Monday, August 27, 2012

Lessons Learned

Now that the dust has settled on my start into this e-publishing adventure, I thought it might help others if I shared a few of the things that I have learned through this process.  By no means am I an expert now.  I think it's safe to say that I know just enough to get the job done.  I still have a lot to learn, but here is what I have learned to this point.

There are several resources available to the new author, and the more you read the more prepared you can be.  One of the first things you have to remember in the world of e-readers is:  What you see is not what you get.  By this I mean that your manuscript, as it appears in MSWord, is not as it appears on a Kindle, Nook, or the plethora of other mechanisms.  You have to take that wonderful manuscript and butcher it up to make it look good.

The best place to start is BEFORE you begin your manuscript.  Unfortunately, most of us don't know this until we have spent many long hours on our manuscript.  So, be prepared to spend hours doctoring up your work.  Be patient.  Don't skip any steps in the process, it will only prolong the process.

Save your original manuscript and modify a copy of it for the conversion process.  This way, you always have the original to fall back on.

A good starting point is to read David Dalglish's blog entry on this subject.  It is a good quick-and-dirty look at prepping your manuscript, but it is not the end all.  There are aspects of the journey that he doesn't cover, but I would consider this a must read.  Especially for those of you who are not on friendly terms with your computer.

Amazon Kindle

Step one is to download a free copy of Building Your Book for Kindle.  Give it a read at work, during your breaks of course.  Then open up your manuscript and just follow the instructions in the book.  Again, don't skip any steps in the process (especially the table of contents part...).
Amazon actually makes this whole thing fairly simple.  Once you have finished following the process that the book spells out, you will have an html file ready to upload to Amazon.  The most challenging part for me was formating the book cover correctly.


Download the free copy of the Smashwords Style Guide.  Just like with Amazon, follow the instructions in the guide, and do not skip any steps.
Smashwords is bit more demanding than Amazon.  This is because of the premium outlets like Apple and Barnes and Noble.  Your electronic book has to be formatted properly before they will send it on to other outlets.  Keep in mind, the 'meatgrinder' at Smashwords will not catch some formatting errors.  So even though your book may be approved by the software, issues can still exist.
When I uploaded my book the first time, I saw that text on the left hand side was cut off on Apple devices, and the map in my book would not show, yet the 'meatgrinder' accepted the book.  When the book completed the second step of the process (real people taking a look at it), I was instructed to fix these things.  Without a doubt I lost some sales here, because before the book made it to the second part of this process several people had already viewed the sample and most likely written it off because of formatting errors.
Again, do not skip any steps outlined in the style guide and you can avoid losing sales.  Take your time going through all this.  I know, you're ready to get your book out there, but getting in a rush will cost you.


So you spend several hours working on your manuscript formatting it in silly ways to translate to the multitude of e-readers.  You head is stuck in the what-you-see-is-not-what-you-get mode.  Go eat a sandwich, watch TV, mow the lawn, whatever you need to do to get out of that mode.  Because when it comes to creating the print version with Createspace, what you see IS what you get.

Quite frankly, the print version of Blood of Two is embarrassing.  I love the cover, but the inner content looks cheap.  It looks cheap because I failed to make it look like a standard book.  Set up your word processor to reflect the print size of your book.  In my case it was 6x9.  Once you do that, grab a book off your shelf and see what you can do to make your document emulate that professionally published book.  What you see on your computer screen is what you will see on the printed page.

Again, take your time.  You want your book to look its best.  Take no shortcuts.  You took months to write your book, take a few hours to present your book at its best.  Do not make the same mistake I made.

I know there isn't much here, but the main thing to remember is patience.  Don't think that you will go home on a Tuesday night and be published by the time you head to bed.  While it is very possible that will happen, you can't jog into the process with that attitude.  Take your time to do it right.  It doesn't matter if you've written a masterpiece if people can't read it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Drums of Rallinwar Book One: Blood of Two

It's here!

I know I've been a bit quiet for the last week or so, but it has been with good reason.  Blood of Two is now a published book.  It has been a stress filled weekend with manipulating the manuscript to meet the different requirements of the varied electronic formats, but book one is now behind me.

The book is available at Amazon.

And it is also available on Smashwords.  This site has it available under multiple formats: Kindle, epub, rtf, pdf, lrf, pdb, and txt.

The print version should be available on Amazon sometime this week.  Sometime over the next couple of weeks it will also be available at other electronic outlets such as Barnes and Noble, iBooks, etc.

If you read it and enjoy it (my ultimate goal), please take the time to give it an honest review at whatever outlet you purchased it from, and spread the word.  Recommend it to a friend, or enemy for that matter...

Honestly, because of the route I have chosen, word of mouth is important to this book's success.

I hope you enjoy Blood of Two, and I look forward to bringing you many more books.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gatekeepers vs. Curators

So many things are on my mind while I eagerly await the final round of copy edits.  I've been working on formatting the book for e-readers.  Waiting for a camper to get in stock.  Looking ahead to a short vacation.  And reading a plethora of articles about the rise of indie authors, which I will soon be one.

As expected, when you read blogs, forums, news articles, press releases, etc., you see two sides of a story and the truth lies somewhere in between.  Reading from the viewpoint of the e-revolution, which includes indie authors and electronic book sellers, you get a celebratory feel.  Life is good.  Publish your book and hit the lottery.

There are a lot of success stories in the Indie world and it is the selling point for that side.  Though the reality isn't quite that rosey.

The viewpoint of traditional publishing is, as expected, all doom and gloom about independent publishing.  According to them, the average author sells 50 copies.  Since they can't seem to provide the reader with the source of that information, I tend to think they pull that number out of their head.

Like I said, somewhere in between these viewpoints lies the truth.  But the argument that intrigues me most is the one that the traditionalists use the most:  There are no gatekeepers in the Indie world, therefore the market is flooded with crap.

I can give them that point, but that is just one side of the argument.

In traditional publishing the path to paper is over-populated with these gatekeepers.  An author pens his story and his query and submits it to the first gatekeepers, the agents.  Stories of great author's that almost didn't get published because an agent wouldn't pick them up are all over the place.

Another gatekeeper is the publisher.  Stephen King was turned away by how many publishers?

I guess my point is that these traditional gatekeepers buy into a book based on what they think will sell, and they are often wrong.  Just as they will publish books that don't sell, they don't publish books that will sell.

As an indie author, I am circumventing the gatekeepers.  There is a way into the building that isn't guarded (yet), and folks like me are taking advantage of it.  We are going straight to the readers; the ones who care more about what they buy as opposed to what will sell.

The reader is the curator.  If readers don't like my books, they won't sell.  If my books are good, they will sell.  In one way, it's not that simple, but in another it really is that simple.

This method of publishing is a win for both parties involved.  The reader gets a book for a reasonable price and the author gets his stories off his desk and into the world.

Traditionalists don't like it, because it threatens their world, and in some cases their livelihood.  So when they paint the cover, it is dark and scary.

Indie's love it because it is cheap and easy.  So their painting is all butterflies and rainbows.

When the broth boils away, we are left with gatekeepers and curators and the reader's may end up deciding which is better.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Coming Soon

People keep asking me if I am excited.  The simple answer is:  No.  I am anxious.

Just how will this book do?  I don't expect to sell more than a few copies, but those few who purchase it; how will it be perceived by them?  Friends, family, I mean no offense, but you are supposed to tell me you like it, even if you don't.  So, if you tell me it is good, by default I won't believe you.  Now, if you tell me you didn't like it, then I just might believe you.  However, if a complete stranger likes my book, then maybe I have hit on something.

Kind of weird when you think about it.  This is one of those few cases where someone would trust a stranger over family or a friend.

No, I am not excited about the impending release.  I am nervous as I could possibly be (translated to southernese:  Nervous as all get out).  I have spent a considerable amount of time (just ask my neglected wife) on this book, and it is an awful thought that it could just plain suck.  Nervous, nervous as can be.

Anyway, the book will be released in electronic and print format sometime between now and August 31.  I do hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.