Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Self-Editing: Using Your Brain (My First E-Book)

I have published my first e-book: SELF-EDITING: Bringing Out Your Best (Two Half Brains Make a Whole Writer). It’s at Smashwords for $0.99 (free until the end of September, using coupon code HF63Y).

Summary: "For writers in all genres, tips and tricks for (partially) computer-aided editing and for invoking the critical faculties of your logical left brain at just the right time. We’ll use the Find feature to locate predictable problems: 'ly' adverbs, overuse of commas, qualifiers that leech the life from writing. Then on to meatier matters of self-editing: eliminating wordiness, changing passive voice to active, when to show and how best to tell (with specifics, not generalities), subtlety, pacing, etc. Drawn from the presenter’s years of experience in newspaper, magazine, and book writing and editing, this e-book offers nuts-and-bolts advice on fixing common errors."

AN EDUCATION IN E-PUBLISHING

From this venture into e-publishing, I’ve learned several things:

It’s really difficult to control the look of an e-book. On my NOOK (in .epub format) my Self-Editing book looks great. All the block quotes and examples are properly indented and set off from the body of the text, and they are in the same size type as for the body, and thus they’re easy to read.

But when the book is viewed in a Web browser (in HTML) the block quotes are rendered in tiny type that’s almost impossible to read.

I can’t control the format that people choose to view, but I can recommend an e-book reader that gives digital books (.epub) a more pleasing configuration:

Adobe Digital Editions (http://www.adobe.com/products/digitaleditions/) is free, it’s easy to use, and it faithfully preserves an e-book’s original formatting (including any clickable, embedded hyperlinks).

ONE DOWN, MORE TO GO

Cover art copyright (c) 2011 by David R. Davis
I hope I sell some copies of my new e-book, but my primary purpose is to get experience with the Smashwords.com publishing interface so I’ll feel confident about publishing FOUR STAR FUNERALS, an anthology written by the members of my critique group. They are counting on me to get it right, and I’m finding that this e-publishing business can be simple (when you’re publishing your own work) but complicated when you’re acting as the publisher for other writers.

Smashwords offers a wordy document that purports to explain the process of “upgrading” to Publisher status. What it says about “ghost” accounts baffles me.

It also warns me: “DO NOT upgrade your account to Publisher status unless you plan to immediately publish two or more authors on Smashwords.”

Well, darn. That means I don’t get to practice it before I actually do it.

I shall persevere, however. This isn’t rocket science.

For now, I must settle down with the manuscript of FOUR STAR FUNERALS and reread my contributions to the anthology. It’s always best to proofread before publishing.

THANKS TO DAVID R. DAVIS

My thanks to David Davis for both covers: my SELF-EDITING book, and our collective FOUR STAR FUNERALS. I have no idea how to create e-book covers. I’m lucky to be able to call on David’s artistic talents.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Publishing: Me, My Team, and DIY

Today marks the one-month anniversary of me engaging the services of the Accurance Group to do interior formatting, cover design, POD paperback setup and distribution, and e-book conversion and distribution, for my WATERSPELL fantasy trilogy.

What have we accomplished since August 15?
  • All three covers are done (see them in the column at right). I’m very pleased with the covers, and I continue to get compliments on them.
  • I’ve seen and proofread (well, actually, my husband proofread) galley proofs of WATERSPELL Book 1: The Warlock (384 pages), and Book 2: The Wysard (440 pages).
A GLITCH IN THE GET-ALONG

The first run of galley proofs looked good except they were missing all the front matter (copyright page, dedication page, Contents, and epigraph). I took the opportunity, via Accurance’s “Galley Edits & Corrections Sheet,” to point out the oversights.

They did an excellent job then, incorporating the front matter in the second run of galleys. So when I sent them my final tweaks—a few minor refinements to the front matter and the “About the Author” page at the back of the book—I expected “my team” to whip out those changes in no time, and give me a finished set of error-free galleys, in PDF form.

But oops! They apparently entrusted my final tweaks to a newbie on their text-formatting team. The newbie had the temerity (or the poor judgment) to make changes where I had not indicated or authorized any. The most serious transgression was the newbie’s unilateral decision to drop the blank book-page that separated the Prologue (page 1) from the first page of Chapter 1. The dropping of the blank page (page 2) caused all of the pages from there to the end to be mis-numbered—out of sync with the page numbers on the Contents page.

Even sillier, the newbie added a page header to the top of the Prologue and on the first page of Chapter 1. She or he should know enough about book design to know that a chapter's opening page carries no running head.

So instead of having, in my possession, a finished set of error-free galleys for Book 1, I’ve sent back a third “Galley Edits & Corrections Sheet.” I’m hoping the production department will assign my original text-formatting team-member, and not allow the newbie to get anywhere near my books.

WORRIES ABOUT UNAUTHORIZED CHANGES TO THE TEXT

The only reason I’m blogging about this (relatively minor) snafu is that it makes me wonder: If changes like those I just described can be made in my book, without my authorization or permission, is there a possibility of more serious errors being introduced on pages that I have already proofread and approved?

The prospect makes my veins run ice. It is not physically or mentally possible to personally proofread every new output of 400-page galley proofs, looking for errors that creep in while my back is turned.

However, I believe I see a solution. When I finally receive a finished set of galley proofs, I can copy-and-paste the text from those PDFs into a new Microsoft Word document. I can then Compare Documents, comparing my original book file against Accurance’s text-formatting output, to assure myself that no creepy errors slipped in, between rounds of galley-edits.


When I first engaged the services of the Accurance Group, I committed myself to blog about the experience—the good, the great, the frustrating, or whatever I may yet encounter. My purpose in chronicling the entire process is to allow you, my fellow independent authors, to decide for yourself if you want to hire some help with your publishing ventures, or you want to do it all yourself.

If you decide to go solo, an excellent quick-start guide is Tricks, Tactics, and Techniques from Published Authors: Thoughts on Traditional vs. E-book Publishing, a brand-new e-book by my very well-published friends Jan Peck and David Davis.

Tricks includes information on and links to the major digital publishing services: Smashwords, Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, Lulu, and Barnes & Noble PubIt.

(Lightning Source is not mentioned, but it’s the POD service I plan to use. I’ll report on it when I’ve got firsthand experience with LSI.)

Tricks also includes fascinating facts about the current state of the publishing world, with information about traditional publishing, and when and why you might want to consider going that route.

The book will save you days—possibly weeks—of searching the Web for information on your publishing options. I recommend it highly, as a quick but comprehensive overview of what’s out there for writers who are ready to take matters into their own hands.

For me, I knew that between updating my various websites, taking on various (paying) freelance-writing assignments, finishing WATERSPELL Book 3: The Wisewoman (which I plan to release next spring)—and maybe even taking a few days of vacation this fall, for a rest-break that I believe I’ve earned—I would not have time to properly e-publish WATERSPELL in strict DIY fashion.

And so I hired the Accurance Group. So far, I’m glad I did. Despite the occasional glitch, they are saving me loads of time and effort.

Stay tuned: My e-publishing adventure will continue.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

TASK 1: The Covers Are Finished


Last Friday, I gave Kharl and the Accurance design team my official OK on the covers for the three books of WATERSPELL. I wanted clean, uncluttered designs that would look good as thumbnails, since thumbnail-size is nearly the only way most readers ever see the covers for e-books. Fortunately, these deep-blue covers are also striking when printed full size, 6x9, which is how big the printed books will be.

It’s been fun getting comments from my fellow writers. With one exception (a person who labeled the covers “boring”—she is not, I suspect, a regular reader of fantasy), all the comments have been highly complimentary:
  • “They’re beautiful!”
  • “This [cover] really piques my curiosity. I want to buy the book to learn more.”
  • “The covers are breathtaking. I’d be honored to have a book that looked so beautiful. If this were on a bookshelf, it would be gorgeous to see! But even on screen, it’s eye popping!”
  • “Looks wonderful, so inviting. The covers are great ... who did them? I just love them.”
TASK 2: Proofing the Galleys Goes On

I have received the first run of galley proofs for WATERSPELL Book 2: The Wysard. They look good, except they’re missing the copyright page, dedication, Contents page, and epigraph that I supplied in a separate file. For Book 3: The Wisewoman (which will be released next spring) I will be sure to put ALL of the pieces into a single file.

I’m still waiting on the second run of galley proofs for Book 1: The Warlock. The changes to the text were very minor. What’s holding up progress, I suspect, are the pages of front matter (copyright, dedication, contents, epigraph) that I asked Accurance to include in the second run of proofs. Inserting those pages will change the pagination throughout the 375-page book.

LOOKING AHEAD TO E-BOOKS

I finally got around to reading Accurance’s lengthy document about their process for converting the book from PDF (which is used for the print-on-demand/POD version) into all of the various formats that work with the various e-readers that are now on the market. And wow! The process takes much longer than I expected. To quote:
[O]ne should expect that in the first phase where the publisher/eBook store accounts are being established, it will average 90 days from the date of completed/approved eBook versions of a title to being on an eBook store website and available for sale. Once the accounts are established, the average from completed/approved to ‘available for purchase’ will be closer to 30 days. Both of these are averages, though: There will be those significantly faster and those significantly slower.
I’m hoping that WATERSPELL will fall into the “significantly faster” category. In any case, I’ve changed the projected release date, for the e-books, to December 2011, while keeping my hoped-for date of October 2011 for the release of the paperback edition.

UPDATING MY ONLINE PRESENCE

My oldest website, the one I created years ago as my first attempt at getting an online presence for myself and my novels, had languished untouched since October 2009. When I got a new, fresh, uncluttered site through the Authors Guild, I thought I might should dismantle my old—and oldish-looking—site.

But no! I cannot do that. When I googled “WATERSPELL,” my old site popped up as No. 3 in the search results. Though I had almost abandoned the site, other people had obviously found enough of value in it to link to it and keep it alive in the search engines.

So I spent the entire day yesterday updating the site’s major pages: Home, Excerpts, Readers’ Comments, Author Interview, Words & Treasures. The other, more minor pages will have to wait.

While rereading the Author Interview, I was struck by something I wrote, so many years ago that I’d forgotten ever writing it:
When I started reading the early Irish legends and Celtic myths, I was looking mainly for “the telling detail”—authentic figures of speech, colorful descriptive terms, gritty background textures. But as I read, I noticed that aspects of the mythology had their counterparts in this fantasy I was writing. Or vice versa. For instance, water often has mystical qualities in the legends—Irish rivers like the Boyne were held sacred. It’s pretty obvious from the series title—WATERSPELL—that water has magical properties in my story, too. The traditions tell of quests, leading into the Otherworld and back. “Other worlds” figure prominently in WATERSPELL—the premise [is] that what’s harmless in one world or reality may prove deadly if it arrives, whether innocently or by skullduggery, where it doesn’t belong. Also central to my work is the heroic quest, undertaken to gain information or wisdom, to bring healing, or to find or restore lost objects.
I was deep into researching-and-writing mode when I wrote that. For quite a while now, I’ve been too focused on the nuts-and-bolts of publication to reflect back on the fun and excitement of discovery—all that I learned while crafting this tale.

I’m glad now that I didn’t permanently abandon my oldest WATERSPELL website. It holds the history of my research, my original intentions for this trilogy, and all the treasures I collected along the way. A lot of it is actually pretty interesting to read—which is why it still ranks high with Google, I suppose, even after my two years of benign neglect.