Friday, November 25, 2011

Lessons Learned in Self-Publishing, Part 8…Kindle is Different

In part 6, I covered how I put PENELOPE AND THE BIRTHDAY CURSE out on Smashwords.  This positioned me to have the book also at Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, Sony and Diesel.  The fly in the ointment is Kindle.  Since the beginning of the year, Smashwords has had the following posted in their distribution channels for Amazon: “Ship date TBD. Smashwords and Amazon are working to complete technical integration.” My interpretation is if you want to be on Kindle, do it yourself.

Fortunately I had positioned myself well, having published on SW. The cover was already created. The blurb about the book done. The only thing needing attention was the .doc file and most of it was done.  I eliminated any mention of Smashwords and changed the copy right page from SW version to something generic. In later e-books I put on the first page “Kindle Edition” and created a generic copy right notice. Here it is:

Copyright © 2011 by <Author Name>

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrievals system, without written permission of the author, except where permitted by law.

Name, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imaginations or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

To publish on Kindle goto and create an account if you don’t already have one.  Click “Add a New Title” on the Bookshelf page and follow the instructions. They are straight forward.  The reports page gives a snapshot of how sales are going that includes Month-To-Date, Prior Six Week Royalties and Prior Months Royalties in .xls format.
When setting the price of the book, anything from $2.99 to $9.99 can participate in the 70% royalty.  Otherwise, anything from $0.99 to $200 can participate in the 35% royalty.  Basically too low or too high and the earnings go down.

For more information check out help at KDP.

Ron D. Voigts is the author of PENELOPE AND THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT still #1 on Smashwords Mystery & Detective list.   

Friday, November 18, 2011


Today’s guest blogger joining me for the Lessons Learned in Self-Publishing is Rick Bylina, author of ONE PROMISE TOO MANY and A MATTER OF FAITH. Like myself, Rick is swimming in the waters of self-publishing, learning to navigate. Please welcome Rick.

I want an agent. I want to have a New York publishing company distribute my novels to the widest audience. I want a major global marketing campaign to match the universality of the messages in my novels. I want Oprah to discover me, to dance with Ellen, to talk with Barbara Walters in a one-on-one interview, and to have Good Morning America make me a household name in ten minutes or less. I want every Santa Claus to sidle up to every mother of a kid in line and suggest my book for the adults on their shopping list. I want a lot, but what I'm left with as a self-publisher of my own novels is this: me.

The lesson I learned from self-publishing is that the dream of control over your published novel comes with the responsibility to manage that control, especially if you want to be successful. And the first step is identifying what you consider is success.

For some, just publishing the novel is success enough--the stick in the eye of the establishment. After 527 rejections, that's a huge motivation for me. But the truth is, after each rejection, the novels got better until I reached a point where suggestions for improvement dried up and a few innocent grammatical fixes remained. Those are issues every novel has sprinkled through it and are wiped away during the publishing process, part of the evolutionary reason for its existence. My errors have been identified and are being washed away with updates in November.

For others, having family and friends celebrate their publication is enough. I just had my first Book Launch Party. I wrote about it on Calamity's Corner and the fun that over 100 friends and family had at the gathering. Celebrating success is important. You should absolutely do that. You deserve it.

For most of us, the dream is larger, and therein lies the rub. Are you prepared to make your dreams of success come true? Whether your goal is to earn enough to buy a latte, a computer, or make writing your new profession, lay out a plan BEFORE you publish. Plot the incremental steps necessary to reach your goal. Figure out BEFOREHAND the time you will need to market your book and don't underestimate it. Identify the key resources UPFRONT to help you reach your goal. Learn from those who have gone before you. Being prepared can lead to success.

I'm not going to rehash all the ways there are to market your book. Free information is out there. Books identifying the keys to self-publishing success are available. Websites float suggestions. Some are helpful; some are plain BS. I'm writing about the commitment to do the marketing for the self-published book and to get the message out there that you have arrived and are worthy of attention. 

After the initial flush of success as friends and family drink up your book, don't get cocky. That is the first port in a long voyage. Identifying the steps along that voyage to success IS the first step before you throw your book into the sea of self-published books and end up drowning because you forgot to pack your water wings.

I am an agent, publisher, marketeer, promoter, and adult whisperer in large shopping malls that my book is just as good as a traditionally published novel. And it is. Don't whine, don't despair, just plan ahead to dedicate the time necessary to achieve your success. Oh, and buy my book!

-Rick Bylina
The only rule:  writers write! Everything else is a guideline.
Tweet at: @rickbylina

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lessons Learned in Self-Publishing, Part 6…The Smashwords' Meatgrinder

The most daunting and perhaps most time consuming task of self-publishing was preparing the book for uploading to Smashwords.  I spent weeks studying the Style Guide from Smashwords trying to digest everything that was important.  My fear became I’d do something wrong. Uploading a newer version of the book is allowed on Smashwords. But what if I couldn’t fix the problem?

The reality was that thousands of people were uploading their books on Smashwords and creating readable files.  Surely I fit somewhere in that range of intellect. Perhaps not at the top, but surely not the bottom either. I could do this.
It took me five tries to get Penelope and The Birthday Curse. Some of the errors I should have caught during proof reading became obvious when seen on the screen of an e-reader.  BTW, I have the black Pandigital 7” e-reader that can read epub and pdf.  For reading the other formats, I downloaded Calibre which can read just about anything, and that is scratching the surface of its capabilities. Some of the problems beyond typos were large blank areas and blank pages. How it looks to the eye and readability is important. When I did Penelope and The Christmas Spirit I ended up with two sizes of font which looked funky.  Here are my suggestions to getting a great looking book.

First read the Style Guide and get a basic understanding of what is required.  You probably don’t need everything that’s in there unless you have special requirements in your book. The front end is important. First page has title, author name and declaration of Smashwords Edition. Second page has copyright with verbiage per Smashwords requirements. Get these right. After that you can do dedications and reviews and anything you like.
Learn to use Styles when working in MS Word. Word defaults to Normal Style at startup.  Typically people modify on the fly when writing like adding an indent or perhaps italics.  Creating a custom style throughout will keep everything the same. A simple change in the style will affect the document

Use .doc format. That's what the Smashwords converter, which by the way they call the Meatgrinder (nice, huh?), understands.
Although the Style Guide suggests two blank lines can be used and no more than four, I suggest one only. Anymore than that and it is possible to have a blank page at the end of the chapter if next page ends on these multiple blanks. Too many blank lines and large open areas can occur.  At the end of chapters, I use CNTRL-ENTER which forces a new page and use no blanks before it.

Between scenes I use little dividers like ++++ or ~~~~ with no blank line. You can use whatever you like. If you use something from a symbol font be ready to replace it should it not look the same once printed on the e-reader. Personally I believe in keeping it simple.

I set my line spacing to 1.5X.  1.0X can be used, but I think spreading it out slightly makes the reading easier.

For my books, I start every chapter with CHAPTER XX – TITLE. The Meatgrinder will automatically create a table of contents. The format I suggest comes out looking nice. If you don’t use a chapter title, it will just have the CHAPTER XX in the TOC. My guess is the Meatgrinder recognizes the hard return followed by the word CHAPTER.

Keep the formatting simple. Bold. Italics. Centered. If you do have a special need read the Style Guide and try it.  If something doesn’t work, you get another chance to fix it and submit to the Meatgrinder. I also stick to Times New Roman 12 pt.   I tried a fancy font and found the Meatgrinder defaulted back to making it look like Times New Roman.

I put a picture with my bio in the second book Penelope and The Ghost’s Treasure and it came out nicely.  Again suggest reviewing the Style Guide.

Next time Rick Bylina will be the guest blogger. Ron D. Voigts is the author of the Penelope Mystery series available on Amazon and other booksellers on the Internet.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lessons Learned in Self-Publishing, Part 5...The Wraparound Cover

The back cover, aka the wraparound, was necessary to publish a paperback version of the book PENELOPE AND THE BIRTHDAY CURSE.  I decided at this point to have someone do it for me.  I had contacted a number of book cover designers and was quite surprised by the range of prices.  They fell in the range of $30 up to $299. The amount of work required can vary too. At its simplest, the cover is a stock photo with the title and author name dropped on top. Sadly that’s what some author’s get for their $299. 

After contacting a number of designers I decided to have Joleene Naylor do  the wraparound cover. Not only is she a designer but an artist and author.  This gave me the idea to create an image of Penelope.  Joleene did a superb job.  She created the character as described in the book with lots of nice touches.  Even down to subtle details, such as the untied shoe lace. 

 Then the original front cover from Part 4 of this series was combined into a wraparound with Penelope on the back by a text window and the knife from the front cover was added to tie the front theme to the back. Here is a picture of the cover. The detail may not be discernible in this blog picture, but it gives an idea of what it looks like. The white box is for the barcode and ISBN.

Page count is an important detail that helps determine the cover’s size.  More pages mean more cover in the center for the spine. Another thing, page count comes in multiples.  I will give you my spin here.  Big publishing companies use large sheets of paper that can have 8, 16 and perhaps 32 pages per sheet. Once printed the whole thing is folded and cut. The packets created are assembled in the correct order and the cover is attached. CreateSpace used somewhat smaller page, but gets 4 printed pages per sheet. For my book which is 6 x 9, the cut sheet size becomes 12 x 9 and then is folded in half. That means a fixed amount of pages depending on what is needed. PENELOPE AND THE BIRTHDAY CURSE has 184 pages, which meant 46 sheets before folding. To add more pages would require increments of 188, 192, 196, 200, etc.

If you are a diehard do-it-yourself type, you may be interested in How To Get A Cheap Book Cover available at Smashwords. Subtitled: “From tips on how to woo your cover artist to DIY”. Best $1.50 you’ll ever spend!

Cost for Penelope rendering was $20 and wraparound cover $30.  

Ron D. Voigts is the author of the Penelope Mystery series. His current title PENELOPE AND THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT is now out.