So, in my last post, I talked about the self-publishing I’ve been doing. Doing this has taught me a few things in the last month. Publishing your own work, beyond the writing and editing stages, is work. It is better to go into it realizing you know nothing, and work from there. You make mistakes, but don’t take them to heart. It will all work out in the end. Be flexible.
I had chosen Smashwords.com as a primary distribution point for my work. They have set standards, which they nicely publish in a free e-book Smashwords Style Guide available through their website or through pretty much any e-reader’s store. These standards go against certain stylistic choices we, as typists, are taught. For instance, I was taught to double-space after a period. I do this by complete habit now, and haven’t been able to break it. I’ve done it entirely through my blog, all my manuscripts, and even thinking about it this very second, I am loath to stop doing it. It’s been something that has been dying out in recent years in style guides, but habits are tough to break just because someone says it isn’t necessary anymore. double space. 🙂
Also, with the advent of blogs, web publishing, web pages, the initial tab at the beginning of a paragraph has been dying out. I noticed this while setting up my first personal webpage in the mid 2000s. In e-books, particularly fiction, this can still be done, but it requires setting MS Word or your word processor of choice, to automatically indent after a paragraph return. However, again, I am ingrained with months of typing classes, and years of habitual practice, to tab in myself. I found with the Style Guide’s help, I can edit my natural tendencies with a little diligence and judicious use of Find and Replace. It would be easier to just write that way in the first place, but I haven’t had much luck with that so far.
Also, I learned that I can admire thousands of book covers in a day, but when it comes to creatively replicating such a thing, I am no graphic designer. Not remotely. Not only are my Paint.net skills rudimentary (and I’m too broke for Photoshop), but my conception of space, color, and design are staid and simplistic. I can create a rather tolerable cover in a reasonable amount of time, given a good stock photo and some playful fonts, but it will, in no way, look like a professional had a hand in it.
Publishing four pieces (I won’t call them books since even put together, they are nowhere near book length), has been entertaining and interesting and frustrating. I’m at the point where it can go relatively smoothly. And then I tried publishing one on Kindle Direct, just to see. Of course, the formatting and file types necessary are different, so that led to file folders on my desktop with each individual type of file, the Open Office program since my MS Word Starter won’t insert bookmarks, and shuffling files back and forth between programs to get all the proper formatting in place. Also, the jpg requirements for the cover were vastly different. Smashwords recommends pixel counts anywhere from 500×800 to 650×1000, but Amazon recommends anything from 1000 to 1600 pixels on the shortest side, with similar trade paperback ratios, Still, this was mostly busy work and I refer each time to the instructions so that I get everything right. Won’t do to be cocky and have to start over again!
I uploaded the files for each piece at least twice, and in some cases, three times, making small changes and checking to see how the translation to epub or mobi fared. Sometimes, no matter what I changed, I still couldn’t get silly things to stop happening. I learned to let go the perfectionism and work with what I could change. For instance, the coding on one file kept justifying a couple of words on both edges, leading to weirdly stretched out words. That justification setting wasn’t in my source file, and I changed a few things and it happened a second time. The third time, I changed how I set up the lines so that they’d be centered and that took care of the problem.
I’ve also learned a bit about stock photography and fonts and commercial use. Neither the Smashwords guide nor the Amazon publishing guide really talk about it, and I even had to email the stock photo site to clarify some points. I can use royalty free photos for my book cover, though it is nice to give credit to the site and photographer. I haven’t done so yet. It is not technically necessary, but it is generally done. I plan to incorporate credit for these into my files soon. I will probably make the change once I have a few more things listed and update the files with more links to other works anyway. I will also remember to do so on my title page for any future works. I count this as a mistake I made, simply because no one said outright to do so. Still, fixable and, with self publishing, just a bit of work and time to make the change.
Stock photos courtesy of Dgstudio and Tolokonov via Dreamstime.com. Also, font used was Demons and Darlings by Chad Savage, via Fontspace.com. I’ve linked to his own site here, mainly when I found the font on the other site, and realized it was Chad Savage, I was pretty excited. I’d been a fan of his work since 2006 and found the site zombiepinups.com through Christopher Moore’s book A Dirty Job.
As for Those Who Howl, I have stated before that I did the painting myself, took the photo of the painting myself, and I’m fairly sure the font is Ariel, so I’m not too worried about that credit. 🙂 Wow, looking all that up was a lot of work!
One of the nice things about self-publishing with e-books is how easy it is to fix something like that one ridiculous typo you’ve looked at a million times and never notice until someone points it out. You can just upload a new file. I was reading on a blog recently, and I don’t recall which one unfortunately, about how someone got the final printed copy of her book and the first sentence was just gone. Hadn’t been something she or her editor took out, it just somehow disappeared between the galley edits and the final copy. She handled it well, issuing bookmarks with the first line printed on them, but knowing you can’t really fix it in the thousands of printed copies is, for lack of a better word, sucky.
I think this is enough of a reconstituted lesson for one day!