Princess Adventures

It’s always an adventure in the land where Princess Alethea reigns. This week, The Fairy Godboyfriend and I are dogsitting (and so far haven’t slept through the night, as Ginger and Lucky get used to tenants coming and going from the apartment complex at all hours).

Last week, I had an adventure in self-publishing.

As I’d mentioned earlier, dear friend and fellow author J.T. Ellison took me to task and asked me why the heck I hadn’t gotten any of my substantial backlist of stories out in digital formats. It was certainly something I had considered, and looked into working on in my spare time, maybe on the weekends, between writing and editing and everything else I’m trying to juggle. The number of balls I had in the air was starting to stress me out…at which point FGB sat me down and helped me take stock of my priorities. He reiterated J.T’s points, essentially telling me I was “sitting on a gold mine” by letting all those stories lie dormant. So, I took all of last week, set myself a rigorous schedule, and taught myself how to digitally publish my own stories.

As many of you have asked, here are some tips from my adventures I’d thought I’d share with the world.

After realizing Kindle and Nook uploads needed to be in a certain format, FGB and I discovered that Smashwords was probably the way to go, as it ultimately outputs the story in pretty much every format imaginable. Of course, in order to get started on Smashwords, I had to sit down and go through the 73-page manual on how to format my document in Word.

Tips in a nutshell: Switch view to “Outline” so you can see all your tabs and paragraph breaks and spaces. Set all your formatting to “Normal”, and modify the style to be single-spaced, with a first-line indent of about 0.3″. Remove any and all tabs you have used. Take out all page breaks and never use more than one extra carriage return to separate pages or POV shifts. Just use *–*–* or similar to indicate a page break in your text. (Remember, digital users can change the look of their document to whatever they want–you need to hamper that user experience as little as possible.) Learn how to use bookmarks and hyperlink your Table of Contents to the Chapter Headings. Include Copyright information, and an “About the Author” section at the end.

Learning all of that took me about two solid hours, during which FGB asked me to please think quieter because he was trying to take a nap. Of course, once I learned all THAT, then I had to remember how to use Photoshop and come up with some covers.

I use a lot of my own artwork and photography, but I’m not afraid of snagging the occasional public domain photo here and there, so once I got a decent template for my stories I stuck with it. A reader is going to spend about two seconds looking at the title page–I just want to make sure they can clearly read the title and my name. I wanted the photo i used to reflect the story’s subject matter as best as I could.

Remember, too, that a lot of digital readers are still only in Black and White. Don’t go all color crazy, unless you’re putting one cover in the actual ePub edition and one cover on Amazon and B&N…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I formatted everything in Word and got covers done for a few stories. I decided upon this strategy: Do one anthology of five stories for $2.99. Then sell a bunch of other stories for $0.99 apiece — and with the single stories, you get a bonus essay on the origin of the idea for the story. Like a DVD bonus, if you will, for those superfans out there (because I know you’re out there). So I’m all ready to go…

…and I still don’t have access to my Smashwords author page.

See, when you’re an author and you have a publisher who sets up a book of yours on Smashwords, they create this kind of dummy page that works as your author page. Once you decide to sign up as an author, you have to petition to have them relinquish control over this phantom page to you. I asked, got permission from the publisher, and never heard back from Smashwords. Great.

But Murphy’s always on my side — while I’m in the middle of all this, Steven Saus (you remember my recent chat with him about digital publishing) advised me to steer clear of Smashwords. He didn’t like some things about the way they ran, or the software they used to churn out all those versions of your book. He said that if I had the ability, I should just try to create the ePub and upload it to Amazon and B&N on my own.

FGB already had this program on his computer called Calibre, a free e-book management program you can download for free. All I had to do was save my document as an html, add it to the library, and convert it into an ePub. Done and done, in about two minutes. After that, it was only a matter of uploading to both Nook and Kindle digital platforms, which they’ve really made quite simple.

Some more tips about Amazon & B&N uploading — if your cover is white (which does look nice on screens), Amazon will not place a border around it (B&N does) to distinuish your book form the background. Obviously it’s a book…but it looks kind of funky. Just go ahead and put a small border around it — it’s easy to do and isn’t THAT distracting from the cover’s aesthetics. Also, you will be asked to write a description of the book/story you are uploading. You need to sell this story in an elevator pitch. One or two lines only, if you can. If you have any extra content, put this in too! How else will the buyers know? I forgot this, and had to add it later. B&N approves their files a lot faster than Amazon, but both are very forgiving if you have to change a description, upload different cover art, or re-upload your entire e-book because you forgot to upload the right format the first time around. (Look, I was tired, okay?)

Amazon is nice and sends you an email with everything you’ve uploaded, and the direct links you can use to access them.

Here are the separate links to all the stories I have on Amazon:
The Unicorn Tree |
The Witch of Black Mountain |
Small Magics and Other Stories |
The Monster and Mrs. Blake |
A Poor Man’s Roses |
Small Magics |
The God of Last Moments |
Blue and Gray & Black and Green |
The Way of the Restless |

Don’t forget — if you’re part of the Amazon Associates program, stick your reference number at the end of those links so you can also get the kickback if people order them directly from your website. (I’ll leave the links visible here so you can see what ‘m talking about.)

B&N doesn’t send you a snazzy email, but if you go to the site and search by author, it gives you the option of looking at only the NOOK Books for that author. Mine are here. I’m also (slowly) getting all of those links live on my bibliography site as they each go live.

And I still don’t have access to Smashwords.

If you have a buck and a Nook or a Kindle, please click on a story that interests you and check me out. I’d love to hear what you think about both the stories and the essays I’ve written to go along with them.

I have one or two more stories I can upload once I’ve written essays for them — I have to say, after eight of them I did start to get burnt out…but it’s just so much FUN talking abut how I get ideas for things and when I was when I wrote something…because I can always remember. Stories are like little time capsules for me. I can tell you that I have another anthology planned for this October called PRINCESS ALETHEA’S SCARY TALES, for your Halloween enjoyment. I also have something super-super special planned for Christmas…but I don’t want to give that away quite yet. I’m still working on the artwork. Slowly. In my spare time. On the weekends.

Just don’t tell FGB.