An Author’s Journey: Part Five – Self Publishing

December 10, 2012

A few years back a good friend patiently explained something to me. “There are two parts to becoming a published author. One is the craft of writing and the other is the business of writing. They are two entirely different skillsets.” He was quite right.

These days, the business of self publishing not only includes reading the fine print, but also preparing your book so that it can be easily read on multiple devices. The problem is that authors are the unwilling pawns in a war between the media distribution giants. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and other companies require totally different formats for their books. The reasoning is simple. They want to be your only source for new reading matter on their proprietary devices.

If you are going to self publish, then you will need to convert your original document into four or five totally different formats. While this can seem intimidating, it’s really not that difficult.

Most new authors start out using a commercial word processing program such as Microsoft Word, Wordperfect, or Pages. There are also free and open source programs such as Open Office, LibreOffice, or Abiword. Any of these will work to create your novel. The problem is that you cannot publish the normal .doc or .odt files these programs create.

I’ve experimented with a lot of different conversion programs and there are pros and cons to all of them. In the last few months, while bringing the Multiplarity Trilogy to final release, I’ve settled on a system that seems rather quick and easy.

My office suite and word processing program of choice is LibreOffice. I’ve since downloaded and installed a plug application called Writer2epub. This application adds three new buttons to the Libre Office menu bar. There will be more on this later. If you don’t wish to use LibreOffice, then you might wish to give these excellent suggestions a try.

The first step in preparing your document is to clean it up. After a long period of writing, editing, rewriting, editing, and the addition of critique notes, there is a good chance that a lot of hidden junk is buried in the file. Here are the my steps:

  1. I load the most recent edit round of my document and then “Save As” to a totally new filename. This is my working copy. If I screw it up, I can always go back to the last edit round and start over. Never work on the original.
  2. Next, I open a blank text editor. I’m not talking about another word processor page, but a raw text editor such as Notepad++, EditPad Lite, Kate, or Jedit. In this case, I use the Linux program, Kate.
  3. I select the entire contents of my story in the word processor, then copy and paste it into the text editor. ALL of the formatting disappears. There are no longer any fancy fonts, boldface, italics, or special line spacing. This is generally referred to as “nuking the document”. What is not so obvious is the fact all the hidden notes, edit changes, weird formatting, etc, have been stripped out of the story as well.
  4. My next step is to reverse the process. I open a totally new, blank document in LibreOffice and save it as my new working copy of the document. Since it is a new, blank page, there is no problematic hidden garbage in it.
  5. Next, I select all the story in the text editor, then copy and paste it back into the new LibreOffice document screen.
  6. A word about fonts. Do NOT use fancy fonts! There are only a small handful of ‘standard’ fonts that look the same on all eReaders, tablets, and desktop computers. If you stick with Times New Roman (serif), Arial (san-serif), or Courier (non-proportional), then you can expect it will look the same on any platform and you won’t tick off your readers. If you don’t know what those terms mean, either look them up or don’t worry about them. The idea is to keep it simple. Trust me on this one.
  7. Next, I go through my entire document, reading it out loud, one last time. I use this run-through to tag each of the chapter headers. It is amazing what sort of problems will show up when you are reading plain text, out loud.
  8. I don’t use page numbering, page headers or footers. All of that will change depending on the device the reader uses to view my document. The ePub creation takes care of all this for you.
  9. When I reach the end of my document, I take care to save it. Then I click the Writer2epub button on the LibreOffice menu bar. This opens a dialogue window where I add the document title, copyright information, and ISBN. It is to your advantage to fill out all the the requested information at this point. One note: Go ahead and purchase your own ISBN numbers.
  10. When I am finished with the Writer2epub conversion, I have a brand-new .epub file.
  11. This is where I load my copy of the Calibre eBook reader program. Calibre is used on my desktop computer for two processes. First off, I use it to convert my new .epub file into both a .mobi and a .pdf file.
  12. The second reason is to view each of the file formats while resizing my viewing window several times. I know this is boring, but it will help you to find any weird line spacings, chapter headers, or other anomalies.

That is my process. The only thing left is to upload your new .epub, .mobi, and .pdf files to the appropriate sales locations.

I hope this has been helpful.

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