Monday, October 27, 2014

Mountains Into Molehills

Copyright © 2011 Susan Schreyer
Originally published by 1st Turning Point
Congratulations! You've pretty much decided that one of these days you'll release your book as an e-book. That is if you can get over the terror of where to go, how to do it, and all that technology you won't ever understand. Oh yeah, and if you can get someone to do it for you, because there's no way you're ever going to figure it out on your own. 
Sound about right?
Well, I've got some news for you -- you've already done the hardest part. You wrote the book. And then you polished and polished, had it critiqued, edited, and probably sent it out to agents, publishers and have taken a regular beating in criticism, swallowed your pride, admitted you're not perfect and done yet another rewrite. OR perhaps you've got books published that are out of print, and the rights have now reverted to you. Shouldn't those books be given another chance to work for you?
I'll bet you've even started building your platform. You've got a website, a blog and you know that whatever publication route you choose, today's author must shoulder a good deal of the marketing and promotion responsibility.
This is no time to quit just because of a little new technology. Just like anything else, it's accomplished by taking one step at a time. You don't have to know it all before you start, but it doesn't hurt to familiarize yourself with e-books if you haven't yet. If you don't want to invest in an e-reader, then download the software onto your computer -- that's the e-reader software, and it's free -- and read a book or two. They're set up differently than print books. No page numbers, adjustable fonts, and different requirements for margins, among other things. 
Don't worry about all of this yet. You don't climb a staircase by jumping into the middle of it, despite the fact that you know it's there. 
So, if the first steps are writing the book, then platform building, then deciding on e-publishing, you probably want to know what to do after you have a general idea of what an e-book looks like. 
Next step: Decide where you want your readers to be able to buy your e-book. Everywhere? Just Amazon? Not Amazon? It's up to you. And the good news here is that you can change your mind anytime you want. I love that part.
Now I will direct you to the source I've found particularly helpful. That'll be Smashwords. Who? Never heard of them? Well, now you have. They distribute e-books to almost all formats, and you can buy from them as well. Whether you plan on using them or not, they are (in my opinion, of course) the most helpful of all the e-book aggregators. Click over to their site,, scroll down until you see "Publish on Smashwords" in the left hand column and start reading. Once you've read some, and your heart rate has returned to normal, download the Style Guide. It's free, and don't worry, it doesn't commit you to anything.
Now, read it. 
Holy moley! It's more than 40 pages long! IT MUST BE COMPLICATED! 
Nope. It's not. Start at page 1 and read what they have to say. Take your time. This is the non-techie's guide to e-publishing. By the time you get done with it, I'll bet you a Starbucks grande mocha you'll be thinking you can handle this. After all, you typed your manuscript a hundred times on your computer, messed with the formatting to suit different submission guidelines. You can do this, too.
Once you've read the Style Guide, you'll probably want to play around with the steps they suggest for cleaning all the extraneous formatting out of the document. Make a copy of your book on your computer and play with the copy. That way, if things go bad (and they probably won't) you'll have only trashed a copy. 
Give yourself plenty of time so you don't feel pressured. You've got other stuff to do, too, like put a cover together -- or get someone to do it for you -- start promoting, write a "back cover blurb" that will hook a reader, write a short author bio, and your acknowledgment page.
When I began this process I assumed it would take months. I allowed time for my copy editor to stroll through my manuscript, the graphic artist I hired to read the entire book and play with cover designs, and myself to launch a new blog. I began this process on September 1. By October nearly everything was completed. I'd given myself until February. Under the circumstances, I decided to move the launch date to December. Then did more promoting. I got some interviews, nudged the buzz along and decided to find out what it would take to upload to Amazon.
Here is the link to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing. It's the way you get your work on to Kindle, and into Amazon's prodigious catalog.
You can take a look at their Kindle Publishing Guide, and if you've read the Smashwords Guide, this will look like even more of a breeze. Sign in using your Amazon login information. If you've ever ordered anything from Amazon before, you've got a login name and password. No need to create a new one. Take your time, read the prompts and fill in the blanks. It's simple. You'll be amazed. I promise.
It was so easy, I decided to go ahead and upload my manuscript. I uploaded a copy -- a test copy, if you will. I figured it was a test run, after all, and I'd end up pulling it. The cover, by the way, downloads separately. It took very little time for my manuscript to be processed. Once it was I clicked on the review option and took a look. 
Wow! It looked … good!!
Until I started checking a few pages in. Some of the margins were off (if you want to read more -- a lot more -- about the experience, click over to my blog, Writing Horses. "Adventures in Uploading," posted on November 20, 2010 details the experience). Because I wanted my book to look as professional as possible, I wanted the problem solved. The solution turned out to be simple, and because the aggregation software has improved over the years the frequency of unexpected and unpleasant surprises has decreased dramatically. In other words; the whole process is simpler still. 
However, I’m getting ahead of myself. What happened then, in 2010, was that I still lacked confidence in the process. I let my book idle in my account. I wasn't ready to push the "publish" button yet.
I went through the uploading process at Smashwords next. Also simple. No errors came back. I "unpublished" it. I still wasn't quite ready to launch.
So, what was I waiting for? Christmas? Well, yeah. 
But it was not quite November. Everything was done. I was ready to roll. I dithered around for a few days and finally decided, what the heck. Launch. 
I gave myself a week more to build buzz, then two days prior to the stated release date I uploaded fresh copies of my book on to both Amazon and Smashwords. Two days, because it takes a little processing time for both aggregators to make your book available, and I wanted to be sure when I told people they could now buy Death By A Dark Horse that they, in fact, could click on the links and get to my book. 
Having now self published five books, I can say definitively that I've learned more along the way, but nothing that was critical to know before releasing my book. The process was far quicker than the 5 months of preparation I'd anticipated -- and far easier. 
Give yourself time to read the instructions, the helpful hints and explore the websites. Most of all, give yourself time to take it a step at a time. You'll be amazed how fast it goes, and how the mountain truly is a molehill.

Susan Schreyer is a local author who combines her love of mysteries with her passion for horses in the suspenseful, humorous and romantic Thea Campbell mystery series set in Snohomish, WA. Shooting To Kill, the fifth book in the series, has just been released in e-book and print. Susan is co-president of the Puget Sound chapter of Sisters in Crime and a former board member of the Guppies Chapter of SinC. 

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