Some things change; most things stay the same. Here is a post from the archives, a previously published article about the miracle (and mystery) of self-publishing. I look back and see how innocent and naïve I was in some of my assumptions. In particular, getting the necessary approval to sell ebooks in mainland China is a much longer and more complicated process than I anticipated. Likewise, there were some Amazon.com rules which were unknown hazards. Mostly, however, my optimism about the modern technology which removes the traditional publishing house gatekeepers was warranted.

Even though most of us are becoming accustomed to the fast pace of modern life, the changes in technology – or, rather, the rate of change – is still a big challenge. This blog post is to chronicle my adventures as I self-publish an ebook for the first time.

Bring back those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

We are living in a golden age, a time when opportunities for self-education, entertainment, research, communication, and creative expression are far, far superior to any previous era. Perhaps the future will see further improvements but it is difficult for me to visualize how we can have significantly more opportunities than at present. Indeed, for many people, an excess of information and opportunities is a bigger problem than any limitations.

Take, for example, my efforts to self-publish my book, China Bound. I wrote CB over a period of several years, beginning with preserved notes, journals, emails, and appointment books to supplement my memory and to provide details. Next, thanks to a handful of fabulously patient and gracious family members and close friends, I received feedback which allowed me to edit out the most flagrant errors and to grudgingly reduce the word count. (Editing and revising, Stephen King famously wrote, is when you must “kill your darlings”.)

With that process completed – if it ever is – I was ready for the next step, self-publishing China Bound as an ebook. People may have different opinions about Amazon.com, the internet behemoth, but it is irrefutable that Amazon, through their KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) service, made self-publishing easy, inexpensive, and available wherever a prospective author with an Amazon account has internet access. KDP was a real game-changer.

Sadly, Amazon has perhaps made it too easy… if we are to judge by the tons of verbal drivel available today in ebooks. Allowing literally everyone the freedom to self-publish their “book” has resulted in a proliferation of the digital equivalent of refrigerator art, like the drawings of my five-year-old son I tape to the refrigerator door for only Mommy and me to admire.

So, join me now in entering the wonderful world of self-publishing. My next steps will be to format the manuscript of China Bound into acceptable form and upload it – along with the cover, book description, selected keywords for searchers, et al. There are also some decisions to be made regarding legal rights, compensation, exclusivity, and pricing. Despite my earlier comments about it being too easy, it now feels like a high threshold for this aspiring author before I can see China Bound as an ebook available for downloading.

Now, do you see why I decided to publish my children’s book, Chester the Messer, as a learning experience? Each step will be the same as when I send China Bound to Amazon but I hope they will be shorter and simpler for the Chester book.

Currently, the manuscript of Chester the Messer is complete. The original version of CTM was only for his American grandmother so it had to be expanded and more photos added to make it suitable for readers around the world. I wanted to show more of Chester’s life in the city of Chongqing. Editing and revising took some time but were necessary.

At this time, the book description for CTM’s Amazon sales page is done. To assist readers who search through the Kindle Book Store to find new books, keywords and categories have been selected. With some input from blog visitors, a book cover was selected. The biggest step remaining is formatting the text and the photos before sending everything to Amazon. Formatting is to prepare the manuscript so the appearance of the ebook will be attractive to readers. (Or, conversely, the purpose of careful formatting is to ensure that there are no glaring errors to distract and create a negative impression.)

For inquiring minds who want to know, we had only a few responses to our survey question. The first cover – yellow, not blue – was chosen. Except for modifying that cover slightly, no other changes were made. (The minor change was to make the title in dark characters which are easier to see when the title is shown as a very small image on the Amazon sales page or cell phone screen.) Thanks to everyone who participated.

Stay tuned for further announcements. We are in the final stages of self-publishing Chester the Messer. Counting down to the release date!