Over the next two months, I'll be assembling my newest book, Superhero in the Making, book two in the Adventures of Lewis and Clarke series. ("Superhero Books for Her!") This will be the fourth time I've put a book together to self-publish, so I'm finding patterns and creating checklists.
I've found that one of the important things you need to know before you begin is which distributors you will use. For instance, while Scrivener (where I write my books) has the capability to create an EPUB file, Smashwords still required a Word document the last time I uploaded a book there in May 2013. Since I want my ebooks to be absolutely identical on any device, and because as of May 2013 all the distributors I used accepted Word files, I found it was easier to create just one file and then make the necessary changes on the copyright page. (As opposed to having a Scrivener EPUB file, a Word file, and an InDesign file and having to remember to make any little edits to all three files, at least this way I only had to remember to make the same edits in two files. We'll see if I do it differently this time to take advantage of Scrivener creating the EPUB and mobi - for Kindle - files for me. When I created my ebook-only short story, "Superhero in Disguise," Scrivener helped me format the files fast.)
One thing to love about the free Smashwords Style Guide is that if you are meticulous in following the instructions there, your completed Word file will upload to any of the other distributors as well on the first try. (As of May 2013, I uploaded to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords - who distributed to "everyone else." I had no problems with B&N's original "PubIt!" program, but its new NOOK Press messes up my books now, every time. So I now let Smashwords distribute there for me. That will change when I decide to spend the money hiring out my formatting or figure out my NOOK Press problem.)
Another thing to consider is whether one of the programs you use has been very recently upgraded and other programs will not work well with it until they upgrade as well. This happened to me in May 2013 with Unexpected Superhero. Between Scrivener, NOOK Press, and an EPUB validator I was using, the Scrivener EPUB file had errors I couldn't fix when I tried to upload it to NOOK Press. It was frustrating and time-consuming tracking down the problem, trying potential solutions, and eventually having to abandon my upload and have Smashwords distribute it. But these things happen and you need to go with the flow. (Again, unless you hire a professional formatter.)
Since my husband used to be a graphic designer and owns several professional programs, and I've done some newsletters using Quark Xpress, I decided to go that route for my print books. My husband and I created a template in Quark for my first book, Little Miss Lovesick, and I uploaded the final file as a PDF to CreateSpace. Again, plan for the unexpected. I couldn't get Quark to create the PDF even though it was an option for the software. Turns out a lot of people were having the same problem. I finally had to send the file out to have it converted. Of course, then I had a PDF that I couldn't change. Why was that a problem if my book was already printed?
A Professional Print Version
Yup, found a few typos. When I created the ebook files, I corrected any little things I saw as they came up - without thinking about it. Meaning, I didn't make identical changes to the Quark file, which is why I mentioned above, be aware of how many separate files you have to change if you find a typo. And now, because I couldn't get Quark to create a PDF for me, I could make my edits but would have to send the file out to be converted to PDF every time, forever. My husband and I started talking about upgrades and - voila! I got an email from Adobe about their Creative Cloud suite. Instead of purchasing the software and upgrading every year or two, you could pay a monthly subscription fee and always have access to the latest version. Not only that, you have access to every piece of Adobe software (that I'm aware of). Because my husband and I both use more than one piece of Adobe software, the monthly Creative Cloud membership seemed perfect for us.
So for my second book, I used Adobe InDesign. LOVE. IT. I sent out my Little Miss Lovesick Quark file to Nick Davies at Tinstar Design and he quickly converted it to InDesign for me for a very reasonable price. I made my minor edits in the new file and it was ready to re-upload. I also took that Lovesick file and created a master template for my future books, which I then used for Unexpected Superhero. Now my print books all have the same look every time. Definitely the professional way to go.
During the last 2 1/2 years, I've continued to make notes about what I do, how I do it, and what order to do it. For instance, in your print version, if you add the header in the master section so that it appears on every page, then manually delete the header from the first pages of chapters, then go through every line of the book taking out words that are split/hyphenated to the next line, it will change the way the text flows and...wait for it...your manually deleted headers will sometimes be on the wrong page. Sigh. Then you have to re-do the header.
Yes, I learned that by doing it. ;)
So now with Superhero in the Making, I'll take my newest checklist and begin working down it in order. Any time I find something not working right, I'll make a note of how to fix it and, if necessary, change the order of steps in my checklist. Until I decide to send out my book files to a professional formatter, this is an effective way to get my books printed so that they look absolutely professional, and I'm not re-inventing the process every time. I haven't looked into the prices of professional formatters or know who's the best at a reasonable price because I genuinely enjoy the book-building process. But someday I may have to let go of this part in order to get more writing done and more books out.
I hope this has been helpful to you. If so, let me know and I'll try to post more on this topic in the future. I'll be teaching a self-publishing how-to class online in September that you may find useful as well. I'll let you know the details soon. Happy Self-Publishing!
Kitty Bucholtz decided to combine her undergraduate degree in business, her years of experience in accounting and finance, and her graduate degree in creative writing to become a writer-turned-independent-publisher. Her novels, Little Miss Lovesick and Unexpected Superhero, and the free short story "Superhero in Disguise," are now available at most online retail sites. Superhero in the Making will be released at WonderCon in April.