Thursday, 28 February 2013

Out There: eBooks

By JJ Marsh and Liza Perrat

We all made the decision to handle our own eBooks, and not to use a self-publishing service. Why? Between us, we have the expertise as editors, proofers, formatters and entrepreneurs, plus we’d rather stay in control. Not to mention the money-saving aspect. But many people would recommend using a self-publishing organisation.

Here’s what we did, step-by-step.

Make a new WORD document/file and include the following documents:

- Title page

- Copyright verso (we did two: one for Amazon, one for Smashwords, Nook and Kobo)

- The final, edited, proofed manuscript, all in one document

- Dedication

- Acknowledgements

- Contents

- If you enjoyed this book ... page

- Blurb for next in the series

- Blurb & cover for other Triskele releases

The only things at the front are the title and copyright, so readers browsing a sample can get to the story fast. Everything else goes at the back, unlike the order for a paperback.
(Note: all Triskele titles are fiction – with non-fiction books, it might make more sense to have the contents at the front.)


Thankfully, JD Smith is not only a cover design genius, but an extremely capable interior formatter. We sent her a zipfile with all the elements above and she did the rest for a very reasonable fee. Our advice: pay someone professional and forget the stress.

But it is possible to do this stage yourself, if you have the time and patience – have a look at Guido Henkel’s guide:

Now here’s where you need to make a choice. Do you want to sell exclusively via Amazon, or do you want your ebook available on readers such as Kobo, Nook, Sony, Apple and Diesel? If it’s the former, you only need format the book for Kindle.

If the latter, you’ll need to format the book for Smashwords (the easiest way to access all the platforms above). Download the free Style Guide and get to work:

Post-formatting checklist

- Transfer formatted Kindle version to your Kindle/iPad. How does it look?

- Is the ISBN number correct for each version?

- Are chapter indents OK?

- Ensure scene breaks have no chapter indent at beginning of new scenes.

- Italics are where they should be and nowhere else.

- Words don’t look “bunched up”, ie, correct spacing in between.

- Correct chapter chronology and chapter numbers appear in centre of page.

- Correct page number chronology.

- No breaks in narrative from page to page.

- eBook: “Contents” page links work + chronology in book matches “Contents”.

- Paperback: check ‘Drop Caps’ - bigger font for first letter of each chapter

- Are clickable links working properly?

All done? Right, you’re ready to start the upload process. For that you’ll need:

- Formatted interior

- Cover

- Blurb

Blurb is vital

Your blurb, along with your cover, is what will sell your book. Work at it. Study others in the genre. Get feedback. Hone it. Include Keywords (see Metadata section in Wish You Were Here chapter). Every single word counts. End on a punch. Make sure it’s perfect before you even think about uploading.

Advice from Pioneers

When it came to navigating the upload process, all of us at Triskele used the idiot-proof guide Let’s Get Digital, by David Gaughran. He advises on publisher name (we each created a Publisher Name which was different to that of the author), Pricing, DRM (we chose not to enable – see Snapshot 10), Categories and Keywords, and International Rights. Amazon will assign you an ASIN, which you can use alongside or instead of an ISBN.

Now, open your Amazon KDP account and add your book.

If you’re sticking with Amazon only, you might want to enrol in KDP Select. You can do this for three months at a time, with the option to re-enrol automatically. This scheme gives you a variety of advantages such as five days when you can offer your book free and a lending library for enhanced revenue.

If you want the book available to a wider range of ereaders than Kindle, consider Smashwords. The Style Guide above will help you get the formatting right, and opening an account is easy. Once approved, your book is available to all other ereading devices.

At Triskele, we chose to upload our books directly to Amazon, Smashwords and Kobo. Although Smashwords distributes directly to Kobo, it’s an easy and speedy process to join Kobo Writing Life. We are also curious about the Japanese company Rakuten’s takeover of the Canadian company and the mission to promote Kobo in Asia.

eBooks are updateable

If the odd typo comes to light, a research fact changes or you want to shuffle the contents, it’s simple to update the content on all the platforms above, and the new, improved version will be available the next day.

eBooks can also be iterative, which opens all sorts of intriguing possibilities: