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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.