Pretty Words – A Practical Guide to Formatting for Online Publishing

Starting today, and without a proper introduction—and that’s entirely my fault—my formatter, aka dear hubby Roberto, will explain, once a week, the art of good formatting. Since he is very knowledgeable and has lots to say on the topic, I’ll leave the floor to him right away:

When Monica started her book business we looked at all the different components of the workflow, from inception to publishing and marketing, and decided how to tackle each phase. We wanted to have a professional approach and put out on the market a polished product.

Some parts were clear: she does the writing, you need a professional for the editing and you definitely want an extra pair of eyes for the final proofreading.

For the covers, we started working with our good friend Alessandro, even though lately we started doing our own covers with some encouraging results. Yes, Alessandro, it takes two of us to even come close to what you did Smile

The last part to figure out was how to get the manuscript from its raw format to a format that could be published on one of the online services like Amazon, B&N/Nook, Kobo etc.

We looked around the room and thought, who has some background in publishing and IT that can get help with this?? She looks at me. I look at her. I look at me. I decided that it was me, the one with 25 year experience in IT, who should take this. The skills in setting the clock on my parents’ VCR and fixing remote controls prepared me for this and I was ready to support my better half in her new venture.

I went into it without much knowledge of the process and I have learned a lot. Now we can take one of Monica’s books from the original document to formatted and uploaded to the service in a matter of few hours.

This is meant to be a series of articles and practical advice on how to publish your work online and have it look good on your readers’ e-devices.

I will be focusing primarily on publishing to Amazon’s Kindle format which I believe will cover 90% of the cases. I’ll start with the basics of editing and how to prepare your document for formatting. We’ll then have a look at the tools for formatting and finalizing the document for publishing, including all of its metadata. Finally look at some of the variances for different online publishing services like Smashwords and Createspace for print-on-demand.

If you have any questions or have suggestions for topics you’d like to see covered, feel free to hit me on Twitter @robertoruggeri or Monica @momilp. For now get ready and let’s start with the basics and why formatting is important.

clip_image002About me: I am a technology freak, that’s pretty much it. I spent pretty much all my life in Information Technology. I started working for Microsoft in 1998 and I am still there making up the future of Xbox. When I am off work I play videogames, but every day that goes on I feel more like a videogame collector, I wish I could play them all. I am an amateur photographer, a Canon guy really, and a comic book collector, X-Men FTW! You can find me on twitter, Xbox and PlayStation Network and I have some photos up on Flickr if you want to connect.

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Writing Process Blog Hop Tour

The Writing Process Blog Tour:

Last week, Angela Roquet invited me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Hop. She asked me to answer a few questions and to introduce a few other authors. I immediately accepted, because if there is anything I like more than writing and reading, is talking about the great authors I’ve been fortunate enough to meet through Twitter and Facebook. The camaraderie and support of the indie community is something rarely seen in other fields of life. People who were strangers to me helped me in a way I never thought possible. I am honored to count them as my friends now.

clip_image002I met Angela last year, when a common author friend, Clare Davidson, invited both of us to participate in yet another blog tour. Angela is one of those individuals with sunny and supportive personalities who are a pleasure to have around. Her series, Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc., is urban fantasy with a twist, because it takes place in the underworlds, since—in a very democratic way—every religion is accounted for. I started reading the first in the series, Graveyard Shift, which is currently free everywhere, and I had such a blast I had to read them all. Its main character, Lana, a reaper, is an independent woman with a great sense of humor, and quite the interesting love life. Despite she would like nothing else than to be left alone, she gets from one big trouble to the next in a series of daring adventures. Angela Roquet is currently working on the fourth title in the series, and I can’t wait for it to be published. Meanwhile, she is coauthoring a book with her husband. How cool is that?

Now, for my questions:

1) What am I working on?

I’m working on a new paranormal romance series. The first title, The Lost Centurion, is ready to be published, while the second, The Immortal Greek, will be in my editor’s capable hands tomorrow. I’m already outlining the third, The Broken Angel, and I’ll start writing it next week. I am quite excited for this series, because this is the first time I work also on the covers almost all by myself—my husband is helping me whenever I lose my patience with all those technical things I don’t understand,  and there are a few of them.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The whole series is set in Italy, with flashbacks in the ancient times. I’ve been refreshing my knowledge of the Roman and Ancient Greek cultures for a different project, and decided to incorporate details here and there in this series too. I researched both on paper and online any little detail I can find about food, clothing, games, anything related to daily life in those ancient times. I even followed a Roman recipe and baked libum, a type of bread soaked in honey, to have a taste of what they ate. I had forgotten how much fun is studying.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write love stories. They can be dystopian, fantasy, paranormal, you name it. The common denominator is always love. I believe in humanity’s fundamental goodness. In the end, Amor Vincit Omnia. Love conquers all.

4) How does my writing process work?

My writing process used to be whatever the plot and characters dictated, which wasn’t very effective. Starting with this new series, I have drastically changed my approach. Now, I outline the whole story, chapter by chapter, and the characters. Then I write at least three thousand words a day. I am pleased with the result of the new method, and I am trying to write faster so that I can dedicated a few hour a day to marketing.

And now, here are the two author friends I have the honor and pleasure to introduce:

clip_image004Julia Hughes, is the author of several series, and among them The Griffin Riders’ Chronicles which is a great example of YA fantasy done right. If you want to give it a try, The Griffin Cryer, the first in the series is currently only 99 cents. I loved it, and immediately downloaded the second, The Griffin Boy, when it came out. Her Celtic Cousins’ Adventures series is testament to Julia’s ability to write with the same level of expertise in different genres. A Ripple in Time, one of the titles in that series, is part alternate reality, part fantasy, and part dystopian. Through a ripple in time, its main characters end up altering the course of the Titanic, creating havoc in the universe. Truly a fascinating concept, isn’t it? Not only Julia is a great author, she is also a great supporter of the indie community, always ready to give a hand to the marketing-challenged authors like yours truly. We are both participating in the #OperationMallory, a great cause started by Sean Campbell to help thriller author, Stephen Spencer, who is currently going through a bad moment in his life. If you want to give a hand, please consider spreading the word on Twitter and Facebook and/or take Sean’s challenges on his blog. This week was all about writing a blurb and several authors came up with great ones!

clip_image006Javier Robayo is one of the most prolific authors I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Javier can write like no other and in the most disparate environments. He is a trooper when it comes to churn out words. He is the author of several great titles. Among them, The Gaze series, that is probably the only contemporary romance series I’ve ever read. Javier’s writing and storytelling is that good that made me read in a genre that I’d never tried before. The first, The Gaze, is centered on a love story that not only is unusual, but makes you think about how everything is relative when it comes to human feelings. Its main character, Samantha, is probably one of the most complex characters I have ever read. The second title in the series, The Next Chapter, narrates the evolution of Lewis, Samantha’s best friend. If possible, since I truly enjoyed reading The Gaze, The Next Chapter is even better. Javier has also published the first in the My Two Flags series, a bittersweet memoir of his teenager years as an immigrant in a new and not so welcoming land. If you prefer shorter reads and want to get a taste of Javier’s literary talent, he has also published several shorts. At the moment, he’s probably working on ten projects at once and already halfway through all of them.

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Permafree: The Voyage, Day Five

Although The Priest is losing positions in ranking, day 5 went better than day 4 in terms of downloads.

It started with 907 downloads:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,105 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

It ended with 992 downloads:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,207 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

There were also 2 new downloads at Smashwords, for a total of 145.

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Permafree: The Voyage, Day Four

Started with 840 downloads:

#699 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Finished with 887 downloads:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,138 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

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Permafree: The Voyage, Day Three

The trend of downloads was definitely slower today.  At the beginning of day three, The Priest had 610 downloads:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #406 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

At the end of day three, The Priest had totaled 812 downloads:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #577 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Smashwords is stable at 143 downloads.

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Permafreed!

5 SF Permafree April 2014Yesterday, I contacted kdp’s support and reported that The Priest was free on iTunes and Barnes & Noble. A few moments later a representative answered, telling me they had already matched the price of the title to $0.00. At last, The Priest is officially free everywhere, and since yesterday downloads are trickling in. Below are the results I recorded as soon as the rank appeared. Hopefully, they won’t plateau as they have done on Smashwords, where there’s barely a download a day. Well aware I have a niche product, I am not expecting the thousands of downloads other titles experience, but I’m hoping this is the first step in the right direction to have the series noticed by readers who might be interested in my flare of dystopian.

I should have written down the time of day the changes in the rank happened, but I’m in writing mode and only had time to copy paste from the Amazon page.

TLDR:  At the moment, 10:00 pm, The Priest has been downloaded on Amazon.com 576 times and has reached #5 in the free science fiction bestseller list.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,660 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,252 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,241 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,024 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,372 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,368 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,927 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,560 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,517 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,635 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #858 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #793 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #676 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

 

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #674 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #642 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #570 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #545 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #487 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

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Permafreeing The Priest

granturco e mongolfiereEighteen days ago, I put The Priest for free on Smashwords. The title has been downloaded 119 times so far. Amazon hasn’t price matched yet, but the book is available both on Nook and iTunes for free. From what I understood, I am nowhere near the number of downloads other titles seem to gather overnight. Said so, I’ll try to get Amazon on board and see if it makes any difference. If that doesn’t work, I’ll find something else. Meanwhile, I’m writing the next book. And thinking positive thoughts.

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