chopped in two mid-sentence or even mid-word. Sometimes italics became plain text, so I had to flip through the physical book to make sure text that I wanted italicized was indeed italicized.
I made several passes to correct scanning errors, then at least one editing pass. My cover artist was busy with the covers for the first two books (the final for THE IN-BETWEEN, formerly UNFORGETTABLE, is above), so when the manuscript was ready, so was the cover.
But nailing down the typos and polishing the prose was only the first step. Next I had to make sure the manuscript was in a format that would easily and correctly convert to Kindle (I’m mainly selling my books through Amazon). I had to make sure that where I wanted blank lines, I had to use the before/after spacing option in Word rather than just hit enter. I had to make sure I was using indents for each paragraph rather than tabs. Without these two crucial fixes, the converter would ignore all my paragraph indents and blank lines. I of course had to do manual page breaks where I wanted a new chapter to begin.
I then had to wrestle with the converter program I’d decided to use, Mobipocket Creator. In my opinion, the interface is a little goofy and klugy. It asks for information (pricing, for instance) that you will then have to enter again when you put the book up on Amazon. It is not at all clear how to, say, change the cover art or substitute in a new book file without deleting everything and starting all over. I am a very experienced computer user, but many aspects of Mobipocket Creator baffled me.
I did finally get the book into Kindle format (which I could check out using my PC Kindle reader). I discovered with subsequent books (I’ve done seven so far and intend to do two more) that the best time to check for those final little issues is using your PC Kindle reader. It’s far easier to navigate through the book there than later when you’ve uploaded it on Amazon’s website.
Once the converted file was ready, I filled in the forms on Amazon, uploaded my cover image and .prc file and waited the couple days for that book to be published. In the case of the first two books, I went ahead and also submitted them to Smashwords as well. That necessitated me inserting certain language on the copyright page, so I had to have a separate version of the book just for Smashwords. Assuming you meet the qualifications, Smashwords will put up your book on Koby, Nook (Barnes & Noble), Sony, and the iStore unless you opt out of any of those venues. It’s been a little trickier getting them taken down (which I’m trying to do, to make these first two books exclusive on Amazon as the rest are), but I think I have it nailed now. Their customer service is not as responsive as I might like, but they have a lot of authors to take care of.
Side note: Why am I going exclusive with Amazon? Because in their KDP select program you get a couple of bennies: free days (up to 5 where you can offer your book free) and inclusion in their Amazon Prime library. Also, I found it tedious working with Smashwords, and after selling a whopping 3 books there, it didn’t seem worth the effort. I confess to a certain amount of apprehension contributing to the unvanquishableness that is Amazon, but I’m doing well there sales-wise and making some decent money. Hard to pass that up.
Going back to The In-Between (formerly Unforgettable) and Dark Whispers (formerly Night Whispers), it was a whole rigamarole figuring out I wanted to change the titles and author names after I’d published them. The cover art change wasn’t a problem, since my artist is so easy to work with. And it was simple enough changing the book title and author on Amazon. But I couldn’t make heads nor tails of how to accomplish the same task on Smashwords. Apparently there’s a way, but I never figured it out. I ended up abandoning one account and adding a second one, which led to no end of confusion when I decided to unpublish my books from there.
So, be sure of your title and author name before you request your cover art and start the publishing process. Otherwise you’ll be chasing your tail trying to fix things when you really just want your book up for sale so you can start building an audience.
One last note regarding self-publishing. As I mentioned in a previous post, all the books I’ve put up on Amazon are books I’d already made money on, that had already been edited. They’d proven themselves by having been either traditionally or small press published.
I won’t tell anyone not to self-publish a book they’ve either not been able to sell traditionally, or are choosing not to go the traditional route at the outset. But I beg you not to toss any old bowl of spaghetti against the publishing wall (i.e., to see what sticks). Get the book vetted first by writer friends you trust, or beta readers, or pay an editor if you can afford it. I’ve discovered some dreadful books using Kindle’s sample feature and more often than not, they’re (a) self-published and (b) the only book the author’s written. Pul-leeze, learn your craft first.
Any questions? Ask ’em in the comments.