So You Want To E-Pub Your Novel?

You’ve finished writing your novel, your baby, your joy, your passion, and you’re considering self-publishing as an e-book. Why not, with nearly everyone you know toting around a Kindle or Nook or planning to get one? It’s awfully tempting to tap into that market, get your book out faster to your eager readers, and maintain more creative and financial control than with traditional publishing. But before you send that document to the digital arena, here are a few things to consider:

1. Editing. You are a professional, right? If you were to submit your manuscript to a literary agent or a publisher, you would present the best possible version, yes? Why approach this concept any differently because you’re self-publishing? You can edit your own work, to some extent, although a second opinion may do a better job. Can’t afford a professional? Find another aspiring writer and offer to swap. You’d be surprised what an objective eye can find. Until I employed a professional for the first novel I tried to sell, I had no idea that I’d started my story in the wrong place, had left a few plot threads untied, and had a character or two who could have been easily cut.

2. Proofreading. Ditto points from #1. For your own credibility, try not to do this yourself. After three or four read-throughs, even the best of us start missing little and big mistakes. If you don’t have the budget for a professional proofreader (often NOT the same person who did the editing), find a fellow writer with an eye for detail and propose a swap, or offer to barter for other skills. Just because you can pull down your e-book, revise, and republish rather handily, don’t let that ease make you lazy. Unedited, typo-strewn copies could already be out there, damaging your reputation.

3. Formatting. This can be a HUGE pitfall for the aspiring e-novelist. If you opt for the traditional publishing route, even if that publisher puts your novel out as an e-book, they are responsible for formatting. That means, for instance, new chapters start on a new page, paragraphs are properly indented, time/space breaks are properly spaced, symbols and punctuation are represented accurately, and your table of contents (if you have one) gets linked up correctly. You may be accustomed to checking for typos and grammatical errors, but how many writers think about formatting? (Well, me, but a background in graphic design will do that to a person.) Over several hundred pages of manuscript, formatting can get complicated. And worse, different platforms have different rules. Mess this up, and your e-book can become an irritating read. Fortunately, most of the major platforms know this. Amazon has a decent tutorial. Smashwords will even let you download a free e-book on how to format your manuscript to be compatible with their word-cruncher-uploader-doohickie that spits out proper file formats for different devices. Again, you can go through the learning curve if you feel inspired, or if you’d rather focus your energy elsewhere, outsource it.

4. Cover design. A cover alone may not sell a book, but a good one definitely helps. A dull design can get you passed over, and an inappropriate design might make a reader feel deceived. Again, here’s a place where you’ll want a professional. You definitely get what you pay for in this department.

5. Title. Consider your working title. Because you know your traditional publisher will. Does it suit the work? Is it too commonly used? Ask your writing and reading friends what they think of your intended title. Also, try Googling it. You can’t copyright a title, but you can make sure it’s not already in use for a book in your genre.

6. Read the fine print. Know what you’re getting into before you publish. Some platforms reserve the right to yank your content if they don’t think it’s “fit” for public consumption. Some reserve the right to re-price it at their discretion, or even offer it for free during certain promotions.

Finally, be prepared to market your ass off. But that’s a topic for another blog.

Are you planning to e-book it? Already a pro? Let’s talk…

(Photo courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti)

4 thoughts on “So You Want To E-Pub Your Novel?

  1. Genevieve Cadorette says:

    I am thinking of e-publishing my book and the editing process is weighing heavily on my mind. I know I’m not supposed to worry about editing until I’m done with the story but for accuracy and legal reasons, I’d like to get a lot of stuff out of the way now before I finish. I’m hoping that I can have it all finished by December so I can start the final edit and pick where I’ll want it published.

  2. Annie says:

    This is truly helpful advice. You raise some points that I hadn’t considered so I am doubly thankful I dropped by. I know it is maybe not what sells a book, but I have to admit…I love a good cover!

  3. Alannah Foley says:

    I heartily concur with your advice to have someone else look over your work. Although I’ve had (the usual) feedback on my manuscripts from friends & family, finding someone who’s a little more objective (and who has skills) can be really useful…

    Obviously, you do have to be prepared to spend the extra time making new changes to your manuscript. And having your work ‘picked over’ can be a bit daunting, but it can also be a Godsend. If you have someone who can criticise your work in the nicest possible way, that’s even better. In any case, you can choose to take or leave someone else’s advice. Weighing up the feedback is all part of the process.

    • laurieboris says:

      Definitely all writers can benefit from a fresh pair of eyes, especially when attached to a person who is good at giving constructive feedback. And yes, ultimately, it’s up to you. Often I’d get conflicting comments, say, in a writing group setting. My “rule of thumb” was if more than one person agreed, I’d strongly consider revising. And yes, it’s all part of your growth as a writer. One of my best lessons was from a professional editor I’d hired to review my first manuscript (see, even editors who write need editors!). I learned about the concept of fictional time, and that invariably my chapters needed to have their last lines lopped off to avoid weakening the tension.

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