Archive | Backpacked RSS feed for this section
Image

Chris Kindle: My E-books Are 99c Until December 26th

8 Dec

Chris Kindle

REPLAY 2011: A New and Improved, Even Easier Way to Format Your E-book

27 Dec

I’ve been using Tuesdays and Thursdays to replay some popular posts from 2011, in case some of the people who’ve discovered my blog in the meantime missed it first time round. Think of it as a “year in review” kind of thing. (Or a “I’m trying to finish the first draft of a new book and so I don’t have time to write five new blog posts a week” kind of thing…) On Thursday I’ll be revisiting some of the guest posts I hosted this year, so this is my final replay post. It was first published in September and it’s the way I format my own e-books. Since I posted it, I’ve discovered that Mac users get even better results if instead of “Normal” style, they use “Plain Text.” If publishing an e-book is in your To Do for 2012, I think this is the easiest way to do your own formatting without learning computer code… 

Last week the dreaded day came to turn Backpacked into an e-book.

I did everything I usually do (as I outlined in my How To Format Your E-book the Non-Migraine Inducing Way post) and while it converted fine for Amazon KDP, Smashwords was just not happy with it – the .epub format, i.e. most important format outside of .mobi for Kindle, was alternating fonts every other paragraph. Thinking that maybe I’d done something wrong, I started again.

And again.

And again.

And then because I knew that sometimes using MS Word for Mac can screw up things a little bit, I even tried using the archaic monster from the pre-Stone Age that is our family PC, the machine that makes the Commodore 64 look like a Cray-SV1 (I’ve been reading about super computers this weekend – long story…). But it still didn’t work.

I couldn’t understand where things had gone wrong – I’d followed all the instructions, done everything I was told to do and had pulled out everything that didn’t need to be there, even page breaks. Finally I tried pulling out enough of my hair to leave unsightly bald patches and saying bad, sweary things about Smashwords, but – surprisingly – that didn’t work either.

Which left just one, unattractive option: going nuclear.

The Smashwords Style Guide says that if things aren’t working out, there is one very extreme option – the nuclear option – that strips everything out of your text except the letters, the words they make up and the spaces and lines between them. I didn’t want to do this because I use a lot of italics, and that would mean that I’d have to go back and insert 77,000 words’ worth of them. That wasn’t going to help with the this-book-is-driving-me-crazy thing. But I really wanted to conquer this thing, so I did it.

And it worked brilliantly.

The thing is, Smashwords is not the problem. Smashwords was never the problem (and in fact, their free Style Guide is a godsend). Microsoft Word, which was invented by the devil himself and then evidently coded by horned demons, is the problem. That’s why I work with Pages, but you can’t upload anything but .doc files for e-books. Even though my paragraph style was set to Normal and was in size 10 Times New Roman on screen, it wasn’t really set to Normal and in size 10 Times New Roman. Word was just jesting. It was letting me think it was, while hiding in the corner trying to stifle its own sniggering and chucking everything but the kitchen sink into the code.

I had to go through my book again but, while I did, I was able to pick out a few more errors, clean up a few sentences and generally improve it a bit. So instead of thinking of it as formatting, I just thought of it as another go-through, another revision. Once I was done I copied and pasted that text into my CreateSpace template, which then took only half an hour to format back into a POD interior, so both editions were the same. Then I was so happy with the result I went and re-did Mousetrapped the same way and when I’ve time, I’m going to do Self-Printed as well. I also used it for a formatting client’s e-book that had images and it worked out a dream.

Better yet, once I had scrubbed the formatting from my e-book file, it was so much easier to go back and put in what was needed than the way I’ve formatted in the past. It actually simplified the process. And you can even use your POD interior file if you like – because you’re taking out all of the formatting anyway, it doesn’t matter how much has been done to your document to begin with. I’m never going to format an e-book any other way again.

So here is my new and improved, Even Easier Way to Format Your E-book the Non-Migraine Inducing Way!

Do you need reminding about how in e-books there’s no such thing as a page? Read about that on this post. Or just remember, THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A PAGE in e-books. Got it? Good.

Let’s begin.

Start by making one of these. Or five.

Step 1: Prepare Your Manuscript

Open your manuscript file, whether it be the plain old Word document you and your editor have been working from or the interior of your POD paperback, all laid out nice and stuff, and eliminate anything that just doesn’t work in an e-book. You can either let them go, or leave the pure text in there to do a little work around with it later on, e.g. take the text out of a text box, delete the text box and put the text in a paragraph in all italics instead.

The following are e-books no-nos:

  • Automatic footnotes
  • Text boxes
  • Headers and footers
  • Columns
  • Tables
  • Any other fancy word-processing stuff.

Then click Edit -> Select All -> Copy.

Use a simple text editor program, like TextEdit. 

Step 2: Go Nuclear

Now open a simple text editing program. If you have a PC, this will probably be NotePad; on Mac, it’s TextEdit. Paste your work into here. (On Mac, select “Paste and Match Style” so it matches the style of TextEdit, not the style of the text you’re pasting in as that defeats the purpose.) This will strip your work of all formatting and images. Once you’ve done that, click Edit -> Select All -> Copy. Then open a brand new MS Word document, save it as .doc (not .docx) and turn off Auto-Formatting and Auto-Correct by un-checking the boxes in Preferences. Paste the stripped text in and save.

Turn off Auto-Correct and Auto-Format by un-checking the relevant boxes in Preferences.

Step 3: Style It Up

Working now in this new, start-from-scratch MS Word document, again with all text selected, go to Format -> Style. Your style will be set to Normal, but chances are that normal won’t be what you want. (It’s that damn horned demon again.) So click Modify and make Normal Times New Roman, point 10, left-aligned and single spaced. Click Okay to modify that style and then Apply.

Modifying your Normal style in MS Word.

Keeping all the text selected, then go to Format -> Paragraph and make the settings single line spacing with no extra space before or after, left-aligned with first line indent to 0.3″. So that it looks like this:

Save your document. Switch to Draft View (View -> Draft View) and make your paragraph returns visible (click the little paragraph return symbol in the toolbar that looks like a backwards P). Your book should now be looking like this to you:

Step 4: Put What You Need Back In

Now go through your document and put back in what you need in terms of formatting. Here’s what I do as I go through the book:

  • Insert e-book appropriate front matter including license notes, centered (tip: create a new, modified style where text is not first line indented but is centered – this will keep our formatting pristine all the way through). If you don’t know what that should be, I included an example in my original how to format an e-book post.

If you need some centered text, for example for titles, don’t just click “Center.” Instead, go back to Format -> Style and create a New Style for this purpose.

  • Insert page breaks between chapters (non-fiction/not a lot of chapters) or between parts (fiction/20+ chapters). Because some formats ignore page breaks, always have a paragraph return above and below the break so that if this does happen, the text doesn’t get all squashed up. To insert a page break, select Insert –> Break -> Page Break.
  • Insert bookmarks at chapter headings (non-fiction/not a lot of chapters) or at the beginnings of sections or parts (fiction/20+ chapters) so you can create a working table of contents later, i.e. readers can click on the table of contents and be taken straight to a certain point in the book. Insert a bookmark by clicking Insert -> Bookmark and call it what it is, e.g. Chapter One, Part II, etc.

Inserting bookmarks. You can also see in this image that to start a new chapter, I simply skip a line and make my heading bold. Keep it simple!

  • Format headings. For chapter headings I just use bold + italics and for section headings I switch the text to all caps and make them bold.
  • Put back in italics and/or bold where you need them in the body text.
  • Remove the first line indent where necessary, e.g. the first lines of chapters, chapter headings, etc. (The quickest way to do this is by moving the slide rule at the top of the page, I think. Just be careful to only move the first line and not the whole paragraph.)
  • Make all URLS live, i.e. Insert -> Hyperlink.
  • Insert e-book appropriate end matter, such as links to your blog, the titles of your other books, etc. Your last line in the e-book document should be “###END###’ centered, so that the reader knows they have come to the end of the e-book.

DO NOT:

  • Change your font size. All my e-books are now 10 point right the way through. I make text look different using only bold, italics and all capital letters.
  • Have more than four paragraph returns anywhere in your book. E-book reading devices allow readers to change their font sizes considerably and if you put too many paragraph returns, your readers will end up with blank pages at some font size settings. You really should never have more than one except for the pairs on either side of a page break, which technically aren’t together anyway.
  • Justify your paragraphs. Left-align is the only thing that really works properly across all formats.
  • Refer to retailers. Do you think Barnes and Noble is going to want a link to Amazon in your book? Hardly. I normally do two files, one for KDP (Amazon) and one for Smashwords. I keep the Smashwords file clean because it goes to so many different people, but in the KDP file I say things like, “Look out for [TITLE] in the Kindle store.”

Step 5: The Bells and Whistles

You can stop right here and skip to step 6, Upload and Check Your E-books, if you’re happy with your book as it is, or you can add in some bells and whistles, like:

The live table of contents in the e-book version of Backpacked. The links under the copyright notice/license notes link to the web, i.. my blog, Twitter account etc., but the links in the table of contents link to bookmarks, i.e. locations within the document.

A live table of contents. These are very helpful for non-fiction and reference books. The idea is that you insert a bookmark at the start of each chapter or section, go back to the start and type a table of contents and then make each entry in the table a live, working hyperlink that if clicked, will take the reader to the bookmarked location. To insert a link to a bookmark, click Insert -> Hyperlink and then in the window that appears, click “Document” for in-document links and select the appropriate bookmark.

Inserting images in e-books. 

Images. Yes, I’m talking about adding images to your e-books. Have I ingested some crazy pills? Didn’t I always say you shouldn’t put images in e-books? Didn’t I claim that trying to do it was just bringing on a world of pain? Well, when you use the nuclear option, images are easier to work with just because the body text is already behaving well. To insert an image, you must Insert -> Picture -> From File. (You cannot copy and paste.) You must ensure that the image’s layout is set to “in line with text.” To check, right-click the image and select Format Picture -> Layout. Keep the image small; I make sure mine don’t stretch further than 3 inches across the screen. Centre them for cohesiveness, and for safety, leave a page break before and after. In the image above, I created yet another style for the image caption. Don’t forget that for now, at least, most people read their e-books in black and white.

Work arounds. Everything that’s in your paperback can go in your e-book – you just have to use your imagination. Text boxes are easy: just take the text out and either give it its own paragraph with a return above and below, or just insert it like any other paragraph but in bold and/or italic. A formatting client of mine had a worksheet in her physical book – you can’t put that in an e-book (and there’s no point in doing it, anyway), so I advised her to make a PDF of it, and tell her e-book readers to go to her website to pick it up. They still get the worksheet and she gets a website visit. For footnotes, I went to the text where the footnote appeared in the physical book, went to the next paragraph return and then inserted it using square brackets (see highlighted section in the image below).

Adding footnotes manually (see highlighted section).

The only limit, really, is your imagination. For instance in my novel that’s out next month, Results Not Typical, there are several sections that are supposed to be branded literature from the company at the heart of the plot. They’re in a different font to the main text. In the paperback, those sections look like this:

But how to accomplish that in the e-book? Well, this was a true work around. I took a screen shot of the header as it appears in the MS Word document that forms the interior of my paperback book. Then I inserted that as an image into the e-book. The rest of the text, i.e. the rest of the text in each of those literature sections, will remain the same, but at least those image headers will alert readers to the fact that they’re different. So in the e-book, it looks like this:

Step 6: Upload and Check Your E-books

Checking your e-book is really easy and can be done with your Smashwords converted files. (When you upload to KDP you get to see an on-screen Kindle preview which is great but not ideal and anyway if it’s working at Smashwords, it’s definitely working over at KDP.)

Pre-nuclear: Ugh. It’s all, bad and stuff. Yuck!

Upload your file to Smashwords and while it’s converting, download Adobe Digital Editions and Amazon’s Kindle reading application (both free) to your computer. Then when your book goes live, download the .epub and .mobi (Kindle) versions from your book’s page and check them using the programs you just downloaded. If you followed the instructions above, they’ll look great. If they look anything other than great, immediately unpublish your books (click “Unpublish” on your Smashwords dashboard) and try again.

If you’re having problems, download the Smashwords Style Guide. Honestly, you don’t need anything else – if you follow its instructions, your book will look great on Smashwords and Amazon KDP. It’s where I found out everything I know about formatting, along with trial and error. And caffeine-induced epiphanies after a very long day of e-book formatting.

Post-nuclear: Oooh, look how pretty and correctly formatted and stuff! 

So that’s it, folks. If you want to have this post to hand while you format your e-book, click here to download a printable PDF. I know, I know – I’m just too, too kind. If you want to express your gratefulness, buy a copy of one of these or, alternatively, tell everyone you know about them. Every single last one. I’ll know if you leave a few people out, you know. I have ways.

Click here to find out more about Backpacked

REPLAY 2011: 5 Things Self-Publishers Shouldn’t Worry About (But They Do)

22 Dec

I’ve been using Tuesdays and Thursdays to replay some popular posts from 2011, in case some of the people who’ve discovered my blog in the meantime missed it first time round. Think of it as a “year in review” kind of thing. (Or a “I’m trying to finish the first draft of a new book and so I don’t have time to write five new blog posts a week” kind of thing…) This post was first posted back in September.

I get asked a lot of questions about self-publishing.

Most of these questions – I’d say at least eight out of every ten – are answered on my blog, and if the people who asked them took a few moments to read my blog every once in a while, they wouldn’t have to ask. Some of the answers don’t even require the reading of my blog, for instance: Do you recommend CreateSpace?

Do I recommend CreateSpace? Hmm. Let me think on that. You know what? No – no, I don’t. I hate those bastards. With a passion. In fact, I hate them so much that I’ve chosen to self-publish not one, not two, but three POD paperbacks with them, included detailed instructions for using them in my book Self-Printed and I’ve a fourth CreateSpace POD baby on the way. So recommend them? What do you think?

Some of these questions I’m asked – maybe one out of every ten, on a good day – are really, really good questions, questions I wish I’d already answered on my blog, questions I make a note of so I can answer them one day in the future. The kind of ones where I didn’t explain something because it feels second nature to me now, and I’ve forgotten there was a time when I didn’t have a clue. I like those kinds of questions. I hope they keep coming.

That rest are what I call the Are You Kidding Me With This? questions.

You know that saying “Don’t run before you can walk”? Well, some would-be self-publishers seemingly want to figure-skate professionally before they can stand upright. They want to know where they can buy “Signed by the Author” stickers before they’ve even wrote the book. Others have only the faintest grasp of what self-publishing is and what it means, realistically, for them and their book, and so presume that they’ll have to add things like “movie deals”, “paparazzi” and “Booker Prize” to their Things to Concern Myself With list. A couple of weeks ago an author told me that it had taken “four phone calls to Amazon” before he managed to get his book published on KDP. What? Why? And what could you possibly be calling them about? This isn’t rocket science, people!

Self-publishing is simple. It takes a lot of patience and hard work, yes, but it is, ultimately, simplistic. So don’t overcomplicate things. Don’t be overly ambitious. Don’t let your imagination run wild. Don’t run before you can walk (or figure-skate professionally before you can stand upright.) Don’t get your knickers in a twist over movie deals.

And whatever you do, don’t worry about these things:

1. Shipping Charges

CreateSpace’s shipping charges are a bit on the pricey side. They used to be on the astronomical side, but at least now they’re somewhat affordable. But they don’t really matter that much. They certainly don’t matter so much that they should affect your decision when it comes to picking a POD company because if you want to make money self-publishing, start by not sending books to yourself.

If you want to sell your POD books in bookstores, you’ll have to buy them, ship them to your home and then try to sell them to bookstores. But if you want to sell your books in bookstores, then don’t get them printed by the likes of CreateSpace or Lulu. There just isn’t enough room in the margins to accommodate the manufacturing cost, a cut for the bookstore and your profit while keeping the retail price far away enough from the stratosphere for anyone to consider buying it. Don’t buy your own book, even for stock.

You also shouldn’t worry about your readers having to pay those shipping charges, because you shouldn’t encourage anyone to buy your book from, say, your CreateSpace e-store. I just despair when I see authors asking readers to buy their books from there because their royalty/profit is the highest. The way to sell books is to make them visible on Amazon – once you do that, the books sell themselves. “Visible” means high up bestseller ranks, high up search results and in things like “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” Every time you sell a book on Amazon, you contribute to this visibility. So why would you encourage anyone to buy your books from CreateSpace, where the sale leaves no trace at all? In that case there’s a tree falling in the woods with nobody around, and we can definitely say it doesn’t make a sound.

The only times you have to even think about shipping charges is (i) when you post the proof copy to yourself and (ii) ordering books for friends and family. Let’s say for the sake of it that that totals somewhere between 30-50 books. Presumably your goal is to sell thousands, so why would you make a decision based on something that affects a fraction of the books you hope to shift? There’s no good reason, so don’t worry about it.

After a while, your POD paperback’s cover will start to do this. But who cares?

2. Perfection

Once upon a time I had the misfortune to work as a campsite courier, a kind of general assistant on a “camping” resort in the south of France. Our customers paid big bucks to stay in mobile homes, chalets and oversized tents, and we got paid practically nothing to clean them before they arrived. Whenever anyone complained about a stain on the floor or a bit of dust on the window or a smear on a glass, we’d shrug, hold up our hands and say, “What do they expect? It’s camping!”

This is Print-On-Demand. This is a machine that throws together a book in a matter of minutes. It’s not a professional printing press that uses high quality cover card, elegant binding and smooth, beautiful paper. And these are self-published e-books. It’s a Word document that’s been run through an almost free-to-use, automated conversion program that spits out several different formats at once. It’s not a team of highly trained techie types who work from the code and make e-books that are things of book-design beauty. Yes, you should make your POD paperback and e-book look as great as you possibly can, but don’t chase perfection because you won’t find it.

Your POD paperback will likely have:

  • a glossy cover that collects fingerprints
  • a cover made of card thinner than a traditionally published book, so it’ll bend more
  • some pages that may appear printed very slightly off kilter
  • the occasional ever-so-slightly damaged corner
  • “Proof” printed on the last page if it’s a proof copy
  • A barcode, date and address printed on the last page no matter what.

Why? BECAUSE IT’S CHEAP-AS-CHIPS POD, people!

Your e-book will likely have:

  • spaces where you didn’t intend for there to be spaces
  • lines where you didn’t intend for there to be lines
  • page breaks where you didn’t intend for there to be page breaks
  • an automated table of contents (that’s different to the one you put in).
But it will still be perfectly readable and if you’re lucky, looking good too. So don’t worry about it.

3. Unrealistic Retailing

Every time a self-publisher wonders aloud how they can get their book up on Amazon for pre-order, a fairy dies.

FACT.

What kinds of books are available to pre-order on Amazon? Books published by actual, proper big publishing houses. Who should be thanking their lucky stars they’re even allowed on Amazon in the first place without a warehouse of stock, a meter-high stack of paperwork and some credentials? You, the self-publisher.

Don’t be getting ideas above your station. If you’re Hilary Swank and you’ve been invited to the Academy Awards, Oscar de la Renta will send you a beautiful gown made just for you. If you’re you (or me) and you’ve been invited to your (or my) grandmother’s 80th birthday party, it’s off to Debenhams (Macy’s, American friends) to buy something mass produced off the rack.

So when you say anything about pre-ordering, I say: Puh. Lease. If you self-publish a POD paperback, it will be for sale on Amazon.com. If someone orders it, magical elves will print it, package it and ship it, and then the cousins of those magical elves will deposit the profits earned from that sale into your bank account. This is amazing. This is fantastic. And this is ENOUGH.

Don’t worry about whether or not Waterstone’s can stock your book, because they won’t ever want to. Don’t worry about VAT and Whispernet delivery charges, because they’re on all books, not just yours, and therefore the concern of the buyer, not the seller. Don’t worry about who is selling your book – just be glad anybody is.

And don’t even mention pre-ordering.

(There goes another fairy…)

4. ISBNs

An ISBN is a 10 or 13 digit number that identifies your book. If CreateSpace or Smashwords give you an ISBN, they own the ISBN but they DO NOT own the work you assign the ISBN to. In other words, you are free to publish your book anywhere else whenever you like, but you’d have to use a new ISBN.

So, repeat after me:

“ISBNs identify, copyright owns and protects. ISBNs identify, copyright owns and protects. ISBNs identify, copyright owns and protect…” and continue to do so until you stop worrying about how taking a free ISBN might affect your future movie deal, agency contract or first million dollar cheque.

Just STOP.

5. The Future of Publishing

In one dark corner of the internet right now, last month, next week, there is a conversation comprised of blog posts, articles, tweets, etc. that’s going like this:

“The book is dead.”

“The book isn’t dead.”

“Yes, it is. I just bought a Kindle.”

“No, it isn’t. Can you decorate with it? Can you decorate with your Kindle? Didn’t think so…” and so on and on and on.

There is also another conversation running parallel, going like this:

“Publishing is dead.”

“Publishing is not dead.”

“Your children won’t remember bookshops.”

“My children will be visiting their children in the bookshops they work in…” and so on and on and on.

And yet another that goes like:

“I heard these guys saying publishing and books are dead. I’m going straight to self-publishing e-books. It’s best for my career.”

“I don’t know how to do it though. I’m going to submit my novel.”

“You’ll be sorry when you die before you hear back.”

“You’ll be sorry when no one buys your clump of computer code…” and so on and on and on.

If you are thinking of self-publishing and haven’t yet sold a single book, or even if you have self-published and sold a few copies, NONE OF THIS MATTERS.

And for the ranty record, I really wish people who don’t work in publishing – and that includes me, and almost all self-publishers – would shut their pie holes about what a world they don’t live and work in may or may not have happen to it, theoretically, in the future, based on how many guys down the pub they know with Kindles. Knitting a scarf doesn’t make you the fashion editor of Vogue, and self-publishing a book doesn’t make you a publishing expert, and it especially doesn’t make you an expert on the whole global industry of publishing and where it’s headed. Self-publish, sell a few hundred thousand, make money and perhaps either refuse or sign a publishing deal, and then I’ll start to listen. Otherwise, I’m going to need you to actually work in publishing.

See also: debate over whether people like me should be called “self-publishers” or “indie authors.” What’s next on the agenda of irrelevancy – whether it’s e-books, E-books or E-Books? Because I don’t know about you, but that’s a question that’s keeping me awake at night.

NOT.

Instead, concentrate on your own little corner of the world, the part of the world you do know about, on your big picture, and–

[Say it with me now]

Don’t worry about it!

Let’s all have a nice, big cup of coffee now. That will also help with the not-worrying.

REPLAY 2011: How Much Work is Self-Publishing?

15 Dec

Between now and the end of the year I’m going to be using Tuesdays and Thursdays to replay some popular posts from 2011, in case some of the people who’ve discovered my blog in the meantime missed it first time round. Think of it as a “year in review” kind of thing. This post first appeared in September as part of Backpacked launch week and what’s hilarious is that despite everyone’s “I never realized how much work was involved!” reaction, this is only a fraction of what’s really involved in self-publishing when you’re starting from scratch. I wasn’t, because Backpacked was my third book and the sequel to a book that had done really well, and I didn’t do much publicity for its launch at all. So this is how much work self-publishing is when you don’t have to do that much work…

Today I’m going to talk about how much work self-publishing is.

I think people get the wrong idea because we – self-publishers – tell them things like, “You can publish a book on CreateSpace in half an hour” and “It only takes a few minutes to upload an e-book.” I’m as guilty of this as anyone, because I like to encourage people to self-publish (good books). I want people to understand that it’s achievable. But self-publishing – even self-publishing like this, just POD paperbacks and e-books – is a whole hell of hard work if you do it properly, or try to.

This time around and to help demonstrate this, I decided to keep a list of everything I had to do to self-publish Backpacked in POD paperback with CreateSpace and e-books with Amazon KDP and Smashwords, or to get to the point I am with it today.

So what have I had to do to get Backpacked out into the world?

  1. (February 2011) Decide to write and release the book
  2. Decide on a release month (not enough information for release date yet)
  3. Register a new free WordPress blog to act as Backpacked‘s dedicated book site
  4. Upgrade free blog URL to “backpackedbook.com”
  5. Set site to “private” while it’s under construction
  6. Take “scrapbook” picture to go on the cover
  7. Start new “scrapbox” for Backpacked; I use one of these for each book
  8. Mock up front cover design in MS Word
  9. E-mail cover designer mock up and ask for quote
  10. E-mail copyeditor and ask for quote
  11. Blog about decision to write and self-publish it
  12. Update Twitter profile, etc. with news of Backpacked
  13. Write a synopsis
  14. Blog the synopsis
  15. Get e-book (front) cover from designer to use for promotion
  16. Construct backpackedbook.com and set it to public
  17. Rearrange catherineryanhoward.com to make room for links, etc. about Backpacked
  18. Share cover design with blog readers and Facebook fans
  19. Write the book (Um yeah, that only comes now…)
  20. Edit first draft
  21. Send book to Sarah, my copyeditor
  22. Send book to Sheelagh, my best friend who’s in the book, so she can okay it
  23. Mock-up rough interior to get page count
  24. With page count, determine manufacturing cost using CreateSpace’s calculators
  25. Use manufacturing costs to determine list price
  26. Get cover designer to build an online bookstore* so readers can pre-order signed copies
  27. Mock-up design, liaise with designer to perfect online bookstore
  28. Set online bookstore to live and start to advertise it
  29. Download full cover template from CreateSpace
  30. Send template to cover designer along with instructions for back cover
  31. Send update to Mousetrapped page Facebook fans re: pre-ordering Backpacked
  32. … and to everyone in my e-mail contacts list…
  33. … and to everyone who ordered a copy of Mousetrapped from me…
  34. … and to everyone the More Mousetrapped mailing list…
  35. … and blog a reminder too, just for good measure.
  36. Answer interview questions for Alyssa Martino’s blog.
  37. Close online bookstore.
  38. Make a list of books ordered and print out receipts from PayPal.
  39. Upload 70+ photos to Backpackedbook.com to make slideshow and…
  40. … write captions for every single one of them while watching Outnumbered.
  41. Ok Backpacked‘s paperback cover design.
  42. Work out remaining timeline and set release date.
  43. Set up new title on CreateSpace.
  44. Upload finished PDF cover file to CreateSpace.
  45. Work through copyeditor’s suggestions, accepting/rejecting changes.
  46. Create two copies of MS – one destined to be e-book, one a paperback.
  47. Download CreateSpace interior MS Word template.
  48. Copy and paste in edited text and format interior.
  49. Insert free ISBN provided by CS onto copyright page.
  50. Go through interior again, fixing errors.
  51. Upload interior file to CreateSpace and submit for review.
  52. Order a proof copy so I can see for first time what cover, font, etc. looks like.
  53. Create a PDF version of Backpacked to send to blogger friends.
  54. Make this video about editing.
  55. Go through proof copy looking for errors and adjust interior file with corrections.
  56. Send interior file to copyeditor for proofreading.
  57. Buy envelopes for sending pre-orders.
  58. Take e-book MS and prepare it for upload – one for Kindle, one for Smashwords.
  59. Smashwords version won’t convert properly; try again.
  60. Smashwords version won’t convert properly; try again.
  61. Figure out only way to make it work is to “go nuclear”, i.e. strip out all formatting then go back and put it in.
  62. Upload/publish this new file to Smashwords.
  63. Upload/publish this new file to Amazon KDP too, so they match.
  64. Upload proofread interior file to CreateSpace.
  65. Order proof copies of this final version.
  66. Download .mobi version from Smashwords and send to friends/reviewers.
  67. Purchase royalty free music for book trailer.
  68. Use JING to record video for book trailer.
  69. Make book trailer using iMovie.
  70. Upload book trailer to YouTube and Vimeo.
  71. Check second – and final – proof copy.
  72. Click “Approve Proof” on CreateSpace (i.e. publish).
  73. Pay for ProPlan upgrade on CreateSpace.
  74. Order enough stock to cover pre-orders.
  75. Send “Out now!” message to everyone on my mailing list and the More Mousetrapped mailing list with MailChimp.
  76. Post “Out now!” status updates on Mousetrapped‘s Facebook page.
  77. Add book trailer to Smashwords listing.
  78. Add book trailer to Goodreads Author Profile.
  79. Set up new Google Alert for “Backpacked” + my name
  80. Add new section for Backpacked to my sales data spreadsheet
  81. Add Backpacked to bibliography in Amazon Author Central.
  82. E-mail Amazon to get them to link paperback to Kindle edition.
  83. Update Mousetrapped e-books with links to Backpacked’s e-book.
  84. Update Mousetrapped paperback interior with Backpacked in the “Also By…”
  85. Update Self-Printed e-books with links to Backpacked’s e-book.
  86. Update Self-Printed paperback interior with Backpacked in the “Also By…”
  87. Update blog, booksite etc. changing “Coming soon” to “Out now!” and links to buy.
  88. Update Goodreads author profile.
  89. Write 5 x launch day blog posts (including this one); schedule them for posting
  90. (Today) Keel over.

And as the stock to cover the pre-orders is somewhere between North Carolina and here right now, I have yet to:

  • Sign and pack stock orders; send them out.
  • Print out all invoices and update cost/profit spreadsheet
  • Sell stock to family and friends.

And by the way, I haven’t really done a major publicity push with this book. If I had, we’d have to add things like finding reviewers, e-mailing them, creating and printed an information sheet, sending review copies, etc. and maybe try to organize a blog tour and a giveaway. The book trailer and blogging about it are all I’m doing. Nor have I had a launch, which would mean organizing a venue, ordering in stock, creating and ordering printed materials (posters, bookmarks, etc.) and contacting the local press in the hope they’d cover it. The list above, in other words, is the least amount of work I could possibly do for one of my self-published books.

It’s self-publishing on a quiet day.

*You can’t conduct commerce of any kind from free WordPress blogs, so I had to “hide” another self-hosted site inside my free one to act as the bookstore. 

Visit BackpackedBook.com to find out more.

REPLAY 2011: Why You Need an Editor: A Demonstration

13 Dec

Between now and the end of the year I’m going to be using Tuesdays and Thursdays to replay some popular posts from 2011, in case some of the people who’ve discovered my blog in the meantime missed it first time round. Think of it as a “year in review” kind of thing. This post first appeared in August, and it wasn’t a coincidence that I was editing Backpacked at the time. In the comments it was agreed that my exception number 1—you being a professional editor—wasn’t an exception, as even editors cannot edit their own work. So, unless you’re planning on publishing a book of blank pages, get an editor. 

Self-publishers need to get their books professionally copyedited. Ideally they should have their books structurally edited, copyedited and proofread, but when you have a large number of people not listening to you about something, you have to start with baby steps. So let’s just say – for now – that self-publishers have to get their books copyedited, at least, before they release them out into the world.

That includes you.

Yes, you.

No, really – it does include YOU.

In fact, there are only two acceptable excuses for not getting your book professionally copyedited (i.e. paying someone to do it) before you self-publish. They are:

  1. You being a professional editor
  2. Your book having no words in it.

Do NOT make the naive mistake of confusing copyediting with looking for typos. If you believe that, then you probably need a copyeditor more than most. Every single day – it seems – I meet a writer about to self-publish, in the process of self-publishing or who has already self-published who disagrees with me on this issue. They don’t need an editor, they claim. Or they can’t afford to hire one.

Well, you do need one, and if you can’t afford to make your book the best it can be (or even just readable, depending on your grasp of grammar, punctuation, etc.), then don’t self-publish it. I’ve done everything I can to convince self-publishers otherwise – explaining how it’ll lead to humiliation, bad reviews, loss of sales, nuclear annihilation of your career, etc. etc. – but still, many don’t listen.

So I keep trying, and my latest attempt is this:

This is a (silent) video showing you how much copyediting had to be done to Backpacked. By the time my editor got a hold of it, I had rewritten it twice and, hey, I have a fairly good grasp of the English language. In other words, my book was in relatively good shape. And yet, as you’ll see in the video, there were plenty of corrections.

Please, self-publishing boys and girls. GET AN EDITOR. I have two I highly recommend if you need their contact information. But do it. If you don’t, it may be the most costly mistake – financially and professionally – you’ll ever make.

(Dum dum DUUUUMMMM.)

(That was scary dramatic music, if that wasn’t clear.)

Writing with the Door Open

27 Sep

Back in 2009 when I wrote the final version of Mousetrapped, I wrote it all for myself.

In On Writing Stephen King talks about writing the first draft with the door closed (i.e. just for you) and the second with the door open (with the reader in mind), but anytime I wrote or re-wrote Mousetrapped, the door was always closed. I wrote the book that entertained me, and didn’t worry – or even think – about anyone else. And at times, this writing-just-for-me strayed into self-indulgence. I thought things like, well, I’m interested in this, so why wouldn’t everyone else be? And isn’t this my book? Can’t I just write whatever I want?

Now if you liked Disney, NASA, moving abroad totally unprepared and my personality and perspective, then you loved Mousetrapped. Some people really did. But if you didn’t like one or all of those things, you didn’t. My voice grated on your nerves, or parts of it read like a Wikipedia entry (apparently!). While I don’t regret the way I wrote the book or how it reads – why would I? 8,373 copies sold and counting, baby! – I do see now that while I’ll always write the book I want to read, it helps my cause if some other people might like to read it too.

What I’m getting at is that at some point in the writing process, you have to open the door.

So when it came to writing Backpacked, I opened the door. Heck, I took it off its hinges and propped it against the wall. I kept the end reader in mind all the time and so when it came to certain things that I could’ve gone on and on and on about for pages and pages on end, I asked myself, am I writing this because I like writing this bit, or because it adds to the book/story? If it didn’t add something, I scaled it back or left it out altogether.

I also had some bad reviews of Mousetrapped to rely on for constructive criticism. (Lucky me!) A few unimpressed reviewers complained about the first chapter where I explain how events in my life conspired to land me in Walt Disney World at the age of 24. I thought this had to be explained, but it probably didn’t need to be explained so much (!). In Backpacked, we get backpacking as quickly as possible. I also refrained from dumping paragraphs of history into the book so while I describe the places we visited, I don’t fill you in on everything that’s happened there to date. And Backpacked doesn’t try to be two or three different kinds of books at once – it’s just the linear story of backpacking trip taken by someone who didn’t want to go backpacking, plain and simple.

I think my writing has vastly improved as well – as it should’ve, considering that I wrote the first draft of Mousetrapped in the summer of 2008 and it was really the first proper thing I ever wrote, and Backpacked three years later, this summer,  and I’ve written a 97,000-word novel in between, as well as approximately 250,000 words worth of blog posts and a self-publishing guide totaling 110,000 words. I’ve also worked with editors, whose corrections help me write better and of course, I’ve been constantly reading. So if my writing hadn’t improved from all that, I’d be in real trouble.

A few Fridays ago I told everyone on my mailing lists that Backpacked was out, and then held my breath. I knew people who already liked my writing would like the book, but I wanted them to like it in a very particular way: I wanted them to say it was better than Mousetrapped

And they have said it.

For instance:

“Catherine Ryan Howard is our intrepid traveller, someone who prefers chilling in a 5-star hotel to backpacking through South America. But with no job, no home and nowhere else to be, Catherine figures going backpacking is going to be an adventure. And she’s going with her best friend Sheelagh, who can save Catherine from all kinds of terrible things since she’s a seasoned traveller herself! What follows is a 9-week adventure that is highly readable. At times when I was reading Mousetrapped (the predecessor to Backpacked) I found myself a bit bored with some of the longer ramblings from Catherine (I mean that nicely; the ramblings just weren’t my kinda ramblings!) but in Backpacked it’s as if Catherine has stream-lined herself and it all flows brilliantly. I was thoroughly ensconced in the book and couldn’t wait to see where Catherine and Sheelagh were going to next. Catherine is an excellent writer. She’s scaled back on the more information-heavy paragraphs, only giving us the bare basics from books about the countries they’re visiting and it’s a much more personable read than Mousetrapped was. Catherine injected such humour into the book that I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions, particularly when Catherine travels up a mountain on a HORSE! There are many brilliant moments during Backpacked and every page was brilliant. I felt as if I was part of Catherine’s journey and she writes about the places she and Sheelagh visited so thoroughly and with so much passion that I’m tempted to hop on the next flight to Guatemala. Backpacked is just brilliant, I thoroughly enjoyed it and despite Catherine was indeed a reluctant backpacker, you can tell she did on some level enjoy it and I enjoyed reading all about it.” –Leah, I Love Books and Football

It’s been selling steadily – with Amazon.co.uk sales higher than Amazon.com, for some inexplicable reason; it’s always the other way around! – and all feedback has been positive (so far, anyway!).

So: phew! Mission accomplished.

If you’ve read Backpacked, I’ll be your best friend forever if you can spare five minutes to write an Amazon review. It doesn’t have to be an essay – even three sentences will do the job!

If you want to read Backpacked, find out where you can find a preview and copies to buy here.

BACKPACKED WEEK: 5 Things Self-Publishers Shouldn’t Worry About (But They Do)

9 Sep

Welcome to Day #5 of Backpacked Week! This was where to celebrate/constantly remind you about the fact that my new travel memoir, Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America, is out now until you buy a copy of it, I posted every day this week about all the new-fangled stuff I picked up during this, my latest self-publishing adventure…

Oooh, looky!

I get asked a lot of questions about self-publishing.

Most of these questions – I’d say at least eight out of every ten – are answered on my blog, and if the people who asked them took a few moments to read my blog every once in a while, they wouldn’t have to ask. Some of the answers don’t even require the reading of my blog, for instance: Do you recommend CreateSpace?

Do I recommend CreateSpace? Hmm. Let me think on that. You know what? No – no, I don’t. I hate those bastards. With a passion. In fact, I hate them so much that I’ve chosen to self-publish not one, not two, but three POD paperbacks with them, included detailed instructions for using them in my book Self-Printed and I’ve a fourth CreateSpace POD baby on the way. So recommend them? What do you think?

Some of these questions I’m asked – maybe one out of every ten, on a good day – are really, really good questions, questions I wish I’d already answered on my blog, questions I make a note of so I can answer them one day in the future. The kind of ones where I didn’t explain something because it feels second nature to me now, and I’ve forgotten there was a time when I didn’t have a clue. I like those kinds of questions. I hope they keep coming.

That rest are what I call the Are You Kidding Me With This? questions.

You know that saying “Don’t run before you can walk”? Well, some would-be self-publishers seemingly want to figure-skate professionally before they can stand upright. They want to know where they can buy “Signed by the Author” stickers before they’ve even wrote the book. Others have only the faintest grasp of what self-publishing is and what it means, realistically, for them and their book, and so presume that they’ll have to add things like “movie deals”, “paparazzi” and “Booker Prize” to their Things to Concern Myself With list. A couple of weeks ago an author told me that it had taken “four phone calls to Amazon” before he managed to get his book published on KDP. What? Why? And what could you possibly be calling them about? This isn’t rocket science, people!

Self-publishing is simple. It takes a lot of patience and hard work, yes, but it is, ultimately, simplistic. So don’t overcomplicate things. Don’t be overly ambitious. Don’t let your imagination run wild. Don’t run before you can walk (or figure-skate professionally before you can stand upright.) Don’t get your knickers in a twist over movie deals.

And whatever you do, don’t worry about these things:

1. Shipping Charges

CreateSpace’s shipping charges are a bit on the pricey side. They used to be on the astronomical side, but at least now they’re somewhat affordable. But they don’t really matter that much. They certainly don’t matter so much that they should affect your decision when it comes to picking a POD company because if you want to make money self-publishing, start by not sending books to yourself.

If you want to sell your POD books in bookstores, you’ll have to buy them, ship them to your home and then try to sell them to bookstores. But if you want to sell your books in bookstores, then don’t get them printed by the likes of CreateSpace or Lulu. There just isn’t enough room in the margins to accommodate the manufacturing cost, a cut for the bookstore and your profit while keeping the retail price far away enough from the stratosphere for anyone to consider buying it. Don’t buy your own book, even for stock.

You also shouldn’t worry about your readers having to pay those shipping charges, because you shouldn’t encourage anyone to buy your book from, say, your CreateSpace e-store. I just despair when I see authors asking readers to buy their books from there because their royalty/profit is the highest. The way to sell books is to make them visible on Amazon – once you do that, the books sell themselves. “Visible” means high up bestseller ranks, high up search results and in things like “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” Every time you sell a book on Amazon, you contribute to this visibility. So why would you encourage anyone to buy your books from CreateSpace, where the sale leaves no trace at all? In that case there’s a tree falling in the woods with nobody around, and we can definitely say it doesn’t make a sound.

The only times you have to even think about shipping charges is (i) when you post the proof copy to yourself and (ii) ordering books for friends and family. Let’s say for the sake of it that that totals somewhere between 30-50 books. Presumably your goal is to sell thousands, so why would you make a decision based on something that affects a fraction of the books you hope to shift? There’s no good reason, so don’t worry about it.

After a while, your POD paperback’s cover will start to do this. But who cares?

2. Perfection

Once upon a time I had the misfortune to work as a campsite courier, a kind of general assistant on a “camping” resort in the south of France. Our customers paid big bucks to stay in mobile homes, chalets and oversized tents, and we got paid practically nothing to clean them before they arrived. Whenever anyone complained about a stain on the floor or a bit of dust on the window or a smear on a glass, we’d shrug, hold up our hands and say, “What do they expect? It’s camping!”

This is Print-On-Demand. This is a machine that throws together a book in a matter of minutes. It’s not a professional printing press that uses high quality cover card, elegant binding and smooth, beautiful paper. And these are self-published e-books. It’s a Word document that’s been run through an almost free-to-use, automated conversion program that spits out several different formats at once. It’s not a team of highly trained techie types who work from the code and make e-books that are things of book-design beauty. Yes, you should make your POD paperback and e-book look as great as you possibly can, but don’t chase perfection because you won’t find it.

Your POD paperback will likely have:

  • a glossy cover that collects fingerprints
  • a cover made of card thinner than a traditionally published book, so it’ll bend more
  • some pages that may appear printed very slightly off kilter
  • the occasional ever-so-slightly damaged corner
  • “Proof” printed on the last page if it’s a proof copy
  • A barcode, date and address printed on the last page no matter what.

Why? BECAUSE IT’S CHEAP-AS-CHIPS POD, people!

Your e-book will likely have:

  • spaces where you didn’t intend for there to be spaces
  • lines where you didn’t intend for there to be lines
  • page breaks where you didn’t intend for there to be page breaks
  • an automated table of contents (that’s different to the one you put in).
But it will still be perfectly readable and if you’re lucky, looking good too. So don’t worry about it.

3. Unrealistic Retailing

Every time a self-publisher wonders aloud how they can get their book up on Amazon for pre-order, a fairy dies.

FACT.

What kinds of books are available to pre-order on Amazon? Books published by actual, proper big publishing houses. Who should be thanking their lucky stars they’re even allowed on Amazon in the first place without a warehouse of stock, a meter-high stack of paperwork and some credentials? You, the self-publisher.

Don’t be getting ideas above your station. If you’re Hilary Swank and you’ve been invited to the Academy Awards, Oscar de la Renta will send you a beautiful gown made just for you. If you’re you (or me) and you’ve been invited to your (or my) grandmother’s 80th birthday party, it’s off to Debenhams (Macy’s, American friends) to buy something mass produced off the rack.

So when you say anything about pre-ordering, I say: Puh. Lease. If you self-publish a POD paperback, it will be for sale on Amazon.com. If someone orders it, magical elves will print it, package it and ship it, and then the cousins of those magical elves will deposit the profits earned from that sale into your bank account. This is amazing. This is fantastic. And this is ENOUGH.

Don’t worry about whether or not Waterstone’s can stock your book, because they won’t ever want to. Don’t worry about VAT and Whispernet delivery charges, because they’re on all books, not just yours, and therefore the concern of the buyer, not the seller. Don’t worry about who is selling your book – just be glad anybody is.

And don’t even mention pre-ordering.

(There goes another fairy…)

4. ISBNs

An ISBN is a 10 or 13 digit number that identifies your book. If CreateSpace or Smashwords give you an ISBN, they own the ISBN but they DO NOT own the work you assign the ISBN to. In other words, you are free to publish your book anywhere else whenever you like, but you’d have to use a new ISBN.

So, repeat after me:

“ISBNs identify, copyright owns and protects. ISBNs identify, copyright owns and protects. ISBNs identify, copyright owns and protect…” and continue to do so until you stop worrying about how taking a free ISBN might affect your future movie deal, agency contract or first million dollar cheque.

Just STOP.

5. The Future of Publishing

In one dark corner of the internet right now, last month, next week, there is a conversation comprised of blog posts, articles, tweets, etc. that’s going like this:

“The book is dead.”

“The book isn’t dead.”

“Yes, it is. I just bought a Kindle.”

“No, it isn’t. Can you decorate with it? Can you decorate with your Kindle? Didn’t think so…” and so on and on and on.

There is also another conversation running parallel, going like this:

“Publishing is dead.”

“Publishing is not dead.”

“Your children won’t remember bookshops.”

“My children will be visiting their children in the bookshops they work in…” and so on and on and on.

And yet another that goes like:

“I heard these guys saying publishing and books are dead. I’m going straight to self-publishing e-books. It’s best for my career.”

“I don’t know how to do it though. I’m going to submit my novel.”

“You’ll be sorry when you die before you hear back.”

“You’ll be sorry when no one buys your clump of computer code…” and so on and on and on.

If you are thinking of self-publishing and haven’t yet sold a single book, or even if you have self-published and sold a few copies, NONE OF THIS MATTERS.

And for the ranty record, I really wish people who don’t work in publishing – and that includes me, and almost all self-publishers – would shut their pie holes about what a world they don’t live and work in may or may not have happen to it, theoretically, in the future, based on how many guys down the pub they know with Kindles. Knitting a scarf doesn’t make you the fashion editor of Vogue, and self-publishing a book doesn’t make you a publishing expert, and it especially doesn’t make you an expert on the whole global industry of publishing and where it’s headed. Self-publish, sell a few hundred thousand, make money and perhaps either refuse or sign a publishing deal, and then I’ll start to listen. Otherwise, I’m going to need you to actually work in publishing.

See also: debate over whether people like me should be called “self-publishers” or “indie authors.” What’s next on the agenda of irrelevancy – whether it’s e-books, E-books or E-Books? Because I don’t know about you, but that’s a question that’s keeping me awake at night.

NOT.

Instead, concentrate on your own little corner of the world, the part of the world you do know about, on your big picture, and–

[Say it with me now]

Don’t worry about it!

Let’s all have a nice, big cup of coffee now. That will also help with the not-worrying.

Thank you so much for joining me for Backpacked‘s launch week, and reading all these posts despite my frequent reminders that MY NEW BOOK IS OUT PRICED JUST $2.99. Okay –  I promise that’s really the last one. If you need a reminder about what it’s about (if, for some reason, the name isn’t a big enough clue), here’s the trailer:

I’m going to be having a big giveaway closer to Christmas so I’ll hold off on thanking you with the opportunity to win free books – and something pretty cool (and secret) to go along with them – for now. Instead, I’m going to do this: if you avail of my formatting services between now and September 16th, you get 25% off the total price (that’s 25% off €99 for a POD interior, 25% off €99 for a MS Word file formatted for e-book conversion and 25% off €299 for both of those plus uploading, support, questions answered, etc.) If you’re not ready to go yet, don’t rush (or, ha, worry!) – you can still “book” me at this discounted price as long as your work will be ready for me in the next 90 days or so. E-mail me at info[at]catherineryanhoward.com for more information.

In the meantime, if you’re planning on reading this weekend, I know just where you can find some material

(Okay, I promise that was really the last one!)

NB: The beady-eyed among you will note that when I advertised this post back on Monday, I said I’d be listing 10 things self-publishers shouldn’t worry about (but they do). I consolidated. 

%d bloggers like this: