Last month Ann Shayne, one half of Mason Dixon Knitting wrote a guest post for whipup.net about the process of self publishing – not the nitty gritty technical stuff, but the emotional creative stuff. I loved that post but I wanted some of that nitty gritty know-how too, so I asked Ann a few questions and here are her answers.
Ann Shayne’s life-affirming, fully realized page-turner of a novel, Bowling Avenue, is available on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com. Ann and Kay have been blogging at Mason Dixon Knitting since 2003. Her book is available in various ways via annshayne.com
SELF-PUBLISHING Q & A
Ann: What follows is excruciating reading for those who don’t care about it and fascinating for those who do.
Kath: How did you go with converting your novel to kindle? did you just follow the instructions on Amazon or did you get outside help? How easy/difficult was this process?
Ann: I created two formats of ebook, because I wanted the book to be available on the Barnes and Noble website (for the Nook ereader) and also on Amazon (for the Kindle). B&N uses ePub format; Amazon uses MOBI. I converted the Microsoft Word file using a brilliant piece of freeware called Calibre. The hardest part was to cook up the Table of Contents, which is essential for allowing readers to navigate through the book easily. Calibre added the Table of Contents automatically, but I didn’t figure that out until I’d wandered down a black hole of advice from self-publisher websites. [resources: Self publish with Nook :: Self publish with Kindle :: Calibre software]
My advice: stay away from anybody who lists a 62-step process for converting ebooks.They’re either crazy or love a practical joke. I did not have to delve into HTML to format my book, though you can find websites that say you must. If you’re nervous about diving into this process, pay someone to do the formatting for you. If you’re stubborn and cheap and impatient like me, use Calibre and be prepared to give yourself a bit of time to fool around with it. And it’s essential to test your files on every sort of reading gizmo you can find–formatting breaks down sometimes, and you can only see that when you’re looking at it on various ereaders.
I would not recommend formatting an illustrated ebook yourself–there are many peculiarities of formatting that can be nasty. For a straight text novel like mine, it worked well. As for the cover, my designer used the cover templates provided by Lightning Source and CreateSpace; they worked perfectly.
Kath: The print version that is available — i’m assuming that it is print-on-demand and you aren’t shipping them out yourself! Did you use Amazon’s CreateSpace or something else — can you tell me how the process went — did you just follow the online instructions and away you went?
Ann: I used two print-on-demand services: Ingram’s Lightning Source and Amazon’s CreateSpace. It meant twice the file uploading and account setup, but it’s worth it because I wanted bricks and mortar bookstores to be able to order the book without having to do business with Amazon. They can do that by ordering the book from Ingram, which is one of the largest book wholesalers. Lightning Source is a very sophisticated business geared largely toward traditional publishers who want to use print-on-demand technology. It’s not really designed for one-off self-publishing authors. You have to set up an account, have a name for your publishing company, and there are more costs involved in setting up your book. But they are true professionals, and their finished books look beautiful. That said, Amazon is an amazing company for authors who want to get their feet wet with self-publishing.
My experience with CreateSpace went absolutely smoothly. I designed the interior myself, following CreateSpace’s straightforward guidelines, then saved it as a PDF. Within a day of uploading, BOWLING AVENUE was available in a print edition in many countries all over the world. It’s astonishing, really, the ease of it. If I were a traditional publisher, I would be very nervous right about now.
Kath: ISBN number — you don’t need one for kindle — but do you need one for the printed version? how does one organise this? — I am assuming there is some easy access online purchase thingy somewhere or other?
Ann: I bought a batch of 10 ISBNs from Bowker.com, because they were cheaper that way, they don’t go stale if you don’t use them for a while, and it makes me think I ought to keep writing books in order to use up my beautiful ISBNs. I used two on this project, one for the ebook and one for the paperback edition. If I do an audio or (highly collectible!) hardcover edition, those will require their own ISBNs. ISBNs aren’t required for Kindle, but I wanted mine to have one so that it would be accessible through databases beyond Amazon.
I wanted to use my own ISBNs because it would leave me the most options in terms of which channels I wanted to use to distribute my book. One basic thing in self-publishing is that you can simultaneously distribute your book through a variety of channels, if you have the energy and attention span for it. Some services such as CreateSpace will provide you with an ISBN for free, but it limits where one can distribute the book–namely, through CreateSpace. I didn’t want to be limited to one print-on-demand company.
[Resources: ISBN via Bowker]
Kath: Did you hire a professional proof reader? or ask friends and family etc… to proof read and copy edit it for you?
I hired a very blunt and compulsive editor who has been a book editor and designer for decades, Mary Neal Meador. I am fortunate because she happens to be my sister-in-law, too. Working with people you love is one of the best parts of self-publishing. Bryce McCloud, the artist who created the cover, is a pure delight. The kind folks at Ingram Lightning Source are right here in Nashville, so that’s cool too.
Having published two books with one of the largest publishers in the world, this experience has been nothing like that. I broke even within a week. I know sales information in real time. I will be getting monthly royalty checks, rather than twice-a-year royalty statements. I never have to guess about how many copies to print, because each book is created after there’s an order for it–there is no such thing as a print run! And no returns. And my book will never go out of print.
If the DIY impulse runs in your veins, self-publishing is absolutely the way to go. It’s the ultimate craft project.