Sunday, August 26, 2012

How I format my books when writing for self-publishing

** Special note from October 2013:  The latest book I uploaded to Kindle failed to appear on the store (at all).  After contacting support, they claimed that my .PRC file from MobiPocket wasn't a valid .mobi file (even though I had already tested it on a Kindle and with their app).  I had to use the .epub file I made from the .PRC file with Calibre (for B&N) to use their new simple converter to get a .mobi file, and then upload that.  So be aware that something's changed with their store.  Also, if you use their simple converter (the Kindle Previewer) on an MS Word document, it won't handle a table of contents or chapters correctly using my method below. **

I've been asked how I format my book as I write, and then quickly have it available for Kindle (and other online stores) as an e-book, as well as sent to Createspace to make paperback copies available.  So here's how I do it:

1.  I have a blank MS Word document I copy for a new book.  I already did the work to set the title page, copyright page, and formatting for chapter headings and body.  Those make later steps far easier.  Here's a link to my blank novel document, feel free to save it and use it.  Here's the link:
2.  Copy that .doc file to a new one, rename it for the new book title.  (I actually use a sub-folder, and occasionally make copies of that for paranoia backup copies, as well as copy that entire folder with all book sub-folders to a USB drive and another PC at home.  Think for a moment if the file of your book got corrupted.  Do you want to chance that?  You might even want to use SkyDrive, iCloud, Dropbox, or some other online storage place to also store a backup, because it would be horrifying to lose them.)
3.  Go to this page to download Mobipocket Creator.  It will allow you to convert a file to Amazon's Kindle .PRC format.
    Why go with Amazon directly, and not use Smashwords to send it there?  Because Amazon reports sales by the minute or hour, not delayed by weeks if Amazon has to send the info to Smashwords, who then list the sales on your Dashboard.  They also pay sooner, and you can use KDP Select if you wish.
4.  If you want to upload directly to Barnes & Noble, you'll want to also download Calibre to convert to the ePub format.  Here's the download page:

5.  You write your novel.
    a.  Change the Book_Name_Here throughout the blank book.
    b.  Change the Author_Name_Here throughout the blank book.
    c.  Put in a copyright date.
    d.  Write the novel.  For chapter headings, use the style called "ChapterHeading."  On older MS Word versions, you can see the panel on the side if you click the Format menu, then Styles & Formatting, I believe.  New versions you click the Home tab, and on the small Styles section, in the lower right of it is a box with an arrow pointing down and right.  Click that to see all styles.
    e.  For the body, use "ChapterBodyText."
    f.  Use CTRL-Enter to do a page break when done with a chapter and to jump down to the next page.  Use two blank lines above the Chapter Heading, and two blank lines below it before you start your first paragraph.
    g.  Double-click on the Page Header and change "Book_Name_Here" to your book name.  Close the Heading menu to finish editing it.
    h.  Re-read and edit your novel, grammar check it, proofread, etc.
    i.  Find other beta readers to read it and give feedback.
    j.  Have someone proofread it, and possibly copy edit it if you aren't a grammar nazi yourself (Two different levels of editing, proofreading involves correcting your spelling mistakes, commas and some grammar.  Copy editing is more in-depth to find other errors in writing sytle.)

6.  You should end up with your MS Word .doc file, in a printable format for 5.5 x 8.5" paperback size.  Except for needing a cover, you can either Save As a PDF file to upload to a place like CreateSpace or Lulu right now.  If you don't have Save As a PDF in your version of MS Word, download a free "printer" that prints to a PDF file, such as PDFCreator.

7.  Now to make the file for Amazon (Kindle format):
    a.  Load the MS Word file, click Save As, "Web Page, Filtered."  Save it.
    b.  Run Mobipocket Creator (install it if you haven't yet).
    c.  click HTML document on the right side.  Find the file you just saved in 7a.  click Import.
    d.  Click Cover Image on left, then Add a Cover Image button, find it, and make sure to click Update way at the bottom.  Images for INSIDE the e-book like this should be sized about 518 x 800 pixels.
    e.  click Table of Contents on left, then Add a Table of Contents button.  On the "First Level" line fill in:  tag name: "p"  attribute: "class"  value:  "ChapterHeading"   Do not type in the quote marks in the boxes.  Click the update button at the bottom of the page (you may have to scroll down).
    f.  Click Book Settings on the left.  Generally for Book Type you want "eBook."  Click Update button at bottom.
    g.  Click Metadata on the left.  Make sure the Title is correct, fill in your name (Last Name, First Name), publisher (your name if self-pubbing), main subject, a description (e.g. "back cover" text), the price (generally $2.99 to $5.99 for eBooks to get the 70% royalty rate from Amazon).  Click update button at bottom.
    h.  Click Build at the top of the screen.  I always use High Compression.  People have to download these, save them download time/cost, plus, Amazon charges for eBook downloads, so the smaller you can make it, the less they'll charge.  I personally choose "No encryption," but that's your choice.  If someone really wants to break it, they can do it within a few minutes.  It's not worth being a pain to others.  click Build at the bottom.  It'll run, and make a file with your book title as the name, ending with .PRC.  A button should be on the screen to "Open File Location."  Choose that to see the file.

8.  Now, if you have a Kindle, you can email yourself at "" with that .PRC file as an attachment.  Find the ____ part on your Kindle, I believe it is on the settings, page 3 or so (except it'll say ""  You want to use the version so they don't charge you a fee to copy it to the Kindle.  Make sure wireless is turned on, on the Kindle itself.  It'll appear within about five minutes, normally.  Now read and check over the cover, table of contents links, and text to see that they look good.

9.  Alternately (or in addition, if you're like me), you can download the Free Kindle Previewer from Amazon to open the .PRC file and view it on your computer.  It's not exact, however, but it's a good double-check.  The download link is in the middle of this page on Amazon:

A few notes:
1.  If you include pictures in your book, they will look horrible on the Kindle.  There's a trick to improving the image quality, I'll try to list it later, but in a nutshell, you copy your .JPG files to the folder where Mobipocket placed the .PRC.  Then you go into the .HTM file and on the <IMG SRC= ... > lines, you delete the HEIGHT and WIDTH part at the end, and change the filename within the <IMG SRC="" > to be your .JPG instead of what it stuffed in there, which is normally something like IMAGE001.JPG.
2.  If you didn't highlight the entire chapter heading ROW for each chapter in your book, and then click the style "ChapterHeading," then those may not appear in the Table of Contents.
3.  I suppose you can choose not to use a Table of Contents on a novel, but I prefer giving one to my readers.  Your choice.

Now to get it up to Amazon:
1.  Go to  Setup an account (it's free) if you haven't yet.
2.  Click Bookshelf and choose to add a book.
3.  Fill in the book's information (make SURE to enter something in for the Publisher - they claim it is optional, but it won't show up in some categories properly without one, learned that the hard way...).
4.  Upload a cover.  A good size image is 1650 x 2550 pixels for Amazon.  You may have to find a cover artist, draw one yourself, etc.
5.  Upload the .PRC file you made up there in step 7h.
6.  If *and only if* you want to join KDP Select for 90 days would you want to check that box.  There are pro's and con's to it.  If you do it, you are agreeing not to put that e-book up on other sites for 90 days.
7.  Set your prices.  If this is a short story, or perhaps a smallish novella, a common price is $0.99.  Full length e-book novels generally go for $2.99 to $5.99, and you can choose the 70% royalty rate from Amazon, which is FAR better than the 35% royalty rate you get at any price under $2.99.  I advise some Google searches to see what numerous authors have discovered, and make your own decision.  There are some great blogs about this topic alone.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Guest Post by Rayne Hall: "Are Indie Books Worth Reviewing?"

Today, I have a guest blog by Rayne Hall.  She is an established author, having 30 books published, and runs classes on writing.  A biography follows the blog.

Now, on to the the guest blog:   "Are Indie Books Worth Reviewing?"

Are Indie Books Worth Reviewing?
by Rayne Hall

Certain book blogs state categorically that they won't review self-published books.  I understand their motivation: They get inundated with submissions and are trying to keep the numbers down.

However, No Indies is as arbitrary as No Jews or No Women.

The reviewers aim to filter out low-quality works - but is the publishing method a valid quality filter?

It used to be. In the late 20th century, the established path to publication was author-agent-publisher-bookseller-reader. Each book had to pass three gates on its journey from author to reader, and each gate represented a quality test. Self-published books were inevitably those that had failed at the first two gates.

Times have changed. E-publishing makes it possible to reach the readers directly, and many authors choose the direct route instead of queuing at the gates.

Without gatekeepers barring entry, many poorly-written and under-revised books get published. A lot of indie (i.e. self-published) books are not as good as their authors think. Frankly, there's a mass of indie dross - but there are also many indie gems.

The boundary between “good book” and “bad book” doesn't happen to coincide with the frontier between indie-published and legacy-published books.

Consider the authors who use both publishing models: Amanda Hocking, John Locke and Michael Stackpole submit some of their works to legacy publishers and self-publish others. Are these authors' legacy-published books better than their self-published ones?

Or how about the authors were successful with legacy-published books, but then decided to go indie? Consider Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, Kevin O. McLaughlin and Dean Wesley Smith. Have they lost their ability to write good books?

Then there are the authors who took their previously legacy-published out-of-print books and self-published them as ebooks -  Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Piers Anthony, for instance. The books are the same, so how can they suddenly be less worthy?

Over three decades, I had twenty books published by several legacy publishers before choosing the indie route. Does this mean my old books are worth reviewing, and my new books are not - even though I have grown as a writer?

Not long ago, a book blogger approached me. She had enjoyed the stories in Six Scary Tales Vol 1 and asked for review copies of Vol 2 and 3, so she could review the series. Shortly after I sent the books, I received an email “Your books are self-published and therefore not worth reading or reviewing.”

Excuse me? When she assumed that the books were legacy-published, she liked the stories and wanted more. On discovery that they were indie-published, the same stories were suddenly not worth reading. What does this say about the reviewer's judgement?

Most stories in the Six Scary Tales were originally published the legacy way in magazines and anthologies. Did inclusion in the self-published collection damage their quality?

I appreciate that book bloggers decline to read certain books, e.g. No Erotica, No Horror or No Romance, because if a book isn't to their taste, it would be tedious to read and difficult to review.

But to decline all indie-published books because they can't possibly be good is like refusing to read books penned by women or by Jews because no woman or Jew could possibly write something worth reading.

So how can a book reviewer assess which books are worth reading? I think the answer is obvious: by looking at the book itself. Reading the first few pages will show the reviewer whether it's their kind of book. Often, a quick glance at the first paragraph is enough to weed out the obvious dross. If reviewers can't form their own opinion of what they're reading, they shouldn't be reviewing books.

About Rayne Hall

She is the author of thirty books in different genres (mostly horror, fantasy and non-fiction) and under different pen names, published by twelve publishers in six countries, translated into several languages. Her short stories have been published in many magazines, e-zines and anthologies. Having switched to indie publishing last year, she is trying to get back the rights to her previously published books so she can republish them as ebooks.

Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy), Writing Fight Scenes and Writing Scary Scenes (instruction books for authors), Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories). They're available to reviewers. Just drop me a line or leave a comment if you're interested.  But beware: they're indies!



Thank you for joining me!  I'm honored to be a blog posting your thoughts, and happy to share them with my readers.  

If you are interested in more information on Rayne, I did an author Q&A with her a while back, feel free to peruse it here  

'Til next time.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Interview of me, new interviews of others

Just a quick blurb this time around, I've got writing on H.E.R.O. - Incursion to get done!  (Which is nearing the end chapters, by the way...)

Gary Vanucci interviews me on his Ashenclaw website.  Here's the link:

Interviews I've done recently of other indie authors (with more to come, I've got a small backlog right now):
Hmm, I think I need to post more often on the blog about them...  On the other hand, the Interviews page on always has the full list!

Working hard on my latest novel, H.E.R.O. - Incursion.  I'm hoping for release by 9/1/2012, but it will depend on editing and proofreading times.  I won't rush them just to hit a deadline.  (But it doesn't stop me from hoping!)

I had to stop my 2-a-day workouts.  When combined with only eating 1400-1500 calories per day, my body was beginning to feel like I got beat up every day, and didn't have time to heal.  I'm still trying to keep the calories low, however.

'Til next time.