Kara Howell on the Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing

Kara Howell's The Presence of Shadows

For all you folks out there wondering about self-publishing, today’s feature on “How I First Published” is a real gem. Indie Christian fantasy author Kara Howell not only gives us an overview of her publishing experience, but also takes us behind the scenes to describe the nuts and bolts of how it’s done. Very valuable information!

Author Kara Howell
Kara Howell

 

So tell us, Kara, how did you first publish?

I’m a new author with one book published. I choose to self-publish my book after following a number of e-mail threads posted by fellow authors on the John 3:16 author network. I just didn’t see any benefit to traditional publishing for a new, unknown author.

So how did you self-publish?

First I wrote my book. Duh! It took me nine months to write the first draft. Then, since school had just started and life was busy, I let it sit for three months. When I picked it back up, I completed my first re-write.

One of the things that you should know about me, is that I’m not one  of those authors that has always wanted to write. I’m an avid reader and have always wondered how people could come up with such great stories and complex plots. It was while I was reading a book to my kids for school that I suddenly wondered if I could write a book. Two days later I started typing. I had no specific education on writing. When I think back to my school experience, the last time I remember writing a fictional story was fourth grade. Sad, huh? I tell you this so that you will know just how bad my first draft was. The nice thing is that I didn’t know how bad my writing was. Good for me . . . not so much for editors.

That brings me to my next step. I needed to hire an editor. I wasn’t so naive as to believe that I didn’t need one of those. Once again I turned to the John 3:16 author network. I sent out a request for referrals to editors. I contacted three and God made it so clear who should edit my book. One of the editors was so expensive; I couldn’t even consider using them. Since my writing was really more of a hobby, and I’m self-published, all of the cost came out of my pocket. The second read over what I sent her and had so many questions that it was clear she didn’t understand my story or my vision for writing it. That probably was not all her fault, remember, my first draft was pretty bad. The third editor was not only affordable, but she was excited about my book and teaching me how to make it better.

I jumped into the editing process with gusto. At least for the first round of edits. By round three, I was not quite so excited. I did learn a ton and my book is so much better for it. After round two, I had several beta readers read my manuscript and implemented the changes from their feedback. The fourth round of editing was my last. That was the least painful of them all. It took me almost a year to go through all four rounds of editing.

So publishing was probably easier than all that editing and  rewriting, right?

Hah! I thought that the e-book would be easier to publish than a print book since I’d not looked into print yet. Well, then I found out that to make the best possible e-book you need to create an HTML document. A what?!

My husband is a programmer, but he hates GUI programming. Apparently that is what HTML is. I spent the next month banging my head against my computer desk and wishing that I used foul language so that I could tell my computer exactly what I thought of it. Slowly, I began to understand the big picture of HTML.

In the meantime, when I was too frustrated to look at more HTML code, I tried to upload my book to the Create Space template for a print book. Through the publishing process, I learned just how much of a perfectionist I am. I wrote a book and I had certain ideas about how I wanted it to look. Without a publisher to argue with, I thought it would be easy to make my ideas a reality. Not so much. I didn’t want to pay for anything that I didn’t have to, so I spent a lot of time learning.

For my print book, I wanted my page numbers in a unique place on the page. I’d read a book series that had the page numbers in the middle of the outside margin. I loved it. It is so easy to find pages. I’m one of those weird readers that actually look up things in fiction books. So I tried several times to get the Create Space template to save my changes to the page number. I finally gave up and just formatted my own document. I’d already done so much formatting on it that I figured I had to be close to what the finished format should be anyway. Sure enough, one quick tutorial online and I had a paperback that was formatted correctly and had my page numbers where I wanted them. Whew! I was surprised that my paper back was ready to publish before the e-book.

Here’s a picture of the paper back with the page number where I wanted it. You can see the dark 1 on the right side. It’s a little close to the text, but you get used to that.

Snippet 1

 

By the way, I had read that the best thing to do was to write your book in a formatted template, but by the time I’d read that I was on round three of editing. It never occurred to me to start working in a template at that point. I’m writing book two in The Chronicles of Kings and Dragons series now, and I’m writing it in my own template. I hope that this will save me tons of time on book two.

Back to HTML. I was able to get most of the book the way that I wanted it, but I still had a programmer friend, that doesn’t hate HTML, come over and help me with a few trouble spots that were making me pull my hair out. Because I followed a blog with instructions on HTML coding for an e-book, I was able to do some cool things. I was even able to have a widget on each chapter page, and my chapter title in the font that I used on the cover. That’s not something you see in most e-books.

Here it is:

Snippet 2

 

Next, I uploaded the e-book to Kindle Direct Publishing and the paper back to Create Space. With Create Space you have the ability to order a proof copy. I ordered two, and had four friends proof read the book for me. It was shocking how many mistakes they found that the editor and I both missed. Fresh eyes can’t be underestimated! Then I made all of those changes to both the e-book and paper back documents. From now on, I won’t even create the HTML doc. until I’ve had my book proof read and corrections made. Then, I uploaded the new versions and clicked that all exciting and dreadfully terrifying button, “Publish.” My book was available for sale on Amazon within a few hours. The last and most important step of self-publishing is calling all of your friends and family to scream, “I just published my first book!!! Praise the LORD!”

Thanks, Kara! Tell us more about where we can find you and your books.

If you are interested in learning more about who God is through the Old Testament, I’ve written The Presence of Shadows. This book is the first in a young adult fantasy series in which I dramatize the lives and event of the Kings and prophets of Israel.

Dive into the world of Ta-Val and take a journey with Brehane as he decides who to trust.

Find out more about The Presence of Shadows Here KaraHowell.com

Follow me at:

FACEBOOK: Kara Howell

TWITTER: @howell_kara

E-MAIL: kara.howell@rocketmail.com

WEB SITE: KaraHowell.com

Sign up on my web site to read the first chapter for free!

 

Share

3 thoughts on “Kara Howell on the Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing”

  1. WELL DONE!!!
    As writers, we start with a story, spend years learning the craft, then face the publishing tsunami. Followed closely is the next, even larger wave of learning to market so people know our story exists. And you did it all with kids at home. God bless and prosper your efforts! Great interview.

Leave a Reply