The Reluctant Self-Publisher: Part 5--Text, Sighs, and Videotapes

Mobi Dick

Text: How do you convert a 300 page Word document into an ebook or Print on Demand book?

If you’re me, you have Rob Siders at do it for you.

I have no idea how to format a manuscript for publishing on the Internet, nor would I want to learn. If people write in and tell me it’s really easy, piece o’ cake, fine. Good for you. I’m happy for you, really. I just don’t want to go anywhere near it myself.

Of course Rob costs money. But to me it is entirely worth it for what I have in mind, which is to do the most professional looking job of publishing my novel, The Answer to Your Question, that I can. I don’t want any widows or orphans, whatever they are. Just knowing that such things exist in formatting is enough to scare me off. I may still end up with a few widows and orphans, but at least I will have done my best to keep the spouses and parents alive and well.

Rob formatted my first two books for ebooks. Feeding the Eagles was published in 1988 and Crossing the Moon in 1996, before the invention of electricity, and certainly before the Internet. They were out of print, so a few years back I decided I’d give them a second life as ebooks. Rob scanned the published books, because I no longer had them on my computer, and formatted them as ebooks. I put them for sale on Amazon myself. Piece o’ cake–with Rob virtually holding my hand when I got to a duh moment or two.

Having Rob format The Answer to Your Question cost me $710.00. For that I got an epub file (don’t know what that is), a mobi file (that either), a smashwords file (nope), and a PDF file, which I think I’m to use for the Print on Demand book. Apparently the mobi file is what I’ll use to upload (or is it download?) to the Kindle Platform for my ebook. I felt totally well-taken care of by Rob at and recommend him wholeheartedly. If you use him, tell him Paulette sent you.

Now in mid-December I’m still slouching towards self-publishing Answer. It’s not available on Amazon yet but will be on January 1st. You’ll be able to purchase the ebook for $2.99. The Print on Demand paperback will be $15.00.

But right now you can read the first two chapters as a PDF file by clicking on this link: The Answer To Your Question (Chapters 1 and 2) (The cover will appear as huge, so the text type will be large enough to read, but you can adjust it if you hover over that gray bar at the bottom and click on the zoom feature minus sign.)

And if you want to read the whole book, I’ll be happy to send you the file of the novel for free. That’s free, like in no cost. You can easily download (upload?) it to your Kindle, and your ipad if you’re lucky enough to have one. I just bought my first Kindle, and I was able to transfer the mobi file to it by plugging the Kindle into my computer with a USB cable, opening the Kindle as an external drive under “my computer,” and then dragging the Answer mobi file to “documents” in the Kindle drive. You do not have to know what a mobi file is to do this.

I asked Rob for instructions to pass on to you e-readers and ipad users. Here’s what he said: “The recipient just needs to sideload [that’s correct: sideload . . .] the files onto their device (or devices) of choice. If they have an iPad, they can open the mobi file in Kindle for iPad app or the ePub file in the iBooks app. They just need to connect their device to their computer and transfer them to the appropriate app using iTunes.”

If you want a free copy of ANSWER, email me at [email protected] with the subject heading Answer file and tell me if you'd like the mobi, epub file, or PDF.   I’ll attach it right back to you. The offer is only good until January 1, 2013, after which the book will be enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select, which requires an exclusive on free ebooks for 90 days.  Nor will I be able to make the first two chapters available then, for the same reason.  Sorry!   

I hate to ask, but if you can give me a review on Amazon and Goodread, that would be great--especially if you like the book! I’d be very grateful!  It would be helpful if you could do it by mid-January. 

I’d love to know if you enjoyed Answer, and if so why, and if not, why not (sigh). I’m fascinated by the reader reviews other writers get on Amazon and Goodreads, but I’m shaking in my Birks. Wow, there are amazing, intelligent, perceptive, articulate readers out there, but there are also people with bones to pick, personality disorders, off their meds, I don’t know what all. So I know I’m in for some pain (sigh). It goes with the territory of writing and putting one’s writing in the public sphere. I won’t even say Go easy on me. Be fair and balanced, as long as you say it’s great…

Seriously, though (not my strong suit), if you enjoy it, help me spread the word that it exists, in whatever way you can. I will really appreciate it.

Sighs: Having to ask for reviews. Getting bad reviews. And not getting reviewed at all . . .

How have you gone about getting reviews for your indie books? What has been your experience with reviews, and how did you handle negative ones? Any helpful advice to pass my way?

Videotapes: Well, it was an “interesting experience,” as people muse when they’ve been through something uncomfortable and awkward as hell but don’t want to come right out and say so.

I brought it on myself. I thought I should have a videotape because . . . I’ve honestly lost track of or never really knew why. To promote my novel? That’s about the level of thought I got to. I felt vaguely that people who are self-publishing books need to have videos and be on YouTube. I rarely look at YouTube myself. I’ve seen a couple of funny author videotapes, but I quickly dropped any notion that I could be funny. I just wanted to look sane. I wanted to be able to finish a sentence without losing my train of thought.

I wrote out “talking points” as a security blanket and taped them behind the videographer’s head. But the videographer, Tom Coben, told me not to look at them, just to talk, and he could edit out the parts where I lost my mind, basically. We discussed whether I should look directly at the camera or off to the side a bit. I had no idea. He thought off to the side, the traditional documentary style. He set up the camera and sat in a chair next to it, so I could talk to him, or at him, rather than staring into the camera. But I found it really kind of rattling to look deeply into a stranger’s eyes as he stared back at me intensely. Geez. I found it easier to look into the camera.

As it turned out, Tom was great. GREAT! You can check out his website at He does all kinds of very cool motion graphics, not just the simple “talking head” video he did for me. He’s an animator, video editor, and filmmaker. He doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same location as his clients. He’s definitely a find. He really knew what he was doing, not just technically, but how to handle stiff, nervous me. He was so nice, so kind, smart, professional and easy that I got through it. That’s about the best I can say for myself. It would make a “hilarious” video to see the “takes” where I suddenly drew a blank, stumbled into some dead-end cul-de-sac of “thought” from which I could not find my way out, buried my face in my hands in humiliation, forgot subject-verb agreement, and found myself saying things like “I’m really enjoying this process of self-publishing . . .” I’m willing to pay blackmail for him not to release those tapes.

Out of about an hour and a half of taping, he produced four short videos for me that I actually like. I have had to accept that I look and sound geeky, but hey, I’m so relieved it wasn’t worse! He charged me $35.00 an hour, and produced the four videos in four hours. With music. What a bargain!

What I will use these videos for, I don’t know. They’ll be on YouTube where no one will see them, and I may use one to beg for funds for publicity on Kickstarter, if I ever get around to dealing with promotion. But that’s for another day (or life).

Well, you know what they say: one video is worth a thousand words. Two thousand?

Here you go:

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  • Paulette Bates Alden

    Just went to the link for your book, Pamela, and it looks great.  I like your attitude about it -- it's too late for me, because I've already had someone format mine -- but it's so helpful for others to know about your guide. That is interesting about interior design for print books.  I'm learning as I go along, from you and others. Thanks! 

  • Pamela Olson

    People kept asking me how I formatted my eBooks for Kindle. It's not that difficult, just a little tedious. I finally wrote a little guidebook to explain how I did it, and also how to upload to Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords. A lot easier than scanning through a million free help sites and a lot cheaper than paying someone to do it. Plus you have full control, and editing is easy.

    For interior design for print books, though, I paid someone $500 to do it, and it was money well spent. Nothing worse than bad interior formatting, and that was something I wasn't willing to spend so many hours figuring out. Formatting eBooks is mostly a science whereas interior formatting is much more of an art.

  • Velda Brotherton

    I'll try to blog something soon on how I went about this. Formatting is easy once you understand a few basic rules. One thing I did not do for fiction: Include a Contents Chapter Listing linked to each individual chapter. Seems a waste of time to me. I did not use html coding, which isn't necessary anyway if you go through Mobi Creator after you've finished formatting. More coming and will send the blog along when I can get it done. 

  • Ginny NiCarthy

    Velda, even though I would not try formatting myself, I would love to hear more of your story. I have some books that are not quite out of print, but are selling few copies, and I'd like to regain the rights and put them on e-books. So please do tell us more.

  • Velda Brotherton

    Paulette, Whew! What an adventure you've had. Maybe I should write how I went about publishing my out of print backlist to Kindle, as it is way different from your experiences. I was happy to read about your journey, though. It let me know how much money I saved doing it myself, and getting six books uploaded to Kindle only. I've since found plenty of sites online where they will display my books with buy links, virtual book stores I like to call them. I guess I need to share some things here. I've done one workshop on "Exposing Yourself on the Internet" and have been asked to do another one in the spring at a conference. So the things I learned in this process are paying off instead of taking money from my pocket. The only thing I paid for was getting the books scanned and that cost about $30 per book. For that I received a PDF and a Word doc which I then formatted for Mobi Creator and uploaded to Kindle. I joined the KDP program so they are exclusive there for a while anyway. I'm looking at videos and the possibility and also putting the books to audio. Happy writing

  • Ginny NiCarthy

    You are generous to invite my “ideas,” so I’ll resist the urge to rant. You know, the sort of lament that begins, "Don't get me started..." and continues indefinitely. Besides Facebook and a FB Fan Page, the use of which eludes me, and a blog on which I've written what interests me, but may not seem pertinent to anyone else.... "Sigh..." to quote a recently encountered wizardly woman. I've had a video made of my first reading, to turn into short Utube items, but I don't like it well enough, and will have another soon. Yours is wonderfully friendly and welcoming. (My reading went well, but there's a difference between what works in person and what's on film.) Enough already.


  • Paulette Bates Alden

    On Ginny, I hope you can give your hair a break.  I am finding the marketing a challenge too, to say the least.  My post next week is on giving away books as a way to market ebooks.  Sigh.  I hope you'll enjoy it, and I'd love to hear more from you about your marketing efforts or ideas. That's wonderful about asking for help and saying yes when offered.  It sounds easy but really hard for some of us.  Thanks for your nice note and I love those adjectives you bestowed on my blog -- made me feel good.

  • Ginny NiCarthy

    Thanks for your lighthearted, serious, amusing, informative blog. I'm a survivor of self-publishing, but not yet surviving the marketing challenges. So I look forward to more of your ideas about how to stop pulling out hair or setting it on fire. The most important lessons I've learned are to ask for help, and say yes when it's offered. I loved your sighs.  

  • Paulette Bates Alden

    Elisabeth, you are so great. I've enjoyed our conversations so much via these posts!  I'll be happy to send you the mobi file, but could you send me an email at [email protected] -- and anyone else who wants one should do so -- because I don't know how to attach a file here.  Just put ANSWER FILE in the subject heading. Sorry for the extra trouble.  Wow, you love to convert files!  More power to you.  (you're kind about the videos . . .)  And you're so supportive and nice.  Thank you, Elisabeth, and for all the helpful things you pass along to the shewrites community.  P

  • Elisabeth Zguta Publishing

    Hi Paulette - Great videos!  Excellent way to promote.  Please send me mobi file of book- will be glad to read & review.   I personally love to convert files, like you mentioned it's a matter of choice.  If anyone else is techy out there, a great software to use is Jutoh.  The only part that takes time is getting the meta tags right.  A link for the software is listed in my website (which I recently updated)  Again - great videos.  You are doing great at this self-publishing business.