E-Book Self-Publishing: Part 3

Note this was moved here as part of my HowToSelfPublishABook.org redesign.

Here is part 3 of J. Dane Tyler’s series. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. The original appeared on his whatnot blog, and appears here with his explicit permission.

If you get a minute, you should also go check out his produced ebooks:

All right, in this section of the tutorial – which, among us geek-types who like to learn on the interwebz is known as a “tute” – we’re going to have to dig, and worse still, script. *Shudder*

What you’ve done so far, if you’ve followed all my steps to the letter, is to take your Microsoft Word or OpenOffice Writer document, strip out all the formatting (and I do mean ALL the formatting), and now you’ve got it back into a nice, handy little HTML template suitable for you to transform into a .prc file which is DTP- and Kindle-friendly and allows you to check out your creation with the Amazon Kindle Previewer software.

So you’ve got an HTML document with no formatting. Now what?

Put back what you lost

You lost a lot. If you’re anything like me, you use a fair amount of italics to emphasize certain words in your manuscript. Don’t do that. As much as you can avoid it, you should. As a writer, you should have a strong enough voice to where that kind of thing is rare and well-placed in your document. But whatever the case, be you heavy-handed or light-touched on formatting, whatever you had, you’ve lost. It’s gone. There’s nothing there but a plain ol’ text document with a few paragraph tags now.

So, I’m going to tell you how to add back italics. This will go for any other inline sort of formatting you did too – bold face, underlining, strikethrough, whatever. As long as it isn’t a title or heading, a footer or a block quote, it’s probably inline and this is how you have to put the formatting back.

  • Open your word processing document, NOT the HTML document. The one with either the .doc(x) or .odf file extension. Open it with whatever the native word processor is.
  • Now, go to the Edit menu and choose “Find”.
  • Locate the special or format location features on the “Find” dialog box.


  • From the special formatting selections, locate the selection for “Font” and choose the font and the type of formatting to locate. For instance, in the image below, the Find dialog is set to locate Times New Roman 12 point italic font.


  • Once you click OK on the setup you can have Word (and presumably Writer) locate the  instances of italicized text in your manuscript. Presumably. I’ve never actually tried this, of course. Ahem.
  • When Word or Writer finds an instance of formatted text, you can locate it in your HTML document using the “Find” feature in either Notepad++ or your text editor (if it has one) to locate the same text in the HTML document.
  • When you’ve found the text to italicize, put an <em> before the text you want to italicize and a </em> after it. Note those differences! The one without the slash is called a start tag, and the one with the slash (and it’s a forward slash, leaning from lower left to upper right) is called an end tag. You need BOTH, or everything AFTER the <em> tag will be italicized in your manuscript. BE CAREFUL!
  • Okay, finished with that? Great! Now go back and do it for every other type of formatting you did.
  • Did you manage to use drop caps in your document? Well, while HTML and CSS (that’s Cascading Style Sheets to you an’ me) might be able to replicate that for you, the Kindle doesn’t show it. If you HAVE to use that technique, you have to make the initial cap a larger font face than the rest of the text. I kid you not, that’s the work-around.
  • Save your HTML document after EVERY CHANGE and check your progress by opening it in the web browser of choice for you. EVERY. CHANGE. NO. EXCEPTIONS.
  • Close the word processor document when you’re finished.

Now for the Rest of It

Okay, with that done, let’s go back and add your book title, chapter headings and any other subheadings you might like to add. Remember your book is going to need “front matter” too – this is the copyright statement at the beginning of the book, and you’re going to want a table of contents in there if you’re doing a book with, say, multiple stories. You know … like my eBook, f’rinstance.

So let’s format the title. First, you want to open the manuscript in Notepad++. If you’ve installed N++, you probably noticed it asked you if you wanted to add it as an option to your context menu. I find this extremely handy for this part. I right-click the HTML file and click on the Notepad++ option in the quick-menu that comes up. Bada-bing, it’s open in N++ ready to edit. It should automatically be opened with HTML as the language selected too.

When you copied everything from the KompoZer screen and pasted it into the <body> section of your HTML document, it presumably brought over the title and other information you had there as well. I, personally, leave all that out until it’s time to do this portion, but if it’s there, that’s fine too.

Find the book title if it’s there. In front of the first word (i.e., to the left in English-speaking, right-to-left reading countries), type the code <h1>. Note the angle brackets. That’s mandatory on all HTML code and you must use it with everything you do in HTML. This puts the Heading 1 or top-level heading format on the title. If you look at your nifty little template, you’ll see I did a tiny bit of CSS scripting for you. What happens to your title is, it becomes all uppercase, 24-point bold-face font and is centered on the document. When you save and reload the HTML document into your web browser, you’ll see this happen. Cool, no?

Now, after the last word of the title, put the end tag for the Heading 1 formatting, </h1>. This makes sure ALL the text in your manuscript isn’t transformed to a level-one heading.

There’s more. If you have a subtitle, you can use an h2-format heading by putting <h2> in front of the subtitle and an </h2> end tag after it. I have a special format set up for the author’s name too.

So find your name. The part where it says “by You” or whatever. And in front of that line, put <p class=”auth”>. Then, after your name, i.e., where you want the formatting to end, type </p>. Save your document, reload in the browser, check it out, be impressed.

Now, you can place your copyright front matter. Copy and paste it if it’s not in place, and if it is, put <p class="ctr"> in front of it and </p> at the end of it. And your front matter will be nicely centered on the screen for you. Voila! You’re finished with the front matter formatting.

A word about Amazon and Smashwords front matter – be especially careful not to include a statement like “printed in …” with your country of origin. It is NOT a printed book and this statement is meaningless. It will probably get you kicked off of Smashwords.com. Amazon doesn’t like it either. They both have very particular standards about their front matter, so research it carefully before you put one in place.

For my hierarchy of headings, I use this guide:

  1. H1 headings: Book title only.
  2. H2 headings: Story or chapter titles.
  3. H3 headings: Section titles or chapters within shorter works included in anthology.

I don’t go below level three for myself. You can go down to H6, it’s up to you.

Locate your chapter divisions and make sure they are formatted correctly.

Now, let’s discuss the pages.

Pagination in HTML

There isn’t any. None. Zero. Here’s what you have to remember: this is one long document. On a web page, each page is a separate document. In a Kindle, that’s not possible, each eBook is all one document. But there are tricks you can use to keep some page breaks in place.

Microsoft Word creates this neat piece of code when I convert the document to an HTML file.

<br clear=all style=’mso-special-character:line-break;page-break-before:

Now, I’m not sure what, if any, of that gobbledygook is of use to the browser, but I know I can create page breaks so that each story starts on a new page and each chapter does too, if you’re so inclined. But the idea is free-flowing text without margins and bottoms and tops. The Kindle likes this best and even does some formatting for us, all by its little lonesome.

The problem is that little ‘mso-special-character:’ part. The one I used on my hand-made book was similar, but cleaner:

<br clear=all style=’page-break-before:always’>

Much simpler, yes? And no ‘mso-’ specific formatting, which is bad juju.

Table of Contents Crafting

Crafting a good, working table of contents isn’t easy. It’s pain-staking, in fact, and you can’t just let your word processor do it for you. At least, Smashwords hated that. So you have to build them by hand.

  1. Open the HTML document in Notepad++ if it’s not already.

  2. For each story or chapter (I’m going to call them chapters to save a little typing from here on out), you create an entry on a Table of Contents page. So, I put in a page break right after my front matter and dedication, if any.

  3. At the top of the page type “Table of Contents” and apply an h2 formatting.

  4. In the body of the page, add the name of the chapter, such as “Chapter One” or “Chapter 32” or whatever.

  5. In front of each one, type the following code: <a href="#ChapterNum">. For “ChapterNum, of course, you use the actual digit. Or name, if you’re going with named chapters. At end of the chapter name, you type </a>. So, a complete entry is <a href="#Chapter01">Chapter 01</a>. And see the pound sign/hash mark/tic-tac-toe/whatever you want to call it thingy? That’s required before the chapter name or number. Won’t work without it.

  6. Save your HTML document, but don’t bother loading into the browser yet; we’re only half finished with the ToC.

All right, what you just did is create a bunch of anchor tags, or hyperlinks, which we now have to assign targets for. You can click ‘em now, but nothing’s going to happen because they have no destinations to connect to. So let’s give them the targets.

“Target” is where the links take you. So, let’s finish them off.

  1. Open the HTML document in Notepad++ if you closed it.

  2. Go to the first chapter title in your book after the ToC. Chapter 01 or Prologue or whatever you called it.

  3. Before the chapter title and either INSIDE or OUTSIDE the heading format tags (doesn’t matter), type the following tag: <a name="ChapterNum">. The ChapterNum is replaced with whatever you named your chapter and it must PRECISELY AND EXACTLY MATCH WHAT YOU TYPED IN THE TOC LINK. Otherwise, the link will not work, period. BE CAREFUL! So, a full entry would be: <a name="Chapter01">Chapter 01</a>.

  4. Do this for all the chapters in your book. You can use the find and replace feature and just type in specific numbers if you want, but for named chapters or story anthologies like mine, this is a manual process.

  5. Save the HTML document when you’re finished. Make SURE you get them all.

  6. Open your HTML document in the browser and test each and every link. Every. One. No. Exceptions. Test. Re-test. Test again, then do it all over again. Close it, open it, save it, then test test test testtesttest! Test it, over and over! Get it?

  7. Do they work? If yes, GREAT JOB! If not, don’t be bummed out. It’s probably a typo somewhere, and will be easy to fix. (Yeah, right.)

Okay, this is a lot. A LOT. But don’t worry, the hard part’s over. Now we have a hyperlinked, well-formatted HTML document and we can run it through a couple of crunches and get a new file type. We’re almost there!

Oh, and a cover image. We need a good cover image. We’ll talk about all those things next time.

Have fun, gang!

Interview with Hydra Publications

Okay, so this is really an interview with Frank Hall, who runs Hydra Publications. I’ve had several of his authors on the blog recently, and he graciously agreed to spend a few minutes answering my questions.

I always start with the personal stuff. Tell me three things about yourself that you think everyone should know, and one thing that almost nobody knows.

Well lets see three things that everyone should know about me. First off i am a HUGE geek. Plain and simple. Another thing is my passion about books. I love them. My house is covered with books……and games….like i said geek. I am also a big animal lover. Hmm something that almost nobody knows. There was a time i thought about becoming a professional musician.

What is Hydra Publications?

Hydra is a small press that i started a few years ago as part of the bookstore that I own. It has quickly grown into a mind of its own. 

What is your role at Hydra?

Owner/Editor/marketer/press secretary/general contact/whipping post….you get the idea.

What type of reader likes the books Hydra publishes?

All types. When i first started out i was planning on doing Speculative fiction only. You know Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror. So naturally our first book came out and it was a Historical Romance. There is something for everyone in our titles.

What’s the hardest part of being a small publisher?

Dealing with expectations that people have that are just not realistic. One wanted their book to come out at a certain time and got offended when I told them that it was next to impossible to do that….2 weeks.

What’s the best part of being a small publisher?

I would say the best part is finding that new Gem that either someone else missed or has never seen. I love books so being able to see what people come up with before anyone else is a big perk to the job.

What could an author do to increase his or her chances of having a manuscript accepted at Hydra?

There are several things, the most important being write a good story. Then do the submission right. We have guidelines on the site for how to submit to us and it amazes me how many people do not follow them. I delete a lot of messages just because it was not submitted correctly.

What would definitely cause you to reject a manuscript?

As i said earlier submitting wrong is a biggie. If you cannot follow simple instructions off of a website then I do not want to work with you. Also if it is apparent that you didn’t even look over the manuscript when you finished it then that is a big one too. If I open it in Word and red lines start showing up everywhere then its a no. You have not taken the time to make sure your book is good and I won’t either.

What should I have asked you, if only I had known you well enough to ask?

You should of asked about the purple monkey!



Does Self-Publishing Make “Real” Publishing Impossible?

I’ve been thinking of self-publishing my novel Oasis once I get the edits done. One of the questions I have to ask myself is “If I self publish Oasis, am I ruining my chances of getting published by a ‘real’ publisher?” I suspect that a lot of writers have wondered similar things about their fiction babies.

I suppose the first question that needs to be asked is:

What are the dangers in self publishing?

  1. Public Embarrassment – Let’s face it. The mean kids might laugh at you (that is, if any of them read your work,) and write nasty comments and reviews about your literary baby. All over the internet. This used to be a problem for me. I was terrified of bad reviews. Eventually, I got over it and started posting Oasis online. This is a danger no matter how you showcase your works, though.
  2. “Death of writing carrier” – From what I understand, this is no longer a real issue. Apparently at one time real publishers would never ever touch an author once they’ve self published.
  3. Loss of “First Printing Rights” ability to sell to a “real” publisher – OK, so if you self publish first I guess you do lose those. But let’s face it, you’re not going to get that big of an advance for your first book, anyway.
  4. Hidden Costs – Besides charging hefty up-front fees, a lot of self publishing houses nickle and dime the heck out of you. If you learn some simple new technical skills, you can avoid most of these, though. I’ll cover those sometime in the future.
  5. Obscurity – For me, this is the most ‘real’ danger. It is hard for a self-published author to get noticed by anybody.

So, is it even possible to go from ‘self’ to ‘real’ publishing?

The simple answer is yes. I can find several examples of books that were first self published first (or only). The wikipedia lists a bunch, including The Joy Of Cooking, Chicken Soup for the Soul, In Search of Excellence, and Eragon. Other self published authors include Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, and Rudyard Kipling.

In a more current real life example, Tony Monchinski, who I interviewed a while ago, started by self publishing his book Eden. It soon got picked up by Permuted Press.

Can a novel take off from a small publisher? Sure. Speaking again of Permuted Press, they recently had a book called John Dies At The End get relicensed by a filmmaker (and I’m guessing larger publishing house.)

Why would a publisher pick up an already-self-published novel?

The only reason a publisher publishes a book is this: They think it can make them a buck.

If you can prove your novel has selling potential, I think they might just be interested. Just remember, the only proof you can ever have that a book has selling potential is actual sales. Like sales in the thousands. That’s a lot of books.

Christopher Paolini did it with Eragon. He wrote the book, his parents “self-published” it, and then they set things up for his to speak at high schools (he was still right around high school age), they sold a bunch of copies, and then BAM! The next thing you know they’ve made one of those epic movies.

But his overnight success was still a whole lot of work.

How likely is it that I’ll be picked up by a traditional publisher once I’ve self-published?

My guess here is: not likely. Of course, it wasn’t likely before you self published, either. If you sell a bunch by yourself, though, it becomes much more likely.

Does this even matter?

Why do you want to publish anyway?

Is your work a memoir of a grandparent that you want to give to your family for Christmas? Yes, you should self publish.

Do you just want to hold a physical copy of your heartbreaking work of staggering genius in your hand? Of course – self publish.

For me, I want to write. I want to make my writings available in printed form to anyone that wants a copy. I don’t want to spend a lot of time going to conferences to schmooze agents, keeping track of rejections and submissions, or any of that. I just want to keep writing my little blog and my little fictions. If through my efforts I build up somewhat of a following (which would admittedly be cool) then someday yes, I’ll decide my probabilities are good a publisher will want me, and I’ll expend the effort to really pimp myself to them.

To answer my own question from the title: No it doesn’t make it impossible to get a real publisher, but for me, it doesn’t even matter (yet.)

So what am I forgetting?

What else have I not considered?

What are your thoughts about self-publishing?

Additional Info

dangers of self publishing.
Another Hidden Danger of Self Publishing
Wikipedia Article on Self Publishing
Print On Demand, One Year Later
Self Publishing Is A Bad Idea