a beginner's guide to self publishing part 2

Beginner’s Guide To Self-Publishing: Making a Book

This post continues from a previous one: Beginner’s Guide To Self-Publishing: Some Basics


“How do I make sure my book is good?”

I’ve put up a few posts on this site concerning how to improve your writing. But, as much as I wish it weren’t true, there’s a lot involved in making a good book besides reading AlexClermontWrites.com posts. I’ll have to assume you’ve written a book of some quality and move from there.

The next step after you’ve finished your final draft is to get others to take a look at your manuscript. Ask friends who are readers. Get their opinion as readers and change whatever you feel is necessary, or not—their advice might not be very good.

One level above friends are beta readers. Folks who live and die to read manuscripts drafts. I can’t think of a worthier pursuit of fun. They’re like your friends, but better because they read a lot more, are used to giving feedback at the beginning stages of a manuscript. And unlike friends you’re not required to get them gifts when Christmas rolls around. Find these guys on Goodreads or any forum where book geeks gather. There is no particular site, at least that I know of, that is dedicated to connecting these folks to writers, so in this case Google is your friend.

You should have a completed manuscript ready for the world to love and, with any luck, buy!

After accepting, or completely disregarding, the comments of friends and beta readers it’s time to get a real editor. This is one of those things that separates just uploading a document to Amazon, and being successful with that title. For all the reasons I’ve mentioned in previous posts, you need a professional set of eyes to help with developmental editing and copy editing. Not sure what the hell I’m talking about? That’s alright. To keep it simple, developmental editors help with the development of the actual story. They focus on plot, characterization and all the good stuff that makes people want to turn the page. A copy editor focuses more on logic and story inconsistencies while also doing light line editing work. A line editor clears up your spelling, grammar, double words and other stupid mistakes that we all make when writing. You need all of this. Many editors do all of this so you should be fine.

Now to get one of these eagle-eyed rooting tooting word lovers. Try Google, of course. Barring that you can probably find a great one at the Editorial Freelancers Association. Ask for a sample edit along with a quote from the few you think would be a good fit. After getting that info it hopefully won’t be too hard figuring out which editor you want to work with. A match made in heaven to be sure.

After working with your editor you should have a completed manuscript ready for the world to love and, with any luck, buy.

“How do I even make a book?”

Beginner’s Guide To Self-Publishing: Layout

“Make your book look like itself” A book designer said that to me. I forget who though…

I’ve been doing layout design since Quark was an industry leader. If you know what Quark is then you probably don’t need to read this section. For the rest, however, I mention my experience to say that it wasn’t too hard to format my books for print or digital markets. I understand that is not the case for most and so it’s important that you understand both Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign. These are the two programs you’ll most likely be using for the creation of your book (sorry Quark, you suck!).

For your print book you’ll most likely be dealing with InDesign to create the look of it. Pretty elements like page numbers and a table of contents don’t magically appear. A full InDesign lesson is not possible here so get familiar with InDesign through online tutorials and just plain messing around. You can’t break software, so click through tool boxes like “Character Styles” to figure how to make your jumble of words look like a book. At the print book level things get more artistic, as your book will appear in the real world the same as it does on your screen. What I suggest you do is get an already made InDesign template that you can fill in. It doesn’t lend much to originality, but if you’re a novice it’s a good place to start.

A digital version of your book will be much more straight forward. This is because most ebook readers allow users to manage their own experience by changing font style, size and etc. That means that they only need the basics from you. That is, words. I suggest using MS Word. InDesign has the option to publish your document as an ebook, but the result is usually full of fouled up key components like a working table of contents. I also suggest you don’t use Apple Pages as certain options just aren’t available or won’t translate when uploaded to your online publisher of choice.

There are several tutorials on how to format your digital book, but really, you need to worry about 2 things: your table of contents and your styles. Having a logical table of contents, or NCX for Amazon, is everything in an ebook. In print books, you easily skip back and forth in an almost reflexive way. You want to go to chapter 8? Thumb through for a second or 2 and you’re there. Not so with ebooks. It’s a little difficult if you’ve never created a table of contents using MS Word but once you’ve got it, it’ll be like riding a very dull bike. The fact is readers need a working table of contents to allow for the same fun skimming allowable in print. No skimming. No fun. NCX.

Beginner’s Guide To Self-Publishing-good book layout

Layout matters

Styles are simply a way to keep fonts and font sizes consistent throughout your document. If you make a style for what you want all chapter titles to look like, for example, all you have to do is apply that created and named style to every new chapter name rather than having to pick that specific font and size each time. Also, your online publisher will use software to convert your file to their ebook format, and using styles allows for easy conversion and better results. Like almost anything in life, if your gonna make a book, do it with style.

What I’ve forgotten to mention is what you do with these files once you’ve completed them. You have a pretty print book file that you’ve created, and a functional ebook file ready to go. What comes next is entirely up to you and where you want to sell your book. There are dozens of retailers that give independent authors a platform to sell their titles. I would argue, however, that your most important platform is Amazon. Working with their KDP program you’ll get your book on Amazom.com where it can be seen by, potentially, millions of people. Also, because they acquired Createspace a few years ago, you can publish a print book that is easily incorporated into the Amazon ecosystem. There are others retailers like iTunes, Barnes & Nobles, Kobo, Smashwords etc. Their publishing processes are all as straightforward as Amazon’s, so look them up and learn something!

… This article continues in Beginner’s Guide To Self-Publishing Part 3: Being Superficial

7 Responses to “Beginner’s Guide To Self-Publishing: Making a Book”
  1. Susan says:

    One problem I found with asking friends and relatives for comments is they rarely give you any more than “It was great.”

    • Stephen says:

      Wish I had your friends.

    • Alex Clermont says:

      Thanks, Susan for reading! As for your comment, I usually find that to be the case too. I recently asked my non-writer girlfriend to read a story of mine from an upcoming collection and she was helpful in pointing out an inconsistency in one of my characters. Generally, though she couldn’t tell me much other than that she liked it. People who don’t write will say this because they don’t really think about what makes a good story in a technical sense. It’s visceral for them. My suggestion? Press’em!

      Ask specific questions, even if they don’t really understand how to answer them. You’ll probably get, at most, a minute’s worth of anything useful, but that’s a minute’s worth that you didn’t have before : )

  2. Raffaella says:

    I am writing a book (an Italian novel because I am Italian and live in my country) and I am at the very beginning of the story.
    I am entering in the fifth chapter more self assured that I am not writing some stupid and cold story, because since its first pages was able to hook up my 3 happy readers! I know three are a few, but 3 is the perfect number and I trusted it! When I will be half way, I will add 3 more readers I have already in mind.
    Finally, all this for saying that it is a good way to begin little steps by little steps… Little success, by little success.
    Good luck to all of us for our great stories in words!

    • Alex Clermont says:

      Thank you for your comment Raffaella and letting us know how you’ve been getting earlier readers in your story telling process. Good luck : )

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