Hello all! Today I’m thrilled to be bringing you the third and final installment of Peter McLennan’s guide to self-publishing. If you missed the first two, you can find part one here and part two here, and I thoroughly recommend checking them out. If you’ve ever considered self-publishing but didn’t really know how to go about it, then this series is a must-read. So, without further ado, here’s Peter.
Part III: After Uploading
In previous articles I’ve talked about laying the foundations and formatting your manuscript for on-line self-publishing. In this final article, I’ll outline some tactics to help with checking the results of your efforts.
Checking multiple document formats multiple times is obviously repetitive. To speed things up and help me focus on likely problem areas, I produced a checklist of issues to look for. If I get enough encouragement, I could be convinced to put it up on my web site.
In general, you need to look for errors in font, text size, page alignment, paragraph spacing and alignment, indentation, line breaks, pagination, character formatting and special characters (eg, ellipses, m-dashes, non-breaking spaces and ‘smart’ quotation marks).
CreateSpace produces hard copies, but you can check the contents well enough using on-line tools and/or the .pdf download.
Unfortunately, the only way to be sure that your cover is okay is to actually buy a proof copy of the book. If you order a proof copy, you aren’t permitted to continue with publishing until the book has been printed and dispatched to you, so if you’re in a hurry you might want to risk-manage this.
Checking your KDP conversion is easy, since Amazon provides a free program for this. You should see what your eBook looks like in different versions of the Kindle (which the program lets you do), since not all Kindles are created equal.
Smashwords eBook conversions are the hardest to check because of the plethora of possible formats and the limitations of the Smashwords converter. I found it best to look at each format in at least two eBook readers since the readers themselves can be idiosyncratic: if you only use one reader, you can’t know whether an anomaly is inherent in your eBook or just the reader being quirky. Here are the readers I used and the formats they handle:
- Adobe Digital Editions (.epub)
- Kindle Previewer (.epub, .mobi)
- Kindle Viewer (.mobi)
- Mobipocket (.mobi, .pdb)
- PDF-XChange (.pdf)
- Notepad (.txt)
- Calibre (all formats)
Some file types and viewers do not allow the use of multiple fonts, and some are unable to render bold and italics. If you’ve used such formatting to emphasise or clarify things in your text, you need to ensure that your meaning remains clear in the absence of such cues. Alternatively, you can opt not to publish your work in those file types that don’t meet your needs.
Unfortunately, some eBook formats, or conversions thereto, are so crude as to be unacceptable. For example, .pdb turns all your smart quotes, ellipses and m-dashes into gibberish. I didn’t need any more gibberish in my book: I’d already written enough of it. Rather than further dumbing down my formatting (which would have detracted from the more popular eBook formats), I chose not to publish a .pdb version. Some writers publish separate versions for the less capable formats, whereas others just sell defective documents (check out a few .pdb files on Smashwords and you’ll soon see what I mean).
In addition to eBook files, Smashwords also produces two formats for on-line reading. These often have formatting errors that are not present in any other format. Here are two examples: the preliminary material on page one should be centred, and the first paragraph of the story should have the same font as the subsequent paragraphs. Such errors are distressing since this is the format that a prospective customer is most likely to view prior to purchasing, and they make the author look amateurish. Further simplifying the styles in the document would probably fix these problems—but at the expense of the ‘real’ eBook formats. I chose to maximise the quality of the latter.
Smashwords will automatically insert your cover image into some of the formats, but not all of them (most notably, .pdf). If you want your cover image to appear in all formats, you need to insert it into your Word document. Supposedly the Smashwords converter is smart enough to detect this and avoid duplicate covers, but I could never get this to happen. Ergo, I had to choose between having two covers in some versions or no cover in some versions. I opted for the former.
Smashwords strongly encourages the creation of a table of contents since some distributors insist on it. These can be especially problematic. Several eBook formats couldn’t handle the character formatting I needed for one chapter heading, forcing me to rename the chapter.
When you’ve looked at every combination of format and reader and made appropriate changes to your manuscript, you need to upload the new version and repeat until you’re happy with the results. For Smashwords, I needed four such cycles.
With over one million eBooks for Kindle, and 38 million hard copy books on Amazon, the odds of your book being discovered by a simple search are negligible. Judicious use of metadata to describe your work will help, but marketing is essential. Each self-publishing site provides some recommendations and facilities to help with this, and some other eminently sensible advice is here.
And speaking of marketing…
If you’ve found this information useful, then you probably wouldn’t like the novel that yielded it. But you might have kids, nephews, etc, who would! It’s about a fourteen-year-old named Jason who can’t work out how to get climate change fixed—until he saves the life of the mysterious and powerful Graham. Graham promises a reward, and Jason asks him to do something to stop climate change. The request is caught by the media, so Jason thinks the man’s trapped and has to keep his word.
But Graham’s got other ideas.
Jason’s got a fight on his hands.
Peter McLennan served for 28 years in the Royal Australian Air Force, where he focused on strategic planning. He has tertiary qualifications in engineering, information science and government, and a PhD in planning for uncertainty. He has had several non-fiction monographs and papers published.
Peter now writes fiction from his home in country Victoria, Australia. His hobbies include playing computer games badly and developing software badly. You can find Who Can Save the Planet? online in print version, Kindle, and other eBooks.
Thanks, Peter! I certainly feel like I know a LOT more about self-publishing than I did a couple of months back, before I’d read these. If this has helped you out at all, I’d really appreciate if you left a comment thanking Peter for sharing his experiences, because let’s face it, the more we know about this sort of thing before going into it, the better prepared we are.
- Publishing Yourself (spectrum.ieee.org)
- Publishing my first eBook very soon! (michaelsrickert.wordpress.com)
- SPI 042 : Killer Kindle Publishing Tips with Jonny Andrews (smartpassiveincome.com)
- Why Should You Consider Self-publishing? (jimkukral.com)