Actually, in this article I would like to share my experiences as a debuting novelist. I'd like to share the euphoria and the hardships of writing. I want to offer some tips and tricks to help you if you decide to walk the same path. That, plus, I want to remind myself of how I can do better next time. After all, don't we all strive to improve ourselves?
1. If it's easy, you're doing it wrong
Because, believe me, unless you're writing a haiku book for infants, typos and errors will occur. I mean, I just misspelled the word 'errors' while writing this paragraph. Google told me that it was wrong, which is a good thing. Yet, don't just trust on Google to fix all your errors. You need a human for this job and you need to be thankful for that. After all, that person dramatically improved your chances of delivering a best seller.
2. Dare to dream...
No, I'm not telling you to write a book and go lay in the gutter and wait for the sweet embrace of death. That would be silly. I'm just saying that you should dare to dream. At night, or whenever you have the time, do that little interview or read that imaginary book review. It will send some dopamine to your brains which makes you feel good. While writing 'Cecilia's World' I did that from time to time and it was fun. In one of those fantasising sessions I even got to meet Neil deGrasse Tyson. Even in my mind, he wouldn't shut up, but that's ok. He doesn't know.
3. ...and prepare to be disappointed
About those tiny errors: it's a lot harder to discover them on screen than on paper. We'll get them out by the time we need to do a reprint, if we need to do a reprint. It was a bit disappointing but I guess that is the price you have to pay for independence. Besides, only errors give you the opportunity to learn.
4. Technically, it's almost rocket science.
-Black is not always black. In computer code, there are different blacks with some of them being printed as dark grey. Be sure to have maximum saturation on your text.
-Also be sure to make outlines. This way the result will be the same as on your computer screen.
-Do not add the cover to the PDF. You'll have to make a separate PDF for the cover.
-If you want a white sheet in between chapters, you'll have to add a blank page. As I mentioned before, the printers will not do that automatically.
-The cover has to be in a high resolution, otherwise it will come out blurry.
-Watch out for automatic page numbers. In 'Cecilia's World' the foreword is on page 2 and the first chapter on page 3. We did not find this tip on the internet.
-Do NOT use enters for page breaks. That is a hefty no-no. Your software has a function for that.
In all, it's best to practice a bit with your text editing software. I have used Openoffice and a trial version of Adobe Illustrator. Others will use Word or even others. You'll need to become familiar with the program you use. Smashwords, the platform where the digital version 'Cecilia's World' is published on, has an excellent Style Guide that has helped me a lot (click here).
Ebooks work very differently than books. In a paper version, you could actually work with enters instead of page breaks but if you do that with an ebook, the whole thing will look weird. Furthermore, ereader users can change the font and the text height, so they won't always look the same. Therefore, page breaks, remember those words.
Perhaps this should have been the very first tip on this whole article, but start with a completely blank page. Do not add any formatting before the actual text is written. It will only complicate things. Oh, and no double spaces behind dots at the end of a sentence. Apparently that's a no-no.
So you've written and formatted your book, now it's time to work on the cover. Hell is about to break loose. You will have to deliver a PDF and again, that differs from book to ebook.
Ebook: JPG of front and back in decent resolution is ok. You can upload those separately.
Book: Yeah, but there is that little thing called 'spine', that thing on the side with your name and the title of the book. That is going to be nasty, because it raises a lot of questions.
1. How wide does it have to be?
You'll have to ask the printers because that depends on the number of pages and thickness of the paper. For a 355 pages book like mine, the spine had to be 1.90cm wide.
2. How do I press that between the front and page pages?
You'll need a decent photo editing software. Photoshop did the trick for me, along of course with a very good friend who's good at this kind of stuff. He only had to start over twice.
3. Will it make me insane?
Yeah, and there will be more.
Like, make sure that there are a few centimeters of blank space around the artwork, plus a few millimeters of outlines. No text or important parts of the photograph near the edges. They might become folded over or cut away, depending on the format of the whole thing. That is why you should always ask for a test print.
Right, that should cover that. Or maybe not. I can only give advice for books with text only. If you want to publish a photo book or one with drawings you might want to carefully read the Smashwords Style Guide (here), and/or find more help. I checked into that, it's confusing as hell.
5. Now go sell books and become rich
How to do that?
For my ebook, I worked with Smashwords and I'm quite pleased with them. You can upload your text as a .txt file, plus the covers and they'll do the rest. You can also do an interview, which is fun, and add the necessary links in your author profile. Then they will publish the thing and you'll see it appear on a multitude of ebook distributors. They also have a Premium Status for books which will get your book to most major platforms. To receive that status, your book has to apply to the guidelines which should be rather easy if you follow the aforementioned tips and tricks.
There are other providers too. BookBaby is probably the most popular and they can help you with printed versions too. You can also go directly to Kindle or Kobo. That is up to you. Be sure to check the internet for alternatives that might suit you better. Smashwords did the trick for me personally, but I can imagine not everyone being happy with their service. They are quite strict in their guidelines, but I guess that only helps improve the overall quality.
Right, that's enough. Now go write your bestseller.