Self-publishing update

So, how long has it been since I tossed the Black Dog Short Stories into the wild? A week or two, right?


I believe the version now up everywhere is the corrected, final version, with a table of contents that has live links and everything. I expected to make mistakes when releasing this collection, but basically the table of contents thing was about it for serious glitches and now I have figured that out, so it should all be good for future self-published works.

Evidently Amazon will notify you about changes only if they think (or their algorithm thinks) that the changes are significant enough to bother with. But you may be able to go to their website and look under Manage Content and get the corrected version. You might try that if you wish, and if you do, please let me know if that worked for you.

Now that I think I have a decent idea of what I’m doing, here is how the self-publishing thing actually works:

For PURE MAGIC, here is what I am putting in the Kindle file before loading it, in this order:

Title page
Description (aka back cover copy); since there’s no back cover on an ebook, I like to have it in the front somewhere.
Copyright page
Other Works By page
Praise For page
Table of Contents
The actual content

The second-hardest part was picking and choosing which quotes to include on the Praise For page. Thank you to all book bloggers who ever reviewed anything of mine. I love you all. It was tough to choose just one or two quotes for each book, but as a reader I think Praise For pages that go on and on and on are tedious. (As a writer, there’s no such thing as too many glowing reviews, believe me.) Starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist got priority. Other than that, a lot depended on what seemed to make a good sound-bite.

The hardest part, not yet done, is choosing a reasonable title for the third Black Dog book in order to list it on the Other Works By page. It would be ridiculous to leave The Third Book off since it will be part of the same series and readers had better know it’s in the works, but I do not have a title for it yet and I’m finding it very difficult to think of anything acceptable. I have less than three weeks to think of something that will do and get it on there, and it’s worse because I’m not sure it will be possible to change it later if I think of something three orders of magnitude better, if it’s already been listed in PURE MAGIC under whatever title.

Anyway, title woes aside, here is what the file looks like for Draft to Digital; it’s the same as the above but I’m striking through anything that DtoD puts in automatically:

Title page
Description (aka back cover copy)
Copyright page
Other Work By page
Praise For page.
Table of Contents
The actual content

Now, in case you find it useful, here is a link that explains how to insert a Table of Contents with live links into a Word document. And below, a shorter version listing all the steps:

Create a Table of Contents in Word

Complete steps
1. Open your book in Microsoft Word.
2. Click “Home.”
3. Go to the first item you want in your table of contents, and select it by clicking it with your mouse cursor.
4. At the top of the window, click a formatting style. This applies the style to the chapter header.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for all the remaining chapter headers in your book.
6. Create a blank page before your book’s content where Word will put the Table of Contents.
7. At the top of the window, click “References,” and click “Table of Contents.”
8. Choose a Table of Contents style that you like from the menu.
9. You should now have a Table of Contents with working links to each chapter in your book.
10. Select the page numbers and leading dots (“……”), right-click them, and click “Cut.”

There you go, that is how you do a Table of Contents that will work for Kindle Direct Publishing. Incidentally, I found it quite tricky to select the dots and page numbers. One wants to get rid of those because readers can change the font size and everything for a Kindle ebook, so page numbers don’t really apply. I found it tricky to select the dots and numbers without selecting the entire chapter accidentally. Some of the dots-and-page-numbers could be removed ONLY by using the “cut” function, just as the directions indicate, but sometimes the backspace or delete actually worked better than “cut” to select the stuff to get rid of. It was a fiddly, annoying sort of job.

Other fiddly stuff:

I am told that some of the indents in the short stories came out different than others on the Kindle version. Well, I don’t know why. You can use the Find and Replace functions to find all tabs and replace them with five spaces, which is what I did before moving on with the publication process, because I am never, ever going to paragraph by hitting the space bar five times. My best guess is that I did that in the short stories, but then messed around with the content a bit and forgot about the indenting and put in a couple of tabs. But I don’t know. I will do another find-and-replace on PURE MAGIC to make as sure as possible that all the indents look the same in the book.

I downloaded a Kindle version of the short stories and looked at it and the line spacing looks fine to me, but the indents in general are deeper than I would like. I may fiddle around with different kinds of indents and see what happens, but on the other hand, really, one does see different indent depths and it doesn’t make much difference as long they’re not crazy-weird.

CreateSpace: you may have noticed that I haven’t ever tried to use CreateSpace yet. So I will do my best to make sure the paper version of PURE MAGIC looks fine, but, well, anyway, I hope there aren’t any snags. It’s not like Amazon isn’t trying to accommodate self-publishers who don’t really know much about computers and stuff, so hopefully it will be very easy once you have a correct ebook version already in place.

Oh, and I have no idea yet how to look at sales for Kindle ebooks. Sales are easy to find in Draft to Digital, but I still need to figure that out for Kindle. My Author whatchamacallit page — Author Central, that’s right — shows Bookscan sales data for my titles, but Bookscan does not pick up ebook sales and very specifically does not pick up Kindle sales. There must obviously be a way. No rush to figure it out: dwelling on sales will only make you crazy.

But if you’ve bought Black Dog Short Stories? Thanks!

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14 thoughts on “Self-publishing update”

  1. Hi Rachel. Can I make a strong recommendation to move most of that to back matter? Front loading with non essentials means your Amazon ‘look inside’ excerpt will contain very little of the meat readers want for choosing whether to purchase.

    Not an essential change, just a consideration.

  2. I am very happy that you are putting the description (back cover) in the front, as it’s one of the things I always look at when deciding if I want to buy or read this now, and it’s often hard to locate if it’s in the back.
    I can live with putting the Other work by and Praise for pages in the back, as that is the point – when I’ve enjoyed the book – when I start to look for more books by this author which I might like.

  3. Andrea, thank you! I didn’t think of that! I will definitely rearrange stuff to put most of the boring bits at the back. Hanneke, I also like the description at the front — and it’s one of the things that potential readers *should* see if they’re deciding whether to buy the book.

  4. On my Kindle (paperwhite) the line spacing looked too large, FWIW. And yeah, the indents were a bit odd in places. Nothing important, though. The font was sized fine, which matters more to me.

    Definitely move anything that isn’t substantive book stuff to the back. When I download a sample or look inside I want to see the book text, not fluff. I’ve been very frustrated with samples that are praise or
    ‘about this book’, or in nonfiction prefaces, and justification for how the book was arranged, or something. None of that tells me what I want to know.

  5. Thanks, Elaine — I’ll ask Amazon about this. I downloaded a copy and on my Kindle (keyboard), the spacing looks fine, but Craig says the spacing on his Kindle (Paperwhite, like yours) looks odd. So something is going on there.

    I will definitely, but definitely, move boring stuff to the back. I had forgotten about how much I hate it when I look at a sample and there’s nothing there but, as you say, fluff.

  6. I have a Kindle with a keyboard as well, and haven’t seen any issues with the formatting so far. And here’s something else you might like hearing: When I went to the Kindle Store, the book was on my “Recommended for You” list, so I didn’t even have to search for it. :)

  7. BTW, you said you didn’t know how to look at ebook sales. Are you publishing through KDP? In which case, you just want to look at the reports in KDP.

    [I must admit to shuddering at the idea of indenting using either tabs or spaces. You don’t use indent styles? I can send you one of my formatted-for-KDP MS’ if you want to see the styles I use. I only use 3 or 4 styles and certainly don’t have to worry about doing any kind of find/replace.]

  8. Kristina, that’s funny! And excellent! Hah! I hope the short stories and Pure Magic appear on a lot of “recommended for you” lists.

  9. Andrea, really? Uh, no, I don’t have any idea how to use indent styles. I have a very automatic hit-the-tab-key reflex, just as I have a very automatic two-spaces-after-periods reflex. Did you learn to type on a keyboard? Cause I learned on a typewriter, and it shows.

    Sure, I’d very much like to see how you formatted one of your manuscripts. Thanks!

    The sales reports page for KDP seems to be unavailable — and has for this whole past week or whatever. Eventually I will ask Amazon about it if it doesn’t reappear on its own!

  10. Please check the font size of Andrea’s styles on both your Kindle & Craig’s! on mine her e-books have miniscule fonts.

    Yeh I can change it, but that makes every other text on my Kindle too large. I wish Amazon would tweak the controls to say ‘enlarge the font on just this document .”

  11. Thanks, Elaine! I wonder what’s going on with that? Yes, letting you change just one document at a time would be an excellent and obvious fix for this kind of problem.

  12. One thing I’ve noticed when enlarging fonts (which I often do) is that in some ebooks enlarging the font means the spacing around the edges of the screen gets enlarged too. This is something that causes me a lot of irritation.
    Black Dog short stories does not suffer this problem, nor do the books published by Andrea K. Host!
    But as you’re talking about changing some of the formatting, I thought I’d mention it – there’s no sense in solving one problem and creating another thereby.

    When my eyes are tired and the lighting is low, I sometimes need to enlarge the font to near ‘large print’ size; and with some books that means the borders around the text get enlarged to about an inch wide. This leaves very little room for the actual text in the middle, so it looks more like a really narrow newspaper column instead of a book-page.
    Large type already leaves room for less words per line; with such large margins I get lines of 1-6 words which is very irritating reading (but still better than having to wait somewhere without reading, of course – it’s a luxury problem!).
    I don’t know enough about the formatting of ebooks to know what sort of setting causes this, but probably setting margins as such number of space-characters would do it. If you are going to change something about the indents and fonts for your next self-published book, it might be something you want to take into account.

  13. Thanks, Hanneke. Yet another thing to keep in mind! You’re sure right that that would be really annoying. I don’t think I’ve messed around with font sizes very much myself, but while we’re mentioning a wish list of “problems” to solve, I kind of wish I could enlarge JUST the maps in a Kindle book. Alas, it’ll probably be a while before we get to that stage.

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