So, do you ever wonder how all those eBooks miraculously appear on your Kindle/Nook/iPad etc.?
How hard can independent publishing be, right? I mean other than writing the book, that is. You put down your thoughts, you press a button, and there’s an eBook fully formed on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo, etc.
This summer I have three books coming out, all of them as eBooks and “hopefully” also as paperbacks, too–which creates an entirely new set of rules to learn and follow. The first two, Lady of the Night and Bayou Midnight, were published earlier in my career, and the third, Night Magic, is brand new, written this year to round out the series.
So exactly what goes into putting a book online?
A few years ago my agent suggested I contact my publisher and ask for the rights back to my earlier books. The letter was sent, and lo and behold, I was given the rights to a portion of my back list. I was on my way.
Which books did I want to republish first? The answer wasn’t immediate. Some choices were easy. I was partial to my books set in New Orleans, I’ll admit it. So I published The Unmasking–one of my very first books–right away. I’d also written a successful series set on islands in the Pacific, so successful that all four were made into television movies in Germany. So that series seemed like another good choice. And Dragonslayer had won the RITA from Romance Writers of America plus garnered one of Romantic Times rare 5 star reviews. So that was an obvious choice, too.
And then came Lady of the Night and Bayou Midnight, my first novels with suspense
How does a paperback become an eBook?
Since all these books had been written and saved in formats I no longer had access to, I had to send out the actual physical copies to be scanned into Word.
Once I had Word files, I had to edit each book to be sure:
- The scans were accurate.
- The books deserved to be republished.
- The stories could be updated enough not to show their age.
Each book was different. Some, like Dragonslayer, only needed tweaking. Others needed more rewriting. Since they’d all been professionally edited before their first publication, I skipped having a new editor look at most of them. Except for one. I loved Lady of the Night, but I was surprised at how dated the characterizations felt. So I engaged an editor I’d known for years and asked her to help me figure out what I needed to change and what I didn’t.
She did exactly that. I was delighted with her suggestions and made many of them. I was also delighted that she felt elements that worried me were fine as they were. In the end I did minor plastic surgery, not a total body overhaul. And the book I had always wanted Lady to be emerged.
And then come the covers.
Once the manuscripts were in great shape, covers were next. For my early releases I had the best of all help, a daughter-in-law who is a graphic designer and happy to pitch in. Together we worked hard. I found stock photos, she put the best choices together with fonts for titles, and created the “classics” banner for each of my romances, to let my women’s fiction readers know these books are a bit different.
Because my daughter-in-law now has two young children and a consuming job, I knew she didn’t have time to do covers, anymore. So for my New Orleans Nights series, coming out this summer, I hired a professional cover artist. And hiring a new artist? Well, it’s like hiring a vet or a pediatrician. You get a million referrals. You check them all. None of them seem quite good enough.
In this case, I stumbled on an author friend’s Amazon page and fell instantly in love with her covers. She recommended her cover artist, and I was thrilled. Then I realized how long I had to wait to use her. A good cover artist is always in demand. So I waited, but the results were worth every extra day.
Manuscripts and covers do not a published novel make.
Covers were huge time sinks, but once they were set, formatting was next. Every store wants something different before they’ll publish a book. Kindle uses a mobi format–the only store that does. Others use ePub. Each store has special elements and choices they require. At first I hired a virtual assistant to format and put the books online. But recently my husband took on that duty. We’re still struggling through some of the options, but it’s going well.
And did I mention keywords, categories and a million other things?
Finally, it was time to learn how to put the books online, prior to publication. How to format and publish paperbacks, as well as eBooks. And how best to design and promote the books so that readers can find and read them.
Did I mention that in the middle of this, I decided that Lady of the Night and Bayou Midnight needed a brand-new third book to finish the series? So I dropped everything and wrote one. Night Magic.
I’m delighted the New Orleans Nights series is about to launch. Once it’s done I’ll give some thought to which back list books to republish next. But that won’t happen soon. Right now I’m busy writing The Perfect Daughter for Mira Books. And I’ll be delighted to let them do all the other work once it’s finished.
Indie publishing is great, but it’s definitely not easy or effortless. What does the E in eBook stand for? Maybe exciting? Exhilarating. Energizing. Because having the control over every aspect of a book brings creativity full circle. In the end, though, readers complete that circle with two more Es.
Engagement with a whole lot of enjoyment mixed in.
So ‘fess up now. If you have an eReader, how many books are waiting there for you?