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The Self-Publishing Process 101

Self-publishing logo

I go to a lot of conventions and often people will ask me about the publishing process. Self-publishing is not that common in Denmark(just like ebooks are only slowly starting to become an alternative to paper books here) and many have no idea you can publish a book yourself. I have had quite a few people contact me after a convention as well, wanting to know more because they are interested in publishing something they wrote. I’m happy to help, but it becomes some rather lengthy conversations, since I want them to know what they’re getting into, and there’s a lot more to publishing than just writing a book.

So here I’ll try to prepare a list of the main things you have to go through before you’re ready to self-publish. It’s just a summary, and I still suggest to do a lot of research on the subject, but it’s a place to start for those who know nothing about the process to begin with.

 

Decide on Your Route

Self-publishing is not for everyone. Some enjoy the complete control it gives you, but it’s also a lot of work, and no one will hold your hand through it. You have to do everything yourself. If you go the traditional route, you will have a publisher hiring editors, cover artists, people to format your book, plus they will make sure to get it out to retailers. If you self-publish, you have to take care of all that yourself, but in return, you also get to make all the decisions. No chance of getting cover art you hate or having to cut your favorite scene out of the book.

If you want to go the traditional publishing route, you need to find a literary agent willing to help you sell your book to a publisher. They will be able to guide you along. On the other hand, if you’re ready to do the work of self-publishing, get ready to do some research after finishing reading this list!

Editing

If you think simply writing a book is enough, you’re in for a rough time. Editing a book is the thing I hate the most about publishing. It’s an absolute nightmare, but it’s also the most important thing for creating a quality book.

Editing is not the same as proofreading. Proofreading is the stage where your book is nearly ready and just needs to be read through for spelling and grammar mistakes.

Editing involves a lot of things:

– Making sure the story is consistent. This means no contradictions later in the story or plot holes that make no sense. It can’t be spring in the beginning of the book and then two months later in the story be winter.

– Improving the writing technique(the technique, not the grammar or spelling). You might use a certain phrase too often or your writing might be moving at the completely wrong pace. That’s the kind of thing that needs to be corrected in the editing phase.

– Developing the story. Your first draft might have to change a lot in order for the story to move along and your characters to become deep and interesting.

Personally, I edit my own books from front to back about 4-5 times. It’s crucial that you go through it yourself first, because there will be many things you want to change. But editing yourself is far from enough, as it’s extremely hard to see the weak points in your own writing and nearly impossible to catch all consistency mistakes. It’s because you know your own story. You know what should happen and how the characters should act, so that is what you see when you read the text, even if it’s not really what’s written. So you need other eyes on it after you’re done with your own editing.

The very best thing you can do is to hire a professional editor. They know what they’re talking about and can be a huge help in getting your book to where it needs to be. However, not everyone can afford that, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to publish an unedited book. Trade favors with other authors to get them to help you, get friends(preferably ones who won’t just smile and say it’s all great to spare your feelings) to give feedback. If you can’t afford an editor, get as many qualified people to help you out as possible.

Proofreading

As I wrote above, proofreading is the step that follows the editing process. You can hire a proofreader, but professional help is not nearly as crucial at this step, so if you find 2-3 people with a good grip on the grammar and spelling of the language you write in and get them to proofread for you, it should suffice.

Getting Cover Art Made

People judge a book by its cover. Everyone says they shouldn’t, but they do. And that’s completely fair.

If you don’t bother putting effort into the cover, why should readers believe that you put effort into the book? Unless you have experience with graphic design, DO NOT try to design your own cover. A lot of self-published books have cringe-worthy covers, clearly made in Paint with no graphic skills whatsoever. They signal extremely low quality, and many people won’t even glance at the book summary if the book’s cover is horrible.
You can get a cover made professionally fairly cheap, so this really isn’t the place to save money. You can have a graphic designer use stock photos to make a cover or you can do like me and get an artist to make you custom-made artwork for a graphic designer to use.

Formatting

Formatting is the act of preparing your digital book file for publication. It’s also something you can hire someone to do, but if you’re good with computers, it’s not that hard to do. It just takes a long time!

Before formatting, decide which formats you want your book in. Do you want both an ebook and a print version? How many different ebook formats do you want your book to be available in?

Many ebook retailers will accept a Word document or a PDF, and then convert it for you, so unless you want every format to be flawless, you probably won’t have to format more than two files. I personally suggest formatting one for print and then a Word file that meets Smashwords’ requirements. Of course, you will have to change a few things every time you upload the file to a new retailer (Amazon won’t accept a file that says ‘Smashwords Edition’ on the first page), but if you format after Smashwords’ guide, it should otherwise be fine for any converting process.

Smashwords’ converting system is one that converts your Word file into nearly all ebook formats at once. It’s very hard to format it so nothing goes wrong in the converting process, but it’s worth it to make the effort to get it right. Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, wrote an excellent guide on formatting rules: Smashwords Style Guide

Remember that formatting for print is very different(but a lot easier). Do your research.

Distributing

Editing done? Proofreading done? Cover art made? Formatting done?

Great! You’re ready to publish.

There’s a lot of ways to distribute your book. For your print book, you’ll probably want to choose a Print on Demand publisher that will let you create a print version of your book and then print copies every time some are ordered. For ebooks, you can either go the easy route and let a distributor site like Smashwords send your book out to all major retailers, or you might want to upload your book directly to retailers who allow you to. Uploading directly will give you more control and faster updating, but it’s also more work. Under any circumstance, there’s some retailers who ONLY accept books through a distributor site, so you will probably have to go through one, anyway.

I, myself, upload directly to Amazon, then let Smashwords handle other retailers. In my case, I have to do it that way, as very few retailers will let non-US authors upload directly. For printing, I use Createspace. They are cheap and easy to use (and excellent quality), but the main reason I prefer them is because they list your print book on Amazon for no extra charge.

Here’s a list of Print on Demand options and ebook retailers I have experience with.

Print on Demand options:

Createspace
Feedaread

Ebook retailers:

Amazon
Smashwords
Apple iBookstore
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Diesel Ebook Store

Wow, this got a lot longer than I meant it to be. Yet it only covers the basics of self-publishing. Don’t even get me started on marketing and promotion. That’s an entire book by itself. The best advice I can give you:

Research, research, research!

Oh, and stay away from Author Solutions. Really, I mean it. They will screw you over.

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The Joys of Hidden Formatting

Nothing like having friends point out when you messed up. Isn’t it wonderful to get a message from a friend currently reading your book with a copied excerpt looking like this:

“So the illusion broke,llided itt lunged for her.ng the enormous, flaming creature. clearly again. when you attacked Nadesha?” She asked slowly.”

Excerpt From: Louring, Michelle. “Resounding Echo.” Michelle Louring. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright.

Of course the first reaction I had was to frantically look through all the different copies of the manuscript on my hard drive, hoping that the mutatilated sentence above was the result of Smashwords’ brutal Meatgrinder software. But alas, to my horror I located the same paragraph in the Kindle file I prepared by myself.

But strangely, it wasn’t to be found in my original Word document.

Word Formatting

That is, until I pressed the formatting symbol…

Formatting Error2

Isn’t it nice to know that your writing software is hiding terrible secrets from you? And even nicer that those secrets only get exposed when you decide to upload the document for the world to see!

…I really have no idea how this happened. But I do know that this error is probably in every single ebook version of Resounding Echo available at the moment.

I can only console myself with the fact that hidden formatting doesn’t show up in printed books!

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The Fight Against Smashwords’ Meatgrinder

Book Fight

Wohoo!

Finally I can say that Silent Sound is going to be available via retailers like Apple, Barnes and Nobles and Sony before long! Which means I won the dirty fight against the terrible monster Smashwords likes to call ‘the Meatgrinder’…

To those of you that don’t know, Smashwords is an ebook distributor, and in order for them to ship a book to their retail partners, it has to meet certain criteria. And that would be fine, if it wasn’t for one thing: The Meatgrinder.

The Meatgrinder is the automated process Smashwords puts your book through. They make you upload a Word document and the Meatgrinder cuts it into pieces and spits it out in all the different ebook formats. In theory, it should be a very time-saving process, but that’s not actually the case. Apparently, the conversion makes several mistakes appear, none of which could be found anywhere in the original document (I study IT, I know how to test for hidden errors, and I really couldn’t find them!).

The most prominent problem was the ePub. My Word document had the same paragraph formatting through the entire book. The ePub the Meatgrinder spit out did not. Every once in a while, a paragraph would have a different font size and I still can’t figure out how that happened…

But I won’t bore you with the details of this fight. All I will say is that I now have about 15 different versions of the Smashwords file of Silent Sound on my computer, and that’s almost how many new uploads it took for me to get it through their check.

The good news is that it now won’t be long before you can get an ebook copy of Silent Sound, even if you don’t shop at Amazon or directly at Smashwords!

To see all the places you can purchase Silent Sound, check out this post

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Silent Sound Won’t Be Silent For Long!

Silent Sound Cover

Silent Sound - Cover

After an exciting weekend, I thought I would also bring some exciting news!

As I wrote in my blog post about my weekend at SVScon, Silent Sound is set to be released in May! Actually, if all goes well, it will be out this following week, but I learned not to trust the fickle gods of publishing when it comes to getting a book out when I promise it will be. Saying it will be out tomorrow is like saying it doesn’t look like it will rain before you go out. It’s gonna rain.

As with Resounding Echo, Silent Sound will be available in paperback on Amazon and as ebook at every major retailer.

Look out for it in the next couple of days!

Silent Sound

Life is much simpler when myths are merely fairy tales…

Selissa hardly thought her life could become any more complicated, but the gods seem to have developed a sadistic fondness for proving her wrong.

A request for her help with solving a series of mysterious attacks at one of the temples seemed fairly simple. But everything suddenly becomes far more complex when Selissa is told who she needs to protect from the unknown assailant. Because the target just happens to be the son of the archangel Arnath…

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Read an E-Book Week on Smashwords!

Read an E-book Week

I know I’m a bit late in announcing this, but I wanted to tell everyone that I’m participating in Smashwords’ ‘Read an E-Book Week’!

The event runs from 3-9. March, and it’s an amazing chance to discover new writers at bargain prices. As a treat to people who follows this blog, as well as those following me on Facebook and Twitter, both Huntress and Resounding Echo will be free during this week.

If you have yet to pick up one of those titles, it’s the perfect chance to do it before Silent Sound gets released in late March or early April!

I plan on spending ‘Read an E-Book Week’ discovering a lot of great new writers, and I hope all of you will do the same! 

Why are you still reading this? Get going!