Writer to Writer: Complicating the Simplicity

Me Inn Crop

So, one of the first obstacles I ran into in my little self-publishing adventure was a barrier that seems to trip up a lot of folks: How do I format my book so that the Mystical Rulers of the digital universe will bless my submission and pass it on to one underling or another who will do the actual work of making my novel magically appear in a marketplace of some kind?

There was no immediate answer to this dilemma.

Yes, you can fire up Google and entice the Net with what you hope are concrete keywords that will lead to salvation. Trouble is, keywords are tricky things. You can diligently arrange your input in a multitude of configurations that will hopefully hit the jackpot, but you rarely ever land in that red circle of a bulls-eye. After all, words mean different things to different people. And then you throw in search engines that are based on algorithms and not someone trying to telepathically transmit what they really mean. So you end up with a lot of crap.

Initially, as I timidly worked my way through all of the various bits of advice out there, the “how do I format my e-book” quest turned into a mind-numbing battering of my psyche. There were quite a number of “experts” who made it sound like proper e-book formatting required a Master’s Degree in one of those scientific fields that nobody understands except the the people who earn those degrees. Getting my book into the proper format was apparently going to take a realignment of the planets.

That didn’t do much for my self-confidence. I have concept issues with the remote control for my TV. Jacking with the universe was obviously beyond my skill set.

Oh, but if you were feeling frustrated with your inadequacy and yearning for divine intervention, there was a plethora of websites offering “professional” services to make your life complete. For a fee, of course. Just hand over some cash and one of those scientific people would consult their alchemy texts and eventually provide you with a version of your e-book that would transport you into Acceptance Heaven.

I had a bit of a problem with that. There are over one million books just on Amazon alone. And I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I was fairly confident that a big chunk of the people behind those books didn’t pay anybody squat to make their books format-worthy. (Granted, having purchased a number of digital books that seemed to have been slapped together by an armadillo with focus issues, there is some truth to making sure you know what you are doing.) Still, how hard could it be?

Well, according to many websites, it was very hard, indeed. Hard enough that you needed to pay them 250 dollars (and that’s just an average, some are much higher) to get things in order.

Bite. Me.

And if you go directly to some of the “publishers”, trying to avoid the shady operations that leech onto people who have a dream but don’t know how to realize it, you run into more of the same. Many of the “traditional” publishers, those companies who are annoyed with this “digital” direction that greatly impacts their physical lineup of books but understanding that tides are changing, will offer to help you, but only at a price, again trying to perpetuate the belief that electronic book-publishing is beyond the understanding of the common folk.

To take that a bit further, even some of the “independent” publishers, organizations that claim to be on the side of the newbie writers, make things very complicated and angst-inspiring. I won’t name names at this point, but there is one publisher, one that has great fame in certain circles, who cautions you that all submissions must manage to survive an acceptance mechanism which they have dubbed the “Meatgrinder”. Really? You couldn’t come up with a less-intimidating name? And that mechanism might be a joy to behold, but you wouldn’t know it by reading the submission guidelines, which are filled with “do this, then do that” cryptic steps you have to take.

I found myself in a less-than-cheerful frame of mind.

Then I started perusing self-publishing books on Amazon. There are tons of them, many of them written by people who don’t really give a damn but they want to make a quick buck. Luckily, most of these slapped-together books have a very low purchase price, probably because they realize that they aren’t telling the whole story but you won’t be offended by the smidgen of a transaction to your credit card. (And really, buying a whole sackful of these suspect tomes is a hell of a lot cheaper than paying a “professional” something that you can do on your own.)

Yes, do on your own. Because I finally ran across a book that told me exactly what I needed to know.

Now, I don’t know the author personally, we have never corresponded, we do not have a hand-shake deal in this situation. (I’m sure she doesn’t even know I exist.) But she spelled it out like it is, and I appreciate that.

And here’s a link to her book:

Basically, you can use Microsoft Word to format your book, if you want to submit your book to Amazon for release on the Kindle. (And really, despite any chest-thumping from other digital-reader devices, Amazon rules. They have the market penetration to back it up.) Yes, there are certain things you need to do and keep in mind, things that you probably wouldn’t think of on your own. I certainly didn’t, especially since I was so distracted by so many sources telling me that I couldn’t do this without supernatural help.

So I followed the advice, prepped my Word Document as indicated by the book, submitted it to Kindle (in the KDP Publishing arena, more on that in a later post), and I didn’t have a major problem. (Yes, there was a bit of quibbling with certain typos, which were actually justified and I’m glad the program pointed it out.) End result, I had a published book on Amazon within hours.

Absolutely no need for “professionals” to take my money to make it happen.

Which means you can do it as well.

But that’s just the tip of the digital-publishing iceberg.

More posts to follow, as time allows, including soul-damaging side trips into how to make your own book cover, how you may have to prostitute yourself to get any attention for your book, and how family and close friends will disappoint you when it comes to getting off their asses and helping you achieve your dreams. Good times!


4 replies »

  1. Your writing is supremely engaging–I enjoy the sometime informative gifts threaded between humour and mighty fine sentences indeed. Shall take me ages to cruise through your formidable bank of blogposts but already I am enjoying the adventure. [Loved the Lucille Ball post!] EL

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and, more importantly, taking the time to dig through the archives. I sometimes feel sorry for these little guys way at the back of the blog train. They never got much love, as I only had two followers at the time, so it’s nice to see them getting some attention now… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.