My Smashwords Adventure!

Distressed Woman FreeDigital Photos Dot NetNote the familiar lady pulling her hair out.

No really, it wasn’t that bad.

I went to the Smashwords site and downloaded Mark Coker’s Smashword Style Guide and read it through once completely and several chapters twice and three times. I won’t repeat everything in the guide. It is very complete and informative, yet still I had a couple of unanswered questions. I did further research and thought I’d share what I learned and what worked and what didn’t.

They strongly suggest you use something called The Nuclear Method. This method insists that you will save yourself a whole lot of trouble if you copy your entire manuscript into a text editor. At which point, you do the opposite, copy your text document back into Word. Removes all formatting! Yippee, we can start with a completely virgin document.

I so did not want to do this.

I use italics to denote emphasis, (which maybe I should not be doing quite so much of but that is a subject for another day) and all my italics were going to be wiped out if I did it. Gone Italics.

I needed to figure out a way around this and discovered something interesting. In Word’s Find functionality, not only can you search on a text string, but you can search on formatting! I didn’t know that before. Here’s how it’s done:

Find1

Click More

Then click Format, then font, and you’ll see the familiar font screen come up where you can select the format you are looking for. Note the search for “Font: Italic” in the red circle. Now I could use the Find Next functionality for each occurrence of italics in my document! Unfortunately I could not replace the italicized text with anything, but this was better than the alternative. For each instance found, I put the text string “qqq” behind it.

Find2

There were 145 instances of italics in my manuscript and I knew where they were when the original document was back in Word because I searched on “qqq”.

I copied the document to Wordpad (my choice but you can use any text editor), opened a brand new Word document and pasted that sucker in. I turned off all Autocorrect and Autoformat options. This is spelled out in the Style Guide.

Next I created eight styles. I only used seven of them and Normal.  Here is a very good article about how to create styles in Word. No need to repeat that here.

Wordstyles

I didn’t end up using SWTitle. I had wanted 16pt bolded text, but for some reason the bold didn’t take. It did, however, work for SWTitle, defined as 14pt bolded so I used that instead. This is an example of stuff that can happen, for which you can find no explanation.

I could have fooled around trying to get Smashwords to recognize it the way I intended but decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. Ebook formatting is evolving and maybe the Smashwords “Meatgrinder” just needs to be tweaked a little more. It will get better and better with time. It didn’t seem something for which I should tear out any more hair. I have precious little left at this point.

Depressed 3D Man FreeDigital Photos Dot Net

Modify the Normal style however you want it and use it for all your internal chapter text. Don’t use it for the front matter, the table of contents, and chapter headings. Use specific styles for all that.

This is my Normal. I used Times New Roman for everything. It is good practice not to use too many fonts, one is ideal, maybe two at most.

Format then Font

Normal1

Format then Paragraph

Normal2I defined other styles as I needed them, all based on Normal except SWChapter which was based on Heading 1.

I couldn’t figure out from the Style Guide how page breaks worked. I don’t care how the front matter looks, even if it all flows together, just so there is some space between the sections, I am good with that. It is an ebook and everyone formats their reader a different way. It isn’t important to me that any of that starts on a separate page.

But I wanted the chapters to all start on a separate page. I don’t like it when I see new chapters directly following the previous one on the same page. I researched and found that the page break before is the way to go. The style SWChapter has a page break incorporated into it, which you set up when you define that style. And it works! I recommend it.

Everything in my manuscript is a style. I never once used the little Word buttons in the menu to change the font, or bold, or italics or alignment. Maybe you can do this and it will work but I didn’t.

My next novel will be written with this in mind. That’s if there is a next novel.

I went through my manuscript, applied the appropriate styles, and added “*****” between sections. I did this (reluctantly) because I could not discern enough space between the sections and I wanted to make sure they were noted by the reader.

Last step. I searched for “qqq”, applied the italics, and of course removed the “qqq”. Tedious.

One hair-tearing experience I will note. I spent way too much time on it but it seemed worth looking into, and then I got stubborn about it.

I had lines of mixed styles. I used SWNoIndent followed by a partial line where I applied SWItalics. This was followed by a line return, followed by a Normal paragraph. This sequence occurred in three places.  In two places I got no line return between the multi-styled line and the normal paragraph, which was wrong, yet in one instance it was correct.

I figured if one was okay, it could be done. I turned on View Formatting Marks and juggled it around, experimented with the SWNoIndent and SWItalics styles at the ends of the formatted line and the line return, until I managed to eliminate one of the no-spacers. So now two are right, and one is wrong, yet they are formatted exactly the same way. One error remains. I give up. Smashwords has beat me. Much as I hate to say it, sometimes there just ain’t no explainin’ it.

It just is.

I would recommend simplicity and I would think twice before doing the multi-format-on-a-single-line-thing again. Less is better when it comes to ebooks. No need to get fancy.

My book went through the Meatgrinder, though, with no errors, first time.

Here are two great articles I read while preparing this post.

Smashwords Formatting Tutorial

Smashwords Formatting for the Lazy

Update: Forgot to mention, if anyone would like a sample of my file to use for reference, just contact me and include your email address and I’ll sent it out!

Frustrated Woman and 3D Man photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.

Stop Pulling Your Hair Out – Steps to Easy E-formatting

Distressed Woman FreeDigital Photos Dot NetSome authors I have come to know are having some issues formatting their novels for ebooks. I can help with that.

If you are not an author, this post will probably not be interesting to you. You can stop right here. Maybe you missed last week’s post on Fifty Shades? Here it is.

Okay, so the rest of you still reading are interested in ebook formatting.

This discussion will not involve anything too fancy, I have never embedded pictures, for example, so the following instructions will not include that.

For those who want to include charts, graphs, pictures and other neat stuff, you might want to leave too. But what about this cool post on aphorisms? The French particularly liked them, as pointed out by one very dapper Frenchman. Here it is.

More disclaimer. These instructions are for Kindle only. They will show you how to prepare a file that can be uploaded directly to Amazon. If you are interested in some other ebook venue, such as Smashwords, don’t read any further. Although I am going to prepare a post on my findings about how easy (or not) that is, when I actually attempt to do it for Perigee Moon. For you folks, how about a fun post on malapropisms? Here it is.

These instructions are for Microsoft Word only. I don’t use anything else, and I don’t know anything else. So if you don’t use MS Word, stop here. You might want to visit another popular post. Why not take a look at my most popular post ever, about euphemisms? Here it is.

All-righty then. The rest of you must be authors, interested in easy eformatting your MS Word manuscript for the Amazon Kindle.

Clicking right here will bring up a conveniently already formatted short novel in Microsoft Word, which is installed on your computer, or you would not still be here (see above). Note that it contains a version of filler text called “Cupcake“, a much more appealing Lorem Ipsum. Fun-filled with treats to brighten your day, instead of boring Latin.

Here’s what you need to do with the document you’ve just opened.

Change the first page, for your title and author name.

Next is the copyright page Insert your name here and ISBN.

The optional Thank You page is next.

I have also included another page for miscellany, sometimes a quote, a snippet of text, a poem is nice. Or it can be a subtitle. It can be anything you want.

If you need more pages, simply copy/paste this last page. Or delete as needed. There is already a Page Break inserted after each of the four pages, but if you add pages, make sure there is a Page Break immediately following the last word on the page. It must be a page break, which is on the Insert tab. On my system it is the third icon from the left.

The Table of Contents is next but leave this alone for now, until all your chapters have been formatted. Click on the Word Insert tab and then the Bookmark icon and note that there are two bookmarks set up. One for “toc” and one for “start”. These are recommended by the Kindle people. Readers will be able to use the “Go to” features and jump to a chapter or go to the beginning because of these bookmarks. You don’t have to do anything with them.

Bookmarks

I have included three chapters. Duplicate for as many chapters as you have.

Label each chapter heading with your chapter title.

Insert your chapter text.

A bit about Styles. You can create a Style in word and apply it to a paragraph or a block of text. I have created three styles that make up the chapters and they are included in this template.

  • First paragraph (leaves a large space between the chapter title and the first paragraph, .5 in. indent).
  • New Section (leaves one blank line between paragraphs, .5 indent).
  • Normal with Indent (.5 indent with no special spacing).

These three are all you need, but you can add more if desired.

Click on the Change Styles down arrow. It is quite tiny (thanks Microsoft for being so intuitive) but here is where you click, by the red and yellow arrow I have inserted. This will bring up the Styles window in the sidebar.

Styles

Select the first paragraph of your first chapter and apply the First Paragraph style.

Select all remaining paragraphs in the first chapter and apply the Normal with Indent style.

Go back through the chapter and replace any paragraphs that start a new section with the New Section style. This is not required. Note: Instead of a separate style, you can also use symbols (such as ***) between paragraphs to denote a new section but make sure that this is center-justified to ensure that it appears in the center of the Kindle page.

Repeat for all the chapters.

There is a Disclaimer page at the end with the usual blah-blah.

Now return to the Table of Contents, place your cursor anywhere inside it and hit F9. This updates the Table of Contents with your chapters.

That’s pretty much it. You can either upload the Microsoft Word .docx file directly to Kindle or save it as Web Page, Filtered (which creates an .html file) and upload to www.kdp.amazon.com.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Perigee Moon Available on Amazon!

This past week was spent in the final editing of my third book Perigee Moon, and formatting of both the print version and the Kindle version, which went relatively smoothly. The Kindle Direct Publishing Nice People have now provided us with basic instructions on how to do it, and it is easier than it used to be.

You can get the print version of Perigee Moon here.

I learned that making use of the Styles in Word can make ebook formatting a whole lot easier, so I did that. I fixed my styles and created a Table of Contents and had relatively little trouble getting it published. You can get the ebook version for Kindle here for a mere $2.99.

I can’t decide which I prefer. I still like to read a “real” book once in a while and I go back and forth, between the Kindle and printed books, Amazon and the Public Library.

Once I got the Kindle version published and it looked very good to me, I decided to do the same with my other two books, which had a couple of formatting issues, due to my relative inexperience back then. Well wouldn’t you just know, wouldn’t it figure, that sometimes it works one way and sometimes it works another. I blame Word for this, there is so much crap under the surface of Word, so many options and it seems needlessly complex to me.

I got Whatever Happened to Lily formatted just fine, and is available here in it’s new format, but when I did Second Stories the exact same way, it didn’t quite work. Well, it worked okay, but put an extra space between the paragraphs which I didn’t want. I still haven’t figured it out. It looks okay, but not perfect, so I haven’t uploaded anything for the Kindle for that book yet.

Maddening, that’s what it is.

I check and compare and look at the HTML and can’t find out why it would do that. There are other ways to do it, through other software but the instructions supplied by KDP seemed so straightforward that I had hoped my ebook formatting issues were behind me. Ack! Not so.

Another surprise was in store for me. It takes a few days for a new print book to be listed on the Amazon site so I kept checking each day to see if it had appeared, and guess what I found? Another book called Perigee Moon. This I would have to describe as seriously suckage because I had specifically searched for books with that title when I selected it.

Perigee Moon by Tara Fuller. After a horrific fire claims the life of her mother, seventeen year old Rowan Bliss finds herself in the miniscule town of Ipswich, Massachusetts. It’s here that she meets Alex, a deliciously mysterious boy who holds the key to unlocking her family’s dark secret. As Rowan falls helplessly over the edge for Alex, the secrets that he insists on keeping refuse to be contained. The truth that she uncovers challenges everything she has ever believed. Alex is a witch. And now he’s awakened something within her she never even knew existed. But out of all of this, the one thing Rowan won’t accept is the fact that Alex is destined to die. Rowan must unearth the buried power she harbors within to escape a deadly prophecy, defy the very laws of time, and prevent the hands of fate from taking yet another person she loves.

We’ll call it “The Other Perigee Moon” but I think I will plug it anyway. You can get that book here.

It’s about witches so I guess we won’t be in direct competition but still, it is disappointing.

In other news, next week (Tuesday, May 22) the six finalists for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012 will be announced. I like to read the excerpts from the books chosen and last year I blogged my reviews of each and tried to predict the winner. I wasn’t too successful. Maybe this year will be better.

Images in Ebook Files – How to Include Them and Maintain Sanity

I recently rereleased my first novel, Whatever Happened to Lily? I took on this effort because of a stupid error on my part, I hadn’t been consistent with the author name among the print versions and Kindle versions of my two novels. I felt it important enough to change, so asked how this might be done.

Alas. The author name is engraved, set, permanent, not to be changed! And the book has to be completely redone in order to put a new name on it. After some thought I decided I’d go for it, and so if I was going to go that far, I might as well reread it and see what stood out as needing work, or being eliminated, or otherwise crappy writing. I found some things I didn’t like, and added a couple of parts to make the character (Jay) seem less of a turd. I also added a washed out image on one of the front title pages and tweaked the cover. I uploaded this to CreateSpace and all is well.

I ordered a proof, decided I messed up the cover, fixed that and ordered another proof and liked it, plus the interior. That was finished, but now the Kindle version must match the printed version so I did that too.

The Kindle version requires a Microsoft Word document with different formatting. It must have no headers or footers, and the dropped cap and small caps at the beginning of each chapter must be removed.

Next it can be saved as html and, in the past, this was the end of that process. But wait! I wanted images in the Kindle version too, I thought that would make it look more professional. I see the cover picture on some of the books I’m downloading, and I want mine there too, plus I want that washed out title page included.

I transferred the html file to my Kindle and (naturally) the images weren’t there. Figures. That would be way too easy.

I spent two (that’s TWO) days on figuring out how to do this, and I am still not satisfied with the outcome, although the Kindle version looks fine now. I got on the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) message boards and sure enough, there is plenty of chatter about how to include images. Lots of posts that begin with “Help!!” so I know I’m in the right place. They all say, put your images in a folder along with your html file and zip them together and upload the zip file.

Ah! Of course, why didn’t I think of that? It doesn’t know where to find them. I did what they said. Interestingly enough, all three files ended up on my Kindle, both images and the html file, and looking at the html file revealed that the images were, uh, missing. Still missing. A couple of problems here. One, I DON’T want those image files uploaded as separate files, and two, I DO want them to be included in the html.

I am one of the unlucky people who can’t just chalk this up to experience and look for another way. That would be too easy. No, I’m one of those who will find out why this doesn’t work, dammit, zipping up three files shouldn’t be rocket science.

Maybe the path inside the html file is wrong, I thought, and I fiddled with that, wasted more time. Finally I had to give it up. This is a very hard thing for me to do. I decided I had to try to use some software that I had downloaded a few months back, but hadn’t really used, called Mobipocket Creator.

Another learning curve, but I used that and I did get the images to appear inside the file. But now I had formatting issues. It appears, this software ignores those hard break lines you put in the Word doc, which is then converted in the html file, but when creating the mobi file, it ignores those blank lines.

Wonderful. I now have to Google that and discovered that I can create a Style in word. The first line should have 24 pts (points?) before it, which is about three lines. I’d never done too much with Styles so this was good information.

Once that Style was created I could apply it to the first paragraph of each chapter. I was pleased with the end result, but am still frustrated that the first method didn’t work.

There was an interim step in the process where I downloaded more software called Sigil. This was before I ended up with Mobipocket. Sigil informed me that I had to update my browser to IE9 which I’ve been putting off. I did it, and now I have another learning curve to figure out where everything went. My favorites used to be on the left, now they’re on the right. The refresh button moved. And where is the Print button?! I had to actually Google to find out and it seems you have to press the Alt key in order to get the File Edit Tools, etc. menu which then allows you to enable the Command Bar with the printer button on it. Really? The Alt key? Is this really an upgrade? Seems like we’re going back to the olden days, where you had to know secret combinations of keys.

All I want is a browser, a damn browser. I want it to be familiar, and useful, and intuitive. I thought we had that. I don’t mind the upgrade, but why can’t the basic functionality, and the location of buttons, stay the same? It sounds like Change For Change Sake to me, and that is never a good idea.

Even though I want to write, it seems that so much of my time is devoted to trifling stuff like this. I guess I have no choice but still, it is distracting, frustrating and counter-productive.

Now, back to writing.

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