Kindle Tips and Tricks

I just uploaded Second Stories to the Kindle. I’d been uploading it all along to my device, as a personal file so that I could use it as an editing tool. I noticed some strange behaviors but didn’t think too much of it. I had saved my Word docx file in Rich Text Format, but noticed that the margins were indented strangely in places. I couldn’t figure that out. When it came time to load it up to the Kindle for sale, I decided I’d better fix it.

I started with my main manuscript file, removed the headings, the dropped caps, and small caps, and saved it to a separate file for the Kindle. I didn’t care much about hyphenated words or paragraph breaks where I didn’t want them because that is irrelevant where the Kindle is concerned. It formats it how it will, and it can change according to the font the reader selects on his own device. But still, when I loaded it, there were the strange areas where the margins weren’t right.

I googled it and discovered that it should be saved in html format, so I saved the Word doc as Web Pages (Filtered). That made a difference, because now I had no more strange margin errors, but other anomalies surfaced. My section breaks, which were the wingding version of the letters “e” and “f” now displayed as just that so now my section breaks were

ef

Ugh. Not what I wanted. I changed that to asterisks. Now, with the dropped caps gone, and the small caps changed to regular, and the section breaks, it should have been perfect.

I paged through and yes, it did look good except one chapter was bolded text. What the…? I checked my Word doc and looked at the unprintable characters, and tweaked this and tried that and nothing worked. It was bolded and I had no clue why. I decided to try to peak at the html itself to see if I could figure anything out. I opened my htm file using the browser and did View Source. I thought it wasn’t going to work because it seemed to freeze there, with a blank screen.

I thought well, after all, it is a complete novel so maybe it will just take awhile. I clicked on Facebook to look around, kill some time while I waited, and after a bit, I got the blinking orange tab notification that my file had loaded. I found the offending chapter and compared it to another chapter that was not bolded. The class was different. The good chapter’s class was MsoNormal and the offending chapter was MsoTitle. I had a clue now, what it was and sure enough, on the Home tab in Word is the Styles tab and my chapter had erroneously been tagged as a header style when it should have been normal.

I have no clue how that happened, and it didn’t make any difference until I converted it to html. After fixing that, the file was perfect.

It takes a few hours for the book to be available on Kindle, and as of this writing it’s not there, but will be shortly. I’ll post it on my Facebook fan page when it’s there. The paperback format takes a bit longer, 5 to 7 days before that’s ready, and I’ll be sure to let everyone know when that’s ready too.

www.facebook.com/lynnschneiderbooks

Perfection is the Enemy

My post is a little early this week. But I wanted to share it.

I had an eye-opening discussion with my daughter-in-law over the weekend, as I attempted to assist her with an upcoming interview. When I asked if there was a time she sacrificed quality on a project, she said something interesting, that yes, there were times when absolute perfection might not be the ultimate goal, if it involves missing a deadline or going over budget. And as my husband says, “Perfection is the enemy of just good enough.”

It occurred to me, that’s what is happening to me, even though I don’t want my book to be “just good enough”, the comparison is clear. I have edited, and proof-read, Second Stories so many times that I think I might know it by heart. And every time I say, I’ll just look at the things I changed, make sure that’s right, and then I end up reading the whole thing through again. Frankly, I’m sick of it. And now I’ve found one thing, yet again, that I don’t like. I’ve fixed that, and a couple of other things that nagged at me and now I am ready to pull that trigger. Get it out there. Has anyone else gone through this?

Second Stories is actually my first book. I put it on the shelf for a while, and wrote Whatever Happened to Lily?, and afterwards went back to it. It needed to be tweaked, of course, and many parts were completely rewritten but the basic story is the same. It’s the story of four men, and a lasting friendship among them, since their first day of work at Bethlehem Steel. The office politics, the union problems, the angst when the place shut down, all of that is in the book. Of the four, three of them have relationship issues, to varying degrees. Especially one of them, a guy who always tried to do the right thing, and discovered he’d done everything wrong.

They say the first book is autobiographical, and that’s probably true. You write what you know. There’s Lydia, who is agoraphobic, and has low self-esteem, and renovates her house, and all she wants is to have her beautiful home and the love of her family. Of course, she can’t have that, because she’s married to the guy who did everything wrong. Then there’s Bonnie, who went back to school later in life, and Angie who became a macramé addict and a feminist and a computer programmer in the eighties, and Patti, who loved soap operas and romance novels. They are all me, to varying degrees. I took something of myself, and exaggerated it and formed four separate characters. Although, in defense of my soap-watching days, I did that while steaming wallpaper off the walls. Well, mostly, I did.

I wanted the book to be about experiences in the sixties, seventies, eighties, up to the present. The first chapter is a bit of a prologue, it takes place in May, 2008. Then there is a history of each of the four couples, up until the time the men start work in August of 1968. Then the Steel years, the changes that take place in the relationships of the couples, and finally, back to 2008 and the last half takes place from May through New Year’s, when the excrement hits the fan, with Lydia and her wrong-doing husband, and other changes take place, with the other couples. There’s a little politics in the book, as the guys sit around in a delightfully dumpy bar, named Wally’s, and discuss the events of the day, and the upcoming election. The model for Wally’s is a bar called Obie’s in Toledo, Ohio. Mr. Obie (aka O’Brien) used to lean on the counter and pass out beers and talk to the regulars, while Mrs. Obie just smiled at everyone and flipped burgers.

Back in the sixties, it was a lot easier for misunderstandings to happen. That’s why I like writing about it. Today, with voicemail and email and texting and IMing and Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn to name a few, combined with the way people are today, free, unencumbered by hang-ups like we were, or maybe not to the extent we were, it seems harder to me, to have the kinds of gut-wrenching problems that could have happened back then. Back when there weren’t even answering machines, and the phone just rang and rang and rang when nobody was home.

Remember when Jay tried to call Lily after she stopped writing to him? He called and no one answered. That’s because Lily couldn’t talk to him, she was there but didn’t pick up. She didn’t have the guts to tell him what had happened. If she’d had an answering machine, he’d have left a message. If she didn’t return his call, he would have got it, that she didn’t want to be with him any longer. End of relationship, end of story. But he really didn’t know what happened to her. Ah, conflict. Conflict = Good.

Do you recall the story of the Duke University student who rated her lovers, last year? I thought, wow. That’s sure a lot different than it was back when I was a college student. Back then, we still were a lot more romantic about sex. I think I liked that better. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of young women out there who will find the kinds of issues that happen to the Second Stories characters, a bit, uh, dated. Or silly, or just plain stupid. But then, as I said in an earlier post, this may not be their genre. And it’s history. It wouldn’t happen today, but it could have happened back then.

Who agrees? Love to hear from you…

Formatting Tips and Tricks for Self-published Authors

Things I Learned Along the Way – A Few Self-publishing Basics

I have very recently submitted my second book, Second Stories, to CreateSpace for publication. Doing this has prompted me to share some of the tricks and tips I’ve learned along the way. This isn’t the first article that has been written about this subject, but just another perspective on the whole process.

When I was pretty far along in the editing process, I decided to get a Kindle. Besides being a great little toy to have, I found it to be extremely helpful to me, as an author-now-editor. I discovered I could email personal files to my Kindle, so I sent my MS to it. Always before, if I wanted to read before submission to ensure the errors were gone, I had to print. That’s a lot of paper. Talk about killing trees. Not to mention the ink that ran out every second printing. So it made financial sense to buy the Kindle, and it’s better for the environment.

But on to what I learned in the submission process.

I am never the person who has to have the latest and greatest gadget or electronic device. After it’s been around for a year or two though, I succumb to changes and then I WANT IT NOW!! I’m not a phone person, so I didn’t have a smartphone for a long time after they came out. My old desktop was good enough, who needs that laptop anyway? And certainly not a Kindle! Why would anyone want one of those things? So now I have all three of these can’t-live-without-it items.

I balked at upgrading from Word 98 to Word 2007. Why get into the new millennium when the 90’s were good enough? Word is intimidating sometimes, and I’d mastered one version and everyone said the new version is very different, it’s like learning Word all over again. Oh yeah. That sounded like just what I wanted to do. Not. I’d have to learn those bullets and numbering all over again? As it was, whenever I used them, I’d hit the enter key, hold my breath and hope for the best, and now I was going to have to figure all that out once more?

But I wanted to convert my .docs into .pdfs. You can’t do that in Word 98 but you can in Word 2007. And the reason I wanted to have the capability to create pdfs was because I am self-publishing with CreateSpace and I wanted to have complete control over my files. Not only is it less expensive that way but I’m the one who knows best how my book should look. I’d been through that once before (back in the BookSurge days) and it was a little frustrating when I had to point out formatting errors they’d made.

Okay then, Word 2007 it is. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when I discovered that Word 2007 is a vast improvement, it seems much less twitchy to me, from its predecessor. And once you finish all the formatting and sizing and attribute selection and it looks perfect in Word, you simply upload it to a .pdf file and that’s it! Files are ready to print, and print just as you want them because with pdf, what you see is what you get. WYSIWYG!

First thing is to size your pages, my book is 6” by 9”. On the Page Layout tab, click the dropdown arrow underneath Size in the toolbar. Size you want isn’t there? Click on More Paper Sizes and the Page Setup window appears and you can select any size you want.

Any time you want the Page Setup window, click in the corner of the Page Setup bar on the Page Layout tab.

Next, margins. Same thing here, click on the Margins dropdown and select Custom Margins. I selected 1 inch for the top and .5 inch for the bottom margins, Portrait orientation. Select Mirror Margins under the Pages section. The inside margins are more or less dictated by CreateSpace and a book that is over 400 pages needs to have inside margins of at least .875 inch. Outside margins don’t matter so much, as long as they are at least .25 inch. I made my inside margins, .875 and my outside margins .5.

When I looked at my manuscript, now nicely sized, it seemed backwards. Had Microsoft got it switched? It seemed when I reversed the inside/outside margins it looked perfect. After a couple of bad proof copies and a lot of head-scratching it dawned on me, and it’s a little embarrassing that it took so long, the first page of any book is on the right, but Microsoft displays it on the left, so it’s the display that is backwards and the gutter side will appear to be on the outside. It needs to be viewed then, with the knowledge that left is right and right is left.

Once it’s converted to a .pdf file, there is a “facing pages” viewing option in Adobe Reader. It is very helpful to view it that way. In this viewing option, there is no first left page, the pages start on the right and each set of two pages appears the same as it will when printed.

Now on to the headers and footers section in the Page Setup window > Layout tab. The header will be what appears on the top of every page. I took the defaults with the exception that I checked both the “Different odd and even” box and the “Different first page” box.

The following is the most difficult to understand. I wanted a few pages in the front to be title pages, and a copyright page and a dedication page, (hereinafter referred to as, hmm, let’s see “Front pages”) and I didn’t want these pages numbered. And, at the end of the book, I have a Disclaimer page and I didn’t want that page numbered either. At the end of the Front pages, right before the actual book text starts, insert a section break. On the Page Layout tab, in the Page Setup section in the toolbar, select the Breaks dropdown. You’ll see a “Section” section. (That’s good, a Section section.) Select Next Page under Section. Don’t use regular hard page breaks because when you format your headers/footers it won’t work right. Each chapter must be a section, so go through the file and remove hard page breaks and insert a section > next page break instead. Within a section, you can use hard page breaks, as I did, within the Front pages. Just make sure the last page of each section is a section > next page break.

For the actual book text I wanted a page number on the left side of the left page and the right side of the right page, and I wanted the book title centered on all pages. Except for the first page of each chapter, where I didn’t want any header at all. Because I checked the two boxes on the Layout tab, I was able to do that, and format my headers exactly as I wanted. I didn’t use footers but they work the same as headers.

On the Insert tab, select the dropdown under Header, then Edit Header. The text of the book becomes disabled and the header becomes enabled. You can see the blue tabs with all your sections when you are in Header mode. It’s good to go through and check all that, make sure the front part is one section, and each chapter is a section, and any additional pages at the end are their own section. Enter the information you want in the header for both the left and right pages. They will be different, because of the position of the page number.

While in Header mode, note the Link to Previous option in the Navigation section of the toolbar. The first section’s header (Section 1) will be disabled because, since it’s first, there is nothing to link to. Throughout the text of the actual book, the headers should be linked together. BUT! The first chapter header (which is Section 2) should not be linked to previous, Section 1, which is the Front pages. This is what will allow you to have a header on only your book text. Now any header information that is in the first section can be removed without affecting the rest of the headers in the book text. Same thing with the last section. Make sure that section is not linked to previous either and remove header information.

This was the most frustrating part of the whole process, for me. I finally got it though, and it all looks just how I wanted it to.

Double click anywhere in the text to get out of Header mode.

For each chapter, I removed the header on the very first page, and I could do that without affecting the other pages in the chapter because I’d checked the Different first page box. The other pages in the chapter weren’t affected when I did this.

In the first paragraph of every chapter, I did something special. I wanted a drop cap on the first letter, no indentation and the first few words Small Capped. With the cursor anywhere in the first paragraph, select Drop Cap on the Insert tab. You can select Dropped but that defaults your cap span three lines. I didn’t think that looked good, I wanted less. Select Drop Cap Options. You can change the font if you wish, sometimes you’ll see dropped caps in an old English font. In the Lines to drop: option, I selected 2. Two lines instead of 3. I left the Distance from text: at 0. For the first paragraph only, I also selected no indentation, again by right clicking and selecting “paragraph”. Select the text you want to small cap, starting with the character right next to the dropped cap. Right click and select “Font…” and check the Small Caps box.

All the other paragraphs in each chapter were single spaced with a .2 indent on the first line. Select First line under “Special:” and .2 under “By:”.

That’s pretty much it. I am very happy with the layout of my book, and I like the fact that I don’t have to go through the tedious process of filling out the changes sheet, as I had to do when BookSurge did the formatting.

Hope this has been helpful. I’m not a Word Wizard by any means, but you don’t have to be. That’s the good part.

If anyone has questions, just leave a comment. I’d be happy to assist anyone and please send any tricks and tips you’ve learned along the way!

Not everyone has to like your book for it to be a success

I’ll bet every writer feels the same way, when that first novel is finally out there, and s/he waits with a great amount of trepidation, what will the comments be? What will people say about it? The notice goes out, okay all you Friends and Family, I’ve been talking about it for a couple of years now, it’s ready for prime time. And they tell you, I just ordered your book, or I’m going to order your book but couldn’t find it on Amazon, or I looked for your book in the store but couldn’t find it, and so you answer each one, because after all, it’s important for as many people to get their hands on it as possible.

(Never mind that Amazon’s search engine won’t find the book unless the title is typed in exactly, “Whatever” is one word not two, and “Lily” is with one L not two, and if you mess up, you won’t find it. That’s not good. I’m betting if you screwed up one of John Grisham’s titles, it would probably come up anyway. But that’s another story.)

The first two weeks are the hardest, although occasionally someone will tell you that they are reading it, and they really like it, or once in awhile they’ll say, “I can’t put it down.” That’s good. But still, no one has reached the end yet, so maybe they can’t put it down now, but it gets boring in the end, or maybe the end is just, well, dumb.

I gave a proof copy to my daughter-in-law. She likes cozy mysteries, and has a job, and a five-year-old, and a house to take care of. She doesn’t get much time to read she said. She texted me six days later to tell me she’d been hooked from the first, that she thought it was really, really good. To say her comments were important to me, and very, very gratifying, would be an understatement. I was stunned. I hadn’t expected it.

And then I got an email from a high school friend, who ordered the book and it arrived in time for him to take on a trip to Europe and he read it on the plane, and while he was there, and on the trip back. He wrote to me when he got home and told me he absolutely loved it, that the characters were great, and he used lots of exclamation points. I could tell he meant it, he wouldn’t have had to be that complimentary, and I had only seen him once in twenty years. He wouldn’t have had to say anything, but he did. That was a turning point for me. Two people liked it, and one was a guy. I was on my way.

And a few of my friends, women, started to tell me they really liked it too, and I noticed some were very moved by the story. But still, some of the comments were more like “Good job, I liked it”. I went to a week long gathering with six friends, and they all liked it, but I knew some liked it more than others.

One of my best friends said it was the best book she’d ever read. Although she may have actually said “it was maybe the best book I’ve ever read” or “one of the best books I’ve ever read”. I’ll have to go back and check that voicemail, which I kept.

Another close friend of mine ordered it, immediately after it came out. And to this day, not one word has been said between us, about it. To me, this means she probably started to read it, didn’t care for it, and gave up on it. Or maybe she read the whole thing through, gritting her teeth the whole time, and still didn’t care for it, or disliked it a lot, or actually thought it sucked, but couldn’t say that.

I talk about it with my husband sometimes, my writerly insecurities, and one day he said, you know, not everyone has to like your book for it to be a success. And I thought about that, and how right he was.

My close friend, above, the one who has yet to say anything, is a Stephen King fan, a lover of Dean Koontz. She likes action movies, science fiction. We can hardly find a movie to talk about that we both like, although we did both like Fargo and Pulp Fiction. She likes musicals. I dislike musicals. She loves the TV show Glee. So I tried to watch Glee. You Glee-watchers will know the plot better than I, but I watched a segment about the cute cheerleader, who is pregnant and everyone thinks it’s one guy’s baby, but it’s really another guy’s baby. Apparently the Glee cheerleaders are doing more in their spare time than practicing their back flips. The guy-who-everyone-thought-was-the-father, while at the cheerleader’s house, and at the dinner table with her parents, breaks into song, “You’re Havin’ My Baby”.

What?!! Really?

Really?

Is it any wonder, then, that perhaps she couldn’t be as enthusiastic as some of the other readers, who might be more inclined to favor the genre in which I write? She just doesn’t have the guts to say it. Your book… well, it sucked. For me anyway.

I’ve read reviews of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Most liked it. Some did not. We all know how successful that book has been. Oprah liked it, that’s enough. The reviewers who didn’t like it probably gave rave reviews to the Twilight series.

The President’s approval rating will fluctuate between 40% and say, 60%, although that’s on the high end. There are 40% of people out there who will never approve of the President no matter how good a job he does. If he found every single American a job, and stopped global warming, and secured the borders, and reduced the deficit to the point where we had a surplus, and didn’t raise taxes, and wore a flag pin every day, and even learned how to bowl better, 40% of the population still would not approve.

So the moral of the story is: Not everyone likes the same stuff. And it’s a good thing we don’t.

I’d love some comments!

First Entry – January 9, 2011

First Entry! I’m glad to be here…

I’m new to the blogging world. It’s a little harder than I first thought it would be. I decided to start out simple, maybe progress from there, so it might look different week to week. I hope so, at this point I’m not too sure about anything. Hopefully, it will become easier with time and I’ll figure out how to get neat things on the sidebars. For now, it’s pretty basic, I’m afraid.

A few years back, I decided I’d like to write a book, which is not an uncommon goal. Many people want to and some actually do it. There are more books being written today than at any other time.  I’d thought about it for years, what it would be about, what the characters might be like, where the plot would take the reader. It was to be a story about a group of women, friends who had graduated from high school together, and still live in the same town, and get together once a month at each other’s homes and play a mindless game, of maybe, Bunko. The purpose of the gatherings is not to play Bunko of course, but to gossip and compare notes and outdo each other with fancy margarita recipes.

I didn’t end up writing it, but maybe I will someday. I still like the concept, that the women continue to get together month after month, year after year, because it’s become a habit. Their lives have gone in very different directions and today, many of them would very likely not be friends at all. Some are nicer than others.

I ended up writing a book about a friendship among men instead and the relationships with the women in their lives. Second Stories, which will be available very soon. Before that, I wrote one about a romance that didn’t end properly, Whatever Happened to Lily?, a love affair which left many unanswered questions, and the two people in it hadn’t properly closed the chapter on that time in their lives.

When the books are written, and available on Amazon.com, what comes next? The author must market them, whether s/he publishes in the old traditional way, or in the new traditional way, i.e. self-publishes. The author has exhausted his/her circle of family and friends, so how to break out of that sphere and go, dare I say, viral?

I took an online course called Social Networking for Authors (Beth Barany, it’s well worth it) who shares her tips and tricks. Pick your poison, she says, decide what works for you and concentrate on that. We can’t do everything, after all. I decided to put up a Facebook fan page for my books, and began to tweet some and thought about blogging. I knew if I decided to blog, I had to decide how often I would post, and commit to it. Nothing will discourage readers more than their visiting your blog only to discover it hasn’t been touched in three weeks, after you’d advertised that it would be updated weekly. If it were me, I’d probably take that off my Favorites right then and there.

How many blogs are out there? Millions! Millions of blogs, the number goes up every minute. Who wants to read another one? I’m not sure, I only know what will happen if I don’t try, and that’s… nothing. So I’m committing. It will be a weekly blog, and will be updated at the end of each week. And if there’s an emergency, if I’m in the hospital, or if I have such a case of writer’s block that I’m paralyzed by it, there will at least be an entry to explain it, and beg for forgiveness and to be allowed to remain on your Favorites list a while longer.

The subject matter will, naturally, center on writing, but also on things one degree removed from that, or two, or three. And maybe I’ll write next Christmas when my annual trip to Toys R Us is over, when I haven’t done a good enough job ordering online, and have to actually, venture into that evil, fluorescent den of Chinese-made, overpriced, marketing miracles they call toys these days. Just an example.

Subjects like, listening to music while you write, writing in your head when you can’t be at the computer, things I’ve learned along the way. Maybe I can even help some people. I’d like that. And subjects that interest my target audience, men and women who grew up in the sixties and seventies.

Please comment and come back next week!