Guys, help me to congratulate my author friend Don Massenzio on his new business endeavor. DSM Publications offers Editing and Formatting services to Indie Authors at a reasonable rate with advice and networking with other authors. Don is a big supporter of this blog so I am delighted to return the favor! Be sure to like his new Facebook page HEREand to follow his new blog HERE and subscribe to his email list HERE. (If you sign up for DSM Newsletter, you’ll receive a free copy of Don’s book, The Ultimate Guide for Independently Published Authors.) To learn more, visit his post HERE. Remember, we are in this together! Whoo hoo.
One of the biggest challenges to Indies is getting a professionally published looking book when up against the costs of editing, proofreading, formatting and cover designs. If you can afford these services then foregoing them is not a good idea, but when you really can’t afford them they can mean the death of some really great literature. There are a couple of things that can help though.
Editing or Proofreading Swopsies
Rather than simply asking for Beta readers, offer to swop proofreading services. Writers have a different kind of eyeball when reading. I’ve just finished a Joanna Trollope book, professionally published by one of the big houses, professionally edited and put together, but so far I’ve found a couple of typos and instances of poorly strung together sentences. As far as the cover design is concerned, if it wasn’t for the fact that I was specifically looking for and wanting…
When numbering the pages of your paperback manuscript, the thing quite a lot of Indies have trouble with is that they use Page Breaks rather than Section Breaks. A Page Break is just that—starting a new page within the same section of a book. With a Section Break you can have totally different numbers and Headers and Footers for each section. The way to ensure that your numbering doesn’t bounce back from the first chapter of your book to the front matter is to get rid of all the Page Breaks in first pages and replace them with Section Breaks.
Section Break after title page, and again after the table of contents, and every other page you have in your front matter.
Then double click into your Headers and Footers up to and including the first page of your first chapter, and unlick Link to Previous. This will ensure that…
Wow, check out this post from Wise Ink about Amazon’s coming Error Message. This is exactly why I prefer to always have a paperback copy of my books available. Electronics are not dependable and in the case that a great book is flagged because of minor errors or formatting issues, leaves the reader to do nothing but abandon that authors work. With no option to purchase a paperback / hard copy, what options are available for the reader but to abandon that book altogether? I’m not concerned about this to be honest (I try not to worry about things much anymore, especially things I can’t change) but I do see how it can be a hindrance to many Self-Pub authors. I would suggest making your work available in as many formats and on as many platforms as possible and to have an author website or blog set up as another option from which readers can find your work. I would have a paperback/hard-copy on standby just in case. Yes, technology is increasing every day and changing the book publishing industry, but don’t believe the hype. Readers still buy paperback books! To take it a step further, you can set up a DBA (“Doing Business As” name – A fictitious name (or assumed name, trade name or DBA name) is a business name that is different from your personal name, the names of your partners or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation) and try to get your books stocked at a major distribution company where you can buy in bulk directly from them. I know, easier said. I probably just spoke of something nearly impossible unless your Oprah but it can be done. (In my “Flash” voice “Believe in the impossible!”) The process is long and challenging and tedious and I’m sure we will all be wanting to pull our hair out BUT I think it will be of great benefit in the end. I’m interested in why B&N NOOK, KOBO, and other platforms are not as prominent as Kindle as additional sources in which ebooks are sold. While I can’t “knock” Amazon for wanting to distance itself from the the lack of “Grammatical / Formatting professionalism”, I’m not sure if relying solely on Amazon as a source where readers can find your book is wise.
One of the most challenging aspects of Self-Publishing for me, in the beginning, was preparing my book for e-book conversion for proper viewing as an e-book on electronic devices. Of course, formatting and conversion slightly differ (anyone can use the method I am about to show to make ePub and Mobi files, but unless you format the underlying HTML and CSS properly, the result will not look as professional as we all intend as authors like the image above. Often there will be blank lines between paragraphs, no indentations, no TOC (table of contents), links that don’t function, and everything left aligned including headings that were meant to be centered hence, the difference between conversion and actual formatting…. but that’s another post for another day).
So anyway, as I ventured on this Self-Publishing endeavor, I was practically pulling my locs out trying to prepare my manuscript to be accepted by retailers for electronic devices. As we are familiar, manuscripts that are prepared for an e-book has to be done in a way where the electronic device can easily navigate the book. The electronic device easily accomplishes this by utilizing the navigation functions built into an EPUB file to move around the e-book. This is done by properly creating a Table of Contents section or in technical terms, a Navigation Control File. Basically, because your device is not going to be printed like in the old days, it needs guidance on how to move around. Your Kindle or Mobile phone needs to know where each section begins and ends. It does this by looking for Header Styles in your document. While you can either pay someone else to do this or let your POD (Print on Demand) service do it for you, an easy way to learn to do it yourself is to format your manuscript using Heading Styles. Heading Styles are at the top of your Word Document and looks something like this:
So Below I’ve listed how each section should be properly headed using these Heading Styles to create the TOC. To make this simple, I am only going to assume your book has a few main levels: Title Page, Copyright, Chapter, Sub-chapter, Preface, Body, Epilogue, and Sections:
1. Apply Heading 1 style to the Title and to each line containing a Section name (copyright, prologue, etc.) or section (Part 1, Section II, etc.). Heading 1 style will always appear at the top of the next page.
2. Apply Heading 2 style to each line containing a Chapter name or number
3. Apply Heading 3 style to each line containing a sub-chapter / subtitle or subsection.
That’s it! Pretty simple huh? I know most of you already know how to do this, but you never know who else may be pulling their hair out :). In most cases, your POD distributor will not reject your manuscript if you use this format.
(Don’t use additional Heading styles (Heading 4, Heading 5) to denote chapter or section breaks, as these will not generate most TOC *Table of Contents* entries. Most readers will not be able to navigate to these chapters resulting in retail distribution partners, such as Amazon Kindle and B&N, to reject your e-book).