I can’t believe it. After years of working on it, off and on, my book is finished. And not just finished, but self-published and on Amazon. Yes, AMAZON. I submitted it for publication yesterday around 8:00 PM and by 4:00 this morning I had an email from Amazon with the subject line “Your book is available in the Kindle store!” Of course, there was no possibility of getting back to sleep.

My book’s title is “This, Their Friendship’s Monument”, and it’s based on an old autograph album found in our family’s records after my grandmother died. When we found it, I was immediately drawn to it. Also called friendship albums, these little books were a bit like school yearbooks–your friends and family would sign a page, and write a little poem or note. It took Mary Boyd 14 years to have her album filled in the 1880s-1890s. She lived in the coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania, the daughter of a carpenter in a coal mining town. The album has 88 signatures, and over the last several years I’ve researched Mary and the signers of her album, and along the way learned about the world they lived in. The fruits of my labor is my book. The title comes from a line in a poem in the album, and refers to the album itself being a monument to the friendships of the people who signed it. Pretty fitting, huh?

The research part was labor intensive, took a long, long time, and often wasn’t easy. Misspellings and other inaccuracies in original documents and online transcriptions of them made finding people difficult, and sometimes nearly impossible. As I went along, I realized that I was getting better at doing the research and had to go back, more than once, to round out the research on my first signers.

After all the research material was gathered (there are 1,608 citations in the book) came the hard part of cobbling it all together into something readable. What started as “just get it down” was slowly refined, draft after draft, into cohesive, flowing narrative. In putting all the information together for each person, I was telling their story.

I searched for photos to help tell their stories. I used copyright free images, took some of my own, and obtained permission for use of the rest.

After I got it all together, I spent several days (OK, weeks) refining the format. I added a little curlicue border at the top of each person’s story, and used a rustic font for their name titles, used just above the image of their album page. I created text boxes for each signer to show, at a glance, their family relationships.

I wasted a lot of time.

It was pretty late into the writing of the book that I gave up the idea of submitting it to publishing houses. After reviewing the criteria for submissions on different publishing house sites, I realized that my book was going to fail their criteria in multiple ways. So I figured I’d just write what I wanted to, format it the way I wanted, then self publish it through Amazon. Easy peasy.

Nope.

When I finally (way too late) looked at the submission guidelines for Amazon’s KDP, it was then that I realized that I’d wasted huge amounts of time on stuff that wouldn’t matter or wouldn’t be allowed. That little curlicue? That would be a problem. Fancy font? Forget it. Text boxes? Not recommended. Picture borders? Nope. And all those photos? They needed to be high resolution, or at least 300 dpi. Huh? I had new research to do.

After lots of online research (including a lot of what I call YouTube University) and finally calling my daughter for help, I bought Adobe Photoshop and learned how to convert each picture into a high resolution image. Hours and hours were spent on brightening, cropping, and increasing the resolution on each photo, all 191 of them. And yet, in looking at my book on my Kindle a while ago, a lot of the images appear to be a little fuzzy. I haven’t begun to figure out what, if anything I can or want to do about it.

I’d decided early on that I only really wanted a print-on-demand version of my book. I didn’t (and still don’t) think that it will look right on e readers. But when you’re using Amazon’s self publishing tools, you have to create an eBook first, then convert it for a print-on-demand version. Sigh. OK. I uploaded my book to Kindle Create, and that’s when I saw the results of various fonts and text boxes. Horrified, I went back to my Word document manuscript and re-worked the format. AGAIN. Given it’s over 300 pages, it took a while. As in days. Again. I’ll admit, I was WAY over my book at this point. I was at the point of Good Enough.

The second upload looked better, and with a little tweaking in Kindle Create, I reached good enough. I’d reached the point where I could, theoretically, hit the “publish” button at the top of the page. I couldn’t, not right away. I went back to the Prepare Reflowable and Print Books with Kindle Create and the eBook Manuscript Formatting Guide pages to double check that I did everything correctly. I did this 2 or 3 times, in between skimming through my book on Kindle Create, looking for any missed typos.

I finally got up the nerve to hit the “publish” button. After several minutes of watching the spinning wait cursor, I was finally notified that my manuscript had been accepted. Wow. Yikes. Hurray!?!

That’s great, but I wasn’t done. I opened my KDP account on Amazon to see if it was on my bookshelf there, but was reminded that I needed to finish completing my account information. This is stuff like tax and financial information, which made this whole thing even more scary real.

Hitting “publish” on Kindle Create doesn’t automatically send it to Amazon. You need find the kpf file version of your book that was stored on your computer, and upload it to KDP.

I kept wondering and worrying about when I’d create the cover, but figured they wouldn’t publish it without one, and of course they don’t. After uploading the kpf file, I saw the option to use Create an eBook Cover, which I did. There are strict criteria for the type, size, dimension, and resolution for the photo you use on the cover, if you’re using one of your own. Another visit to the university of YouTube helped me figure out how to use Photoshop to get my photo ready.

The KDP Cover Creator was really easy to use. So easy, I worried that I must not have done something right. But no, it was just easy.

I was finally, FINALLY at the point of hitting “publish” . For real. And then, yesterday evening, all my efforts were rewarded with the notice from Amazon that my book would go live within the next 72 hours. Wow. Success. At last!

But what I really want is a real, printable version of my book. So, on to figuring out how to convert it for print-on-demand.

What a great problem to have.