Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Ohhh, the paaaaiiinnn!"

Remember on Lost in Space (the TV version) when the awful Dr. Smith would react to just about anything not going precisely his way by moaning, "Ohhh, the paaaaiiinnnn!" Even the Robot got tired of it after a while.

Well, I've been moaning internally a lot lately (and not just because poor Obi seems to be on a downswing). Y'see, I've just come out with my latest novel. It's called Star-Crossed, and it's volume 2 of my Three Worlds romantic superhero series.

They say that each book teaches a writer more about writing. This book is teaching me a ton about self-publishing. Oh, the pain!

Well yeah, it'd help if I were a little more awake when formatting. But when you've got a full-time day job, things can get hectic when you hit home.

One of my major stumbling blocks was the tiny fact that Microsoft Word hates me. I change a line of formatting, and an entire page changes. Undo! Undo! The line looks good now, but three lines down the formatting is now off. Repeat an infinite amount of times.

With this book I began at Smashwords, thinking only to publish there since they do all ebook codes (but don't do print books). A week later at a FABULOUS Heart of Carolina Romance Writers meeting, I learned that you want to start with Kindle, Nook and CreateSpace, and then fill in the blanks of distribution with Smashwords. Smashwords also lets you use coupons so you can furnish reviewers with free copies in whatever code they need. I also added Lulu to the list for the "fill in the gaps" for print. Just in case. We'll see how that goes.

Smashwords has this wonderful (free) ebook that details how to format your book. It is 85 pages long. Eight-five freaking pages. They say it'll take about 2 hours to go through, but I discovered that it was more like 6-plus hours. Much of this extra time was needed because, as I said, Word hates me and fought almost every step.

But I got it done. Hooray! Click the final button and it's published! You have to wait another 2 weeks before they'll distribute it to some catalog that goes everywhere, but until then at least it's on their site.

So I published on Lulu—a little trickier because you have to have a back cover and spine there as well, since it's print. Got all that done and ordered my sample copy. (You have to check that everything's right before they'll distribute.) Getting a book from them takes just under 2 weeks, and they're just down the road in Raleigh. Got the book. Horrors! No page numbers! I redid my doc, crossed my fingers, and reordered. This time everything looked fine. Ahhh!

So then I sat down and did everyone else. Buttons pushed. Then the next day when I was awake—ACCCCKKK!!!!

Italics were missing on the final three pages of the story. Somehow things hadn't entirely formatted correctly during the course of all the conversions this particular book went through in the past few years. I corrected those three pages, sent off a couple of corrections, and ACCCKKK! The italic mistakes occurred in other places!

FINALLY got everything done. I hope. Thank you, "Find" function! I may have missed some French words along the way, but the vast majority are correct. All texts have been sent off. I got a note back from CreateSpace that the spine copy needed to be smaller, so I did that as well (haven't heard back yet).

Lessons learned:
My next self-pubbed novel will be Applesauce and Moonbeams, a book I've been trying to sell for about 3 years. When I hear back (WHY don't professionals have the courtesy to send a "no thanks" email instead of silence?), I've gotten comments like, "I love the characters. Great situation! How cute! But sorry, no room on our schedule for this. It's too niche-y."

So this will self-pub. Because it's been so long since I've looked at it, I'll do a complete edit. But first I'll go by CreateSpace's Word template for the document layout if nothing else, strip every last bit of formatting off my Word files and then re-format as I read each word. That way nothing will be overlooked.

My style sheets will be minimalistic: "Chapter Headings," "Body Copy" (with CreateSpace's first line indent measurement) and "Centered" should be all I need. I'll also remember that calling my chapters "Chapter X" instead of just "X" will allow the various systems to recognize a new chapter and set up automatic tables of contents for easy navigation.

And instead of starting off with Lulu's cover instructions, I'll use CreateSpace's handy-dandy template which shows you exactly where everything should be placed.

I'm looking forward to a MUCH easier time self-publishing!

Now all I have to do is get Star-Crossed reviewed somewhere. Recent book marketing courses have furnished acres of review sites, but most don't want ebooks (do I want to pay big bucks to get books printed when my chances of getting reviewed aren't guaranteed? No, sir!) or if they do, are so inundated with requests that they aren't taking any new titles for a long while, and even then, it'lll be at least 6 months before they can get reviewed.

And oh yeah, I've got to update my fiction page tonight with all the right links for buying.

Think I'll take an aspirin or six. Ohhh, the paaaainnn!


EilisFlynn said...

You've reminded me why it is that I consider self-publishing, and then shy away! Good luck, and remember, you'll be more knowledgeable because of all the PAIIIINNN!

Carol A. Strickland said...

Just watch me in early August or so, as I chortle my way through "Applesauce and Moonbeams." Maybe by then some reviews for "Star-Crossed" will be coming in. Maybe I'll have bribed someone to put some reviews up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. (Are such bribes tax-deductible?)

Marcia Colette said...

I know your pain. Bittersweet taught me all I need to know about Smashwords. Use the nuclear option as a *very* last resort. No way in hell am I putting all of those italics back in again. This time, I'm trusting myself enough to not go nuclear with my next book.

Carol A. Strickland said...

Followup: CreateSpace's sample book arrived within just a couple days of me purchasing it. They're in SC. The book looked really good except that they'd trimmed it so no one could say it was 6x9". I've redone the cover so the type doesn't go to the edge, because if they trim it that way once, they'll probably do so again.