Thursday, October 4, 2012

Quality Control in Independent Publishing: Standard Operating Procedure.

(Author photo.)

I just published ‘Horse Catcher,’ a science fiction adventure set 12,000 years in the future. Standard operating procedure is to wait, let it go through for Premium Distribution on Smashwords, and when it’s in the pipeline for iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel Books, etc., modify the file slightly and convert it to HTML on my desktop. The changes are to front matter only. The variance is in minor details like taking out ‘published by Smashwords.’ I wait to publish it on Amazon. By publishing it on a Friday morning, with a little luck it pops up in the new titles during prime time Friday night.

We also wait because then we know from Smashwords’ own auto and human vetters that the formatting is okay. It’s quality control for the formatting.

Comprene vous?

When I looked at the Smashwords dashboard recently, ‘The Game,’ a science fiction short story had in fact been approved for Premium Distribution. At that point, I tweeted a link and felt comfortable about doing it. That story can now be uploaded to Amazon. I have three or four accounts, SW, Amazon, Createspace, and Lulu, where I do exclusively POD paperbacks. This takes advantage of any traffic generated by the Lulu store.

I also make paperbacks through Createspace, which automatically distribute through Amazon, in several different countries. I only use free distribution channels. I have the option of paying a fee for each title; and then the books would be available to brick and mortar bookstores through Ingram’s (as I recall.) The challenges are several. I have fifteen titles, each would require a fee, and so far the covers aren’t really up to the standards of modern professional publishing. It’s a matter of conjecture as to whether such products would generate orders. However, even a small order might cover the fee. Assuming the fee is thirty bucks, and assuming I did ten titles, the reader can understand my reluctance.

C’est la vie.

In terms of covers, the free Createspace templates are limited in terms of layout and design. The spine and back cover are equally important in selling to customers when they hold the book in their hand—which they are not going to do when buying from Amazon. However, if disappointed by the product when they actually receive it, there are forums where they can disparage it. It just takes longer, and you do get a few sales.

More default fonts would be welcome, and the ability to right-justify text on back cover copy would be nice. Createspace wants customers to avail themselves of paid services, including cover design, as I can certainly understand.


Right now, I have the interior file of ‘The Paranoid Cat and other tales,’ all ready to go. I still need to reduce the size of the text on the present marketing image, as what I have now will impinge upon the cropping or trim area of the physical product. The proof of ‘Time-storm’ got hung up because it was sent via DHL, and unlike the post office, they can’t get into the mailboxes in the lobby. But we’ll try and track that down. I like to look the physical product over before clicking on ‘approve proof.’ It’s a matter of confidence when promoting the paperback. We’ve done some quality control. Also, before approving the proof, I plan on updating the cover image, as now the e-book image has been upgraded.

Over the next month I should be able to get caught up on one or two things, including making some more new paperbacks, and hopefully figure out what to write next.

I just tried the Apple iStore widgetmaker on my blogspot blog and it doesn’t appear to work, so I took it off again. It looked okay, but the links didn’t work, and this may require some troubleshooting.


I got the ‘Time-Storm’ proof copy today. It looks like this is the second shipment. One of the neighbours told me there was something stuck on the front door, but I never come in that way. Createspace says in their e-mail, ‘if you get a second one keep it,’ and that’s fine.

N’est pas?

Proofing involves a pencil and a piece of paper beside the bed. I get a glass of milk, some cookies and I just start reading. Things to look for include the drop-down to chapter titles, correct number of blank pages, and broken lines in the text as well as typos and stylistic concerns.

I’m just finishing up reading Edward Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ (the actual title is longer, but you get the idea,) and then I have four pulp thrillers to read, including Tony Hillerman, Len Deighton, and one or two others.

My next project is still so secret, even I don’t know what it is. Hopefully someone will enlighten me.

I haven’t written much in the last couple of weeks except blog posts. I’m done editing ‘Horse Catcher,’ and I have this feeling like I’m not really doing my job. It’s okay at first, but at some point it’s all talk and no action. It’s sort of irresponsible, isn’t it?

“Talk the talk and walk the walk,’ to counterfeit a phrase.

C’est dommage.

Sooner later I have to stop faking it. But I have another novel, ‘The Art of Murder,’ coming out on November 1, so at least it looks like I’m doing something. The book has been re-written five or six times. It’s been sitting for a month. As soon as I cracked it open, I began making little changes again.

I suppose that’s inevitable, really, but I still have a month until deadline. There’s nothing here I can’t handle. What’s really interesting is the contrast between editing ‘Horse Catcher,’ written back in 2008, and editing ‘The Art of Murder,’ which I wrote over the summer.

You can learn a hell of a lot about writing fiction in three or four years of effort and application. ‘Art of Murder’ is my ninth novel. ‘Horse Catcher’ was my sixth, and I have no more unpublished novels. From here on in, I’m writing fresh material.


I’ve been getting out of the house a bit lately and I think that’s good.

It’s a nice time of year, and a little appreciation for the outside world is okay as far as that goes.

But if this is a vacation, then I’m wasting that too.

Au revoir!

1 comment:

  1. I really admire your abilities. Getting two short stories on Smashwords was an achievement for me. I've a science fiction set in the U.S. between 1840 and 1865, but the cover, back strip, margins in the book are things I fear to tackle. Good luck with everything.


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