File preparation

So in order to get this stuff all online, you’re going to need to get your files ready. I am at this point assuming that you have finished writing and done all of the editing passes until you are happy with the final result. Once you are, then it’s time to format the files.


First of all, you’re going to want to read this the Smashwords guide on this. It is invaluable, even if it is long. It’s also the most restrictive and, honestly, only Smashwords is quite this strict on their formatting guidelines, so keep that in mind. 

I tend to work out of .doc files.1 They are the easiest to manage and edit later, plus most places will take them and do your conversions for you.2 Since I don’t do a lot of custom formatting, it’s the easiest for me to work with.

And now for actually doing it. Since I write in Google Docs, I copy and paste all of my text into Word. From there, I open up the styles panel and then start murdering any style that isn’t Normal, Italic, Link, Center, Heading 1, or Heading 2. You can do this by selecting one of those custom styles3, and clicking on the little arrow to the right of it. There’s a Select All option to click. Once it’s all highlighted, you can then click on any of the other styles4 and it will change all of the styles at once.

A word of warning about this method, since I write a lot of books with telepathy. This doesn’t always preserve the italics and other formatting. So be careful.

Once you’ve limited the styles used in the text down to just those few styles, then you’re usually good to go. Although, there’s one more thing for me.

Front and Back Matter

I have two specific things I always add.

The first is a title page. It just has the name of the book, sometimes the name of the series, my name, the name of my imprint5 and the year of publication.

The second is a page with a small bio on me, and a list of links on how to get in touch, including Twitter, Facebook, and the Mailing List. No one, to my knowledge, has ever clicked on them, but I’m in the habit of this now.

Another common thing to add is a table of contents. I don’t personally recommend this in most cases, because the file will have an internal table of contents that will be more useful to your reader than the one at the front of the book.

Calibre and ePub

Now, every once in a while, you will need an ePub version. Of all the types, ePub will be the most versatile. Everything takes it,6 and this is the format it will be converted to7 so it’s handy to have.

If you don’t already have it, get Calibre. If you have formatted your book as per the above, it will convert those docs really nicely into any ebook format you want. It will also allow you to edit the files directly, but you’ll need to know some basic HTML8 in order to make it work.

Personally, I only use this for very specific instances, but we will get into those more a bit later.


I’m hoping you already have your cover done. You’ll want it in .jpg, since that’s what’s actually going to upload to all outlets.

For most, you will want a .jpg file of about 1563 x 2500 pixels for the cover. It changes by outlet, but 100% of places will at least accept a file of this size without any issue, though one I’ll be talking about will ask for larger.

  1. Multiple, but we’ll get into that with distribution []
  2. Looking at you PublishDrive. We’ll get to you. []
  3. Mine are always called Body Text something something something []
  4. Usually Normal []
  5. Scrap Paper Entertainment []
  6. Some will only take it []
  7. Except Amazon []
  8. And have a working knowledge of email HTML because it’s pretty similar with how much of a pain it is []

So, here’s what I’m doing

NaNoWriMo is over and I now have two more drafts! But now that the month is done, it’s time for me to start getting Hero Complex ready for publication, and working out just what I’ll be doing for next year.1 However, there have been a few people from the Vancouver region who have been curious about self publishing and were asking how they were to go about doing it.

Self publishing is my jam, so I have been having a few conversations about what my process is and the specifics of what I’m doing. And now I am going to go through it all over the next few weeks with you.

I’m not going to be going through things like how to write or edit your book. Those are very different processes that vary wildly between people, so I am not the one to go to in order to figure out what’s best for you. This series is just going to be how I personally go through the process of formatting and publishing my novels. But first, a small preamble to get us started.

Why am I doing self publishing?

People have a lot of different reasons for getting into it, so I can only speak for why I’m doing it. I ended up getting very quickly disillusioned with traditional publishing after going to a writer’s convention and actually talking to industry professionals and other authors. My assumptions about what I could get published were cast aside and my belief that interesting ideas would win out were largely proven to be untrue and that marketability and the ability to sell were much more important.

I was very idealistic back then. Very.

Worse, after talking to a lot of other people who actually had books published, I found that some of these people were having to start from scratch to get their next books published, back t the conference to pitch to agents fresh despite already having a book published. Some were looking to expand into other genres, some had their books go out of print and were unable to get their rights back, and none of this was something I wanted to hear at the time.

And the final nail in the coffin for me, the main reason I wanted to go the traditional publishing route, was finding out that many of these smaller authors had to do their own marketing. As some of you may already be aware, I am absolute garbage at marketing.

In the end, I figured that I might as well just start publishing them myself. At least that way I could publish whatever I wanted on my own schedule, and I wouldn’t have to re-pitch every time I had a new project that targeted a slightly different demographic. I also wouldn’t have to rebrand myself every time I wanted to expand into new genres.

It’s a much more time-consuming route, to be sure, and takes up a lot more resources. I need to come up with my own cover art, need to find my own editor, and still have to do my own marketing, but in the end it’s been rewarding on its own. Even if only now, five years later, I’m only really starting to hammer down a process.

So, if you want to know what my process for getting a book published is, stay tuned. First up is file preparation.

  1. Probably the White Noise sequels and another Wonderland book []