Tutorial – How to Write Literary Fiction

Milford

Here’s how the world’s most famous online encyclopedia describes Literary Fiction

First, you have to have a grasp of what it is.

My English teacher at school, Steve Ridgeway, spent three years trying to convince me that English Literature was the best subject in the world. I hated every minute of it. Hated all the analysing, the digging around in historical events, the unearthing of metaphors, the excavating of the original authors’ motivations – which as far as I was prepared to see, was “Get into someone’s pants and end all this miserable artistic solitude.”

But I was paying attention all that time, just so I could be fully aware of what and why I was loathing the subject so much. Less than two years later, I wrote my first 110,000-word novel. And I started with my own issues, and motivation, and metaphors, before weaving a story around them – in exactly the way I’d been taught that literature was intended to develop.

In recent weeks, seeing the subject discussed online, I’m starting to wonder if in fact I was the ONLY one paying attention in class.

There’s an urban myth that literary fiction can be simplified and summarised as ‘character-driven, not plot-driven’.

Not true, in itself. If you’re going to construct literary fiction by method, you need to take it back a few steps from the mere concept of ‘complex characters’.

The characters themselves may be metaphors or illustrations of events the author has witnessed or experienced, the embodiment of personal demons or guardian angels, or even satirical/serious representations of real historical figures in another form – animal-form, child-form (see ‘Lord of the Flies’).

Those characters are a way for the author to illustrate and show interaction with forces outside of their own/the key character’s control, whether those are forces of good, evil, or apathy. You’re going to give voice and persona to issues you want to expose or confront through the medium of narrative – the issue might be ‘repression’ or ‘addiction’ or ‘vanity’ or ‘obsession’, for example.

The key character is going to go on a journey, either internal, external or both, with or via these other issues (supporting characters). The outcome for the key character in the story is growth/change/challenge (moral and/or physical). As well as his or her demons and guardians, what social and economic factors influence their progress?

If you have strong views on a certain aspect of your culture, what part of your own existing knowledge would you use in a metaphor for the situation in the story?

For instance: You might have a military background, and have a novel set in a supermarket stock warehouse. Instead of the team being run as you imagine a regular stock warehouse might be, it precisely reflects a military regime. That’s using your life experience to write two stories in one. You’re including your autobiographical experience and observations, which anyone in the military reading it would recognise, but also you are introducing it to an unsuspecting audience of less specific, day-in-the-life books, who might not read a military novel.

Another example would be if you wanted to write literary fiction set in a school, but you have experience of or have researched cults and sects. You don’t describe the school as a cult-affiliated school, or have wannabe wizards turning up there hoping to find out what happened to their missing parents. You write about a normal school. But the actions of the characters, as in the previous example, illustrate that there is another side to the story – that the school, the setting, the social culture within the walls, is a metaphor for a different story.

In a way, literary fiction is “mash-up” fiction. You tell an unfamiliar tale in the guise of a familiar one, a cloaking device to reach and educate audiences that you otherwise wouldn’t. You are breaking the class and culture barrier, in the hope that a greater audience than the one you would reach with only a single military story, or a single cult story, will identify with it – and through that identification, find common ground on both sides of the fence.

You also need to examine your motivation as the author. Pretty much most (grown-up) fiction (and some fairytales) involves something wanting to get into something else’s pants, so there won’t be any nagging about that right now – although you might want to read this first, and perhaps this as well. Maybe even this, if you really can’t stop yourself.

Because the author of literary fiction is of as much interest to the academic as the novel itself, and if like me, future generations of incandescently fuming students are going to be made to pick apart your work until everything you’ve ever done is bare bones laid out for everyone to see, you don’t subsequently want them stalking you on social media, turning up at your book signings or on your doorstep shouting unintelligible things about the state of your mind, the gutter it lives in, and your pants, until they have got it out of their systems and their medications kick in.

Put it this way – a desire to share your insight, wisdom, and life experience in the guise of another tale, to educate and find common ground across class and cultural boundaries, is a healthy motivation. I wouldn’t pin too much hope on becoming a millionaire overnight and installing electric security gates against the aforementioned angry insomniac English Lit students.

When creating your key character, don’t over-develop it. An overdone, well-rounded, too-realistic character is a thoroughly irritating one, and belongs in the pages of chick lit alongside all of their sidekick friends who only exist to help them through a crisis and to massage their egos over a coma-inducing Blossom Hill strawpedo session.

Take a step back.

If your character is ‘a tough nut, has learned things the hard way, is cynical and tired of life’, then SHOW US THAT BIT.

Tell us that story! Otherwise, your story is merely a series of exchanges and scenarios where your emotionally crippled character makes excuses for their lack of commitment to doing anything remotely exciting for the reader in the narrative. If your character has a back story, then in literary fiction, you NEED to go back and start there. Literature-wise, that’s where things were exciting, where the character learned their limitations, met their demons for the first time, found out what it took to continue living and functioning. That’s where your character became strong. If they start out strong and over-developed emotionally in your narrative, they’ve already alienated most of the insular and shy consumers of deep and literary prose. Be prepared to go back there and share the introduction of those insecurities. Don’t throw them in as deus ex machina later on. A cavalier treatment of back-story just looks like you made it up on the spur of the moment to insert conflict or barriers, to delay progress. Your key character’s journey leads the reader – let them be surprised by what the key character learns about supporting characters and events on their journey, from the point of view of understanding their narrative host, their morals and issues, the effect of personal change.

(Don’t just beat your main character with the ugly stick and give them a hard time in life purely due to that. It’s a metaphor for prejudice. We get it already. The Ugly Duckling went there and did that when we were five years old).

That’s probably what is meant by ‘character-driven’ when that phrase is casually tossed around to describe literary fiction. The way folk say it implies that character is more important than plot. But ‘plot’ has to happen to ‘character’ for the character to go on any journey at all.

In literary fiction, it’s not just social setting and character that is a scope for metaphor. Every event, object, place and dialogue exchange is a potential for analogy. A man may love his car in the anthropomorphic sense, but only think of his wife in terms of chassis and bodywork. A collector of commemorative china plates may find that a broken or missing one constitutes a lost year of real-life memories. Characters apply meaning and emotional connection to strange things, in disproportion to the other people around them. They may gain or lose prejudices on their journey, but it won’t be the obvious things (to the rest of us) which affect their points of view.

All of the senses are involved in the depiction of alternative interpretation and implication in the story. I remember a particularly annoying school term dedicated to the interpretation of cloud and sky descriptions in poetry, followed by four more weeks on the subject of flowers… It’s a ****ing daffodil couldn’t he have just said it was ****ing yellow??!! AAAAAaaaaaarrrgh!! (This rant was delivered by my 14-year-old self, almost verbatim, to my considerably academic grandparents, who are no doubt all smirking down at me right now).

I remember being given Aesop’s Fables when I was very small, and first started out reading – flash fiction with morals. That was what set me up for my understanding of literary fiction in later life. You tell a story which is not just a story – the story also has a message, but the message has ‘multiple attachments’ – it contains unlimited implied alternative scenarios and characters where the same moral is evident, reaching out to a wider and wider audience in its retelling and subsequent analysis.

More than anything else, literary fiction does its work on the author, even before it reaches the audience. You may find yourself in characters you thought were only minor, may hear issues you are uncomfortable about voiced as your own. By its nature of having multiple layers of metaphor and parallel meanings, there is a great deal of potential for psychosis in literary fiction, and you may find hidden meanings when you read it much later on your own personal journey that were not yours at the time of writing.

But don’t worry. That’s completely normal to observe too. Writing literary fiction casts a shadow of yourself, one of those special shadows that can morph into many different things – career-wise, it may fly high into the stratosphere or crawl away under a rock, depending on how much others see of themselves and of their known worlds in your depiction, and whether it gives them new insights.

But as the author, the insights you wrote into your future self are more interesting when you read it later on – so don’t pay too much attention when grumpy students/reviewers later describe it as ‘utter wank’ 😉 x

Inspiration and book trailers – using open source Audacity and sound FX to create audio

What started out as a music track remix turned into something else once I got distracted 🙂 Click here for alternative link if you can’t see the video above.

I was reading a blog post somewhere recently about free and Open Source software tools that authors can use in their promotion packaging, and came across a mention of Audacity, a track-mixing and recording desktop program, that authors can set up to record their own voice-overs, music, and mix their own copyright-free audio material to use in book trailers. This grabbed my attention initially, because one of my hobbies is music mashups over video (click here for an example of a soundtrack I made using Holst’s ‘Planets Suite’ recorded electronically by Isaio Tomita, combined with Rob Dugan’s epic dance anthem ‘Clubbed to Death’ and a loop sample by Brandon Billings, dubbed over NASA’s Mars Rover 10-minute promo animation).

Having used demo versions of track-mixing software in the past, I was on the lookout for a full version of a program with no nagware attached and unlimited potential.

I found a starter tutorial for Audacity on Youtube, and it seemed pretty similar to other programs I’d tried out, with a lot of additional features.

Like Tony says straightaway, I downloaded it from the official Audacity site. It’s not a huge program file, and was installed and ready to use within a few minutes. I haven’t used the recording voice-over tool so far, but there’s a lot of instruction on this in the above video.

I found that music and sounds can be imported on the ‘File’ menu from MP3 files already saved elsewhere on my computer, which is my usual practise. I’d had an idea for a tune I wanted to mash up, and imported the original track (‘The Politics of Dancing’ by Re-Flex) and imported then trimmed and made a loop from the intro of another track (‘Humanoid’ Cry Baby remix by Stakker Humanoid).

At this point, I made a cup of tea, and got distracted by thoughts of scenes for another Zombie Adventures novel. When I sat down again with the laptop, I found a file saved on my computer called ‘Whoosh Pack’ from SweetSoundEffects, a free FX downloads website by Zach King, and also one called ‘Ultimate Fight Sounds’ which I’d used when dubbing sound effects for the short film ‘How to Train Your Zombie’ directed by Junior for one of her home school projects:

Listen for the crunch and stab sounds from 03:41 to 04.54 – the recording of sound effects on film dubbing is done by a ‘foley’ 🙂

What I’d found on the above film, when adding sound FX directly into Windows Movie Maker as a separate track to music, was that the music volume would become inconsistent and ‘fade’ temporarily while the sound effect was playing (as you can hear). I hadn’t discovered a fix for this in Movie Maker, and wanted to find a way of controlling the volume/gain or fade of each individual effect and music track so that they wouldn’t override one another automatically.

In Audacity, you can control every track you add in exactly that way – including where you want a fade to begin and end by selecting that area of the track – you don’t even need to split it. Each effect you add has its own separate ‘layer’ with individual controls, just like a full paid version of other programs. So you can mix and save a complete soundtrack to add to your book trailer or movie as a single MP3 file.

So, over the beginning of my Re-Flex re-mix, thinking about zombie mayhem for my next book, I added fight sound clips, whooshes, screams, and knife sounds. Having too much fun at this point, I went back to SweetSoundEffects online and downloaded more free audio FX samples, including gun sounds and explosions. These arrive via email link to download in a zip file, which you then extract on your computer to your chosen documents location.

The great thing about Audacity is that so far I’ve found no limit on the number of layers you can add and control on your soundtrack, so a single gunshot through a window noise with a hit and a scream added will consist of four or five different sound effects overlapped in separate layers, all timed to create that ‘event’ in the soundtrack. I think the most separate sound clips I’ve added at the moment to a complete soundtrack is about 100.

I was pretty pleased with the zombie battlefield din that I’d created (could perhaps use some groans, but I didn’t want to overdo it first time), so I cropped the soundtrack to about a minute and a half, and exported it as MP3.

Again, as the tutorial says, if you haven’t downloaded the required MP3 conversion program ‘LAME’ from where Audacity directs you to already, at this point you’ll be prompted and directed to the instructions and download link. Don’t click in the big sidebar adverts saying ‘download’ – make sure you select the right one beneath the instructions for LAME MP3, for your computer. Once installed, you might need to click on ‘Browse’ for the LAME MP3 program the first time you export your track from Audacity, but otherwise the file will convert and save automatically in your chosen location – I use ‘My Music’ files to save all audio.

You can then make a Windows Movie file using the complete soundtrack. Import your images or video first (I used a single image for the first track, as it was an experiment), and then your audio. Select the MP3 file of your complete, mixed soundtrack, and it will appear as a single track in your ‘My Movie’ project. Your images, movie or slideshow will then need to be edited in ‘running length/time’ to match the length of your soundtrack, given in seconds. Alternatively, decide on the length of your movie and fade out the soundtrack accordingly – it’s up to you. Add any captions or titles that you want to include. Then save and export your movie file as normal – the usual for upload online is to export it as a file ‘for computer’ although you can also write to DVD etc.

This method is ideal for book trailers, where you’re not trying to sync dialogue, and just want an easily-manageable soundtrack.

So, having succeeded, and wanting to play with adding a few more sound effects to my ‘battle scene’ soundtrack, I re-opened the project in Audacity, saved it as a different file name so as not to over-write the original, removed the music, and added an MP3 of different music and samples that I’d remixed earlier, to make another version:

O-Ren Ishii

Click here for ‘Chill Bill – Lucy Loses It Remix’ (contains strong language)

After that, and playing with more ideas for backing music and an even longer battlefield audio scene, I downloaded some aircraft sounds, extended the mix, changed the music again, made a tribute slideshow, and eventually ended up with this:

‘Nightmare Before Apocalypse’ – audio remix (backing track: Danny Elfman). Click here for alternative link if you can’t see the video above.

Not only did I have a ton of fun with this, I also got several new story ideas while mixing up music and FX – so whether you’re planning on making yourself a free book trailer and need to record voice-over, sounds and music, or are wondering what your battle scenes might sound like, or even just want some inspiration, it’s a great way to get even more creative.

Enjoy 🙂 x

Another tutorial: Linking to multimedia in ebooks

Hello! Spring has sprung, the holidays have come, and hopefully we’re all outdoors getting some sunshine and healthy fresh air, not indoors with a TV movie marathon and a serious hand-blanket-stitching cosplay costume-making addiction. Just me on that one, I think…

Ok now, we all want to publish ebooks that stand out in the current market, and one thing you can do to perk them up is to add links to multimedia content:

Remember that you must own the content to share it (visual AND audio), and you must keep in mind that many of the more basic e-readers will not be running Flash player, or support video and audio content, and you don’t want their own enjoyment of reading the rest of the book interrupted with large blocks of non-functioning embedded content.

Check out the ‘Look Inside’ preview of this ebook that I formatted for a true-life memoir author, Sophie Neville: The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons.

She’d shown me some old home-movie footage her family had taken at the time the film was made, and I suggested editing it into short clips that could be linked to in the text inside the book, as well as create a book trailer from it.

You’ll see hyperlinks under the first two photographs on the title pages of her ebook, linking to footage uploaded onto the author’s Youtube channel. (I also edited the footage for her, and used music soundtracks available from the copyright-free libraries). I edited the ebook’s description on Amazon to include the line “contains links to behind-the-scenes home movie footage for readers with browser-enabled tablets” – so that customers would be aware of how this worked.

If you own one of these non-browser, non-Flash Kindles or e-readers, you can download the reader app to your PC or other internet device to read and view books with multimedia content, where the links will work on your PC or device with an internet connection and fully-functioning browser.

On the iPad or iPhone, for example, when you tap on the video hyperlink in this ebook, the video appears full-screen, ready to watch. When it has finished, you just tap on the Youtube prompt ‘Done’ – it closes automatically and you’re back on your page in the Kindle book. Neat stuff.

Here’s how to format and publish a standard text or illustrated ebook – click here.

Start with your content – you have to own it, as will become clear shortly, and also have permission of anyone (or their property, or music) who appears in your footage, whether it’s made using stills or video. Make sure you include a written acknowledgement of their contribution in your ‘Thank You’ list at the end of your book, for granting you permission.

Firstly, set up a Youtube channel in your author name, and upload your edited content.

In your video’s description on the Youtube edits page while uploading, include the words ‘(Book title) Copyright (your name) (year) Thanks to (names of contributors in this video). All permissions obtained.’

Copy the shortlink to share the video you want to link from the ‘Share’ tab under the video on Youtube, e.g. http://youtu.be/chXkQ8m8tKM Make sure you only have the link to your video copied. Don’t copy any longer links from the address bar, which may contain ‘play all’ loops or playlists, which prompt the link to include the rest of your videos, or ones with the same title or search terms in the content that plays when the link is clicked on. If you can only copy the link from your browser’s address bar, make sure that if it contains the symbol ‘&’ you first select the ‘&’ and anything that appears after the ‘&’ symbol, and delete that part, before copying the first part of the link only. Also delete the ‘s’ from ‘https’ at the beginning of the link – otherwise your link is set to ‘private browsing’ and will only work if the reader is also signed in to Youtube.

If your ebook is illustrated, you can do the same as I did for this particular author, and put links under appropriate illustrations. This means that folk with regular e-readers still get something nice to look at, and the video is just enhancement for readers with fully-functioning browsers. Don’t link the video to the illustration itself – this will mess with the ‘zoom image’ tap function on touchscreen tablets, and no-one will know it is there! It’s best for clarity to type the line ‘Click here for video’ or something similar as I have done, and hyperlink the sentence.

Highlight the phrase you want to link on your document in Word/OpenOffice etc, click on the ‘Insert’ tab, select ‘Hyperlink’, select ‘on the web’ in the left-hand sidebar of the control box that pops up, and paste your video’s link into the box saying ‘web address’, then ‘Apply’ and ‘Done/OK’.

Once you’ve added your video hyperlinks, whether they’re book trailers, vlogs, author interviews with yourself, you dressed up as one of your characters acting out a scene etc, finish formatting your ebook document, and upload and submit it for publishing as described in the Formatting Ebooks tutorial.

Your book will appear in the Kindle store. Now, at some point, you will receive an email from KDP stating that your book ‘contains content freely available on the web’ and to ‘verify that you are the owner’ of this material, otherwise your book will be removed and the rest of your author account as well. You must reply immediately, as they only give you a few days’ notice to answer. All you need do is send a polite and prompt reply confirming that it is your own footage on your own Youtube channel (see name on your Youtube channel) and has been uploaded for the purpose of marketing your book (see book title and author name in your video descriptions). The same goes for images if queried, or your own written blog posts, that you might have replicated in your published books. Also follow any prompts they have given you in their email to confirm ownership by re-submitting the book, by opening the edit menu of your book on your KDP dashboard, re-selecting ‘All territories’ on the ‘Rights & Royalties’ page, and re-submitting your book for publishing. They will later reply to your reply, confirming acknowledgement of your right to publish the content. These emails are not automated, and your content and written verification will be checked by actual people.

For the above reason, make sure that any video content you have created to link to in your ebook does not contain anything illegal, defamatory, plagiarist, obscene, or that could be interpreted as an actual declaration of war in our Universe or the next.

Also, be aware that browsers with some child-safety ‘nanny’ programs running to block adult content may be set up by readers with families on shared computers (to whom your own book and content might be perfectly safe and suitable, as is the one I formatted), but the fact that your book contains Youtube links will mean it does not appear on their home computers in online searches. This is because Youtube and other video sites overall contain content blocked by these programs, and there’s nothing you can do to get around parenting shields that detect and block Youtube and video links (I’d be very concerned if there was a way around it). If the parents have alternative access on other computers and tablets without these parenting shields, they will be able to find your book without any problems. Just because your book doesn’t appear on or is blocked on one family’s computer doesn’t mean it will be blocked on all of them. (One of my author clients got quite excitable when she thought her extremely tame book had been ‘banned’ after trying to look it up at a friend’s house and found it was blocked by their online family filter).

So it can be done, and managed effectively, and if it all ties together nicely it makes a really good transmedia reading experience for the customer – you only have to see what the Amazon reviewers have said about the video content in the book I formatted for Sophie Neville (although she has allowed one reviewer to give her ALL of the credit for technical wizardry, LOL!)

…If you are formatting a paperback version later on, change your hyperlinks to the original shortlinks as above. That way readers can find your video content by typing in the address itself, as there’s nowhere to click on paper yet 🙂

To learn how to format and publish a paperback or hardcover, click here.

Have fun, and good luck. And remember to get out more 😉 xxx

Q&A: Lisa Scullard – writer, editor, formatter, parkour enthusiast…

A surprise invitation from David Powning of Ink-Wrapped…

Only You – guest post by Dan Holloway

Happy New Year!

If your New Year’s Resolution is to self-publish for the first time, and you’re looking for a place to start – whether it’s writing your first ever piece or getting to grips with formatting the files and uploading them, there’s lots of advice out there. (There’s lots of advice in here!)

One of the most experienced indies around is Dan Holloway, who I first met when I went to witness the 100th International Literary Death Match live in London (see Dan’s author profile below). So when he announced the release of his new title last month Self-Publish With Integrity, I invited him to write a guest post for all the writers out there facing the New Year with that same ambition – to quit the gatekeeper waiting game, and get their work out into the spotlight of the world.

Since he founded the Year Zero Writers collective in January 2009, Dan Holloway has been a leading figure in the self-publishing community. Winner of the international spoken word phenomenon Literary Death Match whilst the only self-published author competing; writing the guidebook for the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Open Up to Indies campaign; writing about the very best of self-publishing across the internet including contributing regularly to the Guardian Books Blog, Dan has built a reputation for refusing to compromise his artistic principles for short term commercial success. (Amazon author profile)

So I’m very proud to welcome Mr Dan Holloway – links to find his book and his blog are at the bottom of the post…

L xxx 🙂

'Self-Publish With Integrity' by Dan Holloway

Only You

Spend a little time looking through advice for self-published writers and you will soon find yourself inundated by advice on what can best, if loosely, be labelled branding. How do I make myself discoverable? How do I appeal to the right readers? How will people respond to my cover? Am I saying the right things on social media? Does my writing hit all the points on the genre’s expectation list?

With respect (and in some cases with absolutely no respect at all), unless you are writing purely and simply to try and earn some kind of a crust, because having one day job isn’t enough you’d like two thank you (and if you’re only in it for the money 1. why would you be reading something I’ve written? and 2. following advice of people who made money but probably didn’t set out only to do that isn’t going to help), all of this is, erm, misplaced.

Most people who write are passionate. If not about “writing” per se, then about something – exploring the lives and worlds of a set of characters who’ve wormed their way into your head, connecting with people who share a fascination with a particularly kooky slant you have on the world, just reaching out to someone to let them know they’re not alone. Whatever it is they’re passionate about, all the best writers I know have that one thing in common – passion.

That right there, that passion, is your “brand.” It’s what makes you uniquely qualified to write the stories you write, and it’s what gives your stories their intangible magic, their ability to reach out and hook anyone who shares your passion.

Like pretty much any educational curriculum, most self-publishing advice starts out as providing a handy toolkit to help you bring your individuality to the world in a way that accentuates it, showcases it to its very best – and ends up very quickly becoming a sausage factory designed to squeeze that individuality from you in order to conform to some standardised notion of what is “the right way” that has been dictated by a group of opinion formers and discourse makers who represent the collective wisdom of every group that has stood on the side of every oppression in history.

If your goal is to hone yourself until every facet of what you do matches that expectation set, then why on earth would you self-publish? Why would you embark upon a course that has a glorious, grubby ability to free you from the shackles of being told how a story has to develop, how many words a book should have, what kind of cover “readers” will like, what kind of melange of genres and points of view constitute acceptable experimentation?

As a self-publisher, don’t ever forget that the true freedom self-publishing gives you is the freedom to be you. The freedom to have a vision, to believe in that vision and realise it and then bring it to the world.

Yes, you might alienate some people by writing what you have to write. You might alienate a LOT of people in fact. But you will make those who share your passion love the worlds you have made. Too much advice is about not offending. Too little is about stirring passion, about being true to your vision.

There are two fundamental problems with the “don’t cause offence” school of writing. The first is that it really doesn’t sell books. Not in the long term. Yes, by producing a cover that perfectly matches the expectations of a genre, you might well encourage readers in that genre to buy your book. But in the long term, one of two things will happen – either they’ll read it and never read another one because you just couldn’t keep the “you” part of your writing hidden and those readers don’t want “you”, or you will tailor a whole series of books so perfectly to match expectations that they remove every last shred of “you” from every single part. And then you will wake up one day and look at what you’ve “achieved” and the “enjoyment” it’s given you and shake your head in horror.

The second problem is that what’s inoffensive to one person isn’t universally inoffensive. And this is a fundamental problem for anyone who’s any kind of an outsider. The majority’s manila is assumed to be something that couldn’t possibly offend anyone. Take easy listening music. No one could be offended by it, right? That’s the point. Well, most people in the street will, indeed, react with suitable blandness (a further problem with this school of thought – you don’t want your readers to find your work agreeable – do you? Really? Don’t you want them to be so damn excited by your books they queue from the early hours to get their hands on your new short story and then go out and scream at all their friends that they *must* buy it? Do you really think anyone ever jumped up and called their best friend and said “OMG, you’ll never guess what I just discovered, it’s this incredible colour called beige that you just have to paint your whole house right now”?). But your friend whose basement is stuffed with bootleg punk tapes? Will they really say “mmm, not my thing but harmless enough?”

The point is this – if you’re an outsider, then your outsider passions are not your weakness but your strength. It might be a small group that shares them, but those who do share them will do so with an equal passion. If you standardise your work so as not to offend, they are exactly the people you will alienate – and for the sake of not actually winning any die hard fans from anywhere else.

So, the most fundamental thing for any self-publisher to remember is to be yourself. Know what it is you’re passionate about and be proud of it. Don’t change yourself to find readers who wouldn’t like who you really are anyway – you wouldn’t do it to find friends, so don’t do it to find readers. Be yourself, be proud of yourself, and let your passion be the first, second and last thing that flows onto the page. And then you’ll find a set of readers who really love what you do.

Self-publish With Integrity, my guide to steering your way through the long self-publishing journey and staying true to your creative goals, is now available for Kindle in the UK:
My bestselling thriller The Company of Fellows is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Company-Fellows-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B004PLMHYC
All kind of things including free downloads are on my website: http://danholloway.wordpress.com – it also has links to all my other books, and links to articles and shows.

Dan Holloway

Back to basics: So you want to write a novel?

How Not to Write a Novel

First – read this…

I’ve realised that a lot of my posts preach to the choir. Lots of in-jokes about indie writers, the behaviour of authors and reviewers on Amazon, and how not to make a twat of yourself online or while sending in submissions. Not to mention how much money you won’t be making, and the joys of sharing your book launch date with anything in the region of 10,000 other writers publishing their books on the same day.

But supposing you’re fresh to the blank page, taunted by ideas waiting to take on a form, and in love with the idea of holding your own book in your hands or gazing at it on your electronic tablet? (Trust me, if anyone’s going to be holding it in awe, you’ll be that person).

So I’m going to go all Delia Smith on you, and start at the beginning.

Starting with the simple egg – your idea, before it has hatched.

The Idea:

You start with an idea. But what genre is it? It can be anything, but it will need a description when you publish or submit, even if it’s only ‘general fiction’.

If it’s not your own idea, and another author is already minted by it, it’s only legal when it’s a ‘parody’. Make sure it has some decent jokes in, change the key names of characters and locations (viz, Barry Trotter), don’t write their exact prose, storylines, or copy their cover/title/author name verbatim, and you won’t be likely to get sued. Parodies are HUGELY popular. If you’re going to parody something that’s already massive, such as Harry Potter or Fifty… (of anything), make sure you Google search all of the “(Original title) parody/parodies” that are already published first. Even self-published authors can get stroppy if you write the same thing. Some of them are also lawyers in their spare time.

Writing parody is a good exercise if you’re new to writing, or have previously only written fan-fiction. You can’t publish fan-fiction with an ISBN or sell it online (that way litigation lies), but you can publish parody. Some territories are still sensitive about it, so the more you make it your own story, the better.

‘Memoirs’ are another opener onto first-time writing. But be aware that to avoid slaps from friends and family, and visits to Jeremy Kyle, it’s best to change all the names in your diary, and possibly your author name too. Change a few more things, then a few more, and hey presto – instant fiction, inspired by real life. But don’t publish something as ‘true-life’ when it clearly isn’t. That imaginary gryphon will be demanded as evidence.

Play with your idea for a while. Write down a list of “what ifs”. What if this happened, what if that happened? What if one of your characters turned out to be XXX? What if it was set in an asylum rather than a school? (Don’t use that one, it’s the plot of Girl, Interrupted and the movies One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sucker Punch, among many others). Keep playing until you’ve come up with the most exciting and original version of your initial idea that you can think of.

N.B: If you are writing a children’s story, avoid any themes that involve strange creatures, hairy or otherwise, hiding under their beds or turning up in their bedrooms and talking to them. Seriously. It’s just wrong. Go and have a serious chat to yourself, and start again. If you’re going to be a trusted author for young readers, any bodily hair envy and bedroom loneliness needs to be put aside while you write. These things have a way of turning up inappropriately in plotlines and passages written by the amateur author.

The audience:

It’s a good time to begin thinking about your potential audience (that’s assuming it isn’t ultimately limited only to yourself). What sort of lifestyle does your future reader have? What are their interests? (Also assuming that their primary interest isn’t to be in competition with you, feverishly typing away at their hors d’ouevre – sorry, latest ouverture/magnum opus – in their bedroom, wishing that they had a hairy chest and some good company).

Remember that if you are hoping to write with authority on any given subject, you may be in luck – and your first unknown reader will be that very expert you dream of being. So make your research the best it can possibly be. Try not to quote directly from Wikipedia, though. Especially not in speeches made by Churchill, or adventurers describing the landscape and population of Peru. You don’t want your first ever review announcing that you have quite clearly never set a heathen foot in Royal Tunbridge Wells, where the imaginary Mafia underbelly of your Victorian-era thriller is set. Yeah – better do some research first…

Characterisation vs. caricature:

Again, this where you have to make a distinction between general fiction, and parody.

If your hero is a time-travelling sock-puppet salesman assisted by various young Earthlings shanghaied on a mission to save the Universe repeatedly from the threat of laser-firing wheelie-bins powered by small gelatinous blobs, via the magical depths of his flying Portaloo – especially if his name is Doctor Why (more of a medical query than a name) – enjoy your own joke, and try again.

Or perhaps he is a 19th Century sleuth, Padlock Homes, who plays the cello, freebases Brylcreem, and stalks the streets of London in a Burberry Pack-a-Mac and matching sou’wester hat, haunted by the crimes of his nemesis Monsanto, to the ongoing befuddlement of of his male PA/secretary, Dr. Whatsapp.

We all love a quirky character. As well as making your character original (see above – or not), try not to give yours so many quirks that they are effectively crippled the moment they have to interact with anything. Whether it’s a bottle-opener, reading the mail, having a shower, talking to a shop assistant, or touching anything in the fridge.

Not every passing butterfly has to bring back six pages of traumatic (or idyllic) recall to the mind of your character. For a story to happen, your role-players need to have some functions that do not involve thoughts of a dead past love or an irrational fear of toilet paper.

You now have all you need to get writing.

Seriously – this is as good a time to start as any. Titles can come later. Synopsis can come later. Draft chapter plans if you want, or make prompt cards for certain events or plot points if you like. But the sooner you start, with your key ideas and key characters, the sooner you’ll find out if it’s an idea you want to run with, or something you lose interest in quickly, and drop. If it’s the latter, you don’t want thirty years’ worth of preparation to go to waste. Thirty minutes is long enough to have a story idea and a character idea ready in your head – and if you’re already an expert in any chosen subject matter, you don’t even need to do the essential research, because it’s already inside you.

Jump in with both feet – and remember: Innovate* don’t imitate**

*Unless it’s a parody…

**Credited to various, including Apple 😉

Let me know how you get on – and if I can answer any questions, I’ll do it in the next post.

L xxx

Formatting PDFs for print on demand (POD)

 FORMATTING PDFs FOR PRINT-ON-DEMAND BOOKS

(c) Lisa Scullard for Writing Buddies, February 2013

If you have formatted a document for e-book already, it is a good starting-point for your print version (n.b. This does not work successfully the other way around, due to format restrictions in e-books). Otherwise, your original document may be in Word, Works, Rich Text Format or Open Office text (ODT).

Firstly, you will need to decide on your physical book’s dimensions. The most popular, and easiest to set up free distribution for, are ‘Digest’ (5.5”x8.5”) or ‘US Trade’ (6”x9”). Not all sizes work for extended distribution, and some are more expensive to price afterwards, so the above are recommended. Choose one or the other – unless you wish to publish a hardcover, in which case select US Trade (6”x9”).

Start by downloading a free template file from Createspace (templates available here) or Lulu (templates available here) for your interior. The templates work in both Word and OpenOffice, and either download will work for both websites later. This sets up your page dimensions, mirror page styles including ‘gutter’ (the deeper margin that appears in the book’s spine to account for page bend), and trim area. Do not alter the page layout, unless prompted to do so by your online previewer later upon uploading (for example, if prompted to increase the gutter margin for books of over 400 pages – you will be told how much the gutter needs to increase – remember to decrease your outer margin by the same difference).

Using Ctrl+A, select and copy your document, from either your e-book document you created earlier, or your original document if you have not created an e-book yet. Open the pre-sized interior template with either Word or OpenOffice, and paste your document into it. Make sure your document already has a front/title page followed by a page break included in your original document before pasting it in, as the template begins with title page formatting already set. The first page of your novel will look odd (e.g. centred, heading style, bold) when you paste it in, if you do not start your book with a title page.

If you have previously created an e-book and used it as your source, all of your title page, copyright page, table of contents, page breaks and formatting will be preserved. If you have not created an e-book from your original document before, you will need to do some basic cleaning-up at this stage:

For clarity, set your paragraph formatting like this:

  • Left indent: 0cm
  • Right indent: 0cm
  • First line (special): 0.5cm
  • Above paragraph: 0cm
  • Below paragraph: 0cm
  • Line spacing: 1 line

It is up to you how you set out your justification. Both left and parallel margin justification is fine, so it is your choice depending on your preferred aesthetics. Centralising chapter headings, and right justification for other information, is also used.

You will need a title page for the very first/front page – just the title, in the font/size of your choosing, and your name underneath.

The next page is your copyright page. The legal minimum, to protect your rights, is to say ‘Book title © (your name)(year)’ and on the next line ‘The moral right of the author has been asserted’. You do not need to write anything more. If you have given yourself a publisher name, also include it on this page, e.g. First published by XXX Press in (year). You can also list other titles you have previously published on this page.

Then your Contents page/pages should appear, followed by an Introduction page and/or About the Author, a dedication if any, and then your chapters.

Always insert a page break at the end of a chapter or information page. The page break should be immediately after the last full stop of the chapter. This will be preserved if there are any later edits – do not use line returns to move new Chapters onto the next page, which will corrupt at every minor edit anywhere in the book – always use Insert/page break or Ctrl+Enter at the end of the last line of a chapter or information page.

Insert any headers, and page numbers. Your pagination will traditionally start with odd numbers (from 1) on a right-hand page, and even numbers on the left. (N.b, these pages appear back-to-front on-screen while editing in parallel viewing mode – what you will see side-by side on the screen is the right-hand/odd-numbered page on the left, and its reverse to be printed on the right, i.e. the following left-hand page as you turn it in the printed book).

To displace page numbers at the beginning of a book, for example to start with Chapter One on Page 1, click in the footer before the page number on any page, and go to Edit/Fields. In the ‘offset page numbers’ box, type the number of pages you wish to skip before page numbering visibly starts. So if your copyright page, Contents, Introduction and About the Author take up four pages before Chapter One starts, type ‘-4’ numerically (minus four) in the box. You will need to do this for both the left and right-handed page.

Traditionally, Chapter One starts on the right-handed page (viz, offset as page 1). If you have not enough pages beforehand to offset with an even number, it is perfectly acceptable to have a blank page facing page 1, or an image, or a dedication. It is entirely up to you, and often more visually pleasing to have this ‘space’ on the left-hand page, rather than a continuation of previous information such as contents or introduction facing the start of the first chapter.

Your headers are also a matter of aesthetics. You may have your author name as one header, and the book title on the facing page – or if the book is part of a series, you may have the series title on the left and book title on the right, or book’s main title on the left and sub-heading on the right. Or simply the book title on both pages. Once a header is filled in on an even page, it must then be filled in on an odd page to appear throughout, as the page style in the template is ‘mirrored’ but information in these fields is denoted as ‘right page’ and ‘left page’ entries, so like the page numbering field settings, headers must be done twice, but do not have to match on left and right pages.

Page headers are also a space to be creative. You can use Wingding swirlies either side of your title or name, exotic fonts, experiment with font-size and capitals, or just use traditional text. Remember that what you are seeing on the template will print in the finished book as actual size, so opt for clarity, whatever you use. The same goes for your title page and chapter headings – have fun with it.

Footnotes and endnote positioning from your original document will be preserved. You do not need to worry about these. Endnote pages will have a separate header area to the rest of your book, so in your header area there you can have something different if you wish, such as ‘References’ or ‘Articles’ – whatever is relevant to your notes, or you can just fill in your book title/author name as before.

Any internet hyperlinks will need to be changed to actual internet addresses – remember that there is nowhere to click in a paperback book yet!

Some things you can of course do differently in paperbacks, compared to e-books. You can use line returns for spacing and positioning on the page – every page will be printed as you see it on the template document, so you have more freedom. You can use as many different fonts and sizes as you like, special characters, smiley faces, foreign text – whatever takes your fancy.

Any images should be added last, using Insert/Picture/from File, and in order from the front, as they will shunt all text and corrupt the layout of pages following them, which will then need any formatting issues corrected. Pictures will only print grey-scale if you opt for black and white interior printing (pencil drawings and pen-and-ink look wonderful). Short books can be printed with colour interiors – some POD printers only have ‘shiny’ paper stock for this (as in a photobook, or cookery book) and it applies to every page, even those without illustrations. The only decision to make there is cost, as they are more expensive to produce, so you may find it cost-prohibitive to produce a full-colour interior book if it is very long.

Format your pictures using right-click/Picture to resize or crop. Do not drag the corners of the image to re-size – they will distort, and no longer maintain aspect ratio or picture quality. Use the ‘percentage of original’ re-size control in the Format Picture ‘Crop’ window. Vertical and horizontal should match – ensure that if you insert 30% in the vertical, you also put 30% in the horizontal instructions to maintain proportions. You can wrap text around images by aligning them left, right (or centred, if that floats your boat!), right-clicking on the image and selecting ‘Wrap’ or ‘Page Wrap’ and the wrap style you want. If edits are made later, remember that everything shunts up or down a page, and images are the worst offenders. Always check your document from the beginning thoroughly after inserting images and if any further changes afterwards are made. If something nasty occurs, like images overlapping after an edit, or text vanishing behind a picture, it’s best to click on ‘Undo’ and try again.

Once you have finished adding to your interior, proofreading it and dealing with any problems, such as hanging lines at the end of a chapter (where a single line appears in a lonely fashion at the top of the last page in a chapter before a page break – the best way to deal with this is to either give it some company by breaking up a few longer paragraphs in that chapter to move it all down a few lines, or to bring it back a page with some editing – some of my best edits/additions have occurred while dealing with end-of-chapter hanging sentences!), you can page-number your Contents list, which is very pleasing to see in a printed book. If your contents list is still hyperlinked from your ebook file, you can find your page numbers easily by navigating your way through the list and noting down each page that every chapter starts on. Keep a note at this stage of the total number of pages in your document. If you edit at any point after page-numbering your contents list, and it gains or loses you pages, you will have to re-page-number the contents list of every chapter after the loss or gain.

The neatest way to create a numbered contents list in a print book is to use an invisible table. Just insert a table two columns across and with as many lines as you need. Drag the centre line across to the right to make room for longer chapter headings. Cut and paste your chapter headings from the original list, one at a time, into their positions in the table. Then insert your page numbers. Left-justify the chapter headings in the left column, and right-justify the page numbers in the right column by selecting the column, and clicking the appropriate justification button on the toolbar. While the table formatting box is visible, select the entire table, and change the line-style to ‘none’. You will see in your print preview that the lines are invisible. You can also adjust the spacing above and below text in the boxes using Format/Paragraph – this one below is set to 0.05cm, both above line and below line:

CONTENTS:

Introduction
About the Author
Chapter One

1

Chapter Two

7

Chapter Three

16

Chapter Four

24

If your chapter headings, or any headings/text elsewhere in the book still contains navigable hyperlinks, it is now a good idea to right-click on each and remove the hyperlinks, as they may otherwise appear blue, underlined, or in different fonts after saving and exporting to PDF.

Here’s a small problem I’ve encountered when pasting a document into a template using OpenOffice, which is easily remedied. If your prose/paragraphs are refusing to justify vertically at the bottom of pages, or cutting off prematurely and leaving large empty gaps at the bottom of sometimes half a page or more, once you have dealt with all the other issues, this can be remedied. Click the cursor into the prematurely abbreviated paragraph, then in the OpenOffice toolbar select Format>Paragraph and select ‘Text Flow’ in the pop-up box menu. Look for the check-box that says ‘Do not split paragraph’ and make sure it is UN-ticked, before clicking on ‘Apply/OK’. The other check boxes should also be left clear.

IMG-20140803-00622

Un-tick this box in the image above, and confirm by clicking Ok/Apply – all four check boxes should be empty

Your paragraph will now wrap properly to the bottom of the print template. You will need to do this on every following page where the error gaps appear. The gaps may reappear with any further edits to the document, or in really irritating cases if it has been closed after saving and then re-opened, so make sure that this is the last formatting correction you make before saving and exporting the finalised version as PDF. If you are inserting and justifying images as well for an illustrated print book (see below), you can do these paragraph corrections at the same time. You may find that the book is shorter as the text moves up a few pages throughout the whole book, meaning the page numbering in your contents list may also need to be checked and changed. It is all worth it in the end, trust me!

Remember to save your work (‘Save as/Book title’, so you still have a copy of your blank template) in whatever file type you are using.

To export as PDF: In OpenOffice, a text-only book will save perfectly using ‘File/Export as PDF’, and following the prompts. Open the new PDF of your book after saving, and check it to ensure you are pleased with its appearance (and for typos!)

For illustrated print books, or to export from Word, you will need to download a free unlimited-use third-party program called ‘doPDF’ and install it on your PC or laptop. This is required to address problems in documents corrupting during export, such as images shunting to overlap text and blank pages appearing, and also works beautifully when exporting PDFs from Word, Paint, and other programs with no automated PDF creator. It is a small file size and has had no issues in the last two years I have used it. It works by setting itself up from the ‘File/Print’ menu. Once installed, go to File on the toolbar, then select Print… and in the control window, select the printer ‘doPDF’ from the drop-down printer choice menu. Click on ‘okay’ to proceed. It will say as usual ‘printing’ but is not actually printing, but converting the file. Once finished, it will open your new PDF automatically for you to check using your own previously installed Adobe Acrobat. Make sure your Acrobat viewer zoom setting is re-set to 100% to see your new PDF at actual size. You may find yourself having to search for its saved location in your ‘My Documents’ afterwards, but it’s worth it!

You now have a complete interior to upload onto either Createspace or Lulu, or both. Lulu makes lovely dust-jacket hardcovers, so if you have made a 6”x9” interior, you can use it for both hardcover and paperback versions.

Cover image:

You have two choices – you can use the high-quality online cover creators on Createspace or Lulu, using their templates, and add your own high-resolution images, or free non-copyright images (e.g. from www.morguefile.com). These cover creators will calculate the spine width for you automatically and give you a range of font styles, backgrounds and layouts to use. Or you can create your own complete wraparound cover file from scratch. You will need to know the spine width and dimensions required by typing in your page count, trim/book size, and paper quality choice into the Createspace calculator or Lulu, and downloading a cover template to follow, which will have the trim area marked out as well. The cover you create for one site will not be the right spine width for the other, as the paper used by each is of different gauges. The best tool I’ve found to create these single covers is OpenOffice Draw, which exports files as PDF, although you could also use MS Paint or Photoshop, using ‘doPDF’ as your exporter via the Print menu as before. You may find creating a single wraparound cover can be hit-and-miss – I have done so for four of my books and thoroughly enjoyed it, although it was very time-consuming, as covers have to be precisely actual size. I also use the cover creators for other titles and Lulu, as I can use a single image created myself for the front cover, and the rest is just selecting background and font colours on the back and spine to match, and adding a (usually square) author image for the reverse.

Uploading:

Createspace is owned by Amazon, so you only need your Amazon details to set it up, and like KDP for Kindle, it is free to publish, with ISBNs, and to distribute to Amazon.com, Amazon UK, and Amazon Europe. It is also free to list your books elsewhere such as libraries and academic institutions and for direct shop ordering, but it will require you to raise your US cover price. You will need your bank details for any royalty payments.

Use the step-by-step method to publish and follow the prompts. It will issue you a free ISBN, listing Createspace as the publisher. If you buy and supply your own ISBNs, then you are the publisher. Select your trim size and paper stock at this stage – the classic cream paper is good quality, slightly thicker gauge than stark white.

Use the online previewer to review your book after uploading the interior file – reviewing your book by ordering a print copy, before approving it for distribution, can take up to two months just to arrive from the U.S.A. – so it is worth it to go through the online previewer pages as well as quite fun to watch the virtual pages turn and load.

If the online previewer detects problems with your file, address the ones such as ‘insufficient gutter’ or ‘insufficient trim area’. Ensure that if you increase your gutter area, that you decrease your outer margin area by the same amount – or you will narrow the middle text area and increase your page count, forcing you to re-format and re-page number again. A bit of adjustment either side usually does the trick, but a gutter deficiency of a couple of millimetres won’t spoil the readability of the book.

Problems such as low image resolution (as low as 72dpi) do not affect book printing or distribution, and there are perfectly good image reproductions at low-res in print books. Low resolution is generally fine for small graphics and scanned artwork. Photographs print better at a more optimum resolution, 300dpi, which is the recommended resolution for all images in a print book.

If you have selected ‘black and white interior’ any images you have inserted in colour will show up in colour on the previewer, but will print as greyscale (the same goes for the preview on Lulu).

However, you can select a full-colour interior on Createspace, on white paper stock only. The Createspace full-colour interior option is excellent, with a matte finish as in all good colour books, and very good reproduction quality for cartoons and illustrations as well as photographs and graphics, illuminated or colour text. Your book will be more expensive than a black and white interior, so is worth doing if you have a graphic novel or a great many illustrations (for the best value for money) as it applies to every interior page included in the overall price, and for cost-effectiveness is best for shorter, densely illustrated books, no more than 150 pages in length – where readers can appreciate they’re getting a full-colour book without feeling too extorted!

Once you have approved your file, ignored any minor issues and moved on, created or uploaded your cover (a great fun part to do online, as you see it appearing before you!), you will see a summary and a button to ‘submit files for review’. You now wait up to 48 hours, biting your nails, for the human reviewers to quickly check the files as well. Reasons for rejection can be things like the author name and title of the book differing from how they appear on the cover, or another ISBN appearing on the copyright page – I had my other books listed here with their ISBNs, and was told those ISBNs were ‘not correct for this title’ and to update them. I ended up removing them from my book-list altogether, as it was quicker than pointing out their own oversight in not realising they were associated ISBNs alongside a list of my other books. But usually they just highlight minor issues such as image resolution, which can be ignored. You then approve your file by going back onto the site and confirming it for distribution, selecting your sales outlets, adding a description and author blurb, and it will appear on Amazon within a few days. Order a print copy to review as well – it is very cheap, will take a while to arrive, but you will have a copy to proof-read and mark-up for any changes.

Createspace now offer the expanded distribution channels for free should you choose to select them – brilliant. This means your book can be ordered by high street stores and academic/library institutions in the USA. You will be required to raise your Amazon.com cover price, but it will still keep your book within the reasonable price range for a new title.

You can also select your cover ‘finish’ at this stage – gloss or matte (both options are free).

Createspace will offer to forward your paperback file to the KDP site to publish as an e-book for you. I would suggest you say no, especially if you have already published it as an e-book on KDP. This is because you have no idea how your book, optimised for print, will appear on an e-reader. There may be blank e-reader screens, and there will definitely be no linked table of contents or nice hyperlinks elsewhere. Use the e-book formatting guide to optimise an e-book version and publish your ebook separately.

You can upload new versions at any time, and go through the review process again. Always select ‘Interior’ and ‘Change/upload new version’ from your product’s dashboard on Createspace to upload your new edits. Don’t delete the book and start from scratch, or upload it again from the start, or you will have multiple versions available with different ISBNs. Always make changes to the existing book. This will ensure the old version is updated with the same ISBN, and the same product page, rank and ratings on Amazon.

On Lulu: A similar step-by-step process is used, somewhat clearer, to publish books and make available to the public on Lulu, or to distribute to Amazon etc. I find it easiest at present to have my Amazon version published by Createspace with their free ISBN, and to make special editions, hardcovers, and easy-ordering copies for author events printed by Lulu, as paperbacks from Lulu only take two days to arrive. For that, you can select one of the first two publishing options – ‘Make private and available only to me’ or ‘Make public to sell in the Lulu marketplace’ without an ISBN (these two options are 100% free).

Once you complete the process, there is no reviewer stage, and your book is available instantly. Look for coupon codes on their homepage, which are a regular feature – you can get up to 30% off coupons, or free postage, all of which adds up to considerable author savings when ordering copies for your own events. If you have selected option two as above, you will have a Lulu product page to share with the public and on your blog, and your book will be visible via search and browse, unless you make it private and available only to you. You can change your book’s visibility at any time by selecting ‘Revise’ from your author dashboard.

You can have ISBN versions distributed from Lulu as an alternative to Createspace, but the last time I checked into this, the process requires you to have your PDF created by an ‘approved’ agent – so unless you want to pay for this too, stick with Createspace for distribution and ISBNs. You can use Lulu as well as Createspace, for identical books for your own purposes – you are the self-published author and maintain control where your publishing platforms are – but you cannot add your Createspace ISBN as your own on Lulu, as it is not transferable.

An alternative print-on-demand company is Lightning Source, which have a very good reputation, distribution reach (although it is up to you to do the selling and marketing to outlets as before – just because the printers say they supply high street stores does not mean that the shops will automatically order yours for their shelves), and like Createspace now do as a free option (you can order a sample booklet from Createspace to see their cover quality alternatives), they have the option of matte (not smooth satin-finish matte) covers for paperbacks if you like the slightly rubbery recycled car-tyre tactile effect rather than the traditional print-on-demand gloss – but they are expensive and slow to set up, and you have to have a business bank account in your ‘publisher name’. It can cost over £475 to publish one book through them, and spotting a single typo would cost (at last report) up to £88 to upload a revised version. Remember that it’s 100% free to use Createspace and Lulu for the same, and there are no limits on the number of revisions you upload to either of those. Worth mentioning is that if you publish on Createspace, and a customer orders your book from Amazon in the UK or Europe, your book will be printed by Lightning Source anyway, as Createspace have subcontracted their printing locally with Lightning Source to speed up delivery to EU customers. And at no cost to you. (Info: Createspace at London Book Fair, 2013)

A note on uploading illustrated print books: Files of over 15MB will take a long time to upload, and may time out or crash if the site is very busy. Keep persisting, try uploading at different times of day, and close all other work and windows. If there is an apparently insurmountable problem, which so far I only encountered once on Lulu with a file refusing to upload, I looked on their advice page and downloaded an FTP client program which allowed me to transfer the file directly onto their server. It took three hours via FTP, but when it finished and I signed back into that author’s account, the illustrated PDF was available to select from their ‘My Files on Lulu’ at the interior stage of publishing, so it can be done. I have not had problems with Createspace – you just need a little patience while the bigger files upload. If you have compressed the images, as in the instructions for formatting e-books, uploading issues are likely to be less troublesome.

Formatting text and illustrated ebooks for publishing

Since you’ve all been so good to me reading my nonsense, or my making nonsense out of other people’s literary works, I wanted to share my latest instruction handout on formatting ebooks, and also formatting interior print files and covers for POD (Print-on-Demand). So long as you stay within the permitted file size, it’s possible to publish illustrated ebooks for all devices, as well as text-only books, and the idea is to ensure the reading enjoyment of the customer is optimised by making sure everything is clear and easy to navigate. If you want to, you can also include links to multimedia, and that minefield is covered here.

Some things, like linked endnotes, are also still a bit of a minefield, and what works for Kindle won’t work for Smashwords. But the main thing is to get the basic formatting of your book right. So once you’ve cleaned up your spelling, grammar, checked you know the meanings of all the words you’re using (I could write a whole blog post about misplaced meanings that I’ve come across, it’s one of my favourite things about proofreading!), double-checked your research, and decided you’re going to unleash one of the 25,000 new books currently being published every week (source: London Book Fair seminar, April 2013), here’s how to deal with the technical stuff…

FORMATTING E-BOOKS FOR INDIE/SELF-PUBLISHING:

© Lisa Scullard for Writing Buddies, February 2013

Format your ebook first, before your print version.

Your original document may be in Word, Works, Rich Text Format or Open Office text (ODT). The most usual format to save it as and upload into Kindle for sale on Amazon is as a webpage file (HTML). However, if your computer’s word-processor is OpenOffice, your formatting will be preserved better for Kindle if you save it as a Word 2007/XP document (DOC) instead. If you find persistent conversion errors in your HTML file after uploading and previewing it on KDP and Kindle, such as changes to line spacing or font sizes (the ‘Look Inside’ preview on your book’s product page on Amazon is a good indication), go back to your document that you formatted and save it as Word for upload to KDP instead.

Firstly ensure that there are no manual reasons for corruption in the end product. Different fonts are not supported, so your e-book should be set in either Times New Roman or Arial, and no larger than 12-point font size (the e-reader devices support zooming-in and re-justifying of font size for easy reading, so having larger fonts in your original document is not necessary).

*****

For clarity, set your paragraph formatting like this:

  • Left indent: 0cm
  • Right indent: 0cm
  • First line (special): 0.5cm (if centralising a heading or picture/caption, re-set to 0cm or ‘none’ at those points only)
  • Above paragraph: 0cm
  • Below paragraph: 0cm
  • Line spacing: 1.5 lines
  • Paragraph style: either – Normal, Default, Body Text or None – not a combination

It is up to you how you set out your justification. Both left and parallel margin justification is supported, so it is your choice depending on your preferred aesthetics. Centralising chapter headings, and right justification for other information, also works.

Always insert a page break at the end of a chapter or information page. The page break should be immediately after the last full stop of the chapter.

Remove all headers, footers, and page numbers. These will not convert.

Make sure border styles in your ‘Page’ formatting is set to ‘none’.

You can use bold and italics in e-books. These convert well into e-reader format.

Most readers of Kindle prefer a hyperlinked/reverse hyperlinked table of contents, and for other converters including Smashwords and Lulu for Nook and Apple, it is compulsory for distribution. If you do not know how this is done, we will cover it as well.

Automated footnotes1 and endnotesi always convert to appear at the end of a document in e-books. The automated links will not convert into Kindle format unless you manually hyperlink them – they will be numbered, but not navigable otherwise. Remember to link the endnote back to the start of the text where it originated as well. Use the same method to hyperlink them as you do for the contents list and chapters. For Smashwords, all automated bookmarks for footnotes/endnotes must be edited manually to include the prefix: ref_ Then each endnote and its reference will have to be re-hyperlinked manually as well. This ensures that rogue bookmarks do not convert into additional chapter numbers at the end of their automated Table of Contents.

You can use internet hyperlinks in e-books, as most e-readers are browser-enabled. This is useful to direct readers to your website or blog, to online references in non-fiction, or to research articles. Put your personal links in your author page at the beginning of the e-book. Distributors like Nook and Apple will reject books where outgoing links appear at the end of the book.

Straight apostrophes (‘) and speechmarks (“) look better in e-reader screen format than predictive curly ones (“”) and you will also have no problem with them appearing back-to-front as typos. Use ‘Find/Replace All’ to change them – remember to search for both (mirror) versions of each.

*****

Some important DO NOTs:

  • Do not use multiple returns for line spacing. E-readers convert multiple returns at the end of paragraphs, or at the top of pages, into completely blank e-reader pages. For a text pause, use one return and then ‘*****’ as a break (see above), which is the accepted format. You may use a single line return only before a chapter heading following a page break, for aesthetics.
  • Do not use space bar hits for indents, spacing or positioning text. Although fashionable in prose poetry for print books, your formatting will be lost once converted to an ebook. Again, these will convert into blank pages or empty lines, depending on the size of screen your book is viewed on. Phrases positioned using space bar strikes will not preserve their position when converted into e-books, but will simply ‘shunt’ phrases unevenly. Always use paragraph formatting settings (as described above) to create indents. A paragraph indent should never be more than 0.5cm – larger indents, such as 1.5cm, will push the first line of your new paragraph too far across the screen on smaller e-readers, such as the iPhone. You can use ‘Find/Replace all’ to remove multiple space bar hits – simply search for two spaces and replace with one space, and repeat until no more double spaces are found. This ensures that only one space at most appears between words, or in error. You can also use ‘Show Non-printing characters’ to scroll through and find spaces inserted in error at the start of a new paragraph.
  • Do not insert an additional blank line/return at the end of a chapter – this will convert into an empty e-reader page between the chapters.
  • If your writing style includes ellipses (…) make sure your ellipse immediately follows the previous word, without a space in between, i.e. ‘ellipse…’ or ‘ellipse… continued’ is correct whereas ‘ellipse …’ or ‘ellipse … continued’ will give the e-reader the ability to shunt the ellipse by itself to the start of a new line, or even to the top of a new page. This is frustrating if the ellipse appears at the end of dialogue or a paragraph, meaning that the sentence will appear to cut off dead on the previous page, while the three dots, or three dots and closed speech-mark, will appear all alone on a new line, or at the top of the next page. (The same can happen when formatting print books as the lines re-justify to your trim size). For your prose to make sense, always anchor your ellipses to the previous word by leaving no space in between them. Use ‘Find/Replace all’ to search for ellipses with a space before them ( …) and replace with ones without (…)
  • Do not include hyperlinks leading to other e-book retailers – for example, e-books containing links to Amazon, including your Amazon author page, will be rejected by Apple, Kobo and Nook etc. Link instead to the ‘books’ page of your blog or website, to direct readers to find your other work, on your ‘About the Author’ page at the start of your e-book.
  • Do not include pages and pages of reviews and comments at the start of your book, unless they are by celebrities! (This is a Kindle audience preference). A few comments are fine, should you wish, or a single page ‘Introduction’.
  • Do not use Wingdings, smiley faces or other non-typographical characters, even if they appear predictively through key-strikes. These do not convert into e-reader format. On my first attempt, I found these converted into empty square boxes on Kindle, and Chinese lettering on Smashwords! If you want to insert a character which is not on your keyboard, use ‘Insert/Special character’ from your chosen font only (for example, when writing the word pâté) and if you want to insert a smiley face or swirly shape as an artistic form, use ‘Insert/Picture/From File’ – there will be more on inserting pictures later, as the saved file format and layout is more complicated.
  • Do not leave a hanging space bar strike at the end of a paragraph. This will insert a blank line under the paragraph.

*****

Once you have cleaned up and formatted your file as above, there are a few inclusions to add. You will need a title page – just the title, in Bold, and your name underneath. This is usually centralised, and should have no more than one line return above the heading for aesthetics. Do not try to position it halfway down the page using line returns, or the first few pages of your e-book will be blank on smaller e-reader screens. A page break should follow immediately after your name.

The next page is your copyright page. Some authors write long-winded copyright pages. The legal minimum, to protect your rights, is to say ‘Book title © (your name)(year)’ and on the next line ‘The moral right of the author has been asserted’. You do not need to write anything more below that. If you have given yourself a publisher name, also include it on this page, e.g. First published by XXX Press in (year). Do not say ‘published by Kindle’ – they are not your publisher, just your distribution platform.

However, when publishing on Smashwords for Apple and Nook etc, and accepting a free Smashwords ISBN for distribution, they require acknowledgement as your distributor. In this instance, you must have ‘Smashwords Edition’ on the first (title) page, or the copyright page under your name, to be accepted for distribution. If you have paid for and supplied your own ISBN, then you are the publisher and must use the publisher name you bought the ISBNs with.

The free ASIN e-book identifier that appears automatically on your Kindle copy when you publish through KDP is not an ISBN, and not transferable – likewise, you cannot list your Smashwords-supplied ISBN on your Kindle version.

Lulu do not require to be referenced in your e-book as the publisher, when issuing their exclusive free ISBN for distribution on Nook and the iBookstore. If you have used Lulu, and also wish to publish on Kobo directly, you do not need to reference them as your publisher in the file either, or require your own ISBN. One will be issued free for Kobo once your book goes public, even if you leave the ISBN field empty when uploading the book on your Kobo Writing Life publishing dashboard.

*****

Following the copyright page is the Table of Contents. This should be hyperlinked. Your chapters can be named or numbered, standard numeric or Roman Numeral, or simply headed by title, e.g. all of these are acceptable:

  • Chapter One

  • Chapter 1

  • One

  • Chapter I

  • Ch. 1: A Mysterious Event

  • I – A Mysterious Event

  • Chapter One ~ A Mysterious Event

  • A Mysterious Event…

Or any combination of the above. A chapter heading should be long enough to understand and to navigate via hyperlink on a touch-screen, but not too long that it takes up several lines on a smaller e-reader. For example, the longest chapter heading I have in the Zombie Adventures series so far is ‘Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Leg of Extraneous Genito-Urinary Medicine’ – in the contents list, I only used the titles, not the chapter numbers, and it still took up two lines!

The way to hyperlink your chapters for Kindle and Smashwords is to insert bookmarks above each chapter heading, thus:

^Top of Contents page following page break^

(Insert bookmark in blank line here: Position cursor, Insert/Bookmark, e.g. ‘Contents’)

CONTENTS:

Introduction

About the Author

Chapter One: A Mysterious Event

(^Hyperlink to corresponding bookmark ‘001’^)

Chapter Two: Another Event… etc.

^Top of new chapter page following page break at end of previous chapter^

(Insert bookmark in blank line here: Position cursor, Insert/Bookmark, e.g. ‘001’)

CHAPTER ONE:

(^Hyperlink to bookmark ‘Contents’^)

A MYSTERIOUS EVENT

Where the bookmark is positioned determines the top of the e-reader page when the link is navigated. You can have the bookmark on the word ‘Contents’ but having it in a blank line above is aesthetically pleasing, and less overcrowded at the top of the screen.

Then hyperlink your chapter headings in the Contents list to the start of the corresponding chapters, by selecting the text to link and then using, from the toolbar, or by right-clicking: ‘Insert/Hyperlink/Target in document/Bookmarks(show list)+/(select appropriate chapter bookmark)’ and reverse-hyperlink the chapters themselves as shown above by selecting the chapter heading at the start of each chapter, and using ‘Insert/Hyperlink/Target in document/Bookmarks(show list)+/Contents’. Click ‘Apply’ before ‘close’ on the hyperlinks window, and your links should appear as above. Remember this style of contents list formatting is compulsory for Smashwords, for distribution to Apple, Nook, Kobo, and other outlets. They do not currently serve Amazon.

If you are using Lulu for your Nook, Kobo and Apple distribution, the chapter list is linked differently. Simply ensure that the rest of your document contains no ‘Heading’ styles, and format the title page heading (your ‘book title‘), the ‘Contents‘ heading (but not the chapter list) and each chapter title (at the start of each chapter only) all as the style ‘Heading 1‘. Then save as a Word 97/2000/XP doc. This is much simpler and quicker to do, and they have recently added distribution to Amazon Kindle and Kobo – previously they only sold to Apple and Nook. They pay regularly at a minimum of only £3 ($5) revenue gain. If you use Lulu and choose to have them distribute to Amazon Kindle as well, you will not need to use Amazon KDP.

Once your linked Table of Contents is complete, and you are sure there are no other potential conversion corruptions in the file, you are ready to save and upload. All of the below options are 100% free:

To save a file for upload to Kindle (kdp.amazon.com – you will need your Amazon account details to sign in and set up, and a bank account to receive royalties – for EFT payments there is no minimum payout threshold, except for sales in Amazon Brazil, and payout direct to bank takes place in the month 60 days after sale. Click on ‘Save As…’ and save it as Webpage (complete) – .HTML. Other file types such as Word are accepted and convert well if properly formatted as above. Kindle Help recommend HTML to prevent corruption of things like the linked Table of Contents and image cropping.

To save a file for upload onto Smashwords (www.smashwords.com – you will need a Paypal account to receive royalties quarterly, at a $10 minimum threshold) save it as ‘Word 97/2000/XP’ – .DOC.

To save it for upload onto Lulu* as an e-book (www.lulu.com – you will need a Paypal account to receive royalties), save it as Word 97/2000/XP as above – .DOC.

*You can also self-publish e-books on Kobo, if you have only used Lulu for Apple, Nook, and/or Kindle. (www.kobo.com/writinglife – you will need a bank account to receive royalties), save it as Word 97/2000/XP as above, or Open Office Open Document Text – .DOC or .ODT.

If uploading to Smashwords, you will not need to use Lulu, and vice versa. Smashwords does not distribute to Amazon, so you will have to use KDP for that.

COVER FILE:

In all of the above cases, you will need a separate JPEG cover file, high resolution, aspect ratio ‘portrait’ minimum 1400×2000 pixels to ensure reduced image quality. Do not insert these images into your e-book file – the online converter will do this for you, and you will be asked to add it via a separate instruction. The cover file and image is entirely your taste and choice, but for Lulu and Smashwords ISBN distribution, they must contain the title and your author name, exactly as they appear on the book’s title page (i.e. no alternative spellings, initials or additional extensions). It is recommended that they appear eye-catching in both thumbnail and full-screen, but there is no tried-and-tested style guarantee.

Thousands of free photographic images without copyrights attached or credits required, are available on www.morguefile.com, which you can customise and adapt any way you like, and appear in a range of resolutions and sizes. Search their site by keyword, e.g, trees, rainbow, cocktails, church, clouds, military etc.

*****

PREVIEWING BEFORE PUBLISHING AS AN EBOOK:

If you want to preview your ebook without the risk of publishing it on a public platform first, you can convert the file on your computer using Mobipocket Creator, a free non-nagware program to create mobi (Kindle) files. Your document will need to be saved as Word (see the instructions for illustrated books for Smashwords, Lulu & Kobo below if your file contains images). Once you have installed the free (full unlimited use) program, follow the prompts to create a mobi version of your book. If you don’t have a Kindle or Kindle app to try it out on, you can also download the Mobipocket Reader app for your computer or tablet desktop, which will open your mobi file for you automatically when you click on the new ebook document from its saved location in your hard drive files. Your mobi ebook can also be transferred like any other document to another file or memory stick, or attached to emails if you want to send it to reviewers for feedback.

ILLUSTRATED E-BOOKS:

So far I have had success creating illustrated e-books on Kindle format, because the accepted file type (HTML.zip) supports inclusion of an image file, and for Smashwords in Word document (.DOC), where the graphic links have been broken (meaning that the images are embedded, not in a separate file) and the images are compressed to be optimised for ‘web/screen’ i.e. to 96 dpi.

After creating your e-book document as above for Kindle, add your images where you want them to appear in the text, right-click each image, and in ‘Format Picture’ ensure that ‘page wrap’ is set to ‘none’ and the image is centred. You can also crop at this stage.

Images should be no more than A4 in original size before inserting, and should be saved once inserted, using image menu ‘Format/Picture/Compress’ as ’96dpi/Apply to all images in document’. This reduces the file memory size to a manageable one for uploading. Images can be landscape, portrait or square (in fact anything), but remember they tend to appear at the top of a new e-reader page due to shape and size, so the previous e-reader page may cut off early, as it shunts the image to the next page. For this reason, do not place images in the middle of a sentence or paragraph, where a large gap in the previous page would make no sense. They work best at the beginning and/or end of chapters. One way to have a neater presentation is to always have a page break before an illustration, and to insert any caption as text on the illustration itself before inserting, using MS Paint or Picasa image editing tools. As you will have no control over where text on the previous screen will cut off, depending on how much the reader has zoomed in on your font for reading, it may be more aesthetically pleasing – particularly in non-fiction books – to have the phrase ‘Photo (or ‘illustration’) on following page’ on a new line below the last paragraph before the page break where you will insert the image.

The e-reader conversion means that larger images will automatically be sized to fit the screen being viewed on, while tiny images will stay tiny. This does not always appear true in Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ preview, which is quite scarily random as the page boundaries are not set, but on the e-readers you can trust that your images will fit the screens.

Illustrated ebooks for Kindle:

Once complete, save as ‘webpage’ (HTML) as before. Then right-click on the icon for your HTML document, and select ‘Send to… Compressed/zip file or folder’.

A folder with a zip logo on it will appear under the same name, e.g. ‘Mysterious Events.zip’. Also a new separate folder will appear with the same the name as your book, e.g. ‘Mysterious Events files’ in the same location. This contains the tagged image duplicates required for your Kindle book. Click on the new ‘files’ folder containing these duplicated images, and drag it over into the HTML ‘.zip’ folder so that it is inside the zipped folder as well. You now have a complete zipped HTML file with tagged images, to upload as an illustrated e-book. When you sign in to KDP, select the ‘.zip’ folder as your file to upload.

N.B. When formatting illustrated ebooks in OpenOffice for Kindle, use the html-to-doc method described below, as for Smashwords, Lulu or elsewhere, and use the ‘saved as Word doc’ version for upload to Kindle KDP – NOT the html original. You are only saving your OpenOffice odt file as html initially in that instance in order to select and break the image links into an embedded format, but they are not preserved in the html for upload to KDP.

The previewer for ‘Kindle Fire’ and ‘iPad’ on KDP will show your illustrations in colour, but remember the basic Kindle has a grey-scale screen only, so the previewer will only show what your images will look like in black-and-white. This does not affect your original file.

KDP will offer to show a list of perceived spelling errors in your book, and after viewing this it is worth clicking on ‘Send this to me as an email’ so that you can review them and make any corrections before re-saving your file and uploading again.

Illustrated ebooks for Smashwords, Lulu and Kobo:

After inserting your images, go to ‘Edit’ in the Toolbar and select ‘Links’. In the dialogue box, a list of your images and their source locations will appear. Hold down the Ctrl key plus A, and select all the Graphic file locations in the list, then click on ‘Break Links’ and confirm the command. Your images are now saved within the file, which will be much bigger. There is a maximum file size limit, so you will also need to compress images as below – but not necessarily reduce their dimensions.

To do this when using OpenOffice rather than Microsoft Word, you will have to save your odt document as ‘webpage’ (html) first to embed the images. After doing so and closing it, go to its saved location and right-click on it, and select ‘Open using… OpenOffice Writer.’ When it re-opens for editing, follow the process for breaking the image links as above. Then use ‘Save as’ to save it as a Word (.doc) and confirm. Check that the links are still broken by clicking on the Edit menu (if the ‘Links’ command is not clickable, you have succeeded and won’t have to do so again). Use this saved-as-Word document for your upload – check your conversion previews carefully to ensure the images are in place.

To reduce the memory size required for the illustrated Word document (it will need to be less than 10MB for Smashwords and less than 600MB for KDP) in MS Word, right-click on any image in the document and select ‘show image toolbar’. Hover over the small white square in the pop-up toolbar that has an arrow pointing inwards at each corner. This is ‘compress pictures’. Select the option in the dialogue box that says ‘Web/screen’ (96dpi) and ‘delete cropped areas of pictures’ and ‘apply to all images in document’ and confirm the command. Your illustrations will look exactly the same in quality and size as you have placed them, but will take up only about a third of the original memory. Save as Word 97/2000/XP .doc. You now have a complete illustrated ebook document ready for upload onto Smashwords, Lulu or Kobo. Only upload this document as is – do not ‘zip’ it before uploading.

You can reduce image resolution of very high-res images in OpenOffice by using the ‘Mosaic’ filter in the Picture Tools toolbar – try a re-scaling of 4 pixels or 2 pixels to adjust them. If they subsequently blur or pixelate in your book, then they were already low-res enough and just click on ‘Undo.’ I’ve found this does not necessarily change the memory size taken up by the file significantly, but may do so with very densely-illustrated ebooks.

Always check your conversion previews. On KDP there is a good online previewer, while the best way to preview and check your Smashwords or Lulu version is to download your converted .EPUB file for Nook from your finished product page, and view it using Adobe Digital Editions (free to download and install from Adobe). The online-reading previewer for Smashwords strips out all your links and paragraph formatting for simplicity, so it is not true to your final version – it is only meant as a sample, so don’t take it as your final conversion. The .EPUB file on Adobe Digital Editions will show you the final version, fully-converted and functional.

*****

Editing your book after publishing:

Make your edits to the original document (right-click on your HTML document, select ‘Open using…’ your chosen word-processor) edit and save it as before. Select the title of the book you want to update on your Kindle dashboard and in the menu select ‘Edit book details’. Scroll down to ‘Browse for interior file’ and upload your new version. Preview your changes to ensure it has updated, click ‘Save and Continue’ and then ‘Save and Publish’ on the next page as before. Always make changes to the existing book – do not start again from scratch, as it will appear as multiple books with multiple product pages on Amazon.

The same when updating versions on Smashwords, Lulu and Kobo – edit your original Word document and save it again, select the title from your dashboard online, and edit/update it from there. On Lulu, at the interior file stage, delete the old file as it appears on the dashboard below the ‘Browse’ button before uploading the new one. Otherwise you will be asked to select from the multiple files available, which can get confusing.

KDP Select: AT YOUR OWN RISK 🙂

Smashwords discussion on FB

A version of your e-book must be exclusive to Amazon Kindle to use this. If the identical e-book is available elsewhere, your book is not eligible for the scheme. But you can publish the book in print, have 10% samples available online on your blog, continue to submit to agents, or have your book serialised in print magazines and journals.

They are getting stricter, but at your own risk, you can try any of the options below. If they judge that your book is not exclusive, they will contact you within around 14 days of enrollment:

You can publish alternative content versions or ‘special editions’ either exclusively to Kindle, or elsewhere as e-books – with bonus material, or omnibus editions, without risking your KDP Select status. So long as the content of the book, its title and cover enrolled in KDP Select is not identical to other e-books available on Nook, Apple etc, you will have no problems with it. For example, you could have ‘Mysterious Events’ on Amazon Kindle and enrolled in KDP Select, and also ‘Mysterious Events: Omnibus Edition’ with a slightly different cover available on both Smashwords and Amazon Kindle, but not enrolled in KDP Select.

If you enrol your book in KDP Select, it allows Amazon Prime readers to ‘borrow’ your e-book rather than purchase, should they wish, and also gives you five days you can list your book as free every three months in any order you choose using ‘Manage promotions’. Wet bank holidays are good uses of this, and will gain you a number of downloaders looking for freebies.

However, this is no indication of actual reads, these free promotions tend to attract no reviews, and then often negative ones, or ‘one-star review’ protection racket-style scams, whereby you are then spammed by pay-per-review promotion schemes. You may attract one or two follow-on sales, and I mean literally one or two!

But you may be lucky, and find readers keen on your subject who continue to share and promote it on your behalf.

Smashwords promotions:

Smashwords allows you to set up free promotion codes any time of your choosing, by generating a 100% off cover price coupon for you to share privately or publicly with friends, family, customers, blog followers, or in contest giveaways – simply select your published title and set up a coupon for your chosen time period, which will email you a code. There are no limitations of usage for this facility on Smashwords, and your book does not have to be ‘exclusive’.

Pricing:

Amazon is the only site so far I am aware of which sets up competitive pricing. If your e-book is cheaper on Smashwords, and it is reported to Amazon by a customer as ‘cheaper elsewhere’, Amazon will also cut the price and thereby your royalty. So it is best to have your prices congruent. Having a coupon code available on Smashwords will not affect this, as the ‘for sale cover price’ visible on your product page online will remain the same, and the coupon details remain private to you and those you share it with.

1 A footnote appears on the relevant page in a document, but will convert to an endnote in an e-book, like this.

i An endnote always appears at the end of a document, like this. All footnotes also convert to endnotes in e-books, in a separate list.

Have fun and good luck 🙂 xxx