In my post titled No Rules, I explained that the lovely Sarah Brentyn had asked a question that basically put my brain into overdrive.  No Rules began the process of dumping the product of all that activity.  If you haven’t read that post, it would be prudent to do so before starting on this one.

If you have read it, let’s crack on and talk about a technical part of the process of getting your book published.

Formatting

This is a broad subject, as it covers setting up your book for reading either as an e-book or as a hard copy.  I’ll cover both in a moment, but the key thing to remember here is the reader.  What’s their experience going to be?  If they start reading the eBook and keep coming across blank pages (an easy fix if it’s formatted right) or different kinds of spacing or margins, they become distracted from the content.  I’ve stopped reading potentially good books before because I found the errors so irritating they detracted from my enjoyment of the story.

E-Books

The Kindle format represents something in the region of 80% of all e-book sales, so this is the one to nail.  Other formats are the icing on the cake.  Amazon do provide very detailed and, frankly, quite simple instructions to follow in order to upload your manuscript to their Kindle store.  Even I, a proud technophobe, worked it out.  It did take a little time, perhaps a couple of hours, to reach a point where I was satisfied, but when you consider how much time you’ve spent writing the book, that’s a worthwhile investment.

There are also software products you can buy to help you convert your manuscript to a compatible format.  I have a copy of Calibre, a free to download piece of software, which I found useful when I wanted to transfer early drafts on to my Kindle.  I haven’t used it to upload on to the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) site, but I understand it works.  I also have Scrivener, which will convert your manuscript to pretty much any format, though I haven’t used it for that purpose.  Frankly, I found that following the KDP instructions step-by-step, I got exactly what I needed.  But clearly there are alternative options out there at little or no cost.

You can, of course, pay to have someone else do it for you.  Rates vary, but I’d feel cheated if I spent more than £200.  More importantly for me, I’ve seen some really badly formatted eBooks, and some of them have come from publishing houses, so just by going with a big-name company doesn’t guarantee good quality.  With that in mind, I’d want to see what they’ve produced before it goes live.

Obviously, we shouldn’t ignore the other e-book formats (although I have done so far).  But the principle is the same as with the Kindle: there are processes you can use to get your book ready to read, you just have to work out whether you feel competent enough to follow them.

Hard Copies

When it comes to getting a book you can hold in your hand, there are Print on Demand services you can use, where you set it all up at no up-front cost.  Probably the most commonly used of these are CreateSpace (Amazon again!) and Lulu, though there are many other options.

When I looked at using these services with Ravens Gathering, as it’s over 400 pages long, I felt the price per copy was excessive and unlikely to sell.  But I could completely appreciate why it would be worth doing for a book of maybe 300 words or less.

This issue is really all about what you feel comfortable doing.  If you have a book of the right length, and find the setting up process with one of these services easy to follow, then this can work brilliantly.  What you’ll probably need to do is print off a few variations first to see which one you’re happiest with.  Remember, it’s all about the reader, and you want to make sure the book you provide to your reader is going to be very satisfying for them.  That may be the size (apparently it does matter, after all), the paper quality, the spacing and margins, or even how good the cover looks.  But that’s still going to be a lot cheaper than going to a publisher and asking them to format it for you and then set up a print run.

That latter option is what I’ve decided to do with Ravens Gathering.  Frankly, I didn’t have confidence in my own ability to get the typesetting right.  I knew what I wanted, but was happier to pass the job to someone else to do, on the proviso that I get to check it off at every stage of the way.

So, you heard it here first.  Ravens Gathering will be available in paperback in a few months’ time.  (Autographed copies can be ordered – I believe the Chuckle Brothers live not far from here, so if mine’s not good enough, I’ll see if I can get theirs.)

Clearly, going down the route I have is expensive, and it’s important to talk to a range of publishers before making the decision about which one to use (the cheapest may not be the best).  It is just as important, though, to talk to authors who have used their services.

The issue of cost is important, and I will address that in the last post in this series.  Before then, I’ll look at editing and proofreading.

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