Giving Up Control – Sex For Money Post #1

Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance.  This is the first post!  All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ.  It’s hoped that sharing this information might be helpful to new and aspiring erotica and erotic romance authors, as I see a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation out there.

I just spent the morning updating all of my ebooks on all of the sites I sell through.  I realized that I had completely forgotten to include the copyright information on the stock photos I used for the covers.  So I spent all last evening updating all of my various book files (I upload Word documents to Amazon and Smashwords; ePub, PDF, and mobi to All Romance eBooks and Selz; and ePub to Google Play), and then this morning uploading all of those files to the appropriate websites.

When uploading to these sites, it’s a good idea to view the uploaded file, just to verify they are working properly.  (This really just applies to Amazon and Smashwords, where I upload Word files.  For the other sites, I upload actual ebook files that I’ve created and verified previously.)  Amazon has a Kindle Previewer as part of the upload process and Smashwords lets you view the file after it’s been posted to their website.

I noticed today that these systems require the author to give up a fair bit of control.  This is not the place for a perfectionist.  Yes, the text of the file should be perfect and yes you should do the best possible job you can in formatting your file for upload.  But what I came to realize is that these sites (and ereaders) have their own styles that will override how you’ve formatted your book.

Specifically…

With Amazon:

  • For all the discussion I read about whether it’s more professional to justify the text of your ebook (so that the right hand edge of the text is a smooth straight line) or if you should leave it as left-aligned / ragged right, it seems Kindle automatically justifies the text.  (I think the older Kindles will leave the text how you format it, though.)  All of my ebooks are left-aligned, as I dislike justified text for ebooks — yet on the Kindle previewer, part of the upload process, all of my ebooks appear as justified text.
  • When you insert a page break, the first line is automatically left-aligned with no indent. I believe this is because it’s “proper” book format for a new chapter to start on the first line without an indent.  (I’ll pause so you can go look in a few print books — you’ll find it in most of them.)  While automating professionalism is an interesting idea, it creates havoc for formatting.  If you start a new chapter using a page break, the first line is formatted to this standard.  So… at the end of the book, when I insert a page break and write “About Cameron D. James”, something that should be centred, it appears all the way on the left and looks woefully unprofessional.  This can usually be defeated by inserting a blank line as the first line on a new page after a page break.

With Smashwords:

  • Oddly, when viewing my ebook online in HTML, the title and copyright pages are in Arial, while the rest of the book is in Times New Roman.  (The file I uploaded is entirely in Times New Roman.)  However, I guess because of how I inserted a legal disclaimer on a few books, there are three lines in the middle of the copyright page that are in Times New Roman, while the rest is Arial.
  • When I noticed this, I downloaded an ePub version of my book so see what it’s like in there.  Inside the ePub, my text is all in Times New Roman, so there’s no odd font-switching.  However, the very first line, which is usually your title, is on it’s own page.  The rest of your title page follows on the next page.  (And then your copyright info, provided you inserted a page break, is on the page after that.)  Normally, this is not an issue as the first line of your file is usually your title.  But this comes across as really odd for my Boys In Heat story, as it’s originally formatted as (and the / indicates a new line): “Go-Go Boys of Club 21 / Part Three / Boys in Heat / Cameron D. James”.  So with Smashwords’s automatic formatting, “Go-Go Boys of Club 21,” the series title appears as the book title on the first page. It’s not until the reader goes to the second page that they actually see the book title.  If I want the book title to appear on the first page, I would have to reformat it as “Boys in Heat / Go-Go Boys of Club 21 / Part Three / Cameron D. James”.

If I were an absolute perfectionist, I would have freaked out today.  I would have reformatted all of my books from scratch and uploaded/tested them to see how they appear, then reformatted again.  However, I took a step back and looked at the end result.

The reader gets an ebook that is grammatically and structurally correct — that’s where I feel perfectionism is important — and the formatting of the actual story text is mostly untouched (except for the few minor Kindle/Amazon changes).  The imperfections appear primarily on the copyright page and some of the back matter pages… AKA the pages that the reader is most likely to just skip over.

Being an indie author, where you do all of the work yourself, sometimes means you need to decide what’s important and what’s not.  To me, an engrossing story is important.  To me, whether or not “About Cameron D. James” is centred or left-aligned is not important.  I can deal with a little bit of imperfection in one of the least important components of the ebook, especially when it’s something the reader might not even notice.

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Filed under Sex For Money, Writing, Writing Tips

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