Category Archives: blog

WD Do-It-Yourself Publishing*

“Self-publishing is the kiss of death. (And you’ll go to hell, too. God HATES self-publishers.)”

So come see me at the Writer’s Digest conference, on the Do-It-Yourself Publishing panel, which is chock-full of super-awesome self-publishing types who are also going to hell.

When: January 22, 2011, 11:45 a.m.
Where: Sheraton Hotel & Towers, NYC

(Conference runs January 21 through 23.)

And who cares if I go to hell? I hear it has snowed…

*cross-posted on my alter ego’s blog.

Tools of my trade

Many people in BookVille probably know I work in MS Word 2000. After all, book designer Joel Friedlander did a whole post on how I make Word sit, fetch, roll over, and beg when I design print books. You may laugh, but I’m a born DIYer. I will find a way around a problem, and you won’t be able to tell I took the scenic route.

Thus, MS Word 2000 is my starting point for everything, from manuscript to digitization to print design.

A note: If I’m doing a manuscript-to-print job, my workflow process is digital first, then print design. It’s far more efficient.

My gimmick (for lack of a better term) is that I do all this by hand. That’s what a lot of people like to know, that I’m not just feeding their stuff into a program and giving them whatever comes out.

So here are the tools I use:

1. MS Word 2000
2. EditPlus 3
3. ActiveWords
4. MobiPocket Creator
5. Sigil

Note the absence of Adobe. I do use Adobe products, but not until print and/or graphics enter the picture, in which case:

1. Photoshop
2. Illustrator
3. Acrobat

There have been some changes to my system and there will be more as better tools come along, if they do.

I used to use Atlantis Word Processor to create an EPUB file, but I haven’t done that since I found Sigil. I do still love Atlantis, but the feature I bought it for is really inadequate for files people pay me to create. (Or it could just be that I’m too much of a control freak to not tinker with whatever’s under the hood.)

I am always streamlining my process, writing macros, building templates. Yes, I do it by hand, but there’s a lot of stuff I only need to do by hand ONCE. To that end, I’m learning AutoHotKey. Right now, I use ActiveWords for some macro functions, but I’m not sure that’s the best tool I could be using.

Now. How and why I use them is fodder for a manual…

A rose by any other name

This is from my alter-ego’s blog, originally posted December 29, 2008, nearly two years ago. I’ve since addressed the annotations, tables of content, indices, foot/endnotes on this particular blog, but my thoughts then are part of the original post so I didn’t delete them.


There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the definition of a “book,” or more specifically, the proper formatting of an e-book, and the definition of a “page” and its importance in the New eWorld Order.

I’m here to tell you: Unless it’s on paper or in PDF, they ain’t no such thing as a page.

I’ll admit that it took me a while to get used to reading on my eBookWise. Between the whacked-out spacing and the left justification and the lack of paragraph indents, it looked…sloppy. Inferior. But I stuck with it and realized that each book is formatted differently; some are prettier and easier to read than others, but mostly not. I did, however, have problems even with the “prettiest” of the formatting. I was able to adjust my expectations of the presentation once I realized it was a function of the DEVICE and that the DEVICE was not a print book. The print book and the e-book simply have nothing in common except the words they contain: not headers, not footers, not design, not formatting, not…page numbers.

To use the “page” as common ground, each user must have the same edition of a paper book and/or the same edition of the PDF file, but that’s a fairly easy task to accomplish.

In any other format, however, it’s nearly impossible without each user having the same device, the same font settings (i.e., large or small), the same page view settings. Gentlemen, let’s synchronize our devices. Taking the probability of that into account, then, the concept of the “page” vanishes.

The latest argument I have seen for the need for strict pagination in e-books to approximate or duplicate that of a print book is for reference books and the uses of academia viz. for annotation and bibliography, tables of contents and indices, footnotes and end notes. What this demonstrates to me is ignorance or lack of vision or an inability to understand the vast differences in the format, and the capabilities and limitations of each.

ANNOTATION and BIBLIOGRAPHY

quadWhen your bishop or your preacher or your pastor or your minister or other Protestant-type ecclesiastical leader gets up and wants everybody to flip open their Bibles, does s/he say, “Please turn to page 1436 in your Bible”? No. He says, “Romans chapter 15.” (Cause that’s where mine is. In the King James Version. What if you prefer to use a different version? No problem! Romans chapter 15 is still where it’s supposed to be, which is between Romans 14 and Romans 16.)

When your English lit professor or your director or your acting coach directs you to a certain passage in a Shakespearean play, does he say, “Please turn to Hamlet, page 783”? No. (Well, first of all, he’s OBVIOUSLY working from an anthology if it has 783 pages to begin with.) He says, “Please turn to Act 2, Scene 2, Line 35.” So what this means is I was smart and brought my little bitty Hamlet and everybody else was stupid and brought their big fat anthologies. And it makes no difference whatsoever.

The two print books, Bible and Shakespearean anthology, have page numbers. But they aren’t referred to or necessary for annotation or bibliography. In fact, the only thing they’re used for is within the book itself to create tables of contents and indices. So let’s talk about that.

TABLES OF CONTENTS, INDICES, and FOOT/END NOTES

There’s only one thing a table of contents and/or index is good for: To find your place in the book. Thing is, in a print book, that’s the only way you can find anything…maybe kinda sorta quickly.

In an e-book, the tables of contents and indices have completely different purposes. In fact, an index isn’t even necessary in an e-book, although I would argue that a table of contents is. However, their function and mechanism of use are entirely different from that of a print book.

1. It’s called a hyperlink.

Now, don’t be scared. I’m sure you’ve seen them before here and elsewhere on the interwebz. You put your cursor over it and click and boom…you’re somewhere else on the interwebz. Cool, huh?

You can do that in an ebook, too.

A list of hyperlinks in the beginning of the e-book serves the same function as the table of contents serves in a print book. A print book has page numbers after the chapter name. An e-book has a hyperlink you touch with your stylus and boom, you’re there, same as it works on the interwebz. No page numbers? No problem! Not necessary at all.

But hyperlinks are good within the text, too. If a word is hyperlinked, you touch it with your stylus and it takes you to further reading. They used to be called “footnotes” and “end notes.” Don’t need those anymore, either. Oh, they’re still footnotes and end notes, but they have no precise structure because it’s not necessary. The device will take you where you need to go.

2. It’s called the “find” function.

You can’t do this in a print book. There is no CTRL-F. There is no “Find.” You go to the table of contents and/or the index and if you’re lucky, that book had an excellent indexer. If you’re not, well, good luck to you then. I’m going out to get some Chinese while you look for that reference. Want anything?

Is there an e-reading device that doesn’t have a “find” function? If there is, smash it and get something else, ’cause there is no point to an e-reading device without a “find” function. Because why? Because there are no page numbers.

If the argument (with regard to reference material) is that e-reference books can’t be annotated or bibliographed or referenced, there’s a simple way around that. Organize the book in some other fashion, a la the Bible or Shakespeare. It’s been done. The system’s only been around for a few hundred years now. If it ain’t on paper, it ain’t got pages.

And if it’s inevitable, just lay back and enjoy it.

epub: Verb or noun?

Come out of your cocoon, Digital Publishing Community: The people who are paying for digital formatting largely do not know that EPUB is a file format. To them, epub is a verb, as in, “to epub,” as in “to publish electronically.”

As far as I’m concerned, the people who are paying for the service can call it whatever they want, and usually I can tell from context what they mean. But when I can’t…that’s where things get tricky. The conversation goes like this:

“I’d like you to format an epub file for me.”

*Me trying to figure out if they already have publisher accounts set up with Apple and Kobo, etc.* Do you mean you want me to make an EPUB file for you?”

“Yes. That’s what I said.”

“All right. That’ll be $xxx due on mm/dd/yyyy.”

“Can I upload that to Smashwords?”

O_o “Erm, no. You’d need a Word document for that.”

“Can I upload it to Kindle?”

“No. You’d need a PRC file for that.”

“Okay, whatever. I just want to epub.”

To the large portion of writers, freelance book designers, and other print-oriented people, epub is a verb. TO EPUB. HAVE EPUBBED. WILL EPUB. Conjugate at will. They have no idea what an EPUB file is or what it’s used for.

And they don’t care.

 

 

Pick any two

Good.

Fast.

Cheap.

Sometimes I sit on my email for a day or two. Or a week. I have to. I’m a one-chick shop and I have business-type work to take care of (what my dad called “housekeeping”), my own writing (cuz, you know, I R one), B10′s projects (or attempted projects), keeping up with ebook news and social media, occasional illness (seasonal sinus infection anyone?), and several formatting clients whose projects are going at any given time—and the projects for people who have already paid me to do the work come first.

Always.

Always.

People who’ve already paid come first.

ALWAYS.

That said, occasionally, I get an email that says, “Ya snooze, ya lose” when I don’t answer quickly enough. In fact, that’s exactly what one email said. And added that they found someone cheaper and faster.

Great. I don’t blame them.

But.

The guy who said “ya snooze, ya lose” came back to me three weeks later to do his work because he was so unhappy with the result. (And sometimes they end up paying a rush surcharge.)

That happens a lot. Relatively. I would do the same for them.

Here’s the thing. Everybody wants fast, cheap, and good.

Can’t have it. At least, not from me. Pick any two.

Digital nonfiction and textbooks

Three things:

1. Indices
2. Endnotes
3. Citation-ability

INDICES

If you go to the trouble to hire an indexer (quality notwithstanding) for your book, don’t bail on paying the formatter to link it up for you. An index in an ebook is worthless without page numbers, so either take it out or link it.

There is the option for the ebook reader to use the FIND function to find what he’s looking for, but really… This is not an enhancement. This should be standard operating procedure.

Keep the index. Link it.

*

ENDNOTES

I know there is some distinction between a footnote and an endnote besides their placement. I don’t really care. I find them all distracting from the content. They’re necessary, though, so I whip my ADD back into the corner and carry on.

In ebooks, however, that distinction becomes worthless because there are no pages to which to add footnotes. There is no problem with annotating a book as long as you realize that it will all go at the end. In an ebook, footnotes become endnotes by default because there is no reason for them to be at the bottom of the “page” anymore. All you have to do is create reciprocal links.

*

CITATION

I’ve heard people talk about digital reference/textbooks as difficult to cite. Well, okay, I can see that right now, they might be. What’s required here is a sea change in the way nonfiction/reference/textbooks are structured. The beauty of this is that in adapting for digital, it serves print just as well or better than the old citation protocols.

I will keep saying this until somebody gets it: The solution is as close as your nearest Bible and/or copy of Hamlet, viz:

Solomon 1:2: O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth, For your love is better than wine.

It doesn’t matter what volume, translation, edition of either text you cite, the reader (at least, the one who bothers to check your citations) will be able to pick a copy of the text and find the source material.  No page numbers necessary.

Act II, scene 2, line 203: Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.

My point?

Stop thinking about what’s always been done. Think about the strengths of the format and how to exploit them.

Front and back matter in ebooks

Lately I’ve come to the conclusion that while front matter in print books has a set protocol and exists for a reason, in ebooks it’s essentially wasted space when it’s, you know, in the front. With various preview options at Kindle and Smashwords, it’s very likely that most of a potential purchaser’s preview is taken up by front matter. It’s useless at best, annoying at worst, and most likely will result in a lost sale.

Add to that my perennial complaint about ebooks, which is to say, there most often is no back-cover copy in the file to remind you why you bought it, and I’ve given a lot of thought to what should be front matter in an ebook:

1. Cover
2. Title page
3. Back-cover copy/synopsis/blurb

3a. Genre classification should be unobtrusively inserted somewhere on the title page or after the back-cover copy.

4. Dedication (if there is one)
5. Table of Contents
6. Text

That’s it. What can go in the back (though not necessarily in this order):

1. Extra material (i.e., stuff you wouldn’t get in the print book but might be interesting to the reader)
2. Acknowledgments
3. Author notes
4. Copyright page
5. Endorsements (especially the ones that take up a ton of digital real estate)
6. Author bio
7. The regular slate of other back-matter content

I really see no reason for all this stuff to be in the front anymore. As a spoilt ebook brat who barely deigns to look at print anymore, I am beginning to loathe all the clicks it takes to get to the good stuff, especially when some crucial bits of information (the back-cover copy) is completely missing.

I get the sense that many, many people who create ebooks and people who want their work in ebooks don’t actually read ebooks to any great extent, if at all, and that’s unfortunate. I come to these conclusions as a reader, not as a formatter.

This ain’t print, people, and ebooks aren’t going to be able to wear print’s hand-me-downs.

Let’s define “enhanced” ebooks.

I saw a tweet earlier today that I wanted to respond to, but I was in a doctor’s office attempting to ignore the flashing red light on my BlackBerry:

I like the way @MatthewDiener put “enhancements” in quotes, because this is one of my pet peeves: Dynamic tables of contents, linked notes and bibliographies, linked indices are not enhancements. They should be standard operating procedure. (They are in my workflow process, at any rate.) Remember: the end user is the reader, not the distributor. (I’ll talk about chapter-and-versing in a later post.)

But of course, he’s right because apparently, we can’t even get ebooks without huge gaps between the paragraphs, indented paragraphs, curly quotes, and error-free text. So let’s work on that first, shall we?

Why print will never die

People have called me a print hater because of my Perfect Bookstore/Bookstore of the Future posts.

I don’t hate print.

Print will change. It will evolve. It will not (nor should it) die. Wanna know why print will not die?

That’s the inside. All of it’s done that way, as in, the entire series. What’s better is that book 5 is a workbook-type of thing that encourages the reader to write in it, draw his or her own comics, and generally interact with the characters of Wimpy Kid in a way most children’s/middle-grade books don’t.

There is no way I would have bought this series in digital format.

See, I like paper. I like pretty paper. I like deckle edges and the feel and *gasp* the smell of paper. I like it when a publisher has gone to a lot of trouble to make the book itself an object of art. I want to pet those books and put them on display. I like to buy my favorite authors in hardback (heavily discounted). I like to collect pretty books and display my favorites.

Print will not die.

But brick-and-mortar bookstores in their current incarnation will. There will spring up a new sort of brick-and-mortar bookstore (maybe not even close to the one I think about constantly) that will deal in niche print books, the stuff that can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t be digitized.

Print will not die.

It will become the good china you use for Thanksgiving and the gorgeous cocktail dress you wear to those really important mixers.

As it should.