Category Archives: Non-fiction

Quick Guide to eBook Publishing with Amazon KDP – Part 2

Standard

This quick guide is a five part series to help you if you’re publishing your first eBook with Amazon KDP. If you missed Part 1, you can pop back to read it here. Part 2 is below:

Part 2: Formatting

Once you are happy that your eBook manuscript is complete and error-free, you need to turn your attention to formatting. I’m not going to go into the mechanics of this in great detail as Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, has written a free style guide which is available for your Kindle or as a PDF here. I would thoroughly recommend that you get hold of a copy of this book as it’s comprehensive and will really help with your first time formatting.

Briefly, the idea is that you strip out any of the usual formatting used by your word processing software – and for the sake of argument, I’ll assume you’re using Word to create your eBook. You might not have thought much about the standard built-in formatting, as Word tends to use it without you really noticing, but when you’re attempting to format text for an eBook it can cause some real problems. For instance, if you are writing fiction, it’s usual to indent the first line of each new paragraph (the exception being the first paragraph at the beginning of a new chapter, or after a scene break – if you want to check this, take a look at any traditionally published novel to see how they’ve done it). Most of us use the “Tab” key on our keyboards to create this indent. When formatting your manuscript for upload, you need to get rid of any Tab-key indents, or additional Spacebar spaces, or Return-key line spaces and instead use the “Styles” menu in Word to add specific styles to your manuscript. You’ll need a standard paragraph style, as well as at least one heading style for chapter titles etc. The Smashwords guide will give you more detail (in fact, it will give you too much detail – but you can select the useful bits depending on your specific project).

One of the most important things to understand at the outset is that you are not formatting a book in the way you would for print. There is no such thing as a page. Anyone reading your eBook can do so on an e-reader, or their phone, or their tablet, or their PC. As a result, every “page” will be different according to the size of font, screen etc. This means that you are attempting to create a seamless stream of text which can accommodate any size of screen. You can use page breaks so that a new chapter shows clearly after a break, but it is extremely difficult to deal with something which needs specific formatting, such as poetry.

Another really useful thing explained in Mark Coker’s eBook is the use of hyperlinks. These are links within the text which allow the reader to navigate through the book. For instance, if your eBook is a collection of short stories, you can use hyperlinks to enable your readers to click on a story title in the contents page and go straight to that story rather than having to read every story from the beginning of the book to the end. You can also use hyperlinks at the end of every story to enable the reader to go straight back to the contents page. This is also useful in a non-fiction eBook which may not necessarily be read in a linear fashion – hyperlinks mean the reader can select the next topic they are interested in without having to scroll through large chunks of text.

Once you’ve formatted your text, email it to your Kindle, and check that the text, chapter headings and page breaks look correct, and that any internal hyperlinks work. You will usually find a heading which has centred when you wanted it left justified, or vice versa, or a random space generated by an undetected return-key! Go back and amend the original document, and email it to your Kindle again. Complete until the text looks exactly as you want it, and now you have a correctly formatted version of the contents of your eBook.

Next week in Part 3 I’ll talk about another very important step in the eBook creation process…

Advertisements

Quick Guide to eBook Publishing with Amazon KDP – Part 1

Standard

One of my local writers’ groups asked if I’d give them a quick run through of the process of publishing an eBook using Amazon KDP, and I thought it made sense to share this on the blog too for anyone who has never tried publishing an eBook before, but would like to give it a go. I’ve broken down the whole process into five stages, so I’ll publish each as a separate part in a short series. Part 1 is a biggie:

Write Your eBook!

The beauty of eBooks is that they don’t have to be a specific length. A standard traditionally published novel might be around 80,000-120,000 words, a romance novel might tend to sit around the 50,000-55,000 word mark. These are accepted norms for physical books where publishers need to consider costs of paper and printing, how the book will look on the shelf, the thickness of the spine for printing the title and author name, and so forth. With an eBook, you are not bound by the constraints of traditional publishing, so if your magnum opus turns out to be 300,000 words long, that’s absolutely fine – in fact, there is some evidence to suggest readers prefer longer eBooks. Conversely, you can publish a stand-alone short story as an eBook if you so desire (and many people do) – though you’d be advised to make it clear in your blurb and in your pricing strategy that it’s a short story so readers don’t feel short-changed and leave you poor reviews.

Whatever the length of your book, the most important thing is to do your very best to make your manuscript error-free. This is incredibly difficult. It’s not unheard of to spot typos in traditionally published books produced by publishing companies with professional editors and proofreaders, so as a lone self-publisher you need to pay particular attention to this aspect of the publication process. You can pay for professional help with your edits and proofing, but this can be very expensive (you need to consider if this is justifiable – how many copies of your eBook will you have to sell to cover the cost? Is this realistic?). If you decide not to go down the professional route, you need an alternative strategy.

To start with, you need to check and re-check your manuscript yourself. This is usually most effective if you leave a period of time between the end of the writing process and your read through. It also helps to read aloud (amazing what you notice when you do this). And you may find it helpful to read the text in different formats – if you usually read on your laptop screen, try printing out a hard copy, or emailing the manuscript to your e-reader and checking through it in different fonts. Next, if you have access to a writing group, or some like-minded friends, you can ask them if they will act as beta readers for you. Ask them to read through the manuscript, looking out for typos, as well as clunky sentence structure and anything else which seems odd, doesn’t follow, or is inconsistent. Once you get their feedback, make all the final amendments, then leave it for a while before your final read through.

Then stop. It’s incredibly nerve-wracking self-publishing an eBook, but you have to let your book-baby go sometime. We writers are terrible for tinkering, and there will never be a time when you are completely happy with your manuscript. But you have to draw the line somewhere otherwise the project will never be finished. In any case, another great thing about the eBook is that even if you spot an error after you’ve published it (or more likely, one of your readers does), you can always correct and re-upload the text at any time.

So, I hope that was a helpful start in the self-publishing process – catch up with Part 2 of the series next week.

Cover Reveal – Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide to Success

Standard

I’m always over-optimistic about the amount of writing I’ll get done over the Christmas holidays. It seems glorious at the outset – a luxurious festive week stretching out before you. Granted, there’ll be visits to family and friends, and you know there’ll be a bit of over-indulgence, some time devoted to lounging in front of the telly, but surely there’ll be loads of time left over for writing, right?

So often, the answer is no, but this year, I’ve been making a concerted effort to use the time effectively getting my latest project finished – my first non-fiction eBook, Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide to Success.

And of course, you guys have helped me by voting on your favourite cover design. Each of the three sample covers got plenty of votes (so a big thank you to Shar at Landofawes for creating all three). In the end though, one was ahead by a sizeable margin. I decided to make a few tweaks to this design, but you’ll recognise it as being not too dissimilar to the original. So this is the final cover design:

SScompetitionsKindle - Cover

The book has been released in time for New Year – so if perhaps you’ve been frustrated with your recent writing progress, or you’re just starting out and want 2018 to be the year you see success as a short story competition entrant, you might find the book a good place to start.

The book is available at Amazon here – and I’ll be posting about the book, and about New Year’s Resolutions, here on the blog, and also on my Facebook page over the remainder of the festive season. I hope you can join me for a celebratory glass of virtual bubbly over the next few days, to find out more about the book and get inspired for 2018! 😉

 

Attracting the Reader’s Attention: Choosing the best eBook Cover Design

Standard

For us British, anything related to self-promotion tends not to come naturally. We’re brought up in a culture where mentioning your achievements is only a step away from boasting – and we don’t approve of boasting, ho no! If you’re a writer, the chances are you’re at the quiet and shy end of the social spectrum, possibly a little insular, with perhaps a tendency towards self-doubt too. I’d put myself firmly in this category.

This means I’m mostly doing the social media equivalent of standing at the back of a busy room, raising my hand and giving a polite cough to get everyone’s attention. Sometimes no-one notices. Sometimes I don’t even have the courage to do it at all. Everyone carries on talking, and I just stand there thinking I probably should mention what I’m doing, but maybe it’s not the best time.

But now I really ought to tell you formally about my latest project. I’m writing a book. Just a little one you understand (so that you know I’m not boasting!). It’s my first non-fiction book: “Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide”. I’ve aimed to incorporate all that I’ve learned from my own experiences as both entrant and judge – the idea being the reader will be able to learn from my mistakes rather than having to make so many of their own!

Alongside drafting the text for the book, I pondered the cover design for a long time. There’s no way I’d attempt to create my own eBook cover, but I sent a couple of ideas to Shar, my cover designer, and she mocked up three designs for me.

 

As I’m pretty rubbish at making decisions, I decided to consult family and friends, Facebook and the Twittersphere. The results were really interesting – each cover got lots of support, and there were also some good comments, discussions of the relative merits of each, and suggestions for improvements. Of course, with an eBook cover, you have to think about how the design will work both large scale and in thumb nail form when the reader is quickly scanning through the available options.

If you’ve not chosen a favourite yet, or you’d like to make a further suggestion about one or more of the designs, I’ve love to hear your comments. If you’d like to see the final cover design before the book is out, please click the link on the right hand side of the blog to join my new mailing list. (Oh, did I mention…. *whispers* I’ve got a new mailing list!) 😉

Songs, Flags & Nag Rags!

Standard

Friends and regular readers of this blog will know that it’s not uncommon for my online presence to turn into…well, an online absence…as I devote my time to all things equine rather than writing-related. Which makes it all the better when I can combine my two passions in life, and write about horses.

This morning, I picked up a copy of Horse & Rider magazine (which my husband affectionately referred to as the “nag rag”), which features the first article I’ve written for a long time – and it’s really exciting to see it in print (after having the original idea sometime over the Christmas holidays!).

It was a good discipline, trying my hand at non-fiction for a change – and certainly something I’d like to do more of in the future.

Also delighted to discover I’ve now had 11 reviews on my eBook The Camel in the Garden a big thank you to everyone who has taken the trouble to share their thoughts on the stories.  It’s really appreciated.

Having also finished edits on, and subbed, a new story this morning, I think I’ve had a productive writing-related day, and can feel justified this evening in watching a bit of telly – so Eurovision it is!