Don’t Rush to Publish!

Probably the best advice I can give you about publishing is not to rush.

I’ve always promoted doing as much as you can yourself—especially since your first book is pretty much a loss until you write more and have more books available for purchase. When it’s when it’s your only book available, you’ll never get back what you put into it. (Unless you have a tangible way to measure pride and satisfaction.)

Combining the fact that this is your first book with doing it all on your own is dangerous. You’ll never be sure if your book bombed because you’re an unknown author and this is your first book, or if it’s because your book sucks. Publishing a superior product rather than a POS will take some of the guesswork out of the question.

You want to put your best work out there, so when you have more books available you don’t have to waste time fixing it. Being it is so easy to update files in Kindle Direct Publishing, you may get into the habit of updating your files and covers all the time. It’s a waste and you’ll never move forward. Fixing your files in CreateSpace is easy too, but your book isn’t available until your files are approved, and CreateSpace’s approval time is longer than KDP’s. People still can buy your Kindle book while the new file is being approved, but it will be your old file.

Here are some tips to not rush:

Cover

Never publish your first attempt at making a cover. Make many covers. Many, many, many. Try different pictures, fonts, and color themes. Take your best two or three and turn them into a contest on Facebook or Twitter. Enter all the names of the people who chose the one you decided to use into a drawing and give a signed copy of your book to the winner. Ask for lots of feedback. There are plenty of people online who are willing to give you an honest opinion.

Research your genre, watch picture manipulation videos to learn how to do what you want. If your idea is too much for you to do on your own, or you just can’t get your vision from your head onto the computer, ask for help.  Don’t publish your first attempt. Keep it clean, keep it professional. One day you may change your cover to bump up sales, or because your skills have improved, or because you found a better picture. All I’m saying is, don’t make it a habit. You’re supposed to be writing more books.

Formatting/Book Interior

The inside of your book needn’t change much. As you grow your library you may want to add those books to a list in the front or back matter letting your reader know they are available. Maybe you’ll want to fix typos, but don’t get caught up with this. You’ll never stop editing, and I feel it’s disrespectful to the people who previously bought your book before your fixes.

CreateSpace takes 12-24 hours to approve files, and your book is not available during the approval process. You can lose sales going into it to fix to too many times.

KDP takes five hours, but don’t use this as an excuse to fix every little thing. Plus you want your paperback and Kindle files to match. Publishing your book as close to perfect as possible will save you lots of time in the long run.

Blurb

Changing your book’s description is simple enough, but if you offer a paperback you’ll want your product information to match the blurb on the back of your book. Again, CS has to approve any changes and this takes time. Blurb writing is difficult, every writer loathes it. I find it easier to write blurbs for others than for my own books. Research how to write one and get plenty of feedback from people who both have and have not read your book. The people who have read it can tell you if it’s accurate. The people who have not read your book can tell you if the blurb makes them want to read it.

Editing

I’ve written a lot about editing in my publishing series, and in two prior blog posts. Editing is the worst because of all the waiting, waiting, waiting. For other people. To read your work. You’re waiting on someone (or hopefully many someones) to read your work and you can’t say anything or you’ll seem rude. If you pay someone, hopefully, you come to some kind of a time agreement. If your friends are doing you a favor, you need to be patient. I’ve edited for people who have published before I was done. Please don’t do that—especially if they keep you updated and they are finding things. It’s rude, and frankly, it hurt my feelings. What I advise you to do is forget about publishing it. Work on something new. Work on your cover—can you make it better? Work on your website, or write a few blog posts and schedule them out so you’re ahead. Try to get into a blog tour, or ask some of your friends who run blogs to interview you. Beta-read or edit for someone else. There are plenty of ways to fill your time and still feel like you are moving forward career-wise.

Be patient.

Don’t rush into publishing. It will save you a lot of time down the road, and a lot of regrets, because you’ll never now how many sales you lost because of a poor cover, or your first 20% in the Look Inside feature has typos in it and a potential reader didn’t want to take a chance on the rest of your book.

It took a year or more to write your book. Waiting a bit longer won’t hurt.

What’s your biggest publishing regret?

CreateSpace Recap

I started this publishing series eight months ago. Sorry about that. But in that time I’ve published a book (two novellas together), wrote 150,000 more words (in the form of 6 novellas that will be published together), and fixed 1700’s typos inside and the cover. I have also started fixing my 2015 NaNo project just so I can say it’s done and move on.

When I started this series, it was my intention to tell you how to publish a quality paperback cheaply and easily.  I think in this recap you’ll see I did that. Even now, I am so tired of hearing that you need to pay for this, pay for that, to publish a quality book.

Indie publishing went from, “It’s not a real way to publish” to “It is a real way if you pay for everything.” No one can afford to pay for the ISBN number, the editing, the formatting, the file conversions. And believe me, there are people who will do it all for you. For a price. But the sad part is if you are willing to take a few minutes (okay, hours), read a few books,  you don’t need to pay for anything.

Let the recap of eight months begin.

  1. You wrote a book! Congratulations. Let it sit for a few weeks, even a few months, write something else, read it again. Have a few people read it. Ask them to look for plot holes, flat characters, scenes that don’t move the story along. If you use Word, download Grammarly. It’s a decent checker for things I miss or wouldn’t think to look for. Buy the Hemingway App for more help ($20.00 is a decent investment). Use anything you can get your hands on to make your work as clear and as typo-free as possible.
  2. Grab a trad-pubbed book and copy the front and back matter. You need the copyright page, the acknowledgments. The title page. Dedication page. The author page. You’re in charge of all it.
  3. Get your author picture taken. I want to see you sitting in a cafe with a cup of coffee in your hands, smiling. Because you just wrote a book, and you’re going to publish it, and you are proud of it, and you’re going to own it, dammit! Have your best friend take it and buy her a cup of coffee for her trouble.
  4. Buy your ISBN or don’t. At the beginning, I leaned toward buying your own, protect your work and all that. But if you’re not sure what your publishing plan is, (like one a year, if that) take the free one CreateSpace gives you. No harm done.
  5. Choose the size of your book. If you’re writing smut you’re not going to be able to choose the smut-sized trim sold in Walmart. But choose the size you want, the color (cream or white) pages you want.
  6. Based on that, download the free template from CreateSpace so you can format the inside of your book. CreateSpace wants you to have an easy experience, a good experience, so you keep using them. The template is easy. Download it, copy and paste your manuscript into it. You don’t need to copy the template exactly. Their template comes with a Table of Contents I do not use. Change the font if you want, maybe the size. And please make a couple different copies of your MS. If something goes horribly wrong, well, that would bad. Play around with the template before you copy and paste your MS into it. See what you can change and what will mess up if you touch it.
  7. Make your template for your cover. If you make changes to the number of pages in your MS, you’ll need to recalculate the spine width and change the paper layout dimensions. I forgot to do that when messing around with 1700. I changed the spine text box but not the paper layout. That’s probably why I had some of my spine color wrapped on my front cover.
  8. Write your blurb. Maybe you already did this. Have one of your beta readers read it, make sure it sounds good. I gave you some resources how to write a good one. It takes a little bit of help, though, so don’t be afraid to ask for it.
  9. I wrote about your cover a lot. Remember, if you don’t like the thought of doing your own cover, don’t. Use the CreateSpace Cover Creator, or buy a cover that’s already done. Hire someone. This series was to help you do it as cheaply as possible. People *do* judge a book by its cover, so if this is something you don’t want to tackle, I don’t blame you. There’s a lot of choices out there.
  10. CS  takes a PDF of your cover (in the Save As option on Word, PDF is a choice). Submit that, submit your interior, and you’re done. They say 24 hours, but it only takes them 12 to get back to you and tell you if it’s approved or not. Remember the flattening warning you’re going to get. That’s okay. Order the proof, check it over. When I got my second proof for 1700 I read it like I was reading anyone and looked for typos. Spend some time on it, because the proof is exactly what people will be getting when they order it. It takes about 5-10 days to get the proof in the mail. If you want your paperback and the Kindle to be live at the same time, don’t go through the Kindle stuff until your paperback is ready to go. Kindle only takes 5 hours to approve your files. You can have them live on the same day. I had trouble with CS so my Kindle version was live for a couple weeks before my paperback was available. That’s up to you and how you want to do it.

 

And that’s it. I recommend Chris McMullen’s book and you can find it here. He explains a lot of the technical stuff with the template and he goes into Word a lot more than I do. There’s a lot of tutorials and YouTube videos out there. When I started eight months ago, I didn’t know as much as I do now. Indie publishing is a continual learning process because things change. I’ve learned to read only things that were written in 2016 or even more recently because old information may not help.

If you need any more help, drop me a question. I’m sure you can Google the answer probably faster than I can answer it, but I’ll be going through this whole thing in a couple more months when Summer Secrets is ready to be published. I’ve come a long way with doing covers in Word, and I’m confident that with the patience I’ve learned, the tricks I’ve taught myself playing with the CS interior template, and the tutorials I’ve watched about picture manipulation, the process will go smoothly. And I hope yours does too.

 

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Promises, Promises

At the beginning of this publishing series, I promised you could make a nice cover with a picture and some words. I got a little fancy with the cover we just went over, and if you’re reading this all the way through and got discouraged, I apologize. I’ll show you how to make a nice cover now, just a picture and some words. That’s it. I promise.

Start out with a new Word document. Go back to the formula for the paper set up. If your book is going to be 5×8 with cream paper, your page set up calculations will be:

Inches: 5 + 5 + spine + .25 (bleed) = what you need.

A 334-page book with cream pages will have a spine of .835 inches. (334 x 0.0025).

5 + 5 + .835 + .25 = 11.085

Height is always easier because you’re not doubling anything. So the height for the page set up would be 8 inches plus .25 for bleed.

8 + .25 = 8.25

The paper layout will look like this:

paper layout

Word rounded down, and I’m not sure how that affects our calculations. I would guess it’s insignificant or Word wouldn’t do it.

Follow the rest of the directions in the blog post where I typed out the list of steps.

You’ll have your handy template that looks like this:

blog cover template

This template is for a 5×8 trim size with cream colored pages. Number of pages, 334. (A nice, long book. :)) (FYI, You’ll always have an even number of pages because a page has two sides.)

The problem with the picture I like is that it’s square, not rectangle, so when I put it into the template, it stretches. Stretchy is not the same as stabby; sometimes stabby can be a good thing.

stretchy

If you don’t mind she looks a bit stretched out or you swear you can’t tell, that’s your prerogative. I’m sure down the road it will bother you, so you might as well do it right the first time. I guess I don’t need to tell you, to avoid this you can always find a rectangle picture. There are plenty out there and CanStock will even filter square pictures out in your searches.

Using the Crop feature, I cropped it using the Aspect Ratio, portrait 2:3.

crop

Fix the dimensions of the picture so it fits into the 5×8 box.

crop1

It brought them closer, but that’s okay.

So this is what I have so far:

back cover done1

I downloaded a new font. I used the same picture on the back, but flipped it and lightened it. I did forget to mention in the last post that you probably want to put the price above the ISBN box. That way if you do happen to have a book sale of some kind, you can have the price on there, and if you put it on discount, customers can see that it is.

back cover done2

If you think the cover picture is too bold for the white spine and the back cover,  you can lighten up the cover edges a bit like this:

back cover done3

You can do what you want with the blank space by the ISBN box. Maybe your author picture, maybe your imprint picture. Whatever. But I did what I promised you from the beginning, I gave you a lovely cover with just one picture, no fancy picture effects you need to learn how to do. Oh, wait, take all the lines off. I swear, there is always something.

back cover done4

And don’t worry about the cursor. That will go away when you save it as a PDF to submit it to CS. Also, remember not to freak out if this is all you have and you want the Kindle cover too. CS will offer it to you, and you can download it.

I think this is it for covers. I’ll post a recap of everything I’ve talked about then I’ll tell you how to format your file for Kindle.

Thanks for reading!

 

Templates: Formatting Your Manuscript

Formatting your manuscript for printing is no big deal–if you know what you’re doing. I knew before I started this process I was going to have trouble with my headers and footers, and after struggling for ten hours, I was crying and ready to chuck the paperback option of my book. When I tweeted how desperate I was S. Hunter Nisbet (@ShunterNi) and RR Willica (@RRWillica) came to my rescue. (Shameless plug, both their books are on Amazon, in Kindle and paperback.) Templates they both said. Copy and paste your manuscript into the Word template CreateSpace provides, and at 11 pm after almost giving up, I did.

If you know where to look, or have the dearest friends like I have to point you in the proper direction, CreateSpace does hold your hand and makes publishing a book less painful than a root canal.

You might be asking why formatting is a big deal. It’s a big deal because your manuscript printed into book format is not the same as taking it to Staples and printing it out. You have to consider the gutters (the extra space in the margin for when your book is bound, actually glued into the front and back covers), headers, footers, where your front matter goes, etc. While the template takes care of some of it, it doesn’t take care of all of it, and I’ll write you up a quick list in a minute so you’ll be able to do those things yourself.

Where to find the template is easy enough. If you haven’t gone into the CreateSpace website and created your project, you can, or you can just read this blog series first, up to you. After you create your project, enter in your title info, and enter your ISBN choice (or skip that if you haven’t decided), you come to the screen I blogged about before. Choose your trim and paper color. After you choose those, at the right, you can download the template that will have all the measurements in place for the page set up.

template

These are the choices I made for 1700. My size on cream paper. On the very right-hand side, you click on the formatted template link and download the Word template. When you open the template there are pages for your front matter:

first pages of template

I turned on the formatting marks so you can see them. In my opinion, the most important thing they do for you is give you the end of section breaks at the end of the pages and at the end of the chapters. These are imperative when doing your headers and footers, and I’ll tell you why in a minute. This is the second set of pages in the template:

second pages

Notice they give you a table of contents. I didn’t use it, and most fiction books don’t. Plus, after ten hours of struggling, I just didn’t want to mess with anything extra. Of course, you’re doing this in a smarter manner, so if you want to take the time to add a table of contents, that’s your choice (but if you want your book to look like other books, a table of contents in a fiction book is pretty rare). Here is the third set:

third set of pages

I didn’t keep the order of these pages. I took a traditionally published book and copied the order of its pages. 1700 has the title, author, and imprint page, then my copyright page, my acknowledgments, a blank page, my dedication page, a subtitle page (1700 is two novellas printed together) then Chapter One. You can make your pages in any order you want, but please please please do not delete the End of Section breaks at ends of the first pages. These keep the headers and page numbers off your front matter. You’ll see that Chapter One starts with page one and that there is no header on the page. That is what you want; don’t delete the section break after the ends of all the other chapters in the template. The template includes nine chapters. If your book is longer than that, and mine was, copy and paste the section breaks into the ends of the extra chapters. It kept the header off the next title chapter pages in my book just fine.

Just one more quick thing, don’t be turned off that your text is not centered. That is the gutter I told you about, and that space is needed for binding. You can see it on the first chapter page of the template.

Because I know you want to see them, here are the first few pages of my book:

front mattefront matter 2

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Some quick formatting tips that will help your book look professional:
1. First paragraphs of chapters and scene breaks are not indented.
2. Chapters begin in the near the middle of the page. Keep the number of blank lines before the Chapter Title and first paragraph consistent from chapter to chapter.
3. Use one space after a period.
4. Your text should be full justified (even, not jagged, on both sides).

You can experiment with the font, font size (I’ve read no bigger than 12 point unless you are specifically printing a Large Print book), italicize your name in the header, bold your title, etc. I was too scared, and I didn’t page through my manuscript as thoroughly as I should have. There are a few formatting mistakes I need to fix. Yep, I just saw the roman numeral on my dedication page. At first, I thought it was a speck on my computer screen. Dammit. The great news is that after your manuscript is copied and pasted into the template, the pages will look exactly the same printed into a real book. So it’s worth it to take a look, page by page, and search for mistakes, formatting errors, that kind of thing. I have an extra space I need to fix, and some cute little squares at the end of some of my chapters.

The bad news is after you publish and see mistakes, if you want to fix them, your entire project goes through CreateSpace’s review process. It’s a 12-hour process and it’s bad news because while you are waiting for your new file (they also go through the cover, or vice versa if you’re fixing your cover after already publishing your book) your old file becomes unavailable which means disappears as a paperback on Amazon. So, after you just release your book, and you have your initial sales coming in, you don’t want to fix anything unless it’s a huge mistake. I would hope if it’s that huge, you would have caught it while you were proofing your work. You can have a proof sent to you for around $3.00 plus shipping depending on how thick your book is, so page through it carefully. It’s something I didn’t do and regret it now, but no one is perfect and that’s okay.

I’ll leave this here for now. The next is covers and I’ll have to figure out how to write it up since there is just so much information on them.

Happy formatting!  I’ll be off fixing my mistakes.