Sunday, November 16, 2014

Style Sheets: KISS (Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!) The Road to Self or Indie Publishing Part 7

Today, we’re going to take the final steps to create a manuscript ready for conversion to EPUB/MOBI. As you’ve probably figured out by now, the manuscripts I convert are written in Mac word processing software. Although I’m training myself to write in Storyist, I currently use iWorks ’09 Pages in the Mavericks OS.

Although I write in Pages, I learned to clean up a manuscript in Microsoft Word (for Mac 2011) because my small publishers requested I use Word for submissions. As I do with any software, I learned enough about Word to do what I have to do. I’ve compiled a manuscript preparation checklist (available at on the For Writers page) for cleaning up a manuscript that was written or pasted into Word. 

I go through each of these steps to ensure possible HTML stumbling blocks to a clean copy for e-book conversion are removed. 

This is the first step in my publishing process.

Even when I write the original story in Storyist, I still copy the manuscript to Word and run through the checklist to ensure I haven’t inadvertently added something that won’t convert well in an EPUB or MOBI. Parentheses and colons are my major weaknesses, but I’m trying to learn to write without using them.

Stripping Format

After I’ve run through my checklist and gotten my manuscript as clean as I can, I select “copy all” and copy the entire document. Then I paste the text content into TextMate which immediately strips the formatting even more. 

TextMate is a powerful Mac editing tool, but as usual, I don’t know how to do much more than paste content in and cut it out. My goal in using it is to remove anything I missed that might cause issues when I’m setting up my manuscript for EPUB or MOBI. Any quality editing tool works for this purpose although here again, I’d suggest using one dedicated to the editing process over one built into a word processing program. 

Now I select “all” and copy the stripped text from TextMate. 

I open a new Storyist project and paste the content into the novel template. A clean, stripped copy of my manuscript has now been pasted into the default Storyist novel document. After I review the new Storyist document to ensure it arrived intact, I either delete the earlier Storyist version or rename it and file it elsewhere. The goal is to make sure I don’t mix up the two versions later. I want to use the clean version of this document to make an EPUB or MOBI.

Style Sheets

To be honest, I know squat about style sheets. From the time I bought my first Mac, I thought more in terms of making the computer act like my typewriter because I knew nothing of word processing programs. Following the established protocol of manuscript submission, I juggled margins and font to obtain the magic 250 words per page. In those days, word count was an average number obtained by manually counting the words per line and the lines per page.

I had no clue what a style sheet was before working with Storyist. After hours of research, I can see why I’m more of a template person than a style sheet person. But to obtain a viable version of a manuscript that Storyist can crank into an EPUB or MOBI version, some basic style sheet steps are required. 

My attempts to use style sheets successfully led me to follow the KISS concept. Keeping it as simple as possible seems to work best. Again, if you’re a HTML guru, you’re probably not reading this because you can program software to do all kinds of neat things. This whole blog series is for the writer who uses the computer to write.

If you use the Storyist default novel template, everything is pretty much set up for you. With a little tweaking, the Storyist style sheets have consistently exported into clean EPUB and MOBI formats readily accepted by the major distributors.

In Storyist, style sheets are located on the Inspector menu under the little ¶ icon and the window will display five styles. There is a greyed drop down arrow to the right of each style selection. To make any style changes, click on the arrow which will give you a drop down menu. Choose Edit Style to open a window that informs you of all the options available for that particular style. I have found it best to make as few changes as possible  from the default settings.

Of the five styles available, three choices: Section Text, Chapter Title, and Section Separator produce a clean, easy to convert Storyist manuscript. 

After I paste my cleaned up manuscript into a novel template, I select all and chose Section Text on the Style Inspector. With everything selected, I enter Edit Style. The only change I make in the Edit Style window is to adjust First Line Indent under Spacing to 0.25 rather than 0.50. This is a personal preference that doesn’t seem to affect anything, but lessens the indent of the first line of paragraphs. This setting seems to look better on the finished e-book than an .05 indent. 

I do not change the font since Courier translates well into EPUB/MOBI. Why worry about fonts when e-readers allow the reader a selection of fonts if they want to use another one? 

With all the manuscript still selected, I click on Section Text. This makes everything uniform, giving me a basic, uncluttered format. For the bulk of the manuscript all I’m going to do from now on is use Chapter Title and Section Separator to make the necessary breaks. Again, I don’t mess with what Storyist has set up in the style sheets because they work. 

I just put the cursor in front of the chapter (for example Chapter 2) and click on Chapter Title in the Style Sheet. It will automatically put the chapter into all caps and center it about one third down the next page. It will also add that chapter to an index list beneath Manuscripts in the lefthand column.

Since Pagination default in the Chapter Title style sheet is set for “paragraph starts on the next page,” I sometimes have to fiddle around with the following text to prevent an empty page between chapters. I’ll turn that chapter back into section text, do some back spacing to give the upcoming title more room, and then redo the Chapter Title sequence. Sometimes blank pages can’t be helped.

Section Separator will put the cursor in the middle of the next line, basically adding an empty space between sections of text. I add an asterisk to let me know I’ve broken the section with the style sheet. This ensures I’ve place the section separators correctly. Before I export into e-book format, I’ll go back and remove these.

I also use the Section Text, Chapter Title, and Section Separator formats to add the pages containing front and end material. It’s a good idea to keep front matter to a minimum to ensure the sample version at the various book distributors contains some of your story. A cover page, title page, and short introduction are usually sufficient. In e-books, the rest of the information goes at the end.

Keep in mind distributors pull a sample of the book from the front material. For the reader to get a feel for your writing, the story must start within a few pages. And yes, 
some of the major publishing houses who’ve jumped on the e-book bandwagon convert popular print books straight into e-book format. Which means all the front material of book reviews or ads for other books clog up the front of the sample with no writing to showcase the book offered for sale.

In Storyist, I arrange the following information under Manuscripts. These sections convert in this order into EPUB/MOBI format:

Body of manuscript (chapters or essays)
Thank you to readers
Author bio 
List of my other works
Copyright info 

Storyist has many other categories useful for writing purposes, such as Main Plot Thread, but information in these categories has no impact on the finished project. When exporting into EPUB/MOBI, I can chose what I wish to be included in the export.

Title Page
I use the Notebook category for Title Page information because this page needs to be formatted a little differently than the manuscript pages. How does this page differ? For starters, the accompanying style sheet is different. 

In default Notebook, the style sheet lists Heading 1 and 2, Body Text, and Default. I pretty much leave the settings alone except for the font and text alignment in both Heading styles and Body Text. 

I change the font from Helvetica to Courier (to match the rest of the manuscript). I change the font size on both Headings. I use size 16 on Heading 1 and size 13 on Heading 2. As for the Text Alignment, I set it at center.

My goal is to create a centered page of information about the e-book. As you can see in my example, I also use this page for the dedication.

Love to the Rescue

Ginger Hanson

Copyright ©2014 Ginger Hanson
Visit Ginger at

All Rights Reserved
Published by Saderra Publishing
Cover Design by Earthly
ISBN 13: 978-0-9860557-2-0 
Digital Edition 1.0


To my wonderful fans whose encouraging letters and emails have kept me writing.

The cover art goes in the Images category. With a Mac, you just drop the image in. My attempt to get my first e-book into Apple did not go well because my cover image was too large. And yes, I thought I was following their directions. Even the customer service rep trying to help me thought I had completed the step correctly and added the correct size image.

We both learned something that day. An embedded cover, the one that will be loaded into Storyist (think the cover of an actual book) and be converted along with your manuscript, can be no more than 2 million pixels. You cannot use the file size shown by various programs because it apparently doesn’t reveal the correct size. The 2 million pixels is arrived at by multiplying pixel width by pixel length of the actual image. 

Confused? I was! My cover artist had sent me various sizes of my cover. And while the 
largest file size said it was less than 2 million MB, it was too large for Apple to accept. 
When we multiplied pixel width and length, it was more than 4 MB.

Since I’m not a computer expert, I have no idea of the why, I just need to know how to produce an embedded image acceptable to the Apple program. To maintain clarity, I export the largest cover image from iPhoto via custom export. I use 1400 as the length which usually shrinks the file into about 1.5 MB when the actual pixels are multiplied. 

The EPUB was accepted immediately with the new size cover.

Keep in mind I’m talking about the embedded image in the EPUB/MOBI. The distributors usually accept a larger size file for the cover image to be displayed in their catalog. This size information is readily available when you download your EPUB. If you use the wrong size, the distributor’s program will tell you. I keep separate files for the cover images I use in the Storyist program versus the cover images I download for the catalog when I enter the EPUB into distribution. 

It’s important to use photo software that will maintain clarity while shrinking the image. One of my programs shrank the image but in the process it became quite blurry. 

One Last Step
When you signed the contracts with Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Amazon, you agreed that you wouldn’t put hot links into your e-books. Links that hook readers to an online site. Apple, on the other hand, has no problem with hot links. To abide by the contracts, I make two versions of each Storyist template before exporting. One contains hot links for Apple while the other has the Internet information, but I do not activate the “link” capability in Storyist. 

When  It’s Time To Export
Once all the various parts of your e-book have been assembled, it’s time to export the completed project. Don’t worry about the cover image being at the bottom of the list in Storyist because the program allows you to set up the sequence of the content prior to exporting into EPUB/MOBI. You can place the cover image first, then the title page, and finally, the body of the manuscript.

Exporting into an EPUB and running the EPUB check are the next steps. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Clean Up Your Manuscript! The Road to Self or Indie Publishing Part 6

Making an e-book is a multi-step process that starts with a completed manuscript and ends with an e-book distributors will accept into their stores. To reach the goal of producing an e-book acceptable to distributors, the manuscript needs to be converted from its word processing format into either an EPUB or MOBI format. There are several conversion software programs that will make this transformation. As any Internet search will reveal, the route taken to achieve that end varies widely. 

In this blog, I’m going to describe the route I designed. To my delight, it’s gifted me with the successful distribution of five EPBU/MOBI books to four major retail outlets. And it all starts with clean copy. 

Garbage in, garbage out, is a popular computer adage. It is especially true with e-book publishing. An e-book conversion program can only produce a well-formatted e-book if it starts with a well-formatted manuscript. 

In this blog, I’ll discuss the process I use to produce an EPUB or MOBI which are the formats required for publication via iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Kindle, and other distributors. (I have a free e-book at my website ( under For Writers) called Pages to PDF E-Book, How to Make a PDF E-Book Using Mac Friendly Software for those of you who use Macs and want to know how to make a PDF e-book.)

Changing Hats

At this point in the writing process, I have to change hats from writer to publisher. I’m 
no longer concerned with the story. It’s been written, content edited, copyedited, and proofread. Now I have to begin the process that will end in a product ready for distribution. 

Please remember, I publish essay books, short stories, novellas, and novels. I have no idea how to produce a children’s picture book or a book of poetry or anything else. While  the Apple iBooks version contains web links, that’s about as fancy as I get. 

All the stories I’ve turned into e-books began their journey in Mac word processing format, specifically Pages (or even AppleWorks!). Obviously, I’m a Mac person and use the following Mac friendly software to create an EPUB or MOBI formatted e-book: 

Word for Mac 

Don’t despair! Their equivalents exist in the PC world. A little research should net you similar programs that do the same thing. Here’s what they do.

Microsoft’s Word for Mac and the PC version software should work much the same. They are a basic word processing program. TextMate is an editing program dedicated to editing. Just look for a strong editing tool. I found this one recommended several times while researching how to make an e-book. 

Storyist is dedicated to Macs, but there is a similar program called Scrivener that is Mac and Windows based. It also exports into EPUBs and MOBI formats just as Storyist does. While I have not used Scrivener, starting with a clean copy of your finished manuscript will probably net you the same results I get with Storyist. 

Well-Formatted Manuscripts

As I mentioned in Part 3 of this series, my first manuscript submitted for e-book format was a formatting ordeal for the editor. A Regency historical adventure romance, Lady Runaway was 100,000 words written with two versions of Mac word processing software programs and then pasted into Word for Mac. 

Talk about messy formatting.

Why would it be messy? Because each word processing program has its own set of computer commands for various activities. Lady Runaway was chock full of commands from three programs. A lot of behind-the-scenes information filled each page of my manuscript. Information about spacing, lines, character, font, tabs, margins, headers, footers. Ad nauseam

Commands from each program stuck like glue to the various versions of the manuscript  I updated, cut, and pasted into the document during the months I was writing the book. 

Of course, I didn’t know this. I’m first and foremost a writer. My word processing software helps me write. That’s the reason for its existence. While it’s possible to publish a Word or Pages document, countless hours of research make me believe it’s not the best route to take for cleanly formatted e-book. The underlying commands in any word processing software follow the document and can create havoc in the finished EPUB product. 

An EPUB or MOBI book is written in a form of computer language called HypeText Markup Language or HTML. This language runs the word processing program, keeping the font, the margins, etc. the same in a document in addition to the visible written words. It’s sort of a language behind a language. 

Given the right commands, HTML also allows text flow to adjust to the size of the e-reader screen. Since the typical word processing programs isn’t designed to flow, the manuscript has to be converted into this type of computer language. To prevent problems in the conversion process, it’s important to provide a clean word processing manuscript. 

Which is why it’s a good idea to clean up a manuscript before running it through conversion software.

After cleaning up several manuscripts for digital publication, I learned some of the pitfalls found in word processing software that don’t translate well into the e-book format. This is easier to comprehend if you think of HTML as a foreign language. Anyone who has learned more than one language knows there some words just don’t quite translate accurately into the second language. 

For an example, let’s look at a title translation of my second book (which I’m going to retitle and have a much prettier cover made by next year!) This is the U.S. edition of Ransom’s Bride

Now, the Dutch edition.

Obviously, the translator didn’t read the book because a Dutch friend said the title is an idiom which roughly translates as, “On Good Luck!” For whatever reason, my title didn’t work well in Dutch. (We won’t even get into the incorrect attire of the models!) Had I known they were going to sell the book to the Dutch market and this would be the result, I would have found an alternative English title that translated more readily into Dutch.
Back to HTML, if something doesn’t translate well from word processing language into HTML language, it’s probably better to not use it in the first place. (And please remember, this whole blog series is written for those of us who aren’t programmers or HTML literates who can manipulate HTML to do whatever we want it to do!)
For example, colons, semi-colons, ampersands, percent signs, parentheses, brackets, braces, backward slashes, and forward slashes don’t translate into HTML very well. To better demonstrate what I mean, you may have seen text online or in email that goes something like this:
Jones & Smith is a real estate company. 
The person who wrote the sentence didn’t write &#38. The writer wrote Jones & Smith in her word processing program. When she copied and pasted it into the email program, it still probably looked okay. It wasn’t until the email program sent it out via HTML that things were lost in translation because &#38 is HTML for ampersand. Which is why it behooves the writer whose goal is to publish EPUBs  to wean themselves away from using these symbols. (PDFs are a different ball of wax.)
While it takes time to stop using these symbols, it saves time when cleaning up a manuscript. If these symbols are present in the final manuscript, they have to be removed or the author risks having HTML phrases scattered through their story. Plus, remember you have to revise the content to reflect the removal of those symbols.

For example, if you remove a colon, you’ll need to assess the paragraph and figure out how to say what you want to say without the colon. I did a lot of revision while creating my recent e-book on using dialogue, She Sat, He Stood, What Do Your Characters Do While They Talk? When I gave it as an online workshop, I used all sorts of symbols that don't translate well into HTML. Thus, they had to go for the e-book version.

In this blog, I’ve begun the process of cleaning up a word processing document for conversion into an EPUB or MOBI format. Next time, I’ll wind up the discussion on creating a manuscript ready for conversion.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

EIN, Anyone? The Road to Self or Indie Publishing Part 5

I breezed over some important information in my last blog because I got focused on formatting. Probably because this was my biggest bugaboo. And while it’s one of the cheaper parts of self-publishing to out source, if I couldn’t format my books, I’d have to pay someone every time I put out an e-book or needed one corrected. 

It hit me that I had jumped into formatting without fully explaining some steps in the process of setting up my publishing business. These steps are important because they help the indie publisher maintain a degree of personal privacy online.

First of all, I applied for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). These are really easy to get from the IRS via the Internet and once I got it there was no reason to splatter my social security number across the globe. 

Why an EIN?
Because all the distributors need a way to legally identify me for tax purposes. They require either a social security number or an EIN (or some equivalent if you’re from outside the USA). By using an EIN, the IRS knows it is me, but I didn’t have to use my social security number every time I set up an account with a distributor.

If you chose to take this route, you’ll need to have made some decisions before you can  complete the application. For example, you need to have chosen a company name if you plan to use one and what type of business you’re going to have. For example, a LLC or sole proprietorship, etc. I found the folks at the small business development center at a nearby university of invaluable aid in making that decision.

The application for an EIN is fairly simple to complete and you can always look over the form at the IRS before you fill it out. Plus, the process is fast and if the information is valid, the EIN number is issued immediately. Make hard copies and file them in a safe place for future reference.

Bank Account
I’m not any more willing to give strangers access to the family’s bank account than I am anxious to give them my social security number, but book distributors need access to a bank. How else am I going to get all that royalty money? 

Fortunately, one of my small publishers had already gone the direct deposit route with royalties and I had set up a separate account at a different facility. Namely, a credit union. I’m not acquainted with all the credit unions in the world, but the two I use are member owned and don’t charge fees for checking or savings accounts. So it doesn’t cost me anything to keep Saderra Publishing in a facility that doesn’t house the family account. 

Remember, I’m a control freak which means I’m going to all this trouble so I can distribute my books. As with anything else, there are people or companies who will offer to do this for a writer. Of course, they expect to be paid. And I’m pretty sure, they’ll need all your really personal information to set up the accounts for you! And while doing it yourself is a time suck, with each book I’ve downloaded into the various outlets, the process has become easier. And I’ve learned to have all my ducks in a line before I start the process. Something I’ll discuss later.

Before I could download an e-book into any distributor’s system, I had to establish an account with them. And before I established an account, I downloaded and printed and read ALL the agreements. Yes, this was yet another huge time suck, but these are legal agreements between me and the distributor. I’ve never signed a contract with a publisher without reading all the fine print, so why wouldn’t I do the same with a distributor?

Once I read and agreed to the various contracts, I applied for accounts. The distributors want the same basic information for their application forms: the company name, my street address, my EIN, the name and address of my bank as well as the account number and routing number. If you have the information together on one sheet, filling out the forms is easy.

It takes a few days to get the accounts open and it pays to return to the distributor and sign in to see if there are any problems. (Something to do on a regular basis with e-books, too.)

With accounts set up at the distributors, an EPUB converter program in my computer, and a manuscript ready for readers, I needed to concentrate on getting books ready and into distribution.

Visit my website at

Monday, August 25, 2014

Meet My Character

Today we're getting a little off track as I participate in a "Meet My Character" blog tour. My thanks to Ariella Moon for inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Ariella is not only a dear friend who I met a RWA conference, she' also the author of a series of awesome young adult books.

Ariella Moon is the author of the Teen Wytche Saga, a sweet Young Adult paranormal series. Ariella writes about magic, friendship, high school, secrets, and love in Spell Check, Spell Struck, and Spell Fire from Astraea Press.
Ariella spent her childhood searching for a magical wardrobe that would transport her to Narnia. Extreme math anxiety, and taller students who mistook her for a leaning post, marred her youth. Despite these horrors, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Davis. Ariella is a Reiki Master, author, and shaman. She lives a nearly normal life with her extraordinary daughter, two shamelessly spoiled dogs, and an enormous dragon.

Now I'd like to introduce you to a character from my upcoming novella release Susannah's Promise.

What is the name of your character?  Is she fictional or a historic person? 

Susannah Warden, a fictional character, is the main character in my novella Susannah’s Promise. 

When and where is the story set?

The story is set in a small town of Tassanoxie, AL in present day. I patterned the town on my hometown circa twenty years ago. And for fun I’ve thrown in things I like from other small Southern towns, like a square in the center of town and a river flowing beside the town.

What should we know about her?

Susannah is not living the life she wants, but the life her mother wants. She’s a visual person, with a good eye for color, which helps her in the retail dress business, but she’d rather apply it to textile history. She’s exudes a polished, poised exterior but beneath it all she is miserable.

What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

The untimely death of her mother and a deathbed promise have combined to change Susannah’s life. She dropped out of college when her mother became ill and took over running her mother’s dress shop. Bit by bit, she stepped into her mother’s life until she can barely remember what she wanted. She even takes her mother’s poodle, Cuddles, with her wherever she goes. Her strong sense of duty locks Susannah into keeping her promise even though it means giving up her dreams.

What is the personal goal of the character?
To somehow fulfill both her promise to her mother and her own dreams. This is the quote that kept me on track while writing this novel.

Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

This novella had several titles during it’s life, but we finally settled on Susannah’s Promise. Most of the Tassanxoie stories include the heroine’s name. It doesn’t work all the time and if there’s a better title that appeals to me and my editors, we use it. That’s what happened with the short story, Love to the Rescue that was recently released. We just couldn’t figure out a way to use the heroine’s name in the title and it make sense!

If you want to meet Susannah right now, she’s a supporting character in another Tassanoxie story, Feather’s Last Dance, available in e-book and print at The Wild Rose Press.

When can we expect the book to be published?

SP is undergoing it’s last set of revisions and I plan to have the 
e-book available by the end of August. When Susannah’s Promise is released, there will be two novels, a novella, and three short stories about Tassanoxie available. 

Here are two authors from The Wild Rose Press you'll want to know about. They'll be blogging on September 1st on their blogs about their characters.

Fleeta Cunningham

 After a career as a law librarian for a major Texas law firm, writing a monthly column for a professional newsletter and other legal publications, Fleeta Cunningham returned to her home in Central Texas to write full time. When she isn’t writing, she teaches creative writing classes, speaks to civic groups, serves as the wedding coordinator for her church, and keeps house for her feline roommates.

A fifth-generation Texan, Fleeta has lived in a number of small Texas towns. Drawing on all of them, she created the vintage 1950’s town that is the setting for her Santa Rita series and its inhabitants. After the five book Santa Rita series, Fleeta followed a long-time dream and wrote the historical romance, Bal Masque, the first book in the Confronting Destiny series. 

She’s also released several short stories and is contributing a vintage story to the Wild Rose Press Christmas box set, The Twelve Brides of Christmas. A novella, Double Wedding, Single Dad, will be featured in the Dearly Beloved series later this year.

Shirley McCann

Shirley McCann’s fiction has appeared in Woman’s World, Alfred Hitchcock, The Forensic Examiner, and many other publications.  Her first contracted novel, Anonymously Yours is now available from The Wild Rose Press. Her second novel, The Scarry Inn (a series) will soon be published from Black Opal Books.

She lives in Springfield, MO with her husband of 34 years, two grown children, and 3 grandchildren.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

EPUB, MOBI, HTML…what were these things? The Road to Self or Indie Publishing Part 4

Since these blogs are titled, the road to indie publishing, it’s pretty obvious I decided to take the indie plunge. But as you’ll see later, I wasn’t finished with trying the small publisher route.

Baby Steps to Indie Publishing

All the research I had done in 2003 on self-publishing was now out-of-date. I’d learned about print publishing, not e-book publishing which meant I had to go back to square one. I had to learn about e-publishing from the ground up.

To reach that goal, I decided to take a month long class at Author EMS. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in any aspect of self-publishing. Amy Atwell and Kelli Finger have put together an information packed workshop. Plus, their website is a treasure trove of information for writers.

The Lingo

Right off the bat, I discovered a whole new vocabulary. EPUB, MOBI, HTML, ISBN, metadata…what were these things? That was on the publishing side. What about setting up a business? Would it be a sole proprietorship or LLC? I needed to make a lot of decisions about how I was going to do it.  

And here, I thought the hardest part would be a name for my fledging publishing company. And I did come up with a pretty neat one. Saderra Publishing is named after our two dogs, Sadie and Sierra. I was glad to have that hurtle behind me!

On the plus side, I already had plenty of experience with print and digital promotion. My small publisher experiences had taught me to write blurbs, author bio, and design bookmarks and banner ads. On top of all this though, I would need to continue to write because I would need content to publish.

Setting Up A Business

The information Amy and Kelli provided helped me when I set up my publishing company, established accounts with distributors, and purchased ISBNs. It was time consuming, but I had a good idea why I was doing what I did. Per their advice, I looked at my abilities and decided what I could do and what I wanted to subcontract. For example, I knew I wanted professional cover art and already had someone lined up to do that for me. And I had a content editor and a copyeditor ready to go. The biggest stumbling block in the publishing process for me was formatting.

Sure, it doesn’t cost much to pay someone else to format your book, but what about updates? if I couldn’t do it myself, I’d have to pay someone every time I wanted to update an e-book. I decided that if I was going to publish my work digitally, I wanted to know how to format it.

Although I’ve used computers since the Ice Age, I’m a Mac person. From the get go, Mac people did not have to learn much to use their computers. My first Mac came with a tape that I popped into the tape recorder and it walked me through the set up and basic instructions on how to use the MacIntosh. Meanwhile, my friends who had bought PCs were going to college computer classes to learn how to turn their computers on.

Like most people who use computers, I know squat about HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). Sure, I’d heard about it. Had a vague idea it was used to make computers do what they did, but I didn’t really know how it worked.

Now, it seemed I’d have to learn it because EPUBS are written in HTML, the language of the web. I really got sidetracked on this one issue and spent hours, days, weeks and money researching how to format an EPUB. I’d finally decided I’d have to find a college class and learn HTML. 

Storyist Software
Then, quite by accident, I discovered I had a software program called Storyist that converts text to EPUB and MOBI. By the way, EPUB is a popular format used by most of the e-book distributors–Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Kobi–while MOBI is the format Amazon decided to use for the Kindle readers. (PDF formatting is still available, too.) So you can see why I was so excited to discover I owned software that would handle this part of the publishing process for me.  

Breath a huge sigh of relief here.

Of course, learning how to create a clean manuscript in Storyist that would be pass validation by the an open software program called epubcheck proved to be yet another long learning curve.

And yes, your EPUB and MOBI formats needs to be run through a software program that will validate it which basically means all your files are in the right order. If your EPUB passes muster with this program, you shouldn’t have any problems getting it accepted by the various book distributors.

The journey will continue…

Visit me at

To learn about Amy and Kelli’s workshops, visit them at Author E.M.S.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Life With a Small Publisher: The Road to Self or Indie Publishing Part 3

In the last installment, I had parted ways with my agent and gotten contracts for two books with two different publishers. One publisher was small but more traditional. The other was more digital oriented. Both planned to release the books in ebook and print formats. Neither paid an advance. Both had easy to read, author friendly contracts. One wanted a two year commitment, the other wanted four.

What Did I Learn With Small Publishers?
The first book came out with the more traditional publisher. Now that I know more about digital publishing, I feel bad about the condition of the manuscript I submitted. I’ve always written in Apple word processing software. Lady Runaway probably began in AppleWorks, but I’m sure I was using Pages by the time it was submitted. I remember  I had to buy Word for Mac because all the publishers wanted submissions in Word. 

That poor manuscript had been through several software updates and then was pasted into Word. The editor who put it into the ebook format had quite a fight getting it formatted. On the other hand, I wonder if she knew about text editing programs that would have made the job simpler. All she had to do was paste the manuscript into a text edit program to strip all the formatting. 

From her irate email, it sounded as if she cleaned it up line by line.

The second book, Feather’s Last Dance, went to the small publisher who fell into the digital camp first, but offered print publishing for longer works. Since this company started in digital, they had a much better grasp of what was what. Their author’s guide walks the author through a clean up process for the manuscript. 

By the time I’d submitted two novels and a short story to them, I had a pretty good idea how to clean up a manuscript. To be honest, I didn’t really know why I needed to do it, but I had a grasp of the basics.

As with the New York publisher, book promotion fell mostly on me. Each publisher offered opportunities to promote either with information from various sources or through promotions they ran to generate interest in their company. The digital first publishing company was better equipped for sharing tips and how-tos for online promotion. That company also had a larger staff and more active author groups.

Life With a Small Publisher
This time around, I had to learn about Internet promotion. Virtual tours. Banner ads. Blogging. Contest prizes. Amazon Author Central. Facebook (this one still eludes me, but I try). Twitter. These are just a few of the ways writers interact with fans. As before, I 
was the one primarily responsible for the interaction. My new publishers helped, but there was no money from them for promotion. 

Although I had more say in cover design compared to the NY house where I had none, I still didn’t always get the exact story, title, or cover I wanted. The publishing house came first. Some changes were made to stories to keep it in line with the company’s vision. It was their company, after all. If they had another story with a similar title, I had to come up with a new one. And changes to covers were nixed if the cover artist and editor preferred what had been created. 

My experience with the more traditional house as to cover design was the best. The artist there worked with me to create the cover. I was their first true historical romance title and the publisher and artist respected my input.

Light Bulb Moment
In reality, I was still doing most of the hard part of publication. Writing a good story, cleaning up and prepping the manuscript for publication, and spending money on promotion. Why not take the next logical step and join my fellow writers in the indie revolution?

Things fell into place when I accidentally got the right to publish the next book in my contemporary series. The publishing company did not respond within their contractual deadline. Eventually, they offered me a contract, but I decided not to accept it. I’d noticed a gradual change in the contracts they offered. Each contract was more detailed and less author friendly than the last one. They were growing into a larger company, which was good for them, but they refused to negotiate anything, which was not good for me.  

I had a decision to make. Was I going to shop around for another publishing company who would probably offer me a similar give-away-all my rights contract? Or was I going to take the Indie plunge?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Road to Self or Indie Publishing Part 2

The phrase self-publishing has a lot of baggage which is why more and more writers refer to it as Indie, or Independent publishing. We’re putting ourselves into the same category as independent film makers. It means we don’t have huge corporations footing the bill. We have to do more on less. We have to work harder to prove ourselves. We have to write well enough to capture readers without the backing of a large company.

As I said in part one, I shelved plans to self-publish because I’d SOLD! I was too busy basking in my success to think about taking the much maligned path of publishing my own works. I was a bonafide author, an editor and publishing company in New York thought so. And best of all, I had an agent who would help me make more sales.

It would take me five years to realize success wasn’t guaranteed because you had a contract and agent. Nor was it guaranteed if you poured your heart and soul and advances into promotion or into writing more stories.

Orphaned, Cancelled, New Editor
I learned all about being orphaned, my line being cancelled, and a new editor’s need to build her own stable of writers before the ink was dry on my contracts. The editor who loved my books left within a few months of making the “call.” Shortly afterward, the new editor told me the company had cancelled the line where my books were slotted. Instead of a year wait for publication, my books were tacked onto another historical line. The year stretched into two.  

I finished my second manuscript anyway and had two completed manuscripts in the editor’s hands within two months. I learned that being on time with your manuscripts can get you pushed up in the publishing schedule when another author doesn’t meet her schedule. My two years became fourteen months.

For fourteen months, I worked on my option book and planned my promotion strategies. This was the world of traditional publishing but I wasn’t a VIP. The publishing company didn’t do anything for me except send me a box of extra covers. I designed the website, book marks, sell sheets, postcards, and flyers. I booked myself on local television, did workshops for every age from kindergarten to college at every venue from schools to national writers’ conferences. I did book signings at bookstores and libraries. 

Debut Author Euphoria
I was on top of the world. I had gotten two books published and I had an agent.

Then the new editor squashed my option book. According to my agent, the editor said series didn’t sell. The cancelled line had been a historical romance series line. Its collapsed probably influenced her remark. Later, in discussion forums with fellow authors of that publishing company, I realized she was cleaning house, intent on establishing herself with her own stable of writers. 

Not to worry, I had an agent to help me sell now. We got along well and she started submitting manuscript proposals. She took them to a lot of publishers. I have to admit, she got me rejected at more houses in a shorter period of time than I ever had. And as usual, the rejections were usually nice with comments such as, “This one doesn’t quite work for me, but I like her writing and will be happy to review future submissions.”

Euphoria Fades Before Reality
Getting a proposal past my agent became more difficult until I realized she was strangling me. I had put yet another person between me and publication. If she didn’t like my project, she nixed it, destroying my passion for whatever I had submitted to her. I felt like a pinball machine as I pinged from one project to another, trying to figure out what she thought would sell. 

Those she liked she wanted me to rework. And I did as she asked because she was my agent. She had 20+ years as an editor at several big name publishers under her belt. I was lucky she’d chosen me.

All too easily I had fallen into the typical writer’s trap of being too in awe of a New York agent to realize she wasn’t good for my writing. It wasn’t an equal partnership because I let her steer my career instead of taking charge of it as I should have.

Four years later we parted ways on an amiable basis. One month after we parted ways, I sold two manuscripts to two different small publishing houses. Within a year I had two books out in ebook and print editions. 

Unwittingly, I had joined the ebook revolution.

Yep, there’s more as this journey continues in the next blog.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Dash of Ginger Goes Live!

Before I continue on the journey to indie publishing, my first ebook has hit the Internet book stores. I'll be writing more about A Dash of Ginger, Sassy Southern Essays as my journey continues, but for now, here's the cover–which I love!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Road to Self-Publishing Part 1

I’ve been immersed in the writing industry for decades and I’m tainted by all the old rules. For example, I’m late to the self-publishing game due to the stigma attached to self-publishing when I started this journey. Way back when, a talented writer didn’t need to take the self-publishing route. In those days, there were plenty of outlets for print publishing. All you had to do was link up with the right editor at the right publishing house.
In addition, I wrote romance fiction, a category that has over 50% of the paperback market. If you believed the romance experts, anybody could get published in romance.

Except me. 

I am a historian. Majored in it in college. Taught it there, too. Big reader of historical fiction in my younger years before the historical romance category was invented. Seemed a good fit as a writer to meld history, fiction, and romance.

Not that I knew a thing about writing a historical novel, but hey, why let that hold one back?

Along the bumpy road to publication, I wrote two Civil War era adventure romances. Over many years of submission, they were rejected by every major romance publisher. And some agents, too. Granted, some of the rejections were nice, but they were in the end, rejections. 

My optimistic nature took quite a beating. 

But more than 40 local women had read one of my Civil War manuscripts, asking permission to lend it to friends and family members. This manuscript even won a Best in Show contest, pitted against every category of fiction and nonfiction out there. Why did all these people love my book, but the editors and agents didn’t?

Then one day I had an epiphany. I thought, aha! I’m submitting to New York (i.e. Northern) editors and agents. They’re probably not as interested in this era as we are in the South. Maybe I needed another route. Maybe I need to self-publish my manuscripts.

I began my research on self publication at various writers’ conferences. I bought a slew of books on the subject. Finally, I decided I’ll do it. I’ll publish my novels. 

As soon as I decided to take the plunge, I got the call. 

My first two novels were published by Kensington in 2004 because one of their editors loved anything to do with the Civil War. With the carrot of success dangling in front of my nose, I shelved plans of self-publishing.

It had taken me way too many years to find the right editor. Naturally, she left within a few months of offering me a contract. 

The journey continues in my next blog post.....

Friday, April 18, 2014

Rejuvenating Ginger

Welcome to the latest rendition of my blog. It started out several years ago as a tie-in to my website and promotion for my fiction writing. I didn’t even visit it very often. You know how it is, good intentions and all. Imagine my surprise when I realized people were visiting here! (According to the Google stats.) 

I’m not sure how or why people end up here, but it's nice to know you are. That knowledge convinced me to update the blog. I’m still a little hazy on the exact mission of this blog, but  as I mentioned last year, I decided to dive into self-publishing. 

Hmmm, more like get my toes wet gradually since it’s taking me so long!!

Anyway, for now I'm going to use self-publishing as my focus for this blog. I hope the journey, however long it lasts, proves enlightening for readers.

When I obtained the rights to my first two historical romances about two years ago, my plan was to put them into ebooks. I still plan to do that, but I decided to publish some shorter work first. To get the land of the land, so to speak, because this self-publishing business is complex. Especially when you do it all yourself.

Well, not all. My cover was created by a professional and someone proofreads my writing, but I’m doing most of it myself. I set up a micro publishing company (Saderra Publishing), I ran my first manuscript through rigorous steps to create a clean copy for the ebook format, read miles of contracts, set up accounts with various distributors, established a financial network, and bought a batch of ISBNs.

Whew! I get exhausted just reading what I’ve done so far.

A Dash of Ginger, Sassy Southern Essays, a selection of humorous essays I wrote for a local newspaper, will be my first ebook. Don’t you just love the cover?

I’m aiming for soon on the actual publication!