Saturday, September 14, 2013

So, Here's What I Learned!

I know it's been more than a few days since the date, but I was finally able to publish my first ebook!

Just to give a brief (and shameless) synopsis: it's a sword and sorcery novel about three adventurers who are originally from our world. They don't know how they got to this new realm, but they're not very thrilled to be there. As in any fantasy story, duty and glory are calling to our protagonists, but they really don't want to answer that call.

I've been pitching it as a cross between Forgotten Realms and Archer. If that sound like your thing, you should give it a try!

But anyway:

The whole process wasn't nearly as painless as I thought it would be. There are many things to be considered before you throw your ebook out there into the world for all to see. A lot of them can be overcome, some of them cannot. So, here are some of the things I learned.

1. Appropriate Formatting

According to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), the preferred formats for directly uploading your manuscript are .doc, .html, or, if you have it, .mobi. Now, the first one is easy because, if you're writing using any of the word processors I listed, it's very likely you're already saving your manuscript in .doc format. So, no biggie, right?


The only major setback that comes with going that route, which I ran headlong into, is that you don't get a virtual table of contents. If you have a Kindle, it's that separate menu that you can access directly through the Kindle that has a list of the chapters, subchapters, etc. Mine had that in all of the test versions using .mobi, but it doesn't have that now.

Luckily, the table of contents that I built for the document works fine (here's a video on how to build one, but I might write up a post on it, as well), but it's always nice to be able to give your readers direct access to the sections of the book they want to get to. Otherwise, things get frustrating, and you don't want your reader to feel frustrated reading your ebook. When there's a step you can eliminate, it's always best to eliminate it.

The logical solution would be to upload in .mobi, so that it has that virtual table of contents. Unfortunately, the program that I've been using to preview and convert my .doc files, Calibre (which I highly recommend to anyone/everyone going into the self-pub business), seems to be at odds with KDP. When I tried to upload my .mobi file, I got an error message, which was a huge shame. After a bit of research, I found that this isn't the case 100% of the time. Some people use Calibre to convert their .doc file and upload it to KDP with no problems.

Something tells me it's the way I formatted the original .doc file that freaks out KDP, but I have no way of knowing without further research. But as it stands, I'd say that it's probably unlikely that you'll get your manuscript uploaded with anything other than .doc.

.html is a possibility, but I've found that the conversion from .doc to .html causes some problems with the formatting. Specifically: it adds an extra line between paragraphs, even when the document has them removed, which amounts to an ebook that looks a little odd. You'd have to preview it for yourself to see if you'd find the look agreeable, but I rarely see any ebooks that go that route format-wise.

2. Networking

- Goodreads Author Program
- Amazon Author Central
- Reddit Authors

I figured I'd have to be networking between a few websites, which is the main reason this blog exists, but there are also a couple other websites that'll require your attention, as well. Goodreads is the obvious one. The second you have your book up and running on Amazon, turn around and get your author's page from Goodreads. They're a great medium through which to promote your book, host giveaways, connect with your potential readers. Get your biography all written up, get a nice picture of yourself uploaded, and make sure your profile's connected to your book. (If your book doesn't pop up in their database, be prepared to manually add it to the site.)

Amazon Author Central is the not-so-obvious one (to me, at least). KDP doesn't point to it directly, and you have to go through a separate section of the site to find it. With this, you're basically doing the same thing you did through Goodreads, but through Amazon. Yeah. So, same process: biography, picture, connect to your book.

Reddit Authors is one that I've just discovered, but it's a nifty little site if you're a dedicated/obsessed redditor. There are a few restrictions. You have to have a Reddit account, for one, which goes without saying. You have to have at least 50 comment karma and been a member for at least 30 days. And... that's it! Just send them a message and they'll link up to your book.

Also, it's helpful if you list your website in your actual manuscript, just below where your copyright text should be. A great way to consolidate everything!

3. Promotion

The book is not going to sell itself! Go to your audience and to a bit of name-dropping. It's a fine line to walk between self-promotion and being a douchebag, and I've seen people walk it with the grace of drunken elephant. What I've learned is: be courteous! Hit up Reddit, hit any writing forums you're a part of, check out Facebook. Just don't force-feed it to people. If you're part of a community, continue being a part of the community and be honest about what you're selling. Don't be a part of the community purely to sell something.

I can tell when people do that. You can tell. Don't pretend otherwise.

Also, make use of the tools KDP provides. Set up a promotion for your book, and then get word out about that promotion!

4. DRM

This is something to think about when you're about to hit the "Publish" button. Someone in another forum made a good point, that, as a first time fiction author, it's very unrealistic to worry about DRM. If you're writing non-fiction, then it's a definite concern. Otherwise, you want your book to get out there as much as possible. You want your book to be passed around, shared, talked about. The first book is meant to act as a vessel to get your name out there. If you harbor any illusions about striking it rich on your first try, stop.

Stop it.

Humility is the greatest trait an author - especially a new author - can retain. And, hopefully, it's a trait he/she will retain throughout their career.

But, yeah, consider dropping the DRM.