Self Publishing: Formatting and Covers

It’s not nearly as hard as it seems to get your book ready to be published. The main thing is to have decent software for it. I believe Word can do most of the things I talk about, but personally I use Libre Office. It’s free, stable, works on nearly any computer, has no adware or spyware, and has a lot of people who use it. LibreOffice also lets you convert things to PDF, which will be important.


The Basics

The main thing with getting your book ready to print is converting it to the right size. Many of the books you will be making are nine inches by six inches, and you can go into your page settings and just set the file for that. 11 or 12 point font is about right for many books, though you might want to go a bit smaller depending on the story. Georgia and Times New Roman are good fonts for readability, I really don’t recommend Arial or other sans serif fonts. Still play around and see what you like.

LibreOffice lets you add page numbers too. It’s a fairly simple process to add a header to the top of your document, and create a field so it will automatically number them. LibreOffice’s excellent help files will take care of that, or I could create a tutorial if enough people have trouble. Basically, the idea is that the numbers take care of themselves.


Some tips:

Make sure you have all starts of chapters on odd numbered pages. That way they will be to the reader’s right when they come to them.

Same with important pages like author notes, forwards, acknowledgements, frontspieces, tables of contents, etc.

Don’t forget to have a copyright page – CreateSpace lets you get your ISBN before uploading your work, so you can stick that in your copyright information. If you need a good example of what that looks like, pick up any novel and flip to the front.

When you have everything perfect, use the handy Convert to PDF function in LibreOffice. Take a look through and make sure it all looks good. This “locks in” all your careful formatting so it can’t move around.

A note: if you convert your book over to a Kindle version, it’s best to save a copy as a .doc file. Luckily, LibreOffice can do that too. Anybody who’s stuck can feel free to message me, though LibreOffice is really easy to use.


Your Cover

When it comes time to create your cover, there are a lot of ways to do it. If you’re like me, you will paint something and put it in GIMP, another free graphics program, and add all your own text etc. Pixabay is actually an awesome resource if you need photos. I prefer GIMP because it lets you work in transparent layers – great because you can have a text layer, a background layer, and more, and when you have to fix something on one layer you don’t have to change the others. For example, I can paint something, take a picture of it, put it into GIMP and make that the background layer, then arrange the text on top of it. It gives me tremendous flexibility.

For those a bit less comfortable with graphics, there is also the option to use a cover creation program. Both and CreateSpace have those integrated. So it’s perfectly possible to make a nice cover without having to hire anybody. If you need ideas, go online and look up other books in your genre. You can learn a whole lot by looking, noticing what you like and what you don’t, and maybe taking a few notes. Cover design is a fine art but you can do some nice work if you pay attention to what is effective in other covers.

If you’ve created your cover in another program, convert that over to PDF too. GIMP does that so you don’t need a fancy converter. Make sure you leave space on the back for the barcode, it’s about 440 pixels wide by 354 pixels high, which works out to about an inch and a half wide by just over an inch high. Your cover should be saved at 300 dpi if you make your own.

Go to CreateSpace and follow their publishing wizard. It will literally walk you through the process, explaining everything as you go along.

If you have more questions, of course I’m here, and my material on under the authors links and publishing links to the right of the page is still there too.

A note regarding ISBNs: There is no need to pay for them, and no need to submit works to the Library of Congress either. Both and CreateSpace will give you an ISBN for free and your copyright notice suffices for protecting your work. If someone tries to charge you for either, run away.

Self Publishing: Step By Step

Whether you have a novel, a collection of short stories, a poetry book, a manga, a collection of plays,  a group of nonfiction articles, a memoir, or a children’s book, there’s an option for you. It’s very possible to publish both print books and ebooks yourself, without paying a single cent.

There are many good and reputable sites out there –, CreateSpace, and SmashWords, just to name three. My advice when starting out is to steer clear of any place that makes you pay for services.

There are also free ways of getting cover art, formatting your book, designing your book, and everything else. This is true even if you don’t have an artistic bone in your body!  An eye for design helps, but even that isn’t entirely required.  I’ll be going into more detail in other posts. All the different publishers work pretty much the same way – you format your book, upload it and the cover, wait a few days for it to be looked at, approve your proof, pick your pricing and territories, then click submit. You will usually do most of your own marketing unless you buy a marketing package.

For these examples, I’ll be using CreateSpace. They have great free options, allow you to easily port your work over to Kindle, automatically put your work on Amazon, and actually do some promotion for you. I’ll never forget the day my novel was suggested to me by Amazon! Altogether, it’s a good deal. They will give you a percentage of each sale. Right now I get about $2 for a $7 book. Not bad, really, considering I do no shipping or handling of money.

Have I done this?  Several times.

Have I made fat stacks of cash?   Not yet.

I have certainly gotten a lot of satisfaction and am proud of what I’ve done, and I have gotten my books into several hundred peoples hands so far.

Future posts will delve more into different aspects of the publishing process and will be linked from here once they’re written.  Some material has been seen in other similar posts but I want to have all the information in one place, for everyone’s convenience.

Here’s the link to all related posts:

Finding a Place called Home

From early teenhood, I yearned for the desert.

I wanted heat, dryness, cacti all around, sweeping vistas, sand dunes nearby.

Though I loved beaches, forests and water, I wanted something decidedly other – and made half baked plans to move someday during late night talks with my father.

I lived the first thirty years of my life in a coastal environment.  Webs grew between my toes.  I watched the state bird, the slug, crawl by.  The state flower seemed to be mold.  The green was pretty – all that green – that grew everywhere, including on the rubber work of too-long parked trucks, window sills, and under beds.  I couldn’t smell the rain though it was everywhere.

Tragedy hit.  The American economic downturn forced people out of their jobs, skyrocketed the prices of gas, and outsourcing was rampant.  I lost my first house, a 110 year old place that I’d thought would be home.

We went on the road, my partner and I, packing everything we owned into a Hyundai Elantra.  We lived rough in Nevada for a month and a half.  Finally, the decision was made to head south, for frost was forming on our pillow and it was bitterly cold in the Blackrock Desert.

We moved south.  Driving into Arizona, I felt an odd sense of welcome as I glimpsed my first redrock.  I began to feel at home.

We camped in a backyard, I got another job, eventually an apartment.  It was beautiful.  It was nearly home.  Hard work happened.  Lots of it.

After six and a half years we found another place – a little rowhouse, in a quiet neighborhood filled with pine trees and eucalyptus, still with a view of the Catalinas that I love so well.  There’s cactus and heat, there’s sunshine all year, I don’t miss the damp at all.  There’s monsoons in the summer and I finally know the smell of rain.

We found our home.




via Discover Challenge: Finding Your Place

Is your cat missing? They may be off to Nekotopia


Have you ever wondered why your cat tries to get into the most unlikely holes? Crawls into boxes? Lifts up blankets to see what’s there and then immediately comes out again? I caught up with a talkative tabby and learned the real reason.

These adventurous cats are trying to find the entrance into Nekotopia.

Nekotopia is a fabulous place that caters to the fondest desires of all cats. Here, you will find meadows of plush carpet, bacon flavored birds, cheese flavored mice, and forests of scratching posts. All the canned food is a special blend that subtly changes its flavor with every bite.

All the Two-Leggeds are permanently set to their Lap Available mode, and hands are always available for petting. There are special Two-Leggeds with wide shoulders so especially lazy cats can ride around on them. Fresh kibble is dispensed regularly in a variety of flavors. Fountains provide constant water and are also available in hot and cold running lactose free milk.

Nekotopia is indeed wonderful, every flower bed is a litter box, every garden grows catnip and wheat grass. All the dogs are small and easy to chase. There are pillow bushes and cushions grow in the ground like mushrooms. The sun shines in a latticed pattern to provide lovely Sunbeams. FIsh tanks dot the landscape for feline amusement.

And, as your cat might tell you if you feed them enough catnip, it’s just on the other side of that kitty cave.


via Daily Prompt: Missing




The Mysterious Probe – short fiction

The crew of the metal reclamation vessel “Scrapper Queen” never knew where the little probe came from. It was late on third watch when they found it, floating in a lonely outer orbit. Perhaps it had come from a world from this star system, though that was unlikely, all the inner worlds were cinders. They’d actually come to look through the various asteroids for useful metal that had been left behind by earlier mining expeditions. Times were lean, and they were becoming creative in the places they looked for raw materials. There wasn’t much to be found in systems like this, but the Captain appreciated the lack of interference from the powerful Corporate Worlds.

They’d been scanning for traces of anything ferrous when Sensors caught the ping. A return, loud and clear. Ferrous metal, at least a few hundred grams of it, maybe more. The Captain ordered maneuvers sufficient to close the distance. The telescopes scanned, and after a time the Visual Scanning Officer reported a metallic object. Excited, the Captain ordered the tractor/pressor beams deployed, so that the object could be pulled in.
Damp from brief showers and still rubbing sleep from their eyes, Retrieval Team 1 stood on the observation deck above the bay. They watched as the odd, somewhat crumpled metal object was brought aboard. Long ago it had solar panels, they could see that, but micrometeorites over who knew how many centuries had taken their toll. They waited impatiently as the doors closed, the bay was re-pressurized. Zola started taking bets on the total mass of the object until her leader quieted him. Not that Tamar really minded, but she liked to run a tight shift, and Zola’s chatter could get old after a while.
Finally they were free to enter the bay. The four members of the team stood around the object, just looking at it at first before they began the usual scans with radiation sensors, EM fields, and portable gas spectrometers.
“I think it kind of looks like a space probe,” said Zola, scratching her fingers through his flame red hair.
“That seems fairly obvious,” said Tamar. “My greatest question is, what kind of probe?”
“What kind?” asked Kella. She was quite intelligent but usually took time to catch on. Young Rik said nothing, he was still settling in and preferred to watch.
“There is more than what kind of space probe,” explained Tamar patiently. “Usually they are used for exploration. They take photographs or readings. Some can be loaded with a distress call, or messages to other worlds, or even quarantine warnings. This could be a message buoy, and filled with fascinating information.”
“Why can’t we just scrap it? This system isn’t even owned by anyone anymore and there’s a lot of valuable metal in here,” said Zola. “Pre-refined, too.”
“Your objection is noted,” said Tamar. “This probe isn’t really ours.”
“How about if we figure out what the probe is for, and then use the metal if we can figure out that it’s not needed anymore?” That came from Rik, and the others looked at him with surprise.
“Not a bad idea,” said Tamar. “Let’s start by determining exactly what’s inside. Get your data analysis equipment, everyone, and we can see first what kind of information this stores.”

Hours later, it was ship’s morning but the four were so absorbed that they barely felt time pass. Discarted beverage containers and snack wrappers lay forgotten beside them. Most of the data storage had been damaged, but there were still scraps left.
“I’ve got something!” called Kella, excitedly. “A whole file!” She paused a moment, retrieved the information, archived it safely. “That’s about all I could find, though. The storage might as well be scrap. WHole sectors wiped. There’s not much more than this, just a few characters here, a few bits there.”
“Good work,” said Tamar, stretching her protesting back muscles. “I think we can safely consider this fair salvage, and send the metal into the processers. What does the file seem to contain?”
“Sound, I think,” said Kella. “Let me write up a quick conversion.”
When Kella was done, she plugged the data chip into a sound player. A Human male began singing, backed up by electronicized music. The song was surprisingly high fidelity and the sound filled the cargo bay. Tamar noticed herself tapping her fingers on her leg, willed herself to stop. “I wonder if it’s a message of some kind,” she said, when the somg was over.
“Well, if it’s a message,” said Zola, “maybe we should rebroadcast it. At least once. It’s not hard to tap into GalaxyNet.”
Tamar shrugged. “You think you can do it without getting caught? Be my guest. It would be sad if this little probe never got a chance to spread its message.”

The next day, everyone on band 3 of GalaxyNet heard the most unusual song. Oddly catchy, it had toes tapping and fingers rapping on stations starships, planetary bases, corporate communications hubs, and littoral skiffs all across the Milky Way Galaxy.
No one knew the true significance of that moment. No one, that was, except Zola. She’d heard that song once before, in a deep dive in the net archives, last time she’d been planetside. Long, long ago, it had been called “Never Gonna Give You UP,” by Rick Astley. Zola smiled and sipped her hot mug of coffee. She knew that she had just managed to Rickroll the entire Galaxy.


Sacredness in daily life


We thank the ones who tilled the land
and farmers, with fields so grand
We thank the bees who pollinate
and the seeds that germinate
We thank the workers who picked the crop
and labored hard, from start to stop
We thank the trucker in his rig
and all the loaders with arms so big
We thank the stockers in the store
and cashiers and baggers even more
We thank the cook with pan and stove
who made this food with simple love!


via Daily Prompt: Sacred