First time Self-Publishing
Hey everyone, I thought I’d share my thoughts on self-publishing.
After putting a lot of hard work into writing my first short story, Roleplay Gone Wrong, part of the Naughty Wives Series I plan on writing, I had the daunting task of self-publishing. I knew I would have to make a cover, and I had know idea how to do that and not to have it look like complete garbage. So I turned to Google.
I found a post: Create Your Own Ebook Covers, Step by Step, With Pictures by William King. From him I learned of image libraries. Websites with thousands and thousands of photos that you can buy the license for commercial use for relatively cheap. If you’re poor like me, it’s a great solution. My cover art for Roleplay Gone Wrong cost me about $14 from Dreamstime. Another image library I found is iStock.
So now I had the image and William King recommended a 3×4 aspect ration for the image size such as 600×800 pixels. I opened up gimp a free, and fairly robust, graphic editor. A poor man’s Photoshop. I shrank my picture down to 600×800, banged my head against gimps text editor, then I accidentally lost all my work just when I had it all finished. Sigh. Finally, an hour and a half later, I had the best cover I could produce with my limited gimp knowledge.
I had my cover, I had my text. I had to combined them into an ebook somehow. Google was my friend again and I learned all about calibre. Another free software that could edit an ebook. It’s a clunky, poorly laid out piece of free software that took me a few minutes just to figure out how to do anything, like adding the document I planed to turn into an ebook.
My first attempt to turn my open office (poor man’s Microsoft Word) file into an ebook was a disaster. The formatting of the text was all screwed up, there were no paragraphs, just huge chunks of text. I tried to edit it. Ebooks apparently run a modified html code that I could make absolutely zero sense of.
Back to Google, and the discovery of style sheets. I had always ignored the formatting selection on Open Office, opting to manually do it and, worse, use tab for indents. Turns out to get paragraphs in an ebook you need automatic indents from a style sheet (Styles and Formatting or F11 in Open Office). Chapter titles need the heading format so the ebook creator will recognize them as the start of chapters. My next attempt was far better. It looked like an ebook. Elated, I felt like I was ready to upload to Amazon and Smashwords.
Amazon was definitely the easier of the two. The only hitch: I made my cover 600 x 800 pixels and Amazon required at least 1000 pixels tall cover. So I scaled my cover up and was relieved to see it still looked crisp. I uploaded it and passed their text scan. If you want to post erotica on Amazon, be prepared to never mention a characters family (other than a spouse, and that means no mother-in-laws or sister-in-laws or any other -in-laws) or use the words boy or girl to often (even in sorotity girl or frat boy). No jobs traditionally held by high school students (no cheerleaders or babysitters even if they’re over eighteen), no living animals (extinct animals are okay), and no nuns (don’t ask, I couldn’t tell you why).
Smashwords was next, and the headache began in earnest.
The cover was again a problem. Smashwords requires the width (not the length, but the shorter, top side) to be at least 1400 pixels. Again I stretched my cover, hoping it would still look crisp and sharp. Relief swept through me—it did. I was afraid that I would have had to recreate my cover from the original image.
It was time for me to face the Smashwords ebook creator—the meat grinder. I used Open Office, so I had to first convert my file into a .doc (the only format they accept). Then I submitted it. The meat grinder did not approve. I had tab errors, copyright page errors, and paragraph indent errors. Because I had foolishly used tabs to indent as I wrote (they didn’t teach style sheets when I learned typing), I had to go through and take them all out. Then I had to modify my copyright page to something Smashwords approved. I read through their Style Guide, and I set up style sheets with the recommended .3” first line indent.
Resubmitted. Paragraph error. Improper indents.
Resubmitted after making sure all the indents were in fact .3”. Paragraph error. Improper indents.
Took out the indents. Accepted. But it looked terrible. Block paragraphs with only a tiny separation between them. Unacceptable to me.
Now I was thinking I had to shell out a hundred dollars to get Microsoft Office, money I didn’t really have. I dug deeper, reading through the Style Guide Faq, and I realized what was wrong. The Autovetter message used this phrase: “If you want to use first line paragraph indents, then remove the “before/after” space you have coded into your paragraph style.” I didn’t understand what that meant. Luckily their FAQ explained things in simple terms that my pounding head could understand. My style sheet put an extra space .1” between the paragraphs when I saved it as a .doc file, and that had caused all the issues. Smashwords will let you indent paragraphs or have spaces between paragraphs, but not both. I removed the space and suddenly…
I was approved!
I shot my fist up into the air, as triumphant as a Greek hero completing some seemingly impossible task. I slew the Hydra, skinned the Nemean lion, navigated Scylla and Charybdis, and used far too much hyperbole in describing my elation just now! I survived the meat grinder, and its strange messages that made little sense.
I few days later, I passed their manual inspection. I was on the premium content list!
So for those out there looking to self-publish, remember these lessons. Make your cover width at least 1400 pixels if you want to post on Smashwords or 1000 pixels tall if you want to post on Amazon. Before you start writing, read Smashwords Style Guide and set your formatting up ahead of time. It will help to make any ebook, not just one for posting on Smashwords, and save you hours of formatting headaches.
Check out Roleplay Gone Wrong available on Smashwords and Amazon for the low price of $0.99. It’s a hot read about a married couple who get more than they bargained for with some roleplay when a Black cop catches them at their fun. Cheating, Cuckold, Wife Watching, Spanking, and Bondage. See how Frank and Evie’s relationship changes forever!by