While I was waiting to get feedback from my editor on The Midwife’s Confession, I was not goofing off. Not at all! Instead, I was preparing my third book, Secret Lives, to release as an e-book. It will be available on Kindle in a day or so and is already available on Smashwords. When it’s up on Kindle, I’ll post about the story (one of my favorites), but I thought you might find the process of getting a book ready for the e-world interesting or, for those of you interested in publishing an e-book yourselves, helpful.
First, why am I doing this? I have several books that have been out of print a very long time–about eighteen years in the case of Secret Lives. I’d love them to be available again, so I decided I would experiment by making this one available as an e-book. I had no idea what I was getting into! Here are the steps I followed, all of which I had to discover on my own.
First, it’s critical to be sure you have the electronic rights for the book in question. No problem there. I’ve had all rights back on Secret Lives for many years.
Second, I needed a manuscript to work with. I no longer had a document for Secret Lives on a disk anywhere (believe me, I looked). The choice then was to buy special OCR software that would allow me to scan the book (page by page…ugh) or hire someone with that software to do it for me. Needless to say, I took the second route. I hired Seneca Brashear, sending her one of my two old yellowed copies of Secret Lives, which I knew she would have to destroy in order to scan. I wish now that I’d kept more copies of my older books!
Third, Seneca sent me Secret Lives in a editable Word document, which I printed out and read. Carefully. The OCR software is amazing, but it makes unpredictable mistakes. For example, the character “Cassie” occasionally appeared as “Lassie,” and quotation marks were sometimes dropped. In addition, this was an opportunity to edit the book, although there was very little I wanted to change.
Fourth, I put the changes into the document and saved it. I thought I was finished with the hard part. Ha!
Fifth, I created a book cover. Covers don’t belong to the author, so I couldn’t use the original ones from the hard and softcover copies. Not that I wanted to! The original hardcover is not only dated, it wasn’t a good cover to begin with. (The hardcover is in the upper left of this post; this “stepback cover” is from the paperback. I never liked this man and woman. They didn’t look a bit like my characters). I have a tiny bit of skill with Adobe PhotoShop, so I began playing with stock images (check out istock.com or Dreamstime.com) and created three covers, none of which were very good. Through the feedback of my commenters, I realized my mistake: I needed to create a cover more in keeping with the look of my current books. I finally came up with the one you see here. If you don’t know how to work with images and text, you’ll have to hire someone to create a cover for you. There are people who do this very reasonably, but I believe the cover is extremely important, so be careful in your search and be ready to work collaboratively with the artist.
Sixth, back to the book itself. Now it’s time to prepare the manuscript to be uploaded to Smashwords and Kindle. All I can say is, good luck! I found the formatting instructions daunting. Smashwords has a guide that needs to be followed to the letter. Even then, you will encounter problems. Guaranteed. I literally spent days fighting with Word and the finicky needs of an ebook manuscript, and what works for Smashwords doesn’t necessarily work for the Kindle. Once formatted, it was necessary to read the story yet again to hunt for mistakes. Suffice it to say, there are people you can hire to do the formatting for you, but I discovered a stubborn streak I never knew I had and I refused to give up. I’ll spare you the details, but I think I’ve succeeded in meeting the needs of all the different formats. Finally, I uploaded the document to both Smashwords (making it available to many different types of e-readers at once) and to Kindle (I’ll see if that was successful in a couple of days).
If you’re an author trying to make your way through this process and have any not-too-technical questions, let me know. And if you’re a reader of e-books, I hope you’ll think my effort to bring Secret Lives to you was worth it!