Getting a Book Ready for the E-World

1991 Secret Lives hardcoverWhile 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). SL stepbackI have a tiny bit of skill with Adobe PhotoShop, so I began playing with stock images (check out or 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!


  1. Ann on June 30, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    I want to order this on my kindle as soon as it is available. I have the hardcover with the cover shown on the picture but I would like to re-read it on my kindle. The kindle is so much more comfortable to read from when you have arthritic hands!!!

  2. Brenda on June 30, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    I am not sure if I have this book at home. Remind us of the plot. When you have time. It sounds so familiar-the title. Thought I had all your books but if I do not will have to get that iPad to get it. Ha ha

  3. Margo on July 1, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I have the original hardcover of SECRET LIVES and love it…I am not a kindle or e-book reader but am happy for people like Ann and Brenda who have arthritis…it has to be so much easier holding it than the weight of a hardbound book…also, I’ve heard that with kindles you can enlarge the type so people with difficulty seeing are able to read so much better…Diane, it’s wonderful your books are coming out in this form for those who love e-books…spending whatever free moment you have in editing and preparing them for this format is making alot of fans happy.
    Meanwhile, I’m waiting to hear more about your next WIP (-O:

  4. Margo on July 1, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Brenda, I’ll give you a hint on SECRET LIVES…remember the cave?…it’s a big part of the novel.

  5. Diane Chamberlain on July 1, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Margo, all my books that are in print are available in electronic format, thanks to my publisher. If Secret Lives does well as an e-book, I’ll work on some of the other oldies.

    Brenda, Margo’s right. You would remember Kate and her cavern if you’ve read Secret Lives.

  6. brenda on July 1, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Margo and Diane, you are correct…I have read that book a dozen times…how can I forget the title? Good grief. Love it…Senior moment-again…I got 12 books at the library yesterday, and my daughter-in-law had one of Patterson’s latest…so I am in heaven…plus so many free books on IPAD…now these are classics…that I am reading…Rereading Pride and Prejudice which I left at home…in my hardcopy…but need to reread it for my new bookclub starting at my home in the fall. My next choice is January, and I really want the girls to read one of the trilogy of you, D., because that way they will want to get all three of them…I’ll see…Diane, on the ebooks…my son’s IPAD has the option to get Kindle also…so I can order other books and pay for them…which I will eventually do–when I get one of those…toys…glad your books are on ebooks…but I still prefer my book in my hand…both ways are good.
    Margo-thanks for the reminder.

  7. brenda on July 1, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I have to add—Diane, I teach high school and college and have little time to myself except my two months in the summer…when do you sleep????

  8. Stephanie S. on July 1, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I was lucky enough to stumble upon this book in 1999 in a used book store. It was the first time I read one of your books and I did so in one sitting on a rainy Sunday. I remember it like it was yesterday. I loved it! Needless to say it got me hooked on your books forever. Good luck with the launch of this on Kindle!

  9. Diane Chamberlain on July 1, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I don’t get much sleep, Brenda. When I first had RA, I needed to sleep all the time. Ever since I’ve been on the “good meds”, I rarely get tired and feel as though I’m making up for all those lost hours. I’m enjoying them while I can.

  10. Diane Chamberlain on July 1, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Thank you Stephanie. I’m so glad you enjoyed Secret Lives. Sounds like you can understand why I picked it to experiment with as the first of my out of print books to go electronic.

  11. Diane Chamberlain on July 1, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Brenda, this is how it begins…lol. One starts out talking about the wonderful feel of a book in one’s hands and the next thing you know, you’re flipping pages on a touch screen. I’ve been there. Right now, though, I’m reading a hard copy of The Thirteenth Tale because I’m reading it for bookclub and I find it very difficult to discuss a book I’ve read on an e-reader because it’s too challenging to flip through the pages to find certain passages. I just love that we have choices!

  12. Brenda on July 1, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    I read a book on iPad last after finishing one from the library
    It was easy as the iPad has a big screen
    Glad there are choices ESP for travel
    Love the concept of evokes

  13. Margo on July 1, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    I quess I’m living in the dark ages…I still go to the bookstore once a week and buy my treasured hardcovers and trade paperbacks…

  14. Caroline on July 2, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Diane, I’ve recently discovered your novels (I’m a 20-year-old college student) and am absolutely in love! I hope you do end up putting more of your out-of-print novels in e-book format. I have quite a few of the recent books to read still, but eventually I’ll run out. Hopefully your stubbornness wears off and you’ll hire someone to do the hard work for the e-books ;)!

  15. Diane Chamberlain on July 2, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Welcome to the blog, Caroline. I’m so glad you’ve “discovered” me!

  16. Emilie Richards on July 3, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Good job. This couldn’t have been easy. Did you also do some updating of the story, change references like Walkman to iPod? I know lots of authors do this, but I always have mixed feelings when I hear something’s been changed. Still, don’t know what I’ll do once I have the chance to do a couple of my own.

  17. Diane Chamberlain on July 3, 2010 at 10:02 am

    I didn’t update, Emilie. I may have done so if there’d been an easy way to make the story more contemporary (for example, in Summer’s Child Rory wants to impress his son with the car he rents. In the original book it was a Jeep. Now it’s as Hummer). But in most of my books, the backstory is tied to significant dates. In Secret Lives, Kate’s journal is partly written during WWII and that’s significant, so I didn’t update at all. Since the book was written in 1990, no one in the story has a cell phone or personal computers. . . and Eden, the writer, works on a portable word processor! The only things I changed were to remove one of the several love scenes that simply felt gratuitous and a small technical bit at the end that’s always bothered me. Let me know when you’re ready to work oon your out of print titles and I’ll help if I can.

  18. MaryC on July 3, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Diane, I was recently reading an older book by Nora Roberts on my eReader and I had some laughs at the typos. I guess that had to do with the way the scanner picked up the words because they were like your Cassie/Lassie example.

    I actually just bought a Nook so I’ll have to check for your book at Smashwords.

  19. Brenda on July 3, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    I do not like the books changed.
    I Love historical fiction and when reading an older book want things to fit that time period
    The latest Charles Martin that I finished in one sitting in hotel lobby-by the fire-was absolutely fantastic. Be prepared to laugh And weep and be shocked by the end

  20. Margo on July 4, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Brenda, thx for the update on Charles Martin’s THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US…I’ve never read him but plan on buying this one!…your vacation sounds wonderful & I can just picture you in the hotel lobby reading and sobbing with this book.
    Those surprise endings are wonderful…another reason why I love Diane’s books…(-o:

  21. Cathy on July 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Diane…can you tell us a bit more about The Midwives Confession? When is it due to be released? Sadly, I do not have a Kindle. I pass my books on to my friends and family so I guess I can rationalize no having one. Although I must confess the I have Kindle envy!! Thanks for so many hours of great reading. My family, friends, and quilt class love your books.

  22. Diane Chamberlain on July 4, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Cathy, thanks for asking. I’ll be writing more about TMC very soon.
    Yes, the problem with releasing books as e-books is that it won’t reach “regular” readers that way. But since it’s something I can only do on my own (since the book has no publisher at this time), it’s the only way to give it a second life right now.
    Brenda, I’ve never read Charles Martin. Will have to give him a try.

  23. Brenda on July 4, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    This book was rec to me by one of the women in my email book club
    She and I met for lunch recently with a couple of others
    She is the one who told me about our books so I knew it would be good
    Be prepared because it is not a chick lit like some books on the shelves
    Martin is great at his craft and in this book he kept me so intrigued from page one to the end
    It is different and had a surprise ending but one I liked

  24. Cathy on July 7, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Diane…I may have to get myself an e-book reader just to read your book. Maybe you have inspired me?! 🙂 Also, thank you for for getting me into Emilie Richards. I just got “Fortunate Harbor.” I feel a stong connection to the characters from “Happiness Key.” A lunchdate with you two ladies would be a blast!!

  25. Patricia McLinn on July 8, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    It’s terrific to have SECRET LIVES available as an e-book, Diane. As much as many of us love and read physical books, e-books also make sense. As others said, for those with arthritis, to pump up the point-size of the type, for traveling, for folks overseas wanting to order books without breaking the bank.

    And how generous of you to share your path. I might pick your brain about Photoshop use. I’ve been designing my covers on Ms Publisher, then transferring. Seems to degrade the graphics a bit imo. Been using pix I’ve taken over the years.

    P.S. Hey, if anyone’s going to have a character named Lassie, it should be me, right? 🙂

  26. Diane Chamberlain on July 9, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Pat, as soon as I get my act together, I’ll get the e-version of Secret Lives up on the site you’ve started to share our out-of-print books, If I can help with photoshop, let me know. I love playing around with it!

  27. Patricia McLinn on July 9, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    We’re looking forward to having you and Secret Lives at, Diane!

    And we’re adding both original fiction and non-fiction on the site. I’ll have a new book there as soon as I finish this last edit. . . . Um, better get back to editing.

    P.S. LOVE my avatar/cartoon. May I use that for promo pics?

  28. […] little more than a year ago, I spent a couple of weeks going crazy as I taught myself how to format one of my out of print books, Secret Lives, for the Kindle. I […]

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