The SELF-PRINTED 3.0 Splash

selfprintedsplashbadge

As anyone who is interested in writing and has ever been trapped with me in a elevator, car, or coffee shop meeting room knows, I’m a HUGE fan of Catherine Ryan Howard.  When I was getting started in self publishing, I realised I was still stuck in the ‘vanity press’ mindset of old and didn’t know anything about Createspace, formatting, or selling online.

Enter Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard.  I thought I found the book by accident on Amazon (but later learned it was through Catherine’s savvy choice of keywords) and I was so delighted by it that it has become a large influence in the group I founded, the Athens Writers Association.

In celebration of Self-Printed 3.0, (releasing today!) Catherine is answering a question posed by yours truly: What can self-published authors do to help each other that you don’t see done often enough?

Here’s her answer:

Great question and one I really had to have a good think about. I’m afraid though that my answer won’t be very popular…

I don’t think self-publishers are in need of helping each other out more, because from what I see the self-publishing community as a whole is incredibly helpful towards each other already. You see it all the time: self-pubbed authors hosting other self-pubbed authors on blog tours, recommending each other’s books, gathering together to release box-sets featuring multiple authors so they can cross-promote, etc. etc. When one ascends the ladder a rung or two, more often than not they reach down to help another few take a step up behind them.

So, what would I like to see more of? To be honest I’d like to see more self-publishers holding their fellow self-publishers to higher standards. I’d like to see more self-publishers talking about how important it is to hire a professional editor, work on your cover, etc. It’s easy to forget that the vast majority of readers do not hold self-published books in high esteem because in the past, a lot of them just weren’t that good! Imagine now that John Smith, a new self-published author, manages to convince one of these anti-self-pub readers to take a chance on a self-published ebook – and the reader finds grammatical errors, typos, inconsistencies, bad formatting and a table of contents that doesn’t work. Now John Smith has just confirmed for them what they always suspected about self-published books: that they’re bad. So they don’t try anymore. And maybe the next one they would’ve tried would’ve been yours, or mine. Now John Smith has cost us both a sale. Shouldn’t we have tried harder to get him to self-publish professionally?

I think so. So if there’s something I’d like to see self-publishers do to help each that I don’t think I see often enough, it’s to encourage professional self-publishing and to point out that when you don’t, you let the entire side down…

Awesome answer.  I agree completely.  One of the goals of the AWA is to help everyone get better and send well-written, excellently edited books out into the world.  If you’d like to do likewise, I highly recommend Self-Printed 3.0!
Here’s additional facts about Catherine, who is herself a self-publishing success story:
Catherine Ryan Howard is a writer, self-publisher and caffeine enthusiast from Cork, Ireland. SELF-PRINTED: THE SANE PERSON’S GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING (3rd edition) is out now in paperback and e-book and available from Amazon. Follow the #selfprintedsplash on Twitter today (Friday 24th) and/or visit www.catherineryanhoward.com for chance to win an amazing prize that will get your self-publishing adventure started!
“SELF-PRINTED is my self-publishing bible. It taught me how to format, create and upload my e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks. It showed me practical things such as how to build a website/blog and how to promote my books. More importantly, it taught me how to compete with the professionals. Just look at the results – The Estate Series has sold nearly 100,000 copies and following that I got a traditional book deal with Thomas & Mercer too, so I’m now a hybrid author. Jam-packed full of hints and tips all in one place, I’m always referring back to it. In a word, it’s priceless.” – Mel Sherratt, author of The Estate Series and DS Allie Shenton Series  
Advertisements

“How Do I Format My Book?”

‘The Tragicall Hiftorie of Hamlet’ is only slightly sadder than ‘The Tragicall Hiftorie of Formatting’.

I’ll be upfront right away — if you need a good formatting how-to, Google onward or better yet, run off and buy Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self-Printed .  It will make the job easier.  However, if you’re about to lose your mind and want some comfort and camaraderie, then you’ve come to the right place.

Now, if you my age (mid-thirties) or older, you might have grown up wanting to be a writer, but you never thought once about growing up to be a ‘formatter’.  You honed your writing, and thought about book readings and tours, working well with your agent and editor, but you never thought much about self-publishing.

When I got serious about writing in the mid 90s, ‘vanity presses’ were still the main name for do-it-without-a-publisher printing.  For you youngsters, they were called that because — you guessed it — it was seen as vanity to publish a book the ‘real’ publishers didn’t think was good enough.  Of course, that’s a total fallacy, but a lot of people believed it.  It also might cost you $10,000 and you’d wind up with 1,000 copies out in your garage.

So I just assumed I’d never have to think about covers, copy editing, and FORMATTING.  I probably didn’t even know what that really meant.  Fast forward to this year, when I bought the above-mentioned book and started seeing my Athens Writers Association buddies bringing these beautiful, professional books into the world.  But behind every beautiful book came a horror story about formatting.

Still, I was a patient and smart woman — how hard could it be?  (long break for weeping here).

First, I couldn’t find any program that could save files as plain .DOC, not .DOCX (which I needed for Smashwords i.e. getting my e-book on Nook etc) except for Microsoft Word.  But I had never owned MS Word; I have gotten hooked on MS Publisher years ago and, like someone still typing that first draft on an old Smith Corona, I had never moved on.  So I broke down (despite a Windows 8-related grudge match with MS) and downloaded a trial of MS Office so I could try Word (verdict: LOVE it.  Must be an entirely different group than those Windows 8 tile-lovers).

So life was good, until I actually tried formatting.  See, following the advice in Self-Printed, I didn’t try anything fancy for my Kindle and Smashwords e-books — since an e-book is really a scroll-type document without real pages, it limits what you can do.

Not so with a paperback.  As soon as I started formatting my book ‘How To Come Alive: A Guidebook to Living the Life of Your Dreams’.  Two things became immediately apparent: I loved how beautiful and professional a real book could look and demons, DEMONS, must be in my computer.  At first the advice in the book helped me, but this was the brand-new Word and so I got a little lost, started pressing buttons randomly, and went way off the beaten path.  It was only the Headers and Page numbers that got me.

I would go through, think things were looking good and then, BOOM, everything would change and look wrong again.  It was also heartbreaking when it looked perfect in Word and then I saw my ‘digital proof’ copy from Createspace (the POD company that’s doing my paperback) and things were messed up AGAIN.  But I got it fix, for reals this time, and my good-looking, correct, paperback proof is now winging its way toward me.  If I can do it, you can do it.  Trust me.  And here are some tips I learned —

What I Wish I’d Known About Formatting

  • Use Page Break sparingly.  They have their place, but I was using them everywhere in the beginning and they were my chief problem when my ‘digital proof’ mysteriously looked bad.
  • ‘Link to Previous’ is the Devil.  Okay, say page 35 is a blank page and so you don’t want a page number on it — well, remember to click that button to un-link it (go to Insert-Header-edit Header to find the button on the Header and Footer tools area).  You’ll need to click on the page 35 page number area, then uncheck ‘Link to Previous’ as well as the page 36 page number area and uncheck ‘Link to Previous’ there.  It’s kind of like a chain of friends holding hands — Cindy 35 lets go of Lucy 34 so Cindy can do her thing (have no page numbers) but Joann 36 need to let go of Cindy 35 if she does want her and 37, 38, and 39 to have page numbers.
  • I kept having magical unwanted lines appear right below my header in the header box.  Don’t know why but they are easily gotten rid of — go to Home and then see a little square dotted-line box in the middle of the screen next to Styles.  It’s called Borders, click on it and then select No Borders (you need to have clicked on the header you want to change first).
  • Never give up.  I’m so glad I fought to get the headers, page numbers, and black pages I wanted — because the finished book is going to look incredible.
  • Spell check and proof read your work three more times than you think necessary — I let a few typos slip in during my e-book release and I have been eating humble pie ever since — not fun.

Formatting is hard, but some of the most rewarding things are.  It was hard to write a great book and now think how close you are to putting it in its best tuxedo so it can meet the world looking amazing.

YOU CAN DO IT.  Now go eat some chocolate and get this done!  Let me know below if you have any specific questions.  Good luck!