Sunday, March 6, 2011

Electronic Publishing Tips

Some readers have expressed an interest in electronic publishing through the Kindle.  Here are some steps to get you started:

1.  Go to https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin
2.  Create an account and review the Kindle Publishing Guide in the Getting Started and FAQs section.
3.  Pay attention to the links.  Someone them will help you download the software you need.
4.  There are many ways to publish and many formats you can use, but this is the way I did it...

I created my books in Open Office, which is open source freeware, and I saved them as .docs.  My first discovery was that though the tool that imports your document and converts it into the type of file needed for publishing does import Microsoft Word documents, it does not import Open Office documents saved as Word documents.

So, then I tried saving the books as .html.  You just change the extension in the Save As box.  That successfully imported.  You then follow the steps in the wizard to create a format that is compatible for publishing on the Kindle.  This file has an extension of .prc.

Then you view that converted format in a previewer or emulator tool, which looks just like a Kindle screen, only on your laptop or PC.  Here you will find all kinds of formatting problems, because what you wrote in your original format never completely translates once you reach your final destination after multiple format conversions.  There will always be indents and extra lines where you don't want them and vice versa.

At this point you need a tool that helps you alter the .html document.  I used Mozilla's Sea Monkey, but if you aren't familiar with .html, the changes you need to make may not be intuitive.  Don't worry, if you hit a wall here, there are companies that dedicate themselves to doing all this work for you for a fee.  Once you are satisfied with the changes in .html, you can import the changed .html document and rebuild, thus overwriting the Kindle format document on your desktop.  View it in your Kindle previewer or emulator again, make a note of what needs to be tweaked, and go back to the .html drawing board again.

You need to actually upload your Kindle formatted document to their website while logged in to your account in the browser.  You can't use the conversion wizard to do that.  Be prepared to upload a cover and a summary for your book.  The summary is kind of like what you see on the back flap in a bookstore that tells you what the book is about and gets you interested enough to buy it.  This is probably the most important couple of paragraphs you could write, so don't rush it.

The cover is equally important, because it must appeal to the eye.  When you are searching hundreds of books, you first consider the titles and the covers.  If the book passes your scrutiny on that level, you then read the summary, and the summary may lead you to browsing inside the book.  It is at that point when you make a decision whether to buy it or not.  I created my covers by opening my own photographs in Photoshop, adjusting their appearance and size to the guidelines, and adding the title and by line text.  There are plenty of free software programs out there that can help you do this too.

At this point, there is another Kindle emulator on the website in which you can view your book before hitting the PUBLISH button.  I found that the website's Kindle emulator displayed my book differently from how my PC's Kindle emulator displayed it.  I had to deduce that this was a bug in the emulators and decided not to make further adjustments.  

Once your book is uploaded for publishing, you can watch it change statuses on your bookshelf.  I published two books within two days of one another, and there was some kind of mix up.  My bookshelf told me that Book A was live while Book B was still in the publishing phase.  However, when I went to the Kindle Store and searched for my name, Book B showed up and Book A didn't.  I decided to give it another 24 hours to see if it corrected itself, and if not, I was going to contact support for help.  It turned out that Book B had previously been in Amazon's search engine, which is why it got published so fast.  Book A was new and it took another 24 hours for it to go live, and then another 48 hours before it showed up in a search engine.

I downloaded a sample of Book B, and found that my title page was split in two on the real Kindle when I didn't see that problem on either of the Kindle emulators.  So, I had to make more changes to the .html file and republish the fixes.  Formatting is the most difficult part of the process since the software isn't reliable in showing you exactly how your book will look on the Kindle.  The text size setting can really mess up your page breaks.

I recently had a writer tell me that the sign of an amateur fiction writer is someone who indents his paragraphs after transitions and at the beginning of chapters.  I dug around in some fiction books and found that he was right.  Most book publishers do not indent in those locations.  So, I went through all the work of removing indents in those locations in my Open Office document.  Then when I converted it to .html and the Kindle format, I found that they forced me to indent in those locations.  I didn't want to look like an amateur, so I had to remove all those indents in the .html file.  It can get quite tedious.  But ultimately, you spend way less time formatting your own book for electronic publishing than you do waiting for the support of an agent or print publisher.

Writing is a gamble.  You don't get paid for all the work you do before the book is published if you don't already have a contract with a publisher.  You just have to have faith that all your hard work will eventually be rewarded with royalties.  However, you are still not done once you are happy with how your book is presented on the Kindle.  Now you have to go out and market it.  That's where social networking comes in.  Those of us who have made the effort to keep up with the use of computers and the Internet are at an advantage.  The world is literally at our fingertips.

4 comments:

Mikey said...

Thank you for sharing that. I'm very interested in doing the same thing, but boy does it seem like a lot of work. Perhaps I never realized what a publisher goes through...
I like the last paragraph, it gives me hope. You're right, those who understand the Internet and how it's evolving and changing publishing are ahead of the game.

Linda said...

Very nice explanation! Are you going to link your books to your blog? How exciting!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Linda - Yes, I'll do a post and put my books on my sidebar once I'm happy with the published presentation. I had to make some changes and republish last night. So, they are going through the approval process again.

Rising Rainbow said...

Very interesting stuff. I get so frustrated with all the formatting stuff don't know if I will bite the bullet or not. Thanks so much for the information.