An “Easy” Way to Publish

choose-easyThere is a gracious panoply of information in cyberspace about publishing in all its varieties–traditional, independent, blogging, etc. I had decided I wasn’t going to add my voice to the cacophony, but here I stand ready to give my two cents.

In the interest of full disclosure, here is a short list of my bona fides:

  • I am an experienced fan fiction writer, aka Butterflypages. I say that lovingly and proudly since some in the writing community shun fan fiction after they are published. I acknowledge the significant role my fan fiction reviewers played in my decision to write a novel–akin to having a cult following (and future customers). Writing for this site simply made me a better writer. My word counts increased. I learned how to stage a scene–how to write dialogue. Fan fiction became my sandbox where I played. It also became addicting and sometimes I wrote compulsively if that makes any sense. I add one caveat. Given the nature of instant reviews, you get trained (in a Pavlovian sense) to expect immediate gratification. On the contrary, when you are writing a novel for publication, there are no champions until you publish–unless you have an active writer’s group. I did not have this. It was difficult to quiet the pleas of my fans to, “UPDATE PLEASE!” when I was in the thick of writing my novel. At times, I preferred updating to working on a chapter in my novel because upon posting I would receive the engagement and adulation I was salivating for hence the pavlovian response.
  • I have self-published my first novel, Rapture. I will never tire of noising this abroad! Yay!

I chose not to take the traditional route for several reasons. My angelically fabulous husband sponsors my writing. In other words, he is working and I am not–I write full time. However, there is a time limit on this arrangement because ends have to meet! Because of the time limit (unless my book(s) blow up), I did not have time to send out query letters for agents. There was no time to mail manuscripts to publishers (blah!) and wait an undetermined time for rejection letters. Honestly, I knew my story would be a hard sell–about two married African American women falling in love with each other–for those not interested in diverse voices and stories (I have more to say about that in another post).

Because of these reasons, I chose self-publishing through Amazon with CreateSpace. This company provided a one stop shop online interface that walked me through the entire publishing process. (Now that I’m finished, I must laud their customer service even now!) Once I had a final draft, I uploaded my file, and went through a series of steps to prepare it for final review. Shortly thereafter, I received an online proof to edit along with an (ordered for a small fee) actual physical book proof with my created cover. I repeated this last process as many times as I needed until I was ready to publish. I had the option of choosing from a number of canned covers upon which I uploaded an image. There was also the option to upload my own custom cover.

I wanted to publish an ebook as well. CreateSpace automatically sent my book file to Kindle Direct Publishing for the ebook migration. This was where the learning curve deepened. If you go this route, please prepare your file for ebook publishing. Do not send your formatted for printing book file. I won’t go into detail, but ereaders don’t like all the “junk” hidden in word processing documents. Word processing functions best for printed static documents. Ebooks should have flow and the ability to be read across many platforms.

Now hear the screech of the needle off the record…

I must explain why I qualified easy with quotation marks. The process is manageable, but there is a small learning curve especially when it comes to managing Microsoft Word and preparing your Word document for ebook publishing. Amazon provides a free ebook that outlines the process of formatting your document to publish as an ebook. However I didn’t read that. Instead I planned to prepare the document myself using advice from Guido Henkel and David Gaughran. I needed to learn the basics of html coding, purchase text editing software, and become adept at using the Calibre ebook management software. I will admit that after finally finishing my novel, I wasn’t up for learning these things.  I had to be honest with myself. That taking stock led me to the Smashwords style guide. I followed its guidelines and prepared my Word Document for Kindle publishing. It was easier, but still very tedious as you get up close and personal with the idiosyncrasies of Microsoft Word. Perhaps in the future, I will follow my initial plan.

I didn’t publish on Smashwords because there was some inexplicable issue with my cover even though it met all the specifications. I couldn’t find a support button so I (sheepishly) tweeted the founder and left a comment on the support blog. By the time I received a response–hours later–I had chosen to publish my ebook exclusively on Amazon. I do not seek to malign Smashwords. I think it is a viable ebook publishing service.  I benefitted from the style guide. When I begin my next book, I will be sure to set up my formatting first for the print version file and the ebook file in two separate documents.

CreateSpace offered professional services (editing, cover design, marketing, et al) for fees, all of which were out of my budget. I was thankful that they provided the print on demand option that was “free.” When I got stuck on any part of the process, I could call in for help or search their vast database with access to an online community of authors. Publishing with CreateSpace was “easy” and essentially free. You have to be patient, good at following directions, and adept at problem solving.

Well, there are my two cents. Please feel free to drop me a line if you have a question. I could devote many posts to every stage of the process. I wish you words!

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