Going Indie For Dummies – Checking Before Flight

Okay, what you need to understand is that I actually get flustered very easily.  I particularly get flustered if I have a long list of things that I have to accomplish in a given order.

Partly this is because my men (husband and sons)keep forgetting that I’m actually working, and so will pop in to ask me a question.  Often these are very nice questions on the order of “what would you like for dinner?” but if you interrupt me in the middle of a complex process, I’ll forget where I was.

So I developed the “Idiot checklist” — the idiot being me, of course.

Of course, right now the idiot checklist is packed, so I’m going to reconstruct it from memory.  Stop laughing.  If I forget some thing, one or more of you will remind me.


Manuscript check list:

1- Make sure you have the copy edited manuscript and not the finished but not copy edited version.

2- Make sure you have deleted all comments and accepted all changes.

3- make sure you run it through your word processing program’s version of anonimize otherwise the meta data will identify the copy editor as the author.

4-Make sure you ran the change replace to eliminate double spaces after periods, at least if you learned typing when I did.

5- If you’re using a manuscript submitted years ago, make sure that your underlines are now italics.

6- Make sure your front matter has the right book title.  Yeah, I know, hilarious, right?  Yeah…

7- Make sure you have the right front matter, copyright notice and cover credit note AND that your upcoming, will also like links are right.

8- Look at the cover.  REALLY look.  This is usually where spelling mistakes slip in.

9- change the spacing line to one and a half, not two.

10- Make sure you have no tabs, and that the indent is set at about 2 1/2 not the one inch we used to do.

11 – Optional: all-cap the first word of each chapter.

12 – Make sure your chapter titles are larger font, and centered.  Oh, yeah, if you number your chapters do one last check to make sure they’re in order and no duplicates.  (I TOLD you it was an idiot list.  The number of times I have five chapter 10s.)

If everything is ready, now you’re ready to convert.  I know people use Calibre, but it’s too complicated for my head, so I use Atlantis.  It’s fairly useless as a word processing program, but unlike Word which hasn’t caught on to this yet, it allows you to save as epub.  This is usually good enough to upload to amazon.com, but I find I get fewer errors by running the kindlegen program.

Uploading checklist:

1- Make sure you have the right description for the book, not your first three iterations.  I find it easier to copy-paste.

2- Make sure you don’t have spelling mistakes or typos in your description.  (you’d be amazed! I TOLD you it was an idiot list.  I become an idiot under pressure.)

3- Make sure you didn’t check that your book is in the public domain.  Yeah, ahah, not even an idiot would do that… right… er… welllllllll….

4 – Make sure that you upload the right cover, not the version you discarded with the upside down title.

5- Make sure you have the right price.  Not that anyone EVER put her short story up for $999.  Ah ah.

6- Now after the manuscript is uploaded, download the preview and check it on every kind of reading implement you have.  Yes, I know, but … it wouldn’t be the first time all my m-dashes because AA in the final manuscript after conversion, and if you’re still using Smashwords, you’d be shocked how STRANGE they can get.  (How strange?  Well, half a manuscript in small caps.  That’s how strange.)

7- If you’re putting the book up for pre-order make sure you do that, not put it up for sale.  (You wouldn’t be the first, the last, not even in the first 1k people to make that mistake.)

8- If you put the book up for preorder, set up a calendar to remind you of the drop dead date for it.

Now sit back and relax.  I’ll let Amanda do the instructional on how to set things up for print (ehehehehe) because I haven’t done one in 3 years.  And yes, I need to, but time. Move. Lasers.

Soon enough the first people to read it will start annoying you with typos some of which won’t be typos or errors, just regional dialogue or whatever.

But for now, you’re done.


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75 responses to “Going Indie For Dummies – Checking Before Flight

  1. Ah yes, the “It’s packed somewhere” issue. I live it too. I close on the house tomorrow. Wired cash set up, so as long as that works, I’m set.

    • Reality Observer

      Still living it after twenty-some years… But that can be enjoyable, because you find things you had forgotten you ever had – which is almost as good as getting new stuff. (Which the latter, except for electrons, are pretty much verboten in this household.)

  2. You forgot: Make sure you typed your name right.
    (Yes, I did that one rather recently.)

    BTW, what format are you converting to? I no longer upload prc files, as Amazon didn’t seem to want that format anymore, and went to docx. Wonder though if I’d be better off using epub. And if you do use epub, do you put your cover in (like on B&N) or not?


    • I upload mobi.
      I haven’t been working with B & N for a year, because honestly, I get more from KULL. But yeah, I used to upload my cover.
      The name thing makes me feel better. The mistakes I’ve made on this thing are almost unbelievable.

    • “Make sure you typed your name right.”

      You see the initial? Right. My first name is ten letters long. I started using the initial years ago for online posting (before most sites remembered you) because the probability of me mis-typing my first name started approaching certainty.

      Plus it’s hilarious to see people making assumptions about my gender—and getting apologetic when they get it wrong.

      • Which ties, tangentially, into why I hate most online security schemes: they require you to type long passwords, usually with non-alphabetic and non-numeric characters mixed in – but mostly don’t give you even a non-default option to show your password as you type it. And are exquisitely non-helpful in telling you why your login attempt happened.

        I *know* I’m a lousy typist. And an option to indicate “yes, I don’t have anyone reading over my shoulder – please show me the password I’m typing” would be nice. As would “please show me the password that you didn’t accept so I can check for typos.”

        I understand, and approve, of the measures needed for good online security. But interfaces that don’t improve security but make the whole experience unnecessarily user-unfriendly make me fantasize about actions I’d like to take with the ones responsible for my frustration.

        • sabrinachase

          Open a text program (notepad on Windows, for example). Type your password there, proof, then copy and paste into the login box. 😀 Do NOT save as “password.txt” to help the hackers, though.

      • It’s an interesting sensation when commenters assume that J.M. is male. Kinda fun, really. Does that make me too weird?


    • John, I upload either ePub or mobi, usually mobi. I do put in the cover as well as the meta tags.

  3. RCPete

    Keep relevant phone numbers handy. We closed our sale in California on a Thursday and closed in Oregon the next Monday. However, the CA title company wanted to get cute and tried to hold onto the money an extra day.

    A phone call to our selling agent shook the money loose. IIRC, he threatened to blacklist that title company, and he was in a position to make it hurt. (Other paperwork screwups on the first close gave the agent some extra incentive to scream.)

  4. I recognize way too many of those errors . . .

    • This makes me feel better. The internal feel is that everyone else if PERFECT and I’m a screwup.

      • Uncle Lar

        Well, it is just you. Everyone else is perfect, nothing ever goes wrong except with your stuff.
        er… You did pay attention to Amanda’s little kerfuffle a couple weeks ago din’t you?

      • sabrinachase

        HAHAHAhahahaa…. no. I specialize in wandering ninja font changes and rogue italics, myself.

        • Well, when I’m putting up old stuff, first written in word perfect, I specialize in weird characters, not seen in any normal alphabet…

          • One day, someone will write a book where character-set-conversion artifacts (I’ve seen them called “mojibake”) are important to the plot, and the copy editor will hang himself halfway through the project.

      • Chapter numbers, check also the dates on the subtitles. Indents (Why do i lose random indents?) Remove all notes to self, after reading them and checking that I did indeed do what the note recommended. Both old and new habitual typos.

        :: sigh :: My husband, who is not a good beta reader, came in this morning and showed me where I had the same paragraph in two different chapters . . . in the book I published last month. Update time.

        • mrsizer

          New book? Yay! Off to find it (good thing Amazon remembers what I’ve bought because I don’t).

      • We had to institute a checklist for traveling with the kids after the time we left on a ten-hour drive and forgot water bottles for them. And we’re *good* at keeping everything straight. (We dropped the list after they got old enough to help remember things.)

        • To make you laugh, when we went to one of our (rare) “long weekend” “vacations” in Denver, I got everyone impeccably packed as Dan fought to get out of work three hours early on Friday. He got home, bags were packed we ran.
          I got there and realized I’d forgotten to… pack underwear for me.
          If it were now, we’d just have gone across to walmart and bought me a $5 pack. BUT we were on a really tight budget. And I’d packed extras for Dan (Amusement park had bumper boats and he often sat in the wet)… so I spent the weekend in male underwear. 😛

          • Ha! I forgot to pack underwear for me on our last beach vacation 2 years ago, and we did head over to the local Walmart for my rescue. I’m relieved I’m not the only one to have done this. I felt pretty silly.

            (I had double-checked the kids’ suitcases to make sure they had all necessary items.)

            • Oh, yes. The boys had pajamas, robes (they were I THINK three and six, so of an age to rush out to get ice or something) swim trunks, toys. Games… (Head>desk.) Dan had everything including his Sudoku books. But me? Bah.

        • On a cross-country business trip, we arrived late at the hotel in a city we’d never been to before, and that morning as we met for breakfast, a college informed us we needed to find a store as they were in need of deodorant. I’d seen a sign in my room that the front desk had small items such as this, and they asked and ended up with travel sized deodorant.

          Two or three years later, another cross-country trip. This time I was the one who forgot deodorant. Fortunately, I realized it in time, and we just took a break at a convenient Wallyworld by the interstate.

      • Reality Observer

        Let me see… Twenty different ways to screw up. Plus about half a dozen in the comments…

        I just KNOW that I’ll find something never before done, and that frankly seems impossible to accomplish.

        • Oh. um… some of them the program won’t let you do. Like when I try to upload a doc file.

          • Really? I do doc file exclusively, because it doesn’t screw up my formatting. Probably something unique to the combo of things on the machine, and once it dies, I’ll have to relearn the new “Whatever work, don’t ask, don’t tell.”

      • Bjorn Hasseler

        I’ve forgotten to advance the issue number on an e-magazine upload before.

        I have a weird list that includes “kill all smart quotes,” “check the em-dashes,” and “check the umlauts.”

        • kill all smart quotes

          Is that actually still recommended? I mean, if you’re using a Unicode-capable tool—and they all are for the last half-decade at least, and which you’ll need to preserve your em-dashes and umlauts anyway—is there any reason not to use typographically correct quotes?

          • Bjorn Hasseler

            That’s part of why I have my own weird list – stories cycle through 3-4 different pieces of software, and the smart quotes need to go. In no way am I suggesting this as a general rule for everybody.

            • Yeah, smart quotes are one of the things that often fails in swaps among machines and programs. The pretty is not worth it.

              • This is why I roll them by hand by loading them into a text editor (Notepad++) and using HTML entities. Yes, it’s more work, but I also know some HTML and CSS, so there wasn’t much of a learning curve. But Word and OpenOffice makes messy HTML, and ideally that has to be cleaned up.

                It can give you more control this way. The bad part is that this can introduce it’s own set of errors. I have used a HTML validator to make sure everything’s okay.

                Usually I roll my own epub using a batch file, and run it through epubcheck, and then after fixing all the errors, running it through Kindlegen.

                Yes, it’s a lot of work, and why I’m paying attention to the direct document to epub discussions.

                • If I did that, I’d NEVER publish anything.

                • Reality Observer

                  Being an old web developer, I’m using Visual Studio. Obviously not an option for the vast majority… (Not at the $4,200 I paid for my 2010 version. Whee, just checked for curiosity – $13K+ for the latest…)

                  • Draven

                    Or you could use Visual Studio Community edition, which is free.

                    • Reality Observer

                      Which has some… interesting… quirks to it. Trying to think of ones that might affect just plain getting something into HTML for conversion to something else, though, and I can’t recall any.

                      Like I said, though, I use the VS Ultimate because I bought it when I was still a heavy developer. (I still have code of my very own, too, that I know the free version chokes on. Or did, circa 2012.)

                      @Kevin – I’ve heard good things about Bluefish from people that use it. That is probably my fallback when the XP machine dies and I have to go to the latest abomination from MS (assuming it doesn’t run the VS for some reason).

                    • Draven

                      the current free version is much less restricted.

                  • Looked at the free version once, scratched my head, and went to Bluefish for our company site. I tend to go back and forth between Bluefish and Arachnaphilia. Started using Notepad++ for quick and dirty edits, and now that’s what I’m doing HTML in.

                    Of course, this is for a small site with nothing fancy. As it is, it strains Bluefish at times.

    • Missing capitol (capital?) letter on cover of the latest Alexi story. And typoos inside.

  5. Anachronda

    If you have a table of contents, make sure all of the chapters are in it.

    • And that the links are hot. All of them.

    • Laura M

      This part seems to take me forever. Also, I use Word, and my hot links, which I do put on the words saying “chapter x” eventually slip into sending you, not to those words, but to the end of the previous chapter. It’s functional but not what I want. Makes me crazy, and I give up on it.

      • Hot Links? It’s easier to use the Styles menu. Make your chapter headings in “Heading 1”, then under References=>Table of Contents=>Insert Table of Contents

  6. Over on the MobileRead forums at http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=213372, a well-regarded fellow with the pseudonym of Toxaris has a Word add-in called (imaginatively enough) “ePUB Tools” that allows you to export to and import from EPUB files. If I used Word at all, I’d have tried that on a recent e-book job I did; as is, I can’t say for myself how well it works, or how suited it is for folks who don’t intend to crawl into the HTML and CSS coding. Anyone here have experience with this tool?

  7. Draven

    So is that why the cover says “Throuhg Fire”?
    Made ya look

  8. Just wondering — I think between manuscript checklist and uploading checklist, there’s a step that might be good to tag onto the manuscript checklist. Make a backup. You’ve just made a bunch of small mods, it’s time to make a backup in a safe place. You know, in case the uploading process somehow manages to download or otherwise destroy the nice clean version you just put together? I know, it shouldn’t do that, but… Make a backup copy. Maybe even make two.

  9. Slightly off-topic, but this is the only forum I frequent where folks might have informed opinions: What’s the story about giving the electronic version of a book its own ISBN? Should an author use the free ISBN distributors like Draft2Digital provide (they require an ISBN and are willing to give you one for free)? Or is like the free CreateSpace ISBNs—okay, but looks more professional if CS or D2D or whomever isn’t the publisher of record?

    • Depends on how much publishing you’re planning on doing.

      If the answer is “lots” then go buy a block of ISBNs here:

      Speaking of which, I need to add my last book . . .

    • Buying your own ISBN’s is a waste of your own money. ISBN is tied to whomever is doing the printing/distribution, i.e. Createspace, D2D, Smashwords, and it can not be reused anywhere else. As those places will provide one free of charge, you’re best off just to use theirs, as you can’t reuse an ISBN anywhere else.
      Personally I think they’re a bit of a scam, because they’re not tied to the author or the book, but to the publisher, but that’s just me.

      • That’s true about the $99 ISBNs you can buy from CreateSpace. But if you buy them individually or in a block from Bowker (as in the link Pam posted), the ISBN is tied to you (or whatever name you listed as publisher when you bought the numbers). So it may not be useful or worth it for everyone, but if you’re creating a small press with its own name, having ISBNs tied to that name—rather than the particular print-on-demand service or e-book distributor you’re using at the moment—might be worth it, especially if you’re thinking about moving from service to service.

        • If you buy your own ISBN, it is tied to you AND the place that published your book. So you can’t use the same one for Createspace and Amazon. You have to use different ones. That’s by the ISBN rules.
          That’s why I use the free one Createspace gives me.

          • Pardon me, but that sounds unlikely. It is the same ISBN whether the book is for sale on Amazon.com or elsewhere.

            • No, it’s not. Look up the rules on the ISBN website.

              • You can use CreateSpace as a publisher, in which case they give you the ISBN and are listed as the publisher, or you can use them as a print service.

                To make it clear, let’s say A. U. Thor has written his masterpiece. He goes to Tiny Press, Inc. for publishing, they assign the book an ISBN from a block they own. They can release the book today as print-on-demand through CreateSpace, and when demand picks up next year, hire a press to do a more traditional run. Assuming the text & layout haven’t changed (so it’s a second printing of the same “edition”) the ISBN will be the same, since CreateSpace wasn’t the publisher, TPI was.

                The issue is that for many indie authors, they are their own publishers. “Tiny Press, Inc.” is just a business name that A. U. Thor is using. When this happens, it’s easy & cheaper to release the books with a CreateSpace ISBN—but then, no matter what the copyright page says, the ISBN decodes to “CreateSpace published this”. And if you chose to hire a printer for a normal print run, you’ll need a new ISBN, under your own publisher name. For $99, CreateSpace will permit you to reuse the ISBN, but it will still decode to “CreateSpace published this”; OTOH, you can buy an ISBN from Bowker—just as is you were a “real” publisher—and use it on your CreateSpace printing and it will decode as “Tiny Press, Inc. published this”. And you can go to another POD service tomorrow, with the same file and the same ISBN, and get a full print run next year, ditto, ditto.

                Mutatis mutandis, this also holds for e-books and Draft2Digital or other distributors: If you (wearing your publisher hat) buy the ISBN from Bowker, you can put the ISBN on the Kindle conversion and on sites D2D doesn’t sell to, and on any sites you chose to manage sales on yourself without D2D’s help; if D2D buys the ISBNs (also from Bowker, IIRC), they number translates to “D2D published this” and you’ll need a different ISBN, or chose to do without, anywhere you’re selling not through D2D.

              • Will do. And thank you.