Friday Speak Out!: Old Dogs, New Tricks, Guest Post by Jo Barney

Friday, February 24, 2012
Old Dogs, New Tricks

by Jo Barney

I’ve sold thirty books. I apparently have taken the first step on my path to fame and fortune. My efforts to format The Solarium have resulted, after weeks of swear words salted with hot tears, and one faulty embarrassing edition, in my e-book being offered by Amazon.

Unfortunately, two friends downloaded the first version which was published without indentations. I hope that reading whole chapters as one paragraph didn’t make them as annoyed as I get when I try to read Kafka. But for $2.99, maybe they were willing to struggle a little.

I managed to get a Kindle helper to put the paragraphs in for me after I had tried to do it myself five times over three days. I think my pathetic email got to him. Seeing them magically appear lifted the heavy cloak of obsession that I had worn for week. The sunlight almost blinded me.

The euphoria didn’t last long, only until I reluctantly began to preview the published second version, as Kindle requests. I couldn’t imagine, now that it had paragraphs, that anything else could be wrong with my perfect story. Just in case, I kept a pad at my finger tips for notes. Seven scribbled pages later, I understood that I couldn’t let anyone else buy what I had twice prematurely clicked the “Publish” button on.

I had left out words and whole lines, missed a couple of blank pages, misnamed a key character, repeated words like “laugh” too many times. Punctuation marks had corrupted or disappeared, victims, I supposed, of an earlier editing session.

However, once I corrected all this and published a third version, my indentations for paragraphs disappeared again. My Kindle helper gave me a solution which wiped out the photo I was using as an inside title page. My efforts to add the photo didn’t work, even after he sent me directions three times.

So I published the book anyway, imperfect like me, but okay, and it’s beginning to sell. I learned a couple of important lessons in this weeks-long process which I’ll pass along to anyone thinking of formatting and publishing an e-book on her own:

     1. Never click the Publish button until you have re-read your manuscript so many times your eyes itch and then wait a day or so and read it word-for-word one more time

     2. When you have a problem, don’t think you have to deal with it alone; ask someone. Kindle help was great for the most part. Just make sure you’ve done the editing before you ask.

* * *
Jo now has two e-books published on Kindle and on iBook, The Solarium and Graffiti Grandma. After teaching and counseling for years, she began to write nearly full time, publishing essays and short stories and winning a few awards along the way. The urge to write a novel led to four of them. The urge to publish led her to investigate the opportunities of electronic books. Now she’s fully into the marketing of these books and she finds this new venture as challenging as any other aspect of writing. Her blog is

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Jackie Bouchard said...

Thanks for this! This is very timely as I just spent most of yesterday going through the Smashwords' "Style Guide" and will soon have to figure out how to publish on Amazon as well. It reminds me of my VERY brief time attempting to study computer programming in college. One tiny mistake can throw the whole thing off and leave you staring at your computer going, "Why? Why? Why?!!! Just tell me what you want from me!" All the best to you!

Connie Hebert, MSW said...

Hi Jo, thanks for your feedback and advice re self-publishing on Amazon which is what I plan to do also. An interesting and helpful blog.

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