by Bob Tinsley

When last we talked we went through getting the cover for your ebook and all the front matter. And you’re still not ready to upload it to Amazon.

First you’ll need to write the ad copy for your book. Amazon calls it the “book description”. That’s the copy that goes in the listing of your book telling everybody what a wonderful, sexy book you’ve written. Go look at some on Amazon to get an idea of what works.

Now comes the hard part. What? You thought the cover was hard? Just you wait.

In what format does your literary treasure reside? If you said Microsoft Word you’re halfway home. If it is in Final Draft, Scrivener, CeltX, Fountain or any of the other myriad of proprietary formats, the first thing you have to do is generate a Word file and make sure that it looks the way you want it to.

At least that’s the way I go about it. If you are a CSS or HTML wizard you might be better off going with those formats. Since I don’t even know what CSS and HTML mean, I stick with Word.

In my experience after having uploaded 10 of my ebooks to Amazon, a Word file will give you an end product that looks the most like what you have been seeing on your computer screen.

Only one caveat: DON’T use tabs. Tabs do not translate well. You need to replace all the tabs with enough spaces to make the format look right. It sucks, but there you are.

Now I have only brushed the surface here. Do this and you’ll get a vanilla ebook. If you want to get fancier (and spend about ten times the amount of time you’ve used up to now) there are more books about formatting for Kindle than you can shake a stick at. Believe me, I’ve tried. I got tired.

Search for “Kindle formatting” on Amazon and you come up with 351 books that will tell you everything you need to know about the subject. I wish you luck. Maybe, one day, I’ll get brave enough to delve into that particular tar pit.

Or you could hire someone to do it for you.

You’ve now got your formatted Word file – or whatever – and your cover illustration in JPEG format (ideally 2500 pixels high with a 1.6 aspect ratio, height to width). It’s time to upload everything and let the gremlins churn out your ebook.

Kindle Direct Publishing is the website.If you have an Amazon account (and who doesn’t?) you can sign in with that. You’ll be taken to a dashboard, and among the things you’ll see there is a yellowish button labeled “Add new title”.

When you click that button you’ll be taken to a page that leads you by the hand through every step to get your cover uploaded, your book uploaded, putting in your description, claiming your rights, deciding whether you want DRM (a big NO, at least for me) and setting your price. Then it will ask if you are ready to publish. Press “yes”, and you’re on your way. It will take, they say, approximately 12 hours for your listing to go live.

It’s all pretty easy these days.

One thing. When you upload your Word file you will be confronted with the Whirling Circle of Death and the message “converting”. Once that is done, you will be asked if you want to preview your book. Say “yes”. This occurs at the bottom of the first of two pages. At this point you will see a mostly accurate resprentation of what your ebook will look like on a Kindle device.

If it doesn’t look the way you want it to, don’t despair – too much. You can fix it. Just save what you’ve done so far, get out of the browser, and spend whatever time you need to tweak your file.

Sign back in to KDP, and you will be taken to your “Bookshelf” page. You will see a line item with the title of your book. Click the selection box on the left, click the “Actions” button just above, and select “Edit book details”. You will be taken back to the page where you uploaded your file and given the chance to replace the file.

Everything will be fine this time, and you’re home free. Break out the bubbly, light a cigar and wait for the sales to come rolling in.

Um, no. This ain’t the Field of Dreams, buddy. Just ’cause you built it don’t mean they’re gonna come.

Now comes the really ugly part: marketing. I’m still figuring that one out.


tinsleys heroesby Bob Tinsley

When last we talked I had the “shooting script” in hand and was ready to publish an ebook with it.

Well, not quite ready. What I had was the body of the book. What I didn’t have was what is called the “front matter”. This stuff is usually taken care of by the publisher without the author having to worry too much about it. Guess what? YOU’RE the publisher. You’ll see this again.

Take a look at a book, either dead-tree or ebook, doesn’t matter. I’ll start with an overview, then take each element individually.

Starting from the outside you have the cover. The cover has a picture and some text. Then there’s the title page which has, you guessed it, the title of the book and the author’s name as a minimum. Most times the title page also has the publisher’s name. We’ll get back to that later.

Following that you have the copyright page with whatever disclaimers and lawyerly weasel words the publisher wants on there. Then there’s the dedication, preface, introduction, glossary and any other stuff that you feel might be interesting to the reader.

Then you have to make sure the manuscript is in the right format for Kindle or Nook conversion. This will require its own post. Later.

Unlike screenplays (attractive covers verboten) a book needs a cover. And not just any cover. The cover needs to be attractive and well layed out. The more it resembles the cover on the latest NYT best seller, the better. The Big Six (now Five) publishers have graphic designers on staff that do that sort of thing all day every day.

Congratulations! You are now a graphic designer. Unless you have a real graphic designer in the family or have enough disposable income to hire one, you will be designing the cover of your ebook.

Don’t get all freaked. If I can do this, you can.

The first thing to do is find a photo or illustration. There are some killer photos out there in the public domain, but the safest option is to go to a stock photo site and spend a couple of bucks for one you know you can use without getting into a rights hassle. I use Most of the photos I use cost less than two dollars apiece. Read the purchase agreement under Approved Uses. If it says “book covers”, you’re golden.

Now you need to put text on the cover, the title and your name as a minimum. If you have Photoshop, you’re good. If not, use GIMP. It’s basically the freeware (free!) Photoshop. With a little experimentation putting text on your photo is pretty easy. There’s a large selection of fonts to use, and you can change color and size easily. Realistically it will take you a couple of hours to learn how to do this with ease.

We’ll continue this stroll through the minefield of indie publishing in the next post.

Meanwhile, should you wish to see my first pass at ebooking an audio script, HEROES, is now available on Kindle.

I say first pass, because if I don’t like something, I can go back and change it. Typically the changes are made within 12 hours. Your mistakes aren’t there for eternity.

The formatting translated pretty well, though I may want to tweak it for readability. Or not. I’ll have to think on it a bit. Or – you could give me your opinion in a review on Amazon or in the comments here. Or both.

Michael Chabon’s New Book is Going Way Multi-Media

This is either the greatest idea of the season or the biggest hooey in years. Thoughts?

Harper Plans Enhanced E-Book for Michael Chabon’s Novel – by Barbara Chai

When Michael Chabon’s highly anticipated novel, “Telegraph Avenue,” comes out Sept. 11, it will be his first novel in five years. In it, the author of the Pulitzer-winning “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” tackles the myriad subjects of used vinyl, childbirth and parenting, commercial real estate, jazz and soul, 1970s Blaxploitation movies, and the Black Panthers.

Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, plans to release the book as an enhanced e-book (EEB) in addition to the more traditional hardcover, e-book and audio book formats. The EEB will include lots of interactive multimedia that amplify the themes of the book.

“Once the team read ‘Telegraph Avenue,” we knew this had potential to be a unique enhanced e-book, unlike most novels,” said Leah Wasielewski, Harper’s senior director of marketing. “You see a lot of enhanced e-books for non-fiction, but for this book, there was so much great imagery and a need for some sort of musical element.”

The EEB will include an interactive map of Oakland, where the book is set; eight videos of Chabon; an enhanced table of contents and animated cover; Chabon’s playlist for the book; and original illustrations by artist Stainboy Reinel including three “Strutter” movie posters, a mockup of a DVD box set described in the story, a set of “air fresheners” featuring CandyGirl and Strutter (see illustration), and a fake iron-on t-shirt design of CandyGirl. The EEB will also include clips of the audio book narrated by actor Clarke Peters of “The Wire” and “Treme,” and a “Telegraph Avenue” theme song composed by Peter Lerman and released as a track by the fictional Wakanda Philharmonic mentioned in the book.

Read it all

Upon closer examination, we’re leaning much more toward the “hooey” side of things. There are so many things you can do once you’re taking the web/eBook plunge, so many more adventurous ways of embracing new media. (Like, hey, treating it like somethingnew and letting it run away with your imagination, you know?)

As Chabon fans we’re going with the idea that this is the publisher’s concept…because he, of course, would do it so much better. Mr. Chabon, sir, care to comment?