So you finally gathered your courage and clicked the publish button. Then sometime later, you discover errors in your content. What to do?
You have three choices:
Leave it: If it’s only word choice or doesn’t cause a major plot fault, ask yourself if it is worth fixing. If not, cue Elsa and “let it go”. Otherwise,
Replace it: If the fix is relatively small and you’ve not had many downloads, just fix it and upload the new version. It’s quick and easy. On Amazon, the new version will be in place in just a few hours. New readers will get this newer version and there’s no need to alert your old readers about it. Or,
Replace and alert: If the changes are significant, then fix, replace, and alert Amazon. They will get in touch with everyone who downloaded your previous version. But be warned: Amazon gets to decide if the changes warrant this much of their attention. You have to remember the basic corporate rule of Time=Money. Explain the changes well enough and Amazon should agree with you. After all, they do want their readers to have an enjoyable experience.
But even if they don’t, you can always alert your readers through your own media channels and offer the new and improved version yourself. An easy way to do this is to coincide offering the new version for free via a promo. Your readers will appreciate your effort, and hopefully, you’ll gain some new fans as well. Two birds, one stone.
So decide what type of changes you need to make and whether they warrant alerting your readers.
Do people judge a book by its cover? Absolutely. In fact, while looking at marketing options, I discovered that book covers are scrutinized by the powers that be as a reflection of content. In other words, the cover can make or break your book’s success.
Self-pubbing fiction authors tend to overflow their covers with images and words. There is an old computer adage called KISS that applies here: Keep It Simple Stupid. What is your story’s main theme? Pick an image that easily conveys this to your reader.
Next, hire a graphic artist. I know, I know. I cringed every time I heard that too, but it will pay off. There is a certain magic that an artistic eye lends to the cover. Not many of us possess that, but it’s ok because there are scores of freelance graphic artists out there willing to be hired.
Here is how to go about it: First, find covers that you think are beautiful or have design elements you like. Find out the artist’s names (usually listed on the rights page of the book) then check them out on-line. Do they work in your genre? Look at their other covers, see if they are available, and what they charge. As you are gathering info, see what strikes your fancy, and start developing an idea of what you’d like on your own cover.
A range of $30-50 an hour is very reasonable. The more you know what you want and can describe it to the graphic artist, the less time it will take him or her, and the less money you’ll spend. It’s ok even if you are clueless as to what you want; the artist will work with you until you are satisfied. Usually the artist will give you three versions to choose from as a jump off point, and the adjustments follow. Don’t be afraid to speak up. They are used to making changes. But also be flexible to the artist’s vision and creativity, i.e. let the magic happen. This is what you are paying them for. Note: If you are writing a series, think ahead as to how successive covers might look. Get your artist’s input on that as well, and ask if he or she would be interested in working with you again down the road. Most artists will jump at the chance for future work if the experience with you has gone well.
Before you make the final decision: Think beyond just your book cover to promotional materials and swag. How will your cover look on them? You can also ask the artist for different sizes of the images you will need, e.g. for the cover, your website, promo materials, etc. The book cover requires a higher density of pixels but the others can be less dense. Graphic artists are aware of all these specs and what they mean, but you may have to supply them with the necessary sizes. These are given on each website so it’s easy to find out (e. g. Amazon’s Book Cover Requirements page, or Staples postcard ordering page). But get the images upfront so you will have everything ready to start marketing.
One more thing: It is usually inherent in hiring an artist that you own the rights to the work, but to be safe, get it in writing from the artist. An e-mail will suffice. Save it, print it, file it. That way you have all the rights to reproduce the cover on postcards, T-shirts, or whatever you want to market your book.
Again, creating a quality product shows you care about your work. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by slapping a cheap-looking, cheesy cover on your hard work. Your book’s success depends on it.
Formatting an e-book is very different than formatting a paper book since digital content is fluid. Page numbers, footers, headers, and fancy fonts become irrelevant. Yes, as an e-pub author you can add them but there is no point as e-reader devices and apps allow readers to customize their reading experience, such as allowing readers to change to their favorite font and font size. Hence, these things are unnecessary in the digital world. The up-side for the e-pub author is that this makes things easier.
One thing that is helpful to the fiction reader is for the author to place a marker in the text to denote a scene change. If, like me, you prefer something a little fancier than a boring asterisk or two, then check out Unicode. Almost every word processor program has symbols that can be easily combined and inserted to make a neat scene-changing icon in your book. (In MS Word, it’s under the Insert tab, then click on Symbol on the far right end.) These symbols have been standardized, meaning that at some mystical time and place a group of people sit down at a table and decide what symbols get what bit numbers. This set of standard symbols coupled to their bitmaps is known as Unicode. The point is for computers across the board to understand that specific bit patterns mean specific characters. (Side note: Books of old could not be scanned into digital if the computer was unable to recognize the characters. Unicode was created so that people can produce digital books in all different languages.)
Unicode also has to be backward compatible, which in computer jargon means it has to work on older computers too. But that is not always the case. As the number of characters for all these languages increased, so did the lengths of bitmaps. And older computers might not have the capability to understand them. How does all this affect e-pub? It means you have to be careful which symbols you use. I found all this out because the symbols I chose resulted in the dreaded “square containing a question mark” – translation: “what in the world is that?” – on the oldest versions of the Kindle. To solve the problem, I attempted to try a graphic version of the symbols instead. It seemed to work, as it showed up correctly on all devices, but, and this is big, it did not translate in the same size to all devices: on some the graphic looked fine, but on others it was teeny-tiny.
Bottom line for Unicode Symbols: can be a nice addition and does not take up much space, but be sure to pick symbols that translate to all devices by checking it not only with the Previewer Tool but testing it with multiple fonts as well.
Bottom line for Graphics: look nice but be warned that the scaling/appearance may change from one device to the next. Use the Preview Tool to check that it looks the way you want across devices. In addition, overuse of graphics can add a lot to the size of your manuscript. So choose wisely and use sparingly.
Just a glance proves which authors didn’t use the tools to test the quality of their e-books before publishing. From my previous career as a systems analyst, I gained a healthy respect for testing to be sure all was well before I signed off on a project. The handy tools for e-pub make testing a no-brainer.
Amazon provides the would-be author with the following tools: Spellchecker: After uploading a book, you’ll be given a list of possible spelling errors, including words not recognized by the spellchecker. Step through these and fix any you find in your document and upload your book again. Repeat until all clear. (Note: The check is done every time you upload a new version of your manuscript, but you can click a single button to skip the list. This comes in handy when you’ve moved on from changing content to making only format changes.)
Previewer: This nifty on-line tool allows you to see how your manuscript looks on several different devices. Here you can view your formatting, including scene separators, and also test your Table of Contents links to be certain they are set up properly. This formatting hump appears the most daunting, but in essence is really pretty simple. Check out YouTube.com for videos on “how to” format for Kindle with your word processor. The investment is in the time but is totally worth it. I should also mention that there is a downloadable Previewer as well, but it only gives views for the Kindle Touch and DX. The on-line version is much more robust in that it gives views for various Kindles, as well as Apple and Android devices. So unless you have a compelling reason to download the Previewer, like wanting to work on your formatting without Internet access, don’t bother – you’re not missing anything.
Take away: No one is going to love your baby as much as you do. So, give your baby the love it deserves.
For the past few months my mantra has been: Eat. Edit. Nap. Repeat. At last, the time came to e-pub.
I created a new “author” account on Amazon (i.e. separate from my personal ones) and at once was smacked by the enormity of it all. Not only was I clueless as to “how to” but also being forced to go beyond the comfort zone of my inner circle to offer my story to the world – hello – left me quite intimidated. What’s an introverted hermit-type to do?
Tip #1: Start small with “divide and conquer” approach.
There was too much to learn in just a day or two. Sure I could dash through it, but because I plan to continue to e-pub, I knew I needed to take alittle time to actually learn how it works. I set my goal to create a quality product, and quality comes from putting in time and allowing myself the luxury to think things through.
Amazon makes the process pretty easy via guidelines set up for each part of the process. Starting small, I only read the guidelines that referred to the step I was on. This kept me from feeling overwhelmed.
I should note that I felt compelled to start with blank number 1 and fill in the required info in the order presented, but in reality, the blanks can be filled in any order, even leaving some unfilled. For example, it’s possible to upload a book and tackle the formatting even before entering the proper title. (To save, you will need at least some sort of title but you can save it as “test” or whatever you wish to call it. Note: When you click the “Save and Continue” button, you will be prompted for all the bare necessities required to save.) The beauty of digital is that anything you wish to defer can be added/fixed later. Nothing is written in stone as it is for paper.
So, make your account then decide where you want to start, go into learning mode, and tackle each part in steps. Use the guidelines and only read what is related to the task at hand. Delay the other stuff, and address each part in turn.
Relax. Breathe. You can do this. I did.
Tip #1: Start small.
I will be passing on more tips, so follow me to be sure not to miss my next post.