Mounting anxiety

The end of Love or Lust is in sight. Saturday is on the horizon. I feel sick to my stomach.

Publishing a book is quite easy, from a technical standpoint. I could have done it a year ago today. I had the book typed, and myriad places would have taken a PDF or DOC file. But, that’s not good.

First there’s editing. My but what a knock to the ego to see all those mistakes! And even the technically good sentences and paragraphs that leave you thinking, Good God! What in Hell was I thinking?!

Once that’s done, the paranoid among us must proofread it again, and the perfectionists among us (sadly, that’s me – I’m lazy out of self defence, once I elect to do something …) can’t just look for spelling errors, we must reread the text and tweak dialogue and word choice.

Somewhere in here is agonising if you wish to publish this yourself or give it over to another to do. If you elect the agented route you have the headache of query letters and heartbreak of rejection after rejection – or increasingly more popular, no response whatsoever (silent rejection). Should you luck into an agent (or unluck, depending one’s philosophy at this juncture) there’s the agony of waiting while she (ever notice how many agents are women? I wonder why) shops it to publishers, then waiting for them to put you on a shelf.

Even on your own, you aren’t done at editing. God no. Formatting! Do you want a print edition? Better learn about gutters. Do you want page numbers? The title and author in alternating hearders? Layout is a wretch. You get better at it with practice, learn to preset as much of that before you start typing (and styles are my best friends). Exporting to MOBI and EPUB.

Personally I don’t care for the method Smashwords uses to convert documents. I make them in Pages, Adobe InDesign, or PubIt (Barnes & Noble epublishing service) then edit them with a text editor (Komodo is my favourite for this) because it never fails that SOMETHING will be wrong. The only thing I trust to get my MOBI files (Kindle) correct is Adobe InDesign with Amazon’s Kindle plugin.

A cover! Good Lord, you forgot a cover! Image searching! Find an artist! Can you afford an artist?! Creative Commons search? CreateSpace image library and cover creator?

Whew, we have a cover. Is its resolution correct? What do you mean the image size needs to be A x B on this service, but D x F on this other one?! ~sob~ Second guessing time! Oh, God, does this cover actually work? No, it’s stupid … no, no, it’s okay …

Then the anticipation. You’ve got it all done. The day is approaching. Th publisher says 29 June, or you picked it. It’s like waiting for Christmas, but not the excitement of what Father Christmas will bring, but the horror of just what monstrosity is lurking in that package from Aunt Phillis. You are equal parts terrified the book won’t sell a single copy, your own MOTHER didn’t buy it! That it will sell hundreds of copies in an hour and the next day a flood of criticism, negative reviews, peasants carrying pitchforks and torches beating on the door demanding your blood! Or, God help you, it sells, it ACTUALLY SELLS! Well, even. God help you, you’re a celebrity! Nightmares ensue of paparazzi being eaten by you dogs, and pictures of you in the bath showing up in National Enquirer

Publishing a book is very hard on the psyche.

If you want something done right …

Two posts in one night. My, but I’m in a mood tonight, neh?

If you missed any earlier mentions I’m self publishing my work. Some will applaud this, some will bemoan and decry it. C’est la vie.

I will not presume to tell any their business. If you prefer the traditional publishing route and have the patience for it, and the luck to succeed at it, by all means go for it.

For me, it’s simply not a desirable option.

Simply put I don’t want to put up with the crap for less than 5% royalties. It’s insulting.

The trick is to know what to do yourself and when to ask for help.

Plenty of books put through a major publisher see no real promotion, and no serious editing. Simple fact. Think to any major published work you’ve read lately that came out recently. Typos, grammar goofs, etc. And how did you know about it? NY Times best seller lists don’t count. I mean The Other Stuff.

So. Some things I’m learning.

Editor, have two, kind of. Sweet talk, or marry, a grammar nazi. Or pay, but we’re going to operate on the assumption that authors don’t have money. It’s statistically more likely. Have them proofread your work, but first do it yourself. Have some friend read it too. Someone to give feedback. The friend is kind of like a line editor and a sense checker. Their purpose is not to say, “in the second paragraph here you used the inverse third person conjunctivitis on your pluperfect nominative glass widget in duck sauce” (grammatician I most assuredly am NOT, most of my grasp of English grammar comes from my Latin II class); instead his job is to say “Jaye, great story so far, but just why is it, exactly, that when they went to the mall in Chapter 2 they summoned a daemon to ransack the Starbucks during that zombie uprising?” so that you can scratch your head and go “they were SUPPOSED to just buy shoes and grab some pizza. I’ll take a look at it.”

The important thing, though, is that it’s your story. Generally, take the grammar advice, but if it interferes with the narrative voice and is a subtle thing that doesn’t detract from the clarity, only the technical accuracy, ask yourself if you really want to change it. You can say no. Same goes for the mall scene. Maybe your friend is an idiot, or maybe it CAN be interpreted as a daemonic zombie invasion if you read if certain ways, but you’re fair sure the average reader will see shoes and pizza, then leave it.

Even if you speak perfect lit geek, and grammar is not an esoteric occult thing to you, still have an editor. She doesn’t know what’s supposed to be there. She’ll see what you did not.

Cover art: have it, but don’t go mad. Trends don’t mean much. Pay for a pro to make your cover if you can, by all means. But if you know a friend handy with a pencil, then ask him. Maybe you and a friend are handy with Photoshop. Search Creative Commons’ engine for an image that is befitting and doctor it up. A cover needs to catch the eye. As long as it does that and conveys something meaningful about the story, like genre, then you’re probably okay.

Look at a pro book and try to decide what you do or don’t need, and make sure to have that. Copyright notice pages, dedications, other works by this author list, etc.

Finally, get it out there. I don’t put much stock in single stop services like Smashwords. I just don’t think they provide a sufficient service to warrant the percentage they keep; not considering the nuisance their conversion software is. Others are hardly better. Use them, or not, is always your choice. Personally, though, make your own ePub in Pages or InDesign or similar, and upload them to places like Kobo and Barnes & Noble yourself. Make your own mobi for Amazon. Then a PDF and some patience with a good print on demand service. Lightning Source, if you have some money, or CreateSpace if you’re broke.

You may not get an advance, and you may have to learn to arrange your own book signings, but you get more per sale, so fewer sales to make the same money. No one arranging for you to sign books if you don’t like interacting with people or arranging them somewhere you don’t want to be. Pros and cons, it’s all the same in the end; even the praise vs the loathing. Some will like you better for being self pub others will deride you, the opposite is certainly true.

In the end don’t let anyone tell you what to do. It is and always will be your story. If you don’t agree with the advice an editor or agent is giving you, find another one or put the book out yourself. If you are in no hurry and want the peace of mind of a contract and an agent to do all the heavy lifting for you, then go for it. Just always approach with caution, and always remember they’re asking you for the rights to your work. No matter what they may try to make it sound like they’re not the ones doing you a favour, you’re doing them one – if they don’t have books to sell they don’t make a dime. I’m sure you can extrapolate from there.

Good night all.

Making Kindle friendly files

I’ve been working on various options for publishing my books to Amazon.

For a print copy there’s Create Space which looks fairly straightforward and easy to use.  Charges to be distributed outside of Amazon, and gives a horrible royalty at that point (though sadly one not too far from the mark of what every royalty would be if I went traditional publishing.  I won’t say I’m self-publishing for the money, self pub has it’s own drawbacks, but I won’t say the big guys’ under 5% rates weren’t insulting enough to be a factor).

For electronic publishing it looks like I would need an ISBN for Apple iBooks.  Unfortunate as I’d like to be published there, but don’t have us$250 for ISBNs (us$125 singly or us$250 for 10.  I’ve got 4 books I’d like to publish.  And do plan to write more).  So looks like being there is a bit back burner – bummer since that’s my favourite eBook store.  Kobo, which I’d never heard of, and the Nook I can just upload an ePUB generated by Pages ’09 and they’re happy so I’ll be doing that.  Amazon, well, suffice to say Amazon’s a little different.

Amazon has its KDP program.  No big deal, right?  I can upload .doc, .pdf, .epub, or .html to it.  Yes, and it comes out kind of weird.  Okay, so it looks like they use their own thing:  .mobi.  What can make .mobi?  Amazon’s software, KindleGen – not impressive.  A program called Calibre – easy to use though not written with non-computer geeks in mind (luckily I can fake it) as all too much FOSS stuff is these days, and its .mobi output is awful:  Assuming Amazon will let you upload it (frequently gives an error message) you wind up with insane word wrap!  Finally there’s a plugin for Adobe InDesign CS4-6 which allows export to Kindle.  Like many Adobe products it is, just a moment while I consult a thesaurus – I need an antonym, ah looks like non-intuitive will have to do despite lacking poetry, but then again so is InDesign.

Because it was no easy task I’m going to give some simple steps for what to do.

First off, have a .doc or .docx file. And be prepared to make adjustments.

Fire up InDesign, tell it you’re making a Document.  Set it to Digital Publishing, then select Kindle from the appropriate drop down.

Okay, from here it’s easy, just stupid.  Click file, then PLACE.  Not import, gods no, of course not.  Why would it be Import!?  Place is the only sensible term for doing what we’re about to do!  Find your doc file.  PDF works too I imagine, but that was … different and I didn’t like it.

Where’s the document?!  Notice your cursor looks funny?  Click the blank page in front of you.  Don’t worry where, it doesn’t seem to make a lick of difference.

There!  Your document is ready!  Or is it?

It doesn’t import auto-indent settings correctly.  Why?  One word:  Adobe.

You could do all manner of things to fix this, but the easiest is this:

Pray you set separate styles for things that oughtn’t have been auto-indented.  If you didn’t, you just have to add/remove indents by hand.  Luckily there’s the ability to do it via selection tool.

Now for those of us with styles for everything, go to the top and click Type.  Go down to Paragraph Styles.

An ugly little box pops up with a list of all your Styles.  Hurray, now what?  Where’s the edit option?  It’s in a right click menu.  God knows why.

There.  Edit all the styles that should (or shouldn’t.  Two books in a row, one imported with, the other without.  Explain THAT one!) be auto indented and fix the indents.  This will fix it for all the text with that style, which if you remembered to set that when you made the document in the first place means you’re all set.

When finished, click file, click Export for Kindle, enjoy what SHOULD be a good mobi file.

There’re some quirks that can happen with the title page so you might have to adjust some here and there so don’t forget to preview your file.