Thoughts On Self-Publishing My First Book

This isn’t going to be earth shattering or anything, but figured I’d try to share a few things I learned from the experience of self-pubbing the non-fiction book.

So, I went with Kindle Select.  One, because I’m lazy and I figured this would mean I could have ninety days where the book was published somewhere and I’d feel like I’d accomplished something before I had to start trying to juggle other venues.

Two, because from what I’ve read everywhere it seems that that’s where most people get most of their sales from.  (Although it sounds like iTunes might be an interesting option to pursue as well.)

So, Kindle seemed like a good place to start.

I write in Word and use a Sony computer, so I found the process of preparing the file pretty straight-forward.  I’ve created tables of contents and done most of the other formatting they recommended before, so that helped.

They have a formatting guide that is pretty detailed and easy to follow.

(Although, look elsewhere for the optimal dimensions for your cover.  It can be bigger than the example used in the guide.  Mine is 1563×2500 pixels.)

A few tips or thoughts:

They suggest that you bookmark the start of your book (using “Start”), so that the Kindle opens to the first page of text instead of the front matter.  I did that originally.

But I found that each time I uploaded the file, the bookmark moved a little on me.  So, instead of starting at the top of the page where it said “Introduction” it would start one or two sentences into the text.

And it wasn’t obvious that that’s what had happened either.  So I ended up deleting that bookmark.

But I was able to create hyperlinks in the document for when I referred to another section of the book and those seemed to work well and consistently.

From everything I could tell, it doesn’t matter what spacing you use, what font size, or whether you still use two spaces after a period like I do.  Those all get “fixed” when you convert the file.

I did end up significantly editing the book after it was up on the preview screen.  Mostly this was to create shorter paragraphs.  Something that would look like a three-line paragraph in my Word file was a ten-line paragraph on the Kindle.

(I didn’t even bother trying to get it to work on the iPhone where one short paragraph can fill the entire screen.)

Obviously each reader can customize the text size so that may not even help, but I tried to optimize it for the three and four point size when I was reading through.

I found that in at least one version of the Kindle a long phrase I had used that was connected with dashes created a big gap in the text because the text was justified in that version, so I had to choose a different way of punctuating that phrase to make it work.

You can’t trust the spelling error check on Kindle.  I’d already checked my document for spelling errors, but if that check they run is supposed to be a clean check it misses a lot.  I used a non-conventional spelling of one word and other words like “kinda” that it should have caught, but didn’t.

I had to remove some of the formatting that I use when I submit short stories.  So, no half-inch indent on the first line of new paragraphs.  And I had to switch over my underlines to italics.  (I’m old school.)

(The guide said to put in the indent.  But when I pulled up the first Kindle version in the sample screen it just looked wrong with the indent.  And other versions showed an indent anyway even after I’d removed it.)

When I was reading through I’d occasionally notice a page where it looked like my text disappeared mid-page.  But if I paged forward and paged back the text was all there.  So, I think that was a glitch in the previewer, not in what I wrote.

(If I ever sell a copy to an actual reader, we’ll see if someone complains about that.)

I ended up uploading about ten versions of the book before I was done.  The first few versions after rewriting the text into shorter paragraphs. Another to fix one of my section titles that hadn’t made it into the table of contents and a few attempts to fix that “Start” page issue.

(It was working on about the third version, but I never did get it back to the right spot.)

For each new upload I read through the book again even though that’s a complete pain in the ass to do.  But it was worth it.

In terms of the cover.  I used Logo Design Studio.  I had tried to use Paint or whatever was already on my computer, but it didn’t do what I wanted it to.

So I went to the store to see what was available.  I just couldn’t justify buying Photoshop at the time.  I didn’t think I’d use all of its bells and whistles enough to justify the cost.  I think Logo Design cost me about $20.

The software took a little getting used to, but I was able to do what I wanted.  (Text at angles or arced, insert images, etc.)

(When I was younger I’d play on the design computer at my dad’s work, so I’ve dabbled with logo design type programs before.)

I used a pretty basic cover for this book.  Just some text in different colors and a simple image.

The key to me was that it be easy to read in a thumbnail size and look good in both color and black and white.

It took about four versions of the cover before I was happy with what I’d created and then uploading the jpeg file to the site was easy.  (That only took one try.)

Obviously I was learning as I went, but it looks like it took me about as much time to work on the cover/upload of the book as it did to write the whole book.

Of course, it was a short book that was pretty easy to write.  And that did include at least one more round of full edits on the book.  But still.

Definitely a pretty straight-forward process and I’d think anyone with familiarity with Word could do it easily.

Now, the marketing issue (which I’m not tackling with this book) is a completely different animal.

I’ll probably post sometime soon what my thought process is on the fiction side of things.  And then, if I actually go through with it, we’ll see how that goes.  (Basically, from all my research, I’ve decided a hybrid model with steady production is the big key.)

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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