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  • Writer's pictureStan Sudan

Mark Coker founder of Smashword's Intro to eBook Publishing

I feel at this point I'm paying back karma points so I don't have to take them with me into the next life. This YouTube video by Mark Coker, founder of the top independent self-publishing book company in the world, produced in September of 2013, was my very first innocent dip into the pool of indie press. I was never the same thereafter. Not that it was exceptionally profound, mind you, but merely, in a word (no pun intended,) completely accessible.

Even I could do this!

I stopped the video half-way through and started opening my Word files--I organized my writing way differently than I do now. Then I started studying. Not on some cryptic, non-essential, made-up storyline, mind you. But with scores of real, already written manuscripts. My own. With thousands of words in them, all vying to take their place in queue.

I was a happy camper, to put it mildly.

And so began my own sojourn down a path that I'd only dreamt about walking since I was twelve years old. And now, I'm here. Published. Five months after watching his video.

It already feels like years, because so much has happened. I took his advice and began reformatting immediately. But being who I am, I had to understand his craft, so I began roughly ten weeks of intensive research, reading and studying. I started following blogs, plugged into social media (hey, I don't even OWN a cell phone, and didn't know a Tweet from a Twerk,) and began to look for an editor. I'd pondered getting one someday. AFTER I got my manuscripts accepted. The process had taken years.

I diligently printed out dozens of pages of submission guidelines for Tor, when it still was independent from Forge. And I'd written for years with poorly readable pica, (in this case Courier,) fonts for printed submission. I can't tell you how many reams of paper I went through. Well, I could, because I still keep them stacked neatly in three office file boxes--which are completely full of edited pages of the three novels in the opening series of Dancers of Light and Darkness plus a few more original manuscripts.

By the time I got close to writing my submission letter and synopsis...hmmm. Things were quite different. Tor had joined hands with Forge, and they both had merged with Macmillan. And the submission specs were now all different. Much different.

This is not necessarily an essential video to watch. For me, the eBook format is much easier to use. But this video is a great introduction to independent publishing, regardless of which distribution service you choose to use. You can download the Smashwords Style Guide here for easy reference. I use it open on a separate screen if I need to refer to some essential ingredient in my book recipe, like Mark's section on hyperlinks and bookmarks, which is written in really easy to use lay language that anyone can understand and follow. If you have not yet ventured into the professional craft of electronic bookmaking, then I would say this is definitely a recommended view. If you are like me and curiosity drives you, then yoiu will appreciate part of the accessibility of the information. You can hop, skip and jump to whatever part you want to listen to. Or not.

I copied the following synopsis of the book and video directly from YouTube when I retrieved the URL for the video:

YouTube: "Published on Sep 29, 2013 - Learn how to produce, publish, distribute and sell an ebook. This tutorial, narrated by Mark Coker of Smashwords, offers a comprehensive primer on ebook publishing. No technical experience necessary! After a short personal introduction by Mark, he identifies the top 5 trends shaping the future of authorship, and then provides viewers a step-by-step ebook publishing checklist. Learn the key trends in the ebook market, ebook formatting secrets and how to create a cover that grabs readers. Next, Mark explains what Metadata is, and how authors can use it to increase the discoverability of their books. Additional sections of this tutorial explore and explain ISBNs, copyright, piracy, how to list your book at multiple ebook retailers, and how to market your book. A discussion on Viral Catalysts helps you learn how to increase the desirability of your book and how to maximize reader word of mouth. Be sure to check out other Smashwords tutorials! Learn to publish like a pro!"

If you're even half the novice to indie publishing that I am, then I sincerely hope that this video helps steer you in the right direction.

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