Saturday, May 25, 2013

Indie Publishers Lazy?

I've heard a lot of talk recently about Indie authors who publish their own work. Many legitimate criticisms can be leveled about quality of work sometimes for some writers. However, the same can be said for some small traditional publishers and even some bigger publishers at times. I know I just finished reading a book by a fairly well known author published by a major company which was badly formatted for Kindle with pages jumping in the middle of a sentence and frequent spell check errors (you know where spell check inserts the word it thinks is right, but obviously isn't). Additionally, the prose could have been tightened a lot.
However, no one mentions those things with traditionally published work, just self published materials.

Anyway, in both worlds there can be poor workmanship involved. However, one of the criticisms that is not valid is that of indie authors being "lazy." The indie author takes on multiple times the work a traditional author does with each book published.

Consider this, the indie author has to be writer, editor, cover artist, tech lackey, and marketing executive all rolled into one. Even if they outsource these jobs, they must supervise and make final decisions about each, not to mention hours spent researching those professionals and additional hours keeping them on task.

Let's just look at the jobs an indie writer must do:


As a traditionally published author, I edited my manuscripts carefully, but never as completely as I do as an indie author. If I missed something, well, there were the content editor and the line editor to catch what I missed. (And then they missed some as well). As an indie writer, even if I hire an editor, I need to send them a nearly pristine manuscript, or I'll be spending thousands of dollars in the hours they spend working on my writing. And, honestly, I can't afford editing for a shorter work, so all that falls on me and my beta readers.

Cover Artist

It may sound odd, but I consider this to be more important to sales than perfect editing. Why? Because people who are considering purchasing your book see the cover, but they don't see your editing until after making a purchase. This doesn't mean you skimp on editing. If your book is terribly edited, then you may lose repeat sales or get bad reviews, but they won't make the purchase in the first place if they don't click through to your book. They won't click through to your book unless you have a compelling or at least professional looking cover design.

Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that can help you create professional looking covers available for free. GIMP is an image manipulation program like Photoshop you can download for free. Pixlr has a Photoshop like photo editor online. However, a good cover illustration can cost some money. Personally, I use iStockphoto. Many times I can find a picture just by running a few keywords that describe my book. Sometimes the only modification I have to make is to size it, crop it and add my title and name.

Of course, I have some professional graphic arts experience and training, and other writers hire people to do their covers. This may sound easy, but usually it means researching who might actually be able to do a decent cover and then preparing instructions about what you want on that cover. You will probably spend as much time supervising as it would take to do it yourself.

Layout Specialist

If you are writing and publishing ebooks, you will need to format everything correctly or you will end up with a design that won't scale up or down with the different ereader configurations. Just taking a PDF that was made for a print design and converting it to .mobi (Kindle) or .epub (Nook) format isn't enough.

You need to reformat just about everything. Even bulleted lists, charts, graphs and tables, if not handled properly can end up looking like gibberish on some readers. You can't leave that technical stuff up to the publisher, because you are the publisher.

This isn't hard to learn. I can teach anyone to format a book for Kindle in an hour or two, but it is time consuming work.

And don't even get me started about the work involved in formatting a print on demand book. I've done it for clients, and it takes many hours more than an ebook. Again, it can be learned, but it is hard work.

Publicity Department

Admittedly, even as a traditional author, I had to handle a lot of the marketing for my books. However, now I have to handle it all from writing the copy for the Amazon sales page to contacting reviewers to working the social media. It's all my job. Fortunately, I spent a lot of my younger years as a marketing specialist and while the venues have changed, the basic principles have not.

Again, this type of marketing doesn't have to be complicated, but it takes time and effort. It isn't rocket science to email a blogger who reviews books like yours to ask them if they want to receive a copy of your book, but that's time consuming.

Indie authors are sometimes incompetent, sometimes inexperienced, sometimes sloppy, but one thing they are not, one thing they cannot be is lazy. Click here to tweet this.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Using Google Docs to Prepare your Manuscript for Kindle Part III

We have looked at creating paragraph, font and heading settings for your document now we come to what many worry the most about - Creating a clickable Table of Contents. However, this is probably one of the easiest things to do.

I'm going to assume you created a Title Page with the title of your book, your
name and copyright information. Right after this page, create a new page by placing your cursor after the last text on the title page and hitting Control-Enter (Command-Enter on the Mac). You now have a new page.

Before proceeding, make sure every chapter title has been formatted by highlighting it and clicking on Heading 1 in the titles menu. If there are subtitles you also want in the menu, be sure they have been formatted as Heading 2.

Now, comes the real tricky part. Place  your cursor at the top of the page where you want your table of contents to begin, click on insert, scroll to the bottom and click "Table of Contents." Like magic a clickable table of contents apprear.

That's it.

Check to make sure all of your chapters are listed. If one is missing, it is because you forget to set it as Heading 1. Go to that chapter and correct it. When you come back to the table of contents page there is a gray box with a circular arrow in it, click that and it will update the page including your new chapter.

Downloading a Compatible Document

Google docs creates it's own format by default. To get a .docx format you need to upload to Kindle click on File, then on download and select Microsoft Word. It saves as .docx, which works fine with the Kindle uploader.

Now, you have a file you can upload to Kindle. As with any Kindle upload, it is good that you view the document using their Kindle previewer after upload. Or you can download a copy of it and use the downloadable version of the previewer. 

That's pretty much all there is to building a manuscript for upload to Kindle using Google docs. Good luck with your own project. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Using Google Docs to Prepare a Document for Kindle Part II

Earlier this week, we discussed setting up a document, setting the paragraph indentations and line spacings using Google docs. Now, let's talk about setting your font types, headings and creating a clickable table of contents.

Setting Font Styles

Setting a font style is not much different than doing so in MS-Word. You can simply highlight everything and click on the button that shows the current font. You do not have a lot of options to choose from, but that is actually good. Ereaders don't do well with fancy fonts. So just choose either Arial if you want San Serif or Times New Roman for serif.

Photo by Bglasgow
The technique of highlighting everything and setting the font works for the type of
font, but doesn't help a lot with size of fonts if you have several sizes. Also, it doesn't help if haven't begun typing yet. You can set all your font styles including those of headings and subheadings all at once using the style tool.

First, type three lines of text into your document. It doesn't matter what you type, but I like to type "Normal, Heading 1 and Heading 2."

Above the text box next to the current font style is a box that may read "normal" or "heading X" (X being a number). Highlight "Normal" and set the font style and size you want for the paragraph text of your book. For instance, Arial 12. Then click on the box and a dropdown menu appears. Hover your mouse over the right hand side of the menu next to the word "normal" and an arrow will appear. Click it. Then choose update normal text to match. Now, you have set the normal text to that style for the entire document. If you already have text in the document, even if it is not highlighted, all the normal paragraph text (anything that is not specifically styled as a heading) will change.

If you have a full paragraph of text, you can set up an automatic first line indent and line spacing as well. You can also add whether or not to add a space before or after each paragraph.

Now, do the same for Heading 1 and Heading 2. You can also add formatting such as boldfacing, underlining or italicizing.

One advantage of mastering the style tool is that it simplifies changes. If you get half way through writing or formatting your Kindle book and you decide you want the subheadings in each chapter to be italicized, but you don't want to go back and change the format on each one, you can change then all at once just by changing the styling on Heading 2 (or 3 if you formatted that far down). So you change the format on any subheading in the book, highlight it and click the style tool and change 20, 30 or 100 subheadings all at once.

Of course, the other important advantage of the style tool is in creating a clickable table of contents. We will talk about how to do that later this weekend.