31.7.10

Self publishing ebooks on Kindle

Ebooks, they say, are the coming thing, and according to a recent survey it is women who are using them most. We already know that women read more than men (no comment on that one) so it shouldn’t really be surprising, even though one might expect the take up to be greater among techie young men. The young, of course, will adopt it anyway, as a normal progression from the mobile phone, iplayers, ipods, and the rest.

These are exciting times for writers, for however you package it, people still like a good story. For readers too, as it will increase choice, instead of restraining the consumer to the bestseller lists and 3 for 2 tables. And there are lots of bargains out there, freebies too.

Finding that the rights of some of my early titles had reverted to me I decided to investigate turning them into ebooks. So began an interesting and challenging journey, a steep learning curve in fact. I began by scanning the books on to the computer as the first two were written on an old steam typewriter - a Lettera 22. The rest on an Amstrad 9512, a dedicated word processor with a daisy wheel printer which I thought was the bee’s knees back in the 80s and early 90s. It had a spell check. Amazing! Though it took 20 minutes to complete a long document, time enough for me to drink my coffee while it completed the task.

Next came the editing and revising and I discovered, much to my relief, that I’m a better writer today than I was in those early days. Coming to the stories fresh, as I’d largely forgotten the details, I was able to see where they were overwritten and tighten them, eradicate clumsy sentences and even check the copy-editor’s changes. Not always perfect! The story wasn’t changed in any way but I was able to improve the telling here and there. It proved to be a fascinating experience and I learned a great deal about myself as a writer from it.

I spent hours wrestling with Photoshop, designing and producing a new cover. Another challenge. Copyright remains with the artist so it seemed safer to make my own. I mainly used my own photographs but for some of the sagas I paid for some pictures, quite reasonably priced, from http://www.istockphoto.com/index.php

Then came the hard part - publishing them as ebooks. This involved a great deal of reading. First I studied the style guide on Smashwords, a company who supply Sony, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, mobi-pocket and others, which took some time. It was worth the effort though as it carefully explained how to produce a clean document for upload, essential if the formatting is to stay in place. I won’t bore you with the technicalities but it’s all to do with the hidden codes that Word inserts on a page, and ebook software doesn’t care for stray codes, tabs, or too many returns. I cleaned up my documents, made a copyright page, added a teaser for the next book at the end, and I was ready to go with the first five. These were historical romances originally published by Mills & Boon. Uploading them proved to be much easier than I expected, and Smashwords guide you on what to do next in order to assign a free ISBN and submit them to their premium catalogue.

Believing ISBNs to be essential I bought a batch of 10, which is how Neilson sell them, to assign to the sagas I intended to do next. http://www.isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk  I’m still not entirely sure whether I needed to do this, as there seems to be conflicting advice on the issue. So far as I am aware every book: hardback, paperback, large print, etc., has to have its own ISBN. Yet Kindle also assign an ID of their own, so the jury is still out on that one.

But if I thought it was all easy, that was before I tried Kindle. Fast forward some weeks, during which time half a dozen of my out of print titles have been duly scanned and edited, cleaned to a pristine condition and are ready to go. Or so I thought. A writer friend offered a few tips, and with courage in hand, I went for it. Oh dear, the first one, despite her warnings, was a disaster, coming out for some reason all in italic. I’d previewed it carefully before publishing, as she’d advised, but in order to change it you are asked to download html, of which my knowledge is zilch. Instead, in my ignorance, I tried to overwrite it and, yes, you’ve guessed it, got that wrong too and ended up with two copies, both in italic. Back to the reading of guidelines, hours spent on the forums, asking questions and finally, amazingly, getting the right answers. You can check how it should be done yourself at
http://www.cjs-easy-as-pie.com/p/kindle-publishing.html

Once I had downloaded the Mobipocket Creator and the Mobipocket Reader, both free from Amazon, it was indeed easy as pie. Although I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to start off with a clean document. Easy as Pie tells you how. I was now able to thoroughly preview the entire book before even attempting to upload it, and correct my early mistakes. My stray bit of code for italic had been picked up and spoilt the entire document. I was now able to overwrite it properly and republish.

I now have 5 historical romances and 6 sagas (more will follow) published on Amazon and on Smashwords, soon to be available on most ereader devices. Or you can do as I’ve done and download the free Kindle for PCs on to your lap top or netbook. You can take a look at them here:

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/fredalightfoot

And on Amazon

Happy reading

5 comments:

  1. I've been wanting to do this myself, Freda, but have been too scared to try it. It's the formatting that I don't understand.

    Good luck with your books.
    Anne.~

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  2. This is very timely Freda as I'm about to approach a couple of e-publishers with my first novel. And it's already interesting to see the amount of work I will have to do for them prior to submission. I also keep toying with self publishing it.

    Thanks for your sage advice

    warm wishes

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  3. I'm a print author turned e-publisher as well and your learning curve experiences sound similar to mine! Many congratulations on some really great-looking covers. Having been there I'm totally impressed. Am in the middle of retyping first novel, couldn't get the scanner to work properly and decided it was quicker to rewrite as I went. I was blogging about the technicalities of how I'd made my first ebook (especially the kerfaff of making a cover) but got so involved I kept notes instead. I turned my notes into a second ebook about all the mistakes I'd made and how not to make them (How To Publish An Ebook On A Budget). ISBNs are confusing. After doing lots of research for the second ebook, I found out you only have to have one if your book is going into a bookshop. And then the ebook, if you decide to give it an ISBN, must be a different number. I haven't a clue about HTML either, but found it's just a click to transfer from Word to HTML format in the 'Save As' options and you get an HTML document to upload. You don't actually have to do anything with code or strange computer. language.

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  4. Have just learned about ebook publishing. As I have novels written some time ago and yellowing in a box, can someone please tell me just how much this 'free' ebook publishing is really going to cost me before I even make an attempt at this. Thank you so much.

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  5. ebook publishing needn't cost you anything but time.

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