Adventures in Publishing

The last six weeks or so, I’ve been butt in chair and fingers on keyboard. Lots of words have been written. More important in some ways, new print versions of all my books are in the pipeline. It’s amazing how much work that entails. It is the sort of busy work I hate doing even though I know how important it is.

When I first started this indie gig, we didn’t have all the easy to use programs we do today. You whippersnappers don’t know what it’s like to have to hand code a 100k word manuscript with html tags to make sure the book looks the way you want it to on that e-ink reader without lights. And it snowed every day and no matter which way we walked, it was always uphill.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad but the first few books were coded by hand.

Of course, it didn’t take long for programs to come along that made the process easier. Even those, however, meant having to do a lot of tweaking after the fact. It wasn’t unusual to covert, fix, re-covert at least a couple of times per title. Then there was the mess you could almost always count on happening if you used Smashwords MeatGrinder.

Ah, those were the good ole, bad ole days.

Today, we have programs like Scrivener that helps make writing easier for a lot of us (if you can use it without getting distracted by all the bells and whistles). It even converts your books to Mobi files if you want. Then there are programs like Vellum that convert a DocX file into beautifully formatted ebooks and print editions. Better yet, it does not just mobi and ePub files but you can use it to set up separate editions for each of the major e-book outlets. This last is great because you can put in active links to that particular store and you don’t have to go back and re-edit your links and re-convert just so you have live links for B&N, Kobo, Apple, Amazon, etc.

So there is no reason, with programs like Vellum and Jutoh, not to go back and reformat all those older books so they not only look better but so they match the newer books in my various series. It’s important for a reader who picks up book one of any series to see not only a new, more timely cover (thanks, Sarah, for making sure that is happening) but the same with the interior file.

Fortunately, with Vellum, it really doesn’t take much time to do this. the biggest time sink is finding the  latest publication files. I’ve been lucky. Only one book failed to be where I expected it to be. So I simply downloaded the ebook, ran it through Calibre and converted it to a DocX file. This process takes a bit longer because you have to get rid of the Amazon generated cover and table of contents. Then it’s simply a matter of importing the file to Vellum, setting up the bells and whistles you want, choosing the “theme” and converting. The conversion into both e-book and print formats take less than three minutes once you have the theme choices set.

A couple of things have come up in this process, however. If you migrated a print edition over from Cratespace and you now need to update that edition, there are a few hoops you have to jump through. This is especially true if you are adding your own, and not a Createspace, ISBN. This is something I’m in the process of doing and, while it is slowing the process down a little, it isn’t doing so by much.

The one real negative I have with the move from Createspace to KDP for print is their error process for covers. Createspace would be slow as molasses in updating your files and reviewing them. But not once did I get proofs ordered before they said there might be a problem with a cover. That is exactly the situation that arose with the latest print file I did through KDP. More than 24 hours after I ordered the print and had it confirmed it was printed and would soon be shipped, I received an email saying there as a problem with the cover. It would have been nice to know ahead of time. I could have made the tweaks then. As it is, because they initially approved the cover, I waited until I had the hard copy in hand to verify the error report to make changes. That will happen today. It is frustrating because id delays the release of this particular book, not to mention the rest of the series, by at least a week.


Something else I discovered is you can now put a book up for pre-order without uploading so much as a placeholder manuscript. It used to be pre-orders required a manuscript that you then either approved before your drop dead submission date or your replaced with a final manuscript. Now, you can fill in everything and not upload a manuscript, set your publication date and you have your pre-sale started. Better yet, Amazon’s system of sending reminders to you has improved and you start getting email reminders to update your files approximately 2 1/2 weeks before your drop dead date.

This makes is much easier for those who want to do pre-orders. And, yes, I know there are pros and cons for doing so.

It is now a little after 0700 my time. That means it is time for me to get my butt in my office and start to work. My new schedule has me writing every day from 0730 or so until lunch when I take a break. Then I’m back to writing for at least another couple of hours. Yes, this includes editing, but the bulk of it is writing. Then I spend a couple of hours doing the conversions, etc., that need to be done to update my backlist. Evenings, well, what can I say? I run through Washington DC shooting bad guys and blowing things up via The Division 2 for an hour or so. It’s a great stress receiver. VBEG

I guess I’d best end with some promo. Nocturnal Revelations is out in e-book and will be out in print in very short order.

Battle Flight is now available for pre-order. It will be published next month.

Honor and duty. Corps and family. Those values had been drilled into Ashlyn Shaw as long as she could remember.

Long before conspiracies and war threatened her home planet and those she loved, Ashlyn had to prove to herself and others that she had what it took to be a member of Fuercon’s Marine Corps. Along the way, she learned the true meaning of honor, duty and sacrifice.

Battle Flight is a prequel novel that takes place before Vengeance from Ashes. It is built around the short stories, Taking Flight, Battle Bound and Battle Wounds and contains substantial new material.


Featured image via Genty/Pixabay.


  1. Thanks for the heads up, Amanda. I’ll be checking those programs out. Word isn’t quite cutting it, there are “issues” from time to time.

    1. I still write in Word. But for better looking ebooks and print books, I use Vellum. It adds effects you just can’t get, at least not easily and reliably, in Word. It is, unfortunately, a Mac only program. I do have a writer friend who uses Jutoh and swears by it.

      1. Awesome. I downloaded the test versions of Scrivener and Jutoh, we’ll see how that goes. I do have a Mac Mini kicking around here somewhere, so Vellum is a possibility too.

        I just hate Macs, is all. I’m beginning to feel the same about Windows though, so branching out again may be a good idea.

        1. Phantom, I will add that the Mac version of Scrivener is much better than the Windows version–more options and things it will do. In all fairness, I also don’t use Scrivener too much because it is distracting with all the bells and whistles. All that said, for series work, I wish I’d started in it, at least when it comes to keeping track of characters, etc., because then everything would be locally kept.

          1. You can track characters? That’s pretty cool.

            I just remember them, frankly. It isn’t that hard, seeing as they never shut up. ~:D

            1. I always do lists for characters. It’s not hard to keep track of the main characters, even the silent type, but who, exactly, was the catty gossip in Chapter 3 who could be the catty gossip in Chapter 7? And didn’t I give her a one-adjective description, but what was it?

              Easier to put her in a list than to look up that she was a red-head named Esmeralda.

          1. It is expensive but, at least here in the States, can probably be taken off as a business expense. Plus, if you act before things change, it is a one-time price instead of a subscription like so many other programs these days. But it is also a time saver, imo, and that makes it worth the money.

    2. FYI: Vellum is Mac-only software, and not cheap. On the other hand, it’s worth every penny (and is probably even worth the added cost of buying a Mac if you have a lot of books to format). That’s my opinion, obviously.

      1. I bought my first Macbook air as a refurb to be able to upload directly to iBooks. I don’t do that any longer but the expense was worth it once I started using Vellum.

        Phantom, one nice thing about Vellum that isn’t talked about a lot is how responsive the devs are. Send them an email with a question or suggestion and you will hear back. They often incorporate the suggestions in the next version. I completely agree that the program is worth the price.

          1. Shadowdancer, I’ve used it for more than a year now. Have a friend who’s used it for several years, and that’s been our experience. So I guess it has changed. I don’t often recommend for purchase software, but this is one I do.

            1. When I used it, you only had the option of pre-set print sizes, which were a grand total of two: trade paperback and a slightly larger than standard pocketbook paperback format. It also wouldn’t let me do anything with the spine or back cover, and, from what we could tell, the print side of the program, which it charged a lot more for seemed to be in beta-rushed-to-release, was clumsily tacked on after they’d ironed out the ebook side of things. If I was doing ebook only it would’ve been just fine; since I could only do things with the front cover only. When the housemate tried to contact the creators, got bupkis as response.

              It didn’t play nice with Lulu’s print format sizes. Most of y’all, being based in North America, use Amazon and/or ebook-only, so probably don’t experience issues. It was intended to be a business expense, but ultimately hurt in terms of cost (the exchange rate back then when we got it had it cost us 500+ AUD, and we took the risk because it meant potentially less stress for me. Instead, it was MORE stress and I was rather upset about how much it cost and felt guilty about it for months afterward.

              So no, my experience with it was very bad. But since I’m aware that lots of people here have good experiences with it, I only warn about the out of pocket costs.

              Mind, when I was doing chapter re-format and editing, I liked it a lot because it made things so much easier, especially the index. And I noticed typos and double-spaces and the occasional broken sentence much easier while working on it. So it was a massive and unexpected disappointment for me when I went to set it up for print.

    3. I think I may find myself working in and producing ebooks from the asciidoc software.

      I’m currently working in Word a lot on business documents. But, I had previously used LyX, a LaTeX front end, and was fairly happy with it. I dislike Word’s automatic updates breaking things and changing behavior, but fewer choice of software negotiation issues.

      But my Word skillz aren’t l33t enough to make learning new software prohibitive, even software with an obnoxious learning curve. So choice of what to use when I don’t need other people is very open.

  2. I use Jutoh and love it. There was a little bit of a learning curve (as I recall), but not bad. And now I never even think about how to use it—I just do it. I love the control it gives me over how the interior of the ebook will appear in epub and mobi.

    (I use InDesign for my paperbacks. Nothing else gives me the control over the design that I want.)

  3. I’m another Vellum fan, with the caveat that I have to use Word (or something else that does .doc/docx) and have a Mac. Vellum was $250 US. It paid for itself in two books.

    The down side is that it doesn’t catch every typo, glitch, and author oopsie. That’s why you do Kindle preview (found a huge typo on the first word of the first line of the first chapter. Ouch.) and get a proof copy.

  4. I’ve got even worse horror stories from ancient history, about having to scan dot matrix printed (with a mis-aligned line on the print head!) stories that were originally typed on an 8-bit Atari, into RTF, Word and WordPerfect formats (and tried both Windows and Mac versions). After each “k” translated into a meg from the scans, it then became apparent that I had to forget trying to retain any formatting, scan as plaintext, then reinsert all formatting (including most of the punctuation) by hand.

    THEN had to pretty much redo everything when converting to HTML for my web archive, as some of the word processor coding didn’t survive conversion, and others introduced major bloat (seriously? “strong” tags when “b” would work just as well? I had a file shrink from over 50k to under 48k just from swapping those tags in a fic where I’d used boldface for ship names, because in the original on that ancient Atari, you had a hard time telling if something was italic in the dot matrix font. Even using the word processor to HTML software at the time, files would bloat to 2-3 times what an efficient hand coder would do. Thank God I didn’t have to worry about ebook coding at the time.

  5. Interesting, I got ‘bit’ on the same issue with a cover… I actually had the proof in hand and did not see any problem when I got the message that there was an issue. It took me over a week to get through to someone that could actually tell me WHAT the #@%$* issue was… Grrr…

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