Grace's Mosaic Moments

Friday, April 22, 2011

Brave New World - Indie Publishing

WELCOME to the Brave New World of Independent Publishing! Below is a nutshell view of what I learned as I formatted and uploaded Lady Silence from my Signet backlist. Hopefully, it will be helpful to other authors who would like to take their backlist out of mothballs. And also help newbies who are asking themselves, "Should I?"

Independent publishing is sweeping through the Internet with the momentum of the seminal changes in the music industry. No sense arguing the pros and cons, because indie publishing is here to stay. It’s not going away.

Do I recommend it for an unpublished, unknown author? Only if you’re going to spend full-time marketing that one book on every media and social network available. (And most of us want to keep writing far too much to get trapped long-term in the whirlpool of marketing.)

But I heartily recommend that published authors with a backlist seriously consider independent publishing. The first book’s a bit of a chore, but as more and more of us take the plunge, there will be a growing list of “experts” willing to pass along their new-found knowledge. Which is what I’m attempting to begin with today’s blog.

Yes, you can offer your backlist to one of several royalty-paying e-publishers. (Been there, done that.) But when I heard how well a friend of mine had done with her backlist on Kindle - way better than my current e-royalties - I thought, “Well, heck, why not try it?” Only time will tell, of course, if I made the right decision. But at the moment it feels good. And my low-priced e-Regencies will, I hope, encourage people to consider buying the higher-priced ones from my e-publisher.

How to take the plunge.

First, be sure you have the rights to your book. If you don't, call your print publisher and the main switchboard will direct you to the correct person for rights reversion. For e-pubs, a simple e-mail will do. And then be patient. For Penguin Putnam, it took perhaps two months. For my e-pub, less than a week.

Re-editing is your decision. You can use your original manuscript, as is, or you can choose to re-read and revise, line by line. I chose the latter. I’ve now ploughed my way through three of my six Signet Regencies, making deletions and additions. The result: hopefully, a more polished book, based on what I’ve learned in the years since I wrote the originals.

To learn the ropes of formatting and uploading your manuscript, Smashwords is the place to begin, because Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide gives detailed instructions on how to format your book to an MS Word doc that is acceptable not only to Smashwords, but to Kindle and Nook (even if their instructions don’t say so). I read the Style Guide on HTML. I e-mailed a Mobi version of it to my Kindle and read it again, taking copious notes. And when I finished all my formatting, I re-read the most pertinent parts for uploading again. Coker covers everything, including how to fill out the form so you can get paid! And once you’ve conquererd Smashwords, Kindle is relatively easy. Amazon’s Kindle mentions only HTML in its instructions, but you can use that same Word doc you formatted for Smashwords (minus the front page) for uploading to Kindle.

Warning Note: Do not copy the Smashwords License Agreement as it is laid out in the Style Guide. Not wanting to make any mistakes, I did exactly that, centering just as Mark Coker laid it out. And ten days later I was told I to revise the front page so that there were no Hard Page Ends within the body copy of the agreement (those page ends necessary to format the agreement exactly as Coker wrote it). Sigh.

Further Warning: There are dire warnings in the Style Guide about translating Word Perfect to MS Word for successful e-formatting. Needless to say, I was worried. For Word Perfect users who would like to know how I did it, please e-mail me at

ISBNs. I made the decision to buy a list of ten ISBNs, even though they are not required by Smashwords or Kindle. They are, however, required by Nook. It’s an expense, but I wanted to give Lady Silence every opportunity for distribution.

Nook’s PubIt will also accept an MS Word doc (according to their Support Center), but I found their instructions far less indie friendly than Smashwords or Kindle. At the moment, I admit, anyone wanting to read LADY SILENCE on Nook needs to download the EPub version at Smashwords. (For which Smashwords offers directions!)

An interesting sidenote: when I questioned PubIt’s requirement that biographical material be sent THREE MONTHS in advance, Support didn’t answer me, but the “three-months” instantly disappeared from the PubIt vendor requirements.)

Moral of this story: Am I still submitting original material to royalty-paying publishers and e-publishers? Absolutely. Will I continue to format my backlist for indie pub? Yes, yes, and yes. As fast as my fingers can format and I can get cover artists to do their thing. And, if all goes well, I may even consider uploading that book New York never quite understood. And the one that had too many points of view for a couple of e-publishers. Books of my heart, but not of the editor’s heart.

Important repeat: If your name is already known in the publishing world (p- or e-pub), your indie offering is more likely to have a decent chance of success. And your less expensive indie backlist may increase the sales of your more expensive works.

Brave New World
It’s all yours, so come join me and the other indie authors who have taken the plunge.

Thanks for stopping by. Comments are always welcome.
Grace Kone, writing as Blair Bancroft & Daryn Parke

P.S. I also offer editing, copy editing, and Beta reads at Best Foot Forward. For a brochure, e-mail me at


  1. Wow, so much great information. Thanks for sharing what you've learned. Good luck with your sales!!!


  2. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. I think it's wonderful that you can take control of your work. The steps involved sound so daunting. I'd love to hear more about your experience in the future. :)

  3. Good advice. I've re-published the books whose rights reverted to me. Like you, I found the Smashwords style guide an excellent starting point. I also downloaded Calibre so I could re-format into the various styles available at All Romance eBooks, because they don't do any conversion.

    I didn't bother buying ISBNs, but used the free options Smashwords offers. I'll have to look into what Pubit requires; right now, my books are sold at B&N through the Smashwords system. Amazon assigns an ASIN, and All Romance eBooks lets you make up your own ISBN (only good at their site, of course, but nobody buying these books cares about what the ISBN is.)

    I'm in the process of re-editing two more books in anticipation of regaining my rights, and have another one that's never been published, but is part of my Blackthorne, Inc. series being edited professionally. Anyone who thinks his/her work is ready for publication without some very good eyes on it, no matter how many books they've written, isn't going to have the best work out there. And professional editing helps reduce the 'stigma' of being self-published.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  4. Just checked the Pubit guidelines:
    You do NOT need an ISBN to sell your eBook through PubIt!. If you don't have an ISBN, just tell us that you don't have one by answering No when prompted. In that case, Barnes & Noble will assign an internal 13-digit identifier to your title for you when you submit the title to go on sale.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  5. How much did it cost for you to purchase 10 ISBNs? How do I go about purchasing my ISBNs?

  6. Cecilia, as I recall the price for 10 ISBN #s was $250. The Bowker website is Although Smashwords offers ISBNs for those who publish with them at a lower price, I did not want Smashwords to consider itself my publisher. Therefore I bought mine from Bowker. I hope this info is of help to you.

  7. Yes, this information helps me. Thanks so much. I'm getting ready to self publish my first book this year and I feel kinda lost. I'm glad to get this information. I hope you have a nice weekend.