Not so bad, once you get the hang of it

Donigan Merritt goes all electric

Although getting the hang of it took a whole lot of time and a whole lot more mistakes.

My first novel, One Easy Piece, published in 1982, is now available via Amazon for Kindle readers (and, I think Sony and Nook, but I still haven’t figured that part out), and the Apple iBookstore app for the iPad. My two currently in-print novels, Possessed by Shadows and The Common Bond, are as of today uploaded to both Amazon and the iBookstore, although, based on how long it took for One Easy Piece to actually appear for sale (at the astonishing bargain special just for you today price of $2.99), neither will be available for a few days, maybe another week.

I don’t mind this delay, because what it means is that Amazon and Apple are checking and confirming what they refer to as the “metadata,” making sure I am in fact the author, that I do own the electronic rights, and do own the copyright. This is good. I don’t mind that it takes a few days to do it.

If you are considering eBook versions of your writing, this is what I’ve learned (so far).

I now know how to convert the old style 10-digit ISBN to the new 13-digit ISBN. I have not had to figure out how to get an ISBN in the first place because so far I am only doing eBook versions of already published print books. I hope I will always be converting already published print books to electronic, but doubts are creeping in. I am starting to think that eBooks “instead of” print books isn’t such a bad thing.

Kindle formatting is far more simple and direct than Apple’s iBookstore, but the final product looks grand on the iPad app, and rather plain and cheap on the Kindle. Amazon also takes your electronic word for things that Apple spends more time checking out. (Apple sends out a pdf file contract to authors that is 57 pages long — my print book contracts average about ten pages.)

Read the bloody directions very carefully; take notes. Correct formatting is critical for the final look of your eBook. It took a long time and a lot of mistakes before I finally figured out why the Kindle version of One Easy Pieces has no paragraph indentions, and why the title page is missing.

I much prefer the look of a book on the iPad and have spent more time with that particular formatting. I use Apple computers exclusively, and discovered that the “Pages” word processing program for Mac computers greatly simplifies the formatting process in preparing a manuscript for the iBookstore. In fact, when I signed up with the iBookstore – something called iTunes Connect – I was offered a simple template for Pages that essentially allows drag and drop, cut and paste accurate formatting to iBookstore requirements. I could take a document from MS Word and Pages would convert it automatically into a format I could use within the iBookstore template. I was some weeks discovering that simple method.

There are a number of services on the Internet offering to do all this for you; Smashwords comes to mind. I learned that it’s really not that hard, and the pre-prep those services require of your mss means you’ve already done most of the work. Then it is like having an agent who takes a cut from your royalties. Trust me. It takes some time, but if I can do it correctly, anybody can. The critical element to success with this process is READ THE DIRECTIONS.

I am currently reverting the original one-volume version of what Bantam published as a trilogy (the Hatch trilogy) for eBook publication. I am having to recreate some connecting scenes from scraps of the original located in a plethora of locations — all typed, not one byte existing. I’m about halfway through. It will be the next eBook I send out. I bring this up here because it points to what I think is one of the unseen values in eBook publishing: the rare and wonderful chance to fix literary mistakes from your past. (Assuming you have the rights reverted to you, which in this case I did.) It was a literary, although probably not a financial, mistake to have turned Hatch’s story into a trilogy, which required writing an entire new middle volume and sandwiching it between volumes one and two, which had originally constituted the essential whole, as well as having to write an entirely new opening quarter of volume three to account for stuff that happened in volume two. This process diminished all three. So now Hatch’s Island can find readers the way it ought to have been, the story the way it should have been told.

Stay tuned for news of the return of Hatch’s Island.

Here are the books currently (or soon to be) available for eReaders.



Categories: Uncategorized

10 replies »

  1. This is sort of the overview version. If you are going to do something like this, we can Skype or email about it in more detail. I’ll let you know when these next two have cleared the gates and are available for download.

    • I mean that the iPad reproduces pages more accurately to the file and IN FULL COLOR. The Kindle app for the Mac, which I have, basically just reproduces what the Kindle itself does, black and white with many formatting changes. The iPad offers a more “true” version of the original mss. The Kindle simplifies to the lowest common denominator. The Kindle is more of a “Just the facts, ma’am,” sort of device, while the iPad gives more froo-froos.

      Email anytime.

      • Amazon Kindle uploading is definitely easier and takes less time than getting onto Apple’s iBookstore.

        Yes, I used the “Kindle Direct Publishing” website and nothing is required that isn’t there. It is rather simple and direct, and some things they say there don’t seem to actually matter. For example, the directions to not use the ISBN assigned to the physical book, but to get a new ISBN unique to the digital version. I did not do that. I used the ISBN assigned to each of the three books I currently have on Kindle. It didn’t seem to matter.

        You will have to set up an author’s account that provides your complete bank information (that’s how they pay you royalties) and your tax information.

        Basically you just follow the directions and explanations are there along the right side of the page you go to when you “add a new title.”

        This is the critical and more complicated aspect: formatting the mss. I assume you already have an electronic file for Circus, so you won’t have to type or scan the book itself. Yippee.

        Kindle utilizes MINIMAL formatting; the more you use, the more screwed up the result. I used a template with Mac’s Pages word processor, not MS Word, and that much simplified the process. There are formatting directions on the KDP website, but I found them confusing. I much prefer the template approach.

        It is not direct and would take a lot of time and space to explain all these formatting issues in a comment to a post. I could send you the file for one of my Kindle book attached to an email, and you could use that file as a template — just cut bit by bit my stuff and paste in your stuff.

        Or you can just follow the directions on the KDP page.

        Be sure to upload the clearest picture of your cover that you have, and be especially carefully with how you describe the book and what genre(s) you place it in. That’s how readers find the thing.

        Kindle is a good place for Circus.

        • Don’t know about shared banking and tax data from CreateSpace, but I think it must be. Once you have that publisher’s account with Amazon, you can add books to it forever, it seems. I’m up to three and heading for six.

          I’ll email you later today, and attach a file, to answer most of the rest of what you bring up here. Not because it’s secret, but because it’s just too much data for a comment response.

          I did not check new title, because it’s not. My books, and yours, already exist. I checked “other.” New would mean you are putting up a book exclusively on Kindle that has no previous existence in another format.

          I did not so much type the book for each format, but mainly just take the typed version and reformat it as necessary. One nice thing about Pages is a feature called “export.” When you have a mss open, you can export it to four (I think) other format styles, including epub, which is the format style used by iBookstore, as well as pdf and html. When you click export, it converts the file open to that format and saves it elsewhere. So then automatically your original file is in two (or three) formats, as you choose. You can also export a Pages mss file to an MS Word doc file. Kindle prefers a doc file. So from a Pages mass you can do no more work to create a format for iBookstore, Nook, and Kindle. Word may also do this, but probably not to epub, since Apple uses that one.

          I’ll also write more about your further adventures in the email.

          Thanks for your visits here, Rose.

  2. Excellent! I’m still kinda amazed at this transitions of yours. I’d have thought you’d never venture in this direction, but I’m glad to see you have. From what I understand, it also helps having a backlist you can publish this way. Makes it easier to show up in searches, which is the old-school equivalent of shelf space, I guess.

    • From what I’ve been told, the best way to generate new readers is from reviews that appear on the page with the book listing, like on Amazon’s listings for my books. There may be a hint in there, but I’m not sure.

      Otherwise, most books are the proverbial pig in a poke.

  3. coming in late to this from montana. how good of you to share so much of your experience this way. and i like the way you hint slantwise.

    i’m curious how you arrived at the price for your ebooks…?

    rose’s sidekick,


    • Hello Sherry, welcome.

      I guessed at the price based on advice from two other writers, plus a gut feeling about what would be enough without being too much, and the fact that Amazon radically cuts the royalty percentage for prices much lower than that.

      It is the same in Canadian dollars, but 1.49 in British Pounds.

      And I figured if you don’t feel like paying half the price of a Latte, then you really don’t want to read that book anyway.

      Hope you visit again.

      • Here’s another way to look at the price. The hardbound version of one of my books sells for $25, and AFTER the advance is recouped, I get about $2.50 for each copy sold, out of which comes my 15% agent’s commission.

        With the Kindle, no agent and no advance to recoup, i get about $2.05 for each copy right from the first copy sold.

        Financially, eBook publishing is a much better deal for the author than print publishing.

        With print, pretty much all you’ve got is satisfying the demands of your ego.

        I am a slow learner.