AKA Trial and Error

Growing up, one of the things I loved about being a Girl Scout was earning badges. I remember getting them for things like outdoor camping, cooking, and crafts. I couldn’t rest until my sash was covered with colorful patches that displayed my 11-year old accomplishments. Earning badges meant I had to roll up my sleeves and put in some good old-fashioned hard work. It also meant if I wanted a particular badge, I had to take on new tasks outside my comfort zone.

Similarly, I am having the same experience in getting my business, Christian Culture off the ground. When you are the sole proprietor of a zero-dollar budget business, everything falls on you. The only employee is the one I see every day in the mirror. I may run the company, but I’m earning new badges every day as I work toward success. So far I’ve got my receptionist badge, my administrative badge, my writing and editing badge, my marketing badge, my strategic planning badge, and my social media badge. One badge in particular that I am earning in stages is my technical badge. And it was during my latest encounter in that arena that I met a little comedy team called Trial and Error.

Trial and Error are a real trip. They sneak up on you when you least expect them. They usually strike when you don’t know what you’re doing and their jokes are always on you. Now, I’m fairly decent on a computer and I pick up programs rather quickly, but I usually try to get a little guidance on some of the more technical tasks. So when I set out to publish an e-book, I knew immediately I would use the strengths God blessed me with: 1. Write the book and marketing copy. 2. Edit the book. 3. Conceptualize a cover look.

As far as the technical pieces of layout and proper digital formatting were concerned, I had one game plan: GET SOMEBODY ELSE TO DO IT. That somebody else came in the form of my ace graphic designer, Brad Whitford.

I’m not new to publishing. My print books, Somethin’ Extra and Reinventing the Woman from Simon and Schuster were bestsellers. Traditional publishing is a process I know. But I had never published an e-book before and had no idea how. From my research, I decided that Amazon Kindle and Apple ibooks were my best targets. Oh, how I wish I had read the Apple fine print more closely. It would’ve saved me money. But this was before trial and error. While I was blithely ignorant, I handed over all my wonderfully edited files to Brad and had a cheeseburger to celebrate. Yay, me. Somewhere in Oz, Brad magically produced the versions I needed for Kindle and Apple. The Amazon process worked like a dream. Yippee. Then I went to upload the Apple version that accepts the EPUB format (a term I just learned and still don’t understand yet but I know it’s important).

Uh oh. Unlike some online self pub companies, Apple requires you to have an ISBN number (the government sells them in bulks of 10 for $225) and instead of using your individual SSN# like Amazon will, Apple wants a business EIN (just got it for free on the IRS website; very easy). Jeez. What was a girl to do? Enter http://www.Smashwords.com. Smashwords is an e-book distributor I learned about while reading Joe Konrath’s self-pub author’s blog. Thanks, Joe. On Smashwords, you submit your content and their converter system will transform a Word document into practically every existing e-reader format there is. It is absolutely free to do this. Smashwords partners with all the big retailers. This means that without spending a dime, I can hit several e-reader providers in one shot! Smashwords also provides a FREE ISBN number. The only thing is, their formatting process is a beast. You have to remove all your book formatting and incorporate theirs. But they have a private list of designers who can produce a cover for about $30 and formatters that come even cheaper.

So there I was with this new information about a process that could’ve cost me under a hundred bucks and few headaches. Instead, I had a Trial and Error pie in my face–a bill from Brad for $492 that I am biting my nails trying to figure out how to pay and a book I needed formatted for Smashwords. I didn’t want to be charged more money by Brad nor did I have any ready cash to pay a formatter. That meant I was about to get my formatting badge. I sat down at 1:30 in the afternoon with Smashwords’ 72-page, step-by-step REQUIRED READING style guide. I didn’t finish formatting and uploading my book until 9:30 that night. All told, Trial and Error cost me eight hours and $400. It was a painful lesson (picture me groaning, eating chips and sweets, and praying to God for the end of the world) but I earned my badge of honor. The book is up for sale. I have another e-book coming out in a few months and guess what I’m going to do? Stick my tongue out at Trial and Error. Been there, done that, guys. Got the badge to prove it.

This week’s takeaway: Trial and Error can’t be avoided at times, but when you know better, you do better.

What costly, time-consuming mistakes have you made while building your business and what was your “do better” fix?