Tag Archives: Kobo

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author

A dear friend of mine recently got the rights back to a novel she published some time ago, and she is now nearly ready to brave the waters of indie publishing with it. Many of the questions she had, however, were not things that I immediately and / or spontaneously had answers to. So I promised her I would try to organize what knowledge I had in a series of blog posts. Of course, my experience is not exhaustive, but I hope it will help others as a starting point for getting their books out there.

Ebook format

The most common format required when submitting an ebook to online distributors is EPUB. There are many different ways of creating epub files for ebooks, and this list naturally only includes a few of the many available options. The prices for the various programs are as of July 2014.

1) Scrivener – This is what I use. It is extremely simple to create an epub file with Scrivener — all you have to do is compile your manuscript as epub. Scrivener has the added advantage that it’s also a great writing tool. Windows $40, Mac $45 (more features). More on compiling epubs with Scrivener here:

Youtube Tutorial

Scrivener: The Ultimate Guide to Exporting Ebooks (Kindle, ePub, etc.)

– Note: If you’re starting from a fully formatted DOC or DOCX file, rather than a file you have been writing in Scrivener, you need to divide the file up into sections at each chapter (Ctrl+K) and make sure the compile options in the meta-data pane are all checked (Include in Compile, Page Break Before, Include As-Is).

2) Mobi Pocket Creator – I tried this long ago but never had much luck. Others swear by it though — and it’s FREE. 🙂

3) Atlantis – Atlantis is a word processing program that will also compile documents as ebooks. Worked pretty well for me when I tested it a while back, but I did lose some formatting. It also has the disadvantage that it is yet another word processing program, of which I have too many already. $35

5) Jutoh – I haven’t tried it, but check out this discussion for a lot of rave reviews. $39

6) Sigil – I have no experience with the actual conversion to ebook with Sigil, but I do use it for testing the epub format of the files created by Scrivener. FREE

7) Calibre – I have not used this method, but a tutorial can be found here. FREE

Whatever method you use, it is important to validate your epub file before you upload it. You can do that here.

Formats accepted by various distributors

While ePub is the most common format required for ebook publication, a number of retailers also accept other formats. Here a list of some of the most important, including guidelines and my experience (if any):

Amazon – KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)

Formats accepted:
Word (DOC or DOCX)
HTML (ZIP, HTM, or HTML)
MOBI (MOBI)
ePub (EPUB)
Rich Text Format (RTF)
Plain Text (TXT)
Adobe PDF (PDF)
Guidelines: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2MB3WT2D0PTNK
My experience: When I first experimented with publishing to Amazon, I uploaded a DOC file, since that was what I needed for the aggregator Smashwords. (I will talk about Smashwords and Draft2Detail in more detail in my next Indie Beginners post.) It was a mess. Luckily, soon thereafter Scrivener added the ePub compile option to their Windows version, and I haven’t had a problem with Amazon uploads since, with the exception of a bug with the Kindle Paperwhite a while back. I talked about that here.

Barnes&Noble – NOOK Press

Formats accepted: Word, HTML, Text, ePub
Guidelines: https://www.nookpress.com/support
My experience: After my experience with a Word file with KDP, the only file type I have uploaded to B&N is ePub. From what I can see on the Barnes and Noble store, my books there look fine. One problem with B&N for many writers is that it is so US-centric. For a long time, you could only publish if you had a US address and bank account. They have since expanded to the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, and Belgium. Nonetheless, that still leaves out many writers who have to find other means to publish there, such as through Smashwords or Draft2Digital.

Kobo – Kobo Writing Life

Formats accepted: .epub, .doc, docx, .mobi, .odt
Guidelines: http://download.kobobooks.com/learnmore/writinglife/KWL-Content-Conversion-Guidelines.pdf
My experience: I have only uploaded ePub files to Kobo, but that works fine. I sell next to nothing through Kobo, however, which makes me wonder if I should switch my books to an aggregator to earn the minumum amount for royalties to be paid out more quickly.

iTunes

Formats accepted: Only files uploaded through iTunes Producer
Guidelines: http://www.apple.com/itunes/working-itunes/sell-content/books/book-faq.html
My experience: None. I do not use a Mac, and since ebooks for iTunes can only be submitted through the submission app, iTunes Producer (requires OS X 10.8 or later), I have to rely on an aggregator. For authors with more serious sales, it might be worth it to buy a Mac just to be able to submit to the store yourself (and not give up the ~10% of your profits that aggregators take), but for me it is definitely not worth it at this time.

Google Play – Google Books

Formats accepted: PDF
Guidelines: https://support.google.com/books/partner/answer/166501?hl=en
My experience: None. I’m still wary of Google Play because of their policy of randomly discounting books. Lindsay Buroker has a good summary of why authors should still be careful about publishing to Google Play here.
I may eventually try and experiment with one or two of my short stories or collections that don’t sell all that well. That way, a deep discount and a price match by Amazon would not be a big loss of revenue. Naturally, if I do so, I will blog about that too. 🙂

For my next post in the Indie Beginners series, I intend to blog about aggregators (Draft2Digital and Smashwords), how you use them, and why you might want to.

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers

First sales on Kobo and B&N; and some more free books

As of yesterday, my first books are now live on Kobo:

Yseult: A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur on Kobo

Never Ever After: Three Short Stories on Kobo

And, amazingly enough, I have already made my first sales on both Kobo and B&N. A whopping one book each, but hey — Never Ever After has only sold about a dozen copies total in the last few months on Amazon. Ever since I got the review stating that the writing was like that of a middle-schooler, the sales of that little collection have dried up completely. *shrug* So don’t let anyone tell you a single one star review won’t affect your sales — from this side of the bench, it sure looks like it does.

Also, both of my “Looking Through Lace” books are free today, the original novella that was published in Asimov’s many years ago, as well as the continuation of the story, Beyond the Waters of the World. BTWW is only free today, but Looking Through Lace will be free for a few more days. Pick them up if you don’t have them yet and are so inclined!

So some successes there, but I have to admit to an Epic Fail regarding Fast Draft. Until now, I haven’t even come close to the 20 pages a day, nor have I achieved the “magic” that is supposed to come with high productivity. I guess that’s a given, since I never got to the high productivity to start with. Perhaps it was a mistake to try something like that with both a hospital visit scheduled and the holidays (and the attendant stress) coming up. I think some time in the new year I will try a week of fast writing on my own, perhaps trying to implement Rachel Aaron’s method.

Anyway, back to wrapping presents for me. 🙂

Finally branching out: Kobo and Pubit

This week, I finally got a big item off my to-do list: I set up accounts for myself on Kobo’s Writing Life and Barnes and Noble’s Pubit platforms and uploaded my first two books on each site. But while B&N had my books available in less than a day, much like Amazon, my books on Kobo are still “publishing.” Oh well.

The good news is, it was easy enough to sign up, redo the books without the Amazon links, and upload, but as with all things, it just takes time. These are systems I haven’t used before, after all, and I have to get used to the navigation, etc. For both sites, I also had to redo the covers of my books because of different size limitations. But at least for B&N, I can now announce two “new” books:

Never Ever After on B&N

Yseult: A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur on B&N

Another project on my to-do list that I finally got around to doing this week was to set up a mailing list. Right now, the only sign-up page I have is on Facebook (it’s tied in to my author page there). Getting that squared away probably took nearly as long as signing up as an author in two new online stores and uploading two books each! That’s why I haven’t gotten the mailing list set up for my blog here yet. I really needed a break, and a chance to get some writing done again.

A couple of readers have asked me whether I plan to get some more books up on Smashwords again. I’d like to, but it’s a bit of a problem. Now that I’ve moved all my final drafts over to Scrivener, uploading to Smashwords would be a lot of extra work. First I would have to export from Scrivener to RTF, then I would have to import the RTF into the Smashwords DOC template I made when I first started experimenting with ebook publishing and go through and assign all the correct styles. That’s an awful lot of work for a couple of sales a month. The beginning of this year, Mark Coker (the head of Smashwords) said they would have epub implementation by the end of the year, which is only a couple more weeks away. I hope it happens. I doubt if I will get around to uploading more books on Smashwords soon otherwise.

But with all those projects (which I really had to get done before Christmas), the progress on Ygerna has slowed down quite a bit. It’s presently coming in at 60 pages, of a target of 200. I’m shooting for a short novel for this prequel, something that won’t hurt as much to eventually give away for free as an incentive for people to start reading The Pendragon Chronicles books. Yseult is such a Big Fat Fantasy (~190,000 words) the idea of permanently giving it away for free does not appeal to me at all. 🙂

And now a question: I’ve been referring to the WIP by the name of the main character, Ygerna, a Celtic version of the name Igraine. But I’m pretty sure I will have to give the book a different title because of the similarity to the name “Yseult.” I don’t think I have to rename the character, since Yseult isn’t even born until after the events of the WIP are over. But having two books in a series named Ygerna and Yseult is probably not a good idea. What do you guys think?

I hope everyone has a great week!