Tag Archives: epublishing

Publishing an EBook

Today, I welcome a guest blogger on a subject the mechanics of which I am still trying to wrap my mind around – epublishing. Thank God my publisher deals with that (certainly in the case of Oh Gad! which is available as a trade paperback, mass market paperback, and ebook. I hope to get there with the earlier books at some point). But Kimolisa is practically an expert at it by this stage. I asked her to share some tips with the blog’s readers, and here it is (all bolds are mine). Welcome, Kim, and congratulations on the release of She Wanted a Love Poem.

by Kimolisa Mings


I never really believed in myself or my work. To be honest, I never thought of my poetry as my work; it was something I did, I wrote poems. Although I have been writing poetry for over 20 years, it is within the last ten that I’ve shared my work. Be it through spoken word at local open mics or through my blog, Kim or Lisa.


It was because I never believed in my work that I never thought about being published in Literary Journals or even having a book of my poetry published.

It was by chance that I was looking through a person’s website that I noticed that they had a book available for purchase. I clicked on the link and it brought me to their eBook page in Smashwords. Looking through the Smashwords website, I recognized the possibility of producing an eBook that could be sold through different online stores.

No, I didn’t believe in my work enough to go through the process of approaching publishing houses to have my book published, but I could put in the hours to produce an eBook and put it up for sale. Unfortunately, it took me another two years before I published my first eBook, Martine, and another two years before I published my second, She Wanted A Love Poem.

The truth is it doesn’t really take two years to publish an eBook. In fact, it is up to you on how quickly you take your book from manuscript to eBook. It all depends on the amount of time you dedicate to getting the following done,

  1. Write – Don’t worry about perfect grammar, spelling or even if the plot makes sense, just get the story out of your head and down on paper or on your computer.
  2. Edit – First go over your draft and clean up the obvious errors and trust me there will be errors. You have a choice of letting the draft sit a while before you look at it again or you send it off to an editor, proofreader or beta readers. It is advised to get an editor like Joanne because they are viewing the draft with new eyes and they will see errors and discrepancies that you would not have noticed. Be patient, take what they say on board, and remember that the first draft is like a block of marble and between you and your editor, you will create a David.
  3. Choose Distribution Channels – Depending on what platform you are publishing your eBook, you will have to format your eBook to their specifications. There are many platforms to choose, from Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing to Apple’s iBooks to Barnes & Nobles’ Nook to Smashwords. Personally, I chose Smashwords because it distributes to other online eBook sellers including Nook and iBooks and I chose Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) because Smashwords does not distribute to Amazon.
  4. Format – Depending on your platform of choice, you would format accordingly. Each channel will have its own formatting guide lines. For Smashwords, there is a free Style Guide found here, if you follow the guide to the letter, it will guarantee you distribution to the other online stores. When it comes to formatting for Amazon’s KDP, I have not found one specific style guide, but through Google, you can find websites, PDF’s and eBooks on how to format for Kindle.
  5. Cover Art – Once again follow the instructions of the Style guides, but keep in mind that the cover art should look attractive when viewed as a thumbnail. No matter how much we would like to deny it, we do judge a book by its cover. Your artwork should be clean and convey your story without giving it away. Your Title and your name should be clear and readable when viewed as a thumbnail, no fancy font. With eBooks, you will be submitting a Jpeg file, ensure it is the right size in accordance with the platform’s specifications.
  6. Upload – The websites will take you through the process of uploading your content and your cover art. It will take from a few hours to a couple of days before the eBook will be available for purchase as it will be vetted electronically and/or by a person. In some cases, you will have to make some changes to your content or your cover art.
  7. Review your eBook – With Smashwords, you will be able to download your eBook to see how it looks in the different formats. With Amazon’s KDP, you can view your eBook using the online Kindle reader and you can view it in the various versions of the Kindle. In both cases you can always go back and change the font size or change misspellings and the like and upload again.
  8. Price your eBook – This is one of the steps in the uploading process. In Smashwords, you can set the price to free. Unfortunately, the lowest price you can set in Amazon’s KDP is $0.99. This will eventually become free when Amazon sees the book is available elsewhere for free. You can visit either platform to see how much royalty you receive from the sale of the book, this can vary from 35% to 70%.
  9. Market your eBook – Let everyone and their mother know you have an eBook. There are many ways to let the world know about your masterpiece, be it through your social media network, sending out press releases, doing guest posts on other blogs. Google is your friend when it comes to searching for ways to promote your book. Keep in mind, it is a marathon, not a sprint and it may take years before people come across your book. Some say the best way to market your book is to write another book. The more books you have out there the more likely someone will come across one and be interested enough to read more of your work.

Now that you see how easy or how hard it is to publish an eBook, you should consider the pros and the cons of self publishing eBooks to see if it is the right fit for you.

The pros of self publishing an eBook include

– getting your book out there to readers;

– it is relatively easy to publish;

– you can build a readership;

– you choose what the final product looks like.

– you can make changes relatively quickly

The cons of self publishing an eBook include,

– you having to do most of the work, writing, editing or finding an editor, doing the cover art or finding some one do the the cover art, formatting or finding someone to format the book, publishing;

– because of the ease to entry, the marketplace is crowded and you have to work extra hard to be noticed;

– you might not see any or much money in the first year;

– you might get bad reviews

As eReaders and tablets with eReader capabilities become part of our day to day lives, I plan to keep publishing eBooks. This time around I won’t wait two years between publishing the ebooks. It’s my aim to publish three ebooks a year, some will be stories and some will be collections of poems. There is a lot of support and information online from KBoards, a forum for Kindle to podcasts like Rocking Self Publishing and The Creative Penn and as I mentioned Google is a friend when it comes to specific information.

Is self publishing for everyone? No, but if you are willing to put in the long hours and the hard work, if you are determined to share your work with the world and if you really want to make a living from your work, anything is possible. You just have to believe.

Kimolisa Mings with Brooklyn poet laureate Tina Chang.

Kimolisa Mings with Brooklyn poet laureate Tina Chang.

Thanks, Kim. Like she said, to each his path; choose what’s right for you. Likely you’ll discover even more pros and cons than those listed here, and quite a bit of overlap as well as technology continues to transform the publishing industry. Some other publishing articles of interest on the site can be found here. For what it’s worth, self-published or traditionally published that demon of not being good enough is one a lot of writers wrestle with. If you want to go for opportunities in publishing, feel the fear and do it anyway. It takes some kind of daring to put your work out there, by whatever means.

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Fish Outta Water, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

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By Joanne C. Hillhouse

“I can’t find any books by Caribbean writers for the kindle, except for Junot Diaz and Edwidge Danticat. What’s up with that?” was a complaint by a fellow writer and reader in my facebook feed recently. It continued, “Joanne C. Hillhouse is another exception, enjoyed ‘O Gad’ [sic] recently. But so many more books are unavailable. Especially wish I could find contemporary Caribbean poetry for the kindle.”

Others on the poster’s friends list were quick to offer other suggestions because there are, of course, more than the named books available via e-publishing platforms. But it’s still a valid point. Relative to the growing popularity of ebooks, which are reportedly outselling print books, while providing a much more interactive experience for the reader, there are comparably few Caribbean books available for access in this format.

Recently the Government Assisted Technology Endeavour Digital Publishing Workshop (in Antigua and Barbuda) with funding from Columbus Communications (which recently acquired Karib Cable) hosted a Brightpath-led e-publishing workshop.

Workshop facilitators, sponsors and participants  @ GATE (Photo from https://www.facebook.com/AntiguaBarbudaGovt)

Workshop facilitators, sponsors and participants @ GATE (Photo from https://www.facebook.com/AntiguaBarbudaGovt)

I was in that workshop, and it was clear that what the roughly 20 participants desired was less convincing and more hands on guidance in how to proceed. Brightpath, a non-profit dedicated to enhancing regional technological capacity, seems game to return and given them just that.

Why does this matter?

Increasingly young people are engaging with the world in a digital way – our tablet programme, placing technology in the hands of high schoolers, is a part of ensuring that. But, what will they be engaging with? How many of our writing – our Antiguan, Barbudan, and Caribbean writing – will they be able to access using those tablets?

“There are dimensions of our world that can’t be found on the internet,” said co-facilitator and Brighpath founder Bevil Wooding.

Every media innovation has brought with it concerns about content – cable TV being the most notable example – because so much of what we consume through that technology and now through the internet is created in other places. In the case of the internet, from a cost standpoint, it’s much easier for creative types to share content. We can blog, we can connect via social media, we can add research to wikipedia, we can upload videos to youtube, and, yes, we can publish ebooks. But are we?

In fact, Wooding shared the criticism that the tablet programme to be truly successful needed a production component, training the recipients to produce content from the jump.

Self-defining is the key underlying issue here. Because part of what happens incrementally when you absorb content almost entirely from other places is that you develop a way of seeing yourself and your world that’s outside of yourself. Wooding illustrated this point by sharing an anecdote from his own home. His younger daughter told him that she wanted to write a story and he encouraged her to go for it. He was impressed with how enthusiastically she jumped at the task. When he read what she’d written though, he found that the world presented in the story was not reflective of her world – think more northern.  It was an unconscious act; “she didn’t even know that she wasn’t describing her world…she had been warped by a dietary input not relevant to her cultural experience.”

To share an anecdote of my own, before and since starting the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize (https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com) to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, I’ve had opportunity to judge and/or just read stories by young writers and saw evidence of this trend as well. It’s one of the reasons why, I set as a foundation of Wadadli Pen that submissions to the annual Challenge must be Caribbean in spirit. I didn’t intend it as a limitation but as a guide, a reminder to tell stories true to our world.

Wooding pushed this point hard, the need to get our stories out there – high quality, low quality, and everything in between, underscoring the view that the only bad story is an untold story. I have a different view on this as I do believe that we should strive for high quality. Something in me resists the notion that it doesn’t have to be good, even to your personal standards, it just has to be published; nothing turns me off of a book quicker than sloppy writing and editing. But he makes a valid point that not everything on the internet from the U.S. is gold, some of it is crap, but it has a space to exist and market forces (whether views, sales, rankings or ratings by the user/buyer) not artificial barriers set up by the publishing industry determine its value.

So what he’s doing at this stage is trying to empower and encourage content creators to get their work out there. It helps “create a sense of the value of regional content” and a realization that we have just as much right to “share our views, our ideas, our interests, and imagination.” The workshop, especially the latter part, began the process of showing how, by taking participants through different e-publishing platforms and checklist of things to think about when putting writing out into the digital world. What’s needed next is per participant feedback is hands-on tutoring, learning by doing.

UPDATE! You might also want to read from the folks at Brightpath, this piece re the promise and pitfalls of tablets in the classroom.

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, are okay, lifting content (words, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright. 

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