I write, format and sell eBooks, so I thought for #TipsTuesdays 4 I would pass on a few words of wisdom, since I just discovered Amazon now have a free Kindle book to tell you how to format eBooks for them.
Tips Tuesdays, is a weekly blog feature where I impart tips on anything that crosses my mind :). There will be recipes, book/film/TV recs (not full reviews, those are for another day), things I discovered by accident, links to websites, basically anything and everything that might be useful.
Checklist for Creating the eBooks from your Beautifully Edited Novel
So you have a manuscript of your hard crafted, beautifully edited novel, but now you need to get it out there for everyone to see and buy. These are the things I try to remember to go through once the writing part is finished.
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- Think of a title that connects with the genre of your book, but isn't too generic
Titles are hard, but they are important, especially with the growing eBook market. I still have one book that I'm going to re-Title for the second time because I don't think it's quite right yet and isn't grabbing readers (no matter how many books you've published, sometimes you miss). With famous authors their books sell no matter the titles, for those of us trying to make names for ourselves the title needs to sell the book.~*~
- Create, buy or beg for a decent cover
A cover is very important for a book. At a glance it should give the reader a big hint as to what kind of book they are looking at and entice them in.
If you have no experience with graphics I would strongly suggest either:
- hiring someone to make a cover - there are plenty of graphic artists out there willing to create you a cover for a reasonable fee (check with other indie authors to see who they recommend).
- beg a friend who is good with graphics to do the cover for you.
There are many things to take into consideration when creating a cover, which is a post all by itself, hence the advice above. A cover that looks like it was put together in Microsoft Paint circa 1990 will not win you customers.
Also remember that different eBook sites recommend different cover ratios and sizes, so make sure to check before you upload. Smashwords requirements | Amazon Requirements~*~
- Download these two FREE eBooks:
- Building You Book For Kindle by Amazon KDP (this has information in it that was new to me when I read it and I've been doing this for years)
- Smashwords Style Guide (you only need this if you are going to publish to platforms other than Amazon)
These two books tell you the best ways to format your Word documents to upload them to the two platforms. Both are very useful even if you are not using their specific site.~*~
- Create a New Document
Do not edit your finished manuscript file. This file is your content master and should be kept safe, untouched and backed up. There are two very good reasons not to use this file for your eBook creation:
- You do not want to lose any of your novel because you accidentally deleted it from the master and don't have it anywhere else.
- Word documents gather more eccentric additions the longer they are around and sometimes you can't see them. Starting from a new document will save you hassle later.
- Copy everything from your manuscript file and paste it into a plain text editing package.
The following three are good FREE examples:
- Notepad (comes with Windows - I use this a lot because it is quick easy and basic)
- PSPad editor (I also have this one in case I actually want to edit things easily - it's very good for editing HTML later)
- Copy everything from the text editor and paste it into your new word document
This will remove hidden special characters and all formatting so you are staring fresh.~*~
- Follow one of the Style Guides you downloaded in section 2 to format your manuscript
I kid you not - they are both very well laid out and explain a great deal. The Amazon Building You Book For Kindle is a bit more basic in some ways as far as front content goes, but it does give you a starting point. I would suggest looking in the front of other books to see what works best.
Keep it simple - eBook formats are becoming more and more complex, but if you don't need it, I would suggest you don't try and put it in. Novels do not require complex formatting, which makes life much easier for you - do not over complicate it. The simpler the layout, the more likely it will be compatible with all eReaders, new and old.~*~
- Keep everything organised
I can't stress how important this is, because it is so easy to lose things, or become confused. I have a standard directory structure for every book:
- Main Directory - master .docx files
- Sub Directories -
- for Amazon (Word document(s) and the filtered HTML specified in the style guide)
- for Smashwords (Word document(s))
- for Google (ePub - we'll get to that in a minute)
- from Amazon (download files from Amazon after KDP conversion - I'll explain in a moment)
- from Smashwords (all converted files from Smashwords - I'll explain in a moment)
You don't have to use the same layout as me, but if you are creating books for more than one platform, it really does help to keep them in separate, well labelled directories so you never get confused. I also always number my files, so the first one is filename_v1 and if I re-edit later to re-upload I copy the previous version, up the version number (e.g. filename_v2) and edit that. If you have version control software and know how to use it, it can do this for you - I don't have that on my PC.~*~
- Write a good blurb
The cover will catch a reader's eye, the blurb will make them check out the book. THIS IS REALLY HARD.
There are whole books written on how to write a good blurb for your book - I suggest asking Google to recommend some sites that talk about it and going through several of them (many say the same thing, but in slightly different ways) and getting it clear in your mind before you start. This is an example that was first when I asked Google: The dos and don'ts of writing a blurb for your novel.
Sorry I can't be more specific, but, things change so fast and asking Google and checking what people think right at this moment it always a good idea.~*~
- Come up with a subtitle for your book that slams home the genre
I've seen it said in some places that novels should not have subtitles - but they can be very useful on Amazon and other eBook sites. On Amazon especially they help to give extra visibility to your book. If you are going to use the subtitle on the book at Smashwords you must make sure the subtitle is on the cover or they will not accept it. So far Amazon don't care if it's on your cover or not, but it never hurts to make sure.~*~
- Think about your back of book content
The end of your novel is not necessarily the end of your book. The back of the book can be used for several things:
- Telling the reader a bit about you, the author, with links to find you on social media (don't make this too long - think inside of jacket content on hard back books)
- Advertising other books you have written
- Offering incentives to review the book/join your mailing list
Don't let your readers get away from you ;)~*~
- Decide on your book price
There is a lot of debate about what is a good price for an eBook and different places will tell you different things. I use the following, but it is a good idea to do your research for your own genre:
- $2.99 - $3.29 for a novel/ longer anthology (at Amazon this gives a much better return because you get 70% of the income for the book, which starts at $2.99)
- $1.99 for a novella/short anthology
- $0.99 for novelettes/short stories (you only get 35% for these at Amazon, but they often sell well - starting a series with a cheaper short story can attract new readers)
- If using Amazon KDP - upload to their server (https://kdp.amazon.com/)
This is a good page of help information to start with: Enter Book Information
When you have uploaded your cover and your manuscript file you are offered three options at the bottom of the page before the save and continue button:
- Download Book Preview File
- Download HTML
- Download Previewer (Windows | Mac)
Every time you upload a book, always download the Book Preview File and the HTML - both are very useful. If you forget and hit publish, you have to wait until the book has gone live before you can get at them again.~*~
- Check your book using the Online Previewer
Go through your book checking all the chapter links and make sure your formatting has converted correctly. Especially look for anywhere you have not simply used standard text.~*~
- Check your book offline using the Previewer you downloaded
The downloadable previewer will allow you to check your book in different versions of Kindle - if you have checked it properly in the Online Previewer then this shouldn't take too long, but it's always good to check.~*~
- Finish the publishing steps on the next page of KDP, inputing price etc.~*~
Ignore this next section if you are not using Smashwords
- If using Smashwords upload your book at the Publish page (http://www.smashwords.com/upload)
Once it has converted, download all versions of the book from the book page (you will be shown a link when you have uploaded you book) just in case you might need them later. ePub is the most important one.~*~
- Check the ePub version of the book using some ePub reading software
I use Bluefire Reader to do this.
The most important part to check as far as Smashwords are concerned is the "Contents", which ePubs offer as a separate menu, because if your Word file has not converted properly this will not show up correctly.
Also check for conversion/formatting errors as you did with Amazon.~*~
- Pray you didn't miss anything and the book will go straight to the Premium catalogue on Smashwords and be sent to all the other eBook companies.~*~
If you are using Google and need an ePub file, check back next week to see what I think is the easiest way to create one.
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Do you have any questions? Please feel free to ask - if I know the answer I will be happy to reply.