This week we’re looking back at the first year in the life of the indie published book Immortal.  You should probably read it.

I’m not proud

Immortal was scheduled to debut on 10-1-10, and I’d love to say things went smoothly, and everything worked out okay, and I was cool about it all.

But…

There was Amazon.  The publisher’s initial plan was to use Amazon’s “fulfillment” plan which resulted in this spectacular blog entry in which I attempted to convince my readers to wish-list the book due to the impossibility of pre-purchasing anything in the fulfillment program.

I then convinced the publisher to use Amazon Advantage instead so the book looked like every other book on the retailer site.  (The fulfillment listing looked like it might if one were buying a used pair of off-brand shoes from a “retailer” that lives in an “apartment.”)  But switching didn’t exactly happen immediately, resulting in this panicked blog entry wherein I tried to cover for the possibility that the book would not actually be available on the much-publicized release date.

And then came the release date… and the book was available.

These are not, needless to say, exemplars of posterity.

And that was only for the print version

After a nice launch party (for which I neglected to take any pictures, because I’m smart like that) and a press release it was time to sit back and watch the sales figures go up…

…and answer awkward questions about where the ebook version was.

OK, I know this was only a year ago, but I’m not that bright.  I didn’t realize how important ebooks were to the current publishing model, and neither did my “this is only our second book” publisher.

It took another writer (the very nice Lorna Suzuki) to ask, “Gene, why don’t you just use Smashwords?”, which prompted me to ask my publisher, “Why don’t we just use Smashwords?” and then there I was formatting an ebook myself.  This was a process that required multiple revisitations, considerable anguish, and not an inconsiderable amount of weeping.  But it got done.  And thanks to Smashwords, it’s available not just on the Kindle, but in all the other formats you can name, and a few you’ve never heard of: Nook, iBooks, Sony, Kobo, Diesel.

Next week: More reviews roll in, we discuss whether Adam is an asshole, whether the book is structurally sound, and whether you’ve bought your copy yet.

EBook empire expands

I was greeted this new year by the discovery that Immortal is officially available directly from iBooks.  Or rather “…directly from iBooks!!!” because that IS exciting news.  (Forgive me; I’m fighting the flu right now.  The plus side is, I can manage deadpan humor without trying AT ALL, but the downside is I may die soon.)

I discovered the availability after checking out my own name in the iBooks application on my cell phone, as one does, and getting a result.  I even peeked at a free sample, and let me just say that it looks great.  It really does.  Speaking as the person who formatted the thing, I didn’t expect it to turn out as well as it did.

Since iBooks is an app-based program there is no Internet destination one can visit to purchase it, but you can look at the teaser page for the iBook listing here.

Ebook challenges part two

Yesterday I dove back into the Ebook fray for two reasons: Immortal was still not set up on the Kindle; and we’d gotten back feedback from Smashwords on the ebook version we’d uploaded that required addressing.

As you know, I had issues reformatting Immortal to accommodate the Smashwords Style Guide, but the outcome was supposed to produce something that could be uploaded to both Amazon and Smashwords as-was.  It nearly turned out that way.

Kindle folderol

The problem with the Kindle availability was that each time the file I sent to the publisher was uploaded to Amazon, the resulting file still looked like hell.  After fiddling with this for a while, the publisher sent me the link and suggested I try it.  When I did, it looked considerably better.  Possible explanation: my file, which was emailed and then opened in another version of Word before being uploaded, had been altered by the program, which thought it was helping.

One of the first things one has to do before reformatting a document for epublishing is turn off all of the things in MS Word that are there to “help” you.  Auto-formatting, for instance.

But it still looked kind of crappy.  So I spent a good hour making adjustments to my Word file, uploading it to see what it looked like on Amazon, then making additional adjustments, and so on.  When I was happy, I finished the publishing process.

And: it is available now, directly from Amazon.

Shmashing

The Smashwords problem was much, much dumber.  In the style guide, it is “recommended” that specific language be included in the copyright information.  This “recommended” text is not “required” but “MIGHT” make it more difficult for the manuscript to be approved for their premium catalog.  

I didn’t include it.  And the premium catalog is what releases the book to all of the third party retailers, like Apple and Barnes & Noble.

So I had to fix that and send it back through their conversion meatgrinder, and wait for all of the War & Peace sized novels ahead of it in line to get done.  It’s available– again? Still?– from Smashwords.  And hopefully by the end of the month in a whole lot of other places.

The lesson. Don’t fuck with the Smashwords Style Guide or their abuse of the word “recommended.”

The important news first

You can now purchase Immortal as an eBook in any format your heart desires thanks to the folks over at Smashwords.  Go there now to buy your copy: Immortal eBook.

EBook formatting is hell

The book was actually “available” on Kindle at the beginning of November, for about half a day.  What happened was, the publisher opened up the Amazon account, read the documentation, and foolishly assumed that the assurances Amazon posted about the quality of the product after conversion were modestly accurate.  And of course it isn’t.

At the very moment I heard it was available on the Kindle I happened to be near son Tim.  It was his birthday and I was driving him to Rhode Island to get a tattoo.  No, I did not make that up.  Tim has an iPad with a Kindle app, so while on the road I had him download a copy of the book and take a look at it.

It looked awful.  All of the headers and the footers were mashed into the text, the page numbers– which shouldn’t have been there– were mashed in with them, the title pages ran together with the chapters, which were in a funky upper-case-lower-case stew.

So, from the lobby of a tattoo parlor in another state, I emailed, texted, voice-mailed and carrier-pigeoned a message back to the publisher: “take the book down, before someone gets hurt.”

Smashwords

We looked into hiring someone to format it for us, but then there was the question of how to format it for other devices, and after lengthy back-and-forthing the question was posed to me by some Twitter friends, “why aren’t you using Smashwords?”

Why not indeed?  So an account was opened, and everything was right in the world.

Except the book still had to be formatted.

Hard returns and section breaks and bears. Oh my.

The absolute final proof version of Immortal was in PDF.  Here are the steps I had to take to get that file into something an ebook reader wouldn’t spit out distastefully:

1: Convert the pdf file to a doc file using one of the approximately twenty free sites online that do just this function.  They probably keep everything they convert on some file somewhere for a secret government plan, but whatever;

2: Look at the Smashwords Style Guide.  Look at the doc file.  Look at the style guide.  Look at the doc file.  Cry.

3: The converted file has frames and page breaks and sections breaks.  I do what the style guide says I have to do to get rid of the frames, but the breaks cannot be deleted.  I look at five pages of google search results on “how to remove breaks in MS Word”.  None of the suggestions work.

4: I choose the “nuclear option” from the style guide which means I convert the doc file to an rtf file and then back to a doc file again.  This works: the breaks are gone.  However, so is all the italicization and bold-face, nothing that should be centered is centered, and every single line of text has a hard return symbol at the end of it.

5: Cry.

6: Go through the entire document line-by-line, adding space where it needs to be added, deleting the hard returns for every line ending that isn’t a paragraph break, deleting the manual indents, adding italics and boldface and centering what needs to be centered.

7: Curse my Word program for crashing regularly while I’m formatting.

8: Cry some more.  Formatting takes five days and all of the time I would otherwise have spent polishing up Hellenic Immortal.

9: Once it’s done, email it to the publisher to be sent to Amazon and Smashwords.  I cannot check to see if the formatting looks good because to do so I have to download MobiPocket Creator and MobiPocket Reader, neither of which are available on a Mac.

10: Pray that the eBook look okay.

And?

It looks okay.  I expect tweaks will be uploaded periodically– for instance right now the legal text says the book was “printed in the United States” which is an unnecessary line for an ebook to have– but the downloadable manuscript is basically all set.  The Kindle version from Smashwords, incidentally, might be better looking than the one that will soon be available on Amazon.  I eventually used daughter Becky‘s PC while she was home for Thanksgiving to test the doc file in MobiPocket, and while the result was perfectly readable, it was missing some of the spacing between sections that make it a slightly easier read.  Those spaces are intact in the Smashwords copy.

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