The Ebook Evolution: I Was an Indie Publisher in the 1980's

Self publishing started for me back in the 1980's and 1990's.

I am published both traditionally and as an indie author and publisher of both paperback and ebooks.

I began offering my own books on my website in the late 1980's and early 1990's, way before it was popular. Way before there was Smashwords or Kindle or any of the current popular places for eBooks for sale. Here's my story.

The eBook revolution. You have to love it! I've been self publishing long before it became fashionable or so explosively growing. There was a little bit of being ostracized in the early years, and eBooks and self publishing in general was frowned upon by authors who were traditionally published. It was almost (and sometimes still is) kind of a snobbish, looking down your nose attitude. It really didn't bother me very much, as I was having fun doing my own thing with ePublishing.

I used to belong to Romance Writers of America and in fact I was traditionally published with Harlequin/Silhouette in 2001. As often happens in the publishing industry, the editor who bought my romance and loved my writing, received a promotion and while she moved up the corporate ladder to work in another department, I was assigned a new editor. The new editor didn't seem to care for my writing. The fact that I had a less than proficient agent also did not help matters along.

My writing experiences began with poetry, then I graduated to essays, and finally to romances, the books I just love to read and write. I've also written under various pen names. A non-fiction memoir about grief and loss, a workbook about handling grief, children's EZ reader picture books when my youngest was in Kindergarten, an internet dating guide when I reentered the dating market after the loss of my husband of twenty years. Nonfiction about buying a pony, and a book about a guardian angel. So much work and love went into all these efforts, but they were all due to life experiences I felt I needed to share.

So now there's the excitement of the new eBook revolution. I intend to track my progress through a series of articles. I hope you'll follow along.

I did a big push with the grief book, blogging every day, sending out press releases, writing about 45 articles on grief and loss, visiting other blogs and forums. I ended up doing about 30 radio interviews. I was ultimately interviewed by US News and World Report and appeared on their website and in their paper edition regarding research on widows and how lifestyle and incomes can change drastically with the loss of a spouse.

Readers began to email and call asking me to write articles on grief and loss. I maintained a WordPress blog and I got quite a good amount of hits. I used Google AdWords for a short while to boost visibility and my books were selling slowly but steadily on Amazon and also through my website. I made some sales, not a great deal, but I got a lot of exposure. I received a lot of mail from other widows and widowers who had also lost loved ones.

I've recently placed this niche book on Kindle. When I placed it in KDP Select free, it hit # 1 in Family Relationships category and the Grief category and stayed there throughout the promotion. It maintained good visibility for about two weeks after the free promotion, and I began playing with the price. I didn't want to price it too high, or too low. Although it has since steadily moved upwards toward the 100,000's, it is still slowly selling at $4.99.

The latest phase of my indie publishing career began in January of 2012. I decided it was time to do something with my backlist of romance stories. I probably have about 20 stories since I've been writing romance, but we won't talk about the other 13.

I had 7 stories languishing on my computer. 4 contemporary romances, 3 time travels. They had all been rejected by every place imaginable, traditional publishers, ePublishers, small houses and large.

An author friend suggested I send one of my romance ebooks to her eBook romance publisher. They were interested in publishing contemporary romance Echoes from the Past, however I would only receive 17% of Kindle sales. I did my homework, researched Kindle and other eBook places and wondered why only 17%. A lot of their ebooks they price at $.99. So they would be splitting the 35% from Amazon sales with me. Was my book worth more than 17% of $.99? I thought so.

Additionally, if I signed a contract with this publisher, they would not publish it for a year to 16 months from contract signing. I would also be tied to them for at least a few years. Did I want to give away that control? Could I do it myself? I knew I wanted something more than 17%.

I found a wonderful illustrator in Australia, Julie McClen of Oak Grove Graphics through my website software forum. I liked her playful but professionally designed websites and hired hire her to revamp my site. She also created my book covers for both series, the Women of Character and Women of Strength time travels.

During this time I continued to research eBook publishing. I found,, Joel Friedlander,, Joanna Penn, to name just a few. I've learned so much from their informative posts!

I also discovered Smashwords and read about their distribution channels and how an author could launch their books not only from the popular Kindle platform, but Smashwords also.

In researching eBook formats, I was amazed at the wide diversity available, from the time that I had made my first foray into this field to now. There was not only PDF format, but Mobi, ePub, RTF, PDB, LRF and many other formats and devices to read ebooks on.

My next question became, do I hire someone to format each of my 7 books or do I learn to do it myself? I found out about a program called Calibre. It creates several types of eBook formats. Ultimately, I used Calibre to create my mobi file for Kindle. There's even a forum with lots of threads and friendly people to help you out if you get stuck trying to convert your files to eBooks.

I personally think there should be one universal format for all reading devices, but that's just me. I played around with Calibre, a free download, for a few days and at first I got a bit frustrated because I had some formatting squiggles in there that I had to delete. I had used the long dash in places and when you convert to mobi, the long dashes came out as fractions. Trust me, that doesn't look great in your manuscript. I had to manually delete each one and replace with a short dash.

I also had an issue with trying to get a Table of Contents to show up on the finished mobi file for Kindle. Apparently, based on the amount of forum posts about TOC, others have had the same issue.

I read posts about inserting HTML into your document so the table of contents would appear. I had played with HTML years ago when I first began creating my websites and I really didn't want to try to learn it again. So I kept looking at my Word document HTML file trying to figure out why the first three chapters showed up in the Table of Contents and nothing after that.

Those three chapters were "Heading" style in my word document. The rest of the document, unless it was italics, was "Normal" Style. So I went and changed all my Chapters to the Heading style and lo and behold, I had a TOC.

Next I saved my document as a HTML document, web page filtered. Then I opened the HTML file in Calibre. I now had a full TOC, but I had way too big paragraph indents. I went through the entire document and made the indents.25 and it looked much better.

Anyone who has been published by traditional publishing houses knows that anywhere you have italics, you underline when submitting your manuscript. So I had to once again go through my manuscript and remove all the underline sections and use italics instead. Italics, the real thing. No more underlining to indicate italics. Way cool.

When I was pretty certain I had cleaned up my formatting I again saved the file as a HTML, web page filtered. Then I uploaded my book and cover into Calibre, plus all the publisher, author, ISBN, tags info etc. Then I converted the book to mobi format. I tested on my kindle reader and it opened nicely.

Now Smashwords conversion is another article.

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