Summary of the self publishing experience.

Well, where should I begin? So much has happened during this crazy process.

My quest began with finding cover art. I had the text, but now I needed something I didn’t know how to do. I looked around for cover artists, and tried to contact a few. Only one responded, and he agreed to come up with a concept for me. He has yet to get that to me. So I gave up on him, and decided to check out istockphoto.com. I found several things that I thought would work, and finally settled on one that felt right. It wasn’t great, but since I couldn’t find an artist to work with, it would do. I spent $40 on it. Something to keep in mind is that you need an image of at least 300 dpi or Createspace will warn you that your image may not print well.

I should add that I contacted my niece at first to make a cover, and she came up with a wonderful character sketch which I absolutely love, but I didn’t feel that a character sketch was what I wanted on the cover. So I found another way to use the sketch in the book, and I really like how things worked out.

First of all, I had enormous problems with Word and page numbering. Wow, you would think that it would be a very simple thing. No. It is not. For instance, you don’t want page numbers on some pages, and Word just doesn’t get that. You have to make “Sections”. (Which, by the way, makes Word save each section as a separate file when you output to pdf. Lame!) Especially your title page, dedication page, copyright page. That should be section 1. Then, you can designate that it does not get page numbers; otherwise, you are fighting the daylights out of Word because it wants to number every dang thing in your document. Next you have to figure out how to make sections. That’s a big fun adventure and it is different for each Word version. What a pain.

Some info that was helpful to me.

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/insert-a-section-break-HA010031073.aspx

You need to be cognizant that page numbers should not appear on the blank pages between chapters if you opt to use that scheme. I was not and noticed it too late. I don’t consider that to be a big deal, but I would definitely work on that next time. Which means I would need to make a new section just for each of those pages. Silly I know, but that’s how it works in Word.

Okay so then I sent for my proof. When it arrived I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, when I opened it, I noticed a couple things. First, the book itself was too big. I had originally chosen 6×9, and it just didn’t look right for this book. I quickly did some research and decided to go with the smallest standard of 5×8. Since the book size was going smaller by 1 inch in both directions, I decided to reduce the font size down to 10 point instead of 12 point Cambria.

Next: The gutter was too big. The gutter is the space set aside for the very center of the book. Some of it gets used for binding and some of it gives you some room out from the crack in the middle of the book. The original guideline suggested by Createspace for a book like mine with 176 pages was .75. I found this to be way out of whack. I decided on using .5. This jived well with the other margin settings which I made all .5 inches. Those being header, footer, and left and right margins.

Thirdly: The indents were too large for the paragraphs. I reduced those from .3 to .2 inches.

Fourthly: I had not noticed this on the PDF file that I had created, but I had neglected to set my document for full justification and hyphenation. So there was a ragged right edge. It looked really stupid, and I felt the same for not catching it.

That all being fixed, I went back through the manuscript once again, found a few mistakes even after my five months of grueling edits.

I then saved my file as a pdf in the 5×8 size. Unfortunately, Word likes to save each section as a separate pdf. Annoying! So I had to buy a little mac app that merges pdf documents. I never did find a way around that. Very irritating.

I then uploaded and ordered another proof.

While waiting for the proof to arrive, I decided to publish the Kindle version. This was pretty easy using Scrivener, which let me output straight to .mobi by using the compile option. That was pretty straight forward, except I had to fiddle with the table of contents a bit to get the final product to look the way I wanted. That was more tedious than it should have been. Another thing that I wanted to do which was a bit non standard. My niece had made a wonderful sketch of my characters, and I wanted to include it in my book. I decided to make it on the facing page of Chapter 1. This was not too hard to do by putting it on its own page in Scrivener and including it by check marking.

An option for electronic publishing is to put in an ISBN number. The interesting thing is, this can’t be the same as the print version but has to be a separate ISBN. I spent $50 with http://www.publisherservices-us.com/ and got my ISBN in about 24 hours.

I uploaded the .mobi file to my Kindle and checked it out. Everything looked fine at first glance, and I was happy to upload and publish. Later that day I looked at the last page and noticed that I had goofed a last minute edit. I was very unhappy. A quick Google search eased my concern though because you can make changes to live Kindle files. I had to wait until it did become live first, and then I was able to re-upload and go through the confirmation process again. Since then I’ve done it a couple other times as other people have found some more errors in the manuscript that I was able to correct. The only thing that I’ve noticed is that people who have already purchased the book can’t get the changes. It only seems to give them the new version when they first purchase it, even if you remove it from your device and retrieve it from archive.

A note about royalty options, there are two with Kindle, 35% and 70%. My book was eligible for the 70 so I took it. Basically, I pay 4 cents per sale for the download fee on my book size, whereas it’s free with the 35%. That’s a tiny part of 70% so it’s worth it to go with 70%, unless your book is big or has pictures etc.

The proof arrived, and I noticed that I had forgotten a couple of things that didn’t really stick out on the pdf. I had reduced the font size in the text but not in the page numbers. Also on the blank pages between chapters there were page numbers. Those damned page numbers. I hate them. I decided it wasn’t a deal breaker, and that I was sick of messing with it. So I approved the proof. I’m impatient, I know. It’s a bad trait for a typesetter, but there it is.

I decided to buy the Createspace $40 pro package, which reduced my printing costs and gave me expanded distribution to bookstores and libraries. It’s an annual fee, and I am hoping to get another book out this year to take advantage of it again.

Okay so everything is uploaded and approved, and I’m waiting for the Amazon listing. It hits the page, and I notice there is a something wrong. The Kindle version was out there first and was listed as Afterlives. Perfect! But, then the Createspace print version hit and I noticed something bad. It was listed as “Afterlives: Beyond deaths door is a second chance, but some have gone to far”. That sucked. And it listed the author as “Mr. Keith B. Phillips”. Again sucky. So I tried to have Amazon fix it by suggesting a change. They approved the change taking off the “Mr.” but not changing the Title. Which meant that the Kindle and Print versions would not be listed on the same page since the titles must match for that to happen automatically.

I then contacted Createspace who informed me that there was nothing they could do since the field I had used as a tagline blurb for my cover creator is actually a secondary title, and the title is a combination of the Title and Secondary title. This was not really apparent from the form that I filled out. Rooky mistakes, I was full of them.

I then contacted Amazon through the Kindle publishing portal under customer service. They told me that they could not change the title, which I figured. But, they could link the Kindle and Print versions onto one page. Awesome. I could live with the title issue now.

My next operation was to put the book out on Barnes and Noble Pubit!. This was pretty easy. I compiled with Scrivener for epub file format and uploaded. The BN website was slower than a snail, but I got it published, except I didn’t notice that they errored out my cover picture because it was not at the minimum of 750 pixels in height. When it finally hit their page, it was missing a cover pic. I changed the size of the picture and re-uploaded it. In about a day, it was fixed.

I bet you are wondering how this guy made so many mistakes. Looking back, I’m wondering too. But, I know a hell of a lot more now than I knew when I started this thing, and I plan on being able to do it much better next time. Editing is ten times harder than doing all the publishing crap though. And even now there are still errors in the print version that I missed. I don’t plan beating myself up too much over that though, since I can read books off the shelf from the store and catch those in them. Also, this is my first try at this and going through fifty thousand words and making sure each one of them is right is pretty close to an impossible task for a single person. I have a new appreciation for editors and the like. I see what a privilege that would be to have a team like that behind you. As for me—I have my wife and friends who have given me unfailing support. Without them, there would be no book called “Afterlives” by Keith B. Phillips. Thank you all.

Update

In retrospect, I would do a few things differently.

First, I would not bother paying for the Ebook ISBN if I am going to produce a print book. It’s not required, and linking it to the print version in Amazon seems good enough to me. Besides, it doesn’t appear anywhere in the listing even though I specified what it was. Seems like a waste of fifty bucks.

Second, I would publish the ebook first. Let that percolate out there with friends and get some feedback. If there are minor unforeseen errors in the manuscript, I can fix them in ebook format, re-upload and then publish the Print version with much less error factor.

And lastly, of course avoid all the other pitfalls I mentioned earlier. Like making sure the title is exactly right, watching out for the secondary title problem, etc.

Update 2

Since the last update, I have now published to Smashwords.com. That was an interesting experience.  Their recommended reading about formatting to meet their requirements was very helpful.  I had to struggle a lot because my document had so much formatting in it to make it print right on paper.  That is not at all what you want when submitting for electronic publishing.