The Technical Side of Self-Publishing
By: Gaston (Dany Zuwen)
Ours is a great time for the self-publishing industry. The technology’s finally here, and the indie community is starting to shed the stigma (self-published writing is crappy) associated with it.
So, how does one go about self-publishing?
No need to be an experienced techie. The process isn’t actually all that hard.
You have two main choices when it comes to publishing your work yourself.
Print on demand (POD) and compiling your book into a digital one (ebook).
Print on demand
You also have to decide what to do about the cover. Here’s the thing. It’s very easy to put together an image, throw a title over that, and call it a cover. Don’t do that. Your work deserves better. If you’re not comfortable using a graphics editor, and the notions of color theory, character tracking or kerning don’t mean anything to you, I’d recommend hiring someone to do the cover for you. This applies whether you want to go digital or stick to print. And you don’t even have to ruin yourself.
If you decide to e-publish, I recommend taking the time to learn the formatting. There are quite a few programs, plugins, and other automated tools which promise to transform your basic text-processed book into an ebook, but I advise against that route unless you absolutely have no other option.
See, ebook formatting is very different from text-processing, which is what you’re doing when you “arrange” the appearance of your text inside a program such as MS Word or Adobe In Design. Those software are great for a print book, because the text is set in place. It’s meant for print and won’t ever change once on the page.
Not so with the an ebook.
Different e-readers have different screen sizes. One reader might like a big font-size and another prefer a tiny one. Another reader likes Times New Roman and the next is fond of Georgia. I prefer to read in landscape mode while you may only read in portrait. All those things affect how the text is displayed. The technical concept is that the text must be flowable. That means that the number of word or sentences displayed on any given screen will vary from reader to reader. Your writing mustn’t break when flowed, otherwise that’ll distract your reader and may even put them off your story entirely.
So, why not use the automated processes?
Because, your basic e-book is nothing but HTML code. Why is it so hard to translate form processed text to HTML? The reason is that text-processors rely on their own markup language to help display your text the way you want it. That markup language is great for print because it doesn’t transfer to paper. But it transfers to the auto-generated HTML code. And this messes up your formatting in various ways depending on which e-reader you’re using and how they process the code to display your precious words. It might work perfectly on a kindle and be a total mess on a Nook.
Short story is, either take the time to learn how to format an ebook (which isn’t that hard), or hire someone to do it for you (not that expensive). But you want to have a well-formatted text, because no matter how good the story, if the reading experience is bad, that’s what the reader will remember.
A word about file formats.
As I said, there are many e-readers available for the reader to choose from. The main ones are Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Apple’s I’s (Ipad, Ipod, and Iphone) the Sony reader, and the Kobo e-reader. Amazon has its own format, previously .mobi and from now onward the KF8 format, and all the others use the .epub format or a variant.
What do these different file formats mean for you?
The key difference is in how precisely you can format your content and what kind of content is allowed in your files. The EPUB is the most accomplished. You can basically put everything you can include in a web page in an epub. The .mobi format is great for text-only and works light in images. And while the KF8 opens more possibilities than its predecessors, it’s still relatively new, a little tacky, and isn’t yet supported by all kindle devices. As of this writing, only the kindle fire fully supports the KF8 format, and while Amazon promises to update their devices to support all proprieties of the KF8, it’s still not the case.
One of the many perks of traditional publishing is the amount of marketing done for your book. Although nowadays authors are expected to participate in promotion efforts, even from the big publishing companies, all the attention the marketing department gives to your book is a definite plus. When you publish your own book, that job becomes entirely yours.
When marketing your book, I recommend taking advantage of our connected world. Everyone is on the Internet today. Chances are that your audience is already waiting on one of the online platforms.
For marketing online, you should build a website/blog, if you don’t already have one, and signup for a Facebook and Twitter accounts (yeah, I know, everybody’s on Facebook). But there are other social networks which might help you. And besides social networks, you have Internet forums where you can reach many readers. But whatever you do, do not spam. Spam is bad. Spam is your enemy.
Relevant social media:
You can also consider paid advertising. Something like Google’s Adwords is interesting, but only if you know what you’re doing, and in my opinion only when you want to reach more people, meaning your book is already selling and you’re using some of that profit to generate new leads.
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