Archive | January 2011


Finally, my first published book is back in print–digital print.  A Compromising Situation came very much from a dream of the opening scene. But the theme of compromises–what’s too much or too little–is a reflection of my experiences then and now.

A Compromising SituationWhat is too much of a compromise?

I still have to ask that question. Back before I made my first sale, I tried a lot of things. That’s not a bad thing, but I could see compromises starting to slip in. Now a little of that is kind of needed if you’re writing for a market or a publishing house with guidelines: it’s not just yourself you have to please. Too much, however, and you end with both a hot mess on you hands and the loss of what makes your work unique. Voice is a tricky thing–no one can really define it, but we all know when it’s there. It’s part style, part personality, part experience, part technique, and part something extra. If the voice is gone, the work’s going to be ordinary.

And if you can see ordinary creeping into your work, time to freak out.

Which is why this book was written. This book’s all about when do you have to plant your feet down and say, “This is what I am, this is who I am.” It’s about taking a clear-eyed look at compromises, so you can know which ones you need to make to keep a relationship (or a career) alive, and which ones push too far and take too much away.

The book went on to win the Golden Heart.

(Which I didn’t expect to win–I’d been a finalist before and hadn’t won–and my friend Kathi and I went out for a beer, instead of getting all dolled up for the awards, and I didn’t know beers in Chicago could come in yard glasses.  I arrived happily buzzed, in a borrowed dress, and somehow managed not to fall on my face getting up the stairs. I think I was reasonable coherent. I was more than delighted to receive the award from Jo Beverley one of my heroes.

At the RWA Awards Chicago

Better yet, the book went on to win me a publishing contract.

And I’m delighted it’s back in print.

Winning the RWA Golden Heart in Chicago

Setting up for Digital

Some things just seem simple–digital publication is one of those. Upload a file and presto, right? But there are a few things that you want to figure out first—it’s another case of a little planning going a long way.


The ISBN is an industry standard for identifying a book. If you want full control of your book listing, buy your own ISBNs, which you can do through Bowkers at

You can buy a single ISBN for $125, or a premium one for $185, or buy 10 at a time for $250. Assigning them is a bit of a pain.

The ISBN is not actually in use until it is applied to a book. To do this, you’ll need the book cover, your bio, your book description, a PDF of your book, and an Excel file saved in the CSV format with the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) terms you want to use.

After you buy your ISBN, login to and follow the tabs and fields to set up all the information. You can also replace an older print ISBN if that print edition has gone out-of-print.

Include pricing and sales areas (countries where you’re selling), and check back in a few days to confirm your ISBN has been activated for that digital publication. It usually takes only a day or two to get this set up.

Then you can do that “easy file upload” for digital publication on Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, and Smashwords.

Smashwords is both easier in some respects, and more difficult in others. They do provide a lot of information readily available on their site. The first step is to sign up and set up an account. Set up payment methods and create a profile. Click on the PUBLISH button to start the publishing process.

Fill out all the forms. Set your price (and Smashwords offers a cool graph to show what you’ll be making on any book for each price point). Be honest about if your book contains adult material (explicit sex or graphic violence). Upload your correctly formatted book and your cover. And remember to include the wording that Smashwords requires at the front of your book.

IMPORANT: Always take a look at the preview to make sure your book appears as you want it formatted. If you need to, adjust the text in the file and upload that again to correct any formatting errors or typos.

With the ISBN manager at Smashwords, you can add your ISBN or let Smashwords give this to you. If you’re having Smashwords do your ISBN, but you’re doing your own Kindle and Pubit uploads, set up Smashwords first so you have the ISBN to add other places.

Before you do that final submit, read the legal stuff (the Terms). This is a contract you’re signing with your mouse click.

It can be minutes to hours to actually have the book upload. It will then show as pending approval (that’s okay).

In Smashwords, select DASHBOARD, and now set your distribution for this book with the Distribution Channel Manager.

You can let Smashwords distribute to all formats, including Kindle and Nook. However, you’ll make higher royalties if you do your own Amazon and BN distribution. For Smashwords, I opt out of Amazon and BN formats. I opt into Apple (which requires an explicit opt in selection).

NOTE: Your book will appear in Smashwords right away, but will not be listed there as “premium content” until it’s approved. Check back every few days to make sure it is approve, or if the format needs to be adjusted (and also to see how you’re sales are doing).

UPDATE TO SMASHWORDS: They now allow both short descriptions, and long descriptions of up to 4000 characters. If you have books on Smashwords, you may want to update your descriptions. I’m using the short descriptions for review promos, and then adding in more details about the story in the long descriptions.


For uploading to the Nook via Pubit, this again starts with reading up on the process on their site, and creating an account, this time at B&N requires a credit card to create an account. This is in case a book is returned (for example, you’ve sold 20 books, but one person decides to send it back, but B&N has already paid you for 20 books; they use the credit card to account for that one return). Some folks don’t like this but I had no issues.

When your account is set up, head to Add a Title.

One nice thing about PubIt is that you can save your work as you go (very handy that). So you can add some info, go away, fuss with promotional copy, and come back and add that.

As with all other formats, once you upload your book, make sure you check out how it will look with the preview option (PubIt automatically brings this up for you to view, which is a nice feature). You can also mark if the book is part of a series.

You can add up to five reviews, including reviewer names and quotes. You can post excerpts from the reviews, but you should get clearance from the reviewers before you use their copywritten work.

NOTE: While BN’s PubIt doesn’t require you to have an ISBN, I’ve found it’s easier to add this up front, instead of trying to update the ISBN at a later time. Everything else is much easier to update (cover, copy, reviews, descriptions, even pricing).

Amazon Digital Text Platform- Kindle

UPDATE: Amazon has renamed this to the “Kindle Direct Publishing”. They’re also now putting out a newsletter with useful tips and advice. The old link below still works, but the new link is:

The options at Amazon can be confusing: they have Create Space, and Kindle, and their Associates Program. To actually sell a book on Kindle, you want to head to: If you don’t have an existing Amazon account, you can create it. Again, Amazon provides a lot of information about the process on their site (including a video). The details can be a little overwhelming, so you may want to tackle the basics first, and then improve your publishing and promoion.

NOTE: To help promote your book you’re also going to want an Author’s page at

As with PubIt and Smashwords, you’ll need to set up all your account information so you can get paid.

Again, you enter your book title, cover, and upload your book. Make sure you spell your name as the author correctly. Again, make sure you preview how the book looks on Kindle.

You can mark if this is a series (same as for PubIt). You can set your pricing and opt out of DRM. Add in your ISBN if you have one. When you save your information, the book will go into a pending mode. Once approved, the book will be listed for sale.

And there you have it – the easy (or almost) steps to digital publishing.

Twelve Steps to a Digital Format

There’s lots of information out there about eBook format. But in converting my print books, I’ve streamlined this to a simple twelve steps. You can get fancier if you know what you’re doing. My choice is go to for a clean format. So, here’s the twelve easy steps.

Twelve Steps to a Digital Format

STEP 1 – Put your book into a single file in Microsoft Word. I had my chapters split into multiple files, so the first step was a lot of cut and paste. I did have electronic versions of my work, but not the same ones as in print. This meant either scanning the books or manually inputting my edits. I went with the latter and made this part of my editing process.

Other ways you can do this might include a search the Internet to see if someone’s done the work for you and you can grab an electronic version (yes, those pirate sites have a use). You can invest in a scanner and OCR software that converts the scanned image into text—the cost will be about $300 – $400 for a full setup. Or you can pay for a print book to electronic conversion: about two to three dollars a page to get all the work done for you. If you’re still going it on your own….

STEP 2 – With your book file open, use the SELECT function. Select ALL and set the font to Ariel or Times Roman. Electronic readers like consistency and these are about the most Web-safe fonts around. I use Times Roman for the bulk of the book, but I put the title and front copy into Ariel.

STEP 3 – Set the font to 12 or 14 point, no smaller and no larger.  I like to set the title and chapter headings to 14 point and use 12 point for everything else.

STEP 4 – Remove all TAB marks. To do this, use the REPLACE function, select MORE and SPECIAL CHARACTERS. Put the tab mark in the field to “find” and nothing in the replace area and that will remove them all.

STEP 5 – Use the REPLACE function to search and replace all double spaces with single spaces (do this a couple of times to catch all of them).

STEP 6 – Set your paragraph indents with the PARAGRAPH function. Set INDENTATION to SPECIAL, FIRST LINE, with LEFT set to .2″ or .3″ (you can go up to .5″ but I think the smaller option looks better in the electronic readers).

STEP 7 – Use the PARAGRAPH function to set spacing to single space.

STEP 8 – Remove all headers and footers—deleted them.

SEPT 9 – Remove any page breaks between chapters.

STEP 10 – Center your chapter headings and number chapters as in “Chapter One” – that’ll help to automatically generate a table of contents. Put only a single blank line space between chapter headings and the text – that’s both before and after.

STEP 11 – For breaks within a chapter, use a simple mark such as the asterisk (*) which electronic readers can handle.  Center this and put a single blank line space before and after.

STEP 12 – Put dedications and reviews up front since this is free preview content.

Your format should look something like this (without the blue text which is just here to make the book text stand out)…

Opening Page:


Shannon Donnelly

For Marsha —
may you always find the courage to choose happiness

Bookseller’s Best Finalist, Golden Quill Finalist, Orange Rose Finalist

“With its excellent characterization, polished prose, and humor, Donnelly’s latest Regency is a supremely satisfying, deftly plotted delight.” – Booklist, American Library Association, John Charles

“…delightfully offbeat romp with an engaging set of young lovers and a good cast of supporting players…highly enjoyable” — Romantic Times Top Pick – 4½ Stars

“I highly recommend A PROPER MISTRESS, and can’t wait for Ms. Donnelly’s next book….” — Five Roses – Escape To Romance, Marlene Breakfield



“Beauty ain’t required, but she’s got to catch the eye,” Theodore Winslow said, striding across the small salon, one hand fisted behind his back and the other gesturing in the air. “I mean, I’m supposed to be smitten. But she can’t be at all acceptable—only she can’t be too coarse, either,


A chapter break will look similar to this:

“Why, you’re hardly more than a boy yourself! Why ever do you want to go hiring a woman from this house to act as your bride?”


At the sight of a short, curvaceous redhead being thrust into the room, Theo started to smile. But those tempting, full lips parted and her words cut into him like a butcher’s knife. Hardly more than a boy!

And a scene break will look something like this:

“Well, you want to make sure you ain’t a trout with your mouth gapping open to be hooked by this flash gent, or any other. Remember that, or you’ll be agreeing to more than you think you will now. And just you remember, too, every woman may have her price, but every man has his limits. Most of ’em start with his purse. Now, let’s see how those dresses look. You’re going to have to be dazzlin’, ’cause it’s going to take us longer than a quarter hour to turn you out in style.”


By the time Sallie finished, Molly no longer recognized herself. Nell and Harriet, seeing the door open to Jane’s forsaken room, had poked their heads in—eyes sleepy and hair tumbled and still in their night wrappers. Sallie’s house kept late hours and late mornings. Sallie bustled them out, saying to Molly afterwards, “Never does to stir up jealousy, and you don’t want them thinking you’re stealing their trade.”


If you know what you’re doing, you can get fancier about the formatting. Or if you pay someone to do this for you, they can do the fancy stuff.

While this may sound like a lot of work, I found it to be not all that difficult, it just takes some time. I’m averaging two to three weeks to get a book formatted and that’s working only weekends and evenings and doing all the edits. It’s going faster the more I do this (I’m getting a process down). Basically, this requires patience and persistence, something every writer needs in buckets.

Save your file as both a standard word .DOC or .DOCX.  Also save the file as a PDF version (this will allow you to give away free PDF copies to readers, and you’ll need this format, too, if you set up an ISBN).

NOTE: Smashwords also requires specific text at the front of your book about being published at Smashwords, so you want to set up a separate file with this info:

Published by Shannon Donnelly at

Copyright 2010 Shannon Donnelly

Discover other works by Shannon Donnelly at


That’s it. Twelve steps. The part that really takes the work is getting the writing done in the first place.