Friday, 28 September 2012

Platforms For Self Publishing

English: Download from paper book to kindle (o...
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Sorry, long involved book publishing post warning...

The final edits to Beirut - An Explosive Thriller are done now that editor Robb Grindstaff's comments and changes have been incorporated. A few tweaks here and there, a few last squealing adverbs eliminated and we're on the home straight. I must reiterate here, you HAVE to get a professional editor - budget $1,000 to $1,500 for one. But don't for one second think you can self edit your way out of this one, buddy. And no, your talented friend who is a magazine editor/writer/English teacher won't do.

What platforms will I be publishing on? The plan is pretty much the same as for Olives - A Violent Romance, although there is a question mark over a UAE print edition, not least because the parcel containing the MS I sent to the National Media Council to obtain my Permission To Print in June has gone missing and nobody can find it. Which is not helpful.

Just in case you need a reminder, BTW:

And yes, I would recommend you do a book website!

Olives was published on's KDP, on CreateSpace and Smashwords. Space, which I published more as a bit of fun than a serious novel, was only published to Amazon's KDP Select, of which more below.

Managing multi-platform publishing.

Things can get out of hand pretty fast with file management and so on, so I suggest keeping a separate folder for the core MS and a different folder for the files required for each platform (Kindle, Smashwords, Createspace, Print etc). One hard-earned tip here; DO NOT spin the files out from the core MS until you are 1001% sure you're looking at the last version you will ever create. You really don't want to end up making line corrections across four or more different sets of files for every niggly thing you missed. It's time consuming and, perhaps more importantly, dangerous - you've got four or more multiplications of that invitation to Mr Cockup.

You'll also have to change the copyright page on each version to reflect the ISBN or identify the edition. Do NOT, by the way, use your print book ISBN across other formats/editions.

Those folders can also contain the different versions of your cover - again, each platform will have a subtly different cover requirement.

Polish that blurb!

Before you start thinking about uploading books to platforms, make sure you're ready to start. Finished, professionally edited MS, clear idea of what you've got (is it a thriller, historical romance or what? And what tags would you put on it to make sure it's searchable?)? Got a GOOD cover that'll work as a thumbnail and still stand out? And have you polished your blurb so it DOES NOT contain ONE silly error, reads like a dream, is short and crisp yet will make people want to dip into your work and, gasp, even buy it? Then let us proceed!!!

Publishing to Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)

Uploading books to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing is pretty easy, assuming your MS is in Word. You need to download a natty little piece of software called Mobi Pocket Creator (MPC, just to save my fingers). Here's a link. Now you export your Word file to an HTML, Filtered format file and then add it into MPC. You can also upload your book cover to MPC - note it should be a colour file to fall in line with Kindle Fire capabilities. Cover art works best for Kindle as 2500 pixels high by 1600 wide or thereabouts.

When you're working on MPC, don't forget to add the metadata - blurb, BISAC category and keywords. These all help to make your book more discoverable.

You can add inline images, glyphs or other logos and picture content by embedding a link to the file in the text, the image file should be copied to the same directory as the source file. Use the img src HTML tag, the image file needs to be in the same folder as the text you're linking from - the syntax is <img src="filename" middle /> - the 'middle' centers it, of course.

Correcting formatting glitches (pages that kick over, that sort of thing) will involve getting lightly involved in editing HTML, but nothing too daunting. The most helpful simple HTML tags for this sort of thing (all tags are enclosed between < and> are:

<br /> inserts a paragraph break

<b> at the start and </b> at the end bolds it - <i> for italics </i> but don't forget to close the tag or your whole book from that point on will be bolded.

<mbp:pagebreak> inserts a pagebreak. Note this is not 'proper' HTML, but a Kindle specific tag.

You can now connect your Kindle to your PC and upload your book file to view it and make sure it works fine and dandy. Just drag and drop your built book file into the 'documents' folder on the Kindle (Windows sees a Kindle as a memory key).

The rest of the KDP process is pretty straightforward - follow the prompts on screen. When you get to book pricing, note the different royalty rates - and note unless you enroll in KDP Select, you'll only ever get a 35% royalty out of India, irrespective of how you price your book (The 70% royalty doesn't apply below $2.99 or above $9.99).

Amazon has a program called KDP Select, in which you only upload your book to Amazon for a duration of at least three months (and not to Smashwords, iBooks or anyone else). This way, you get to give your book away for up to five days in that period and also qualify to share in the monthly pot of money (currently $600,000) shared between authors depending on how many times their books have been borrowed by subscriber to Amazon's Kindle Prime service. Space, for instance, has been enrolled in Select and I've so far run two giveaways, which have resulted in hundreds of books being downloaded. I have to say, that hasn't resulted in hundreds of reviews.

I won't be doing Select with Beirut - An Explosive Thriller as I consider Smashwords to be an important additional platform. As I shall explain below.

Publishing to Amazon Createspace

Createspace is Amazon's POD (Print On Demand) platform and it's pretty smart - it means anyone, anywhere in the world, can buy your work as a printed book. There are a number of considerations to using Createspace, I'll try and deal with the 'biggies' here, as it's a relatively straightforward service to use.

Creating a file to upload is simply a matter of formatting your MS to suit the size and format of book you pick. I found the most sensible (and smallest) to be the industry standard 5" x 8". You can download the standard Createspace templates and then run your MS text into it. Before you do, make sure your MS is sensibly formatted - 0.5cm para indents, bar the first of each chapter, 1.15 line spacing and text set at 9 points is a good start. When you've run your text into the template, you can start to experiment with fonts. At the basic level, stick to a nice 'standard' font like Garamond (my choice), Palatino or Times. POD printing is slightly different to offset printing and fonts will reproduce slightly differently. If you know what you're doing with fonts, you can obviously make your own choices, but POD books set in Comic Sans are really something the world doesn't need.

You can play around with margins, but note Createspace is very picky about gutters and the usable type area as POD printers are less accurate about stuff like trim sizes than offset. If you significantly alter the margins from the Createspace template, you might fail file review and have to go back to the drawing board.

You can buy your own ISBN or you can opt for a Createspace assigned one. I go for the Createspace one. Some things you must know about ISBNs include the fact they are purely a stocking code and give away no rights or other attributes. The ISBN is unique to this edition of your book - if you produce another format, even size of book, you'll need a separate ISBN. If you opt for Createspace's expanded distribution (It costs a few dollars, but just do it), anyone will be able to go into a bookshop, cite your ISBN and place an order for your book.

Your book cover will require a little skill and may well be worth outsourcing. I'm lucky in that I have long used graphics software, so I do my own with a little help from talented artist friends for the images. You'll need to create a single image file with your back cover, spine and front cover all in one. The spine is sized depending on your pagination - Createspace gives you the relevant multipliers depending on the paper you decide to use. Createspace will also generate the barcode for your book or you can create your own (using one of many websites that offer free barcode creation) and integrate it into your artwork.

Your files then go through automated review and then a manual check. At this stage you can order your proof copy. Although you can skip this step, I recommend strongly that you do not. It'll take a few days (one of many reasons why Aramex' Shop n Shop service is cooler than cheese), but you'll get the chance to physically check the product you'll be selling to people. Now you're good to go. Select your book pricing (you get to see how royalties and so on work at different price points) and take the expanded distribution option (just do it) and about five days later, your print book will be on sale at, and then over coming weeks other outlets and vendors including, importantly, the Book Depository which will sell and ship books affordably and internationally.

Publishing to Smashwords

Smashwords is important because it supports spinning your book out into multiple e-book formats and publishing to a number of important platforms including Barnes and Noble's Nook, Kobo and iBooks. Smashwords is relatively simple to use and powerful. Founder Mark Coker has written much sense on the topic of ebooks and I do strongly recommend reading his excellent 'secrets to epublishing success'. Another must read document is the Smashwords Style Guide - you really need to digest this so you get your head around the requirements for Smashwords' 'Meatgrinder'. Meatgrinder is the engine that takes your Word file and multicasts it to Kindle, ePub, PDF, .txt and other formats - you can pick which formats you want, but the ePub one is vitally important as this is the format for Nook, iBooks and Kobo as well as many other outlets/readers.

Basically if your MS is sensibly formatted to begin with (Times 12 point double spaced, 0.5cm para indents and no use of spacebar to create tabs), you should have no problems. Meatgrinder does NOT support text above 18 points and will reject any document that contains more than four concurrent paragraph returns (you can check your MS using the 'show document formatting' button in Word).

Double check you choice of tags on Smashwords - Olives - A Violent Romance was filed under Theatre on iBooks because I used a 'drama' tag on the book - remember, Smashwords is populating multiple platforms with your work, so you have to be super careful to get it right - an error means updating could take weeks.

And that's it for now. Beirut - An Explosive Thriller is uploaded and sites are populating pages even as we speak - we're on track for that October 1st launch date now.

In the meantime, if you have any platform questions, I'll try and help if you pop 'em in the comments. And I'll try and put up a 'Olives one year on - what I learned' post soon. For now I'm off to carry on polishing up my book blogger lists and get those review copies of Beirut - An Explosive Thriller out there. Wish me luck! :)

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1 comment:

akisdad said...

Best of. Did you know that Google thinks your blog is written in Estonian?

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