16 April 2013

Twist and Shout!

(affiliate links to my publications)

I want to shout from the mountain tops: "Extra, Extra, Read All About It!" or "Hot Off The Press!" or "Inked!" But none of those seem appropriate. Exactly what do you shout with glee when you've published your first ebook???

"Heels Over Head" is now officially available in ebook format. This step has been a very long time coming; my goal was February 1! There were a few hurdles to clear and one speed bump I sort of side-stepped because it didn't seem to be leading to the finish line.

But my book is done and published, and the adrenaline rush feels GREAT!

I selected Smashwords from a host of options because they offer free conversion to all the different ebook formats (and free ISBN and free distribution to just about every retail seller on the planet), as long as the author properly formats the original manuscript.

Smashwords founder Mark Coker provides several thorough and informative guides to walk newbies through the hoops of self-publishing. One of his mottos is to keep learning. Never stop learning. I agree. So I read each of his manuals. Cover to cover.

I had a very difficult time keeping a straight face through the step-by-step guide to formatting a Word document in preparation for Smashword's "meatgrinder," which grinds submissions into each of the different formats for all the different electronic reading devices. I extensively format Word documents on a daily basis (often stripping them of all existing formatting and starting over from scratch because the formatting underlying the documents under multi-user review becomes unbelievably corrupt being passed from one computer to the next). I was shocked to learn someone else on this planet has actually been able to navigate and comprehend the maze called Microsoft and write legible and intelligent instructions to teach others from varying backgrounds how Microsoft Word works. Deep down inside, I was a bit jealous. Man, if only I had done that a year or many ago, it could have been my name as author on that spectacular guide!!!

Bottom line: If you plan to self-publish an ebook, make sure to read "The Smashwords Style Guide". Learning how to use Word properly will prevent so many headaches down the road.

Formatting my first book took me all of two nights once I finished reading the formatting guide (which I did on the train while commuting to and from work). Reconfiguring the book cover to meet Smashwords' guidelines took another day and many volunteer eyeballs. I wanted to make sure the cover I designed would be catchy and thought-provoking enough to draw interest even at thumbnail size. I instructed my volunteer testers to study book covers on their favorite book website and to visualize my proposed cover amongst the collection. Would it stand out? Would it make them want to read the book?

Once I had my cover finalized, it took maybe 15 minutes to fill out all the required information and submit the book. Pushing that final button made me feel as if I was on top of a 14er even though I was about 8,000 feet lower in real life. And then when I sold my first book two days later, well, my feet haven't touched the ground since.

I backtracked and upgraded my book description after reading other book descriptions on Smashwords. Sometimes I have to forget the "tight and terse" training I grew up with writing for newspapers. Advertising was never my bag of tea. Marketing is not something I chose willingly to study. But I'm finding I must develop those skills if I want to compete in the vast market of writers out there. My first book description was rather plain jane; after rewriting it, I had to take a deep breath and count to ten. I couldn't believe I'd written something so bold! But I think the revision is much more effective than my initial attempt.

My edits were published and effective immediately. Wow! Made my toes tingle!

The speed bump I encountered along the way was an attempt to copyright the book via the US Copyright Office. Back in the days of Journalism 101, every teacher and professor instructed prospective writers to get everything copyrighted. Period.

I submitted the book and paid the fee, answering all the questions as best I could and documenting everything I could to prove this book is mine. A few weeks later, I received a response from the US Copyright Office explaining I would have to buy a copyright for each segment of my book that has appeared on my blog.

My stomach turned. I don't have that kind of money just lying around. My head spun. Authors serialized books or book segments in newspapers I've worked for, and they didn't have to register each individual segment. I responded as professionally and unemotionally as I could and waited (and waited, and waited) to find out if my investment had been wasted.

Laws have changed and evolved as technology has grown. I didn't know what to do. A wonderful writers support group on Ravelry (yes, writers who knit and crochet; Ravelry has a special interest group for everything you could possibly imagine) encouraged me to proceed with epublishing without the copyright. Just by writing the book, they said, my work is copyrighted. They said a US Copyright Office registration is not necessarily necessary.

If someone does plagiarize an author's work, the official copyright will make a difference in a jury award, in the neighborhood of three to five digits if not officially copyrighted to six digits or more if the author holds that official copyright. I have all the documentation I need to provide beyond a shadow of a doubt in a court of law this work is mine, and that's all I need, according to the experts on Ravelry. Yes, the extra money would be pretty nice, but do I really want to tie up my spare time fighting this kind of thing for what could turn into years?


I've spent enough time in court with motor vehicle accidents and adoptions. I have no desire to see the inside of a courthouse again. Especially when that time could be tied up with riding or hiking or photographing or writing or crafting or even gardening. And that's that.

So, I may have lost the initial fee to copyright my book. I may have to file again and pay the fee one more time, but that's better than paying the fee 30 times... I must keep learning. I'm learning a lot more about copyright law than I ever thought I'd need. Meanwhile, my book is on the electronic shelves, and that was my goal. So nothing but smiles on this side of the computer right now.

And why, oh, why, you ask, would anyone want to pay 99 cents for a short little ebook that's already freely available, albeit in pieces, on the internet? I'm so glad you asked!

I've included the first chapter of my next book, which I'm now proofreading, at the end of the ebook version of "Heels Over Head." That first chapter is not going to appear here or anywhere else until I epublish the book. After I finish proofing the next book, formatting it for publication as I go, I will conceptualize cover designs. And then another 15 minutes with Smashbooks, and I'll have two titles to my name!

Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows I adopted two special needs children at an older age and raised them as a single parent. Words cannot even begin to describe what kind of inspiration adoption of difficult-to-place children provides. My next book is the first of three works of fiction I've composed, a trilogy of sorts, but only in relation to subject matter, not plot or characters. I hope the first chapter of "Heart Strings" will tug at your heart and make you hungry for my next book.

Because then you can stay on my case and nag me until I get it done! And that way, it won't sit on the shelf for eight years or more waiting to see the light of electricity.


  1. Nothing like publishing your first book, such a great feeling when it is out. Yeah formatting them is the worst part, hate it. Thankfully kindle and print is easier than smashwords though.

    1. Thanks, Pat! I actually thought Smashwords' guidelines were a bit easier to work through than CreateSpace. But, I guess I had clean documents to start out with because I'd started many of them on a Mac and had to strip them when I was forced to convert to PC. I don't really mind the formatting stage. I'd rather strip the documents than try to manipulate corrupt documents.

  2. congratulations! Really great that something good comes out of it.

    1. Thanks, Monica! Hopefully many good things will come of it...

  3. Woo hoo!

    I know an aaaauthor, I know an aaaaauthor, she's got a booook out, she's got a boooook out.... (happy dance)


    Honestly the formatting sounds kind of interesting. I love stuff like that. (In moderation.) And next time you'll have it all down pat.

    Good luck with this book AND the next!

    1. Sue, you crack me up!!! I like the formatting, too. It can be tedious, but it's what I do everyday, so there's gotta be some kind of satisfaction or I wouldn't be able to keep showing up for work every day. :)


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