Dear Indie | eBook Formatting Tips & Hacks for Kindle

Hi Indies!

Over the last week, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the best “free” ways to update the formatting for my books. I wasn’t happy with their blahzay interiors–and I also wanted to add content to the Back Matter that I didn’t have before.

I already shared the new chapter graphics in a previous post, but what I really wanted to know was how to use a drop cap that KDP wouldn’t automatically strip out.

There is one surefire way to have drop caps in your Kindle books: Use Kindle Create and sacrifice all control over font styles, graphics, etc. just for a drop cap. If you don’t care how unoriginal your book will look, then KC is a fast, easy approach to formatting your interior.

I do care, and I didn’t want to lose all of the work I’d already put into getting my interior the way I wanted, so I finally accepted that unless you’re good at coding (which, I’m not), there is no easy way to add drop caps for Kindle.

Note: If you are good at coding, then check out Derek Murphy’s video on inserting Drop Caps to Kindle.

I went through eBooks I’ve read by other authors just to get a feel for how they format their interiors. Of course, the best selling authors have professionals doing everything for them, so I skipped those.

Normally, drop caps wouldn’t cross my mind unless I was preparing a paperback file–BUT, when I added these chapter graphics, it didn’t quite look right with an ordinary First Paragraph. Viewing other author’s books that combined a graphic with a drop cap was easier and more pleasing on the eye. Here’s what I was stuck with:

Avarice Unleashed w/New Graphic, No Drop Cap

I soon discovered that wasn’t the only mess my books were in. As you can see in the image above, I was using Times New Roman, Single-Spaced with a jagged right alignment (technically it’s the Left alignment, but you know what I mean). None of the books I read on my Kindle app look like that. What the heck was I thinking?

After diving into more research, here is the best advice I’ve come across for the cleanest, easiest to read combination that Kindle will accept:

  • Georgia Font (12pt. for body)
  • 1.5 line spacing
  • Justified alignment.

It makes a big difference. And maybe I’m the last to learn this, but I’m sharing anyway. I also noticed that no one uses the “link back” to the Table of Contents anymore on their chapter headings–that was an old formatting tip from Smashwords. It’s an outdated practice, so I took all of those out, as well. Here’s what those changes left me with:

New Font, Spacing, & Alignment.

As you can see, those simple changes have already made my book 100% easier to read compared to the first image. Still, I was burning with determination to spice up that first paragraph. I went back to my Kindle and checked out other author’s books again and noticed that some of the ones I “thought” had drop caps really didn’t. It’s actually a simple hack, and this is what it looks like:

New “Fake” Drop Cap

Capitalize each letter for the first 2-3 words, then enlarge the first letter only (I used 24pt.), and select “Bold.” Voila, it has the similar appearance of a drop cap. Unfortunately, this has to be done manually each time, but that’s still a heck of a lot easier than coding. I’ve seen this used even when there isn’t a graphic and it still looks good.

I also noticed a lot of people inserting an image of the first letter for a more genuine drop cap effect, but this requires a lot of tweaking to get the spacing just right, which again takes some ability to mess with the coding, and I just don’t have those skills.

Now, that I finally had everything the way I wanted, all I had to do was upload my updated manuscript to KDP, right? 😐 Since I never had these formatting elements in place before, I’ve always just uploaded a .doc (Word) file. But here’s what Kindle did with that:

Collar Me Foxy .doc file in Kindle Previewer

Yep, it attributed the 24pt. size of that “fake” drop cap to the entire first paragraph’s spacing. And I’m ashamed to admit that I tried fixing the problem in the .doc file for about 30 minutes before remembering that KDP accepts other file types for publishing. Ugh! It was one of those days.

I use Calibre to preview all of my books before publishing because it will convert your .doc or .odt file to any other file extension you want. It’s 100% FREE and easy to use – I highly recommend it.

After messing around with conversions and viewing them on the KDP website, I chose ePub over mobi because it stayed truer to my formatting.

The biggest -ish is mobi’s answer to “justified” alignment, which is to stretch each line from margin-to-margin, resulting in irregular spacing between words. You’ve probably noticed this before in eBooks you’ve read, where random lines will have gaping spaces in between shorter words. It’s glaring, nobody likes it.

Mobi was also shrinking my graphics and/or moving them too far away from the Chapter heading. ePub doesn’t do any of that nonsense, and looks more like the .doc version. Here’s the final result:

ePub file in Kindle Previewer

Perfecto. 🙂

Two valuable pieces of advice to follow when formatting, is: 1) Make sure the layout and font styles match the genre of your book, and 2) Practice the Keep It Simple motto. You want your book to look like it was customized by a pro not Bedazzled by a 5-year-old.

Many best selling authors don’t even use images, or maybe just an ornamental divider, and those look really nice, too. The bottom line is you’re not using these graphics to sell books, that’s your story’s job.

Now, I have noticed a rise in graphics in the Back Matter of both best selling and non-best-selling books, usually for promoting other books, fan pages, and newsletter subscriptions. Again, you don’t want to go crazy, but at least these images aren’t in danger of distracting readers from your story. Here’s a couple of examples:

Promoting Hexed at the end of Avarice Unleashed
Using my Logo on the Newsletter Subscription page

Remember you are a brand name, so don’t feel bad about slapping your logo onto your work. That’s what it’s for.

Okay, that’s all for now, Indies. Hopefully, some of these tips and resource links help out in your writing/publishing journey.

❤ Stay Safe & Healthy!

Dear Indie | From Hybrid to Fully Independent

Hi Indies! It’s been too long–yes, since I’ve posted–but, also that I’ve been waiting for this day. 😀

Today, I am officially no longer a hybrid author, but fully Independent. Today, all of the rights my publisher ever had for any of my books are completely reverted to me to do with whatever I want!

That means revising, polishing, re-editing with an editor who actually knows what editing means, re-covering, at least one re-titling, and then re-publishing all – but not just in eBook format. Now I can take these beauties and make them available in paperback and audiobook format, too!

That’s the upside and I wouldn’t trade it again for anything!

The downside, though, means that none of those Titles are available for sale anymore and I’ve lost any and all reviews on retail sites I may have received for them. If you were one of those reviewers, I’m deeply sorry and I will be offering free copies of the new versions as they become available for those who would like them. *Note: Reviews will still be up on Goodreads, since they don’t allow the deletion of any books, even out-of-print versions.

The even bigger downside is that I now have to pay a butt-ton of money to get these books back out onto the market, which means it won’t be happening as quickly as I would want it to.

Changes


Currently, I have already revised both Hearthstone Alpha and Little Queen, they’re ready to be sent off to my editor and I do plan on getting those back on the market first in every possible format. If you’re a fan of the Úlfrinn series (now the Midgard Úlfrinn series) please know that I have not changed anything in the story, only cleaned it up to get rid of unnecessary words and a timeline issue I never noticed before – and already have Violet Night underway, which will be the 3rd installment for that series, starring my violet-eyed wolf, Shayd Eklund. (Don’t worry, you’ll still get plenty of Reyna and Corbyn, they’re just no longer the MC’s).

The Zen Lounge will be given the new title: Seducing the Darkness and getting a major clean-up revision, but again I won’t be changing the story, just hopefully making it easier and more enjoyable to read! 😀 The second book to the trilogy is nearly complete and will be in editing before I re-release the first book.

Dark Duplicity, book 1 of my Dark Descendants series will be getting a fresh edit and will not be released again until book 2, Dark Legacy is already in editing, which is currently about halfway finished.

Euphoria, book 1 of the Pleasures of Paradise trilogy will be completely re-written. The elements of the story will remain the same, but not necessarily the structure or storyline. If I decide to re-release this one at all, it will be last on my list for ALL of my books and probably not until the whole thing is complete.

In Other Book News


Between revising these older Titles from my publisher, I am also working as quickly as I can on Fox Trot, the 3rd installment to the Dark Day Isle series, which is about halfway completed and will *fingers crossed* hopefully be released by the end of this year.

Irreparable, book 1 for the Broken Ones duet, a new dark psychological romance is finished and ready to go to my editor, but will not be released until book 2, Irrevocable is in editing.

The remaining 6 books for the Hell on Earth series are worked on as much as possible, and I’m still unsure which will be released next, Lust, Envy, or Gluttony, they all currently have about the same amount of material completed–but Sloth, Wrath, and Pride will be the final 3 books released, in that order.

A Personal Note


2020 has unarguably been the hardest year so far for a lot of us between the COVID-19 pandemic and all of the severe crimes against humanity being conducted–issues that shouldn’t even be issues still in the 21st century–we’re all struggling with something in our lives, so please let’s not forget that.

In March, I lost 2 people that I love, respect, admire, look up to, and had known since I was 9 years old as if they were my own parents. They passed away within 3 days of each other and our large, unruly family is still trying to cope with their loss.

On top of it, I’m one of millions of people fighting an autoimmune disease, taking medicine that suppresses my immune system during the worst pandemic of our time, and was just recently super, scary sick – so PLEASE, to all my fellow humans: Stay safe & healthy, take really good care of yourselves, be kind, compassionate, PATIENT, and uncharacteristically understanding of the other humans around you. Be with your loved ones in any way you can and most importantly, never forget that YOU matter.

❤ A.C.

Dear Indie | I Didn’t Know I Could Do That! (Free resource post)

Hi Indies!

Did you know you could make your own vectors AND remove the backgrounds from any image for FREE –without using Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or Gimp?

I didn’t! Not until I was determined to combine one of my drawings with a photo. Normally, I would purposely set out to find two images with the same color background, so I can use the “arrangement” feature to lay one on top of the other…

Um…

Since that obviously wasn’t going to work having different color backgrounds, I tried using the transparent filter to make one bleed through the other, but it was way too faint…

Yikes!

Frustrated that I wasn’t getting the effect I was looking for, I thought about my last couple of resource posts and how I’d run across that site with a free SVG editor and got the idea that maybe if I could turn my drawing into a vector, instead, then I might be able to give it a transparent background.

I found this free site: PNG or JPG to SVG Converter. It took some messing around with the palettes to get the colors just right, but the nice thing is that you don’t have to download anything until you’re happy. You do, however, have to re-generate your SVG image if you don’t like the end result because it will only let you change each palette color one time, as you can see here:

In this screen shot, I’ve already changed the first two colors on my vector, if I get done and decide the second one isn’t dark/light enough, I have to click “Generate” under the original image on the left and start all over again.

Once I was really happy with the colors and downloaded my new vector, I went back to the site: Public Domain Vectors and used their free editor to turn my SVG file into a PNG. Unfortunately, this did not automatically make the background transparent the way I thought it would.

So, I went back to Google and found this awesome and super handy site that I foresee myself using A LOT in the future, called: Online PNG Tools. If you’re just wanting to remove the background of a picture, of course you would just start here and skip the whole SVG vector creation part. Scroll to the bottom of the site’s page to see all of their available tools. I haven’t checked them out yet, but I didn’t notice any SVG tools, so I will still have to hop around a few different sites to complete one image from my artwork, but it’s better than not being able to do it at all – or worse, having to pay someone else to do it for me!

And so, with my newly created clip art, I was finally able to create the graphic I was hoping for. Truthfully, it was just for a blog post, but hey, at least now I know how to do this for marketing purposes! 😀

❤ Until next time, Indies!

Legal: The artwork depicted in this post is copyrighted by me and may not be used for any reason. Thank you!

Confessions of a Hybrid Author | It’s Not a Quantum Leap, But…

It’s fascinating to me that so many authors start with a story, and that story becomes their first finished rough draft and then, their first published book–no matter how long it takes them to accomplish each of those stages.

That is not how my writing journey started. The first rough draft I ever finished took me 5 years to complete and it’s still sitting on my computer unpublished, 11 years later. I’ve never even attempted to get it out on the market, and here’s where the plot thickens…

I write Erotic Romance. That’s my favorite genre to both read and write. Any kind of erotic romance; dark, light, kinky, paranormal, psychological, a combination of all of the above, it doesn’t matter.

But, my first completed manuscript was Epic Fantasy.

So, not a Quantum Leap, but…close-a-freakin-ough. Not only that ms, but the nearly completed sequel to it. Ready for the next plot twist?

That first book that gave me the thrill of writing “The End” is a spin-off from the first story I ever had an idea for when I was only 17 years old, and would take place between books 1 and 2 of the planned trilogy that has yet to be written.

Don’t look at me like that. I wish I could say it’s an exaggeration, but sadly, it’s not. However, I’ve already written a lengthy post about that dilemma right here, so I won’t rehash. What I really want to know is this:

Have any of you started off writing in one genre only to end up publishing in a completely different one?

If yes, did the genre(s) you were reading at the time play any part in that?

I didn’t take a direct reading path. One day I was a kid, reading children’s books, and the next I was grabbing books off my mom’s shelf, staying up too late reading V.C. Andrews and Ann Rule. Then, I went through what I call my ‘research’ phase, where the only books I read were about ancient Egypt and anything I could find on Vlad III of Wallachia.

My research on Vlad led me back into reading fiction for pleasure, diving right into Paranormal Romance with L.J. Smith, then taking a giant leap forward to Anne Rice. I was 14 when I read Interview With the Vampire, and that was two years before it was made into a movie. I gobbled down The Witching Hour after that and spent a lot of time dedicated to the Mayfair Witches before going back to the vamps.

Then, on a whim (aka I liked the cover art), I bought Kashiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey and no one even checked my ID at the cash register. O_o

Being introduced to High Fantasy and EXTREME Sadomasochism all in one book was a real eye-opener for my 16-year-old self. Christian who? Sorry Mr. Shades, you ain’t got nothing to bring to this table that hasn’t already been here waiting for you to catch the fuck up. #stillwaiting

Carey was a bit much for me to handle back then, not because of the whole *R.A.C.K. aspect as the main plot driven by an extremely masochistic protagonist, it was the High Fantasy of it all. Meanwhile, I was still reading Anne Rice like any dedicated fan would, but then a friend introduced me to Mercedes Lackey and I fell instantly in love. Not only was Epic Fantasy much easier to consume, it still had sex in it, so score!

I know it was a combination of these early influences that sparked my Epic Fantasy idea into life at 17, I just never expected it to become like the Venus Flytrap in Seymour’s basement; way too big and hungry for more.

But, despite it still being unpublished, completing that one Epic Fantasy manuscript knocked down whatever mental barrier had been standing strong in my head, and within two months I had written my second full-length novel start to finish; a Futuristic Romance, that would land me a contract with a publisher and become my first published work three years later.

I just had to prove to myself that I COULD finish writing a book, and it opened the flood gates. So, keep that in mind all you aspiring writers–sometimes it just takes reaching that finish line once, even if nothing comes of that particular draft! 😉

So, there’s my oddball confession. I’d love to hear from any of you who might have similar situations with switching genres or who might have also never published their first finished manuscript. Thoughts, feedback, questions, all are welcome–we creative types like knowing we’re not alone.

Unless, it’s for a book title. Stop using my book title ideas! ಠ_ಠ

❤ Happy Meh-day

*R.A.C.K. stands for Risk Awareness Consensual Kink, which covers the more extreme areas of S&M where physical injury, scarring, paralyzing, and even death have a higher chance of occurring.

Dear Indie | Book Editing Software & Sites

Hi, Indies!

Last time, I mentioned that I kind of got scammed by more than just that ridiculous font site – and I did. By Amazon.

I know, shocker.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m just really late to the party…like, there aren’t even Solo cups or streamers left laying around, I’m THAT far behind. But, while I was in my state of madness, determined to make Amazon do what I wanted with my chosen fonts, I came across an option I’d never heard about before: Kindle Create.

And that’s how Amazon scammed me. The website for it promised great things, so I spent hours downloading the software, going through the whole tutorial step-by-step. Anxiously, but patiently waiting for it to get to the part where it would tell me how to make the inside of my book look pretty…and it never did. KC offers 4 Theme choices – all of which went out of style in the ’80s when we were still making Minecraft-worthy pictures in computer lab on boxy old Apple desktops.

click to enlarge

In my continued search, I came across another book editing program provided by Reedsy. Now, if none of you have ever heard of Reedsy before (like me) it’s kind of like a community website where a bunch of professionals hang around waiting for an author to hire them. It’s blatantly focused on connecting writers with editors, cover artists, etc. – HOWEVER – they are also about helping Indies do their own thing for FREE.

One of those ways, is by providing an online book editor that – just like Grammarly Premium – stores your work in a cloud. So, there’s no downloading yet another program onto your already bogged computer and hassling with installation, tutorials, or any of that nonsense. Here’s a look:

click to enlarge

Scrivener users will find the left-hand task bar (indicated by the red arrow) familiar and easy to navigate with the ability to open and collapse the different sections of your book. But, the most “forward thinking” feature this program provides is indicated by the blue arrow. That’s right – online collaboration with your editor! You and your editor can make all the changes to your manuscript right there in one place. No emailing an entire manuscript back and forth, or worrying about conversion issues.

Conversion issues? : I use LibreOffice and my editor uses MS Word, so when we switch back and forth, it sometimes causes glitches in the recorded changes.

click to enlarge

Another similarity to Scrivener is the “Drop and Drag” feature that allows you to rearrange chapters, break your book up into parts, and even change a chapter to a back matter page, as indicated by the red arrow above. For my book showing, this would be a bonus chapter, but you could title it as the Afterward, Epilogue, etc.

Also, the title of the book you’re working on is always in the upper left corner, as shown inside the green circle, so you could have multiple tabs open to multiple projects at the same time without losing track of which one is which.

My favorite feature is the “Other Works” page (showing above) – not only does it allow you to upload book covers, as you see Hexed there, which we all know would grab a reader’s attention faster- but it allows you to include buy links from multiple retail sites all in one nifty little box, as shown with the blue arrow.

Granted, I do mostly KDP Select, but my Permafree book, Collar Me Foxy, is available all over, so this is a great option.

I’m still navigating the editor and will go through the entire process of at least one book to get a better idea about whether or not it’s worth writing there versus LibreOffice or Scrivener. But, I have to say the idea of starting a book in one place and taking it through the entire process without having to move it, is very appealing!

Once your book is 100% ready to launch, you’re supposed to be able to export it right from the editing program to every platform you plan on publishing with.

I’ll write a follow up post once I’ve gone through all of the steps to let you know how it goes. In the meantime, if you’re looking for new ideas &/or resources, Reedsy has a ton of other offers on their site like a Free 10-day publishing course, weekly prompt writing challenge, and check out this handy list of Tools:

click to enlarge

That’s it for now, Indies! As always, feel free to leave a comment, ask questions, or share some of your own experiences below. I’m forever on the lookout for ways to make the writing & self-publishing journey less painful for all of us, so you know I’ll be back as soon as I find more helpful tools or resources.

❤ Happy Sunday! If you’re an #SLS’er – I’ll see you on the flip side! ♫♪♫

Dear Indie | Fonts, Vectors, & Scams, Oh…snap!

Hi Indies! I’m back, and I have links!

In my last post, I touched base on some of the issues we DIY’ers face when working with a small budget and little-to-no experience. Formatting an eBook, which has “Floating Text” vs. formatting a paperback with “Fixed Text” is not only different, but sometimes it can be more difficult. Getting things to stay where you want them isn’t quite as easy when nothing’s pinned down.

But, Let’s Take It Back a Step

Before I was reminded of the whole issue with mobi changing fonts, my plan was to make the interior formatting of my eBook more cohesive with the cover. At first, I thought I could use the same title page I’d created on Canva for my paperbacks and insert it as an image into the document, like so…

Avarice Unleashed Title Page-page-001

Note: Canva only uses ‘free for commercial use’ fonts, so don’t worry about including something you create there in your books. If you’re ever in doubt, you can run a search online to make sure there are no restrictions on the font(s) you used.

The problem with using images happens when converting to a different file type. I not only use Calibre to create my ARC’s in EPUB, PDF & MOBI, but to get a general idea of what my eBook will look like on a Kindle once it’s published. Unfortunately, Calibre detects the title page image as the cover, even when I try to leave the first page blank and insert the image on the second page. That means, I can’t add the real cover without it replacing the title page, altogether.

So, I went in search of the next best thing: Free fonts!

I don’t know about your relationship with search engines, but mine is abysmal at best. I can never conjure the accurate key words to get the results I’m looking for. I’m especially leery about searching for things that will have potentially scammy results. Instead, I always look for articles about the best sites for that particular item. Because, there are a million bloggers who’ve already made that list for me. 😉 (Thanks, bloggers!)

I found an article naming the top free font sites that are not only legit, but specify license use types – This is crucial when dealing with publishing, because just like photographs, anything that is created by someone (a designer/artist/writer) is protected by copyrights and you don’t want to risk backlash of any kind.

Now usually, I end up checking out most, if not all of the sites an article lists–but I fell in love with the very first one I clicked on.

Font Squirrel is 100% legit and they go beyond awesomely user-friendly, right into amazeballs. Most sites will have a list of things you have to click on to find out what kind of license it has–not with this site. They tell you right under the font name with 4 little icons which appear in the order of: a monitor, a globe, a tablet, and a mobile phone.

FontScreenShot

These indicate what kind of license the font provides. If all of them are lit up as you can see in the red circle, then you’re good to go and can use that font everywhere for any reason. But, as shown by the blue circle near the bottom, if only 1 or 2 are lit up then you need to be careful how you use the font. 

For us writers, the icon you want lit up is the tablet – this is the commercial license that allows you to use the font in Ebooks and PDF documents. So, for the example screen shot above, the fonts “Chausson” and “Mondia,” would NOT be permitted in publishing eBooks or PDF files of any kind, but “Go,” and “Be Vietnam” would be allowed.

And when I searched their site for a font they didn’t have, it didn’t just pop up with a “Sorry,” it also gave me this: 

FSSS1Hi, can we get any more user friendly and super helpful than this? I know several sites that should be taking some serious notes here! 

Next, I wanted to find those decorative elements I’ve seen in other books and came across Public Domain Vectors. The absolute best feature this site offers, aside from a massive amount of FREE for commercial use vectors and clipart, is the SVG Editor.

PDSS1PDSS2

An SVG Editor is what you need to convert a Vector file into a Picture file like JPEG or PNG. Without the conversion, you’re not going to be able to use that image anywhere. Every other SVG editor online requires that you sign up, even if it’s free, they won’t let you use it without first becoming a registered member. No, thanks. I don’t plan on converting enough vectors to warrant a ton of spam mail.

The SVG Editor on this site is fast, easy to use, and best of all – doesn’t require a login! 😀

Another good place to search for vectors and clipart is Pixabay. Almost everyone uses Pixabay already for their license-free photos because they’re one of the rare sites that doesn’t require you to attribute/credit or link back to the photographer/designer, and often the site will have items you can’t find anywhere else.

One final mention is a site I would caution you TO AVOID and that is: all-free-download[dot]com. This site and the site it “links” to when you click on an artist’s name – are both 100% SCAMS.

One vector I downloaded, unzipped as an entirely different image altogether, so I went back to the original image on their website and “saved as” then ran a Google Photo search and that same sheet of designs has been circulating as a scam for years AND originated in Asia.

Another Vector file I downloaded and unzipped gave me only an .ai file. The extension .ai stands for and is strictly used with Adobe Illustrator. Now, if you happen to get a LEGITIMATE .ai file, you can convert it easily and for free with an online converter, or even by changing it to a PDF in your own computer and opening it that way. However, these were NOT legit extractions, since the only thing that opened was a warning from Adobe that the file belonged to them.

I ran my C-cleaner & virus software after that to put a stop to any tracker bugs or malware those files likely downloaded onto my computer. People don’t scam you for no reason. So, if they’re not charging money, then they’re probably attacking you through your own computer. It’s best to just avoid that site completely!

In my next post, I’m going to confess to another sort-of scam I fell for and talk about book editing sites/software. 

❤ Does anyone have a tummy ache from eating all that chocolate yesterday? I know, I wish I did, too… 😐 

p.s. If you’ve never installed fonts onto your computer before, I’m excited to say I just learned how to do that, myself. This is only for Windows, though (sorry, Mac users!)

  1. Go to Start Menu
  2. Click on Control Panel
  3. Find the “view by” option on the screen (usually in the top corner)
  4. Choose one of the icon options (large or small) – as this will allow you to see ALL of the folders
  5. Find the “Fonts” folder (it might take a minute or two for your computer to load all of your available fonts.
  6. Drag and drop your new font files anywhere on the screen and it will do the rest for you.

Vjola! Now, when you open your word processing software, those new fonts should be available to you.

Dear Indie | Book Formatting: More Error than Trial

First, Happy Free to Consume as Much Chocolate as You Want Without Feeling Guilty About It Day! ❤ I mean, why else do we celebrate it, really? 😛

Hi Indies! Long time, no post. I’ve been up to no good this past week, which has given me a ton of new resources and info to share with you about the nasty, tedious self-publishing step of formatting your book. Dun-dun-duuuun…! As such, I’ll have to break these up into separate posts (oh, darn).

The Biggest -ish With Book Formatting?

Money. Most writers are on a tight budget, so you’re probably not paying a professional to format and style the layout of your book. I made the mistake of hiring a cheap formatter with my first Indie book and ended up not even using the file because I was able to make one that was more attractive. This lesson taught me two valuable things:

  1. You definitely get what you pay for sometimes, and
  2. If and when you can, always ask for an example of a professional’s work BEFORE you hire them.

The second biggest -ish, is experience &/or training in professional formatting. Many of us just don’t have it. This whole issue came about for me, not because I’m awesome and have a new book coming out – but because I noticed that even on Kindle Unlimited, people who read the Avarice books never go on to read Hexed, which is the next book in line for the series.

It dawned on me that Avarice “looks” like a trilogy, rather than the beginning of a series, and added to that, there’s no information about Hexed in the back matter of those books because it didn’t exist at the time they were published. I decided that needed to be updated ASAP.

That’s when the publishing gods pushed me down the rabbit-hole and straight into Formatting Hell. Don’t laugh, it’s a real place.

The madness that ensued sounded something like this: “Well, since I’m already updating these files, I might as well make them look prettier while I’m at it!”

When you’re done laughing, we can move on…

What’s So Hard About Formatting, Anyway?

As readers, I’m sure you’ve noticed that some author’s eBooks have stylized fonts and decorative elements – even on Kindle! If you’re an Indie who’s formatting your own books without extensive, professional training, then you know that mobi is the only file extension that won’t support your beautiful font choices and will immediately change them when you upload to KDP or convert via Calibre.

That’s because Amazon likes to give people the choice of changing the fonts on their Kindle devices to one that’s easiest for them to read. So, how is that some authors manage to have these spectacular looking books that stand out in the competitive crowd? If you guessed it’s because they’re paying fancy professionals, that would be correct.

Unfortunately, after taking many avenues, all of which led to dead ends, I have hoisted my white flag and surrendered to the fact that there is no way for a non-professional, non-experienced formatter, to create a book file that KDP won’t strip bare upon arrival. Pervs.

So, if you’re in the same boat as me, my advice is this: just use a supported font like Times New Roman and apply ‘font effects’ such as Small Caps or Italicize to spice things up, so mobi won’t have a hernia. Save yourself the head-and-heartache, I already went through all of that for you the last few days.

‘Twas Not All in Vain

During this painful process, I managed to find some good sites and after a couple of days of vicious tweaking, I finally got one of my files completely updated and polished with a prettier interior than before. Wanna see?

BEFORE
AFTER

And I also changed out those ordinary **** scene break indicators for a decorative divider. See?

Vjola!

On top of those items, and adding all of the info for Hexed, I went ahead and cleaned up/reorganized some of the other front and back matter pages that were suffering from “This was the first book I ever formatted” syndrome. LOL I haven’t uploaded the new file to KDP just yet to know if there will be any issues – so fingers crossed!

Quick Note For Aspiring Writers: Never worry about updating books you already have published on KDP, it doesn’t render that book unavailable, your original version will stay active for purchase until Amazon approves and publishes the new file.

Up Next, I will go over the sites I found with links and details for fonts, clipart/vectors, graphics –  plus my experience with two different eBook editing programs so far!

❤ Seriously, who’s got the chocolate?

Could You 30 Day Challenge Yourself Every Month?

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If we can participate in NaNoWriMo, then why aren’t we challenging ourselves to write a novel in 30 days at the beginning of EVERY month?

This is the question I just asked myself, as I’m looking at my goals for 2019 and realizing I don’t have as much time as I’d like to think. My list of books to publish this year total 3 and 1 is already done, so that’s nothing, right? But I’m staring down the barrel of February toward spring with less than a chapter written on one of those books and sweating bullets over how little time I have to get this done, because finishing the book is just the first step. In order to publish when I want to, I need to make sure it’s done in time to order a book tour in advance, get it through my editor and off to beta readers before launch day.

I don’t even participate in NaNo every year, but the last time I did, I was successful at getting more than 50,000 words written on a novel. So, why can’t I do that on my own? I’m an Indie Author, aren’t I? I’m used to doing everything myself, so there is absolutely no reason why I can’t. It’s all a state of mind. Which, is why I’ve decided that I’m going to challenge myself DIY style and will dedicate Wednesday as my word count accountability day. Granted, it’s not the first of the month any more, but in all fairness, I already have a word count going, so I think that makes up for it.

Here’s my first DIY 30 day challenge to myself: Get the first draft for Fox Trot (Dark Day Isle, Book 3) done by March 7, 2019!

Current word count is: 3,668

Wish me luck… o_O

 

 

Dear Indies ♥ Synopsis vs Blurb

Independent

Happy Saturday Indies!

I know this isn’t the article I promised to post next for Dear Indie, but when inspiration strikes… Many aspiring writers will put in hours of research on the book publishing industry and still get surprised with things they weren’t expecting. The whole Synopsis vs Blurb is one of them.

What is the difference between a Synopsis and a Blurb?

In the Self-Publishing world: Nothing. The two words are completely interchangeable. They both pertain to the same condensed, key-word packed “description” you have to write for the sales page of your eBook / back cover of your paperback. It just depends on who you’re talking to, on which name it will be called.

In the Traditional Publishing world: These are two completely different beasties – AND – you have to write them both!

The “Blurb” is only that short sales pitch that will be used for your book’s landing page &-or back cover.

A “Synopsis” is a 1-5 page, detailed rundown of your novel from beginning to end, which highlights the plot, character development, conflict, resolution, possible plot twists and the ending. Yes, the ending. You don’t want to try to preserve any surprise elements by NOT including them in your Synopsis.

Why? Because, the Synopsis is the ONLY thing publishers read to determine whether or not they’re interested in your manuscript – they’re never going to read your book in its entirety. They don’t have time for that. Once you’re offered a contract and assigned an editor, then they will read your manuscript in its entirety, but you have to get through the gatekeepers, first.

So, if you’re a writer aiming to land a publishing contract with an EPub or Traditional Publisher, it’s never too early to get your Synopsis and Blurb prepared for submissions. Find someone on Goodreads or a personal contact you trust to proofread it and get it as polished as possible, so you have an amazing Synopsis already on hand to submit to publishers upon their request. Trust me, it’s no fun getting asked for one at the last minute and having to scratch one out as fast and presentable as possible!

Having 5 pages for a Synopsis might sound like a blessing compared to a Blurb, but for a 100,000+ word manuscript, trying to highlight everything they ask for can be just as frustrating and constrictive. You won’t have enough room to add everything you wish you could – so just make sure to add everything they specifically list. Publishers have zero tolerance for creative disobedience. You’re not going to win them over by offering something in replace of what they request, just because you think it sounds more attractive. Follow their guidelines to the letter.

That’s it for today, Indies! I will be getting the: How to create a blank template for paperback layouts posted ASAP, promise!

No matter what your publishing goals are, make sure to pause every once in awhile and give yourself kudos or an award to celebrate all of your small accomplishments along the way. We are so much harder on ourselves than any boss could be and it’s too easy to feel crushed under the weight of this competitive industry. Just remember, no one writes like you. No one can tell your characters’ stories the way you can, because you’re the one they talk to. Champion for them, and for yourself, by allowing more positive influence into the process than negative. As one my best friends always says: “Just breathe, you got this!”

Dear Indie ♥ Quickie

Independent

Hi Indies! I know I was supposed to post about Swag this time around, but I need to address something that’s undoubtedly a touchy subject, because I feel it’s extremely important: The dreaded typo.

Look, I’m not that Grammar Nazi that attacks every post or article I come across with a typo or two – we’ve all had typos! It happens. I’m so guilty of it, I’ve developed almost an OCD kind of self-conscience fear of them. I swear I re-edit my posts a million times before and AFTER publishing them. It doesn’t help that I’m all for word-inventification, but that’s a whole other post! 😉

I’m sure I’ve kind of touched on the subject in the past, but the reason I’d like to talk about it again now, is because these Dear Indie posts are supposed to be helpful for all published or aspiring writers who come across them and I feel like this topic needs more attention. Especially, when it seems like I’m coming across this unfortunate situation more frequently of late:

Typos in Marketing

Believe it or not, I care about your success, and part of that success is how you appear to your (potential) readers when you’re putting your work out there for the world to see. This includes Teasers, Excerpts, Book Trailers, Blurbs/Synopsis and Author Bios. You may think these things are far less important than the book, itself – and I’m here to tell you, they’re EQUALLY as important. You first have to get readers interested in your book, before it has the chance to dazzle them. (Aside from the cover art!)

These crucial and often required elements aren’t just marketing tools, they’re like a resume and job interview all rolled into one: a reader’s first impression of you and your work. And you want them to be wowed, intrigued, captivated… not completely turned off.

If you have typos in your Blurb or in your Teaser that’s being spread all over the internet via a Blog Tour you paid good money for – you are setting yourself up for failure or at the very least, ridicule. From a reader’s standpoint, if you’re a new author to me, I would probably never buy your book. If I can’t trust you to write two sentences correctly and actually take the time to make sure it’s polished, then why would I trust your book is going to be any better? Especially, when I have so many other authors to choose from who’ve put time and effort into all of their marketing materials!

The emphasis of reaction here, isn’t so much about editing, as it is about care. My books and blurbs are edited by a professional–so in a perfect world, they should already be typo-free–but my Teasers are not. That’s why I check, double check and have someone else check them before I actually use them. The only thing a typo on a Teaser tells me is that you don’t care – not about me (your reader), your own work or your image as a writer.

Many readers actually feel insulted by these instances, despite your intentions. It’s just a negative experience all around that I’d hope for you to avoid.

I just deleted a book tour I was going to host, because there were no less than three glaring typos just in the Blurb, which wasn’t very long. I didn’t even check the Teaser or Excerpt, because I don’t want that nonsense on my blog. That sounds harsh, but it’s the truth: If the author doesn’t care enough, then why should I? I’m already cramming deadlines into time I don’t have, I’m not going to waste more by fighting HTML coding to fix someone else’s mistakes. And that’s typically the schedule of every blogger. They’re already too swamped to care about your mess and it’s not their responsibility, at any rate.

The most common problem faced by aspiring writers is trying to gain any kind of attention in an overpopulated market and especially, as an Indie Author. Yes, Indies have made some amazing strides to prove themselves and their work to the world at large, but shaking off the lingering stigma is a struggle we all face. So, why would you want to prove your own naysayers right by not taking the time to ensure every single piece of work you put out into public view is your best quality?

Here’s another example of typos working against you: Your social media bio. I came across a profile of someone claiming to be an author and writer of self-help books – only it came with typos. My first, knee-jerk instinct is distrust in their self-help advice and all I could think was: “Well, let’s hope those self-help books are not about how to become a better writer.” I don’t need that kind of help, thank you, I manage to mess up all on my own!

Once again, it comes down to first impressions. You’re asking new readers to trust you – which is hard enough when you’re 100% typo-free – why make it harder on yourself?

As Indies, we are trying to build our author platforms, gain exposure, make a name and reputation for ourselves. Our author names ARE our business/brand names – I’ve said this before – and it still stands. Everything we do that has our pen name attached to it, is going to reflect back on us, professionally, by our potential readers (aka customers), as well as by our critics. And those jackals really don’t need any more reasons to hate.

So, Indies, show your brand name lots of love and put just as much effort into your marketing, as you would into your book. Look after your creations and your success, by taking the time to care about how you’re representing yourself and all of your hard work. You should be proud of everything you put out into the public to attract readers. The devil is in the details, as they say, but in this respect, trouble comes with the lack of attention to them!

“Be the engineer of your own success” (I can’t find it, but I’m fairly certain this quote should be credited to someone who is not me).

p.s. If anyone finds a typo in this post, don’t hesitate to tell me, because that would be too effin’ funny. Now, I’m off to look up the definition of quickie…