Guest Post

Guest Post: (Not) A True Story (Sinead O’Hart)

You guys know the drill by now – May = guest post party! Today we have Sinead O’Hart with us to muse on writing and family and the assorted shenanigans involved there-in.


(Not) A True Story

Phew! Well, I made it across the Atlantic just in time to make my contribution to this fine blog. Thanks so much to Michelle for allowing me to bust into her online home and leave muddy footprints all over the place. I promise I won’t be here long, and I’ll try not to do too much damage.

As writers, we face one constant question. Not ‘what the hell do you actually do every day?’ or ‘Are you sure your slouch pants are appropriate outside-the-house attire?’ but: ‘Where do you get your ideas?’

This is a toughie. It’s a question that, when answered honestly (at least, from my point of view) doesn’t normally meet with a positive, let alone grateful, response. I sometimes think that the questioner wants you to put one conspiratorial arm around their shoulders, slide your eyes from left to right and back to left again, hiss ‘are they following us?’ out of the corner of your mouth, and usher them away down some dark alley to explain, exactly, where the Ideas Guy hangs out and how much he charges.

If only the answer were that simple.

Nobody likes being told ‘I get my ideas out of my head. Where else would I get them?’ People like to think it’s easier than that, and that it involves less work than that. I sometimes think people are surprised when you give them this sort of answer, like they were expecting you to say something like: ‘Oh, my ideas? Well, sure. Every Monday morning I get a big, thick envelope in the post, and it’s stuffed full of juicy plot points, great character profiles, and about three hundred different choices of setting, narrative style, and voice. So, you know, I take what I want out of it, and I send the package on to the next writer on the list. Simple as that, really.’ I also wonder, sometimes, if the questioner is secretly hoping you’ll say something along the lines of ‘Wow – I’m surprised you have to ask. I get my ideas from you, of course! Why would I worry about using my imagination? I just write down everything that happens to you, and I’m all set.’

Well, I mean, sometimes this is true. Very interesting people do exist, and I’m sure those people have relatives who write, and who are constantly on the lookout for story ideas based on their escapades. Also, I do know some marvellously interesting people, and I’m related to several more. But I very rarely base anything I write on anything that actually happens to me – at least, not directly, and not without several ladlefuls of creative refashioning poured on.

There have been times when I’ve written something, be it a story or a blog post or whatever, and I’ve immediately had to start fielding phonecalls from my friends and family, all of whom are anxious to know who I based it on. If I so much as suggest that a husband character in a story is a bit of a nasty man, my own husband will appear, his ‘sad eyes’ on full power, wondering – cutely, I have to admit – whether he’s done something to irritate me. Mostly, he hasn’t (because he’s a sweetheart), but even if he had, I wouldn’t take my revenge through my words. Words last forever; a bad mood is momentary. It seems like overkill, doesn’t it?

Bits and pieces of my work exist in various places on the Interwebs, some of which deal with families or fraught relationships between people, and all the usual fictional fare, and I have been asked some strange, and slightly hurt, questions by dearly loved family members because of these pieces of writing. It can sometimes take me a while to work out what they’re so upset by. In my mind, of course, there’s no connection between what I’ve written and said family member.

Then, there are times when I have drawn on real life for inspiration; I’ve based loving characters on the wonderful traits I see in my own dear ones, and I’ve recreated happy family scenes which echo the contented and joyful upbringing I was lucky enough to have. I’ve written about deeply connected families, and strong parental figures, and giggling children. But nobody seems to care too much who all the happy stuff is based on. All they want to know about is the scandal – who the villain is, when the veneer of story has been stripped away, and whether an unsavoury character could possibly be based on them.

It never is. I’m not that stupid, you know.

Sometimes I wish it was as easy as looking around my family and friends, and stealing all their craziness, and writing about it, but it’s just not like that. I get my ideas out of my odd little head. I’m not constantly taking mental notes when I’m having tea with my aunties, or mining my personal correspondence for ideas for my next story. So, in short, what I’m saying is: feel free to speak freely around me. You’re not going to see a warty, horrible, snaggletoothed version of yourself showing up in any of my stories anytime soon. Because where would the challenge be in that?


Unrelated media of the day:

Amazon reviews for the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer:

Teehee. Check out more awesome reviews here.

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Guest Post: 5 Really Good Reasons You Should Give Up Your Dream of Being an Author (Sahm King)

Today’s guest post is from Sahm King, fellow WordPress blogger and poet extraordinaire. Whilst reading this post, remember that Sahm’s a pretty cool guy, and doesn’t actually want to squash your hopes and dreams under his metal-edged combat boots. (I’m not sure if he actually wears these or not, but they seem fitting.) And now …


5 Really Good Reasons You Should Give Up Your Dream of Being an Author

*Disclaimer – Read at your own risk. If you are prone to summing up what a post is about prior to reading the entire post, it is not a good idea to read this post at all.*

Alone-In-crowded-room-10We all have dreams. Some of us dream of being the next big name in writing. Some of us dream of seeing our book on a bookshelf at our local Barnes&Noble. And still others dream of subjugating the masses, reestablishing the Roman Empire in the New World, thus becoming the sole and absolute authority and god amongst men, ushering in a golden era of peace and prosperity. *Cgh* Excuse me. That last is my dream. My point is, we all have dreams, but we can’t all just live our dreams all willy nilly. Why? Because we have bills to pay and these cute minions – I mean children – to feed.

And you thought this was going to be a motivational piece?

I’m going to enlighten you, people. It’s time for you to wake up to the realities of your lives and get with the program. Dreams are for children. Why? Come close and I will tell you the 5 really good reasons you should give up your dream of being an author!

Reason #1: There Are Already Way Too Many Authors
snl-church-ladySo you want to be an author, eh? Let me ask you a question: what makes you so special? I mean, really? Why should I care that you’re writing a book? What makes you unique? What is it about your book that separates you from the thousands of authors proliferating the market? This is the first reason you should give up your dream of being an author. If you cannot identify why you’re different from all the rest, there’s really no reason for you to try. So you’re writing an epic fantasy novel. Okay, what makes your fantasy novel any different from the Wheel of Time series that Robert Jordan didn’t even finish before he died? Are you going to give me more of the same or are you going to make a statement? If you can’t look at yourself in the mirror, ask yourself the question what makes me different from the rest and answer it, honestly, in my opinion, you’ve already given up. Trash the MS Word document and consign yourself to working that dead-end job of yours for the rest of your life.

Reason #2: Nobody Is Going to Like My Work
This is one thing I’ve heard time and time again from would-be authors. “I just don’t think they’ll like it.” Well, you’re probably right. Let me ask you this? If you don’t think anybody’s going to like what you’re writing, why in the blue hell are you writing it? Why are you even dreaming of being an author? You know what that’s like? That’s like when a lady asks “Does this dress make me look fat?” then getting mad when her man answers “Yes, yes it does make you look fat.” I mean, you’re basically setting yourself up for disappointment from the beginning, so why not just kill the dream off the bat?

Then again, you’re probably right. Nobody’s going to like your work. Trash it. In fact, you should burn it and spread the ashes over the parking lot of your nearest Borders outlet.

Reason #3: You’re Much Too Weak to Handle Rejection
9770ce1d937657dc696184ac708d0b00Let’s face it, it’s not really a Walgreens world. Rejection is one of the harshest realities for an author. That’s one of the best reasons for you to quit. You’re going to come across agents and publishers that believe your work isn’t publishable or marketable. You’re going to come across editors that won’t give you the time of day. It’s going to happen multiple times. Some of you will believe that’s reason enough to shelve your dreams. And why not? You put in all this hard work. For what? To be laughed at and dismissed? You should quit. Take all your rejection letters and emails, plaster them all over your fridge and let the binging on Ben and Jerry’s ice cream begin. Let them serve as a reminder of why you should have never have had a dream in the first place,; because dreams don’t come true.

Reason #4: Time to Be a Grown Up
hook260710145941hook_1Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids and, unfortunately, so are dreams. Remember when you were little and you could be anything you wanted to be? Well, that’s not so true anymore. You can’t be anything you want to be, my friend. I want to be a dictator, but that’s just not going to happen, is it? Nope. And you’re not going to be an author. I mean, not unless that’s what you really, really want to be. Do you really, really want to be an author? Do ya? Punk?

Reason #5: The Status Quo ALWAYS Knows Better
20120208001011Some of my favorite people are the status quo. They know a lot about achieving dreams. They’ll be the first to tell that you the odds are against you. They’re right, you know. And if you listen to them, and believe what they tell you, you’ll quit while you’re ahead. People like J.K. Rowling or E.L. James are statistical anomalies. Disregard the fact that what they did took a lot of hard work. They lucked out and that sort of thing is just not going to happen to you. The status quo would have you believe that you can’t make it. And so long as you believe that the status quo knows what they’re talking about, they will always be right. You can only ever go as far as you believe you can go, so if you believe you can’t, you should just give it up and let the status quo have their day in the Sun. Again.

Never, ever let anybody tell you that you should give up on your dreams. No matter how dark it gets, no matter how long it takes, no matter how lofty your goal seems, keep striving for it. Keep reaching for those stars. You never know; you might just be the next J.K. Rowling. You might just put out the next book that Oprah Winfrey is boasting about. Whatever your goals are, keep striving for them. Never give up.

By Sahm King

Categories: Guest Post | Tags: , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Guest Post: Looking for New Authors? (Chris Graham)

Moving day today! Getting my mom out of the apartment and off on her way to sunny, French-speaking Montreal! Huzzah! But before the moving shenanigans begin, let’s hear from Chris Graham, who has a blog dedicated to promoting awareness of up and coming indie authors!

Looking for New Authors?

Firstly, I’d like to thank Michelle for this opportunity to contribute to her great blog. I hope I can do even half as well with mine.

The Story Reading Ape’s Blog introduces the new (to me) authors whose books I’ve read and enjoyed, covering most genres from Historical Fiction & Poetry to Sci-Fi & Fantasy across all age ranges.

It has really taken off since 4th April 2013 (over 1000 hits and 100 followers on 29th April) with people looking for new authors and books to read and it’s rapidly gaining popularity, judging by the increasing number of followers and return visits.  Due to popular request I have introduced two new pages:

YOUR New Authors, where everyone can share information about THEIR newly found authors and favourite books,

NEWSFLASH, where authors are invited to promote their latest published book FREE for a maximum of 7 days.

As you will see from my ‘About‘ page, to me, an author is a story telling ape who has the overpowering urge to not only tell a story, but write it, publish it, and sweat buckets waiting for other people to say how much they enjoyed it.

For an author, there can be nothing worse than getting no reaction, no feedback, no recognition for the hours, days, weeks, months, or even years they’ve spent on their labour of love, their dream, their baby.  I hope that my blog goes, even a little way, towards giving these story telling apes, the recognition they seek and deserve.

I have already introduced over 20 new (to me) authors, complete with links to their websites, so you can get more details directly from them if you become their fan.

If you follow my blog, you can keep fully up to date by receiving new posts in your email Inbox as they happen.

Why not pay a visit to and decide for yourselves.

I’d be delighted if you leave a comment there, letting me know what you think.

Don’t forget to come back here to Michelle and let her know what you think of it as well.

The Story Reading Ape


Unrelated media of the day:

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Guest Post: First Draft (Madhvi Ramani)

First Draft

Today’s guest post is from writer Madhvi Ramani

ninaWe all know that writing is re-writing, right? By the time my first children’s book Nina and the Travelling Spice Shed was accepted for publication, I had re-written it about fifty times. That’s not an exaggeration; it started out as a story called Charlie and Nina.

So I was pretty sure that my character arc made sense, the plot was tight, and that every word was in order when it went to the publisher’s – but then it came back, covered in notes, question marks, and suggested changes. It was like being back at first draft.

Here’s a key scene from my original manuscript, in which Nina is about to discover that the garden shed that her aunt stores spices in can magically transport you anywhere in the world, followed by the published version.


Chapter Three

Nina walked through Aunt Nishi’s unkempt garden, towards the shed. It was old and crooked and almost completely camouflaged by the tall grass and weeds that surrounded it. Once again, she thought how strange it was that such a ramshackle construction should be paired with such a perfect little key.

When Nina arrived at the shed, she leant forward to unlock the door with the key still hanging from her neck, and decided that Aunt Nishi must have given her the wrong key after all; it didn’t fit.  Nina fumbled around with it a bit more just to be sure, but just as she was ready to give up, the lock clicked open.

She pushed the heavy door open and as soon as she stepped inside, it shut behind her and a light came on automatically.  Along two sides of the shed were rows of shelves stacked with hundreds of glass jars filled with different coloured spices.  Nina spotted the one with yellow powder in it and picked it up, careful not to touch anything else.  When she got to the door, she balanced the jar in one hand with the help of her knee, and attempted to open the door with the other.  But the jar started to wobble and before Nina could get it under control, it fell and smashed.

The yellow powder flew in all directions.


chapter three

Click image to enlarge

As you can see, not only does the published version look prettier – thanks to the wonderful illustrations provided by Erica-Jane Waters – but it reads better. The sentences are slicker, the build-up of tension is greater, details richer, sequence of events clearer, and, as a result, our empathy with the main character is increased.

I’m currently going through the editing process for my second book Nina and the Kung Fu Adventure, due out later this year, and unlike the first time around, I really appreciate the process because I know how valuable it can be!

Madhvi’s book Nina and the Travelling Spice Shed for children 7+ is out now. You can follow her on twitter @madhviramani.


Unrelated link of the day:

15 Tips for Handling Writing Criticism

Unrelated video of the day:

The Ender’s Game trailer is out! View, enjoy, and be awed.


Categories: Guest Post, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Guest Post: My Journey as a New Author (Christina Channelle)

Continuing the guest post series, today I’m pleased to feature Miss Christina Channelle, who will ruminate with us on the wondrous journey of a self-published author. Read on!


My Journey as a New Author

 Hello! Christina Channelle here.

This is my first time doing a guest post so bear with me. Thanks, Michelle for allowing me to share my words today on your blog. 🙂

What I wanted to discuss was my journey since taking the plunge to self-publish my first book. I first discovered my love for reading one summer long, long ago. I was ten years old and bored out of my mind for some reason or another. I decided to open up a book stashed somewhere in my room, yet never had the urge to read until that very moment.

That single action of turning that first page changed my life forever. I realized that words thrown together could create another world unlike my own; with ghosts, vampires, and things that go bump in the night the main attraction. I read every book that I could get my hands on until I practically read every young adult novel in my public library. I was a fiend, let me tell you. Then as I fell asleep at night, or daydreamed while in class, stories would conjure up in my mind that I just had to write down. The first story that I wrote was back in high school and is now my first self-published book, Dahlia. Simply, it’s about a normal girl who realizes she’s not quite so normal.

Here’s the prologue below:

I was five when I knew something was different about me.

My first memory.

I had no recollection of who my parents were or what they even looked like. All I knew was that I was alone at the orphanage, disconnected from the outside world. I picture it even now, almost like an oil painting: the thick bristles of the paintbrush created the bright blue sky as it connected to the shockingly white snow. The snow blanketed everything around me, as if protecting me, the green forest displayed at every angle.

The orphanage was out of place in such a nature-infused environment. A large, two-story building, its windows seemed to cover almost every surface. I remembered the brightness of the sun as it hit my sleepy face through one of those many windows. It would instantly warm my body, greeting me to yet another day.

Vines covered old gray bricks as they coursed over the external surface of the orphanage. I had nightmares about those same vines making their way into my room as I slept. They’d appear ominously as their shadows pounded against the walls, taunting me as a storm brewed on outside. Venturing toward my bed, the vines would slither across my body, trapping me in place. One would wrap around my neck, squeezing tightly, as I struggled for air. Rendered frozen, the feeling of fear would take hold, bubbling up deep inside my chest. And as I felt the burning pain in my throat, a thought would flash through my mind of this moment being my last. It never was, though, as I would instantly wake up.

I always did have a wild imagination.

To chase away the terror, I would stand before my windowpane the morning after. Sighing in relief, my eyes would be drawn to the vast forest off in the distance. It surrounded the orphanage, like a gatekeeper, the leaves of the trees bristling in irritation. The wind blew right through those tall structures, whistling, as my ears picked up the all too familiar sound.

I somehow found myself standing directly in front of that very forest. My memory was hazy on exactly how I got there but I recalled waking up, after one of my many dreams, to the feeling of immense hunger as my body stirred in discomfort.

Then suddenly I was at the foot of the forest.

I would not describe the sensation as simple hunger. I would almost describe it as a feeling of starvation, like there was some essential component my body was missing. Whatever it was, this need was so powerful I was weak in the knees with the pain; my belly contracted and released, contracted and released, continually. Food provided temporary relief for me, but there was always this presence in the corner of my mind as my brain searched for the one thing my body craved.

I ignored that nagging voice in my head, the one whispering for the one thing I needed. It was something unfathomable yet inherent. I paid it no attention and just openly stared at the forest beckoning me. Taking shallow breaths, the cool air blew in and out between my cold, chapped lips.

It was at that exact moment I realized the forest isolated me from everything and everyone outside of its confines—almost like a hungry bird circling its prey. Even young, my instincts picked up on that, immediately telling me something.

Eyes were watching me.

Excerpt from Dahlia (Blood Crave Series, #1) Copyright © 2012

 Dahlia was supposed to be a standalone book, but then the character, Rowan, came to me and, poof, a series was born. More than ten years later, the first two books in the series (along with a novella) are complete. Although I love the story and characters of the Blood Crave Series, I find it difficult when I get other story ideas that I want to focus on instead. So here I am, juggling writing numerous stories at once, going through the editing process, formatting, figuring out marketing strategies … it does get quite overwhelming at times. And then I end up spending my time on everything except writing, the very thing that I love to do. It’s especially hard when, like many indie authors, you’re juggling work and/or school in the process.

Do I find self-publishing hard? Yes.

And no.

The hardest thing for me was learning everything on your own: formatting an ebook, formatting the print book, creating a book cover, marketing, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Once you do it the first time, creating a book is actually quite simple. I think the hardest thing about writing and self-publishing is making the time to write when you have to do everything on your own.

But I never regret taking this path, not for a second.

My journey as a new author? Well, I’m still travelling. It’s hard at times, there are bumps along the road, but I’m having a blast. I’ve met other great indie authors, discovered awesome reads, and essentially have grown as a writer. This is all a learning experience for me. I don’t know exactly where my journey will lead too but I might as well enjoy the ride. Because that, in itself, will make me happy.

And that’s all everyone wants to be, right?

If you wish to read up on my ramblings as a new author, check out my blog at You can also like me on Facebook at and/or follow me on Twitter @channellewrites.

Thanks for reading!



Unrelated media of the day:

What if Disney villains were young and beautiful?

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Guest Post: On Music and Writing (with Alex Nader)

Next up in my “Guest Posters Because I’m Too Lazy To Write Posts Myself” series, we have Alex Nader cogitating on the relationship between music and writing. Take it away, Alex!


Alex Nader Promo

On Music and Writing

Music is a big part of my day to day life. In the car, at work, pretty much no matter what I’m doing, music is playing. I listen to everything from vintage blues to modern punk rock. Music also inspires a lot of my writing. I even have a playlist of songs to use as inspiration for my novel Beasts of Burdin. (Shameless self promoting? I’m for it.)

The only problem is when I’m writing I can’t listen to music. Something about words in music distracts me. I focus too much on the words and end up not writing a thing. It’s terribly frustrating since I enjoy music so much. Luckily for me, I’ve found solutions.

One of my solutions is a band called 2 Cellos. They cover a variety of pop songs with only, you guessed it, two cellos playing the music. My other solution? A series called the Pickin’ On Series. It’s a compilation of bluegrass bands covering everything from Aerosmith to John Mayer, mostly instrumental. It’s perfect. I made a playlist of the songs I like and now I have music to write to without having to worrying about getting lost in the lyrics.

So you may be asking yourself, who is this guy that’s written these words I’m currently reading? Let me tell you. I’m Alexander Nader. I’ve written a couple books, the best of which is going to be published next April by J. Taylor Publishing.

Beasts of Burdin is a tour de force of ridiculousness. Okay, tour de force is probably a bit of an overstatement, but I really wanted to use the phrase. It’s about Ty Burdin, a retired demon hunter who gets dragged back into his old life of hunting and is drowned in a world of complications because of it. I think it came out pretty good, and if you feel the urge, you should probably follow me at my blog,, for updates. If not there you can find me on Twitter, tweeting about something or other. @AlexNaderWrites.


Unrelated media of the day:

In honour of May the Fourth, (yes, I’m a day late, I’m aware), I present to you:

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Guest Post: Learning to Live the Dream (Danielle E. Shipley)

Today’s guest post comes from Danielle E. Shipley, the talented author of assorted short stories, novellas, and novels (several of them already published, with many more to come!). Check it out!

* * *

Learning to Live the Dream

These have been the most unbelievable last several weeks of my life.

It all started in February (my gosh, was it really only February??) when J. Taylor Publishing accepted my submission for their YA short story anthology, “One More Day” (coming this December). This was the first “yes” I’ve gotten from the publishing industry that came with contracted royalties, so I was … what’s the term? A wreck. (The crazy happy kind.)

Not much earlier, I’d made the commitment to myself to stop talking about “someday” and finally self-publish my darling fairytale novella series, “The Wilderhark Tales”. Upon signing my short story with JTP, I wavered for a moment about whether or not to pursue the self-publishing project right now, as planned, or put it off ‘til later. That moment lasted all of a few seconds. The promises I make, I keep. The first Wilderhark Tale was going forward. (“The Swan Prince”, coming May 31st .)

So, I had a short story to prepare for a publishing company, and a novella to edit, acquire a cover for, figure out how to format for paperback and e-book, and, also, in addition, plus … (There’s a lot involved in self-pubbing a quality book, y’all.)

And then JTP asked for my novel, “Inspired”. (Coming in March of 2014.)

This is it, people. This is the start of the writing career I’ve worked for since my latter teens. At what’s-seemed-like-an-eternity last, I can say I am living the dream!

… But wait. Where did all my writing time go?

I had it soft, ‘til now. With no other real demands on my time, I could pretty much spend all day, every day, writing up a storm. Now? Not so much. A long list of pressing deadlines comes first.

It would be easy – arguably justifiable, even – to move writing new material off my priorities list until later. Problem is, that looks an awful lot like the same “someday” region to which I almost relegated my fairytale series. I don’t want to exile writing to “someday”! A fine howdy-do that would be: “Oh, yeah, thanks for getting my foot in the door of fame and fortune, Writing. It’s been real. But, uh, I’m kinda busy, these days, so … Y’know what? I’ll call you.” *calls “someday”*

Not even. That’s no way to treat something you love. I wouldn’t be typing this blog post right now if I didn’t love writing. I’m a writer. Writers write. Beginning, middle, and end of story.

So yeah, I’m up to my ears in line editing and social networking, I’ve got a mad amount of forms to fill out and accounts to keep tabs on … but I’m also making time to write. Maybe not every day; certainly not all day, anymore. It might only add up to a few thousand new words a week, for a while. That’s all right. I’ll work my way back up to my old deranged levels of productivity, or I’ll settle into something more like the routine that real authors keep.

‘Cause I’m as real an author now as the best of them, guys. And I’m gonna write like it. That’s a promise.

* * *

danielle_author photoDanielle E. Shipley’s first novelettes told the everyday misadventures of wacky kids like herself … or so she thought. Unbeknownst to them all, half of her characters were actually closeted elves, dwarves, fairies, or some combination thereof. When it all came to light, Danielle did the sensible thing: packed up and moved to Fantasy Land, where daily rent is the low, low price of her heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, firstborn child, sanity, and words; lots of them. She’s also been known to spend short bursts of time in the real-life Chicago area with the parents who home schooled her and the two little sisters who keep her humble. When she’s not living the highs and lows of writing young adult novels, she’s probably blogging about it at

Categories: Guest Post | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Guest Post: Formatting An E-Book Is Not Rocket Science

Today’s guest post comes from Misha Burnett, fellow WordPress blogger and author of the sci-fi/urban fantasy novel Catskinner’s Book. Take it away, Mr. Burnett!


Formatting an e-book is not rocket science. Seriously, it isn’t. You may have heard that e-book conversion is a highly technical process requiring specialized software and trained professionals, and if it is done wrong your years of work on your book will be absolutely ruined.

Well, odds are you heard that from someone who wants to sell you an e-book conversion package starting at the low, low, price of 199$ (plus extra charges if your book contains specialized elements such as words). People who make money from e-book conversion aren’t going to tell you that it’s a simple process that most people can learn in an afternoon.

I will tell you that. In fact, I am telling you precisely that.

E-book conversion is a simple process that most people can learn in an afternoon.

What’s more, you have absolutely nothing to lose by attempting to do it yourself. All of the software that I recommend is free. Make sure that you make a clean backup copy of your manuscript before you try anything, and then, no matter what happens, you’re not risking the book itself. Even if you decide that you don’t want to keep messing with it and pay someone else to do the conversion, all you’ve spent is time. (Unfortunately, your wasted time will not be refunded.)

Okay, let’s get started. I’m assuming that you have a clean, proofed and edited copy of the manuscript that you want to convert? Good. Now the very first step is to make a new copy of it—that’s what you play with. If you totally mess it up, it’s no big deal, just delete it and make another copy and start over. Never experiment with the original copy of your manuscript. (Yeah, that sounds obvious, but it can be easy to forget.)

Next, let’s get some software. I have collected links to some of the more important ones on my E-Reader Apps Page, because I live to serve. Calibre is the most important one, but I also advise getting the desktop apps for Kindle and Nook in order to see how it will look on different devices. (You’ll also want to see your book on any handheld devices you own—yes, you can do that, too.)

I also recommend getting Open Office, because it does everything that MSOffice does and it’s free. Furthermore, because MicroSoft has some serious control issues, people who write open source applications find it easier to start with .odt files rather than the propitiatory .doc format.

I am not going to tell you how to use these programs. All of them have plentiful documentation, and they explain how to work them much better than I could. What I will do is encourage you to try things out. Calibre has a huge number of buttons and switches to fiddle with, so much so that it looks a little intimidating, but the basic concept is simple.

Convert the file in Calibre, load the converted file into your e-reader and e-reader apps, read through it and see how it looks. Make notes on what you think could be changed, then look up how to make those changes in the documentation.

Then do it again. It’s a lot like the editing process—wait, actually it is an editing process. Unlike the strictly mechanical process that a text converter like the one Smashwords uses, Calibre allows you a great deal of input into the process. Take some time figuring out what looks good to you, what makes your text easy and fun to read, because that’s the bottom line, making sure that none of the mechanical issues get between you and your readers.

Yes, it’s time consuming, and it can be frustrating. It took me a number of tries to get the table of contents, for example, to work right. There was, in fact, no small amount of cussing involved.

However, when I was done, not only did I save myself money, I had a product that I could feel proud of, and I knew how it was done. When it came time to format sample chapters from my new book for Kindle, Nook, and pdf for my beta readers, it took no time at all.

Granted, I have a lot of experience playing with different computer programs and tweaking them to get the results I want. You may decide that it’s worth it to you, personally, to pay to have your book converted.

However, I think that it’s a good idea for authors to get a feel for the process and to understand how it’s done and what can be done. That way, if you do decide to pay for a service you know exactly what you are paying for, and what it’s worth to you. To be honest, I have seen “professionally” formatted books that have glaring mechanical errors—extra spaces, broken lines, bad links in tables of contents. I’ve seen e-books put out by major publishing houses that were all but unreadable. So I would also advise anyone who uses an e-book conversion service to make sure you have the chance to examine the file before it goes live, and don’t pay for it until it is done right.

Got questions? Feel free to hop on over to my blog and drop me a line. I may not know the answer, but I might be able to point you in the right direction.


Semi-related media of the day (courtesy of Misha Burnett!):


Categories: Guest Post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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