Friday, 7 December 2012

What I Have Learned About E-Publishing

After five and a half long long years, I have finally released my novel about Michelangelo, Moses in Chains,  onto the usual unsuspecting world. I had hoped in my innocence to get my first novel published via the traditional route, but as time went on, I realised that was not going to happen, so I eventually self-published, at the moment just on Kindle.

I could perhaps have persevered, trying to find an agent and then hoping they could find a publisher, but I wanted to publish in 2012 as a marketing hook, which I haven't yet used, is that Michelangelo finished painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, a theme in the book, in  1512, and it is therefore the 500th anniversary. Once I realised that the time it would take from finding an agent to being on the shelves of my local bookshop would lead to publication sometime in 2015, if I was lucky, I decided I would have to self-publish. Other people have done it and there is so much advice on the web it couldn't be that difficult. Could it?

The first thing I learned is that the formatting of your text, if it is to go on kindle, is quite specific and you need to set it up in styles, if you're using Word. Unfortunately for me, 'styles' means either italic or non-italic. Since my novel, all 135,000 words of it, is in two voices, one italicised, one not, as soon as I changed my 'normal style' to have a 10 point space at the end of each paragraph, I lost all the italics. Cue going through the book, re-introducing the italicisation. My recommendation? Set up 'styles' before you start.

The next thing I learned is that I am very old-school. I learned to type on a typewriter (yes, I really *am* that old) and was taught to put two spaces at the end of a sentence. Kindle texts cannot cope, apparently, with two spaces at the end of a sentence, they like one. Cue 'show all formatting marks' and go through again, taking out extraneous spaces. To be fair, I could have done a global 'find and replace' with instructions I found on this website which is accurately named 'easy as pie', but of course I also needed to take out extra paragraph marks, spaces at the beginning of paragraphs and other 'clutter'. I think I made the right decision, even though it did take me over a month to go through with the screen set to 130%.

Once I had finished the cleansing process, it was time to set up my kindle author's account. According to Amazon's website, this can take as little as five minutes. After two hours, I have come to the conclusion that this can only possibly be true if you have a US bank account. For those of us not so blessed, you will need you IBAN and your BIC numbers so that they can pay you. Perhaps not all banks are the same, but our bank's website suggested popping in to the branch that holds the account, which was not an option. Fortunately, after rifling through some very old paperwork for something else, my husband located the numbers I needed. So my advice would be, if you think you might like to put something up on kindle any time in the next decade, contact your bank now.

The other irritatingly time-consuming problem I had was entering my phone number. It really really wanted it, and wouldn't accept the account without it. But how to format the phone number? Should I assume that it would need the international code in front? Sadly, looking through the support forum FAQs was no use, as searching for 'format phone number' yielded far too many irrelevant results to be of any help at all. Eventually, trial and error led me to discover that it doesn't need an international code, it just wants the area code and the number. Without a space between them.

To be fair, there is loads of help out there. Talli Roland regularly posts articles on her blog and links to The Writer's Guide to e-Publishing, which in addition to the other two sites already mentioned, was brilliant. There were other sites I found and skimmed over but those were the main ones. You may find others have a style that appeals more to you. I haven't yet found one that analyses the pros and cons of the 35%/70% royalty decision so if anyone sees one somewhere, please let me know!

In the meantime, my jolly read is out there now. Here's the link in case you like the idea of a book in which a grumpy old Renaissance Man watches paint dry servant tries to look after Michelangelo's memoirs of painting the Sistine Ceiling while failing to cope with the various women in his life. If nothing else, you might like the artwork. :-)

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