Year One – Part Seven – Just Don’t

By Evangeline Jennings

On the seventh day, some lazy cussers rest. Here at Pankhearst, we’re going to continue our week of birthday celebrations by talking about the book production process.

I had planned to write a very detailed and complicated piece – perhaps split over two days – in which I described at length the process of producing and publishing a book – complete with screenshots and all that good cuss. But honestly, there are so many out there already on the interweb that I recommend Google rather than me. Instead here is a very basic list of Do Nots. It assumes that you are working with CreateSpace (paperback) and Kindle Direct Printing (ebooks). If you’re reading this, you’re prolly smart enough to apply the same basic lessons to any other platform of your choice.

Don’t panic. Seriously. You can do this. Trust yourself. Be methodical. Take it step by step. Check your work. It’ll all work out just fine. This is not rocket surgery. Seriously.

Don’t pay me, or anyone else, to format your book. You’re a writer. You’re already using a word processor of some kind. Probably Word. It can do everything you need. Honest. Any extra functions you need, there’s free software for that – I’ll tell you all about the tools I used further down the page. Yes, if you are creatively and artistically challenged you may decide to pay someone to make your book cover. But unless you’re making more than $50 an hour and you really can’t spare a weekend to format your book, paying someone to format it is silly. It costs you money you could spend on something else and introduces risk.

Don’t pay anyone to have the final say on your content. The hardest thing about publishing your own book is letting go. Unless you’re a slipshod idiot who doesn’t care about quality or an indie punk renegade who defines quality differently. You can pay as many people as you like to proofread your book for you. It still won’t be perfect. The only person who cares THAT MUCH about your book is you. So suck it up and get on with it. You’ll learn a lot, I promise.

Do not lose control. This is critical. First, maintain one and only one master file. Second, assume that your house may burn down every night.

Do not have people – be they friends, family, or contractors – working on multiple copies of your book at the same time. Even if you think you can break it down into sections and reconstruct it later. Just don’t. I thought I was too clever to screw up. I found out otherwise. Anything that can go wrong will. And you will hate yourself for not listening to me.

If you send me your story to proofread for you, walk away from your master file until you get my version back. Go do something else. Work on the book cover. Prepare a marketing plan. Reintroduce yourself to your children. Get some fresh air. Write something new. When I send you my version back, read it scrupulously before you allow it to become your new master file. And do not lose the version you had before I started messing with your precious master work.

Never lose more than a day’s work. Take a safe copy at the end of every workday – give it a unique and meaningful name, put it your designated safe places, and never touch that safe copy again unless you need to revert back to it. Use Dropbox and/or Google Drive and/or a dedicated Gmail account to store these nightly backups on the cloud and therefore away from your PC and house – which will burn down every night.

And always obey the corollary. Do not confuse yourself by having multiple versions of your master file stored on your PC. You will only confuse yourself and end up losing three days work because you messed up and started working on an old file.

This is probably only funny if you're British and senile.
This is probably only funny if you’re British and senile.

Do not work on multiple file formats. The biggest danger here is enthusiasm. You think your book looks pretty damn good in Word. You decide to produce an ebook to read – perhaps as part of the editing or proofing process – or share with friends. That’s fine. Do it. But consider it a finished and temporary artifact. Delete it once you’re done with it. Do not try to keep the ebook in step with the master file. It’s a raging time suck and that way madness lies.

Don’t begin to format your novel for publishing until you have proof read the shit out of that motherfucker.

Don’t forget to proof read it at least three more times after you’ve formatted it.

Don’t penny pinch on ordering proof copies from CreateSpace. You need to proof read it in the finished book format. At least once. Things look different when you see them like that. You also need to check the cover looks right when it’s printed. In my experience, they tend to look darker than the electronic version. When you’ve done this once, you’ll see the benefits and know to repeat as necessary.

Don’t be scared to repeat the proof reading cycle until you find no errors. There will still be errors, but at least you’ll have done your best.

Don’t even start working on your ebook until you have the CreateSpace version completely finished.

Don’t even bother creating your own MOBI versions, unless you really must for fun. When you have created and uploaded your ebook to KDP, you will be able to download a MOBI-format proof for checking – and for use as an Advance Digital Review copy.

Don’t ever expect CreateSpace (an Amazon company) and Kindle Direct (Amazon) to ever work together, integate, synchronize, or apparently even talk to each other. Don’t even bother counting the number of times you scream in frustation at the stupidity and inefficiency. Just resign yourself to it. Your book will get there in the end and there is no point losing sleep or raising your blood pressure about the things you can’t control. Just focus on the things you can control – the two independent books – and when they have both been published, raise a ticket with one company or the other to have the two books linked. Initial linkage will be completed with 24 hours. Full linkage can take up to a week.

Don’t sweat an immediate shock and awe marketing campaign. You can’t coordinate with your publishers (Amazon and, um, Amazon) and you can’t expect book reviewers and the like to respond and react in accordance to your plan. Chill. Have fun, not a coronary.

Do not give your shit away for free. Or 99c unless it’s a short. Have some self-respect.

Don’t sweat the evils of pirating. Just don’t

Don’t stop writing. Publishing your first book? It’s only the first step on a long and winding road.

Eff it. I’ll tell you about the tools, process steps, milestones, and cuss tomorrow.

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