Self-Printed Splash!

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I’ve been a massive fangirl of Catherine Ryan Howard for the past three years.  She is a the reason that I eventually decided to set up Frankly Books and pursue this whole “self-publishing” caper. And, if I’m being really honest, she is the reason that my books have sold so well.  Her book Self-Printed (the original edition) made self-printing seem achievable, made me think about the whole thing in a different light AND took me through the whole process step-by-step.  It was the best money I spent in the whole experience.

In short, when it comes to publishing a book yourself, Catherine’s Self-Printed is the bible and if you think you can self-publish a high quality book that will look just like the ‘real thing’ and that people will actually want to buy without reading Catherine’s book first, then you are kind of like the characters in Jurassic Park who thought that the dinosaurs would never turn against them.  In short: you need this book.

Today I’m super chuffed to be taking part in Catherine’s Self-Printed Splash, to celebrate the release of the third edition of her book.

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To celebrate the release of the third edition of her book Self-Printed, Catherine Ryan Howard opened up her email inbox to eager self-printers to answer their  burning self-publishing questions.

My question for Catherine was: What is your best suggestion/tool/go to site/wildly outrageous idea for promoting children’s fiction?

And her response?

It’s not even slightly outrageous, but I do think video is the way to go for promoting children’s books. Children love YouTube, and parents love navigating to YouTube on their iPads and then handing them to the children to keep them quiet. There’s lots of cartoons and education videos for them to watch, songs to sing along with, lullabies and, of course, story time! You can easily make your own story time video by setting your webcam to record and then reading aloud from your book in your best storytelling voice. You could even subtitle the video so they can read along. I’ve said before that when you create something that promotes your book, it must stand on its own even when you take away the promotion. A story-telling video would do that – take away the fact that you want people to buy your book, and you still have a story-telling video. You can also share the videos on your website and Twitter. That’s what I’d recommend. 

Love it!  For more excellent nuggets of information just like this, get yourself a copy of Self-Printed 3.0.  Seriously

Proofreader Julia explains why you need a proofreader like her!

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I am such a creature of habit.  When I find something I like, I always go back to it.  At the time when I first published Diary of a Penguin-napper, I was happy with every aspect of it apart from one: the proofreading.  There were three different people who did the proofreading for me – the first was the brother of my illustrator who was training to become a proofreader, the second was a paid professional proofreader and the third was a friend of mine who works in the media.

Of those three, the first did a reasonable job, considering that he was still learning the ropes and he did it for nothing.  In those circumstances, I was impressed with what he did.  I figured that he had picked up quite a few of the errors, so hopefully there wouldn’t be much for the professional proofreader to pick up.  I was right.  The proofread that came back from the professionals had only fairly minimal errors to be seen. Then, I gave it to my friend.  The idea was that he would just check for any final details that needed to be corrected.  The ideal was that he would find no errors, the reality was the maybe he would find three or four.

I was pretty shocked when the proof copy of the book came back filled with post it notes of typos and missing word errors that needed to be corrected.  Sorry, what?  Let’s just say that I was unimpressed that I’d just spent $7 per 1000 for professional proofreading for 25,000 words to come back with some glaring mistakes.  Normally, I’m more than happy to promote the freelance services that I use to get my manuscript into shape as a book, but not in this instance.  There is no way I could recommend them.  Needless to say, I was on the hunt for a new proofreader for my second book.

Enter Julia.  I came across her on Twitter back in March and favourited her tweet, knowing that in the future I’d be in the market for a new proofreader.

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I didn’t even look back on that Tweet until about June, when my manuscript was finished and had been sent off to the manuscript assessor.  Then, I started hunting for quotes. There were two things that impressed me about her:

1. She offered to do a sample proof of the first chapter of Ruby Marvellous to be sure we were both happy with what we would be signing up for and

2. She is seriously reasonably priced!

Anyway, she’s my new favourite person and I could go on about how happy I am to have come across her on Twitter.  But, I figure I’ve gone on enough, so why not let Julia write a guest post and explain to you all why you need someone like her as a proofreader.  Here she is:

 

Why does an author need a proofreader? The answer becomes all too obvious to some writers, alas! The one thing that no author needs is bad reviews that focus on grammar and spelling, and once these reviews are out there, they don’t go away.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, can proofread their own work! No matter how educated or intelligent a writer is, the fact is that the author is too close to their work and can’t see the wood for the trees. When you read your own work, you see what you expect to see, not what’s actually there! I’ve been given novels to work on that the author has gone through multiple times – and I’ve still found scores of mistakes! Everyone makes typos, there’s not a writer alive who doesn’t.

I would say, by all means ask a friend or two to look through your work for typos. They will probably spot quite a few. But your friend has a different mind-set to me; I don’t know you, I don’t know anything about your work, it’s all completely new to me. I don’t know what to expect – but I will find those pesky typos, it’s a whole different ball game when proofreading is your job! I always offer to proofread up to 5 pages for any author, free of charge and without obligation, so that they can see if what I do is what they are looking for.

It’s hard to say when I became a proofreader, because I sort of grew into it. From almost as early as I can remember, I have loved reading. I am in awe of anyone who can write a book or a story. I used to walk to school with a book in front of my face (dangerous!) I was very good at grammar and spelling at school, and learned foreign languages easily. When I started work as a secretary, I used to automatically correct all documents, in fact my boss used to insist that nothing left the office without my checking it. Then one day I thought – I can do this full time!

I think you have to love proofreading in order to do it properly. And you don’t have to go to college to learn how to do it, though of course some do choose to. The most important thing is, you have to have a real passion for correcting text, this passion cannot be taught, it has to come naturally.

There is a difference between proofreading and editing fiction. Editors will perform services such as: suggesting cutting out characters; changing or omitting dialogue; changing the narrative arc of the novel; moving chapters around; various other suggestions that will in their opinion improve the book. I don’t alter the writer’s work apart from correcting it; I don’t consider it my role to interfere with the writer’s ‘voice’.

Proofreading should take place after the novel has been edited, and been through however many re-writes the author wishes to do. If you use an editor, your proofreader should receive the manuscript after the edit has been done, because after the edit there may be more corrections to be made. To summarise, the proofreading should be done as the last stage before formatting and cover design.

I love getting lost in a book, and feeling I’ve really helped to make it ready for publication. I get a great sense of pride when I see the book for sale on Amazon, and I think, ‘I worked on that one!’ I repeat, I am completely in awe of writers, I can’t do what you do! I am always happy to hear from any authors, whether experienced or just starting out. At heart, I am a reader and a fan, and I never know what wonderful new books are out there waiting for me to discover them!

JULIATo get in touch with Julia, follow her on Twitter @proofreadjulia
or drop her an email juliaproofreader at gmail.com

Oh and while you’re there, don’t forget to follow @franklybooks too!

She’s seriously fantastic – your readers will thank you for it!

 

Self-printing goals: Was self-publishing Diary of a Penguin-napper a success?

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Back when I started this whole self-publishing caper in October 2012, I really had no idea how I’d go and it caused me a lot of sleepless nights, lying awake wondering if I’d made the right decision to self-publish or not.

In order to track my progress and give myself something to work towards (and something to hopefully celebrate along the way) I decided to set myself some goals.  I promised to come back in 12 months and tell you (a) What my 4 goals were and (b) How close I came to achieving them and here I am.  And how did I go?

1. Embarrassment Level Goal

This is the minimum number of sales that you would need to make to not be totally humiliated and have to move to some remote island in the Pacific to hide.  For me, that goal was 200 paperbacks and I’m pleased to report that I’m not writing this post from a remote island.  I actually achieved this goal within the first 2 weeks of my book going live on Amazon, thanks to lots of time spent on blog tours, tweeting, sharing and family and friends on Facebook and an book launch event at the school where I was teaching.

2. Break Even Goal

This is the number of sales that you would have to make in order to make back the money that you spent on the whole venture. In total, it cost me around $2000 to take Diary of a Penguin-napper from manuscript to publication.  This included things like:

  • Manuscript Assessment
  • Editing
  • Proof Reading
  • Cover design
  • Purchase of fonts, stock photography, etc.
  • Approx 30 custom illustrations
  • Proof copies
  • Marketing materials

And I’m proud to say that I’ve sold enough copies to cover these initial set-up costs and I’ve been able to put enough aside to cover the costs of publishing my next book Ruby Marvellous in November this year (for significantly less than the cost of Penguin-napper too! Win!)

3. Achievable Aspiration Goal

This is again a numerical goal that isn’t too easily achievable, but, with a bit of hard work, you’d be really happy if you got there.  For me, that was 1000 sales and, well, let’s just say I’ve totally smashed that.

4. Pinch me! I’m Dreaming Goal

This is your ‘something to daydream about’ goal.  If this goal happened, you’d be absolutely ecstatic, thrilled and probably over the moon as well.  This goal is not a number, but most probably an event.  I decided that my goal would be to have my book in a bookshop.  I picked this not only because I thought it would be awesome, but also because I knew that it would make me get out there and approach bookshops as potential stockists.  I’m pleased to say that as I write this post, Diary of a Penguin-napper is currently available in BookTalk in Richmond (Melbourne), Collins Booksellers in Mildura and Dymocks (Melbourne).  There are a few other bookshops that I am also looking to approach when Ruby Marvellous is ready to hit the shops too.

It is hard to believe that this time last year, I had never brought a book to market, let alone sold a copy of it.  Here I am, 12 months later, having sold far more than I even anticipated that I would (or could).  Additionally, I have learnt so much more about the process and running a business than I ever would have doing this any other way.  The fact that I’ve even been able to achieve my ‘Pinch me!’ pie in the sky goal just blows me away and I’m feeling totally motivated to try and beat these figures with my new book, Ruby Marvellous, coming out at the end of November, 2013.

Do you have goals for your self-publishing ventures?  Are you getting close to achieving them? Do you think self-publishers even need goals? Tell me below!

I’m in love … with my new book formatting

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Right, so if you’re playing along at home you’ll know that I’m in the process of sharing … well the process!  Week 1 saw me sharing why I believe manuscript assessments are a good starting point. In Week 2 we talked about the value of good quality beta readers and now, in Week 3, the real fun begins: formatting your manuscript into a book.

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Up until this point we’ve employed experts and discerning friends to help us.  This is something you are going to do on your own and therefore it is also where you can go horribly wrong.

When I formatted Diary of a Penguin-napper I did it using Adobe InDesign as I happened to have the software and managed to work out how to use it without giving myself a bald spot from pulling out too much hair.  You can read about my InDesign adventures here.  That was back when I had loads of time and infinite patience for the whole experience.

This time, I’m pressed for time, plus it’s been 12 months since I’ve used InDesign and yes, I’ve completely forgotten how to use it and no, I’m really not interested in using up any more hours of my life learning how to use it again.

And luckily for me, I didn’t have to.  Say hi to my new best friend: Book Design Templates

This site was created by Joel Friedlander (The Book Designer) who is font of knowledge when it comes to all things self-publishing and he knows a badly formatted book when he sees one!  He created this collection of pre-made book formats, which writers can download (alongside a set of easy instructions) to help them format their book).  It is, however, so easy that I only made it through the first few pages of instructions before I had the hang of it.

For my new book, Ruby Marvellous, I’m using on of the children’s templates called Affection.  Yes, I’m feeling the love for it right now.  Here is a sample of what the first page spread in my book looks like:

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Cute, huh?

I know that I previously said that I’d be InDesigning everything because I love it so much.  Well, this is something that I love just as much and it has taken much less time/patience/sanity, so that it a plus too.

In addition (because I’m clearly just full of helpful information tonight!), I’ve got another top tip for you.  Did you know that you can use Adobe Acrobat to compile groups of PDF documents?  It’s really easy to do:  you just choose the option to ‘Combine Files into PDF’ from the start menu, add your files in the correct order and voila! One PDF made for you! Love it and it’s been great to use to add all different pages, sample chapters, etc all into one PDF to upload to Createspace.

Trim size, schim size. Who cares, right?

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If you don’t want your book to scream “self-published/indie published/homemade” when you give it a potential reader, then you need to do everything that you can to ensure that it has a professional finish to it.  One of the big decisions that you’ll have to make before you can format your book and get a professional cover design is to choose the trim size for your title.

Trim size is the size that the paper of your will be cut down to, or, basically, how big your book is going to be when it is printed.  Just browsing the list of trim sizes available through companies like Lightning Source, Createspace or Lulu can be really daunting, so I thought today I would share my top tips for choosing the best trim size for your title that you can.

So, to get started, take out your ruler, go to your bookcase and measure some of the books that fit into the genre that your book fits into.  If you don’t have any books from your genre on your bookcase, you’ll need to take your ruler to the local bookshop and measure some.  (That being said, if you don’t own any books in the genre you are interested in writing in, is that really the right genre for you?) Once you have surveyed books in your genre, there should be one combination that really stands out as the most common trim size for books of that genre.

The next step is to visit the website of the company that you would like to use to ‘publish’ your book and check that they offer that size or something very similar.  With Diary of a Penguin-napper, I considered Createspace, Lightning Source and Lulu as possible printers for my title. I was really keen on using Lulu because I know that they are able to print copies of books ordered in Melbourne (which would save time and postage costs). However, when I looked at the trim sizes that they offered, I realised that Lulu didn’t offer the trim size that I really wanted, so I ended up publishing with the other two instead.

As I try approach my writing with a business hat on, I really wanted the best price for the number of pages and the trim size that I wanted.  The trim size of your book will have an impact on the costs, so this is another place where you need to do your research.  For me, per book, Createspace offered the best price per copy easily.  However, because I’m in Australia, the postage from the US is both turtle-slow and cripplingly expensive. To give you an idea, to get the books  in a reasonable amount of time, the cost of postage per book is about the same as the cost of the book.  Because of this, I ended up going through the process of publishing through Lightning Source in addition to Createspace.  Whilst they are much more expensive per book, they have a print centre based in Melbourne and the postage is around $10-$20 rather than $200+.

The final thing that I did before I settled on a trim size and a publisher/printer was to get a proof copy printed by each the printers that I was considering.  As you can see from the photo, the Createspace (centre) and the Lightning Source (right) books look very similar.  The only difference between them, which doesn’t show up in the photograph very well, is that the Createspace copy is a gloss finish, whilst the Lightning Source copy is matt (and looks/feels far superior!)  Lulu (left) didn’t offer the trim size I wanted (hence the plain cover) and the overall quality wasn’t as good as the others, so that helped me to make the final decision.

While ultimately trim size won’t have an impact on the quality of your writing or finished novel, it does have an impact on how others will view your book.  I’ve seen a couple of self-published books, for example, that are 6″ x 9″ trim (and that perhaps should be  5.06″ x 7.81″ instead) and they stand out as being awkwardly sized and a bit less professional than  their traditionally published counterparts.  Choosing the best trim size for your title isn’t something that should take a long time, but it is something that you will have to look at for a long time after your books have been printed – so it’s worth doing right!

Amagoodread? What Amazon acquiring Goodreads means for readers and writers

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As I mentioned in my last post about the demise of Google Reader, I often wake up here in Australia to find that things have moved pretty quickly in the world of publishing while I’ve been sleeping.  Last week, another piece of news that I was alerted to by Twitter before I’d even had my morning coffee was that Amazon had acquired book based social networking site, Goodreads.

Whilst I think it is really too early to say with any certainty what this acquisition will really mean for readers and writers, there has certainly been quite a bit of outrage about it.

The word that has been bandied about quite a bit since this announcement on Thursday is ‘monopoly’, with a real concern that, if Amazon keep up their amoebic approach to dominating the publishing industry then  we are going to end up with nowhere else to buy books.

In his announcement about joining ‘the Amazon Family’, Goodreads’ Otis highlighted the following positives about the acquisition:

I’m excited about this for three reasons:

1. With the reach and resources of Amazon, Goodreads can introduce more readers to our vibrant community of book lovers and create an even better experience for our members.

2. Our members have been asking us to bring the Goodreads experience to an e-reader for a long time. Now we’re looking forward to bringing Goodreads to the most popular e-reader in the world, Kindle, and further reinventing what reading can be.

3. Amazon supports us continuing to grow our vision as an independent entity, under the Goodreads brand and with our unique culture.

His third point is probably the one that resonated with me the most.  Perhaps as readers and writers, we’ll see small changes with Goodreads over the coming months, but actually, the real part of Goodreads that Amazon is interested in is the data they have collected and that the link between the two will be behind the scenes, so to speak.  That said, what will the carry on impact of that be back into the Goodreads community?  Will writers be able to continue making valuable connections with their readers?  Or will the dollar signs start taking over?

As I said earlier, I think it is too soon to really know what all of this really means.  What is clear, however, is that as readers  we need to be continuing to purchase books from a wide range of sources.  Being based in Australia, my rule is that I’ll buy e-books from Amazon for my Kindle (app for iPad), but that I buy all of my hard copy books from local independent bookstores.  While the books may cost a little more, I save on postage, waiting time for books to come in the mail and I get to support local people and local business (which makes me feel pretty warm and fuzzy!)

You should definitely try it!

e-Book Cover Design Awards, November 2012

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Joel Friedlander of The Book Designer began running the e-Book Cover Design awards back in 2011 when he saw that there wasn’t much going on in the way of recognising and appreciating e-Book Cover Design.  He set up his monthly awards as a way of sharing what self-publishers are doing with their e-book covers, getting inspiration for your own design efforts and learning why some covers work better than others.  You can read more about the monthly awards and how to submit your cover here.  Even if you don’t submit your cover, Joel’s site is fantastic for anyone interested in self-publishing.  I definitely recommend it and love sitting down with a warm chai latte to take a look at some of the covers that are submitted each month – even if it is to appreciate the good and cringe at the truly awful!

Back in October, I submitted the cover of Diary of a Penguin-napper to be part of the November 2012 awards.  Whilst I was a little nervous about what Joel would have to say, I had received some great feedback about the cover from readers before submitting so I was hopeful that sharing it on The Book Designer would be a good way of attracting some new readers.

Although it wasn’t the winning design of the 95 Fiction and 16 Non-fiction designs submitted, I am pleased to say that it didn’t get scathed! Woohoo!  While Joel is not able to comment on all of the covers that he receives, he described the one Andrew Brown designed for my book as ‘Love it, cute and it really stands out’ – which compared to some of the other comments is pretty high praise.  You can see the winning entry for November (which is pretty beautiful) here and the other entries too. Seriously, grab yourself a chai and check them out!

 

My new best friends for formatting e-books

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So today, I finally got around to converting Diary of a Penguin-napper into a suitable format to upload to both Smashwords and Amazon (for them to then turn into an e-book).  I have to say going through the conversion process has been something that I have been avoiding because:

  • From what I’d read, it sounded like it was going to be very hard.
  • There are words like ‘Meatgrinder’ involved.
  • My book has about 30 pictures in it, which I had been led to believe were going to cause me a whole world of e-book formatting pain.

And yet, it is something that had to happen so that the zillions of people with Kindles, Kobos, Sony Readers, iPads, etc etc etc can enjoy my book too.  Not to mention the affordability factor that comes with the e-book format rather than POD paperbacks.

Anyway, this morning, I decided that today was the day to stop avoiding it and just do it.

In total, it took me approximately 3 and a half hours to go from paperback formatting to a Word document that could then happily be converted by the Smashwords Meatgrinder into ePub (and about 7 other formats) and for Amazon KDP to convert it for Kindle.

It would have taken me significantly longer, however, if I hadn’t had my two new best friends to help:undefined

1. Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self-Printed 2.0
If you have read any of my other posts, you will know that Catherine’s Self-Printed is pretty much my bible when it come to all things self-publishing.  The e-book formatting section is pretty much foolproof as long as you follow Catherine’s step-by-step instructions, including starting with a large coffee and the parts where she anticipates the ridiculous things you really reeeeeally want to do along the way but shouldn’t.  Her humour stopped me from pulling my hair out at several points along the way this morning.

2. Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide
If you want your book to survive the Meatgrinder and not to be turned “into hamburger” you really should take a look at this free e-book before you get started.  It is extremely detailed and contains a lot of screen shots to support the information.  I found some aspects a bit tricky because Word on my Mac is a bit different to the version in the screenshots, but between Catherine’s book and this one, I managed to get all problems resolved.

And what problems did I encounter?  Well, I decided that I would take on Smashwords first because they also do Kindle formatting, so I figured that if I could get past the Kindle formatting checkbox on the Meatgrinder, then my book would format ok when I uploaded it to Amazon KDP.  There were two issues that were picked up by Smashwords in the formatting process:

(a) I chose the wrong e-book cover file to upload and ended up with one that too low resolution to be included in the Premium Catalogue.  I eventually worked out how to upload the new cover and my title is now being considered for the Premium Catalogue (which is what I wanted for greater distribution opportunities).

(b) Due to the number of pictures in my interior, the entire interior file ended up being too large.  This was a bit of a hassle, but I eventually rectified this by opening the pictures in Photoshop and changing their DPI from 300 down to 96 (which is the DPI recommended as being ok by the Smashwords Style Guide).  I only had to change about half of them to get my file size down to under 5MB.

Once I’d fixed those two issues, there didn’t seem to be a problem uploading my Kindle version to Amazon KDP (Well, so far, anyway!)  Fingers crossed, it will all be uploaded converted and sorted ready for the launch of Diary of a Penguin-napper on November 15! (Eeek! So close!)

My new best friends for formatting e-books

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So today, I finally got around to converting Diary of a Penguin-napper into a suitable format to upload to both Smashwords and Amazon (for them to then turn into an e-book).  I have to say going through the conversion process has been something that I have been avoiding because:

  • From what I’d read, it sounded like it was going to be very hard.
  • There are words like ‘Meatgrinder’ involved.
  • My book has about 30 pictures in it, which I had been led to believe were going to cause me a whole world of e-book formatting pain.

And yet, it is something that had to happen so that the zillions of people with Kindles, Kobos, Sony Readers, iPads, etc etc etc can enjoy my book too.  Not to mention the affordability factor that comes with the e-book format rather than POD paperbacks.

Anyway, this morning, I decided that today was the day to stop avoiding it and just do it.

In total, it took me approximately 3 and a half hours to go from paperback formatting to a Word document that could then happily be converted by the Smashwords Meatgrinder into ePub (and about 7 other formats) and for Amazon KDP to convert it for Kindle.

It would have taken me significantly longer, however, if I hadn’t had my two new best friends to help:

1. Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self-Printed 2.0

If you have read any of my other posts, you will know that Catherine’s Self-Printed is pretty much my bible when itcome to all things self-publishing.  The e-book formatting section is pretty much foolproof as long as you follow Catherine’s step-by-step instructions, including starting with a large coffee and the parts where she anticipates the ridiculous things you really reeeeeally want to do along the way but shouldn’t.  Her humour stopped me from pulling my hair out at several points along the way this morning.


2. Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide

If you want your book to survive the Meatgrinder and not to be turned “into hamburger” you really should take a look at this free e-book before you get started.  It is extremely detailed and contains a lot of screen shots to support the information.  I found some aspects a bit tricky because Word on my Mac is a bit different to the version in the screenshots, but between Catherine’s book and this one, I managed to get all problems resolved.

And what problems did I encounter?  Well, I decided that I would take on Smashwords first because they also do Kindle formatting, so I figured that if I could get past the Kindle formatting checkbox on the Meatgrinder, then my book would format ok when I uploaded it to Amazon KDP.  There were two issues that were picked up by Smashwords in the formatting process:

(a) I chose the wrong e-book cover file to upload and ended up with one that too low resolution to be included in the Premium Catalogue.  I eventually worked out how to upload the new cover and my title is now being considered for the Premium Catalogue (which is what I wanted for greater distribution opportunities).

(b) Due to the number of pictures in my interior, the entire interior file ended up being too large.  This was a bit of a hassle, but I eventually rectified this by opening the pictures in Photoshop and changing their DPI from 300 down to 96 (which is the DPI recommended as being ok by the Smashwords Style Guide).  I only had to change about half of them to get my file size down to under 5MB.

Once I’d fixed those two issues, there didn’t seem to be a problem uploading my Kindle version to Amazon KDP (Well, so far, anyway!)  Fingers crossed, it will all be uploaded converted and sorted ready for the launch of Diary of a Penguin-napper on November 15! (Eeek! So close!)