Kindle Direct Publishing Formatting Guide

E-Book

 

I recently wrote a guide on writing a book, and in it I said that I would write a guide to formatting for KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). This will be vaguely similar to my Smashwords formatting guide, but simpler.

I’ve heard of plenty of people using the simple, automated process that KDP seems to expect by default, but to be absolutely sure that no issues will arise by the conversion process, I convert my Word file into an HTML file first. Doing so means that, so long as I make sure only HTML tags that the Kindle recognises make it through, what comes out the other end of KDP will be exactly what I want. The only errors possible in this way are any made by me.

Most people think that because this is done through HTML, it is therefore over their heads and far too hard and technical. In reality, HTML is a lot easier to grasp than you probably think. More to the point, you don’t really need to know HTML; you simply need to know what HTML tags should and should not be present in your file.

What You Will Need:

  • Microsoft Word (it shouldn’t matter which version, and if you are using any other program, it should be the same principles – you may simply have to look harder for the menu options I mention)
  • Notepad++ (free here)
  • Dreamweaver (or another HTML editor)

Or

  • Windows Notepad (expensive web design software isn’t really necessary)

What We’ll Be Doing:

As with the start of the Smashwords formatting guide, we will start by tagging and then removing any and all formatting. Or at least, so far as Word will allow.

We will then save as a web page, telling Word to keep out the clutter. Word will ignore us and leave in lots of pointless crap we don’t want or need, so we will take the file to Dreamweaver or your equivalent and remove those unnecessary tags.

That’s it.

To see the HTML tags supported by the Kindle, click here. If that looks daunting, we’ll be using very few of them anyway. This is a list of the most commonly used tags. Much smaller.


LAYOUT

At this point, you should probably have the book laid out the way you want anyway, but if you haven’t then this is a decent order:

  • Title
  • Copyright
  • Table of Contents
  • Author’s Note
  • The main content
  • About the author
  • Anything extra

Of course, there’s a good chance you won’t want an author’s note, and a table of contents isn’t necessary.

If you’re unsure what kind of copyright page to put in, it can be very simple, or it can go a bit further, like mine:

Copyright © 2012 Ross Harrison
Cover copyright © 2012 Ross Harrison
Cover design by Cui Yuan
The right of Ross Harrison to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents act 1988.
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.

NOTE: If you are doing this after formatting for the Smashwords edition, make sure that the line ‘Smashwords Edition’ isn’t still in your copyright information.


EM EN EMs

You will want to make sure your em dashes and en dashes are done right. While we’re at it, we might as well make sure your ellipses and quotation marks are right. The latter two won’t look any different on Kindle (actually, the quotation marks may look different on the more modern Kindles), but the dashes will.

If you’ve had the following options selected while writing, and Word has automatically changed your dashes and whatnot, then you can skip this bit.

  1. Click on the big yellow button in the top left of Word, then Word Options at the bottom of the drop down list (in earlier versions of Word, click Tools and then AutoCorrect Options, then ignore step 2)
  2. Click Proofing and then AutoCorrect Options
  3. In both the tabs AutoFormat and AutoFormat as You Type, make sure the options ‘Straight Quotes with Smart Quotes’ and ‘Hyphens with Dash’ are checked

AutoCorrect

Click OK until you’re back on the manuscript. Now we’ll use Find and Replace:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to bring up the Find and Replace window
  2. Find: “ and Replace: “ (Double quotes will automatically change to the nicer, curved ones)
  3. Find: ‘ and Replace: ‘
  4. Find: – and Replace ^+ (This creates an em dash)
  5. Find: – and Replace ^= (This creates an en dash)
  6. Find: … and Replace: … (In Find, type three full stops (periods). In Replace, press either Ctrl+Alt+. or Alt Gr+. for a proper ellipsis)

PRESERVE FONT FORMATTING

In order to make it a little easier when we get to the HTML editing part, we’ll remove all formatting from the document. This means that italic, bold, and underlined text will become normal text.

The problem with this method is that if you had text in italic, bold or underlined, and then deleted it, there may be white space with one of those still applied to it. This won’t matter (except in the case of underline) in the finished product, but I like to keep things as clean and tidy as possible, and so I don’t want that. Because we’re using Find and Replace, you can get around this problem by replacing one instance at a time, ensuring that you skip over anything that isn’t meant to be kept italicised, bold, or underlined. It could get tedious, but you probably shouldn’t have very much of this in the book anyway and I highly recommend doing it this way to ensure no issues.

First, press Ctrl+H to bring up the Find and Replace window. Remember not to type the quotation marks in the following:

– Italics:

  1. Click inside the Find box, then press Ctrl+I and it will say ‘Font: Italic’ beneath the box
  2. Leaving this box empty, now click in the Replace box and type ‘[i]^&[/i]’
  3. Go through one by one, or click ‘Replace All’ (see above)
  4. Click in the Find box again and press Ctrl+I until the format line beneath the box disappears

– Underline:

  1. Click inside the Find box, then press Ctrl+U and it will say ‘Underline’ beneath the box
  2. Leaving this box empty, now click in the Replace box and type ‘[u]^&[/u]’
  3. Make necessary replacements
  4. Click in the Find box again and press Ctrl+U until the format line beneath the box disappears

– Bold:

  1. Click inside the Find box, then press Ctrl+B and it will say ‘Font: Bold’ beneath the box
  2. Leaving this box empty, now click in the Replace box and type ‘[b]^&[/b]’
  3. Make necessary replacements
  4. Click in the Find box again and press Ctrl+B until the format line beneath the box disappears

If for some reason you want to enclose your formatted text between something other than ‘[i]’, etc, you can; the ‘^&’ is the important part. That said, don’t try to be clever and use the HTML tags of ‘<i></i>’, etc, because Word will assume later on that you want it to literally look like that, and replace those brackets with code to display the brackets, rather than making them said tags… Understand? In other words, the result will be ‘&lt;i&gt;Text&lt;/i&gt;’.

Preserving Italics

Do the same for anything else that will need attention, such as chapter headings (except not i, u, or b).


NUKE IT

Strictly speaking, this step isn’t entirely necessary, but it will cut down on the clutter when we get to the HTML editing.

  1. Open Notepad++ and create a new file if necessary
  2. In Word, press Ctrl+A to highlight everything, then Ctrl+C to copy it
  3. In Notepad++, press Ctrl+V to paste in your manuscript

It will look confusing and messy, but that’s fine. Don’t try to change anything. Let’s make it slightly less messy:

  1. Press Ctrl+F and click on the Replace tab. Select ‘Extended’ in the ‘Search Mode’ section at the bottom
  2. In the Find box, type ‘\t’ (without the quotes). Leave the Replace box empty, making sure there is no blank space by default, and click Replace All. This deletes tabs
  3. In the Find box, replace the ‘\t’ with ‘\n\r’. Still leaving the Replace box empty, click Replace All again. This will delete blank lines. NOTE: You may need to perform this step again after step 6
  4. In the Find box, replace the ‘\n\r’ with ‘ ‘ (two spaces), and in the Replace box, type ‘ ‘ (one space). Click Replace All. This deletes double spaces
  5. Close the Find and Replace window
  6. Click Edit -> Blank Operations -> Trim Leading and Trailing Spaces. This will delete space before and after paragraphs

You work will still look confusing, but a little less messy. If there are any blank lines, perform step 3 again.

Deleting Blank Lines

Deleting Blank Lines


FLYING VISIT TO WORD

After saving your Word document, as a new version of course, close it. Now create a new Word document.

In Notepadd++, press Ctrl+A to select everything, and Ctrl+C to copy it. Now go to your new Word document and press Ctrl+V to paste your manuscript in.

DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING!

Now click the big yellow button in the top left (or File) and then Save As. Save in whatever location you want, under the book’s title, but save as file type ‘web page, filtered’ and add an ‘L’ (but lower case) to the end of the file extension. In other words, it should read ‘Your Title.html’.

Close everything.


WEAVE YOUR DREAMS

Now open your new web page in Dreamweaver (dragging it over the Dreamweaver desktop icon is the simplest way), other editor, or simply Windows Notepad.

If you are familiar with HTML, you’ll probably be relieved at how little code there is. If you are not familiar, you may be worried at how much code there is. The good news is, most of it is the same little bit of code recurring over and over, so it’s easy to get rid of.

To begin with, you’ll find things a lot easier if you understand that almost all HTML tags have an opening and a closing tag. For example, the paragraph tag opens with <p> and closes with </p>. The closing tag always has that forward slash.

First thing to do is find the opening tag ‘<style>’. In Dreamweaver, and possibly other editors (which I will now stop referring to because it’s getting annoying), the tag is in pink font, but obviously in Notepad it won’t be. Highlight the whole style section (remember, that’s from <style> until </style>) and delete it.

HTML Start

That gets the main eyesore out of the way, and you’ll now be able to see the start of your actual content. Let’s start at the top. All that needs to be at the top is:

<html>
<head>
<title>(Your Book's Title)</title>
</head>

So delete anything else and correct the title if need be.

The next thing should be the ‘body’ tag, but it has unnecessary rubbish in it, along the lines of ‘lang=EN-US’. Delete that, and the space before it, so that the tag reads simply <body>.

After the body tag, the next thing you should see is the very first bit of text of your book, preceded by <p>. Delete anything between the body tag and this. In my case, the only remaining thing in between is

. Divs have no place in our particular HTML file.

Next comes a simple but time-consuming process. We need to delete all of the unnecessary code. In the following bits of code, yours may read slightly differently to mine, so make sure to copy and paste from your own file and not this guide. At the moment, what we’re aiming for is to leave every paragraph with only the

tags on either side.

For example, the first paragraph of my first chapter looks like this to begin with:

As his nose cracked under my knuckles, I reflected on how much I hated violence. Not violence stemming from my own unresolved anger issues. That I was fine with. It was violence against women that I hated. I didn’t know why, but the prettier the girl the more I hated it. Maybe I was shallow.

It should read simply:

As his nose cracked under my knuckles, I reflected [...] Maybe I was shallow.

You’ll see that the MsoNormal rubbish is at the start of every paragraph, so it’s easy to get rid of a lot of that clutter:

  1. Highlight ‘ class=MsoNormal‘ (including the space, but NOT the right-hand bracket) and press Ctrl+C
  2. Press Ctrl+F (or Ctrl+H in Notepad) to bring up the Find and Replace box
  3. In Dreamweaver, make sure the ‘Find In:’ box says ‘Current Document’ and the ‘Search:’ box says ‘Source Code’
  4. Click in the Find box and press Ctrl+V (it may already be there in Dreamweaver)
  5. Make sure the Replace box is empty (that includes any blank spaces) and click Replace All

This will take around 30 seconds, perhaps a minute, maybe a little longer in Notepad. Just make sure to save after everything you do, especially with Notepad, as it can be a little temperamental.

You can probably guess what is next.

  1. Highlight ‘‘, this time include both brackets. Depending on where you’re from, this might say something slightly different, such as ‘EN-US’
  2. Open Find and Replace and repeat the above steps
  3. Now do the same with

Now it looks a lot less untidy. It’s mostly your text, with the odd blue (unless you’re in Notepad) HTML tag dotted about.

Go to the very end of the file. After the final

, it should look like this:

</body>
</html>

Delete that closing ‘div’ tag.

This should conclude the tidy up, because we took it into Notepad++ to get rid of as much formatting as possible. Just in case, though, you should run a search for the following tags and delete them if you find any. Remember to also delete the closing tag. After this, scan it all to see if anything catches your eye. Remember, except for the front matter – which we’ll get to in a minute – you should only see <p> in front of your paragraphs, and </p> at the end.

  • <div
  • ‘<p ‘ (that’s a space after the ‘p’. If you find any paragraph tags with more than just the ‘p’, correct it to simply <p> – there should never be a space)
  • <span
  • &nbsp; (replace these with ‘<br />’ – I’ll mention this again later)

THE REPLACEABLES

Don’t steal that title, it’s for my Expendables rip off with washed up TV stars. And I’ll sue you.

You’ll be wanting your italics, bolds, and underlines back now, I suppose. If you went through these in the Word document one by one, as I suggested, then you’ll be okay to use ‘Replace All’ this time around. If you did not, then you should probably do so this time. You may find that you have empty paragraphs dedicated to a closing bold tag, or some such. For the sake of tidiness, more than practicality, you might want to fix this. I’ll assume that you did take my advice the first time round though:

  1. Press Ctrl+F (or Ctrl+H in Notepad)
  2. In the Find box, type ‘[i]’ (or whatever you used for italics in Word)
  3. In the Replace box, type ‘<i>
  4. Click Replace All
  5. Now go back to the Find box and type ‘[/i]’
  6. In the Replace box, type ‘</i>
  7. Click Replace All

Restoring Italics

Now do the same process for the underlined and bold tags. Note, though, that there’s no point in putting the title or chapter headings in bold, because we’ll be doing that another way in a minute.

  • Underline: [u] and [/u] should be <u> and </u>
  • Bold: [b] and [/b] should be <b> and </b>

FURTHER FORMATTING

These are the basic tags, and others will rarely be necessary. If you need something that I haven’t covered, refer to the list of tags that Kindle accepts (link)(but not until the end of this guide). If you do, just remember to use the closing tags too (or you could leave a comment asking me).

UPDATE: Since originally writing this, it has become clear that using pixels as a unit of size for font, indents, etc., is not the best way. Kindle users can, of course, make the font whatever size they want, so messing with it isn’t a great idea. Because it is what I have used until now, I will leave it in the below examples, but consider these two points: 1) The basic font size doesn’t need to be set (the very next bit of code I tell you to put between the style tags), and 2) Where it is important to put sizes (such as the text indents), you can use ’em’ rather than ‘px’. Em will change the size relative to what the reader has selected – so a font size of 1.5em is basically 1.5x the font size they have selected. This is handy for things like chapter headings, if you don’t use h2, h3, etc. (coming up).

Paragraph indenting is simple to set up. Go back to the top and, in between the title closing tag and the body opening tag, put in the following:

<style>
p {font-size:12pt; text-indent:20px;}
</style>

This might be too small an indent for you, but you’ll be able to preview the file later, so unless you already know what you want the indent to be, just leave it like this for now.

The problem with this is that, in fiction, the first paragraph after a break shouldn’t be indented. What we just did says that the indent should occur every time the paragraph tag is used. To get around this, you can go to the first paragraph tag after every break and change that first tag:

<p> becomes <p style="text-indent:0px;">

If, on the other hand, you don’t mind having no indent for paragraphs (perhaps your work is non-fiction), then don’t insert the style bit at the top. Instead, if you find a paragraph that needs indenting, use the above code in the paragraph tag, but put ’20px’, or however much you want it indented.

Now, let’s insert page breaks (i.e. forcing a new page, such as at the end of a chapter). You’ll presumably want these between chapters, and after your title page, copyright page, table of contents page, etc. If you’re familiar with HTML, don’t get a carried away. This simple line of code is exclusive to the Kindle, so you probably don’t know it:

<mbp:pagebreak />

That space before the forward slash is intentional, of course. Always make sure to write your bits of code exactly as written here.

Next, you’ll want some blank lines. If we hadn’t taken the file into Notepad++, it would be riddled with iterations of &nbsp;. Instead of these, we want <br />. That’s a space between the ‘r’ and the forward slash, if it isn’t clear. You may want one of these, or two. In front of my title and copyright information, I’ve used three each to push said bits of content down the page to be more centralised. This doesn’t work with the older E-Ink Kindles, but seems to with the Kindle Fire tablets and Kindle for other devices, and I think it looks better like that. It’s entirely up to you.

The <br /> tag forces a line break. The forward slash tells you that it’s one of the few that doesn’t need a closing tag.

So, for example, the top of my first chapter looks like this:

<p>ONE | QUITTING TIME</p>
<br />
<p style="text-indent:0px;">As his nose cracked under my knuckles [...]

Well, actually, it doesn’t, because I have different tags on the chapter heading, but I didn’t want you to get hung up on that before we get to it.

Speaking of which, we might as well do that next. There are different ways of doing this. The most obvious is to use the header tags. That is, <h2> through to <h6>, getting progressively smaller. The <h1> is reserved for the title, so don’t use that. I would go for <h3> personally, but you may prefer <h2>. Anything beyond 3, though, will probably be too small. Again, you’ll be previewing this later, but if it helps at all, the section headings in this guide are <h2>, while the ‘What You Will Need’ and ‘What We’ll Be Doing’, back at the start, are both <h3>. There’s more of a difference on the Kindle though.
The header tags replace the paragraph tags, so the chapter I just showed you would read:

<h3>ONE | QUITTING TIME</h3>

You’ll probably want it centred, so that changes it to:

<h3 style="text-align:center;">ONE | QUITTING TIME</h3>

NOTE: The American spelling of ‘center’ is intentional. Don’t try to change any code to British English, because HTML simply isn’t written that way and it will stop working.

The way I have actually done my chapter headings is like this:

<p style="text-align:center;"><b>ONE | QUITTING TIME</b></p>

Why I did that…I have absolutely no idea. But I’ve done that with everything I’ve published on the Kindle. I have a vague recollection of something to do with a table of contents being automatically generated based on the header tags, but I don’t think that’s a thing. I couldn’t find anything about it when I Googled it. I can’t for the life of me think why I would have done that, but never mind. If you find any issues using the header tags, you can always come back and try it this way instead.

If you have any asterisks or other kinds of symbol for breaks, you’ll probably want them centred. This is as simple as centring anything else we’ve done so far. You’ll also want a space above and below the symbols, so it will look like this:

[...] end of section.</p>
<br />
<p style="text-align:center">* * *</p>
<br />
<p>Start of next section...

I’ll say a quick bit about some other tags you might use:

  • <blockquote> could be used for a newspaper clipping, or a quote from a TV channel, or something like that. It has it’s own margins and indents, setting it apart from the normal text. You can’t use the <p> tags inside it, so use <br /> to create new lines
  • <hr /> creates horizontal line all the way across the page, as seen breaking up the sections of this guide. If my content area didn’t have a fixed width, the lines would span the entirety of your screen. It requires no closing tag
  • <strike> formats the contained text as strikethrough
  • <sub> and <sup> create subscript and superscript

THE FRONT MATTERS

Now we need to format the front matter (i.e. the title page, copyright page, etc.). As I mentioned earlier, the title should be between the <h1> tags. You’ll also want it centred.

<h1 style="text-align:center;">ACTS OF VIOLENCE</h1>

Below this will be your name, also centred:

<p class="author" style="text-align:center; text-indent:0px;"><b>ROSS HARRISON</b></p>

You may have a series title to go above your title; do this the same way we just did the author name, but remove the ‘class=”author”‘ attribute.

Next is the copyright page. This is how I have done mine:

<blockquote style="text-align:center; font-size:10pt;">Copyright © 2014 Ross Harrison
<br />
Cover by Mark Williams, copyright © 2014 Ross Harrison
<br />
The right of Ross Harrison to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents act 1988.
<br />
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
<br />
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.</blockquote>

The <br /> tags could easily come at the end of the sentences, but I broke it up to make it clearer for this guide. I made the text a little smaller too, for aesthetics’ sake.

If you have an author’s note, or anything else, it will most likely be done just like a normal chapter, except you may want it centred. By now, you’ll be able to work out how to do that.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

We’re nearly there now. The table of contents is pretty simple. First, create a page (using <mbp:pagebreak />) and simply copy and paste in your list of chapters. You should include the title page and anything that comes after the main content. Enclose each line in <p> tags.

Next, we need to create anchors and links to those anchors. Go to your first chapter heading and change the line to the following:

<h3 style="text-align:center;"><a name="Chapter 1"></a>ONE | QUITTING TIME</h3>

What you put after ‘name’ is up to you; it could be the actual name of the chapter. This is an anchor, which we can now link to from the table of contents. Do the same for the rest of your chapter headings, title, and any other place you want the TOC to link to. In other words, put <a name="Name"></a> right before text, always inside the paragraph or header tags. Make sure not to use the same name twice.

Next, go back to the table of contents. We’ll now point each one to the right place. So, using the first chapter again, it will look like this:

<p><a href="#Chapter 1">One | Quitting Time</a></p>

The hash tag/pound sign goes in front of whatever you have named the anchor, without a space.

HTML Finished

Now save, go to where you have the file saved and double click it. If it doesn’t open in your browser, then something is probably wrong. It won’t look right in the browser, of course (not least of all because it won’t recognise the page break code), but you can test each TOC link to make sure they go to the right place.


AFTER CARE AND PREVIEWING

That should be pretty much it for the HTML side of thing. You are able to add images into the work, but that would make the guide even longer, and most people don’t have images. It also raises the delivery cost that Amazon charges. If, however, enough people are in need of help with images, I’ll add it to the guide.

Hopefully I’ve covered enough in this guide that if you need to do anything else, you can piece it together from what’s here. Otherwise, you can ask in the comments. If you require any special characters, simply copying them from Word and pasting them should do the trick; otherwise, here’s a list. Just make sure to preview to ensure it displays on the Kindle properly.

To preview your file, you can download the Kindle Previewer here. All you need to do then is click ‘Open Book’ and find your HTML file. The previewer will then convert the file into .mobi, which Kindle uses, and display it for you as it will on a Kindle. If you go to the top and click on the ‘Devices’ tab, you can switch between various kinds of Kindle to see the difference.

Kindle Previewer

Now that you have the .mobi (it will have saved in a folder in the same location as your HTML file), you can put it onto your own Kindle if you want. The save location will be slightly different depending on what device you are using, but for me, I simply plug my Kindle into the computer, open its folder, open the ‘documents’ folder, and drag the .mobi in. Then you’ll be able to open it on your Kindle for a better idea of how it will look.

Once it is published on Amazon, you’ll be able to download it for free (assuming you sign in to KDP with your main Amazon account), and know for certain that it looks how you want it to. In the very unlikely event that it doesn’t, you can easily update the file even after publication.


PUBLISHING

KDP

This part is pretty simple. Go to Kindle Direct Publishing and sign in with your Amazon account, or create one. On your Author Dashboard, click Add New Title.

The next page will ask you for the book’s details and those of the author. You will also upload the cover and HTML file here. Before you come here, you’ll need to have thought about both Kindle Select and whether or not you want DRM (Digital Rights Management) on your book. I have said a little about the former in the last part of my How to Write a Book Guide, but you’ll need to read about the latter for yourself. I always say no to it.

The second page is where you will price your book and choose your royalty rate. This is either 35% or 70%; each has minimum and maximum pricing requirements. You will also be able to enrol in Matchbook, which means if you have a print copy of your book on Amazon as well, you can give the customer a special price for the ebook if they buy the physical copy.

And…that’s it. Hopefully you found this guide helpful, and hopefully I’ve covered everything most people will need. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments.

How to Write a Book: The End

We’ve done the preparation, the writing, the editing, and you feel like you’ve reached the peak of a mountain. Now it’s time to turn around and see the next peak looming over you.

Remember, as with everything that has come in part 1 and part 2, everything I mention here needs its own in-depth research.

THE ROAD TO PUBLICATION

Publication

Perhaps you were writing only for yourself, or your friends and family, or because an alien parasite crawled into your head and made you. In these cases, you may not be interested in publication of any kind. However, even in such cases, you may still want to have a professional-looking book to give to said friends or family, or even to have sitting on your shelf where no one will ever see it but you. And the parasite.

– Which Road?

Will you be taking the traditional route to publication, via an agent and publisher, or will you be self-publishing? Again, this is an entire article’s worth of debate and discussion. Self-publication doesn’t have the same stigma as it used to and is not the easy route, or the one you only take after you’ve repeatedly failed to secure an agent and/or publisher.

Each route has it’s own pros and cons, and you should consider both properly and thoroughly. If you intend to go the traditional route, the next section is irrelevant to you.

– Ebook vs. Paperback

At this point, I’m sure you’ll have done some research…right? You’ll know the kind of prices you’re looking at for paperbacks/hardbacks and ebooks, which is more popular and from where, and which is best for first-time authors. I won’t try to steer you away from either, but I will say that whether you want a hardcopy version or not, you should do an ebook.

E-Book or Print

On the customer’s side of an ebook, they are usually cheaper, meaning people will be more likely to take the risk on an author they’ve never heard of. They are also more likely to buy it on a whim, just to have things loaded on their e-reader; fewer people do this with physical books.

On the author’s side, ebooks cost nothing but a percentage of every sale. Paperbacks cost quite a bit, depending on what source you use, and thus usually need to be sold at higher prices than paperbacks or hardbacks normally would.

Createspace and Lulu are probably the most popular destinations for those wanting physical copies of their book. On the surface, it seems free, but you’ll need to pay for a proof copy before you publish. That’s not really a big deal, although the price to you is usually the same as you would pay for an actual published book.

This leads into the main downside to services such as these. Because they charge so much for print on demand, you will have to up the sale price considerably to even make a tiny profit. I had to up the price of the paperback version of Temple of the Sixth to $14.84 (and £9.99) in order to be making $0.05 through the Expanded Distribution (i.e. channels other than Amazon and Createspace itself). Let’s be honest: that’s a little too much for a paperback.

For Shadow of the Wraith, I now use Lightning Source. They are a little different to the aforementioned places, and require a small annual fee. This fee means that the cost of actually printing a copy of the book is lowered, and I’m able to sell it for £7.99. Bearing in mind that this book is just under 130,000 words, that’s a lot more reasonable.

The percentage of sales I get from the physical versions of the books is so low as to be practically non-existent. Due to this, I made Acts of Violence ebook only. It’s a lot more popular when it comes to unknown authors.

– Cover

Despite the saying, your book will be judged by its cover. If you are taking the traditional route, this will be taken care of by other people.

If you are self-publishing, don’t make the same mistake that so many self-published authors make, and create the cover yourself. Unless you are a very talented graphic designer, the results are likely to be catastrophic. And the worst thing is, you probably won’t even realise.

I can genuinely say that I could count on one hand the number of good author-made book covers I’ve seen. You might think that the content is far more important than the cover – and it is – but if your cover looks cheap, unprofessional, and lazy, it will reflect badly on you and the book. Many, many people will not make it past the cover if this is the case.

Of course, just because someone is a professional doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a good cover. There are professional cover designers out there, but be wary that they aren’t just people who know that a book cover needs a picture, the title, and the author’s name, and so decide that they’ll call themselves a professional. Make sure to look at their previous cover designs. I’ve seen so-called professional covers that are simply horrendous Photoshop jobs too.

Kira cover

Another thing to know is that being artistic and being able to put together a book cover are not the same thing. That said, simply finding an artist may work for you. If you do it this way, the thing to remember is the size ratio. The largest size I have my ebook covers in is 1400×1867 (pixels), and that’s for uploading to Smashwords. Your artist will almost certainly work in a large size anyway, but make sure they know that it’s for a book cover and so needs to be large (the artist made the image for Kira’s cover 2400×3200, which gives me plenty of room to work with), and that it needs to be a certain ratio. If you want, just tell them the minimum size you need (as above, with Smashwords) and ask them to work on it at double that size.

Be aware, too, that ratios will be slightly different for different places. The ratio for KDP is different to Smashwords is different to the paperback. So to be sure, try to know in advance all the sizes you’ll need and tell the artist so he/she can incorporate bleeds (i.e. they’ll make sure the image reaches the limits of the largest size, while the important parts are placed so that they won’t be cut off in the smallest).

If it’s a paperback, you’ll need a back cover and spine as well. Createspace will have a cover template that shows not only the size the image should be, but where the spine text goes, etc. Even if you’re not using Createspace, if the company you are using doesn’t have such a template (although they should), then steal it from Createspace!

Obviously, I’m biased, but I think this method of finding an artist to do the cover art has worked well for me. They create the art based on my (probably overly-) detailed descriptions, and then when they give the me the finished work, I put on the text. Again, you should have at least a basic knowledge of design before you put the text on, or you may end up ruining a perfectly good piece of artwork. I created the plaque for Kira’s cover, and put the text in as though it were engraved, but I did it too small. It looks good on the A3 poster I have on the wall behind me, but you can’t make out the title in thumbnails, and my name is too small even in larger sizes.

– Formatting

Not hugely important if it’s going to sit on your computer, or be printed out on A4 pages and stapled together, but otherwise this is vital. It’s all different depending on whether you are going for paperback (or hardback) or ebook format.

If this is for an agent or publisher, they will likely have their own requirements for formatting. Usually, it should be double-spaced and in a certain font size. Tailor it to their requirements. For self-publishing, continue reading.

Formatting

If you’re formatting for a physical copy, most of what you’ll need to do is obvious: centre the title, author name, and copyright details; set the title, author name, and chapter headings to larger font size and maybe bold; indent paragraphs (but not the first paragraph after a break); set everything to a good, readable font and size; set out paragraphs correctly (again, indented and with no spaces between them for fiction, vice versa for non-fiction); set justified alignment.

Then the printer will have their own requirements. Usually, you will be able to download a template if you really want to, otherwise you can simply set the margins, paper size, etc. to what they tell you.

Formatting for an ebook is both easier and more difficult. Easier because there’s pretty much no design decisions for you to make. More difficult because it’s a more in-depth process.

If you are self-publishing with Smashwords, you’re in luck, because I’ve already written a guide to formatting for that site. I recommend that you do use Smashwords, but I’ll say more about that later.

For Amazon, you should preferably know HTML, as you can make the ebook look exactly how you want it, and ensure there are no formatting issues or glitches (other than by human error). Otherwise, you can simply upload a Word document to the Kindle Direct Publishing platform and it will automatically convert it for you. While this method does seem to be pretty well done, I personally prefer to the peace of mind that comes with knowing I put in something that couldn’t be screwed up by an automated process.

While writing this, I have decided to write a guide to formatting via HTML for Kindle (if you want the guide, let me know in the comments so that I’ll be enthused!), but until then, just follow Amazon’s directions and then go through the converted file with a fine-tooth comb to ensure there are no issues.

EDIT: I have now written the KDP guide!

– Proofreading

Again, this is unnecessary for those travelling the traditional publication route, as the publisher will deal with this and editing.

Proofreading comes after a professional editor goes over your work and makes you cry. They are the last stop before the book goes to print, and the last hope for errors to be eradicated like the vermin they are. They are unsung heroes.

Incidentally, I’m about to start my proofreading business

Proofreading

First, know the difference between a copy-editor and a proofreader, as you don’t want to be paying for something that you’re not going to get. For example, fact-checking is not up to the proofreader. If you claim King Henry IX had six wives, then that’s your error. Granted, in such an obvious case, the proofreader may spot it, and probably won’t ignore it, but don’t expect fact-checking.

If you’re self-publishing – which you are if you’ve read this far – there’s a good chance you won’t be able to afford an editor and a proofreader. Proofreaders are, although fairly-priced, quite expensive, and editors even more so. All the more reason to learn the difference before deciding which you need.

Most self-published authors tend to go for a proofreader. This may be the price difference, or ego, or perhaps enough work is put into their own editing that a proofreader is more cost-effective. The choice is yours, as always.

One thing I will say, though: don’t go to publication without having an editing professional of some kind go through it. For an average length novel, I would say aim for £600-700 and start saving a little bit every week even before you’ve started writing. Unless you have a money tree. Or a good job.

– Finding An Agent

Harder than writing your work of art is finding an agent for it. You will, of course, need an agent who represents the genre that you’ve written in. This has varying degrees of difficulty depending on said genre. When I was looking for an agent for Shadow of the Wraith, it was quite difficult to find agents who represented sci-fi, were taking submissions, and weren’t looking only for hard sci-fi or YA sci-fi.

Don’t be afraid to query the agency if you’re unsure. They might list sci-fi but not fantasy, and while the chances are that means they don’t accept fantasy, the two are usually pushed together so it’s reasonable to ask. But don’t ask an agent who lists only children’s books if they’ll accept your anthology of erotica short stories, or one who lists only romance if they’ll accept your dark fantasy Game of Thrones killer.

Literary Agent

As usual, a good place to start is the internet. You can find lists of literary agents such as this one, which is for UK agents. There’s not a lot of point trying to get an agent who isn’t based in your country, so search for ‘literary agents [country]’.

Next, follow the submission guidelines for the agents very closely; don’t assume that simply getting in contact is sufficient, or that every agency’s policies are the same. If an agency lists on their website an agent dedicated to your genre, address your submission to that person (unless otherwise directed), using their name in the cover letter.

NOTE: Before you send anything to anyone, take a copy of your work – be it printed, on CD, or on a flash drive – and post it to yourself. Then don’t open it when it arrives. This way, you’ll be able to prove (with the sealed, dated envelope) that the work is yours, should the need ever arise. Which it probably won’t.

Generally, you will need the following:

  1. A cover/query letter – this basically states the genre, the word count, a brief outline (the blurb should suffice), and perhaps anything unique about the book. DO NOT write one cover letter and send it to every agency – address the agent by name if you know it, and if possible, make a mention of something about the agency (without being contrived) that shows you’re not just using the spray-and-pray method.
  2. The synopsis – this is a more detailed outline of the book. It is notoriously difficult to write a synopsis, but read some samples and a few guides on how to write them and it won’t be too much of a challenge. Don’t be afraid to give away plot twists in the synopsis, as much as you want to keep them close to your chest. A synopsis is usually between one and two A4 pages (the agency may specify a length).
  3. The manuscript. Not all of it, of course. Usually, they will ask for around 2-3 chapters or 30-50 pages. By this, they mean the first chapters or pages – and they usually clearly specify that too – so don’t try to pick out the best 50 pages in your book. Make sure it is in the specified format (usually Word, sometimes PDF, or simply posted).

Again, follow the individual agency’s directions closely. Don’t email the manuscript to them if they say postal submissions only, don’t Tweet them your pitch, etc. Do only what they say, or you will annoy them and make yourself seem unprofessional. Not to mention if you show that you can’t read and follow simple directions, why would they want to work with you?

It will be helpful to set up some kind of document to keep track of what agencies you have submitted to, when, who has responded, who has rejected, etc. You will probably be submitting to quite a few agencies and you don’t want to accidentally do so twice.

Rejections

You will be getting a lot of rejections, unless you’re very lucky or have insane, never-before-seen talent. Don’t forget that a lot of agents will have interns or whatever who look at the submissions before any actual agent does, and it might not even get past them. Cruel and unfair, but reality. Also, plenty of agents have to confer with their colleagues even after they decide they like a manuscript, so the final rejection may come after long deliberation. Just look for lists of how many times famous authors were rejected, and you might feel a bit better.

You’ll have come across the warnings in your RESEARCH, but make sure you don’t waste any time with an agent (or publisher) who wants you to pay them for anything. At best this will turn out to simply be vanity publishing (where your books will get printed out and then sit in a warehouse doing nothing), or at worst it will be a scam. Real agents will only ever make their money as a percentage of what you earn.

– Finding A Publisher

This will be taken care of by your agent, once you have secured one. While actually getting an agent is a very big step, getting a publisher will be equally difficult and stressful. But at least your agent will be doing the work for you.

There are some publishers – indie ones – who will accept submissions directly from authors, in the same way as an agent. One problem with these is that their funds will be limited, and you will end up doing a lot of work to market and get your book into bookshops and so on. On the other hand, authors are having to be more involved in that with bigger publishers these days anyway. And an indie publisher will have the enthusiasm to do the best they can for you; they won’t be foolish enough to be in it for the money!

The bigger downside is that this is the area where most scammers operate. They will pose as indie publishers, waiting for naïve, hopeful first-time authors to walk into their trap, thinking that they’ll cut out the middleman and keep more royalties. Again, though, if there is any mention at any time of you paying the publisher for anything, you know to walk away. Which means not signing anything until the entire process and obligations of both parties are down in writing. Make sure to read that writing very carefully, and if you don’t understand anything, get professional help to read it (asking the publisher what it means kind of defeats the point).

But genuine indie publishers do exist; I’m friends with one on Facebook.

– Where To Self-Publish

If this is the route you decide, there are multiple platforms for self-publishing. To name just a few:

Buy from Smashwords

As I mentioned, I use Lightning Source and Createspace for the paperbacks, Lulu for a hardback, and KDP and Smashwords for the ebooks. I looked into Feed-a-Read and found it to be too expensive, and the same goes for Lulu – although the special edition hardback of Shadow of the Wraith is for sale, I really only went that route for myself.

In the future, I will only use Lightning Source for paperbacks, as Createspace is expensive and has pretty poor service. If you decide to publish in paperback, do plenty of research into who does what. You’ll want to know where they distribute to, and if it costs extra to distribute beyond their own marketplace (Createspace only recently made it free to distribute to outlets beyond it’s parent, Amazon, even though in reality this means simply listing the book title with those outlets, not shipping physical books to them).

When it comes to ebooks, I don’t think there’s any need to look beyond Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and Smashwords. Obviously you’ll want your book available on Amazon, for Kindle. The way to go about this is directly publishing with them. As I mentioned, I will at some point write a guide to properly formatting your book for KDP with HTML, but until then, just follow their directions.

You will be hassled at first about enrolling the book into KDP Select. This requires you to give Amazon exclusivity for 90 days, meaning you can’t publish the ebook anywhere else. Again, research it. I enrolled Shadow of the Wraith into Select, and got a lot out of it. I was able to set the book to free for up to five days within those three months, and a lot of real sales came out of that. However, when I did the same with Acts of Violence, I think something had changed. The free days yielded no real sales at all. I can’t be sure, but I think when I first did it, the book’s rank remained high for a while after it was free, allowing it to be seen more. But the second time round, the rank disappeared the moment it went back to normal price, meaning it didn’t have any extra exposure. I won’t bother with it again. It’s only 90 days, though, so perhaps you’ll decide it’s worth a try.

After KDP, really the only other place you need to go is Smashwords. There are others, but Smashwords pretty much covers everywhere you’ll want your book to be sold, including Apple iTunes/iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. It will also be distributed to three companies that sell to libraries, a handful of places you’ve probably never heard of, and will be sold on Smashwords itself. It will also turn up in places you don’t expect, like Waterstones and so on.

So, in short, publish with KDP and Smashwords.

– Advertise

Don’t sit back and expect the book to start selling by itself. Inform those writing groups and whatnot that you’ve been in contact with, use Facebook and Twitter (learn to use hash tags properly), find other websites to join and utilise, such as creating an author profile on Goodreads.

Advertise

Forums are good places to go, if you are going to participate in conversations, and not use them solely for advertising. There are two Kindle-specific forums that I use occasionally: Kindle Users Forum (UK) and KBoards (US). Each have some small downsides, such as restriction of threads and posts about your own work, but if you use them right, you’ll see a spike in sales.

As with everything else, research. The advertising part is a process almost as in-depth as the rest, and there is no sure-fire way to success. There are places to get free press releases, review bloggers to get you well-written reviews, and plenty of other things you won’t think of if you haven’t researched.

PROFIT!

Profit

Or more likely, don’t. Receive a trickle of money, if you’re lucky. Either way, keep advertising and keep writing.

THE END

How to Write a Book: The Middle

So, we’ve covered the preparation stages in part 1, now it’s on to the main event:

NOW, WRITE!

Finally, we’re ready to start the fun part. It only took us 3,000 words to get here. All of that preparation might have been a pain, but there are two bits of good news. First, if you made it through the pain, there’s a good chance you’re definitely writer. Second, you’ll be glad of all the planning and research while you happily write away, fully aware of who your characters are, and their motivations and whatnot.

Fountain Pen

While fun, this part is also tricky, because it’s where people are unsure if they are ‘doing it right’. It’s extremely hard, if not impossible, to tell someone how to write something good. It either happens or it doesn’t. That said, don’t expect to have something publishable come out of your first attempt. Some authors have numerous fully completed manuscripts lying in drawers that will never see the light of day, because they’re not good enough.

The best advice I have heard or can give is to simply write for yourself. Write something that you would want to read. Try never to think ‘ah, that’ll do’. Enjoy the process and the work itself. As for knowing when it’s properly finished, or if it’s publishable, that’s pretty much up to you to decide for yourself – but don’t forget you have friends and family!

– Just Write

This part of the process is all about getting everything out of your head. Don’t edit what you’re writing. Don’t worry too much about your sentence structure, how many adjectives you’re using, and how many iterations of ‘was’ and ‘that’ you’re using. Hopefully, you should be writing fairly well by default, but all this will come in the rewriting and editing stages.

Characters come alive

By Jodi Harvey-Brown

If you’re not sure where to start even after planning, just start with anything you’re sure of: maybe a scene you have in your head, or have the protagonist do something normal and everyday, like going to the corner shop, so we’re introduced and you get into the flow of writing. You’re not chiselling into the side of a mountain, so you can afford to do things out of order and write stuff that will never make it near the finished work.

Your characters will take you in directions you didn’t expect, and reveal things about themselves that you may not have known without a thorough background check. This is part of the fun, and you will do more harm than good if you scold them and force them back onto the path you’ve set out for them.

– Backup

Remember what I said in part 1 about my computer deleting all of the work I’d done? Save to multiple computers, flash drives, external hard drives, Dropbox, even send your work to yourself in an email attachment. And backup very regularly.

– Chapters

You don’t have to decide how you want to do your chapters at this stage. You may find your scenes splitting themselves up into natural chapters as you go, or you may have to go back through later to insert them. You may decide that you don’t want to use traditional chapters. In my NEXUS series, I haven’t so far used chapters in the normal way, with numbers and/or names. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Terry Pratchett book in which he uses any kind of chapters.

It’s up to you and what you think suits your particular book. There isn’t really a right or wrong here. Choosing where to insert your chapters can be surprisingly tricky, and you may find yourself doubting your choices. Equally, not using chapters may have its own issues.

– Take A Break

Take a Break

– ‘Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit’

Know when to stop writing for the night, or for the morning, or whatever it happens to be. A good piece of advice for finishing is to never write until you’re empty. When you are in the mood to write, and it’s all flowing out of you, it’s tempting to just write and write and write, but if you finish while you still have ideas, it will be much easier to pick it up again when you return. But don’t stop after an epiphany, obviously, as you don’t want to come back the next morning and realise that you’ve forgotten where you were taking things!

Now might also be a good time to revisit your notes and plans. Perhaps not to edit them, but to add to them. I prefer to update my notes with new information and ideas, rather than ‘correct’ the old notes. Apart from anything, the planning and note taking – and especially the editing – is a different kind of writing to what you’ve just been doing, and you don’t want it to break your creative flow. So perhaps just jot down important revelations and the like, and then go to bed. Or work. Don’t forget to go to work.

– Don’t Fear The Internet

This could have easily gone in the research section, but it’s as relevant here. The internet isn’t just for Googling your name to see if you’re a famous author yet (hint: you aren’t; you haven’t finished the book). There are a lot of people on the internet: some most are a******s, but plenty will be a lot like you. Websites like Authonomy are good places for writers to learn, meet other writers, and even ask for help.

If you are active in a website such as Authonomy, you can learn a lot about writing, as well as receiving (hopefully constructive) criticism of your own work. Not only does the latter help you improve said work, but it will help thicken your skin for the inevitable bad reviews and so on later. You can also make a lot of good connections.

FINISHED!

Hooray, you’ve written a book! Calm down. At this point, I usually go straight back to the beginning and start going over it again. The better plan would be to take a longer break of anywhere between a week and a few months, then come back to it with fresh eyes.

– Rewrite

How you go about this is up to you, but I’m going to dictate anyway. Rewriting and editing are fairly in-depth topics in their own right so, as with everything else here, you should probably read (or have read) a book or article specially written for the subject. That said…

Rewrite

Don’t start with edits. I didn’t say ‘rewrite/edit’, I just said ‘rewrite’. You could say they are practically synonymous, but here that means that you should start with structural changes, not line edits. Line edits being rearranging sentences and the words within. Structural changes are drastic things that may change even the basics we planned out: genre, setting, narrator, etc.

You might, as many of us do, find that your opening just doesn’t work. Perhaps you have a prologue, the information in which would be better scattered throughout the first few chapters. Information dumps are bad!

Perhaps a character turns out to be quite boring and unnecessary, and should be deleted. Or perhaps the book is missing a vital character that you need to insert.

You might start by reading over your book with a notebook beside you. Skim over it, ignoring the wording for the moment, and just concentrate on the bigger picture. Anything that strikes you as out of place, unrealistic, overflowing with information, or anything that trips you up or catches your eye, write it down to come back to it once you’ve finished your read. Apart from anything, skimming through like this is more likely to help you catch plot holes or scenes that are too slow or too fast, etc., than a normal read, or while editing.

Some people go for a more literal rewrite at this stage, and will write the book again from scratch. Presumably, you would write an outline of each chapter and work off that, but I don’t think that method would work for me. The closest I’ve got to that is with the novel I’m currently working on. I have already written a fair amount of it, and now that I’ve finally gone back to it, I have it open on one screen while I write it again on the other. This means that some lines are identical between the two, while others are added to, or taken away; in other parts, entire chapters are added. But, again, I don’t think this benefits me any more than simply rewriting in the same document.

– Edit

Now it’s time for the line edits. Would this sentence work better if it came after that one? Would they both work better if they were merged into one? Should that whole paragraph be condensed into one sentence, or deleted completely?

Line Edit

You will almost certainly find yourself rewording individual sentences at this point. If you can avoid doing so until you make a dedicated edit run for that, it may be for the best, but it may also be unavoidable.

Just as when you finished your first draft, it is a good idea to leave the book to rest a while between edits. Fresh eyes will see new issues every time.

The final step of an edit – for me at least – is to look at the individual words. You will probably have reworded many of your sentences by now. But even when looking at the big picture, it is hard to see when you’ve overdone things. Using a character’s name too many times in quick succession, too many iterations of certain words, etc. I have a list of words I do a quick search for, to begin with. I have a tendency to use the word ‘suddenly’ a little too often. While I have slowly weaned myself off this habit, I still search for iterations of it. It’s one of those words that is rarely necessary. If I have more than, say, three iterations of it in the entire book, then it’s overused. I try to aim for only one or two but, again, only if it reads well.

Other things to look out for are unnecessary/superfluous words (usually adjectives or adverbs), correcting misused or mistyped words (it’s/its, their/there/they’re, your/you’re, learnt/learned, though/through/thought, quite/quiet, etc.), common mistakes that have become ingrained in most people’s minds (percent vs. per cent, alright vs. all right, damnit vs. dammit/damn it, affect vs. effect, etc.). I’d like to give a special mention, American readers, to ‘I could care less’. This is NOT the phrase. It’s ‘I could NOT care less’.

Some words that are commonly used unnecessarily are ‘that’, ‘very’, ‘suddenly’, ‘just’, ‘then’. The list goes on, and it’s not difficult to find whole articles (and probably books) written on the subject of such words. Don’t say ‘ran very fast’, say ‘sprinted’. Don’t say ‘very angry’, say ‘furious’.

Dialogue Tags

But don’t go through your work changing words for no reason. Don’t go through and think ‘Uh oh, I saw that on a list somewhere; I’d better change it’. For example, some people say that the word ‘said’ is overused. Well, I’d like to see a writer not use ‘said’ as a dialogue tag without crossing into highly irritating, contrived territory. Other sources will say that ‘said’ is by far the best dialogue tag, because it becomes all but invisible to the reader, allowing them to be aware of who is talking without having to focus on contrived tags.

It can be difficult not to fall into the trap of changing words simply because they’re listed as overused or unnecessary or whatever. If you do start changing words for no real reason then at best it will come across as contrived or pompous, or at worst…remember the episode of Friends when Joey used a thesaurus to make his letter ‘better’?

In other words, use your own common sense and stick to your own style. Sometimes an overused or cliché word simply works. Again, people complain about J.K. Rowling’s overuse of adjectives and adverbs, but has that damaged her writing and career? If it works, it works. Just make sure if you break ‘rules’, and leave things in that might be topics of complaint, that it’s for the right reason (i.e. it reads well).

Consistency may need its own pass. Do you have something capitalised sometimes and not others? Is your character wearing a jacket in one scene and in the very next, he’s scratching his bare arm? Consistency in the writing itself and in the content is, obviously, very important.

There are some automated writing services online that may be of use, especially when you’re just starting out. I can’t for the life of me remember the one I used for Shadow of the Wraith, but it looked for a lot of stuff, from spelling and grammar errors to word usage and those overused words I mentioned earlier.

Whether or not you use such a thing as a basic part of your editing stage is up to you, but I would suggest you’re careful not to rely on it any more than you do on Word’s spellchecker. DO NOT RELY ON WORD’S SPELLCHECKER!

If you make it all the way through this guide and don’t notice any errors or inconsistencies, you might need to give your own work some extra goings over. For example, I’ve capitalised some words for emphasis, while italicising others. If you pick up on stuff like that, it’s a good sign.

I mention it in part 3, but it’s worth noting here too that it’s notoriously difficult to proofread your own work. You will end up reading what you know is meant to be there rather than what is there.

– Beta

The next stage for a lot of writers is to send the book off to beta readers. This basically means you give the book to family and friends, perhaps writers’ groups or websites, for feedback.

Beta Reader

While this is a good idea, it can be quite disheartening. While professional or pseudo-professional writers will likely be pretty harsh, you might find friends and family will let you down completely. I sent Acts of Violence to a handful of friends, and not one of them read it. So don’t rely too much on beta readers, as there are a few too many people out there who don’t know how to say ‘no’, and it ends up screwing things up for you a lot more than that ‘no’ would. Plus, it’s difficult to be totally honest about the negatives to a friend or relative.

So places such as Authonomy are probably your best bet, but there are downsides here, too. You can’t just upload your work and expect people to flock to it; you have to put work in. You will end up reading and commenting/critiquing more than you receive comments/critiques, but even that will help you. Even while you are identifying problems in other people’s work, you may realise that you’re making the same mistakes, for example.

In this stage, you have to be ready to take (constructive) criticism. Even pretentious writers who consider themselves wordsmiths of the highest order, yet can’t get an agent any more than anyone else, may have valid points. The main thing to remember is that, much of the time, it’s just one person’s opinion on how writing should be done. It may or may not be relevant to you, your writing, and your style.

In short, read/listen to and take in everything, but don’t make these assumptions: A) That these opinions and views all need to be implemented into your writing; B) That none of these people understand you/your writing, and they should be ignored.

Finished Book

If you have no desire to take things any further and get published, or just print out a nice paperback copy of the book for yourself, then read no more! Otherwise, part 3 will cover what you need to know next…

How to Write a Book: The Beginning

Not long ago, I was at a meeting at which my being an author came up. During a lunch break, a woman started talking to me about writing, and how she’d always wanted to write something. She was asking me questions about how you know if you’re a writer, how you go about writing a book, and so on.

On the one hand, I see people saying things like that similarly to telling a brain surgeon how you’ve always wanted to perform brain surgery, but never had the time or never got round to it.

Sit Down And Write

On the other hand, it’s not for me to tell people that if you’re not writing then maybe you’re not a writer. Perhaps people genuinely suppress that desperate need to write that actual writers feel, because they don’t know how to go about starting a book. Maybe.

Regardless, the question of how to write a book is one that is asked a lot. The internet is also overflowing with articles and step-by-step guides. It could figuratively literally burst at any moment because there are so many. So I’m going to write one too.

My guide on how to go about writing a book is not an ‘expert’ one, nor a hugely in-depth one (otherwise it would be in a book, wouldn’t it?), or an all-encompassing one. It is simply based on my sphere of experience and knowledge: what does and doesn’t work for me, and what does and doesn’t work for other writers I know.

I’ll only go over the basics, and then you’ll go away and put thought and research into the stuff and whatnot therein. This is more of a pointer in the right direction than an attempt to rival Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’.

So, with the disclaimer that it’s not my fault if you finish reading this and still don’t have a best-selling novel with your name on it, let’s start. Oh, also, I’ll be using my own work as examples; I shouldn’t have to spell it out, but it’s not for advertising purposes.

PREPARATION

Aside from the actual writing, there are some other things you need to do and think about.

– Buy A Notebook

You will almost certainly find yourself coming up with ideas for storylines, characters, scenes, even single lines of dialogue or description that you will want to remember. No matter how much you think ‘I’ll remember it’, there’s a very good chance you will not. The same goes for dreams. It’s too easy to wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and be too tired and relaxed to write it down, thinking that you’ll remember it in the morning. Then you don’t. So write it down, even if it’s only so that you can look at it in the morning and wonder how you ever thought that was a good idea.

Notebook

– Learn The Rules

Writing isn’t just about thinking up a good story and interesting characters; writing is about…writing. That means your characters and story need to come alive on the page and in the reader’s mind. And for that to happen, your writing itself needs to be at least solid.

Obviously, just knowing the difference between an adjective and an adverb isn’t going to make you an amazing writer. Knowing how to use adjectives sparingly, and to show not tell, won’t ensure that your novel is the next Game of Thrones. But once you know the ‘rules’, you’ll know when you can break them. You’ll know what a pile of crap many of them are. But even the rubbish ones are there for a reason, and may make you think twice about an iffy sentence.

You can’t paint without learning how to paint. And once you know how to paint, you can do whatever you want with the knowledge and skills you’ve learnt. Do you think Picasso was taught to paint the way he did, or did he learn to paint traditionally, and then take all of those skills and paint his own way?

– Read

You may have heard this so many times that it now annoys you. We’re always told that a good writer is a good reader. This of course means that we deconstruct what we’re reading and work out why something on the page works or doesn’t work. We think about how we would have written the same scene or dialogue. Perhaps we imagine our own characters in place of the book’s.

Stephen King

Reading improves vocabulary, opens you up to different styles and character points of view (first person, third person, etc.). You’ll see from reading other authors’ works just how much you can get away with. I found myself obsessing over adjectives and trying not to overuse them, until I read the first chapter of an Ian M. Banks novel. He broke so many of the ‘rules’ and it didn’t matter. His paragraphs spanned entire pages, some sentences ran on for multiple lines, I counted something like nine adjectives and adverbs in a single sentence… But none of it ruined the writing or put me off.

And what about the Harry Potter books? J. K. Rowling is quite fond of adjectives, and takes some criticism for it, but has that fondness damaged the books or their sales? Depending on what source you look at, the Harry Potter series is either the third or the fourth bestselling/most read of all time. Do we really think that if she used less adjectives, her sales would outstrip anything else?

So read.

– Why Are You Writing?

You should probably have it straight in your own head why you’re writing a book. Is it because you think it will make you money? Because you think it will be easy? Because someone else wants you to?

Isaac Asimov

I won’t go into details and statistics about the money side of writing, because it’s depressing. And because I can’t be bothered to go looking for said statistics. Even if writing a half-decent book guaranteed you several years’ income, it’s not a good reason to write. You’ll get bored and frustrated, and you’ll either give up or put out a really crap book. The same goes for most reasons for writing, really. If you’re not writing for you, then you probably shouldn’t be writing. If you have any doubts about whether you actually want to be a writer, try writing a short story and see how it feels.

PLANNING, PLOTTING, AND SCHEMING

That’s an Oxford/Serial comma. If you don’t know that, you should still be in the preparation stage! It’s entirely arguable that I shouldn’t have used the Oxford comma there, but never mind. Clarity over convention. Not that the title needed clarity. Moving on…

Straight away, this is diverging from my own routine. I tend not to plan beforehand. I just have an idea for a story or a character, or even a scene or event, and I write it. Then I just keep writing. As I write more, the world and the story develops around me, both on the page and in my head. That’s when I start to plan more. That’s when I start writing ideas of where the story is going, what’s going to happen to the characters, etc. But that way comes with its own problems, so if you’re just starting out, you might be best planning.

Kurt Vonnegut

The thing to remember, perhaps above all else, is that what you plan and what happens on the pages of your book are not going to be the same. That’s fine. Once you breathe life into your characters and your world, you can’t possibly expect to stay in control. You nudge and suggest, and your creations will agree or disagree.

A good example is my thriller, Acts of Violence. Years ago, I wrote a few chapters of a book, which my computer then decided to delete. Thankfully, I’d been sending updates to my granddad, and he’d been printing them out. The last update I’d sent was only about half of what had been deleted, but it was something. I decided last year that I would take that story and those characters, and rewrite it in a sci-fi setting.

The result was absolutely nothing like what I wrote all those years ago. It doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance. The one and only thing the two share is the protagonist’s name. So I got what I think is my best work, and I still have the old story to rewrite sometime down the line.

– The Basics

The first things to decide are the basics. What is the genre? What is the setting (including time period)? What POV will you be writing from?

These are obvious and important. Each one will also sway the others to some extent. If the setting is the Crusades, for example, there’s a good chance it won’t be a romance. And if it is, why is it set during the Crusades?

Point of view is an important one. Is it first person, where we’re in the head of the protagonist (or antagonist, if you’re clever about it)? This will mean that you have to stay in his/her head for the entirety of the book, unless you are a very talented writer and can make a mix of first and third person POV work. Is it third person, where you can afford to be a little more omniscient? How many characters’ POVs will you write from? Just how omniscient will you be? Will the narrator him/her/itself have a voice?

While these are important things to decide before you put pen to paper – literally or not – they may well change. Again, Acts of Violence was meant to be third person, because I don’t like first person. But the line that popped into my head and caused me to abandon what I was writing in favour of the thriller was ‘As his nose cracked under my knuckles, I reflected on how much I hated violence’. It’s a first person line and I liked it. So I didn’t have much choice in the matter after that. It turned out that first person suited the novel better than third person would have. Even something as seemingly set in stone as POV can change in the course of writing.

– Story

KS2 Story Planner

For KS2, but still relevant!

The most obvious thing to plan. What, why, how? Also who, when, and where, but that’s kind of covered in the basics. (Side note: you’ll notice I used the Oxford comma again, and again it was arguably unnecessary, but…consistency!). This part of the planning can be as vague or detailed as you want. If you’re going for detailed, just remember what I said about things changing.

How are you going to introduce the story? What is the conflict or problem that needs to be solved? In what way are you going to develop and progress the story – will there be a trail of bodies, each more grisly than the last as the killer becomes more bold, until he slips up? What will the climax be – probably the hero will confront the villain, or the oblivious lingerie model will suddenly realise she/he loves the hopeless romantic.

How will things be resolved? Will the hero die? Will the villain die? Will the hopeless romantic realise that the lingerie model actually isn’t a very nice person and go travelling to find him-/herself? What loose ends might there be? You won’t really know this until you actually get to the end, but there might be some obvious ones that you can note down from the start, so you remember to check. Perhaps you’re writing a mystery, and one of your red herrings leaves town early on. You’ll have them do it so that the reader will be more suspicious, but then you might forget all about them, and never actually have the detective work out where they went, or why.

– Characters

This is, in my opinion, more important than planning the story. Although it may be entertaining for you to get to know your hero as you go, it might not be a good idea. Your hero needs to be fully formed, and while your writing might give the reader the impression that you’re writing about someone you know personally, there’s a good chance that it will be obvious you’re just making him/her up as you go.

Perhaps your hero finds himself locked in the back of a truck with a ticking bomb. He rolls up his sleeves and manages to defuse the bomb just in time. But your readers are left wondering at what point this insurance salesman learnt to defuse bombs. Did the writer only decide at this point in the book that he was once a master spy?

Even if your readers are only now meant to learn this information, you need to be aware of it from the start. If you kick off your story with your hero tripping over his untied shoelaces and falling down the stairs, there’s a good chance the reader won’t believe for a second, later on, that he was once a master spy. If you already knew that he was, you’re not going to write something like that, but you will probably write in little things that will then later be recognisable as clues.

So take some time to write your main characters’ background stories, write about their appearance, and note any peculiarities they have. It could be something small but very unique to them; it could be something a bit more common (in Acts of Violence, Jack’s anger can get the better of him, and he tries to be smart-mouthed, but sometimes his brain isn’t as quick as his mouth); it could be something bigger and more central to the story, such as Walter Mitty’s daydreaming.

If you don’t feel like you know your character well enough to write the background yet, you could try writing a short story about him/her.

Do not forget to do this same thing for the antagonist. Very rarely should your antagonist be flat and simple. It depends on what you’re writing, of course, but the antagonist will almost always have a reason for doing what they’re doing, may have doubts about it sometimes, etc. Depending on how often he/she/it comes into the story, the reader might not get to see these things too much, but again, you knowing them will make all the difference.

Antagonists

Read about how to write good antagonists. There are plenty of different kinds. Some are acting out of emotion, some out of logic, some out of fear. Perhaps your villain is an android, only doing what it’s programmed to do. This is one of the few cases that a 2D villain would be acceptable, though you’d still need a reason for it being programmed the way it is, so in effect, the programmer would become the true villain, even if he/she is long dead.

Motivation is one of the most important things. Why are the characters doing what they are doing? That goes for the protagonist, the antagonist, the side characters, and even the bit characters (don’t let even your smallest characters be 2D). If your hero jumps into a taxi and tells the driver to run the red lights, you’d better have a good reason for the driver to comply. Does the hero have a gun, perhaps? Or does he offer a large sum of money? There needs to be motivation for everything.

– Miscellaneous

There may be other bits of planning you need to do. If your story is complicated, or contains quite a few characters, you might find it useful to draw out a simple chart. You might save yourself a headache if you can see the book’s timeline in front of you: where the characters intersect, the important events occur, etc.

If you’re writing a murder mystery, you might want to plan each murder ahead of time, listing out the items, weapons, clues, witnesses, and so on, that are involved. Different kinds of book will require different kinds of planning.

– Research

Unless you are the world’s foremost expert on your subject, you should do some research. If you’re writing about one man’s quest to find a yeti, do research into past expeditions and findings. If you’re writing about going back in time to walk with the dinosaurs, research what Earth’s atmosphere was like back then, and what kinds of dinosaurs would have roamed various parts of the world. Even in a fantastical book such as that, you wouldn’t really want your hero to witness a fight between two dinosaurs who would actually have inhabited different continents.

Remember not to assume that your reader knows everything you do, but also don’t patronise them. Perhaps more importantly, remember that your characters probably don’t know everything either. Perhaps your time traveller is a genius who has built a time machine and wants to go back 100 million years, but it takes a friend or colleague to point out that there was less oxygen back then, so he should prepare for that.

Research

It’s okay for your characters to lack knowledge. Think about how much you know about. You might drive a car, but do you know how that car works? You probably use a computer, but do you know how it works? It’s not so okay for the writer to lack knowledge however, as in the time travelling examples. It’s better for one of your characters to point out the oxygen issue to your hero than to have one of your readers point it out to you.

It might be boring to research – especially if you already think you know a lot about the subject – but it’s important. Besides, think how knowledgeable you’ll be afterwards. Perhaps that’s why so many famous authors seem to be intelligent and knowledgeable.

And now it’s time to write! Which will be covered in part 2

Anatomy of a Book Cover

As usual, a slightly misleading title. I’m not going to share my theories of what makes the perfect book cover. I’m going to share my process of getting a book cover. Because I don’t have anything better to do.

Step Uno

The first thing I do is think what I want the cover to be. Quite an obvious step.

Shadow of the Wraith, Kindle coverPaperback cover

For Shadow of the Wraith, I decided I wanted a stark space scene, with the almost-titular ship looming over a planet featured at the end of the book. I later decided that I wanted a different cover for the e-book version (I don’t really remember why). I decided that one should be slightly more informative, so I decided that it should show the ship heading towards an Earth-like planet (Orion), having just cut straight through another ship. I thought/hoped that would give an idea of the threat before people even read the blurb.

Temple of the Sixth Cover

For Temple of the Sixth, I wanted an image of the titular character (the Sixth) standing at the mouth of her ‘temple’, seemingly oblivious of the predatory animals stalking her. She had to be looking out at an eclipse. From within, a thin stream of blood was to trickle out. The first part was a scene from the start of the book, and the blood and eclipse were references to the supposed End of Days omens that start appearing halfway through the book. The blood stream ended up looking more like a crack in the ground though.

Kira Cover

For Kira, the cover seemed obvious to me. The ‘camera’, as it were, was to be looking down a street in the city. Cold, dark, scary. The end of the street was to open into a stark desert, with nothing in sight. In between the two, I wanted Kira, as though stuck between two worlds, both equally unwelcoming. She had to be looking out towards the desert, where her future was. But it’s bleak, empty, nothing on the horizon. Above, the sky was to be dark and stormy.

Wyrd Worlds Cover

Wyrd Worlds is a sci-fi and fantasy anthology by several authors. To be completely honest, I wasn’t fond of any of the covers other authors were putting forward, so I created my own. It’s very difficult to put together something that portrays both sci-fi and fantasy at the same time, and I think the others were trying to hard to accomplish that, so I decided on something that didn’t try. Something fairly plain that also clearly showed that it was an anthology. The books putter-togetherer created a poll and mine was voted the cover to be used.

Acts of Violence Cover

Acts of Violence was different to all the others. I had to work at it! For the others, the cover presented itself to me easily, but for AoV I couldn’t decide. I had a few ideas, mostly comprising rain and darkness. Eventually I decided on a scene from the book. I thought that having the main character, Jack Mason, sitting in a diner, staring across the road at a club, gun on the table, would convey some sense of what the book contained. It would be the small, subtle things that would make the difference.

Step Zwei

Now, my second step is simply emailing the artist to see if he’s available to do the cover. But I had to find the artist first.

For Shadow of the Wraith, that wasn’t too hard. I did the cover myself. Then I decided to have a different one for the e-book, so I had to find a proper artist. My first (and only) stop was deviantART. deviantART is full of artists of all kinds and degrees of skill. There are amateur photographers all the way through to professional oil painters selling their work for thousands. Quite a lot of concept artists for games and films have their work on there.

First, I trawled through page after page of art to find artists whose work I liked. Then I would send them a message to ask if they were interested in doing a commission, and if so how much they would charge. Most said no, or were too expensive.

Secondly, I went to the forums, where there is a specific section set aside for advertising your project to find an artist. I got a number of responses there, including one from Mark Williams. I told him some more about what I wanted, and he thought he could do it and quoted me a good price for it.

Since it was the first time, I wrote up a brief contract to specify what work was being done and how much I was to pay him and who had what rights and so on. I don’t do that any more, but it’s probably a good idea the first time you work with someone.

Kira came next, and Mark was unable to complete it, so a friend of a friend (Cui Yuan) did the cover for me. His style is just right for what I want in my covers, so I stuck with him for Temple of the Sixth too. He was unable to do Acts of Violence, so I went back to Mark for that. The picture of Juni was drawn by Mark too, as an apology for having to stop halfway through doing Kira’s cover.

Steppe The Third

Now comes the tricky bit: working with the artist. Artists are fond of doing their own thing, and it can be difficult to get them to do your thing! You have to find a balance between cementing the important parts of the cover, and leaving the artist to their creativity and freedom with the rest.

The first thing I do is put together a very rough and ridiculous looking example of the basic layout. Thankfully, I’ve deleted those from my computer, so I can’t show you. Then I write as detailed a description as I can, including quotes from the book/s if it’s a scene, or involves a character.

Temple of the Sixth Rough Draft

By Cui Yuan

Next, the artist does up a rough example of his own, to show me what his vision of the cover is. Sometimes, I draw a little bit over it to show what changes I want. Then it’s a process of more and more alterations and slightly more detailed previews until the whole layout and ‘camera’ angle and sizes and so on are correct.

The artist then puts in full detail and colours and shadows. Then it’s a matter of going back and forth to sort out little details.

Step Chetyri

Once we are both happy that the artist has finished, he sends me the full-size image (and I pay). Then I make my own little alterations to it. These may range from simply inserting the title and my name, to changing colours and the like. I have not yet employed the services of someone who can create the title and its font for me. So far, basic and fairly plain fonts have suited the covers well enough.

And that’s about it. Below, I’ll post some images from the process of each cover (though I don’t seem to have the process images from the e-book version of SOTW).

I always recommend against people doing their own covers (mildly hypocritical), as I have yet to see more than a handful of covers that the author has done themselves that are actually decent. People DO judge books by their covers, and it will always be the first thing they see of the book. It needs to look professional. Searching the internet for some stock images and shoving them together in MS Paint will not achieve this. That’s not to say that getting a good artist will result in a good, professional cover. Book cover design is an art in itself, in a way. But I’ve also seen a good deal of covers created by so-called professional cover designers that aren’t much better than those stock image ones I mentioned. So you simply have to shop about and make sure you see plenty of previous work by the person.

Hopefully this was helpful, or at least vaguely interesting.

Shadow of the Wraith – Me (E-book version by Mark Williams)

My first idea for SOTW

My first idea for SOTW


Second try

Second try


Hardback Cover

Hardback Cover


Paperback Cover

Paperback Cover

Temple of the Sixth – Cui Yuan

Cui Yuan, Coloured Update

Cui Yuan, Coloured Update


Coloured and Shaded

Coloured and Shaded


Final Version

Final Version

Kira – Cui Yuan

Cui Yuan, WIP 1

Cui Yuan, WIP 1


Yuan's Final Version

Yuan’s Final Version


My Final Version

My Final Version

Wyrd Worlds – Me

Original Idea

Original Idea


Wyrd Worlds Final

Wyrd Worlds Final

Acts of Violence – Mark Williams

I started this one myself before I knew the title. It was more to waste some time than a realistic effort to make a cover.

Rough Attempt 1

Rough Attempt 1


Rough Attempt 2

Rough Attempt 2


Rough Attempt 3

Rough Attempt 3


Rough Attempt 4

Rough Attempt 4

Then I contacted a professional.

Mark Williams, First Sketch

Mark Williams, First Sketch


First Update

First Update


Mark's Finished Version

Mark’s Finished Version


My Finished Version

My Finished Version

Smashwords Formatting Guide

Ok, it’s not a clever title, but that’s what it is. Quite a lot of people seem to have trouble with formatting their ebooks for Smashwords, so I am writing this guide. It isn’t exhaustive, but it details everything I’ve done for both of my novels and my short story, so I know it works (feel free to check this outrageous claim for yourself by downloading my works here…)! And I want to make it as simple and easy to follow as possible.

Because I was asked, I have made this post into a PDF, too. It’s not great, as I just saved this web page and edited it a little. But here it is (right click the link and ‘Save As’):

Smashwords Formatting Guide

For introducing me to Notepad++ and for simplifying the table of contents process, I’d like to thank Paul Salvette.

A disclaimer of sorts: I’d like to note that I will be assuming you are formatting a novel. I don’t know about the formatting of non-fiction, or how it differs. So if that is what you are doing, it will be up to you to know how it differs, and make those changes to the guide (it’s not difficult – just change the styles accordingly). Also, it’s always a good idea if you have, or can borrow, some kind of e-reader to test the finished product on to ensure everything looks the way you want it to look. Lastly, this is only a basic-formatting guide – I’ll tell you how to have italics, bold, underlined, images, but nothing particularly fancy. If you want fancy, this guide can still be your base, but you’ll need to find out the rest elsewhere! The more fancy you get, the less I can guarantee it’ll pass the Meatgrinder, though.

Apologies for the rough red circles round things in some screenshots – I don’t have a tablet or a mouse, and using the laptop’s trackpad to draw circles isn’t easy.

NOTE: Some screenshots here of Word will be very slightly different to what you see, because I used a new document for most of it, and didn’t save as a Word 97-2003 document (which you have to do), which minutely changes the layout of some menus. By minutely, I mean that I may say something is on the left of the toolbar, but you’ll see it on the right. Nothing more major than that.

What We’ll be Doing:

What we’re doing here is known as the ‘nuclear option’. It means getting rid of every last bit of formatting, and starting again, basically. Smashwords’ Meatgrinder (their converter) isn’t all that fantastic. It’s not Smashwords’ fault – there’s a lot of different formats for it to convert your manuscript into, so the more messy it is, the harder Meatgrinder finds it to get everything right. This guide will get you into the Premium Catalogue, making your ebook available from lots of websites, such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBookstore, etc.

Basically, all we’re doing is cleaning up the Word document so that it will pass the Meatgrinder and Autovetter. So you’ve probably spent ages making your manuscript look pretty with different formatting, but unfortunately, all that has to go. The less formatting, the lower the chances Meatgrinder will mess things up for you.

NOTE: I will be using quotes around things you need to type in order to make it clearer. Please don’t be a fool and type the quotes too! I will also try to put anything you need to click on in bold. Hopefully that will help too. Click the screenshots for a larger image if you need to compare with what you’re seeing.


What You Will Need:

  1. Microsoft Word (I’m using 2007)
  2. Notepad++ – you can other text editors, but I’ll be showing you how to get rid of everything you don’t want with this one. It’s free here

Special Characters:

To make your work look nicer, you’ll want that nice curved speech marks and proper dashes and ellipses and so on. Word should automatically do this as you go. Skip this section if you already have these, otherwise:

  1. Click the big yellow button in the top left, then Word Options at the bottom of the drop down list
  2. Click Proofing and then AutoCorrect Options
  3. In both the tabs Autoformat and Autoformat as You Type, uncheck all boxes except ‘Straight Quotes with Smart Quotes’ and ‘Hyphens with Dash’. NOTE: If you have Ordinals or Fractions, check them too, but I haven’t used either, so I can’t guarantee it will work

Click OK until you get back to your manuscript. Now we’ll use Find and Replace. NOTE: It’s very important that you change the em dashes BEFORE the en dashes, otherwise you will lose the former.

  1. Press Ctrl+H to bring up the Find and Replace window.
  2. Find: ” and Replace: ” (double quotes will now automatically be changed to the nice curved ones)
  3. Find: ‘ and Replace: ‘
  4. Find: ‘–‘ and Replace: ‘^+’ (This creates an em dash)
  5. Find: ‘-‘ and Replace: ‘^=’ (This creates an en dash. Remember to do this second!)
  6. Find: ‘…’ and Replace: ‘…’ (In Find, type three full stops (periods). In Replace, press either Ctrl+Alt+. or Alt Gr+. for a proper ellipsis)

Now check your manuscript to ensure the changes have taken effect.


Intelligent Layout:

With Smashwords, potential readers can read a sample of your work. With that in mind, it may be advisable to make the story itself available as close to the front as possible so they won’t feel cheated (and because they want to know what the story is like, not who you want to thank). That said, it’s advisable to make the Table of Contents (if you have one) easy to get to for the a reader who actually has the book. Being at the front rather than the back is the more obvious thing, although if it is the very last thing in the book then they need simply select ‘Go To End’ to get to it. In short, aside from the title and copyright pages, it’s up to you what order you put things.

This is the order I’ve gone with:

  • Title
  • Copyright
  • Table of Contents (also known as NCX)
  • Author’s Note (I have a number of special characters in the book which won’t show on some e-readers, so because I can’t make a file for each file type, I took them all out. I need the reader to know this right away, and to apologise if I missed any!)
  • The story itself
  • About the author
  • Anything else you want to put in

This might be frowned upon by some, since the potential reader will have to skip though all that to start reading, but it’s how I did it…so there. Also, because of the way my ‘chapters’ are done, I only have about three or four entries in the TOC. Others may be multiple pages on their own, in which case putting it last may be the best choice. As I said, it’s up to you.

Another thing worth noting about the TOC is that it is optional. Kind of. Most places will accept the book without one – Smashwords itself certainly will, and it will be put in the Premium Catalogue without one. However, my second novel was rejected by Apple due to not having a TOC. This confuses me, because my first novel didn’t have one either. Apparently they changed their requirements soon after, or some such. So in short, I’d recommend putting in a TOC. If you have abnormal chaptering like I do, you could try putting ‘Title, Table of Contents, Author’s Note, Story Begins’ or something of the like.

At this point in the process, don’t bother with actual links for the TOC. Just the text itself for now.

NOTE: It is essential that ‘Smashwords Edition’ be added to your copyright page. If it is not, it will be rejected. A simple copyright page is fine, and it can even be a part of the title page if you want. Simply putting ‘Copyright 2013 [Your Name]’ is sufficient. I went a bit further with this:

Copyright © 2012 Ross Harrison
Cover copyright © 2012 Ross Harrison
Cover design by Mark Williams
Smashwords Edition
The right of Ross Harrison to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents act 1988.
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.

It is unnecessary, but it’s what I wanted to put in!


Preserve Your Thick Slanty Stuff:

The nuclear option will remove all formatting. That means your italic, bold and underlined text will become normal text. So here is how to preserve those. This is only for body text, so remove these from headings first, as they’ll be done separately later. There’s a small annoyance with this method. Take italics for example. If you had a word in italic, but then you deleted it, or decided to remove the italics, there’s likely a blank space that is still italic. It’s tedious, but the way I do it, is to search through the document to ensure only the text is italic. No random white space italicized. If you want to do this, the best way is to press Ctrl+F, click in the Find box, and then press Ctrl+I so that beneath the box it says ‘Font: Italic’. Click Find Next. Then click Cancel and use Ctrl+Page UP/Page Down to cycle through the italicized text, removing any white space. You may decide this is unnecessary, but I like to be as clean and tidy as possible.

Next, press Ctrl+H to bring up the Find and Replace window. During the following, you can either do each manually to ensure precision, or you can click Replace All. If you do the latter, I recommend taking italics, bold and underline off headings. If you do the former, then simply skip them. Remember not to type the quotes in the following!

  • In the Find box, press Ctrl+I so that it says ‘Font: Italic’ beneath. Leave this box empty and go to Replace. Type something like ‘II^&II’
  • In the Find box, press Ctrl+U so that it says ‘Underline’ beneath. Leave empty and go to Replace. Type ‘UU^&UU’
  • In the Find box, press Ctrl+B so that it says ‘Font: Bold’ beneath. Leave empty and go to Replace. Type ‘BB^&BB’
Preserve italics

Preserve italics

The reason I say ‘something like’ is that it’s the ‘^&’ that’s important. It simply refers to whatever is in the Find box. In this case, it’s simply whatever font formatting you have chosen. So now your italics will have ‘II’ on either side, and ‘UU’ and ‘BB’ respectively for underlined and bold. So ‘Bring back Firefly!‘ will now say ‘IIBring back Firefly!II‘. As you’ve guessed, we’ll do something similar after the nuclear option to reverse that. You can change ‘II’, ‘UU’ and ‘BB’ to whatever you want. It could say ‘JamesEarlJones’ and so long as you have the ^& in the middle, it will work.


Going Nuclear:

Now we have everything preserved and laid out correctly, it’s time for the nuclear option. This removes every last bit of formatting and hidden crap from your manuscript.

  1. Open Notepad++ and create a new file if necessary
  2. In Word, press Ctrl+A to select everything. Then Ctrl+C to copy it
  3. In Notepad++ press Ctrl+V to paste in your manuscript
Notepad++ with rough text

Notepad++ with rough text

Now it will look a bit of a mess. Every paragraph should be on a single line. Everything will be the same size and there will be no italics, bold or underline. There will also be a lot of white space. So let’s get rid of it:

  1. Press Ctrl+F and click on the Replace tab. Click ‘Extended’ under ‘Search Mode’ at the bottom. In the Find box, type ‘\t’ and leave the Replace box blank (make sure there isn’t a space in there by default). Click Replace All. This deletes tabs
  2. In the Find box, now type ‘\n\r’ and again leave the Replace box blank. Click Replace All. This deletes blank lines. NOTE: You may need to perform this step last
  3. In the Find box, type ‘ ‘ (two spaces) and in the Replace box type ‘ ‘ (one blank space). Click Replace All. This removes any double spaces. Close the Find and Replace box
  4. Click Edit -> Blank Operations -> Trim Leading and Trailing Spaces. This will delete space before and after paragraphs

Now your work will look equally confusing, but less messy. There should be no blank lines at all. The title line should be immediately followed by the copyright line followed by whatever comes next, with NO BLANK LINES between. Check the document over for white space that shouldn’t be there.

Deleting Blank Lines

Deleting Blank Lines

Trimming Blank Space

Trimming Blank Space

Cleaned Up Text

Cleaned Up Text


Back To Word:

Now we can take that cleaned up text back into Word. Before you do so, create a new file and check that the AutoFormatting options you choose at the start are still the same. In other words, only the opens about dashes and quotation marks should be checked. Also make sure ‘Replace Text as You Type’ is deselected, under the tab AutoCorrect.

Next, check your page layout. Margins should be ‘Normal’. That is ‘Top: 1″, Bottom: 1″, Left: 1″, Right: 1″‘. Ensure that the style selected is ‘Normal’ and that there are no Headers or Footers.

IMPORTANT: Save your document as a Word 97-2003 document (.doc). Firstly, this is what Smashwords accepts. Secondly (and less importantly), as I mentioned earlier, doing so slightly changes menus, so it’s best to do it now before you get confused.

Style 'Normal'

Style ‘Normal’

Margins 1 inch

Margins 1″

Now, in Notepad++, press Ctrl+A to select everything, and Ctrl+C to copy it. Go to your new Word document and press Ctrl+V to paste it all in. It won’t look anything like you want it too, but it does look how it’s meant to, for now. Resist the urge to start clicking things and putting in tabs, etc. We will do all that shortly.


Restoring Your Thick Slanty Stuff:

So now we’ll use special codey type things to undo what we did earlier with the italics, bold and underlines. We need to tell the find and replace utility that it needs to replace any text with ‘II’ tags with only that text, italicized. We’ll that like this:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the find and replace window. Click More. Check the box Use Wildcards
  2. In the Replace box, type ‘\2’. This will be the same for all three.
  3. Now press Ctrl+I so that it says ‘Font: Italic’ under the Replace box. In the find box, type ‘(II)(*)(II)’. Press Replace All
  4. Go back to the Replace box and press Ctrl+I until nothing is written under the box. Now press Ctrl+B until it says ‘Font: Bold’ underneath
  5. In the Find box, replace the ‘II’ with ‘BB’. Press Replace All
  6. In the Replace box, press Ctrl+B until there’s nothing written under it. Now press Ctrl+U until it says ‘Underline’ beneath the box
  7. Surprise, surprise, you now need to replace the ‘BB’ in the Find box with ‘UU’. Press Replace All
Restoring Underline

Restoring Underline

Now all your italics, bolds and underlines should have been restored. Basically what we did with all that was tell it to find any text with ‘II’, ‘BB’ or ‘UU’ on either side and replace the whole thing with whatever that text is, and make it italic, bold or underlined, respectively. Check your manuscript to ensure it has worked properly.


A Note About Styles:

We’re all used to using the toolbar at the top of Word to change font size and type, and underline, and justification and so on. But that isn’t how we’ll be doing it for Smashwords, or else it might not make it through the Meatgrinder. We’ll be defining Styles. We’ll also be keeping it simple so as to make sure that it doesn’t get spat back out of the Meatgrinder either badly converted, or telling you to do it again. As I said, I’m using Word 2007. Anyone using a different version may not be able to follow the steps as easily, but the same process applies. If this is the case, then you should just Google how to find and edit your styles.

The other thing I wanted to note is that this may cause some issues if you have to come back to it. I mentioned earlier how the TOC/NCX is optional. Well, I didn’t use one for either of my novels. Apple allowed the first one through, but rejected the second because it didn’t have one. So I went back into my Smashwords .doc file to insert one. I found that Word had helpfully got rid of most of the styles I had created for it. This doesn’t seem to happen to everyone, and even when I checked the file for my short story, the styles were all still there, so hopefully it won’t be a problem for you. But, just to be safe, I strongly recommend that from this point, you continue straight through to the end of your file creation without quitting Word. It probably won’t be an issue, and can be fairly easily rectified (it’s mostly time consuming), but it’s best to be safe.


Defining Your Headers

This style will be applied to your title as well as your chapter headings (and other headings such as About the Author, etc). We will base it on the existing style Heading 2, as recommended by the Smashwords Style Guide.

This is how we define the style:

  1. In the Styles section of the toolbar, there is a darker strip at the bottom. At the end of that strip is a little arrow. Click this for a new box titled ‘Styles’ to pop up
  2. Hover your mouse over ‘Heading 2’ and an arrow will appear for a drop down box. Click it
  3. Click ‘Modify…’
  4. Make the following changes under the ‘Formatting’ heading (some may already be set):
    • Font: Times New Roman
    • Font size: 14pt (Smashwords’ Style Guide recommends no larger than 16pt)
    • Bold (and underlined, if you wish)
    • Colour: Automatic (which is black)
    • Align: Centre
  5. In the bottom left, click Format > Paragraph
  6. In the ‘Indents and Spacing’ tab, make the following adjustments:
    • Indentation – Left: 0″, Right: 0″
    • Special – (none), By: leave blank
    • Spacing – Before: 14pt, After: 14pt
    • Line Spacing – Single, At: leave blank
  7. Click OK
  8. You can leave the style’s name as ‘Heading 2’ if you want, or you can change it to something more personalised, such as ‘My Headings’
  9. Click OK
Style Box

Style Box

Modifying Heading 2

Modifying Heading 2

Paragraph Options

Paragraph Options

That’s the first style defined. Not hard. I actually created two Heading 2 styles, as I wanted my title to be slightly larger than the chapter headings, and I wanted those to be left aligned, not centred. If you want to do the same, then in the ‘Styles’ box from step 1, go right to the bottom and click on the left button showing two ‘A’s with what appears to be a little sun behind them. Then select ‘Heading 2’ beside ‘Style Based On’, give it an obvious name (like ‘My Title’) and then change your font size. We’ll be doing other styles by this method, so if that confused you, leave it until later.


Page Breaks:

I’m putting this right after the headings style because we’ll edit that style for this, but I’m making it separate to ensure it doesn’t get buried in a mess of instructions. Apparently, simply pressing Ctrl+Enter will create a page break (i.e. force a new page) and will still get you through the Meatgrinder. You can do that if you want, but I like to make it a built in part of my heading style to make certain it works they way I want. NOTE: The guide I cited earlier says that the Meatgrinder gives the Ctrl+Enter method ‘erroneous errors’.

So if you’re not going to use the Ctrl+Enter method, do this:

  1. Click the little arrow in the styles section again to bring up the Styles box. Go again to ‘Heading 2’ (or whatever you have renamed it) and bring down the drop down menu. Click Modify…
  2. Again, click Format > Paragraph
  3. This time, go to the Line and Page Breaks tab
  4. Under the ‘Pagination’ heading, check the box ‘Page Break Before’
  5. Click OK and then OK again

This does not affect the first page, so if you apply this style to your title, it won’t give you a blank page before it. But from then on, it will put your Heading 2 text on a new page.


Defining A Centred Style:

You may not need this, in which case, skip this section. You can use this style for the asterisks used for section breaks. Also apply it to the series name and author name on the title page, and copyright information.

Remember that I said not to set anything using the toolbar, so we need to define an entire style for centred text.

  1. Click on the little arrow in the style section again.
  2. Go to the bottom of the resulting styles box and click on the left hand button showing two ‘A’s with what looks like a sun behind them. If you hover the mouse over it, the tooltip will say ‘New Style’
  3. Now make these changes, where needed:
    • Give it a name, such as Centred (simply putting ‘My’ before any name will make sure you won’t get confused about whether or not it’s one you created
    • Style Type: Paragraph
    • Style Based On: Normal
    • Font: Times New Roman
    • Font Size: 12pt
    • Colour: Automatic
    • Alignment: Centre
  4. Now go to Format > Paragraph
  5. Under the Indents and Spacing tab, make the following changes:
    • Indentation – Left: 0″, Right: 0″
    • Special – (None), By: leave blank
    • Spacing – Before: 10pt, After: 10pt
    • Line Spacing – Single, At: leave blank
  6. Click OK and OK again
Creating A New Style

Creating A New Style

The one problem with this style is if you have a separate page for copyright information. Some people put it on the title page, but I have it separate. That means I have to create another style, identical to this one, but with the same ‘Page Break Before’ option as we did for the headings.


Defining Your Main Text Style:

Now, the first line after any kind of break should not be indented. This means that we’ll need to create two styles: one for the first paragraph of each section and one for the rest of the text.

  1. Click on the little arrow to bring up the Styles box
  2. Go to ‘Normal’, bring down the drop down menu and select Modify…
  3. Make these changes:
    • Rename to something like ‘First Paragraph’
    • Font: Times New Roman
    • Font Size: 12pt
    • Colour: Automatic
    • Alignment: Left (not Justified)
  4. Now go to Format > Paragraph
  5. In the Indents and Spacing tab, make these changes:
    • Indentation – Left: 0″, Right: 0″
    • Special – (none), By: leave blank
    • Spacing – Before: 0pt, After: 0pt
    • Line Spacing – Single, At: leave blank
  6. Click OK and then OK again
Creating A First Paragraph Style

Creating A First Paragraph Style

That’s the style you’ll apply to the first paragraph of every chapter and after every break. For the rest of the text, do this:

  1. Click on the little arrow to bring up the Styles box, then create a new style with the left hand button at the bottom
  2. Rename this style something like ‘Main Text’
  3. Style Type: Paragraph
  4. Style Based On: Normal
  5. Set the rest of the options the same as we did in the previous style, with one difference:
    • Under the Indents and Spacing tab, go to the ‘Indentation’ heading
    • Special – First Line, By: 0.25″
  6. Click OK and then OK again
Style For Main Paragraphs

Style For Main Paragraphs

You now have a second style, almost identical to the last, except that the first line of every paragraph will be indented. You’ll apply this to every paragraph from the second of every section to the last.


Applying Your Styles:

Now it’s time to apply all these styles you’ve created. Remember to be careful not to slip into the familiar use of the toolbar at the top to change fonts and so on. Only do this through styles. Also remember to use only the styles that you have created/modified. You can create as many as you want, but the more fancy you make them, the less I can guarantee the manuscript will make it through the Meatgrinder.

NOTE: A helpful thing to know/remember is that if you want to force your text onto a new line, you can use Shift+Enter. For example, I set my copyright style to make a page break before, so that it wouldn’t be on the title page. That meant, however, that each line was on a separate page. That was easily fixed by deleting the line break I’d created by pressing Enter the first time I wrote it, and instead pressing Shift+Enter. On the surface, it appears to do the same thing, but when I apply my style to the whole of the copyright information this time, it all stays on the one page.

These are the styles I used for the different parts of my own books:

  • Title: A slightly larged fonted version of Heading 2 (which I imaginatively named ‘My Title’)
  • Author and series name (directly under the title): Centred
  • Copyright information: A style identical to ‘Centred’, but with a page break before
  • Author’s Note: Main Text
  • Chapter headings: Heading 2
  • First paragraph of every section (in new chapters and after section breaks): First Paragraph
  • All other paragraphs: Main Text
  • Section breaks: Centred

This is pretty time consuming, but take your time and make sure everything looks the way you want it to.


Table of Contents (NCX):

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that there is a problem with Apple when you use the name ‘Prologue’ for a bookmark. For months, Apple rejected one of my novels until another writer told me this was sometimes an issue. This wasn’t an issue with anything else I’ve uploaded, so I assume they’ve changed something. So don’t name any bookmarks ‘prologue’ – just use ‘start’ or something.

Supposedly, Smashwords generates a NCX itself based on what you applied the Heading 2 style to. It did not do this for any of my three works, but it occurs to me as I type that this may be because I renamed the style. But it doesn’t matter because apparently, it’s a bit unreliable.

I’ll point out here that the NCX is the Smashwords table of contents, rather than your own table of contents, but I’ve shoved the terms together in case you’re looking for the term NCX.

According to the blog cited earlier, the .mobi file has a problem with doing the Table of Contents the way we’ll be doing it. It works fine, but when a link is used from the ToC, the chapter heading is put into the ‘normal’ style. It’s not a big problem, so it’s up to you. Either put up with that little problem, or don’t put in a ToC and have your book rejected by Apple.

So you should already have in the text for the Table of Contents (title page included). I’ll show you what my ToC looks like. As I said before, I have abnormal chaptering: the ToC would have been far too long, and it would have made no sense to anyone. A Smashwords member of staff suggested that I make a very simple one, like this:

Very Simple ToC

Very Simple ToC

Like I said, very simple, but acceptable to Apple. So once you’ve got the text of your ToC laid out, do the following:

  1. Apply the style Heading 2 (or whatever you’ve renamed it as) to the heading
  2. Go to the first place your ToC will link to (the title)
  3. Click somewhere in the title text and then go up to the Insert tab, then in the ‘Links’ section, about halfway across the toolbar, click Bookmark (If you’re not using Word 2007 or later, then you just go to Insert > Bookmark…
  4. Check the box Hidden Bookmarks at the bottom of the new window. Delete anything that is there. If this is already checked, I recommend unchecking it, and checking it again just to be sure
  5. Name your bookmark. It could be anything, but I named them to correspond to whatever was in the ToC text (‘Title’, in this case)
  6. Click Add
  7. Do the same for everywhere the ToC points to
  8. Go to the ToC text
  9. Highlight the first entry (‘Title’, presumably)
  10. Press Ctrl+K to bring up the Insert Hyperlink window
  11. On the left hand side, click Place In This Document
  12. In the central box, you’ll see your bookmarks. Select the corresponding one and click OK
  13. Repeat for every entry in the ToC
Inserting Bookmarks

Inserting Bookmarks

Ctrl+K To Insert Hyperlinks

Ctrl+K To Insert Hyperlinks

You can now test that the ToC entries all link to the correct place by holding Ctrl and clicking on each one.

NOTE: If for any reason you want external hyperlinks, perhaps to somwhere where all of your books can be purchased, use the same Ctrl+K method, except that you’ll click on Existing File or Webpage
on the far left, and simply type in the address at the bottom (the full address, including ‘http://‘). If it is an email address, type ‘mailto:’ followed by the address.


Adding Images

The last thing this guide will cover is adding images to your file. Generally, fiction won’t have any images, but perhaps you’ve written an epic fantasy tome and need a detailed map of the realm/s inserted. Or a photo for the About the Author page. NOTE: Bear in mind that there is no need to add your cover, as it will automatically be put into the front of the file the reader downloads. Also bear in mind that most e-readers are black and white.

For photographs, use JPEG (.jpg) format. For anything else, use PNG. The last time I checked, these were the only formats Smashwords accepts. Also last I checked, Smashwords does not allow for text wrapping.

  1. Click the Insert tab, and then click on Picture
  2. Select your image and click Insert
  3. Select your image and apply one of the styles we created earlier to it (it doesn’t matter which, but it must have one of these applied)
  4. Adjust your image to get the right size, etc
  5. With the image still selected, go to the Format tab and click on Text Wrapping
  6. Make sure it says ‘In Line With Text’, or the Meatgrinder will reject it
  7. Arrange your image and text so that it looks presentable despite the flaw of being unable to wrap text
Inserting An Image

Inserting An Image

Adjusting and (not) Wrapping

Adjusting and (not) Wrapping

Now, something else to consider with images is size. Smashwords allows a limit of 5mb for images in the file. That isn’t much for an image. The example I used in the screenshots is just over 1mb. So we need to compress the image.

Note that if you have not saved your document as a Word 97-2003 document, what you see when you click ‘Compress Pictures’ will be different. But you should have done that right at the start, so it’s your own fault!

  1. With your image still selected, go to the top left of the Format tab and click Compress Pictures
  2. Set the following:
    • All Pictures in Document
    • Web/Screen
    • Check the box ‘Compress Pictures’
    • Check the box ‘Delete Cropped Areas Of Pictures’
  3. Click OK
Compressing Images

Compressing Images


And that is that. If you have any questions, or think I’ve missed anything, leave a comment. I hope this has helped!

America’s Stealing Your Money!!

Well…the IRS is stealing 30% of your royalties if you’re a non-American self-published author selling books anywhere they deem to be ‘America’. But the title got your attention!

Unfortunately, the American government forces Amazon.com, for example, to withhold 30% of any royalties made there for tax. Yes, even though you aren’t American, don’t live there and, technically, aren’t selling a damn thing there. Same thing if I sell a hardback to an American via Lulu.

So, here is what to do. I’m aiming this at people from the UK, selling on Amazon; but it’s pretty much the same for anywhere else, you just send off the form to them instead. Also, in terms of Amazon, this 30% withholding only applies to sales on the .com site – no tax is withheld for sales from Amazon.co.uk, .de, etc.

I just did this yesterday, using the advice in this blog. The only thing left is for Amazon to receive the form and stop withholding 30%. I’ll update when that happens.

For a while I thought I knew exactly what I needed to do, and just had to get round to doing it. As it turned out, I’d been given the wrong information. Or at least correct but not as needlessly complicated as some people would have liked. The next lot of information I was given was more complex, and included having to get a letter from everyone who sold my book to prove I was making money ‘in the US’, filling out a form to get a number to fill out another form, and then sending said form along with said letters and my passport off to America.

That’s rubbish.

Well, it might not be rubbish, but it is, as I said, needless. It’s just complicated to understand. I still don’t completely understand, but I’ve done it, it was easy, and according to the above blog, it works perfectly. Again, I’ll update to confirm my own success.

So…

Step 1

You need an EIN (Employer Identification Number) or an ITIN. I originally got an EIN and that is what the IRS told me I needed; however, as I update this (Dec. 2016), Amazon’s tax interview that has to be filled out refuses to accept the EIN as it thinks I should have an ITIN. Technically speaking, this requires an SS-4 form, but it isn’t entirely necessary as you won’t actually be sending the form anywhere. It is helpful to fill it in, however, as you’ll be asked what you put on line x, line y, and line why can’t we have your money. So, fill in:

• Line 1, 4a, 4b and 6 – although you’ll probably know your name and address anyway!
• In section 9a, tick ‘sole proprietor (SSN)’ – leave the boxes blank unless you have a US social security number
• Line 10, click ‘other’ – Here, Amazon suggests some long line, but when I read that out, the IRS man was a little taken aback and would clearly have been satisfied with ‘To fill out a W-8BEN form’
• Line 16 and 17 – I just have ‘Writing’ in both of these. The person you speak to at the IRS will be filling in the form for you, so simply explain that you’re a writer in need of an EIN/ITIN so that you can fill out the W-8BEN, and they’ll know what to put
• Lastly, on line 18, tick ‘no’

That’s it. As I said, you won’t actually be sending it anywhere, but you’re advised to keep a copy for your files, so it may be worth filling in anyway. Plus, I had no idea the IRS man (Mike) would be expecting me to have it filled in, and so I was lucky to think quickly enough to tell him what to put. So it makes things easier for you.

Step 2

Now you’ll need to ring the IRS. I spent a very long time trying to get through the IRS at the London embassy, and no one answered the phone – I hate to think what my phone bill will be. But I’m not 100% sure they can even do this from there, so ring the IRS direct in America.

The number is 001 267 941 1099. I phoned at about 4.30pm and only had to wait about three minutes before someone picked up. This is the direct line for acquiring an EIN/ITIN. You’ll need to press 2 at the options, or simply stay on the line. When Mike answered, he introduced himself and asked if I was applying for an EIN/ITIN, if I was resident outside of the US, and if I had the SS-4 in front of me (I said yes here, not realising he meant a filled in SS-4). From there, there’s nothing difficult.

Remember to explain early on that you’re a self-published writer and need the EIN/ITIN so that you can fill out the W-8BEN. That will give him/her a better picture of what they’re putting on the form.

After asking you what you put in the above lines, he/she will put the information through. Then while you’re waiting they’ll tell you that you’ll be getting a letter with confirmation of the number in, I think, 4-8 weeks. Then they’ll give you the number there and then. Write it down, obviously, and put it in the top right corner of the SS-4 form, so it’s kept in a safe place.

Step 3

And that’s the way to get the EIN/ITIN, which others would have you believing is a complicated, life-sucking procedure which will take weeks and weeks.

Now you just need to use this number to get Amazon, in this case, to stop withholding 30% of your royalties. For that, you need the W-8BEN form.

It’s in a PDF format that allows you to fill it in on your computer, but to be safe I printed it out and filled it in by hand.

Now, this one is going to Amazon, so I used the advice on their page about filling it in, as well as a little from Silentnovelist at the above blog. Fill in:

• Your name in section 1
• ‘N/A’ in section 2 – I don’t honestly know why that’s not ‘United Kingdom’, but that’s what Amazon say to do. Perhaps it’s because the ‘organisation’ is you, and so not really based anywhere. Or perhaps it’s because there is no corporation
• In section 3, tick ‘individual’
• In section 4, put your address, obviously; and ‘United Kingdom’ for country
• In section 6, put in your new EIN number, and tick ‘EIN’, or the same for ‘ITIN’
• In Part II, section 9, tick both ‘a’ and ‘b’, and put ‘United Kingdom’ in the box at ‘a’
• In section 10, in the second box about the percentage of withholding, put ‘0’. In the next, type of income, put ‘author/writer’. In the third, the reasons, write ‘British citizen and resident of the United Kingdom’
• Lastly, at the bottom right, ‘Capacity in which acting’, write ‘self’

Then all you need to do is sign and date (noting that Americans write their dates ass-backwards).

Step Whatever Number We’re On Now

All that remains is to send it. So send it. To this address:

Amazon Digital Services
c/o Vendor Maintenance
PO Box 80683
Seattle, WA 98108-0683
USA

Include with it a letter saying who you are (your pen name, if you use one), and asking them to confirm when they receive it and stop withholding.

I haven’t written mine yet, but it’ll be something along the lines of, ‘I enclose form W-8BEN, upon receipt of which I understand you will no longer withhold any percentage of my Amazon.com royalties for US tax, and I will receive 100% of those royalties.’

Remember to include your email address, asking them to confirm.

That should be it. The post office is closed today, so I haven’t found out the best way to post to America, or what it costs, but I will do so on Tuesday and update.

I hope that helps. Moreso, I hope someone who it CAN help reads it. And thanks to Silentnovelist at the aforementioned blog for helping me in the first place!

EDIT 3/8/12: I have now had confirmation from Amazon that my tax rate is now 0%. So, all is well, and the above worked fine 🙂