Google and I became even closer pals over the next weeks. Once again I searched the depths of its archives, reading up on how to create a print copy. And once again, I cut through all the guff, the filler, the extra wordage that filled out the articles and stripped them down to a bullet point set of instructions that I would understand. I formatted ‘Low Life’ for print and sourced a pre-made cover for cost efficiency. The site I got this from provided an e-book cover only. I needed a print cover too. Fortunately I had come across instructions on how to do this when I was searching for how to format a print copy. I created a print cover with the same artwork, and released it on CreateSpace as a short story in its own right. Now I was prepared for the new anthology.
My contribution towards the new anthology was ‘Darkness in Shadows’. The story was edited through the group which applied a polish and made it shine. I referred back to my bullet point instructions and sharpened my skills by formatting the short story for e-book and Print. With the formatting complete, I sourced a pre-made cover and released it as a stand alone short story just as I had with ‘Low Life’. Once again, everything worked.
I had started to think that releasing short stories and purchasing covers for each, is not a cost effective idea. I could write a heap of short stories and put them into my own anthology with 1 cover. But when I thought about it more, I came up with a marketing plan. I don’t know if it is a good plan or not, I’m still in the process of trying it. I decided I would release each short as a stand alone, I would not market them until I had enough to complete a boxed set (I’m still working on this too). Each time I release one, I do a cover reveal. I will do a quick post about the release and I will try to get my name out there on numerous books. Then I turned my attentions back to the anthology – ‘Darkest Depths’.
While formatting ‘Darkest Depths’, I found out that there are some differences between the formatting of a short story and an anthology, but the fundamentals are the same. I adapted, made a few small changes and completed the formatting. The book was then released through Vision Writers’.
With my projects behind me, I turned back to my Novel ‘Blood Rage’. I was now ready to publish and I wanted to do it right. After my anthology experience, I decided to get an editor. Fortunately, I had one of the editors in the writers’ group lined up and negotiated a deal. I circulated ‘Blood Rage’ for beta reading and the feedback that came back suggested there was enough content for 3 books. By now it had been years since I first started my book. At some point you have to move it on or you will be working on it forever. But I took the feedback on board and split the story into 3. However, to minimize the prospect of waiting another year or two turning the book into 3 novels, I split it into a short story, a novella and a novel and sent them to my editor.
When ‘Blood and Fear’, ‘The Crimson Guild’ and ‘Blood Rage’ came back from my editor, there was a heap of editing for me to do. But it was worth it. I got stuck in and after about a month of going through the edits, I had a polished story. Honestly, if you decide to self-publish, at a bare minimum, spend the money getting your work edited, it makes a huge difference. With the editing done, I had to source covers. I had been looking for months, since before I had sent the work for the editing process and I had come up empty handed. I had a budget I was trying to stick to, and it wasn’t cutting the mustard. So I pushed my budget upwards, searched even more sites for pre-mades, and found an artist that had just what I wanted. And not only would I get an ebook cover, but I would also get a print cover and 3D renders for each book. One problem with 3D renders, is that they can be deceptive. Take a look at mine for the ‘Blood Rage’ series above. It looks like all 3 books are novels roughly the same size, but they are not. ‘Blood and Fear’ is a short story less than 30 pages long, but the render uses a template that makes it appear like it is more. You can get different sized templates, but this is the one that came with my purchased covers – this one looks great, but it does not accurately represent my book. This shouldn’t be a problem for most readers as the description on Amazon tells them what they are getting, but I try to make it clear when I have a short story to avoid confusion.
I claimed the covers with a deposit and went to work formatting for print. I chose to format the print copies first because the cover artist needs to know how many pages in a book in order to create the correct spine width. The page number in the original document will rarely correlate to the page number in your formatted book. This is because it depends on the size of book you produce and what font type/size you choose, etc… After I knocked up the print copies, I completed my electronic copies and have now published ‘The Crimson Guild’ in ebook. I have ordered a proof copy of the print version to ensure the formatting and cover print colours are okay, before I give the go ahead to release.
So, lets take a look at the tools I used along the way and how I use them. The tools are:-
Y-Writer (Free Software)
MS Word (Purchased Software)
JEdit (Free Software)
Scribus (Free Software)
MS Paint (Was installed on my laptop when I purchased it)
Gimp (Free Software)
Calibre (Free Software)
Excel (Purchased Software)
I did not want to spend a lot of money initially, so I tried to keep everything as cheap as possible. I started off by purchasing the student version of Microsoft Office which came with Word and Excel. I soon found that Word was not really designed for writing books. Through extensive searching with my old mate Google, I found free programs that would do what I wanted, and I switched to Y-Writer, a free writing tool specifically built for writing books. For those of you that have heard the hype about Scrivener, Y-Writer is basically a no frills version of Scrivener, and having compared the 2, I personally prefer Y-Writer.
My method is to write in Y-Writer, where I can create chapters and scenes, character profiles and notes, move them around, etc… and then when I have finished, I save the document as an RTF file and open it in word. This is where I begin my formatting. I use words find and replace feature to ensure all my quotation marks, en dashes, em dashes, etc… are standardised. After completing as much of the formatting in word as I can, I copy and paste into JEdit and save as a HTML file. This is a program editor that I use to format for e-books and it is too detailed a process to go into in this blog post. It is important to note that how I create my books, is not the only way to do it. There are many ways to format an e-book, and with software these days, there may be easier and quicker ways to format a book that may be just as effective, or even better. I am no expert on the matter. It is up to you to find what works best for you.
When I have done my thing in JEdit, I need a cover before I can publish. I have created my own covers in using Paint and Gimp, and I have purchased e-book pre-mades (The front cover only) and created a wrap around print cover using Paint and Gimp. As mentioned above, I have also purchased a full set of e-covers, wrap around print, and 3D renders. Once I have my cover sorted it’s time to go to Calibre. In Calibre I ‘add book’ and load up my HTML file. Then I go and update the metadata, ensuring I add as much detail as I can, including the book cover, title, author name, star rating, ID’s tags, description, etc… and move on to convert book. Here I select the output file type, ie. EPUB or Mobi (I do not use AMW3 for Kindle because from what I have read, older readers do not work reliably with this file type). I complete a few other details and Bobs your uncle… I have an ebook file ready to load up to Amazon via my Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account. I also load my up to Draft to Digital for a wider level of distribution. When I started out, I found this post on e-book formatting very useful. When you get to the bottom of the post there are links to the subsequent posts that complete the series on this topic.
Next a create the Print version. The Print file is a little more complex initially, because you need to set up the parameters for your book and ensure you follow the guidelines of publisher. The main publishers are CreateSpace and Ingram Spark, but KDP have recently provided a service to create print books too. I use Scribus to create my Print file. I set the size to 5″x8″ as this is my preferred book size and is one of the more common ones used. I will set it to double page and set up a series of master pages. Generally I will use 5. A right and left normal, right and left with header and footer and a right chapter start page. I add page numbers where required. Then I will generally add twice as many pages as my word document and set up my text styles, one for ‘Italic’ font, ‘Bold’ font, an ‘Indent’, a ‘Title’ style with a larger font, etc… I copy and paste my formatted word file into Scribus and then use the edit text option to format the print copy using the freshly created styles.
When the formatting is complete I convert the file to a PDF. I now know how many pages my book is and I pass this info onto my cover designer so they can get the spine width right, or I will create a wrap around cover myself in Scribus and convert it to a PDF when done (this is a bit tricky, but with a little patience it can be done). All that’s left now is to load it up into my CreateSpace account (or whichever service I choose to publish through).
The last piece of my puzzle is Excel – I use this to record my book details. The title, the edition, the formatting I have used (ie book size, etc…), where it is published, the ISBN/ASIN, price, tag line, description, call to action, author bio, any cover restrictions on use, etc… and any other details I need to capture for whatever purpose. I also use it to keep a record of my expenses and any income I generate for tax time.
And that is how I self-published my books.