Getting to Grips with E-Publishing

Last week I went to an E-Publishing seminar with the lovely ladies (and one gentleman) from the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. It was run by one of our members who has been successfully publishing her erotica in e-book form for the last 12 months (unfortunately we didn’t have time in the seminar for her promised session on erotica – so that treat is still to come!).

I came away with my head buzzing with jargon such as .mobi, .epub, Smashwords, US Tax Identification Numbers and lots more. I was tempted to throw up my hands and pay a professional to format, design a cover and distribute the modest project that I have in mind. But I’ve decided to have a go myself for three reasons –

  • I doubt that I’ll earn enough from the book to recoup the costs of a professional
  • E-publishing is definitely the future and therefore as a writer I ought to get to grips with it
  • I’m a computer programmer by day, so if other people can master e-publishing – why can’t I?

So the other day I started. The first thing I did was download the Smashwords Style Guide to my Kindle. This is the e-publishing ‘bible’ and, as well as giving lots of background information, it describes how to format a Word document so that it is acceptable to Smashwords. This is supposed to mean that the format will be acceptable for Amazon Kindle too.

Although Amazon still has the largest share of the e-book market, it’s important to make your work available on Smashwords as well. Smashwords sell e-books directly to the public and they also distribute to many of the other e-book retailers such as Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple.

I found the Smashwords Style Guide very useful. It shows how to get first line paragraph indentation correct (get rid of those naughty tabs and spaces if you’ve used them), how to ensure that the whole document is the same style and how to do a linked table of contents . One thing slowed me down – the Guide gives instructions for different Word editions up to 2007 but doesn’t mention 2010, which I am using, so sometimes I had to play around for a bit until I found what I was looking for.

Now I have my document formatted (I think – I won’t know it’s right until I try to upload it), so it’s time to do the cover. I’m feeling nervous about this. The Guide recommends hiring a professional cover designer (and will even send you a list of low-cost cover designers) because first impressions of a book are important. But our wonderful seminar leader does it herself and gave us lots of tips.

So that’s my next step …

By the way, if anyone’s got any e-publishing tips, I’d be most grateful!

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  1. #1 by Wendy Clarke on January 12, 2013 - 11:13 am

    That sounds a fascinating seminar, Sally. One day in the future I may go down that route.

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on January 12, 2013 - 4:53 pm

      I don’t think it’s going to be simple, Wendy but it’s something I want to get grips with to avoid being left behind in the technological rush!

  2. #3 by susanjanejones on January 12, 2013 - 3:44 pm

    Great post Saly and I’m going to read it and learn from it when I’ve got more time to take it in. Thanks for all this great info.

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on January 12, 2013 - 4:53 pm

      Hope it turns out to be useful, Susan. That Smashwords style guide really is the key to formatting.

  3. #5 by Linda on January 13, 2013 - 12:51 pm

    Good luck!
    As a reader, I think I’m always going to want to have ‘real’ books, but as a writer I know I’m probably going to have to dip my toe in the vast ocean of ebooks sooner rather than later. I’m guessing it’s one of those subjects that’s best learnt by actually doing it.

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on January 13, 2013 - 1:02 pm

      Thanks, Linda. Yes, I think you’ve got to do it to really understand it – and I’m just dipping my toe at the moment!

  4. #7 by Tracy Fells on January 13, 2013 - 2:21 pm

    Really appreciate this post Sally as I plan to put together an ebook of short stories later this year.
    And congrats on the People’s Friend story. I really liked your story and the mention of Simon Bates’ Are Tune slot brought back many youthful memories! I can still hear the theme tune in my head…

    • #8 by Sally Jenkins on January 13, 2013 - 7:31 pm

      I think we must be women of a certain age, Tracy! I had fun drawing on my own memories for that story. Good Luck with your e-book, I think mine will be a slow plod to publication as there’s lots to learn.

  5. #9 by Debbie W on January 13, 2013 - 9:48 pm

    Hi Sally, I’ve followed your suggestion to firstly download the Smashwords guide and thank you for that. I’ve had an idea brewing for some time now to epublish so perhaps I may actually get round to doing it or at least get a bit further along the line to doing so.

    One tip I would suggest is ensure your book is professionally proofread. Not that I am suggesting for a minute you in particular make mistakes, Sally, we all make them. I would think it is necessary we all do what we can to ensure as far as possible our ebooks are produced to the highest quality.

    Thanks again for reminding me of something I need to add to my to do list for 2013.

    Happy New Year.

    Debbie W

    • #10 by Sally Jenkins on January 14, 2013 - 1:12 pm

      I take on board what you are saying about proof-reading, Debbie. I also want to publish something where I know the writing has ‘merit’ – therefore I’m planning on using short stories that have won or been short-listed in comps. At least then, I know they are not complete rubbish!

  6. #11 by Vikki (The View Outside) on January 14, 2013 - 9:34 am

    Good luck Sally 🙂

    Looking forward to hearing about your progress.


  7. #13 by Patsy on January 14, 2013 - 2:16 pm

    I had to resort to marrying a photographer to get my covers done for me. I’ve paid for proof reading though.

    • #14 by Sally Jenkins on January 14, 2013 - 8:29 pm

      Patsy, I think getting divorced & finding a new husband might be a bit of an extreme way of getting my book cover done for free! The business about proof-reading is a valid point though – thanks.

  8. #15 by paulchiswick on January 16, 2013 - 2:51 pm

    Hi Sally.
    Just call me if you need any help . . .
    All the best

    • #16 by Sally Jenkins on January 16, 2013 - 8:20 pm

      That’s a really kind offer, Paul – thanks. By the way I removed your phone number from the comment – you never know who might be reading!

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