Back in the days of yore I won a competition and ended up with two historical romances being published by Mills & Boon (Harlequin UK). When I was able I had my rights reverted to me. Better the novels sitting in my drawer than lost in theirs.
Last winter a cross-genre novel Torc of Moonlight finally saw the light of day and Amazon USA opened its DTP e-book publishing arm to non-USA residents. Time, I thought, to dip my toe into indie authoring and ebook my rights-reverted novels, beginning with Hostage of the Heart.
I did masses of research regarding the experience of others, and can recommend The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog, not just for the posts but for the knowledge of its commenters. On a read through, e-publishing for the Kindle I didn’t find easy to understand, but Smashwords helpfully offers idiot’s guides as well as multi-formats, including for the Sony e-Reader and the Apple I-Pad. Both devices need spot-on formatting, and also an ISBN dedicated to the ebook, which Smashwords offers free, so I decided to try my test run there.
Taking care not to include the strapline or page number, I scanned my h/backs to create digital files (the paper used for p/backs carries more wood fibre so confuses the scanner). I then re-edited all the phrasing that I’d now never write due to the improvement in my writing skills. Copyright and Title pages are well explained in the guides, as is the preferred formatting. Ignore this at your peril. You are not formatting for a print book, but for a digital file than can be read on anything from a desktop computer to a mobile phone.
I’m a reader who prefers to see the cover as the first page of an ebook, so added mine at the front of the text file. Of course, updating the cover will mean re-uploading the text file, so you take your choice.
The biggest boon to indie e-authoring is the ability to advertise my other ebooks at the end of the novel. Initially I wrote a paragraph on each of my forthcoming titles complete with live links, but decided as a taster to add in the full initial chapter of my second historical Beneath The Shining Mountains.
After checking every line and comma, I uploaded the file to Smashwords and held my breath. It takes surprisingly little time to convert a file to the requested formats, and watching a series of boxes turn green can be riveting. It is at this stage that any likely problems are flagged by the automated system. With that hurdle passed the ebook joins a queue for a human check before going live on the site.
Smashwords offers a running tally via the author’s ‘dashboard’ not only of sales but of number of downloaded samples, which is a wonderful indicator as to the efficacy of a marketing drive. Although I took all the steps very slowly, I found the experience a piece of cake. Not so uploading for the Kindle.
Armed with my ISBN (which Amazon accepts but doesn’t use, allotting its own ASIN) I forayed into Kindle territory via Amazon’s Digital Text Platform
There are lots of user forums and some Q&A guides, but it could do to be a bit more idiot-proof for first-timers. Amazon’s conversion process isn’t as forgiving as that of Smashwords, but it will take Word files, just the same. After altering the Copyright page and checking formatting against the Kindle’s guidelines, the uploading procedure was straightforward enough. However, at the Preview stage I realised that the automated system was grouping short paragraphs (dialogue) and indenting them as a block – a known problem, I gathered from the forums. For some writers, and readers, this wouldn’t be a problem. I’m finicky and want the presentation as good as by any professional publisher.
There’s an option to download the semi converted HTML file and hand edit, but considering what I know about HTML can be written on the back of a postage stamp, for a 71k word script this was a non-starter. One indie author suggests using Open Office and exporting direct as HTML, which Amazon’s DTP system will accept, so I did, but when I got to the Preview stage with this second file I found that all my centring had been left justified. Argh!!
Which brings up the question: how much time do I spend messing about with these things? As long as it took to contact Jim & Zetta Brown who convert Word files for the e-publishing industry on both sides of the Atlantic. Jim suggested a PRC file was likely to solve the problem. And it did. I shall not mess about for the rest of my books, simply go to him first.
The Kindle version went live last Friday, so the marketing starts now:
Hostage of the Heart - a mediaeval romantic suspense set on the English/Welsh borders in 1066.
When her kin refuse to pay her ransom, dare a battle hostage give her heart and her life to a warrior-knight shielding dark secrets of his own?
Heat level: sweet. 71,000 words. $1.99
For the Kindle / For all other formats
To read the opening chapter: http://lindaacaster.blogspot.com/, or download the samples direct from Kindle or Smashwords.
If you haven’t been bored witless, return tomorrow for a laugh about the making of its cover, through the original publisher's branding to my own first effort.
Regards – Linda Acaster
http://www.lindaacaster.com/ / .co.uk