You’ve got a beautifully crafted, clean manuscript. You’ve worked out the best ‘indie’ options for you and you’re ready to publish. I found this next bit incredibly tedious, but at the same time I had to stay focused and I had to learn an awful lot with my formatting ‘hat’ on. It was tough being bored and maintaining concentration at the same time.
Each e-book and print-on-demand company or printer (depending on which way you decide to go) will have its own guidelines for how they want the manuscript delivered to them. They will often also offer formatting services for an extra cost. I decided to do it myself, and if I can do it, anyone with a working knowledge of MS Word can do it too. Before you start, make sure you keep one copy of your manuscript on your computer untouched and also back it up in various ways. Then if you really mess up, at least you have that to return to.
Kindle and Createspace have excellent guides for their systems and it’s just a question of working through them. What I’m sharing here is what I learned which didn’t seem to be in the manuals.
Firstly formatting for Kindle (and possibly any e-book). I had created my manuscript in MS Word and the initial step was to rid it of all the formats MS embeds in its Word documents. I did this by cutting and pasting it into notepad and then cutting and pasting it back into a Word document having turned off all the ‘autoformat’ functions using the ‘format’ tab. This wipes your document of certain aspects of its layout which you now have to put back using the ‘styles and formatting’ function. The Kindle guidebook tells you how to do this.
A few things to remember. (a) Kindle does not recognise a line space, this has to be created by formatting in a ‘spacing’ before or after a paragraph. (b) All my italics were wiped out with the move to notepad. I use italics a lot because they indicate internal thought and my characters do a lot of ruminating, so it was a pretty big job to put them all back in. I didn’t work out a fast way of doing this; it was simply a case of having an original copy open, finding the italics using the ‘find’ function, then going to the same place in the Kindle version to put the words into italics.
Once you are sure that you are happy with your formatting, you save into HTM. I had heard from other Kindle publishers that things like elipses and letters with accents on, such as café, go awry when you save into HTM. I did not find this, so maybe it depends on the version of these programmes that you have. The HTM version is ready to upload onto Kindle. Once again the steps for doing this are well explained.
I’m presuming you will have already set up a KDP account and filled in the bits about title, author, royalties etc and done the tax form. You can upload and delete your HTM file as many times as you like, which is good, because once you preview it on the screen you will no doubt pick up some mistakes which need adjusting. I was particularly struck with how long my first paragraph looked on a Kindle screen. I went back and put in some more paragraph breaks. One way the new technology has effected the creative process.
Even though I had already had my manuscript proofread, I got someone else to check through the Kindle version on line before I published. As soon as you start messing around with format, typos can creep in, so if you’ve got someone who can help (in my case it was my lovely sister) it’s worth doing.
Secondly, formatting for Createspace. On the whole, I found the formatting for the paperback more straight-forward. I’d been told I would need to save as a PDF before publishing, but this has changed and I could use my Word document. So it was merely the case of choosing the page size and Createspace pretty much did the rest. One issue I didn’t properly think through is indents; they may look fine on an A4 page, but on the smaller book-size page they look too big. It’s something I will remember for next time.
Cover design. This was something I considered spending money on, but in the end decided not to. There are plenty of designers out there (especially on-line) who will create a design which fits with the Kindle and Createspace requirements. Though, in fact, both Kindle and Createspace have perfectly good cover templates. In order to get the same cover for both versions, I created mine in Createspace and was able to transfer it to Kindle. There didn’t seem to be a way of doing this vice versa. I also got tripped up by the DPI of my photo. When Createspace stretched my photo over the whole cover, the DPI (quality) of the photo went too low for it to be accepted by the system. In the end I chose a design where the photo is smaller and this seemed to work.
Because I wanted to use the Createspace cover, I started my publishing journey from Createspace. This also means, in theory, that my Kindle version and paperback should have been linked on the Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk pages. In reality this took several emails to Createspace and KDP support. Though I will say, both help lines were very responsive, polite and helpful. Since I had already formatted my Kindle version myself, I did not use Createspace’s offer to format it for me, so I don’t know whether that works. Will investigate next time.
And then, dear reader, I published. After several weeks of trying to get everything just right, the publishing process is actually just a question of clicking on a button. A bit of an anti-climax. Maybe next time I’ll have some friends round for that moment and we’ll celebrate with hugs and tea and cake all round.
Once you’re published, of course, you’re not finished. There’s the marketing of your newborn. I will be tackling that thorny issue in my next blog. Meanwhile, do look at my novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect, the first of a series of crime novels set in Scarborough, http://goo.gl/5r9WBv.