The History of “How It Ends”: Part 6 – The Mechanics of Self-Publishing

HIE_Serial_Omnibus_CoverIn Part 1 of the History of How It Ends, I talked about where the idea for the novel came from.

In Part 2 of the History of How It Ends, I talked about what drove the writing forward and the genesis of some of the character names.

In Part 3 of the History of How It Ends, I talked about the onerous task of editing the beast.

In Part 4 of the History of How It Ends, I talked about how I procrastinated about which direction I should go in trying to get the novel published.

In Part 5 of the History of How It Ends, I talked about how I finally got over my fear and procrastination and made the decision to self-publish.

This post is all about the mechanics of publishing a book on Amazon. It probably won’t be that interesting, but it’s all part and parcel of the process.

Formatting the File

Once the file was done, I had to prep it for being in a Kindle-readable format. There are several different ways you can do this. I choose the lazy way: I saved a copy of the file as an HTML file and used that. But it was only part laziness. Some of it frustration with with my computer.

CaptureThere is a program out there that converts files to Kindle-ready formats such as MOBI. It’s called Calibre. All you need to do is to take your Word document and save it as an HTML file. Then you add it to your e-book collection in Calibre. Once it’s in Calibre, you can select the file you added and convert it. You have a lot of options to choose from. Kindle, Sony ereader, etc. I had used it to convert the HTML file for The Girl In The Red Hoodie.

Why didn’t I use Calibre for Part One of How It Ends? That’s where the frustration kicked in. I didn’t use it because it stopped working. I tried to convert the HTML file to a MOBI file and Calibre coughed. I don’t think this was due to the program being a bad program, I think it had everything to do with the fact that my laptop is a piece of dog-poo that runs erratically and often shuts down in the middle of whatever I’m doing. So for the serialized pieces, I used the straight HTML file. (I’ve since installed the newer version of Calibre and it’s back in action again.)

Why didn’t I just take the time to reinstall Calibre when I first ran into the problem? Momentum. I did all of the publishing work at night after the kids went to bed. Took me a couple of hours to get it all set. If I had stopped or slowed down, all the momentum I had from making the final decision to self-publish would have been lost, and I would have walked away.

Using the straight HTML file worked just as well, but with the html file, you can’t really embed your own set of tags in the file. When you convert it from HTML to MOBI using Calibre, you have the option to give it an unlimited number of tags. This is one of the recommendations Abby got from the course she took on self-publishing. Use the tags as often as you can. Because they help drive people to your book, even if you can’t see the tags in the final product. That, and the fact that when you’re giving your book official tags during the publishing process, Amazon limits you to seven.

The Cover

Outside of the editing, putting together the cover might have been the biggest challenge. It takes so much thought given that it is the face of your book. If it looks like crap, no one will be interested, and therefor no one will buy it. Moreover, if it looks like crap, you look like crap, like you shortcut the process.

I spent a lot of time looking at science fiction covers, and book covers in general. I wanted to get a feel for how covers had been treated in the past and try to get mine at least in the ballpark of how they look. The big challenge with covers is that anything you pick up I a store has a cover done by a professional cover or graphic designer, someone who knows the tools of the trade and (in theory) the reasons why covers work or don’t work. People go to school for this stuff.

51dxvm+yc2LGiven that I did not go to design school, I had to make it up as I went. I also spent time looking at the covers of books I know were self-published. Some of them are terrible. You can tell that the author was doing it on their own. Some were really good. One set of covers that struck me as solid were the covers for the Blood and Absinthe series my friend Abby writes as Chloe Hart. It’s a pretty solid set of covers with just a single image on a plain gray background and the author and title in a font you can read. That’s what I wanted mine to look like. Except, you know, not vampires.

I bought the images I used for the covers from one of two sites, iStockphoto and Shutterstock. Depending on what was happening in that particular part of the serial I was about to publish, a photo from one or the other of these two sites usually fit the bill.

The next was to find a font that worked. This also proved to be a huge challenge. You can go to free font sites like dafont and browse literally hundreds of individual fonts. The real trick is whether they work for the cover. Even if it looks cool on the site, and even if you test it out on the site (there’s usually a text field where you can type in test text to see what it will look like rendered in that font), you just never know how it will look when you have it splashed across the cover of your book. I went through at least ten different font s before settling on one. And I do mean settling. None of them, as I was publishing the serial, really did the trick for me.

I should mention here that, during the publishing process, Amazon offers a free “Cover Creator.” This is a wep app that let’s you choose from a couple of preset templates. I looked at all if them and found they just didn’t got the tone.

Once I had the image and the font, I had to put them together. I used an old copy of PhotoShop to put them together. I know just enough PhotoShop to be dangerous, and with the first pass of the covers, I think it probably shows.

For the final omnibus edition, I took an idea I’d had for years and put it together. The idea was to have a close up of a robot’s face and a girl reflected in his eye. It was in the final minus edition that the cover came together the way I wanted it to. It looks like it was (might have been) designed by a professional. I’m finally pleased with one of them.

The Upload

Once I had the format done and the cover ready, it was time to upload.

The process for publishing your book on Amazon is actually a pretty straightforward process. Yes, you may hit a snag when you try to price something at $0.25, or when you have your heart set on eight tags and you realize you only get seven. But outside of that, it’s pretty easy.

There are two sections. The first is where you enter all of the attribute information about your book and upload the book file and cover image. The second is the pricing page. That’s it. Set it all up and press Publish. Then spend the next day checking Amazon every fifteen minutes to see if the book is available yet (it can take up to 24 hours for your book to appear.). That’s all there is to it.

Tomorrow: The final post in this series. What’s next after publication.


3 thoughts on “The History of “How It Ends”: Part 6 – The Mechanics of Self-Publishing”

    1. Thanks for reading, Dick!

      The final post goes up later tonight. That will bring this retrospective to a close.

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