Old Dog, New Tricks

Ok, so I can’t exactly consider myself old, but my recent self-publishing experience sure makes it feel that way.

I’ve been dabbling in the self-publishing sphere since I was about 15, so when I went to self-publish my newest work, Prism World, I admit that I felt like an old pro. Until I actually started the process, that is.

From 2008 to 2012, I self-published one children’s book (Random, which has since been retired), four novels (The Star Trilogy and its sequel, Ancient Vengeance, which are currently being rewritten), a yearbook for my school, and a book of poetry written by various residents of the girl’s dorm at the boarding academy I attended for high school. And I did all of that using the self-publishing service on Lulu.com.

Lulu was great, and I thoroughly enjoyed the services and design program it had to offer. But there was one critical failing: market. For good or for ill, Amazon.com has the self-publishing industry beat in terms of market. For $25, a self-published author can expand their market from online Amazon companies to alternate booksellers such as Barnes & Noble (should they choose to sell the book), libraries, and book resellers. For no additional cost, that same author can also make their book available to users of the Amazon Kindle, iPhone, iPad, and Kindle for PC, among other platforms. Because of the large influx of amateur and low-quality self-published books which tend to overshadow the small number of good ones (sadly, my previous books would fall into the low-quality category), there is a great deal of prejudice that the self-publishing author has to face. Thus, with the Kindle being one of the leading ebook platforms, it is certainly one a self-publishing author would do well to target.

While Lulu offered extended service and ebook formats, one platform it didn’t target was the Kindle. My mentor and fellow author, Glen Robinson, had, for some time, been promoting CreateSpace, and with market in mind, I decided to give it a try.

It didn’t take me long to discover that I had a lot to learn and relearn. CreateSpace uses a slightly different system from Lulu, and it requires a lot more review and approval by the company than Lulu ever did. Creating the book itself wasn’t hard. The system used to create a print copy of the book was recognizable, bearing many similarities to the Lulu system, and the only real difference was the approval step. When it came to the ebook, however? That was where the new system really got me.

How Lulu does ebooks now, I don’t know, but when I went to turn some of my print books into ebooks a couple years ago, the process was very simple and smooth. Simply put, the system transferred the PDF file from the print page to the ebook page. End of story. The book, in digital format, maintained the same look as the print book. The Kindle, however, operates on a different system.

The main thing that kicked me was the paragraph indentation. I type using automatic tabs. The Kindle, however, does not accept tabs. Instead, one must manually set the paragraph indentation. So what did that mean for me? Simply put, I had to go through almost 400 pages of text and remove each individual tab and then format the page for indentations. We’re not even going to talk about how much time that took.

The other problems I had were much more minor, but simply put I felt like I was wandering around in the dark trying to figure this system out. Though the Amazon systems are great in regards to market and general quality, there isn’t a lot in the way of help for troubleshooting problems and, more or less, what I learned about using the system was trial and error. While Lulu wasn’t much better in regards to guides, it was a much simpler system that was more easily self-taught.

Overall, though, I like the Amazon self-publishing system, even if it half feels like I’m selling my soul to the Devil for how much the company is eating up the book industry. It doesn’t provide for the production of hardback books, which is a downside for me considering how easily my books get beat up between usage and travel, but I like the option for creating Kindle books. I even recently bought myself a Kindle, though it was mostly just to see what my book looked like on it. (After my experience with the Kindle self-publishing system, I was rather paranoid that I missed formatting errors). So far, I’m liking the Kindle, so I’ll have to write about that experience later. And in the meantime, I’ll continue trying to figure out the ups and downs of self-publishing with Amazon.

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