Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The highs and lows of publishing

Destined has been officially released now for almost a week. It’s exciting. And scary. And just about everything in between. But overall, it’s a good feeling to finally have it out there, and have people interested in it. Granted, for now most of those people are friends and family, but everyone has to start somewhere, right?

First bit of news: I have a giveaway!  This one is on GoodReads, but I may consider doing one on my site/blog later on for those who aren’t members of GR. I can’t get their widget to show right due to my site formatting, so here’s the link:

It’s exciting to see the number of people requesting go up every day. And some of those people also add my book to their to-read list, which is even better. It means they were interested enough in it that, if they don’t win, they’re more likely to buy a copy. Pretty good publicity for something that is only going to cost me two books and postage! I also have a paid ad on the site, one of those pay-per-click ones. So far it’s only been clicked once, but it only started yesterday.

As for the lows, thankfully, there haven’t been many yet *knock on wood* That first night of sleeplessness once I’d announced the book publicly and was freaking out over it wasn’t fun, but I imagine it’s something every writer goes through. And it only lasted the one night, which was a relief. I also need to stop myself from compulsively checking sales stats every few hours. That is going to get annoying. I have a mildly obsessive personality, so that’s not helping matters. Again, probably something most new writers do, especially self-published ones. I’m sure I’m not alone in my neuroses.

Another bad thing: despite my numerous (and I do mean numerous) editing and proofing passes, I missed a typo. It’s on the first page of Chapter 8, some rogue T that ended up before the word relieved (so it says “trelieved”). That’s one downside to using InDesign for laying out the book: spell check isn’t automatic. You have to tell it when to run, and since I have each chapter as its own file, I would have had to run it on each file (there are over 20). I started to do that, but around Chapter 5 or 6, got tired of it finding nothing but words that weren’t actually wrong (names, places, foreign words, etc.), and gave up. I see now I should have stuck with it. My original draft was written in Works, which does check spelling as you go, but I think that was a part I changed after I’d started putting the book together, which is why it slipped past me. Ah well. I’m only human, right? And big-picture, it appears to be the only typo I missed, and is only in the paperback (ebooks are fine), so that’s good. Major publishers have typos, too, and usually more than just one. Still, lesson learned: definitely have another person read your book before you publish. It’s advice I read more times than I can count, but I ignored it because I know I’m a good proofreader, and thought that as long as I read it through multiple times, I’d find everything. Live and learn.

Yet another bad thing: I discovered last night that someone has taken one of my blog posts and copy/pasted it into their own blog. No link back to me, though my name is in the subject line. I think that’s because the RSS feed for my blog tacks the title of the blog at the start of every subject. Anyway, it’s annoying, but I’m working on dealing with it. It’s clearly a blog set up just to copy other blog posts that reference Kindle (it’s called Kindle Info 101) and other ereader-related news. What ticked me off is that they’ve made it nearly impossible to contact the blog owner. The contact form doesn’t work: you get a “failed to send” message when you try to submit. And while each post has a link to log in and leave a comment, the blog doesn’t have user registration enabled, so you really can’t leave a comment. In the end I had to do a WHOIS search on the domain name to get the email address for the site owner. Naturally, whoever’s behind the site doesn’t want to be found, so they used an identity protection service to register the domain. I sent an email anyway, asking that they remove my post, and if I don’t hear back (I don’t suspect I will), I’ll contact the identity protection site’s admin. They have a contact email to file copyright infringement claims. I hope I don’t have to take it that far, though. I’m not entirely sure it counts as infringement, since my name technically is on the post (in the title). It’s not explicitly credited to me, and the post doesn’t link to my original blog post, but that may only count as being rude, not illegal. I guess we’ll see what happens. It’s only one post, so it’s not that big a deal. It just irks me. I’ve been plagiarized in the past (someone took things I wrote online and posted them on another site as though they were the author), so I’m extra sensitive to it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Well, there goes my productivity

I’m a nerd. Always have been, most likely always will be. I was pretty much the American version of Hermione Granger in school, as my friends can probably attest. Though I was also shy, so I don’t think I was as bad as her when it came to raising my hand. I don’t remember being the obnoxious “Ooh! Oooh! Pick me!” type; I just liked when I did well on tests and knew answers the other students didn’t. Man, that sounds snobbish, doesn’t it? Maybe I really WAS Hermione. Anyway, that’s me: nerd, geek, dork, they all apply. I’m competitive when playing games, because I love to win, though I do try to be a good loser when I don’t. (Which happens just about as often as winning does, whether I like to admit it or not. Especially when I’m playing against my father.) I love trivia of all kinds. And I LOVE puzzles.

So when I saw this online today, I got far too excited: The Great Global Treasure Hunt. This is totally my kind of game! They put a sample puzzle in the Telegraph today, so people could get a feel for how the game will work.  Here's a link for that. I have a feeling it’s an easy version of what will be in the book, because I knew the answer as soon as I read the text. I thought for sure it was too obvious, but the clues in the picture only confirmed it, so I guess I was right. (I love it when I’m right!) I’m not entering the contest, though, since I don’t live in the UK, and it seems kind of silly to try to win a trip that most likely will leave from London. But I do plan on getting the book (or the ebook, if it’s released soon after the book), and playing the big game. €50,000 is a pretty nice prize, especially since that comes to about $72,000. I think this is the first time I’ve actually been happy that the dollar is doing so terribly.

You know, I’ve always thought it would be fun to write a mystery novel that involved a big, elaborate puzzle that the reader could try to solve along with the hero/heroine. I love books like that. (I think that’s why I enjoyed Ready Player One so much. Well, that and all the 80s nostalgia, and the dystopian future angle. I’m a sucker for a good dystopian future plot.) Problem is, as much as I love to read those kinds of books, I don’t think I’d be very good at actually creating the puzzles. I’m better off just trying to solve them, so that’s what I’m going to do. I just hope it doesn’t suck up all my free time, because I have a new novel to promote, and another one to start editing.

Speaking of which: obligatory shameless self-promotion: Buy Destined!

And before I go, a quick “stay safe” to all of those on the East coast of the US today. Living in Florida, I’m usually the one bracing for a hurricane, so it’s a little strange to be watching it heading for someone else. While I’m relieved that my family and I are safe, I’d rather it wasn’t heading for anyone right now. I have friends up there, and I hope they get through the storm without too much damage. Hunker down, everyone!

Friday, August 26, 2011

It’s out!

Destined is finally available for sale!

Print: $9.99 at CreateSpace for now. It’s supposed to be on Amazon as well, but for some reason it hasn’t shown up there yet.

eBook: $2.99 for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble NOOK 

It’s also available for Kindle at Amazon UK and (in English)

I’m looking into getting a general ePub version available for those who have other types of readers.


*happy dance*


All in all, this was a relatively painless process.  Sure, formatting the books was time-consuming (I started seriously working on self-pubbing in late April), but it was fulfilling to see the finished product. My only complaint would be that once I finally hit that magic button to publish the book, the wait seemed to last forever. I think part of that was my own impatience, though.

The Kindle DTP site was fastest. Within less than 24 hours, the book was available on Amazon’s site for Kindle. It’s still a little weird to search for, though. It only seems to show up if you search for my name. When I do a search for “Destined,” I get a whole big list of books and mine is somewhere buried deep down in the list of results. I guess that’s what I get for using a single word as my title.

I uploaded my file to PubIt for Nook at the same time as the Kindle DTP file, but it only showed up on today. I was starting to wonder if it would ever show up there! So Nook took more like 72 hours. I don’t know if that’s the norm, or just my bad luck or what. But at least it’s there! I can’t say the same for CreateSpace. I published there on Wednesday as well (first thing in the morning, so sooner than the ebooks, which I did after work that afternoon), and while it’s available to purchase from CreateSpace directly, it has yet to show up on Amazon. From what I’ve been reading, it can take up to a week for that to happen, though most people seem to have seen theirs show up sooner than that. Again, my bad luck, probably.

Another tiny gripe with CreateSpace: they were always really quick to print and ship my proofs. Both times, it would ship less than 24 hours after I ordered it. But when I finally published, I ordered a small batch of books for myself (only 5 for now), and although I ordered it first thing Wednesday, they didn’t ship until today. So again with the waiting. IT’s not that big a deal, really. I guess I just got used to how quick they were with the proofs, and thought they’d be that fast all the time.

But like I said before, all in all, I’m happy with the publishing process. Now for the hard part: promotion. I’m still waiting for GoodReads to approve me as an author so I can set up a giveaway there. I’ll be sure to announce it here and on my website whenever that does happen. Everyone likes free books, right?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cover tips for print

I mentioned in a previous post that when I first uploaded my book to CreateSpace, I got a message that the cover had transparent layers, and that flattening them had resulted in a color shift. I debated leaving it and waiting to see if it really did look any different or not (some accounts I found online claimed they got the same message, but that the cover looked fine). But in the end, the perfectionist in me won out and I looked up how to flatten the cover myself, so that I would be sure everything would look exactly how I wanted it.

In case anyone else comes across a similar problem, this is what I learned:

When saving a file in PDF format that is compatible with Adobe 5 or higher, transparency and layers are retained. This is supposed to be to avoid shifts and changed colors from the flattening process, and since a lot of PDFs are only viewed online and not printed, it works fine. But some printers (apparently, CS is one of them) have to have the file flattened completely before they print, so a PDF with transparent layers is a problem. They can flatten it themselves, but sometimes this results in the previously-mentioned color shift (where a layer moves slightly and has that blurred/double-vision/3D-without-the-glasses look). Depending on what program you’re using, you can sometimes flatten the image before saving it to a PDF (Photoshop is one that lets you do this), but not all can. In my case, I was using a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator to do my cover. I did the background image in Photoshop, then used Illustrator to do the text and other elements, because Illustrator is a vector program and therefore gives me better end resolution, as well as more freedom with the text layout and other elements.

Anyway, I tried a few different things to get my PDF flat, and after some trial and error, came up with a way that worked for me. First, rather than placing the background PSD file (the Photoshop file with all the layers) directly into my Illustrator file, I saved the background as a high-res TIFF. This flattened the layers in the background, but still gave me a high-resolution image, which is necessary to maintain good print quality. I found later that this step was necessary, because when I was using the PSD, I was getting weird lines everywhere from Adobe trying to flatten it all into the PDF later. Flattening the background on its own and using a TIFF got rid of those lines.

Then, I exported my cover to a PDF as I had before. I tried exporting directly to an Adobe 4-compatible file, which is supposed to flatten everything, but I didn’t like how the end result looked. I had the line problem again, for one, and it made me nervous. So instead I kept the default PDF settings, then opened the resulting PDF in Acrobat Professional (I don’t think this works in Adobe Reader, sadly). Under the Advanced menu, I went to PDF Optimizer, clicked on the Transparency field on the left side of the box that came up, and selected “High Resolution” from the Preset options. Then OK. Give it a new name so you don’t overwrite the non-flattened file (in case something goes wonky and you need to try it again), and there you have it: a flattened PDF. Of course, this is just what worked for me. Other programs will have other ways of flattening, and for some, exporting straight to an Adobe 4-compatible file may work just fine. But if it doesn’t, flattening in Acrobat worked for me, so it might work for you as well.

One other note: for some reason, after flattening a PDF, you might see faint lines around certain parts of the image. This freaked me out at first, but it turns out most of the time, they’re just glitches in how your monitor is processing the file, and not problems with the file itself. (In other words, the phantom lines are just that: phantoms. They won’t print.) The best way to be sure this is the case with your file is to zoom in on an area that has a line. If the width of the line doesn’t change, or it goes away at higher magnifications, than it’s an issue with the monitor’s output, and not a line in the actual file. If the line stays there and increases in size along with everything else, then you have a problem. This is what happened to me before I flattened my PSD file: I had a thin line where one layer met another, and it would have printed that way if I hadn’t fixed it. But if your lines are the same size at 1600% magnification as they are at 100%, then you can breathe easy. It will print just fine. (Or at least, it will print without the lines.)

In other news, my proof is coming today, and if it' looks good, then I’m going to set my release date for this Friday! Woo!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My ePub file is finally awesome

But before I get to that: I’ve uploaded the final part of my book excerpt, Chapter Three! I’ve also re-uploaded chapters 1 & 2 because I made some minor changes in them as I was going through my print proof. My second proof was ordered today, so barring anything crazy with that, I hope to be ready to publish by the end of next week. Exciting!

Now, on to the original point of this post. While I wait for that second proof to print and ship to me, I’ve been going through the ebook files to make sure they’re all clean and perfect and ready to go. I want to be able to publish all versions at once, so as soon as the print edition is good, I’m going to hit the button on everything. Which means I need to make sure my Kindle and ePub files are as sparkling and wonderful as possible.

I’ve been going through the ePub first (for Nook, since that seems to be the only platform I can publish to on my own right now), and found a few errors. Easy enough to fix, but as I was looking them over in the Nook for PC and Adobe Digital Editions readers, I noticed some other things that weren’t working quite right. First, in Adobe Digital Editions, the table of contents pane was empty, with a message that the book didn’t have a TOC. Well, that’s not true! I spent quite a lot of time coding a toc.ncx file so my TOC would show up in any reader! Google to the rescue: it turned out I had a tiny bit of that code wrong. In case anyone comes across a similar problem, here’s what fixed it for me:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The importance of the proof

When I submitted my files for the print edition of Destined, I was sure they were prefect, and that I wasn't going to have to make any corrections. Even better, CreateSpace was having a promotion where the first proof was free (plus shipping), so I thought I was going to get this done pretty cheaply. Ha.

Despite the numerous edits I've done (NUMEROUS), I still managed to miss things. There's something about reading on actual paper, I think, that makes it easier to spot errors. Up until now, I'd been proofing either on the computer, on my iPad, or on the Kindle/Nook. eInk is nearly as good as paper, but it's still not quite the same, because you're still reading on a device. Or maybe I just wasn't looking closely enough before, who knows. Point is, reading through that first print proof was good, because I caught more than I expected.

The weirdest mistake I hadn't noticed before (partly because it's only in the print version)? Backwards apostrophes!  Somehow, when I was writing the book in Microsoft Works, it auto-formatted some of the apostrophes wrong, and I never noticed. They're small, so unless you look closely, you can't really tell. But it's there, and now that I've spotted them, they're driving me nuts. Thank goodness for find/replace, because there's no way I would have caught them all with my naked eye!

My story's probably a good lesson in favor of hiring an outside editor, but I'm stubborn about editing my own stuff. Besides, all these editing passes I've done have turned up more than just mistakes: they've shown me parts of the book that can be improved, and I think the end result is much better for it. It was time-consuming, but worth it. Call me a control freak, but I still prefer to do everything myself.

Now all that's left is doing one last skim to make sure the changes I made don't have errors, and finally getting that author photo taken, so I can put it on the cover before I submit for the second proof. Then while I'm waiting for the proof to ship, I can go through the ebooks to make sure they're still okay. (A lot of the changes I made were more than formatting, so I had to change the Kindle and ePub as well.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

It’s here!

The proof of my print edition arrived today! It's all shiny and pretty and I'm in love with it. I haven't had a chance to really go through it to look for errors, but the quick scan I did looks good, so I'm hopeful.

I'd prefer not to have to resubmit and buy another proof, but if I do find something inside that needs fixing, I may also tweak the cover a little. For one thing, it printed a tad bit darker than I intended. I find that problem crops up a lot with printing—something will look perfect on a monitor, but will print dark. Still, it's only a slight bit darker, and I doubt anyone but me would even notice. I also may change the description on the back. I used the one from my website, but have since edited it a little (nothing drastic, just a few words here and there), and now that I'm looking at the book, I'm wondering if it isn't too wordy. The font size is a little small due to the length, and a bit light as well (it's white on black). I could cut down the amount of text and therefore make the font bigger and/or bolder, without taking up more space. And if I'm going to be doing that, I really should get an author photo taken to add to the back cover. I don't have one right now, and I don't think it's too big a deal for it to not be there, but if I'm going to be resubmitting, might as well add it, right?

I have to say, I'm really impressed with the quality of the book. Coming from a POD, I was worried it was going to look "homemade," but it really doesn't. If I didn't know any better, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between it and a traditionally-published trade paperback! The one thing that glares at me right now is the lack of publisher name/logo on the spine. Every book has that, and since I chose not to start my own company right now, I don't have a publisher name to use there. Hm. Maybe I should come up with a logo for myself and put it there instead?

For those of you who are considering self-publishing and are wondering which POD to use, I highly recommend CreateSpace. Great quality product, quick and easy process, no complaints at all so far. And by buying the $39 pro plan, I'm able to keep the selling price under $10 and still make a small profit on each book I sell through (I'd have to go up to $11 or more to profit on the extended distribution channels, but I have no plans to use those now, so it's not a concern to me.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Coming into the home stretch

First bit of happiness: my print proof shipped yesterday! Depending on how fast the shipping is, I may have it in my hands by the weekend. Patience is not my strongest suit, so this is just about killing me. Best thing about it, though, is that if all goes well, and I don’t have to make any major corrections, there’s a good chance I’ll be able to release in all formats before the end of the month. Which means my book will be out in time for my mother’s birthday on the 29th. I think that’s a birthday present she’ll really like, especially since she has NO clue I’m doing this yet. I’ve been very stealthy.

While I wait for the proof, I’ve firmed up the Kindle and ePub versions for Amazon and B&N. I think they’re both ready to go once my print version is proofed and approved. I’m waiting for more information from Kobo about publishing to their site, and am debating whether or not to publish to Google Books as well.  Sony and Apple, sadly, aren’t in the cards right now. Both are too difficult to get into without using an aggregator, and I have no interest in dealing with Smashwords. The only other option to get into the iBookstore is Lulu, but after researching that for a while yesterday, I’ve decided it doesn’t look as do-able as I’d originally thought. If I could just use them to publish to Apple and nothing else, I would. But it looks like if I used them, they’d want to handle other versions as well, and I don’t want that. I’ll keep checking it out, though. If I could afford it, I’d buy a Mac and upload it myself, but that’s not financially viable right now, and it seems to be the only way to publish directly to them. Too bad an iPad isn’t good enough: that I have!

So now that my formatting is all done and the print proof is ordered, I find myself turning my attention to the upcoming release and necessary promotion that goes along with it. I have to say, it’s a little daunting. Being an introvert, the idea of going out there and promoting myself to strangers is not as comfy as I’d like. But I know it needs to be done!

So far, I’ve got the Facebook and Twitter accounts set up, and have been trying to stay active on both. Today, I set up a GoodReads account (, which I will be converting into an author page once DESTINED is released. Sadly, it doesn’t look like you can set yourself up as an author until there’s a book to link to.  Same goes for setting up an Author Central page at I’m also considering doing a giveaway at GoodReads, and possibly buying some ad space there. I know personally, as a frequent user of the site, I have clicked on many ads and ended up adding quite a few to my TBR list, so I’m hoping advertising there will be a good investment.

That’s the easy stuff, though, because it doesn’t require too much effort on my part. But in order to really get my name and book out there, I’m going to have to find more active ways to put my book in front of people. Which means being more social. Eek!

I also really need to take a good author photo to use on all of these websites. I hate being photographed, and I never like pictures of me when I do allow them to be taken. This isn’t going to be fun. Too bad I can’t use my high school senior photo. I think that’s the last one I actually liked. I have a nice DSLR camera (photography is a hobby), and have tried photographing myself a few times with a tripod/remote combo, but haven’t liked any of the results. Frustrating.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Release Date. Sort of.

One of the downsides I've found with self-publishing is that you can't really set a firm release date. When you're done editing and formatting and are ready to go, you submit your files to the various sites (Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, CreateSpace, etc.) and then wait for them to approve and publish your book. There's no guarantee exactly when that will happen, and you can't tell them to wait until a specific date to do it (at least, not that I've seen). So I can't really say "DESTINED will be out August 29th!" because I can't know for sure that it will be out then.

What I can say is that, if all goes well, I believe the book will be available for sale in both print and ebook format by the end of August. Print will be available on and from CreateSpace's estore for $9.99. The ebook will be available for Kindle at Amazon, Nook at B&N (price TBD, though most likely either $2.99 or $3.99) and I'm still researching the other outlets. It looks like Kobo finally has a way for authors to self-publish, so I'll be looking into that. As for Sony and Apple, I haven't researched Sony yet, and it sounds like I'm out of luck with Apple unless I either get a Mac or use Smashwords, neither of which I'm keen to do right now. I have an iPad, but apparently that's not enough. It's a shame they make it so difficult, because I have the ePub all formatted and ready to go!

Once I get my print proof back and can look it over, I'll be all set. I want all the formats to release around the same time, so right now I'm held up on the print proof. I see that the review process is done and I can order a proof, but there's a warning about transparency in my cover PDF, so I have to check that out when I get home from work before I order the proof and waste any more time. It says the flattening created a color shift, which makes me nervous. I thought the flattening was already done when I originally saved the PDF in Illustrator!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Now for the not-as-fun part

I have my print version finally done. I changed my mind a few times regarding trim size and margins, so ended up re-formatting more than I’d have liked. But I finally have it where I want it, and it’s looking good. Which means I’m finally ready to get going on the actual publishing.

Before I do anything with the ebooks, I wanted to get things started with CreateSpace and get a proof on its way to me. And now I’ve hit a bit of a wall, because I’ve come up to the ISBN portion of the process, and I’m confused.

Originally, I was going to get the $10 custom ISBN, so I wouldn’t have to have CreateSpace listed as my publisher/printer. I wanted my own name, or a publishing company imprint name I made up, to be listed. I thought this would make it less obvious that I was self-publishing, and would just look more professional. But then I started reading around, and discovered that you can’t just make up an imprint name and use it: you have to actually set up a company. That could be a complicated process, even if I only do it as a sole propietorship, so I’m hesitant. On the other hand, I do plan on publishing more books in the future, so it might not be bad to have an imprint set up. I think I have to do more research on what’s involved in my state to do all of that.  So once again, my momentum has stalled.

I’m also going to have to do more ebook research on using an imprint there. If I do set something up, then I’ll want it listed on all versions of my book, naturally. I’m not sure how Amazon and B&N deal with that. (I’ve decided against using Smashwords. The only downside I can find to not using them, so far, is getting into the iBookstore. I don’t have a Mac, and SW looks to be the only other way to get a book in there. But I’ll worry about that later.)

Anyone else out there have experience with using their own publishing imprint to self-publish? This is all making my head hurt!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Quick tip for print formatting

Avoid the hell I’m about to put myself through and take this advice: when formatting your book for print, after you’ve decided on a font size and leading for the main text, print out the first few pages before you waste your time formatting the entire damn book. I had mine set at 11/14 (11pt font with 14pt leading), it looked good on the screen, so I spent all weekend perfecting the formatting, removing widows and orphans, getting everything so that it looked flawless on the page. Then today, I printed out a couple of pages to see how it would look… and realized the font came out smaller than I wanted. :/

So, now I’ve changed my basic paragraph setting to 12/14, and have to go through each chapter to redo all the editing to correct the layout and widows/orphans all over again. This is going to set my progress back at least a couple of days, especially since I did the original formatting over a weekend, when I had the whole day at my disposal, and now it’s the week and I have less time. Argh. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I should have known better! I never use 11pt font when I’m writing things, because it’s too small. Whatever possessed me to think it would be good for this book is beyond me. Temporary insanity, I guess. Argh.

I’m also going to have to redo my cover, because this is going to add extra pages and change the width of the spine. More argh!

Edit: After looking at some other books, I've realized I may have jumped the gun a little there.  11pt seems to be pretty standard in both paperbacks and hardcovers/trade paperbacks, though the latter have a slightly larger leading than I used. So I think I'm going to go back to the 11pt, but change my leading from 14 to 15, just to give it a little more space. I'm going to play around with it a bit first and see how it looks. Still, my advice is good. If I decide to up the leading, I'm still going to have to re-format the whole thing!