I worked as diligently on formatting my novel, Saving Ben, for CreateSpace, Amazon’s print-on-demand publishing company, as I ever have on anything before. I cleared my schedule, and I followed Catherine Howard’s instructions outlined in Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing to the letter. Despite my efforts, after two weeks of hanging out in the community chatroom at CreateSpace, in a moment of serious migraine pain, I gave up and hired someone.
I reached out to Damonza, my cover designer, who put me in touch with his interior formatter, Benjamin Carrancho, at Awesome Book Layout.com. I immediately signed up for a package deal, which included formatting for both paperback and e-books.
Here’s the problem. Microsoft Word and CreateSpace do not play well together. With page numbers and bleeds, headers and footers and gutters, creating a paperback book is complicated. I’ve heard rumors that Scrivener is a better playmate for CreateSpace, and with this in mind, I recently began using the software program for my WIP. There are many things I like about it and some not so much. Whether or not it’s easier to format a scrivener document for CreateSpace remains to be seen. Some of you might be able to provide more insight into Scrivener.
It may sound like I took the easy way out by hiring someone to do my interior formatting. But trust me, I’m not one to give up easily, and I’m somewhat electronically inclined, which goes to show how complicated the process can be. I learned a few things about creating e-books in the process that I wanted to pass along. You need a mobi file for Kindle and a ePub file for Smashwords, who will distribute your e-book to Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, Sony and more. Or you can upload your Microsoft document directly to Kindle and Smashwords, IF you take care of all the formatting issues ahead of time. The goods news is there are lots of places to find help. I can’t speak for Smashwords, as I am still exclusive with Amazon’s KDP Select program, but there are knowledgeable people available in the Kindle and CreateSpace community chatrooms who are capable and willing to offer guidance. Plus, you can find a wealth of information from reading other writers’ blogs. And remember, if you don’t have the time, or you want to save yourself from torture, go the easy route. There are formatters who are eager to convert your files for a reasonable fee.
Before you do anything, however, it’s important to remember that:
1) Good reviews are the Holy Grail for self-publishing authors. And you want at least a few in place before you launch. Give yourself at least two months to prepare. Create Advanced Review Copies and initiate a Goodreads giveaway, or send them to book bloggers who might be willing to offer a review—and perhaps a giveaway and a blog interview as well. Keep in mind that some book bloggers are already scheduled through the end of this year.
2) Be sure to include a link to your Amazon page at the end of your e-book, asking your readers to write a review. Chances are, if they finished the novel, they will write a favorable review.
3) Sign up with a e-mail service like MailChimp. Include the link at the end of your e-book, so that you can send your fans future e-mails regarding your upcoming new releases.
5) You must absolutely, positively read Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self-Printed. Even though the formatting tips did not work out for me, her how-to encompasses everything about self-publishing from quality control to marketing and promotion. I recommend you read the whole guide from beginning to end to get the big picture before you go back and start formatting. I have a free copy to giveaway to one lucky person. If you’re interested, tweet this post and leave a comment.