Continuing Education: Self Publishing


I have to confess that initially self-publishing was not my preferred route.  Like most new authors, I hoped to land a contract with a major publishing house followed over time by a movie offer from Universal Studios or DreamWorks.  I quickly discovered, however, how brutally competitive the market is–competitive and congested.  Everyone has a story to tell; and who hasn’t dreamed of writing a book?  But. . .what a challenge to compete with Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Frank Peretti, Joan Collins, Joyce Carol Oates, or John Grisham, to name a few!  Only a superlative manuscript will escape the slush pile or attract any notice from seasoned editors who know the markets and what readers want.

I started attending writers’ conferences in 2004, making it a point to learn the industry in earnest.  Meeting other writers and viewing their work proved humbling.  My mind teemed with vivid non-stop cliffhanger images, but I failed to successfully transmit those images to the page where a reader could see them, too.  And so, notes and critique sheets in hand, I went home and back to the drawing board.  These new tidbits of information stayed with me, and seven years of ‘back to the drawing board’ finally produced a book that editors were willing to look at–although it still wasn’t ‘quite right’ for their lists.  Undaunted, I kept writing.

More and more, editors at conferences encouraged writers to explore new options, namely those online.  Around 2010 I heard presenters at the Idaho Writers’ Rendezvous talk about their experiences with Amazon. Overall, that option sounded feasible.  Each presenter acknowledged their success took a lot of work and dedication, which applies to any pursuit.  Most of them put in up to 60 hours per week.  A few formatted their own files; others hired professionals.  I noted during my own research that Amazon provides the needed information and tools–except for patience, a virtue woefully absent from my repertoire.  I also wasn’t crazy about doing my own marketing; but when another presenter pointed out that even major publishers require marketing effort from their authors I decided Amazon was worth a try.  Nevertheless, I mulled the matter for three more years before taking the plunge, during which time I proofread, edited, revised, and then proofread, edited, and revised again.  My cover designer, Earthly Charms, produced a BEAUTIFUL cover.  The Createspace team designed the book’s interior and also produced the Kindle file.  I was very pleased with the result and had them handle my second book as well.  They produced the files quickly and efficiently, and I considered the cost well worth not having to hassle with formatting and converting.

This past week, while writing a trivia question for Goodreads, I went back to one of my books to check out a detail and discovered an error I hadn’t caught before the file was finalized.  Only one letter, but it irked me.  I contacted both Kindle and Createspace to see if I could reload a corrected file.  The hard copy didn’t concern me much but, because more readers buy Kindles and because Kindle files are supposed to be much easier to change, I wanted that one, at least, corrected.  Blissfully ignorant of what lay ahead, I downloaded the MOBI file Kindle provided and immediately discovered I had no way to open, let alone modify it.  Several sites offer free conversion tools but, having never attempted such things, I felt reluctant at first to try them.  Finally I opened one and loaded the file, which the tool promptly rejected as being too large.  A review for another site warned that even after more than an hour the tool had produced no result.  Then I remembered I had the pdf from Createspace.  Elated, I changed that and went to the Kindle site to upload it.  An alert popped up warning that pdf’s do not convert well to the electronic format.  Ah, but it shows Word as an accepted format!  I converted the pdf to Word, but then found headers containing mixed upper and lower case combinations where none existed before.  I corrected those and then scrolled through, looking for anything else amiss and then uploaded the file to Kindle.

A while later I checked the preview window.  My heart nearly stopped.  My table of contents had vanished and there were large gaps, not only between paragraphs, but within paragraphs.  Some sentences had been chopped off in the middle, continuing again after several blank lines.  Some pages were entirely blank.  Dumbfounded, I rechecked my Word file.  It looked perfect.  No gaps.  No truncated sentences.  No blank pages.  Everything spaced and positioned correctly.  Still, the electronic file was a shambles.  Fortunately, I still had the original MOBI file and reloaded that.  I solved the formatting problem but still had the error.  Amazon support informed me that, because Createspace had originally formatted the file, I needed to discuss the matter with them.  Well, I reasoned, I can kill two birds with one stone and fix both the hard copy and the Kindle.  Changing one letter shouldn’t cost too much, right?

Well, it costs more than I want to spend.  I don’t know what is involved, but am pretty certain there is more to the procedure than Createspace simply opening a file and changing one letter.  Back when I first published the book I was still working; a company restructure last summer, however, ended my employment.  Regardless, I had already decided to try formatting my own files for the third novel, which I hope to release this spring–and while I’m at it, I might as well take another stab at correcting the first one.

At any rate, my publishing education continues.  Since my little adventure through Kindle I discovered how I could (and should!) have verified the file before uploading it.  Every new and unfamiliar venture requires taking time to read, study, and think things through.  There are no shortcuts, as I have discovered many times.  With much effort and dogged perseverance I will learn how to format electronic files.  I may even acquire some patience.  However. . .if you see a mushroom cloud boiling high into the skies above Montana. . .

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© Everthedreamer, 2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.



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