Blades of the Fallen: Meet Rialen

The second character in this short series of introductions is Solan’s closest friend, Rialen Solaax.

Rialen's Katana

Seventeen-year-old Rialen has already developed his psionic abilities beyond the reach of most students and likes to meet Solan’s lectures with practical jokes and displays of aptitude his friend is yet to attain. Twenty-two-year-old Rialen is a powerful inquisitor with anger problems.

The murder of a Vanguard agent in front of his eyes drives the practical jokes and rash, thoughtless actions from Rialen’s repertoire. His only focus becomes joining the ranks of the Vanguard and protecting his people.

But when the ferocious killer again drives a blade through someone he cares for, Rialen’s anger may get in the way of him preventing the same fate befalling a friend he feels responsible for. If he can’t get a handle on it, will he become what he is fighting?

Blades of the Fallen is coming 1 August.

Now meet:

Solan
Ailan
Mara

Blades of the Fallen: Meet Solan

As we draw closer to the release of the third book in the NEXUS universe, I thought I could write a brief series of introductions to some of the characters in the book. The cast of characters is not as broad as in previous books, but there are still a handful to meet. These men and women are agents of the Vanguard, the Necurian people’s first and last line of defence.

Solan's Katana

Eighteen-year-old Solan Ashar sometimes remembers to check his arrogance before he lectures his fellow students. Mostly, he forgets that he hasn’t even started his training for the Vanguard yet, let alone graduated. Twenty-three-year-old Solan is full of doubt and worry. He is an inquisitor of the Vanguard, but is the responsibility of this role too heavy? Is the darker side of his new position too much to bear?

The moment teenage boy is suddenly forced into adult is the moment he witnesses the brutal murder of a Vanguard agent. The moment his ideas of a noble, adventurous life of sailing the stars and spreading peace to undiscovered races is shattered by the wrathful and merciless face of reality.

If he is to help bring a murderer to justice and uncover the truth behind a spate of child abductions, Solan will have to come to terms with the contrast between his once rose-tinted view of the Vanguard and its true nature.

Blades of the Fallen is coming 1 August.

Now meet:

Rialen
Ailan
Mara

Blades of the Fallen

 

Blades of the Fallen Cover

Finally, here is the cover for the third NEXUS book: Blades of the Fallen! And it comes with a release date: 1 August 2017. Pre-order now!

The murder changes everything. The Vanguard is supposed to protect against such violence, not fall victim to it. But even the so-called ‘Fallen’ wouldn’t kill without reason. Would they?

The murderer changes everything. The Fallen keep to themselves, living comfortably separate to other Necurians. But he is dragging them towards war. Why is he so convinced that it’s the Vanguard’s fault?

The inquisitors have changed. As teenagers, they witnessed the murder in front of their eyes. Five years later, they wield the authority of the Vanguard, and they will hunt down the killer. The motives must be uncovered. Because even the Fallen would not kill without reason.

NEXUS is a non-linear series in which every book has some kind of connection to the others. Although best read in order for more background and understanding, they each stand alone. Blades of the Fallen takes place over 100 years before the first book of the series, Shadow of the Wraith.

As always, I ‘designed’ the cover, in so far as I drew some stick people and blocks and arrows, and then Arianne Elliott interpreted that into something that looks like actual stuff and things.

Blades of the Fallen can be pre-ordered for Kindle and for all other e-readers direct through Smashwords. Links for the paperback and for other outlets such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc. will be added to the book’s page here when they become available.

Book 3 Cover Taster

Book three of NEXUS is slowly creeping closer, though working seven days a week until midnight is slowing down its progress. The cover is ready, but I don’t want to reveal it until I know when the book will be released.

I will probably also start putting out brief character spotlights as the release gets closer and, obviously, announce that release when I know it. Until then, here is a little square of the cover. Look, it has a foot! A sci-fi foot!

Book 3 Tease

You may have noticed my Facebook and Twitter (oh, and G+…) banners change. That was your first taste!

So until I know more, I’ll try and put out more guides for surviving unlikely situations you’ll definitely find yourself in should you happen to be some kind of Hero.

Newsletter and Stuff

mailchimp

Actually, no stuff. Just newsletter. You probably noticed when you came to the site that a pop-up asked you to subscribe to my new newsletter. I’m a little late to it, but I thought it was about time to start building up a list of people who might like to support me and who might be interested in new releases and, occasionally, whatnot.

The pop-up itself I can’t customise any more than giving it a 5-second delay, which is annoying because who’s going to know if they want to sign up within 5 seconds?

Anyway, the newsletter will be very infrequent: mostly when I have a new release or something changes with a current book, and in the rare event that I actually write multiple decent blog posts. I will also keep an eye out for other interesting news and stuff with which to fill them out. So, expect something like 2-3 per year…

If you closed the pop-up but this invigorating, rallying cry has changed your mind, there’s a link to the quick sign-up form at the top of the sidebar. Thanks for your support (not a guilt trip).

Still Alive

You might be forgiven for thinking that perhaps I had died and decided that in this new state of unliving, I would abandon my blog. This is, you will be ecstatic to hear, not the case. I have been busy with a death that doesn’t belong to me, the following despicable family behaviour, a job, a new car (it has GT on the back!), moving house, trying to get internet, and making my beta readers cry.

Yes, finally, the third book in the NEXUS series is (kind of) finished. I started writing it as soon as I finished Temple of the Sixth and set it aside time after time to write Kira, Acts of Violence, and Kira Part II, but at last the most abused book I’ve worked on is nearly ready. It still needs a bit of rewriting and then editing and proofreading, but it’s not too far off now. Hopefully.

Trip To Space

After this stop-start, stop-start, I hope at least the next two books will come quicker and smoother, but thinking about other projects is what got me into this four year crawl in the first place, so let’s ignore that for now.

So, sooner or later I’ll be posting again with a synopsis and release date…or just a cover. Or a rant about another film.

Birth of the Superhero

Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman

When hard times come our way, we begin to look once again to superheroes. When we think of children who were bullied in school, we tend to think of the kind of person who always had his nose in a comic book. While this is a stereotype, it’s one that exists for a reason. But was such bullying born from this fact, or did those bullied children escape it by turning to the pages of their comic books and find hope in the heroes they found there?

The actual origins of the superhero are perhaps arguable. It’s closely tied to the debate over what makes a superhero. What is the difference between a hero and a superhero? When do they make the leap from masked vigilante to superhero? That’s a whole other article, and really we’re talking here about how superheroes became so popular. So with that in mind, we’ll go with the assumption that a superhero is someone who has talents exceeding the norm (such as the genius intellect of Batman or Iron Man or the former’s formidable martial skill) as well as a selfless desire to help others.

So while we had, in the early 1930s, characters like The Shadow and The Phantom, the rise of the superhero really came in the late 1930s. Superman came first, in 1938, with Batman (or rather, the Bat-Man) coming soon after in 1939. To me – and many others, I think it’s fair to say – these two are pretty much the superhero templates. Superman is the blueprint for most of those heroes with superpowers, and Batman for those without.

While Batman was an amalgamation of many heroes who went before him – The Shadow, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Zorro, etc. – Superman seems to have been born not so much from a desire to compete with someone or something else but as an answer to the issues of the day.

But perhaps there’s a more personal story behind it for Superman’s co-creator, Jerry Siegel. Siegel’s father, a shop owner, was killed during an attempted robbery in 1932. That’s the year before Superman was created, though that initial Superman was actually a villain and…well, nothing like the Superman we know today. However, author Brad Meltzer believes there’s a link. Siegel’s father is killed and so his teenage son creates an invulnerable, superpowered being to fight evil and stand up for good. Siegel never once mentioned his father’s death in fifty years’ worth of interviews, but it makes sense to me.

Superman’s own origin story contains the loss of his parents. The physical destruction of his home planet could perhaps parallel the perceived obliteration of his own life, thanks to his father’s death. Perhaps. It’s a fairly romanticised view of things, but I think it holds some spark of truth.

Meltzer even found, in his research, a letter published in a paper the day after Siegel Senior’s death. It spoke of the need for vigilantes during the Depression. The letter was signed by A. L. Luther.

Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster

We’ll never know for sure how much of a role the death of Siegel’s father played in Superman’s creation, because Joe Shuster (the character’s other creator, on the art side) and Siegel died in 1992 and ’96 respectively. After all, the heroic version of Superman didn’t come about until, I believe, six years after the death of Siegel’s father. So perhaps all of this is our need to see a dot-connecting story where there is none.

But what about for the general public? How did superheroes become so popular with them? How did they become such an inspiration and symbols of hope? Well, that’s probably a lot more simple.

Again, this was during the Great Depression, and Superman’s early foes weren’t of extraterrestrial or supernatural origin. There were no Doomsdays or Brainiacs (the first supervillain Superman faced wasn’t until 1939 and even Lex Luthor didn’t show until 1940). No, the first of Superman’s enemies were corrupt politicians and businessmen and common criminals such as profiteers, gangsters and those who engaged in domestic violence. He even destroyed a slum in his beginnings, in order to force the government to build better homes for the poor. Perhaps inspired by the general disillusionment with officials such as the police, Superman was originally portrayed as a vigilante, just like Batman, and was wanted by the police.

Batman started his career with wanton death and destruction, unlike the Batman we know today, but he was still a crime-fighter. He still went after ordinary criminals in the beginning. His very first enemy was Alfred Stryker, a chemical company executive who tried to have his partners murdered. After two successful murders, Batman intervened and threw Stryker into a vat of acid. Because that’s how he rolled.

So, while such characters are an obvious choice of villain, thanks to their infinite nature, the fact that all this arose during the Great Depression was surely no coincidence. In real life, there was little justice to be had for those who lost their jobs, their homes, and who starved to death.

Some colourful fools wearing tights and leaping about the pages of a comic book were, perhaps, not entirely consoling to these people, but for those not hit quite so badly, maybe seeing corruption and crime brought to light and shut down in those pages offered a little comfort.

Most of us turn to some form of escapism in times of distress, and to see similar distress being countered and defeated in your escapism feels good. It gives some kind of hope. Even though there isn’t a real Superman to swoop in and save your day, even that spark of hope can be enough to get you through.

Making them even more relatable to people is the fact that so many superheroes have tragic origin stories. Batman’s parents were murdered in front of him when he was a child. Superman’s entire home planet was wiped out, his own parents along with it, and he feels completely alone and isolated on Earth. These origins don’t only give the character a reason to do what he does, but such a human loss can be understood by just about anyone. In this way, even the most alien (literally) of super-beings can be relatable.

Captain America Punches Hitler

The best example of comic storylines mirroring real life is probably Hitler. Adolf Hitler. There’s no clever subtlety there. He was simply…Hitler. He appeared as an enemy of many members of the Justice League of America, as well as Marvel heroes. If this doesn’t prove my point, I’m not sure what does!

Captain Freedom (not to be confused with Captain America, to whom people sometimes give that name as a joke) was created during World War II for the sole purpose of fighting agents of the Axis. In 1942, a Superman cover depicts the Man of Steel riding an American bomb towards the ground, amid a squadron of US fighter planes.

As Marvel’s Stan Lee said, comics were fighting Hitler before the American government was.

Though blatant propaganda, these patriotic themes and front covers fueled an explosion of public interest. World War II was the beating heart of comics’ Golden Age. Some villains, such as the Red Skull, were inspired by Axis soldiers while, again, many heroes were created solely for the purpose of fighting Nazis and, later, the Japanese.

None of these is more iconic and recognisable – particularly since Marvel took to the big screen – than Captain America. The huge surge in American patriotic sentiment was the reason behind Captain America’s creation. In fact, even with America nearly a year from entering the war, the cover of Cap’s first issue has him punching Hitler in the face (remember the film?).

Hitler, naturally, banned such American animations. Except for Mickey Mouse, who was his favourite (and probably was never depicted punching him in the face).

Author Gardner Fox, who worked on comics at the time, probably put it best and most succinctly:

‘I used superheroes’ powers to accomplish what I couldn’t […] Superheroes were my wish-fulfilment figures’.

To me, this is exactly why so many turned to comic books and why their popularity soared.

At the end of the war, only the strongest of superheroes survived the resulting decline in interest. Sales plummeted and publishers were forced to close, even after cancelling title after title.

But superheroes have risen once again. And this time, they’re more mainstream than ever before. Our cinemas are packed with them, our TVs deliver them to us every week, our T-shirts display their logos in an (often unintentionally) ironic manner. Some day, they’ll fade away once more, but no doubt they’ll only resurface again. Until then, let’s hope they continue to bring us hope, inspiration, and simple entertainment.

Batman

This article was originally written for Uproar Comics.

Suspending Disbelief: The Line

This is another article I wrote for Uproar Comics.

Suspend Disbelief

When it comes to films, games, and even books, we’re often expected – and required – to suspend our disbelief concerning certain things. Giant, transforming, alien robots…okay. Scientist turns into a big green monster when he gets miffed…fine. Peter Quill floats in space for a minute and survives?! Absolutely unacceptable!

That was the complaint about Guardians of the Galaxy (a year ago now) that sparked in me the question: where is the line? And why is it there? I don’t expect to be able to answer the question, or make a coherent argument with whatever it is I’m about to write, but that’s not going to stop me from diving in.

So let’s start with that complaint. Guardians of the Galaxy: a superhero film (kind of – I’d argue about that, but it’s irrelevant) about a group of criminals coming together in a distant part of the galaxy to prevent an already-powerful blue person from using an alien artefact to wipe all life from the surface of the planet Xandar. Yep, all good so far; why there’s barely any disbelief to suspend.

The aforementioned group consists of a human kidnapped by aliens as a child, an artificially enhanced green assassin, a big red angry man who takes everything literally, a bipedal talking raccoon, and a talking tree monster. All fine. Nothing untoward there.

However – and here is where the film apparently crosses that line – what GOTG seems to have drawn the most criticism for is a scene where Gamora the green assassin finds herself floating in space. Quill, the human, gets out of his ship and puts his breathing mask on her. A minute later, they’re picked up by another ship and they’re both fine.

‘How unrealistic’, people said. Unlike the talking raccoon arguing with the talking tree.

First off, let’s look at what happened in the film versus what would happen in real life.

Fiction

Guardians of the Galaxy

Gamora’s ship is destroyed, leaving her floating, unconscious, in open space just outside the atmosphere of where they’ve come from. Quill, in his leather jacket and t-shirt, gets out of his own ship and floats over to her. He takes off his mask, which allows him to breathe, and puts it on her. As he watches her, his eyes and face begin to freeze over and he loses consciousness. Shortly after, they are picked up by another ship, and as they tumble into the cargo bay – or whatever – he wakes up. Seconds later, so does Gamora.

Reality

Let’s assume that Quill was a real person, floating just outside the atmosphere of Earth, without a spacesuit. What would happen to him? That’s rhetorical; I’ll tell you:

  • Ebullism – The low pressure of a vacuum means the boiling point of Quill’s body fluids drops below his body temperature, causing the formation of gas bubbles in said fluids. His blood won’t boil, but he will swell up to twice his normal size. Which will hurt.
  • Within about 15 seconds, the lack of oxygen will cause him to lose consciousness. He’d then die a couple of minutes later. If he tried to hold his breath to extend that time, that air would expand rapidly, rupturing his lungs.
  • Although it’s a touch chilly, he wouldn’t freeze to death, because the vacuum means the transfer of heat would be so slow, the lack of oxygen would get him first.
  • The sun’s UV would burn him quite unpleasantly, then it would join other things such as gamma radiation and X-rays to damage his DNA. In turn, this would cause mutations and probably cancer.
  • He would, however, have about one or two minutes to be rescued.

Going by memory alone, I think Quill is exposed to space for between thirty seconds to a minute. After removing his mask, he did indeed lose consciousness pretty quickly. So the most unrealistic part of that scene seems to be that he didn’t swell up, he didn’t burn, and he froze over. We could argue that he only froze on the surface and that this might happen (I’m not a scienceer). How fast he would swell and burn, I don’t know; perhaps it would take longer than he was actually out there.

So that leaves the DNA mutations and cancer. But where are they?

AstronautNot here, in our solar system. Are they being exposed to the same things as they would just outside Earth’s atmosphere? In the same quantities? I don’t know. Do you? Do the complainers? Would so much time travelling in space, on different planets, etc, have changed the way his body would react to things? Someone probably knows, but it’s not me. Perhaps the NASA advisor they used for the film knows.

So these people can deal with a talking raccoon (in the same universe as a god of thunder, teleporting mutants, and gargantuan ‘celestial beings’ whose skulls are used as cities floating in space), but the fact that the rest of the film after this scene didn’t deal with the tragic loss of Peter Quill to cancer is too far over the line. Interesting.

What if it was Superman in space? Would the same people be annoyed that he survives rather than dying horrifically?

The line is different for everyone, of course. My grandmother would never watch something like Guardians of the Galaxy – or indeed Superman – because they have ‘weird aliens’. There’s plenty of things I’ve watched that made me roll my eyes, though I can’t think of any now.

Beyond the Guardians

Shadow of the Wraith, Kindle coverI’ve complai…uh…mentioned before a 3-star review I’ve had on my first book. According to the review, it lost a star due to taking ‘an unexpected turn into fantasy territory’. I won’t bother mentioning the inane nature of complaining about a science-fantasy novel having fantasy elements (oops, I just did), but this is perhaps her line. When sci-fi becomes science-fantasy, she can’t suspend her disbelief any more, perhaps. Star Wars is fine until the Force comes into play. Likewise, mine was fine until telekinesis came into play. Or, as she called it, ‘use his “special powers”’. Not that I’m bitter.

And what about within the book? If someone went into it, open to the inevitable fantastic elements of a science-fantasy novel, where might their line be then? The telekinesis, telepathy, etc, that are possessed by one of my alien races? The not strictly realistic space battles? The androids? The dragons? I suspect the last one might be a line for a lot of people. Until they open book two and discover immortal ‘gods’, angels and zombies. Technically not zombies actually. But the dragons are alien animals, not creatures of myth. Does that help? It might help person A but not person B.

What about CSI? ‘Enhance!’ ‘Enhance more!’ ‘Enhance again and zoom in on that reflection in the reflection and enhance!’ Most people can’t quite suspend their disbelief enough for that, but others can. Perhaps it depends simply on how much you know – or think you know – about the subject in question.

I hope you don’t think I’m going anywhere with this, or making any kind of point. Because…I’m not. Maybe I should. But I won’t. Don’t be annoyed – I told you at the start this wasn’t going to go anywhere! It’s simply a question that can’t be answered. Not by me, anyway.

So, what’s the line for you? What was the last thing that made you roll your eyes and groan?

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