___WORDS FROM ME_____________________________________

experiments in e-books (iii)


Here are some formatting rules and instructions that I worked out (with the able assistance of my girlfriend – she also designed this blog, by the way, so a round of applause there) when I was formatting the long short story, well, novella really, What I Wouldn’t Give.

I’m assuming there that you’ve already spent your days banging your head against the wall trying to make your work as good as it can be by now. If not, you might like to read some of the earlier blog entries titled “experiments in e-books” - part i and part ii.

Okay, then. Let’s do it.

Remove Old Formatting

First step. Copy your document and paste it into Microsoft’s Notepad function, or another plain text editor. This will take out all the formatting of your document. Leaving you with 12-point type, no justification, no centre alignments, etc.

Copy the Notepad document.

Open a new Microsoft Word File.

Disable all Microsoft Word auto-corrects. Spell-check, automatic page breaks, orphan commands, etc.

Fonts, Typeface Sizes, Italics...

Use Times New Roman typeface set at 12-point as a background.

Now. The only typeface sizes you can use in the text of your manuscript are: 10, 12, 14, 20. This is because Kindle readers only work to those four type sizes. By putting in a 13-point letter, you may wind up with either a 12- or 14-point character in your Kindle reader, depending what mood it’s in.

Present the document as you would like to have it read. Italic words you want italicised. Make bold any words you want bold. Underline any words you want underlined, though be aware the convention is that underlined words are generally thought of as hyperlinks from within the text and can cause confusion if applied otherwise.

Justify

To have even margins rather than staggered margins, apply to the overall text of your document the justification options as you would have it look on a finished page. Justified left and right.

Page Breaks

Insert page breaks as you would ordinarily insert page breaks in Word, but not by using typed shortcuts. Remember, you should have all auto functions switched off.

Never use more than 3 paragraph break Returns in the document without including some type or character of some sort. Kindle doesn’t recognise more than three empty line spaces and will go all Hal-like from Arthur C Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Now, a very important point:

Paragraphs

Kindle doesn’t recognise Tabs consistently. This is why you do the copy and paste through Notepad, knocking out all formatting. Even so, some formatting regarding tabbed paragraph indents may remain. So, you need to delete all tabs for paragraphs in the document. Time consuming and laborious, but it has to be done, otherwise Hal won’t open the pod-bay doors.

Instead of looking like this:

                                                     *
Dave walked out of the door.
        He carried a plank under his arm.
       It was a long plank, and he was lugging it around with him in memory of the fine comedian Eric Sykes, who had recently died. Dave had seen a film in which Eric had carried such a plank around with him and it had made Dave laugh. It was more fun than being Prime Minister anyway.
                                                     *

It must look like this:

*
Dave walked out of the door.
He carried a plank under his arm.
It was a long plank, and he was lugging it around with him in memory of the fine comedian Eric Sykes, who had recently died. Dave had seen a film in which Eric had carried such a plank around with him and it had made Dave laugh. It was more fun than being Prime Minister anyway.
*

(Note: You must remove any spaces behind the last letter or punctuation of any paragraph. There can’t be a “Dave walked out of the door.(space)” because this can skew the continuity of smooth paragraphs one after the other and may result in an unintended section break.)

So. To correct the tabs function and insert paragraph indents to a document without using tabs…

(I should probably point out here that all this is based on Word 97-2000, so you may have to search through newer versions of Word to find the same performance options. But . . .)

On your menu bar go to Tools >Options >General >Measurement units (this is found towards the bottom of the screen) and change it from Centimetres to Points.

Then, highlighting your manuscript, go to Format >Paragraph >Indents and Spacing. In the Indentation dialogue box go to Special and select ‘First line’. Apply 25 points and your document will look like this:

      *
      Dave walked out of the door.
      He carried a plank under his arm.
      It was a long plank, and he was lugging it around with him in memory of the fine comedian Eric Sykes, who had recently died. Dave had seen a film in which Eric had carried such a plank around with him and it had made Dave laugh. It was more fun than being Prime Minister anyway.
      *

Not ideal, but better than it was. Highlight/select your first section break asterisk and the first paragraph (in this case the first paragraph is one line, but in the case of, say, a three-line first paragraph select the entire first paragraph). Then go through the same procedure of  Format >Paragraph >Indents and Spacing. In the Indentation dialogue box go to Special and select ‘First line’. THIS time, select a points value of 0.1 to give the following result:

*
Dave walked out of the door.
        He carried a plank under his arm.
       It was a long plank, and he was lugging it around with him in memory of the fine comedian Eric Sykes, who had recently died. Dave had seen a film in which Eric had carried such a plank around with him and it had made Dave laugh. It was more fun than being Prime Minister anyway.
        *

Then select the first asterisk and centre justify it using the standard toolbar option.

                                                       *
Dave walked out of the door.
       He carried a plank under his arm.
       It was a long plank, and he was lugging it around with him in memory of the fine comedian Eric Sykes, who had recently died. Dave had seen a film in which Eric had carried such a plank around with him and it had made Dave laugh. It was more fun than being Prime Minister anyway.
       *


Highlight/select the trailing asterisk and repeat the points at 0.1 procedure.

It’s a pain, it’s laborious, but you need to do this through the entire document.

You also need to apply 0.1 points to anything you want to centre justify. This includes titles and chapter headings (but more later in another post on chapters for novels and short story titles for collections; here I’m dealing with a one-off long short story document).

Where to Begin

To add a ' Beginning' to a book : Place the cursor where you want the book to start, click “Insert > Bookmark.” In the "Bookmark name:" field, type “Start” (without the quotes) and click "Add."

This will link from the Home button on the Kindle device itself, along with others that should link to Cover, Contents, End, and so on.

In my novella file, “What I wouldn’t Give,” I’ve put the beginning of the book above the line, in one of the first spaces of the first page of prose. Putting it at the start of the text is the convention, but when I did so I found the neat marker line I’d inserted as a graphic to tart things up a bit had disappeared.

Save As

When you’re happy with how your document is looking, save the file through Word as a “web page, filtered” and that’s the one you upload to Kindle Direct Publishing (kdp.amazon.com).

You can upload as a Doc but we found the chances of it going wrong are greatly increased if you do.

Preview and Preview Again

Note: performing the upload isn’t publishing it but this is your official book file! At this stage it’s advisable to take a preview and put it on something – ideally a Kindle – to check it all through. Kindle Previewer is available as a free download from Amazon and shows the basic form settings for Kindle, Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, Apple Kindle apps, etc….

DRM?

There’s stuff to think about like Digital Rights Management then. In short this is a sort of crappy copyright protection control that’s easily overcome by anyone wanting to pirate the ebook. Nice in principal and you may as well apply it, but it seems from a casual glance that other ebook files such as ePub and PDF are obviously easily copyable.

To Conclude...

And that’s about it for formatting your work. It’s wise, as I say, to go over the document on a Kindle, to read it through. By now you should be sick to death of the book, but it’s still worth checking, because you may find typos or lines you want to edit.

Believe me, there’ll be no special alchemy that transforms a duff line into a grand one when the book is finally available on site for download.

Next time out we’ll talk about covers.

generosity, encouragement, and dreams and those who would have you avoid them

I read something on Twitter the other week that left the proverbial sour taste in my mouth. It wasn’t a tweet from someone I follow. I saw it because it had been retweeted by a writer I’ve normally a lot of time for, presumably because this writer approved of its message. Well, what struck me about this particularly sour missive was that it wasn’t particularly generous, or all that necessary.

(Of course, you could argue that there are very few tweets on Twitter that are necessary, and I couldn’t say you’re wrong.)

This tweet stuck with me because I’d just been reading Shadow Show, a collection of short stories written in honour of and as homage to Ray Bradbury. The collection carries story notes and thoughts about Bradbury by each contributor. What struck me was how generous Bradbury had been to those writers in the collection who had written to him or encountered him at some point in their lives. He was enthusiastic, he encouraged them to follow their dreams and to write, write, write. He warned against the nay-sayers, asking who were they to deny you your dream.

A good number of contributors to that collection say they became writers through Ray Bradbury and his example.

By contrast, the tweet I read was less than encouraging to new writers. I won’t reproduce it here, because I don’t particularly want to bring that tweeter any grief. (And hey, a tweet can be written in a thoughtless moment and regretted later.) But the tweet basically said that people who give their fiction away for free are doing so because it’s not good enough and no one would buy it.

That was the general gist of it.

Doesn’t seem so cruel, put like that, and maybe I was over-reacting when I saw it.

But underlying the tweet was the implication that such people should not be writing in the first place, let alone trying to build a dream from the ground up, in the face of whatever shifting plate tectonics and searing hurricanes make up their world.

There are, alas, plenty of people who believe – or fear – that their success comes at the expense of someone else’s. They’re probably very insecure about their position in one way or another, about their talent and all the rest. They’re quick to pull ladders up behind them, or take an axe to the rungs they’ve just climbed. To discourage others, they’ll come up with things like “They say everyone has a novel in them – and in most cases that’s where it should stay,” and sprout such phrases often and at every opportunity.

By contrast there are people like Ray Bradbury, who says do it, write, give your work to the world. Don’t let others deny you your dream.

I’ve given stories away for the payment of a contributor’s copy of the magazine in which I’ve appeared. Normally such magazines have been small-press publications. It was useful to see my work in print, to examine a tale that has been published and to see what worked and what didn’t. Often, but not always, the stories I gave away received good write-ups and some were cited as notable tales in Year’s Best summaries.

I’ve also been paid for my fiction in the traditional manner, and that certainly feels nicer. But the truth is that often the margin of quality between a piece that’s been bought for a couple hundred dollars and a piece that’s going to result in a contributor copy is negligible, if noticeable at all. Often it’s simply a question of market forces and the commercial viability of the magazine/anthology. If people buy the publication and enough of a market for the kind of fiction it’s publishing exists, then there’ll be money in it.

If not, then you’ll be doing it for the love of it. You could make yourself feel better about that by calling yourself an artist. But I wouldn’t, if I were you. You’ll just sound like an arsehole.

Better to keep writing, keep looking for places that’ll take your work, better to keep dreaming.

And you know, damn it, if when everyone in the world has said no to you about your story or your book, then do as Lee Child suggested in a radio interview with Jon Gaunt some years ago on talkSport radio here in the UK. Print it up yourself, give it away to friends as a Christmas present, put a new shelf up in the living room and fill it with your book, so that everyone who visits can see it. Because it was your dream, and you’ve done the work, and made it real. It’s yours to be proud of.

And all those who said you couldn’t do it, that you shouldn’t be doing it . . . well, you know, fuck em.

Listen to Ray Bradbury instead.

(As an aside, when I made my first sale overseas, I’d wondered how payment would work. This was in the days before the prevalence of PayPal and electronic banking. The answer came by way of a flush of ten dollar bills stuffed in my contributor copies coming through the post. This is, I’ve since learned, not the usual way these things are done, and it hasn’t happened to me since!)

And here’s a little STOP THE PRESSES for you.

The person who retweeted the message that inspired (or negatively inspired) this post is at the moment offering a book for free in a promotional offer.

Funny old world, isn’t it?

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