A year ago, when I published A Real Piece of Work, I did it the hard way.
I formatted and converted the book myself.
Although I have some web design experience and am relatively comfortable with HTML and XML, and although the final product turned out great, it took me a solid month of 16-hour days to get the ebook formatting correct.
That’s a month that I wasn’t writing, wasn’t doing anything creative.
I drove myself to exhaustion and lost all of that time. Time I could have used to hone my craft. Time during which I could have written at least 30,000 words.
That’s a third of a novel.
Fortunately I didn’t try to design the book cover myself. Working from a sketch of mine, a graphic designer friend, Elisabeth Pinio, designed a beautiful cover, saving me countless hours and headaches. (Contact me to get in touch with her.)
Fast forward to June of this year, when I was publishing the second novel in the Dakota Stevens Mystery Series, The Rich Are Different. Just thinking about all of the work involved made me anxious and irritable.
I did a test-run of formatting the book by myself, but I couldn’t get it to come out right. The software tools had changed, and I had forgotten a number of steps in the process. Meanwhile, I had promised my readers that I would release the book at the end of the month.
Yet, despite all of this, I was reluctant to hand over this crucial part of the process to someone else.
Bottom line: I didn’t trust. I didn’t trust somebody else to handle this task for me. I didn’t trust that somebody else would do as good a job, or that my project would mean as much to them as it did to me.
One night I was up in the middle of the night. I couldn’t sleep with all of the worries I was carrying around, and I found myself going to Google and searching for ebook formatting and converting companies. There were several—too many, in fact—but they all looked too slick, too impersonal. I wanted to work with a person, someone who would allay my fears, address all of my concerns.
And then I happened upon Ebookconverting.com, run by a woman named Lisa Despain. She offered a lot of free information on her blog, and she had a friendly video about the process. My instincts told me that she was the right one for me.
I decided to take a Kierkegaardian leap of faith. I contacted her.
Besides communicating via email, she took the time to speak to me on the phone for a good forty minutes. She answered all of my questions, addressed all of my concerns. As for the result, well…it was excellent, and I’ll let you read my testimonial to learn more.
Now, Lisa and Elisabeth are terrific professionals in their fields, and while I highly recommend both of them, you might have other people in mind. That’s fine. Because this piece isn’t about specific vendors; it’s about trusting other people to be a part of publishing your ebook.
Consider the opportunity costs of doing everything yourself. Time spent on formatting and converting your book into ePub and Mobi files is writing time lost. Also, how much is your time worth? Because it’s going to take a lot of time—especially if you’re a newbie.
You’re the writer. Make your focus the writing—producing as great a book as you possibly can. That’s a hard enough job.
To that end, I strongly recommend hiring an editor and/or proofreader for your book. The number one complaint by readers about many indie-published ebooks is that they’re poorly written. If you’re a writer asking people to pay for your work with their time and money, you can’t be dismissive about this.
You want your work to be as well-written and as error-free as possible. Not only because you want every reader to have a great experience, but also because you know that the quality of your work determines your long-term reputation as a writer.
Do you want a reputation for readable and well-written, or convoluted and sloppy? As the knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade remarks, “Choose wisely.”
In his book The War of Art, an inspiring look at what it takes to be an artist (especially a writer), Steven Pressfield argues that a pro asks for help and recognizes his or her limitations. Pros hire other pros to handle aspects of their work so they can be freed up to focus on what they do best: the writing.
As writers, by nature we’re independent creatures. Most of us are suspicious of “communities,” which is understandable. But if you want your writing to thrive as an indie-published author, it’s imperative that you interact with other writers and people involved in indie publishing. Reach out to them for help, and be willing to help others who come to you. Promote their books or services to the extent that you feel comfortable.
Finally, help bolster the reputation of indie-published books by turning out a quality product. Hire others or barter services in order to do that.
In other words, when it comes to publishing your ebook, don’t go it alone.