Category archive: Self Publishing

A Moment in the Smashwords Sun

I’ve waded through the Smashwords Style Guide and come out the other side, humbled and wiser.  I’ve learned more about Microsoft Word than I ever wanted to know.  But at last I’ve loaded up Vampire Road to Smashwords, and I’ve got my hour in the sunshine that is the  New Releases page.

Next task is marketing, but for an indie e-pubbed author the fun never ends.  I also want to put it up to Barnes and Noble through Pubit, and by the fall Kobo intends to have a version of self-pubbing as well.

The good news is that now I know how to format my MS document as I write it, so that I don’t have to go through the excruciating cleaning process with my next novel.  This cleaning of Vampire Road’s formatting was required to enable the Smashwords Meatgrinder program to digest my words and spit out multiple e-book formats.

I’m still waiting with fingers crossed to find out if I qualify for their “Premium Catalog,” which is proof of my prowess with Microsoft Word formatting.  It also gets me into the ibook store and the Sony Reader store, which was the whole point of publishing through Smashwords.

For all you indie authors out there, I’m going to finish the guide that will take your manuscript to Kindle.  It’s far easier and the biggest e-book market.  I’ll write up my notes about Smashwords later next week.

Tomorrow: the clickable table of contents.

Kindle Publishing: First Step

There are dozens of paths that will take your novel from a computer to Kindle, and the route will largely depend on the current file format of the work.  We’re going to start with the most common for indie authors: a Microsoft Word document.

Microsoft Word comes with some serious baggage designed to make your life easier if you just want to write and print a document.  But we want to publish that document, so we need to clean out all the Microsoft Weirdness formatting.

Smashwords has an excellent 85 page manual on how to do this, which includes going nuclear (their expression) but I found with my document that it wasn’t that complicated.

Step One: Activate the show/hide.  That’s the reverse P-thingy as Mark Coker from Smashwords calls it, or the pilcrow.  You’ll see that weird symbol somewhere in your toolbar.  In my version it’s beside the little red toolbox.  Here are some fun images for a pilcrow if you want to know what it looks like.  Just give it a click to show all your formatting.

Now you can see what a mess you’ve made of the document.

Step Two: Go to the Tools menu item and pull down to AutoCorrect.  Deselect each box under AutoCorrect, Auto Format as you type, AutoText and AutoFormat.  You have complete control now.

Step Three:  Look at your document.  Do you have little arrows showing tabs as paragraph indents?  Bad.  You don’t want these in the document.  Fortunately I stumbled across an easy fix.  Select the entire document and then align all the text to center.  Don’t panic.  It’s just temporary.  With the entire document still selected, align all the text to left.  Boom!  All those evil tab indents are gone and now we can properly format the paragraph indents.  The pros among you will have already formatted your paragraphs this way.

Select the whole document again and go to Format in the menu.  Pull down to Paragraph.  Under Indents and Spacing there’s a section on indentation.  Under ‘Special’ select ‘first line.’  It’ll default to .5″ which is a reasonable paragraph indent.  Click OK and we can move on to the easy stuff.

Step Four: Do any of your quotes look like smart quotes?  We need to get rid of those.  They’ll be gobbly-gook in your Kindle or Smashwords book.  Simply do a search and replace.  Because we turned off the smart quotes in step one, it’ll find the smart quotes ” and replace them with straight quotes ” .  I know, they both look like smart quotes here.  They’ll both look like straight quotes in the search and replace, but it’ll still do the job.

Now do the same for the apostrophes.  Again with the ellipses, you know, those three dot things…

Step Five:  This is probably a no brainer, but do make sure you’ve single-spaced your text.  We’re not sending it to an agent here.  We’re publishing!

Step Six: Insert your page breaks.  I do them between chapters.  Simply go to Insert on the menu and pull down to Break and select Page Break.  Oh, I assume you’ve put your cursor at the end of your chapter where you want your page break.

Step Seven: Make sure you don’t have more than three blank lines in a row anywhere in your document.  Multiple blank lines look awful in an e-book.

Step Eight: I really hope you’ve already figured this one out all by yourself, but just in case: if you have headers/footers/page numbers, get rid of them.  Like I said before, we’re publishing!  Forget the agent formatting.

Step Nine: I like to put my web address into hyperlinks right in the e-book.  Now’s the time to insert your hyperlinks.  Can you guess how?  Okay, just in case: highlight the web address and go to Insert on the menu and pull all the way down to Hyperlink.

Now you have a cleanly formatted document ready for the next stage.  Believe it or not it gets easier after this.  You just need your cover and…you do have a cover don’t you?  Okay, that’ll be tomorrow.

Agents as Publishers

If a publisher came to me and asked to represent my novel, promising to shop it around to other publishers, I’d be stunned.  If the publisher went on to say that if they couldn’t sell it to another publisher, they’d put it up as an e-book on Amazon, collect the 70% royalty and give me half, I’d say that a serious conflict of interest existed.

Confused yet?  Meet to the 21st century literary agent.  More agents everyday are crossing the boundary between agent and publisher, and authors should be very aware.

Right now some agents are getting the e-rights to their clients’ out-of-print books and e-publishing those novels.  At a conference I even heard one older author express delight at getting a 50% royalty on net sales from his agent/publisher.  I didn’t have the heart to put my hand up and tell him he could e-publish it himself and get a 70% royalty.

Dean Wesley Smith has already written what many of us are thinking: how long before agents move on from the out-of-print novels and start putting up new work from their clients?  Will they even shop a client’s novel around to see if a traditional publisher would pay big bucks?  That’s a lot of work when the agent can just cash in on the client’s name right away by e-publishing his/her work.

It’s the Wild West in the e-pub world right now.  Authors need to be very careful about what contracts they sign with their agents, and especially what rights they sell to the agents.

See where this is going?  How long before authors need an agent to negotiate a contract with their agent/e-publisher?

If I were an established author with a back list, I’d cut the agent out right now.

Kindles Everywhere

Look out Sony e-reader, Nook and Kobo, because Amazon announced this week that Kindles are now on display and available for purchase at 3,200 Walmart stores.  Since they’re already in Best Buy, Staples and Target, that means they’re everywhere, and they’re getting cheaper with the new ad version.

This can only be good news for authors, because once people get their hands on an e-reader, any e-reader, they’re going to want content–inexpensive content.

I know I keep repeating  this, but so many good writers I know out there refuse to publish because they’re waiting for the brass ring and the pat on the head from a literary agent, a publisher and the adoring public in that order.  A two year process at best.

So I’m going to try a little experiment.  By this Friday, I hope to have crunched through all of the editor’s notes on my vampire novel.  I want to publish it to coincide with the launch of the movie Priest, which as I posted before, has some very similar themes–walled cities, vampire armies and warrior priests.

I’ll keep track of how many copies of my e-book novel (and its sequels) that I sell in the next two years.  There’s only one prediction I can make that I’m certain will come true: I’ll make more money and have more sales than my friends who have yet to get a literary agent to start their ball rolling.

Genre Fiction Sells Well on Kindle

Genre fiction is selling so well on Kindle that Amazon is stepping further into the publishing roll.  They’ve opened up an imprint, Montlake Romance, that will publish everything from paranormal romance to suspense romance.

The good news for me and other genre fiction writers is that they intend to expand into other genres, maybe mystery and SF.  This means they’ll be looking for talent, and my guess is they’ll go looking at Kindle sales figures of indie e-pubbed authors to see who they should pick up.  It’s sort of a wiki to sort through the slush pile, no expensive acquisition editors to house and feed.

This, of course,  will have traditional publishers frothing at the mouth.  They merged into the big six over the last twenty years because they don’t like competition.  They’ve consoled themselves over the last few months that paper books are still 80% of book sales, and they’ve got their fingers crossed that e-readers will just be a fad that will go the way of the CB radio.

But now Amazon launches Montlake and says it will be for e-books AND print books.  Clearly Amazon has an eye on that 80% of book sales too.

An argument I’ve heard from authors who are traditionally published is that by e-publishing I’ll only be selling to 20% of the market while crossing my fingers in hopes that e-book sales continue to rise.  But what if my sales are good enough to get noticed by Amazon?  Maybe they could end up being my print publisher.  Anything is possible in this new publishing world, and it beats the heck out of writing query letters to overworked literary agents.