Category Archives: eBook formatting

How to Prepare Your MS for Publishing: E-books

How to Prepare Your Manuscript for Publishing:

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


How to Prepare Your MS for Self-Publishing: E-books

This chapter is not for the technically proficient. If you know HTML and CSS—and know them well—format your document in ePub and be done with it. You can submit an ePub file to any of the major e-book distributors. Freeware that will simplify your life is Calibre. Its documentation is written in techese and difficult for the untechnical to learn.

For the rest of us, there’s hope: it’s not difficult to format a Word document for Kindle if—and only if—it consists mostly of plain narrative, with no graphics. That means no pictures, no diagrams, no graphs, no maps, no boxed pull-outs: nothing but plain sentences, paragraphs, chapter titles, and basic subheads.

Anything more complex—such as the book you have in your hands—requires a format conversion program such as InDesign, Apple Pages, or Calibre. Unless you’re familiar with such software, you’ll find a professional e-book formatter’s services well worth the very reasonable cost.

Formatting basics

In either event, your entire document must be formatted using Word’s “Styles” function. This includes titles, subtitles, paragraphs, captions, footnotes, and the like.

Do this whether you intend to attempt a DIY project or whether you will hire a professional formatter to do it right. Do not fail to set the formatting with your word processor’s “styles.”

Instruction on how to use Word is beyond this book’s scope, but you can find how-to’s by clicking on “Help” or by searching for the desired function in Google.

The font you select is irrelevant to e-book formatting. In Kindle, the reader can select fonts and sizes according to need or whim. So you can simply use Word’s default or, if you prefer a less unsightly font, select Times or Times New Roman.

Margin settings are similarly irrelevant in e-book formatting. In Word, then, use the default margins (1 inch top and bottom; 1 inch left and right).

So, using “Styles,” go through the manuscript and apply the chapter title style to each chapter title, the level 1 subhead to each main subhead, the level 2 subhead to each sub-subhead, the paragraph style to each paragraph, the bulleted list style to each bulleted list, and so on. Do not use the Format… command to accomplish this task. You need to have all the formatting set up with “Styles.”

This includes italic, boldface, and small caps as well.

The easiest way to accomplish this is by using an e-book format template. A number of these are available. These come with preformatted styles for all elements in your manuscript.

Remember: in any word processing program (Word, Pages, GoogleDocs, Open Office, etc.), what you see on the page is NOT what you get. An e-book displays “flowable” text. That means it changes to suit the reader’s preferences and to adapt to the device on which it is viewed.

Page numbers go away. So do your pretty running headers. Knowing this, remove pagination and running headers from your document.

Formatting for heads and subheads may be arbitrary. Do set the heads and subheads using your word processor’s “styles.” Their format will come out looking distinct, if you set them consistently. However, they may look different from what you expect.

The live table of contents needs to be formatted on a PC, not a Mac. You will need a ToC with live links; if you don’t know how to create one of these (in Word, go to Format > Document Elements > Table of Contents), you should hire someone who does or, preferably, hire a professional e-book designer to do the entire job.

Graphics of any kind (this includes photographs, drawings, tables, graphs, maps, lists, and anything else along those lines) are very tricky to install in an e-book. It’s possible to do so using a word processing program, but it’s difficult and requires real technical proficiency.

For this reason, a book that contains any complexity at all beyond A- and B-level subheads is best consigned to an experienced, technologically proficient e-book designer.

Drop caps installed in a word processor do not compute on Kindle readers. Do not use drop caps in an e-book. Doing so will create a mess.

This is an example of a drop cap.

If you want to fancify your first paragraphs, try setting the first few words in all caps, like this:

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT in outer Richistan, the wind howling through the mountain passes and…

Small caps would look much more professional. But not all versions of Kindle can read your DIY small caps. If you set your first view words in small caps….

…you may get IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT in your published e-book, depending on how it’s viewed.

The best candidate for DIY e-book formatting is a work of fiction with plain-vanilla formatting: one that contains nothing more complicated than chapter titles and an occasional subhead. If it contains a map, a diagram, dingbats formatted as jpegs, or anything even faintly out of the ordinary, hire an e-book formatter.

Before you upload your book to kindle . . .

First, write the keywords, category and the description. These are not things you want to scribble on the fly, as they’re presented to you in Kindle’s online form.

The keywords and categories will guide your readers to your book. Think, from a reader’s point of view, what category or keyword a person might search for that would bring up your book. You get two browsing categories (often they do not fit: this book will probably be classified under “self-help” and “crafts and hobbies” ), and seven keywords.

Converting and posting your book to kindle

It is possible to convert a Word document directly to Kindle (i.e., .mobi format) from your “Bookshelf” page. I strongly urge you to rethink this scheme if your book has any level of complexity at all. The book you are reading, for example, will be formatted by a professional.

You will need a correctly designed and sized “cover” image in JPEG format. Please see the previous chapter for discussion of this issue.

I have used Amazon’s online Kindle conversion software for Camptown Races books, which are short, very simple, and contain no formatting other than the book title, the chapter titles, and the paragraphs. For this purpose, it has worked satisfactorily—but bear in mind, readers do not pick up light erotica for its elegant design. Converting any layout more sophisticated than a very plain novel will give you a migraine.

Review your document line by line to be sure you have formatted everything, including single words set in italic or boldface, using the “Styles” function.

In a separate reading, proofread carefully. You may want to get a friend or employee to proofread the copy, since your eye will fill in what your mind knows to be correct, and even with Word’s spell-checker running, you will miss some typos.

Set up a book-seller’s account with Amazon’s Author Central. The instructions are posted online;[5] it’s not as complicated as it looks. Select Kindle Direct Publishing.

You can go through CreateSpace, which has many services and tools for self-publishers. Personally, I use Kindle Direct because I have heard so many horror stories from people who have tried CreateSpace: bad design, second-rate products, poor customer service, various incomprehensible hassles—in my opinion, it’s better to have more direct control over production. You do not need CreateSpace to build an e-book file and publish it to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.

Once you’re registered with Author Central, follow the steps to publish your book from your “Bookshelf” page. This is rote and very simple.

All you have to do is upload your Word file, and Amazon’s software will automatically convert it to Kindle format.

Three things you should know about this process:

  1. Your book cover needs to be prepared as a high quality JPEG—at least 300 dpi—and sized at about 1200 x 1800 pixels. You can’t upload a PDF here.
  2. Amazon has a spellchecker. Even though you think your manuscript is perfect after the ten proofreadings you’ve gone through, and even though the spellchecker flags exotic place names or unusual proper names, it will catch typos that you missed! Every time. Be sure to look at the spellchecker’s results and go through each item.
  3. Amazon gives you two choices for reviewing the completed .mobi file:
  4. You can read it online in Amazon’s online Kindle reader; or
  5. You can download a Kindle reader to your computer, download the .mobi file, and read the thing in your terminal.

Your best choice, hands-down, is to download the Kindle reader, then download the .mobi file and read it in your resident Kindle reader.

While no two Kindle devices necessarily show a given .mobi file the same way, the online Kindle reader at Author Central is a disaster, particularly if you have even slightly complex formatting, or if you have changed the formatting within a document before uploading it.

The first book I published on Amazon contained a lot of lists and several levels of heads and subheads. It looked fine in the online Kindle reader, so I clicked “publish.”

Forthwith, up came an angry review from a reader who complained about a mishmash of weird formatting.

I downloaded the book to my iPad and opened it in the iPad’s Kindle reader and saw she was right: the whole thing was a mess!

I had to remove the book from Amazon, rename it, get a new ISBN, produce all new marketing materials, and hire an e-book formatter to completely reformat the 350-page book from beginning to end.

Back at Author Central, I downloaded the Kindle reader offered there and used that to open the delinquent .mobi file. It, like my unhappy reader’s device, revealed a formatting jumble. So, the message there is don’t, under any circumstances, use Amazon’s online Kindle Reviewer as a quick way to review your book during the upload process.

After you’ve downloaded Author Central’s kindle reader, you can also download the .mobi file to your computer. This allows you to save it to disk. Back up the book in every format you create and store it to an external hard drive: this includes your word-processed version, PDF, .mobi, ePub, and anything else you encounter.

Follow the steps through the online form. Set your price, click on the “agree” box, and click done. Your book will go online within a couple of days.

KDP Direct vs. KDP Select

Amazon will pressure you, at the time you upload your book and in various communications, to join its KDP Select program. Supposedly this step up from the entry-level KDP Direct will supercharge your sales.

Personally, I find KDP Select to be somewhat problematic. Primary reason: when you enroll in KDP Select, you agree to embargo your book. You can’t sell it anywhere but on Amazon: not at Barnes & Noble, not down at the local grocery store, not through Smashwords, not even from your own website.

If you have published the work as a series and also as a “boxed set” or complete book and you have put even one of the serials in KDP Select, the complete book containing the embargoed work is also embargoed!

Additionally, KDP Select limits your pricing to no more than $9.99. If you consider how many hours it takes to write and format a book and how much you could have earned during those hours on a freelance or employee basis, you’ll soon realize that you would have to sell a boatload of books at $9.99 to earn even minimum wage, to say nothing of covering your costs and making the book turn a profit.

KDP Select automatically enrolls your book in Amazon’s “lending” program, which essentially gives your book away for free. The theory here is that people who join the lending program will pay to do so. A pool of money is set aside from these fees, to be paid to authors whose books are “borrowed” in this way.

But Amazon spies on its book users. Those who “borrow” your book must open it and look at a certain number of pages. You are paid—if you’re paid—according to the percentage of the book the reader has eyeballed.

Let me put it this way: you can supercharge a snail. You’ll still have a snail.

To my mind, it’s just not worth giving Amazon full control over where you sell your book and who reads it. Some authors have reported good results from KDP Select; others have seen no change in sales. My guess is that those who are happy with it have strong marketing programs elsewhere and would have seen decent sales had they maintained their independence and stayed with KDP Direct.

I recently ran a one-week KDP Select “countdown” sale of six titles—a cookbook and five erotic romances. I hyped the bargains from one end of the social media to the other. During the entire month of that sale, I sold eighteen books. Revenues were $18.97: about the same as I earn month by month without slashing the prices to 99 cents.

Working with a professional e-book formatter

Let me say it one more time: you are best served by hiring an e-book formatter to convert your book to electronic format. Unless you love spending hour after hour after hour trudging up and down Himalayan learning curves, unless you like wasting your time, and unless frustration is a gratifying emotion for you, please do consider farming out your manuscript to an expert formatter.

E-book formatters not only can save you a great deal of time (and time is money if you write or edit on a contract basis), they also know how to get images to work in electronic files, how to optimize the files for viewing on a wide variety of readers, and how to set them up so that browsing buyers will see the most tempting part of your book first.

Here’s what the person will need:

  • The manuscript, carefully proofread and thoroughly, accurately formatted in your word processor’s “Styles” function.
  • Images in high-quality JPEG format. Each image should be sharp, clear, and at least 300 dpi.
  • Your completed cover, also as a high-quality JPEG.

Be sure your manuscript is as edited as it’s going to get, so as to spare the formatter unnecessary extra work.


Coming Attractions!

Recently, having surpassed our short-term publishing goal, we decided to slow our production pace by about 50%, partly to allow the writing team to focus on longer, more interesting stories and partly to give me a break from the 14-hour days. Interestingly, the result has been that more projects of higher quality have blossomed.

Soon to appear, for example, will be a revised and much improved version of the ill-fated diet/cookbook, whose first incarnation was titled How I Lost 30 Pounds in Four Months.

The new version is renamed. Its new title is 30 Pounds: 4 months. Here’s a draft of the cover, still very much under construction:

Dark Kindle for post

I’m not nuts about this design. What’s really desired is one of my friend La Maya’s gorgeous original oil paintings, rights to which I wish to purchase…  She’s out of the country just now, but will return next week. At that time I hope to strike a deal with her. Possibly, for example, she’d be willing to share this one.

How I Lost was the first book I posted to Amazon all by my little self. The very first Plain & Simple Press effusion, Slave Labor: The New Story of American Higher Education, was formatted and posted by a professional e-book formatter, and it came out looking very nice. After I discovered, however, that one can upload to Kindle direct from Word, nothing would do but what I had to try it myself.

Naturally, I picked the single most difficult, complicated book we’ve emitted through Plain & Simple Press and Camptown Races Press combined. Not only is it plenty long, it has a complicated set of heads and subheads, almost every recipe contains a list, and at one point (no longer!) it was illustrated with graphs and jpegs.

With a little fooling around, How I Lost loaded right up into the Amazon store, and from what I could tell, it looked OK. When I reviewed it in Amazon’s previewer function, it appeared tidy enough: the paragraphs seemed regular, the heads and subheads appeared to be consistent throughout, the table of contents seemed to work well enough, the lists of ingredients in the recipes looked like…well, lists. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

So I sat back and waited for the vast wealth to roll into the Money Bin.

What rolled in was a squawk of rage from a dismayed reader. The fonts, she said, were all over the place, illogical and unpredictable. Heads and subheads were cattywampus; so were the ingredients lists. And by the way, she really, really, really hated the writing style!


Not everyone can love you. And by this time, I’d learned that on Amazon your competitors will often take aim at a new book and post reviews blasting it. So I wasn’t very concerned. Besides, after forty years in the writing biz, I do have a stainless-steel ego. Just spell the name right, Duckie!

When I had time — some weeks later — I downloaded a copy to the iPad and opened it.

I was horrified! It looked nothing like what I thought I had posted. The reader was right: the book was a dreadful mish-mash. Fonts  that I never knew existed popped up at irregular and illogical intervals — no rhyme nor reason to why some words would appear in italic, some boldface, some roman, some huge, some damn near submicroscopic. The only consistent rule was that all tables and images needed a magnifying glass to be viewed.

By then I’d put up about 35 bookoids and real books on Amazon, and, practice making something closer to perfect, I’d learned a few things. Relevant to this fiasco: what you see in Amazon’s on-line “Preview” tool is decidedly not what you get.

Amazon invites you to peek at your uploaded document with its “Preview” tool but neglects to tell you the result will bear no resemblance to what your readers see in a Kindle reader.

To view an even vaguely accurate rendition, you have to download Amazon’s Kindle reader software into your computer, fire it up, and then download your posted document into that.

PreviewerViewed in the computer-resident software, the mess that was my book became eminently visible.

And as I read the copy, I realized that yes…it was pretty bloggish. Many of the recipes had been tossed together for Funny about Money and bloviated with copious hot air.

So, I took it down from Amazon, making it unavailable to readers.

We slowed our production schedule  almost a month ago, but it’s taken this long to catch up with all the pressing tasks I couldn’t get done while trying to keep up with the unrealistic work demand. Now that the dust has settled, though, I hope to return the cookbook to the market within the next couple of weeks.

In addition to getting rid of all the jpegs and the re-flowing the entire 255 pages of fine print into a clean new Joel Friedlander template, I cleaned up a fair amount of the copy. The tone is still very casual, but the most bloggy passages were cut. It’s about ready to re-post in its new incarnation, but while I wait for La Maya to return and decide whether she’ll share a painting, I probably will go over it again in search of more hot air to delete.

So, watch this space: a grand new cookbook is coming your way! Sensible weight-loss advice included.



Dodging the Perils of Kindle

Have you ever tried re-upload a corrected manuscript to Amazon’s Kindle publishing function, only to find the corrections don’t go across? What you see is what you HAD, not what you WANT NOW.

This annoyance is most likely to occur after you’ve clicked “Save and Continue,” as opposed to “Save as Draft,” but I’ve had it happen pre-save or while I was in “save as draft” mode.

There’s a simple work-around.

Each time you run a manuscript through the “preview” process in Kindle  and find something to correct, save the corrected MS under a new filename.

Let’s say you’ve uploaded ThePerilsofPaulineTemplate.docx.

You’ve downloaded it to your(!) [not Amazon’s online!!!!!] Kindle previewer and found some damnfool thing you should never have missed in the first go-around.

You’ve gone into ThePerilsofPaulineTemplate.docx and fixed the errors.

Now save your file as ThePerilsofPaulineTemplate1.docx and re-upload.

And hallelujah brothers and sisters! This is far more likely to overwrite the first file than than the corrected file saved under the original filename.

Why, I do not know.

All I know is that this is so.

Every time you need to make corrections in a file you’ve already uploaded from .doc or .docx to .mobi, CHANGE THE FILENAME before the re-upload.

Vast numbers of intensely frustrating minutes will be saved.

Today I sat and watched the gear grind endlessly as I re-uploaded this book a good half-dozen times before the fix dawned on me…


…and so, my loves: Do as I say, not as I do!

wooHOO! New Book Posted on Amazon

Wow! It was like giving birth…with a LONG labor. But finally the “Publish” button has been clicked for How I Lost 30 Pounds in 4 Months. It’s not available yet, but as soon as I have a link, I’ll post it here. In the meantime, just covet this fan-freaking-tastic cover art:

F&B cookbook coverThis is the wrap-around for the print version. It still needs a bar code, but since I may not sell it on Amazon at all (the plan is to use it to help with fund-raising for my fave cause), I decided to hold off for awhile on spending extra money on that detail.

I have to say, I’ve never had such a difficult experience with a project like this. The PoD version went together fine and uploaded happily to the printer of choice. I used a Book Design Templates choice called “Pulp,” which is specifically designed to save on the number of pages and also switch-hits between e-book publication and print layout. Compared with the “Focus” design I’d used for Slave Labor, the effect in page proofs was disappointing: in print, “Focus” is much more polished and handsome. Easily solved, though: I just pasted it from “Pulp” into “Focus,” did a few adjustments, and re-uploaded.

“A few adjustments” turned into a long, time-sucking slog. Probably worth it, though. In a review of the PDFs as the printer’s software received them, the new format looks very handsome.

But the e-book conversion…oh gawd. I thought I was gunna DIE. NOTHING that I did would make it work to upload to Amazon.

It did upload once. But then I needed to make some corrections, and after that… Bleyagh!!!! The main problem was it wouldn’t upload the TofC. And wouldn’t. And wouldn’t. And wouldn’t. And wouldn’t…

Word, which my associate editor and I justly call “Wyrd” (the Old English cognate for modern English “weird”), came up with every glitch it could contrive. Several of these required me to comb through all 363 pages several times removing bugs and fixing copy. It was BRAIN-BANGING tedious.

I’m pretty sure the main reason was the complexity of the book’s organization. It starts with four chapters on the diet strategy. Then it presents about 125 recipes, organized in 14 sections. So we had chapters, then sections, then chapters (i.e., the recipe titles) within the sections.

So I’ve spent a fair amount of today and of the past two or three days groaning in front of a computer and ripping at my hair.

Finally, Tracy Atkins of Book Design Templates came to my rescue. Tracy thinks it’s my version of Wyrd — 2008, the buggiest version Microsoft every produced, wouldncha know — and suggests I should pay the price to connect with Wyrd online.

I’ve resisted this, because

a) I hate, loathe, and despise the effing “Ribbon”;
b) Signing up for Wyrd represents ANOTHER monthly drain on my checking account, which I do not welcome by any means whatsoever; and
c) I welcome yet another goddamn learning curve even less than I welcome yet another monthly budget drain.

In a draftig way, I uploaded the content of a short novel and thought it worked  just fine. But no. On second look, I see it ALSO didn’t upload the TofC links.

So obviously, I’m going to have to find a way to get an updated version of Wyrd. And that’s going to be a hassle of the ongoing variety.

But I must say, I am utterly hassled out right this minute. I’ve wasted three full days on this shit, during which I’ve written all of about four paragraphs in the current Bobbi & the Biker series.

You know, if I had wanted to do book production, I would have gotten a degree in graphic arts, not in English. I would have made myself unemployable with an MFA in design, dammit, not with a Ph.D. in late Renaissance and Early Jacobean literature and history!!!!!

Claro que I am not a creature of the endlessly dystopic 21st Century.

Writing vs. IT: Can I have my typewriter back?

Who would’ve thunk that making a living at writing would involve so many hours at deploying computer and IT skills that you never wanted to have in the first place? Please. Give me back my typewriter!

Over the past week or so, I’ve spent hour after hour after hour after HOUR wrestling with websites and online service providers and getting almost no writing done.

And, if you enjoy watching the abhorred writer’s mind work, here’s a CLICK! moment that just struck, right this very minute:

Day or two ago I was thrilled to discover Amazon’s new DIY cover-building tool. Would that or would that not free one of an enormous amount of hassle? Well. No. it just occurred to me that you can’t assign an ISBN until you have the cover art. If you build the cover art on Amazon and store it there (presumably preventing you from downloading it until after you’ve uploaded the MS, if at all), then you can’t assign an ISBN TO THAT DOCUMENT!

Well. I’ll have to see if you can build a cover and download a JPEG or PDF of it. Otherwise it’s back to trying to build the p0rn covers in Powerpoint. It can be done, but the result will probably be less than optimal.

But what that will mean is…YES! More dorking around online, more time spent on trying to figure out something I never wanted to know to start with and shouldn’t have to know (I are a English major, dammit, I are NOT a artist!), very likely to no avail. In short: MORE WASTED TIME THAT SHOULD BE SPENT ON WRITING.

Today I want to try to upload the cookbook direct to Amazon, without benefit of an ebook builder. Supposedly this can be done, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

A cookbook of course contains many lists of ingredients. Lists pose a formatting problem when it comes to converting to .mobi and ePub files.

For that reason, I’m not trumpeting publication of this thing yet. Because I don’t believe it’s going to get published today. I suspect I’m going to have to go back to the e-book builder guy, pay him to do the conversion right, and wait several MORE weeks while he does it.

At this rate, everything I write will be published posthumously.

Writing Enterprise: Nose permanently attached to grindstone

Actually, I believe my nose has grown onto the grindstone, sort of like a tree trunk growing around an object in its way. Progress is being made on the new Racy Writing enterprise, but as usual everything has to crash on my head at once, so I can’t focus on the specific tasks at hand without distraction.

The last freshman comp course I will ever have to teach (I sincerely hope!) is now over and grades are posted. No one flunked, thank God, and only two got D’s. So that’s a mercy, and it’s also one distraction permanently off the table.

A week or ten days ago, I compiled a list of Über-To-Do’s needed to change heading for The Copyeditor’s Desk and its imprint, Plain & Simple Press. Tacking this particular ship into the wind is quite an undertaking. I figured if I could do three of the following per day, in a week or so I’d be ready to devote most of my time to writing and publishing short racy squibs.

Move the Blogging Empire, which consists of a lot of sites, from my web guru/friend’s server to WestHost.

Said friend does a wonderful job of wrangling websites, but he’s a young dad of four who recently landed his Dream Job in the corporate world.  Bizarrely, though, Dream Jobs require you to work, and since this guy isn’ta slouch, you can be sure every living, breathing moment of his life when he’s not caring for his family is spent working. So he folded most of his small IT business when he jumped on the commuter train. He kept a couple of his old clients, including moi, but it soon became apparent that he was going to need some time to have a life.

Another blogging friend referred me to her back-end Web guru. At this time we’ve moved the passel of websites to the self-hosting server. In the next few days, the new guy will reorganize the sites (well.. re- is not operative for something that’s grown up like topsy: he’ll organize them into something rational.

Writers Plain & Simple remains alive, despite threatening to close it down. We will move it over to WestHost and make it a subdomain of, the site for my S-corp’s Plain & Simple Press imprint. Watch this site, and please…try not to get lost! 😀

Assign remaining ISBNs to upcoming books.

Mooted. You have to have the cover art to do that, and I still haven’t been able to get the artist off the dime. He says he’s done about half of the covers for the Fire-Rider series.

Purchase another 100 ISBNs.

Done. All upcoming books now have informally “assigned” ISBNs, which at least I can enter on the copyright pages. Officially inscribing them with Bowker will have to wait until (yesh…) the artwork surfaces.

Set up Excel spreadsheet to track ISBN purchases and assignments.


I really need a database. Access didn’t come with the version of MS Office I bought for the Macs. And come to think of it, I don’t even know if Access will run in the Mac environment. In any event, it’s been so long since I’ve used Access, the re-learning curve would be excessively high…so for the nonce I’ll have to make do with Excel and Quickbooks.

Experiment again with using PowerPoint to create cover art for e-books. Check out that link: King’s covers don’t look staggeringly awesome, but they’re sure as heck good enough for genre fiction. And believe me, folks who buy the kind of stuff Camptown Races Press will publish are not buying it for the covers. 😉

To do, pending download of some stock art.

Actually, in the past I’ve tried following the guy’s how-to steps with an ordinary photo and found that it’s easy to do. Remains to be seen whether I can faze the result past Amazon and Nook. But…huh…if he can do it, so can I. By golly.

Buy a month’s subscription to Shutterstock and download as many images as allowed.


Before I actually pay for a subscription, I wanted to find and compile lists of images fitting as many categories as I imagine the naughty novelettes will require over the next six months to a year:

Biker stories
Ghost sex stories
Traveler stories
Banner images for websites
Generic sexy images
Threesomes of various combinations
Racial configurations of various combinations

Create an Excel workbook with spreadsheets to keep track of stock art and public domain images


Did I mention that I need a database?

Study the user manuals for the Friedlander templates used to compile the stories in hand. Study the user manual for Calibre. Figure out how to use Calibre to convert from Word to Kindle and ePub formats.

Done, sort of.

Today I will try these on the cookbook and hope to get the thing online, around the ongoing hassles of trying to straighten up the sites on WestHost, which as we scribble are consuming more and more time.

Because the diet/cookbook has a lot of lists, formatting it may be difficult, and so I don’t want to just hand it over to Amazon to do the conversion. If I can’t do it myself, then I’ll hire my ebook guy to do it…but of course, that means it will be weeks (if ever) before it goes online.

The novelettes and the Fire-Rider serials have virtually no elaborate formatting: no subheads, no lists, no tables, no images. So I think those can simply be uploaded to Amazon along with their cover images.

Learn specs for Kindle and Nook covers.


Learn how to upload content to Nook.


Write proposal and cover letter for Boob Book.


Find a half-dozen agents or markets for Boob Book. Send proposal to the first of those.


Learn how to upload files to Snowflake Press for print-on-demand; do so for Slave Labor and order ten copies.

Under way. To be completed today, I hope. Maybe.

Learn how to sell hard-copy books on Amazon and do the fulfillment in-house, not through fulfillment by Amazon.


Publish the diet/cookbook in e-book format on Amazon.

Pending: whenever I figure out how to get it formatted propertly.

Establish an account and publish Slave Labor and the How I Lost 30 Pounds in Four Months on Nook.


To accomplish most of these little tasks in a week or so has required me to start at around 5 in the morning and work all the way through, without stopping except for a few snacks and to cope with things that can’t be put off, until I can’t work anymore, which is about 8 or 9 p.m.

And that, my friends, is what’s entailed in quitting your day job.

Diet/Cookbook Almost Ready to Go!

HAY cook book3 3-16-2015How do you like the cover design for How I Lost 30 Pounds in Four Months…without Hardly Trying?

It needs a little adjustment for the PoD version, but I think it’s fine for the e-book. The byline needs to be a little larger, I think. The subtitle looks microscopic in this WordPress post-drafting mode and presumably will need an electron microscope to be visible in a thumbnail.

HAY cook book3 3-16-2015Oh heck. Let’s try that in WP… Ohhh WordPress WordPress on the laptop, which font is tiniest of them all?

Hmmm… We’ll be asking for a couple of adjustments on that thing. But the artwork’s kinda cool, isn’t it? Original stuff from multi-award-winning artist and former art director of Arizona Highways Gary Bennett. Apple…apple a day…get it? 😀

For the interior copy I used the “Pulp” design in a Word template from Book Design Templates. As I remarked awhile back, “Pulp” is one of several two-way templates that allow you, with just one upload of your copy, to convert from Wyrd to e-book formats and also to do a print-on-design layout.

It worked reasonably well. The cookbook is pretty complex because of all the lists, but once you figure out the styles (which could use a little better organizing IMHO), the template goes a long way toward ensuring consistency in all your design elements.

However, things are never so simple as you think. Preparing a manuscript for e-book and print incarnations requires a fair amount of fiddling around: the basic design needs are not the same. For example, in a print book you’d like chapters to open on recto (odd-numbered) pages. For an e-book, that not only is unnecessary, it’s undesirable.

Thirty Pounds in Four Months has two sections: one consisting of four chapters describing how I managed to lose one-fifth of my body weight (and drop the elevated blood pressure into the “normal” range) without starving myself and without beating myself up at the gym, and one that offers over 125 recipes. Setting every one of those recipes on a recto page would have required hundreds of Wyrd commands that would have to be inserted when I went to create a hard-copy layout (or undone if I started with the PoD layout).

So, I decided to lay out the first section in the traditional hard-copy manner but let the recipes appear on whatever page they would naturally fall on — this, by the way, is what “Pulp” was designed to do in the first place. Said scheme then requires me to do the PoD version first, save it to disk, and then go back and delete only the three odd-page section breaks in Section 1 for the e-book’s purposes.

That is much easier than deleting 130 or 140 of the things!

The result looks OK, I think. Certainly good enough for government work.

But I think I’ll spring for a full multi-use license for the “Focus” design that I used to lay out Slave Labor (which will be ready for the printer as soon as the hard-copy cover is done! wahoo!). At the time I purchased a single-use license, I was in pure experimental mode — had no idea how this was going to work and didn’t want to spend any more than necessary.

Now that I see how they work, though, I think I really like “Focus.” Even though its typeface and design will create more pages in any given hard-copy book, it’s really very attractive AND — big, very big! — it’s more streamlined and simpler to use. The template’s “styles” are easier to find and more intuitive to select, and the effect is quite handsome.

Most of the books I get up to self-publishing are likely to sell best as e-books. The ability to print a few on demand for the occasional buyer who craves to feel pages under the fingers will be good, but I don’t think I’ll need so many of them that a dollar or so difference in price will matter much.

The entire Fire-Rider series and the next book that’s in hand will be produced as serial electronic “bookoids” through Amazon. I may produce a hard-copy “collector’s edition” that I could give away for free to people who buy X number of e-books (enough to cover the cost of printing), or to those who have bought the whole series. Those who would like to have just a hard-copy version, then, would have to pay the freight for printing plus enough for me to turn a little profit. Or I might give it away to those who buy XX numbers of the next book’s serials.

Which is to say…I hope to use the PoD version as a marketing tool.

Last night I installed the content of the first Fire-Rider serial in “Focus,” just to see what would happen. It was extremely easy.

There’ll be 18 of those. I figure to do a “Save As” for each serial, but meanwhile have a larger file for the PoD version into which I paste the formatted material out of each serial’s file into the longer PoD file. Then when all is said and done, I can get into the file for PoD, adjust the formatting, have a wrap-around cover done, et voilà!

The Book Design Templates folks allow you to upgrade from single to multi-use, so that’s what I’m going to do with “Focus.”

So, I’m excited about it. Is this enterprise gonna make any money for me? I’ll be surprised. But thrilled beyond measure if it does — cannot tell you how much I never want to slog through another turgid scholarly work or another awful freshman comp essay. Probably the best way to make money through self-publishing is by writing porn…and that this point, I am not above that!

Two Book Design Templates: “Pulp” vs “Focus”

So the hard-copy version of Slave Labor is now laid laid out in Joel Friedlander’s Book Design Template called “Focus.” The result is pleasing enough and was not too difficult to achieve.

These tools really are just Word templates tricked out with margins and gutters appropriate to the trim size of your choice, with fonts for body copy and heads, alternating recto/verso running headers, and a set of “styles” commands that allow you easily to format body copy, the various heading levels, and details like italic and boldface.

Most of the templates allow you to create an e-book or a hard-copy (print-on-demand) version. To do both, you evidently import and format your copy twice, once to create the appropriate e-book formatting and once to do the hard-copy layout.

A few, however, are programmed so that you can switch back and forth, with the same layout, and extrude the e-book and the PoD layout. Once you’ve imported your MS and applied the appropriate Word “styles,” so the makers say, you can produce both an e-book version and a PDF for print in one swell foop.

Since I’ll want to do some of the upcoming gilded volumes in both formats, I decided to buy one of those. “Pulp,” on sale at a ridiculously low introductory price (none of these things will break the bank to start with…), looked like a good choice. After I’ve emitted all of Fire-Rider in e-book serials, I may (or may not) produce a print “collector’s edition” that will gather all the copy and artwork in one place. Pulp mimics a dime novel, with a small typeface and narrow margins that minimize the number of pages you have to print — good for Fire-Rider, whose length is best described as “epic.”

So I got this thing and decided to start with the diet/cookbook, using it as a kind of secondary-level “sandbox” project to expand what I’ve learned in self-publishing Slave Labor. This is a single book that I’d like to sell in both formats, since it seems highly unlikely to me that anyone would want to use their iPad, Kindle, or phone to follow a recipe in a messy kitchen. But…some people claim they do. WhatEVER.

By quittin’ time last night, I’d installed the four chapters on dieting and the first two recipes in cookbook section.

This provides an opportunity to compare the two templates — or, more accurately, the two types of templates.

Of the pair, I’d say I prefer working in “Focus,” the “premium” variety that allows you to do both an e-book and a print layout but apparently requires entering and formatting the copy separately. Its “styles” are easier to work with and better organized, and the layout for hard copy is much more appealing.

However, if you expect to do a lot of books and emit them in both formats, “Pulp” may be a better choice, despite some significant drawbacks. Time, after all, is money; the ability to enter copy once and have it suffice for both purposes represents a considerable advantage in that department.

Focus appears to create a much nicer print-ready product. The fonts (Cambria for chapter titles and Alegreya for subheads and body copy) are handsome and the layout is attractive. It’s also quite easy to use — assuming you have a very high level of proficiency with Wyrd. As usual, one has to deal with all the Wyrdnesses that come with that program, but the designers have done a good job of customizing the template to minimize formatting hassles. The styles are intelligently named, and they’re simple and intuitive to use.

The main grutch I would have is probably a Word 2008/Mac problem rather than a direct issue with the template: when you insert a section break (odd page) where a chapter ends on a recto page, the program does not consistently insert a break in such a way as to let you begin the next chapter on the next recto. So, to get from the resulting verso page to the desired recto page, you have to insert a page break as well as a section break. This doesn’t matter much in a PDF. But…hold that thought for a minute…

I have yet to see what a printer will think of the result, but we’ll know as soon as my designer converts Slave Labor‘s e-book cover to a 5.5 x 8.5 wrap-around.

Chapter opening on recto page, Focus“Focus” chapter opening, recto page
(Click on images for a better view.)

Focus 2 pages“Focus” two-page spread, showing margin, gutters, A-level head, bulleted block, running header

Moving on to Pulp: the 10-point Gandhi serif typeface prints out OK — it’s reasonably readable when translated to the page. But on a MacBook screen, it’s a pain.

For a print layout, one would ideally like to see the pages two at time, verso on the left side and recto on the right. Zooming to 150% will accomplish that. Increasing the zoom much above 150% will allow you to see only one page at a time. But even at 150%, the type when seen on a MacBook is pretty small and cramped. It’s not impossible to read, but it’s potentially eyestrain-inducing.

The styles are a little harder to use in Pulp than in Focus. There are a lot of them, and they don’t seem to be organized well. I found myself searching interminably for this, that or the other frequently used style, trying to figure out what it might be called. On Word’s 2008 version for the ribbon-aversive Mac user, it’s much easier to use Format > Style > Styles than to dork with the Styles drop-down menu. Even still, at some points I had to create the occasional new style to accommodate the book’s needs.

Admittedly, the template is designed for fiction, and I’m trying to make it work for a piece of nonfiction. Still. {grump}

One notable style that I had to fiddle with was for footnotes, which I had to use in the “diet” section of this book, by way of supporting some of the claims I allege. The footnote style wants to set type larger than the body style. That. is. exceptionally. annoying.

But okaayyy…if you know how to use Wyrd, it’s easy enough (sort of) to create a new body style for footnotes. But…if you have to build your own styles, why pay someone else to do it? {grump, crab} If you create a style for a graf with no indent based on the regular paragraph style (which should’ve been included, btw), you can use that for the footnote style, but of course it comes out the same size as the body style. For my purposes, that’s fine, but if the book were more formal, one might like footnotes to be set in slightly smaller type.

The template comes with at least two body styles. It’s unclear which you’re supposed to use. I selected the one labeled (normal), guessing that “normal” was…well, normal for this template. There’s also two variants of something called “balloon text.” Don’t know what that is and am not sure I want to know. Whatever it is, in my file it produces 8-point Tahoma. Gandhi is a serif typeface, so…what the point is escapes me.

Pulp defaults to lay out pages consecutively, whether or not you’re opening a new chapter or section. Thus chapters’ opening pages occur at random on recto or verso pages.

This does not thrill me.

Pulp chapter opening“Pulp” chapter opening, recto page

Pulp 2 pages“Pulp” two-page spread, showing margins, gutters, A-level subheads, footnote, running header

For an e-book, of course, you would not want to force section breaks for the purpose of starting a chapter on a recto page, because…well, there ARE no recto or verso pages in an e-book. You insert breaks to force the chapter title to appear on a new digital “page” (we might call that a pageoid), but these are all identical.

Identically ugly, we of the digitally unbaptized might suggest…but what can one say?

For my taste…ugh. I don’t care for a book layout that opens a new chapter on a verso page, in the manner of a magazine or a newspaper. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just inelegant.

But to make that happen, in Pulp as well as in Focus, you have to insert section breaks. And the apparent random workings of section break (odd page) seen in “Focus” hold true in this template. For e-book purposes, a lot of extra section and page breaks are going to be mightily superfluous. Yea verily, we could say they will dork up your e-pageoids!

Pretty clearly, if you want a print layout with a less cheesy flavor, you’re going to have to create the e-book first and then go back and insert section breaks to force the desired layout for print.

This will not double your total time spent on a given book project. But it surely will interfere with the scheme to do two formats in the time it would ordinarily take you to do one.

Given that some of Book Design Templates’s premium products are much handsomer than Pulp, it may be worth spending the extra time to input and format copy twice in a different design.

Maybe not, too. It would depend on how many books you’re cranking at any given time. I intend to crank a lot between now and the end of 2015. I think Pulp will do quite nicely for Fire-Rider, given the novel’s unseemly length. The small type and tight leading will save on printing costs, and of course the typeface makes no never-mind for e-books.

But for the other books? Well. The romance/soft-core porn numbers, which I hope to churn out in gay (heh…sometimes) abandon, probably need appear only in ebook fashion. Pulp will do just fine for those, except for the relative difficulty of using it. Focus is so much easier to use, though, that I may spring for an upgrade allowing me to use that template for an infinite number of bookoids. Also, I probably could use it for certain clients’ books — at least one current customer hopes to self-publish, and it would be convenient to be able to offer a rudimentary formatting service.

The Copyeditor’s Desk does have a subcontractor who formats e-books, but at this time he has so many clients of his own it’s hard to get the man’s attention. And he doesn’t do print layout. (Plain & Simple Press is the micropublishing imprint of The Copyeditor’s Desk.) Two graphic designers who subcontract to us both do very fine print layout…at very fine prices. Obviously I’d rather foist the work on them. But given a choice between doing the work myself at a lower (get-what-you-pay-for) rate and losing a client who won’t pay professional rates for graphic design, I just might take the former.

By the way, if you’re interested in using one of these templates for your own book project, remember to set Word to save every five minutes! Wyrd is given to sudden catastrophic lose-ALL-your-data crashes, especially if you’re working with tables or with anything at all elaborate or exotic. That’s why we call it “Wyrd.”

weird; comparative adjective: weirder; superlative adjective: weirdest

  1. suggesting something supernatural; uncanny.
    “the weird crying of a seal”

    Old English wyrd ‘destiny,’ of Germanic origin. The adjective (late Middle English) originally meant ‘having the power to control destiny,’ and was used especially in the Weird Sisters, originally referring to the Fates, later the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth ; the latter use gave rise to the sense ‘unearthly’ (early 19th century).