Tag Archives: #self-publishing

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!



Mystery Writer Barbara Ann Derksen Tells How She First Published


Christian Canadian mystery author Barbara Ann Derksen.
Barbara Ann Derksen

I’m so happy today to have Canadian author Barbara Ann Derksen on “How I First Published.” Barbara writes fabulous mysteries. I  love her latest series, Finders Keepers. And now, here’s Barbara to tell us how she published.

Essence of Evil by Canadian Christian author Barbara Ann Derksen

What  was  your  first published novel? Did you go  indie or traditional?

 My first book was in the mystery genre and written from a collection of short stories while I worked as a journalist for a nearby newspaper. When the story was finished, I sent query letters to several traditional publishers expecting to be “discovered.”
Eleven rejection letters later, I began to explore self-publishing. .

The name of the book is Mind Trap. It is the story of a woman with anger issues stemming from abuse when she was a child and how it affects her life and the lives of those around her. Road rage is a topic that radio shows and TV interviews picked up on because she used her car as a murder weapon in a fit of rage. That was in 2003. Then in 2004 I attended my first writer’s conference and learned what I didn’t know and why the book was not picked up by a traditional publisher.

I chose to use Authorhouse. I learned a lot but found over the years better ways to publish that are less costly and more supportive. I discovered that whether you publish traditionally or indie, the work of marketing is pretty much left to you. These days we need to have a social media voice and a brand before the traditional publishers will even look at you. I also write in different genres (May be good or bad depending on who you listen to) and a traditional publisher, I’ve been told, won’t let you do that.

Authorhouse created my cover based on the short synopsis I gave them of the book. However, now that I’ve pulled the book to rewrite and edit it, I will also have a new cover designed. I’ve learned a lot about what to do and what not to do since Mind Trap was published so plan to put my knowledge to work to perfect the story. Once they had the book done, I began to make the rounds of bookstores in major cities nearby and schedule TV and radio spots when I could to let people know I was in their city. It was a learning experience all around but fun.

How did publishing make you feel?  Has it been as good as you expected, or a letdown, or exhausting, for example?

I experienced a wonderful sense of accomplishment when I held that book in my hands for the first time, as I do with each subsequent novel I’ve written. I was disappointed that some publisher wasn’t just waiting for my work but then I didn’t know how many manuscripts they have to peruse and at the first writer’s conference I learned they can afford to be choosy. I also learned that my boss was God and that to submit shoddy work was not appropriate. Writing from a Christian perspective is ministry, a calling from God. So the results, if I’ve done my part, are His.

Tell us what’s happened with your writing journey since.

Since that first book, I’ve successfully self-published 18 titles. I’ve completed a four-book series in the mystery genre with two books of another series done. Six devotionals speak to motorcyclists and others on a variety of topics and three books are children’s stories with another children’s series in audio book form only. I completed a collection of short stories honoring the veterans of the Korean Conflict, and a household management guide for busy parents. I am currently working on Book three in the Finder’s Keepers Mystery Series.

Shadow Stalker, Book one in Finder’s Keepers:

Shadow Stalker, Book one in Finder's Keepers, Christian mystery series
An ominous shadow hangs over her, as Christine Finder, alias Melissa Rompart, visits the
brutal slaying of her parents most nights in a dream. The threat of discovery propels her to search for the
whereabouts of the killer to see the man brought to justice. In the meantime, the killer stalks her mind
while she operates Finder’s Keepers, an agency that searches for the people her clients hire her to find.
Nathan Brent is only four years old and missing. Will she find him in time or will the killer find her first?


About Barbara:

Born in Canada, Barbara lived in the US for 12 years. There her writing surfaced as she worked under contract as a journalist for six years with over 2500 articles published in newspapers and magazines during that time. Meeting and interviewing people, digging for the hidden gems in their lives, made those years informative as well as instructive. She began attending Colorado Christian Writer’s Conferences and each year, under the tutelage of great Christian writer’s like James Scott Bell, Angela Hunt, and others, she honed her skills.

Barbara has developed a speaking platform and has spoken across the US and in Manitoba, Canada for women’s groups and in church services on topics such as The Writing Experience, working in the ministry of Christian Motorcyclists Association, Love, Parenting, Time Management, and a host of others.

With 17 books to her credit, one currently inactive and awaiting revision, each one surpasses the last, according to her readers. They look forward to discovering the new characters in a new series Finders Keepers.  (Book One  is Shadow Stalker.)

Connect with Barbara at:
Google + – http://bit.ly/1fvrT7L
Twitter – http://twitter.com/@BarbaraADerksen