10 things I have learned whilst exporting to Kindle

  1. There are many more file types than I thought. .rtf, .htm, .epub… but it’s .mobi that you want. According to Amazon, .mobi is the one.
  2. Making your book available on Kindle isn’t as straightforward as it seems. A quick conversion of your .pdf, and then you’re done? So. I. thought.
  3. Actually, the above requires a) removing all formatting from your original Word document that you exported for print, b) keeping any formatting as simple as possible, c) exporting your Word document as a .htm/.html file, d) running said .htm file through a converter, e) downloading Amazon’s Kindle previewer, f) downloading Amazon’s Kindle reader because the previwer doesn’t preview well, g) realising that your document hasn’t exported quite as you would like and, h) running through all the former to try and suss out where you went wrong.
  4. Oh, and on top of that you’ll read all sorts of blogs and tips about what you shouldn’t do (i.e., forcing a certain font type on your text), but do them anyway, because firstly you don’t know how not to do it, and secondly ‘Normal style’ completely undermines any alternative fonts you have made use of in your book (who doesn’t like Garamond, anyway?).
  5. At several moments, in desperation, you will break from your formatting to look into companies and services which promise to do all the hard work for you.
  6. You will bemoan, ‘but I just want it to look like a book!’. Specifically your book, which you just spent months perfecting in print.
  7. It comes to your attention at some point that perhaps you should have sorted out your Kindle file first, before your book launch, but then you remember that Createspace and Amazon told you that it would be easy.
  8. Perhaps this is easy, you then think, as you export your book for the third time wondering why your TOC (that you made in Word, as you were told), still isn’t working. Why? Why?
  9. After downloading independent software to export your book to .mobi for you, you realise that it is the conversion itself that has broken your TOC, and that you could have just edited your .htm document in Dreamweaver in the first place to fix all the links and the formatting issues instead.
  10. You find random things in the block of your book text (like a hyphen between two paragraphs) and then think, God, has that always been there…? then don’t want to look to double check just in case it is (you’ll do it later, or forget, or a reader will find it for you).
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Time is running out!

Work, work, work. I haven’t been doing much of it lately, mostly because I’ve been tied up in an (unsuccessful) stint at Paris Fashion Week. Those of you who know the industry will be aware of just how fickle it is, how options and confirmed jobs can evaporate at the final hour, leaving you with nothing but a hole in your pocket and a sense that perhaps you shouldn’t have bothered at all. Though of course, it is human nature to always be happier with the fact that you tried – that way at least opportunity is something that isn’t left unexplored.

With my time in Paris came the inability to do much else but castings and go-sees each day, which inevitably impacted on the progress of self-publishing. Now I am fairly certain that my release date of The Future King is premature, and am having to readjust my expectations to early November instead. This is no disaster given that I have no contract binding me to a completion date, and the few who are waiting with baited breath for the book release can be easily updated via Facebook. After all, I never released an official release date, so I have some time to consider when exactly it should be made available. A lot is influencing this date – awaiting news from my proof-readers (and re-reading it myself) is one, making any changes is another, and then adding hyphens into the whole document is an unexpected third. In a way it is good it has taken me so long to get myself organised, otherwise I would have made the mistake of releasing a formatted novel that has only been justified, and not amended to look pretty with the odd sentence strategically hyphenated here and there. Apart from that there is the “tax interview” to sort out through Amazon, the amending of my spine width to match the new page count, the finalisation of the book cover, and then the ordering of the first printed copy to check that all is as it should be. This is all pressured by an immediate move, scheduled for the end of this month.

The text for my children’s book is finalised however, and I am halfway through drafting the illustrations. In the meantime I have started writing the text for another children’s book (I’m excited about this one), and have identified yet another written project which is pressing prominence in my head as probably the most important and most lucrative idea to run with next  – and I was considering writing something unrelated to TFK over the Christmas holidays before I start on book two, anyway (sorry, fans).

Here in Belgium the leaves are turning despite the glorious sunshine and hot weather we’ve been enjoying. The park is filled with the usual reds and golds, splattered amongst the still-deep greens, but also with bright fuchsia – a colour I had previously not expected to be possible in a leaf at this time of year. My to-do list has peaked at the annoying number of  14, and though I have stormed through some of it already it is one of those lists with points that take months to strike off. My priority for today however is to get through another hundred pages of TFK (still noticing missing speech marks and a few comma/full stop swaps), and to hopefully organise a few more illustrations for my picture book. Oh, and I need to milk the plants. The apple trees have powdery mildew, and an effective treatment is to spray them with part-milk part-water. So far it seems to be working, and for the first time in weeks there is new, undamaged growth. They’re still a long way away from being proper apple trees yet, but as I have no garden currently in which to plant them, I won’t be hurrying them along too much.

Blurb for The Future King: Logres

So! After blood, sweat and tears (not literally) I have finally completed my blurb for the back of my book jacket. Could I have a drumroll, please?

(Courtesy of http://freepercussionlessons.com/how-to-play-legato-drum-rolls-on-timpani/)
(Courtesy of http://freepercussionlessons.com/how-to-play-legato-drum-rolls-on-timpani/)

Here it is, my blurb for The Future King: Logres!

Britain, 2052. In a world of war, disease and hunger the UK stands alone as a beacon of prosperity under an all-powerful ruling party. Life at new school Logres seems promising for fifteen-year-old Gwenhwyfar, and quickly she falls for the school’s handsome catch, Arthur. When Arthur’s rival, Lancelot, returns after a suspension, her heart is immediately divided. Realising that behind the UK’s prosperity lies unspeakable cruelty, Gwenhwyfar sets off on a path to dismantle everything the government stands for. Suspenseful, raw and awash in a dystopian setting, The Future King: Logres is a story of identity and discovery against this backdrop, the second coming of the Arthurian legends.

The main thing is that it fits on my book jacket, right? Less is more, seems to be the resounding advice that I’ve collected from looking at various ‘how to’ sites. If anyone has any thoughts, please do share them. Meanwhile, whilst I’m waiting to hear back from my proof reader, I’m finishing off another project (a children’s book), which I’m hoping to release before Christmas. I won’t give away too many details just yet, but I’ve outlined the approach for the illustrations, and will hopefully be completing them (and posting updates) in the next few weeks. Exciting! (Well, it is for me.)

Progress on self-publishing!

sir-mador-s-spear-brake-all-to-pieces-but-the-other-s-spear-held

So! Yesterday (was it yesterday? Actually, I think it was Friday), I finished my edit/proof read of my novel. That’s right! All five-hundred and something pages checked, double-checked, and tweaked. Surprisingly the new format of the novel made catching things that I’d never noticed before much easier – such as missing speech marks, duplicated words, or words that had clearly hung on despite the rewriting of the sentence. Inevitably, I will have missed one or two things. My three-pronged approach of reading in my head, reading aloud, or getting dictation & speech to read for me can’t have picked up everything. As a result I have sent my final draft off to my proof-readers, and am awaiting their verdict. I shall have to resist the urge to edit again when comments come back – after all this is the start of a story, and there are always so many ways to tell it.

In the meantime I am trying to work my way through the minefield that is writing your own blurb. I should be able to manage it, I’ve written a novel, right? I edited that novel, then after that I did the unthinkable – I trimmed down 120,000 words into a one-page synopsis. That, at the time, seemed impossible – but as it is often shown, the impossible turned out to be possible after all. 200 words or less is a much shorter order to work to, however, and (so far) I’ve found it’s the sort of thing that can only be approached in short bursts.

One draft – a splurge of sentences on the page that make little sense. Break. Another draft, writing an alternative to the above. Research, lots of research – or at least just a little bit – looking at book blurbs in your own library and googling ‘how to write a book blurb’, only to find that there are several ways one can do it. Writing again, with these strict guidelines in mind. Deleting all the above because, surprisingly, the guidelines were actually quite helpful. Break, because what you wrote needs to sink in before you can edit it. But you’re there, you’ve got the tone and the content right. Now it just needs to… pop.

Other than that, my schedule at the moment includes getting other aspects right – in particular things like text for the acknowledgements. As I am destined to a reasonable wait before I can continue with the whole publishing thing (everything is on hold now until the book itself is ready to be uploaded), I will probably return to some of the other points on my to-do list for a while. Scanning my grandfathers’ slides of plants and butterflies is one, illustrating a few projects is another, working on a children’s book is my third (nearly done, I just need a decent ending). Presently I am battling the urge to try restructuring my book completely, just to see if it would be better (or worse). Knowing when to stop tweaking is a good skill, and it’s easier to do when working on a painting or drawing. The result of a drawing is usually completely visible on one page, and is therefore easier to conclude that it is, actually, finished. Perhaps someday I will be able to transfer such understanding to my written work, and the whole process may become a little easier to draw a line under.

10 things I have learned whilst proof reading

  1. Unless you are a professional proof reader, it is inevitable that you will always miss something (but then I wonder, do professional proof readers miss things too?).
  2. It is surprising how one can read a manuscript multiple times, catching double-spaces, incorrectly formatted dashes and dots, missing words, extra words, and yet on the hundredth read discover an entirely overlooked error – in my case missing speech marks at the end of some lines.
  3. Relying on speech & dictation to catch things for you is a very useful method (particularly for spotting typos) – but it is not to be relied upon 100%. Only yesterday my reader Alex decided to add ‘that’ into my sentence. Clearly he thought the sentence was better with an extra demonstrative pronoun.
  4. A formatted manuscript is much easier to spot mistakes in than a non-formatted manuscript. I suppose it’s the increased space between lines, the fewer words per page, or something.
  5. Fewer words per page and a smaller page size means that you’ll have twice as many pages to proof read, yet somehow because of this the whole task seems to go faster (120 pages per day! Woo!).
  6. Knowing when to stop proof reading is a real issue. How many times do you go through it? With each change lies the potential for fresh mistakes. What if you have a blind spot to the difference between her and his? You meant his, but you typed her. You might not see you typed her until your book is already in print.
  7. I suppose the above is why I am asking friends and family to read through my manuscript for me (trusting, of course, in their superior ability to sense typos in a sentence – much like those who sense a formidable, horrible disruption when one digit is off in pi – can you? 3.141592653589793238462643383279
    50288419716939937510582097494459230781640628620899862803482
    534211706798214808651328230664709384460955058223172535940812
    848111745028410270193852110555964462294895492038196442881097
    56659334461284756482337867831652712019091456485).
  8. The fear of releasing one of those books that we’ve all come across – when you’re on page seven, and a word is missing, or wrong, or repeated – is quite possibly irrational, but also very real.
  9. Don’t try to proof read if you’re tired or hungry. Unless you’re in the right frame of mind whilst reading, you will approach the end of the chapter with the feeling you have not done as well as you could have, and then resign yourself to combing through the same pages again later, when you’re feeling a little less useless.
  10. With all the above taken into consideration, a novel can always be amended to fix any overlooked errors. After all, we all know that’s what editions are really for, right?

10 things I have learned whilst formatting a book in MS Word

  1. Apparently, if you’re going to be making changes to your book after formatting, MS Word is your best choice as it’s easier to edit content. That, and InDesign is just scary if you don’t know how to use it at all, really – so what hope would one have when it comes to formatting a whole novel?
  2. You’ll probably start with a font size which will make your book seem shorter. But then you’ll change the page size, line spacing and margins, and suddenly your book will seem longer. Much longer. Not good if you’re self publishing and more pages=less profit.
  3. It is surprising how bookish your book will look with only the things mentioned in (2) formatted. Because yes, surprisingly, there is more. Once you do get to the ‘more’ part, MS Word will start to seem like a living, thinking thing that does illogical things just to annoy you. This sense of working with a living, thinking thing will not deter you from insulting it frequently with all kinds of profanities, however, and you will feel no guilt in doing so.
  4. If you’re a first time self-publisher and have no experience in publishing, well, anything, you’ll inevitably have to refer to other (more traditionally published) novels to figure out what yours should look like. This is useful, and you should do it. Pick one book you like the look of and use it as a point of reference. Preferably something from your genre. After all, you don’t want your crime-thriller looking like erotic fiction (though if it’s all about tension anyway, what’s really the difference?).
  5. Referring back to point (3). You will format, you will think you are done, and then you will notice something that isn’t as it should be. For example, paragraphs breaking on the next page, thus giving you uneven line-to-page frequency. (Tip: if you have this problem, uncheck window/orphan control in format/paragraph for the whole document to fill your pages completely with lots of lovely prose). There will be other things, but at least you will feel accomplished when you fix them.
  6. Even if you do the above and check off window/orphan control, if you have inserted chapter dividers that look fancy, this will knock off your layout on your lovely new-chapter pages. Still trying to figure out how to fix that one without simply changing the font size of the empty line above said fancy chapter dividers (because, somehow, that seems crude).
  7. Headers and footers are important – format them well! Choose ‘different odd/even pages’ and make sure you mirror your margins through format/document. This does something else to make it look more bookish. From looking at various books I have determined that authors usually have their name on the even page and the title of the book on the odd page.
  8. Inserting Section Breaks is an absolute nightmare. Seriously, first you figure out that you’re supposed to inset a Section Break relative to whether it’s an odd page or an even page, then you figure out how to get the page numbers to start at ‘1’ on the fourth actual page, and then you realise through exporting to PDF that each new Section Break has skipped a page number and thus created a ‘phantom page’ with nothing on it before every chapter in your document. Huzzah.
  9. Confident in all the abilities you have learned (as listed above), you calmly go through the document to rectify the problem, only to have one Section Break change reset all the others into a paradoxical chaos of wrong numbers and jumps and gaps where your book is suddenly longer or shorter than it actually is (but not really, hence the number-paradox).
  10. You fix the above (9) without screwing everything else up. But you’re still editing or there’s a few things left to change. You now wish you had finished the final draft before even attempting formatting, because you’re terrified the slightest change might destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Who knows? Maybe a paragraph more or less will confuse everything and you’ll be stuck undoing everything you’ve done in order to redo it properly. Let’s hope not.