Self Publishing Is Not Hard: Reprisal

I’ve done a lot of observation of traditional publishing and indie publishing from the peanut gallery.  You all know how I started with aspirations of traditional, shifted totally to indie, and have swung back to some moderate position in between the two.  As self publishing has caught on, more and more traditionally published authors are putting their backlists out in e, following Joe Konrath’s example.  Which is great.  It’s good business sense and is going to help them continue to make a living as their profits from traditional tend to narrow.

But one thing has jumped out for me among this crowd of traditionalists starting to stick a toe into self publishing waters:

They all seem to be TERRIFIED of doing anything beyond the writing themselves.

I keep hearing refrain after refrain from this corner that all the formatting and stuff is HARD, and they’re outsourcing, paying people hundreds, sometimes thousands, to do it for them.

My mind is utterly boggled by this.

I’ve talked about this before, and I’ll talk about it again.

Now I totally get that not everyone wants to be a publisher and not everybody wants to actually DO the work themselves because they’d rather be writing.  If that’s the reason you choose to outsource, cool.  One of these days I will be in a position where I can afford to outsource some stuff too.

But if the reason is that you think that formatting your book is hard–dude, WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING?  Do they give traditional authors some special koolaid that makes them think that it’s all some mysterious process that requires a PhD in astro physics?  Is it an age/generational thing?  I mean, not anything against these peeps, but a lot of them seem to be 40s + age-wise and less techno-savvy than my generation tends to be.

Why are they so afraid to just Google stuff and learn how to do it themselves?  For FREE?

Whether you start out traditional or start out indie, I am a firm believer that you should know HOW to do all of this yourself (whether you ultimately hire out or not).  It’s part of being well-informed.  Part of it is knowing all the stupid mistakes the average person makes using Word (or their chosen word processor).  Once you learn these, you train yourself out of them, then the formatting process goes easier for whoever has to do it.  Part of it too is, I think you should be aware of what you’re paying for.  I cannot fathom paying someone hundreds of bucks to do something I can do myself in a few hours.  Just sayin’.

I’ve talked about this elsewhere, but I do offer plenty of free resources explaining in detail how to do this. As I said in my comment over at Storyfix this morning:

The very best FIRST STOP resource is the Smashwords Style Guide, provided by Smashwords founder Mark Coker (who is da bomb) for free on the website here.

Start there, read it from cover to virtual cover, and you will learn all the things you, as a writer and word processor user, are doing wrong on the front end (which will save you a lot of time on the back end for future project), and how to fix it. Which then leaves your book in nifty shape to move on to the Kindle and Nook versions, which I explain in great detail how to do here for Kinde and here for Nook.

Take the time to educate yourselves, people.  Knowledge is power.

20 thoughts on “Self Publishing Is Not Hard: Reprisal

  1. I’m quite luckily in that I use desktop publishing packages for work, so if you can use those, you can use Word, but I quite agree about the free Smashwords formatting guide. I used that (with a couple of tweaks) and I had a document that was good for both the Kindle and Smashwords. Formatting took me perhaps a couple of hours (including time for double checks and previews and so on) and I much prefer having control of that myself instead of trusting it to someone else.

    If you’ve got the wit to write a book, you’ve got the wit to format it.

  2. I’ve been surprised lately at how many people say the formatting for print or for ebook is hard. I’ve done both, just for the heck of it, and neither were that hard. A little frustrating the first time… but that was more because I was making stupid, stupid formatting mistakes while I was writing, when I could have just done things right from the start. Thanks for the links! I’ll have to go check out Smashwords Style Guide!

  3. Completely agree, Kait! I had some issues formatting Ravenmarked, but it was because of the map at the beginning. I also had to figure out how to do a TOC, which was a bit of a pain, but not hard. I don’t like doing that stuff, and I’ll be THRILLED when I’m making enough to outsource it, but I’m not afraid of it. It’s not that hard, like you said.

    I agree on the age thing. A lot of those folks are GenX, like me, and according to the stuff I’ve read as I’ve worked on leadership development projects, GenXers are some of the most tech savvy, entrepreneurial people around. So, seriously folks, have you been holed up in your towers for so long that you just don’t remember what it’s like out here where you have to–you know–adapt? You’re GenX, for the love of Pete. Buck up. It’s what our generation does. Get on with it and show ’em what you’re made of. Don’t you remember–you had to learn BASIC in high school, and dude, it’s just not that hard! 🙂

    Anyway… Yeah. I agree. 🙂

  4. I recently sent a resume to a ghosting company, to see what came of it. In their interview, I asked what kind of template we would be using. The interviewer laughed at me.

    “Oh, honey,” she said. “You just worry about the content.”

    We creative types. We’re so wonky!

  5. Scrivener generates ePub and Kindle format. Why everybody sticks with word processors? Anyway, I’m just curious, really.

    But what about the things you can’t do on your own, like an editor? I don’t have any idea where I can find one and I don’t know how much it would cost.

    Is this not knowing that is so frightening.

      1. I’ll edit it as much as I can, but as the author I’m not reliable for the job. After reading your own work 100 times you don’t see the mistakes anymore.

        Thanks a lot for the indication, I really needed one. 🙂

  6. I alway format for Smashwords first. Smashwords REQUIRES that you use a Word document, and their “grinder” is very picky. So if I pass the Smashwords requirements, Kindle is a breeze. :0) I agree that the Smashwords Style Guide needs to be read first. The newer version is much easier to understand than some of the old versions, so most people should be able to do it. I like complete control, so I like doing this stuff. And I’m in that 40+ crowd that you mention. LOL

    As far as formatting for print, I haven’t tackled that yet, but am getting ready to do it for a friend. Thanks to our good friend, Susan Bischoff, that won’t be too hard. :0)

    You know what, though? There are going to be some people that are never going to get it.

  7. I don’t think the issue is that it is hard, I just think they don’t want to be bothered with it. That’s fine. Painting a room in a house is not hard, some people just hate to paint and are happy to pay someone else to come in and do it for them. Essentially the same thing isn’t it?

    From a writers perspective I would be worried as heck I missed something and my book looked like crap on some device. As a reader it annoys me if the experience of reading on my nook pulls me out of “the zone” because some line runs off the side of the screen (Happens on a few pages in “God’s War” ) Can’t be sure how many words are off page, but it is annoying.

    In a short story collection, imagine the angst of sorting out story links and anchors for someone who has never had to deal with that sort of thing.

  8. Great post.

    I must admit I’m mystified, too, when writers say they are intimidated by formatting and the other nuts and bolts issues of preparing a manuscript for publication. Like most things, it’s something that almost anyone can learn. And kudos to Mark Coker…his Style Guide simplifies formatting.

    As far as editing, I think, since words and grammar are the “tools of the trade” for writers, it would behoove us all to be proficient in their use. And that would lessen the need for professional editing, although proofreading by a third party will almost always be necessary, imho.

  9. Kait, THANK YOU SO MUCH for putting these resources out!

    I’m still working on my science fiction manuscript, and I want to educate myself on e-book formatting as early as possible, just in case I self publish.

    I’m planning some nonfiction books to self publish as well, and the e-format seems like a must. So it’s better I start this formatting stuff early!

    I just subscribed to your blog and I look forward to reading more of your articles. 🙂

  10. I agree with most of your points. I think part of the tendency to seek professionals to help with such issues is a carryover from believing that outsiders (publishing companies) are the only ones who can lend a professional quality to the finished product. But as long as these types of authors are successful when they publish (we rarely hear of the failures) I think the myth will continue.

    Then again, some of them may have had success due to the quality of formatting, covers, etc., provided by professionals.

  11. I’m of *that* generation (50 years old, a quarter of the way through my life) but formatting isn’t what I outsource. Editing and cover design are. Formatting is as easy as mashed potatoes (can’t bake a pie to save my life)

  12. Hi, Kait –

    Thanks so much for the encouragement! I’m not ready for the indie route, but I’ve been storing away gems like this for a harsh traditional publishing “winter.” Just in case.

    I’m 40+ and don’t quite know how to say this, but …a little tolerance for us older folks, PLEASE. It’s great that it comes so easily to you, but the one drawback to that is you can’t understand how it doesn’t come easily to others. For me, the activities that other people take for granted – blogging and twittering and facebooking, learning html and widgets and pings and trackbacks – it’s all like trying to drink from a fire hose.

    We older folks didn’t grow up with this. It’s a whole other language (read: reality) for us. Personally, I’m proud of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned, and you bet your bloomers that I google everything! I don’t part easily with what little money I have, either (esp. since my oldest is starting college next year), so if I were to self-publish, it would be an agonizing decision to pay someone (probably younger than me) to do the technical stuff.

    Just sayin’ – thanks.

  13. you can also just write your novel in something like writemonkey – – and there’s no formatting headaches at all. all plain text all the time and to publish, it’s just right-click-export.

    not to mention, as you’re creating your masterpiece, you spend more time writing and less time fiddling with format along the way.


    1. I prefer Write Way Pro or yWriter for this, but yeah, same sort of idea. These word processing programs are not like Word and don’t try to do 8 million things for you. They produce an RTF (rich text format, which includes stuff like italics) without all the extra gobbledygook that you have to nuke in the typical Word file.

  14. I totally agree that you should know how to do it all. Later you can decide if you’d rather hire out certain aspects. Thanks for posting the links to how to do the mobi and epub formatting. I’ve already gotten as far as doing the Smashwords version and I’ll be getting ready to do the others fairly soon.

  15. Wow! Believe me, I would have out-sourced if I could have afforded it. I am working on an old IMack using Neo-Office and really didn’t have any idea on formatting when I began writing. I have deffinently made some time-costly mistakes which I won’t repeat. As far as editing went, I enlisted the help of several friends one of which had been a proof-reader for a small magazine and has excellent grammer. I have another friend who is a studying photographer who donated her skills to provide me with images to use on and in my novel. Basically, I have utilized the help and generosity of every friend and aquaintance I have to get my novel published.

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