Friday, June 15, 2012

Some very, very expensive words

Here's some advice to authors who are planning to digitally self-publish, whether on Amazon or Smashwords or anywhere else:

Regardless what else you spend money on, set aside $10 or so to buy a copy of each edition of your book immediately after it's been e-published and check to make sure it is absolutely 100% clean.  I don't care if you format it yourself or you have someone else do it.  I don't care if it's a friend or a paid service that did the formatting and uploading.  Spend the money and check out the absolute final product, the one that's purchased exactly the way your customers will buy it -- and make sure that is the way you want them to see it.

You'll save yourself a lot of grief.

I didn't do that with Firefly.  Oh, I proofread it and checked it and even had to re-upload it to Amazon to fix one set of formatting errors that I caught through the original "preview" process.  But when I uploaded what I thought was the "final" version, I didn't spend the $1.00 -- yes, one lousy dollar -- it would have cost me to download a live copy direct to my Kindle for PC app.

Now, let me add this, just so you know:  I checked the file that I uploaded through the "mobi" software or whatever it is that is supposed to generate exactly what will be seen on the Kindle.  Everything looked good.  I also checked it through the "preview" on  the Kindle Direct Publishing page when I uploaded it.  At that point everything looked the way I expected it to. 

Neither of those previews is the same as seeing the product as it downloads to a customer live.

The price is $2.99 and at the 70% royalty rate, I net about $2.00 out of that for each copy, so if I had bought just one copy, it would have cost me a whole dollar.  But I would have found the remaining formatting errors then and been able to fix them before the book went out to umpteen thousand customers on the Kindle Select free program a few days later.  Cheapskate here -- and I make no excuses -- decided to wait until I could get a free copy myself when everyone else did, and download a copy to my Kindle for PC.  That's when I found the problems.

Ooops, too late.  My bad. 

I immediately went back to the original file and fixed the formatting errors, but by then it was too late for all those people who downloaded the free copies.  They've got an impression of me that I would rather they didn't have, and it's entirely my fault.  All because I was too cheap to buy a copy of my own book, for which my net cost would have been one lousy dollar.

Oh but wait, there's more.  Unfortunately, there's much more.

As I wrote shortly after uploading Firefly, I fixed the formatting, and I added the explanation about the historical research on the ice cream.  Yes, that ice cream!  (Would you believe the editor on the original print version of the book never questioned it?  Well, it would have been okay if she did, because that was one of the facts I was able to verify through the Arizona Room at the Phoenix Public Library.)  The problem was, the Author's Afterword I added when I uploaded the reformatted version was -- you guessed it -- the wrong text.  I didn't discover that until today when the free version resulted in another review.  And the reason I didn't catch it is I didn't buy a copy and look at it and make sure it was the right one.

The correct Afterword has now been inserted into the original document.  I'll upload it tonight or tomorrow, when I finish going through a couple more checks for errors that may or may not be there.  And then I'll revise the description on Amazon to include a note about the corrections, and I'll offer it free again.

I'll also buy a copy of each of my other books and find out what they look like. . . . . .


  1. I know you fear you are talking to yourself on this blog, but allow me to reassure you that there are those who read - and take every word to heart! Keep it up, we need your brand of honesty in the terrible world of writing...

    1. Thank you so very much, Jane! You have no idea how much your support means. And your note arrived on a day when I needed that little extra bit of encouragement.