1. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Watch Yourself with Small Presses--Yours or Theirs

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Edward G, Feb 2, 2011.

    I realize I’ve harped on this before, but now that I am starting to review books, I feel I have to mention it again, especially to those who may be publishing their own works:

    You must format for Kindle correctly.

    This is not just a self-publishing problem; it’s your problem if you are going with a small press as well, because they aren’t formatting for Kindle correctly either--not in my experience so far.

    What happens is whenever anyone downloads a sample of your book, and it’s formatted poorly, they will not buy it nor will they read it. The publishing quality of your book is as important as the writing and editing of it.

    At first, I couldn’t understand why any publisher would just upload their Word file into Kindle and expect it to come out right. But then I read something: a lot of small publishers don’t care.

    They acquire a book—typically any book anyone writes. They give it some cover art, and they publish it as is. They don’t care about making money from the book. They aren’t going to try to sell it. Their game is to sell copies back to the author at inflated prices. And let's face it, if you publish a novel, you're going to want a hundred copies of your own to give away or try to market with--or send to reviewers, and the know it. So what do they care if the Kindle version is jacked? They’re selling $30 POD paperbacks back to the author.

    And the author has no control over the publication once they sign over the rights to the publisher.

    My advice? Buy some books from the publisher before you sign your rights away. If the Kindle version is formatted poorly there is one indisputable fact you have to face: that publisher doesn’t care about selling your book.

    Sometimes I wonder if a straight up vanity or subsidy publisher isn't the way to go. Better to pay them and know what you're getting. Your family and friends are never going to know one publisher from another anyway.
     
  2. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    I've seen comments regarding Nook too, about professional books that were badly done. I don't think it was just vanity presses, but major works too.

    BTW, the Nook uses the open standard ePub format, which is basically the same as a web page. It's far better than the format Kindle uses. I tweak the formatting myself just by editing the css file.
     
  3. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Don't this is quite what you mean, but, in UK at least, there are several publishers who will invite you to submit work, usually poems, to be published in an anthology. You then have the privilege of buying the book for about £15. It usually contains one, or max. 2 of your poems.

    That's o.k. It's your choice. My argument with them is that all they are interested in is cramming as many poems in as they can. They don't care about the formatting or the overall look of the book.

    There is no editing, proof-reading or element of design.


    The latest thing is to approach schools in a small area, ask for submissions from children, who usually do them as a part of their English classes, cram three or four school's worth of poems in one book, badly formatted etc. and sell it to parents, grandparents etc.
     
  4. Fiona
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    Fiona Member

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    I have purchased many kindle edition of books, and I notice there are problems with books from the larger and smaller publishers alike.

    I don't know why, but there are words misspelt or blank pages or embarrasing mistakes.... I have purchased some popular big-house published books and noticed the same though - so it's not always a small-house publishing problem.

    I remember someone telling me that a book from the publishers Penguin (I think it was Penguin?!) had lots of formatting issues when it was sold via Kindle on Amazon - mistakes that weren't on the paperback books but only Kindle.

    There are weird things happening, such as the letter 'c' appearing where 'd' should all through a book! Weird.

    I have no idea why it happens - and why it happens so often -but it is frustrating to see.
     
  5. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Where I work, three of us have e-readers. I have a Kindle and the other two have Nooks, but they seem jealous of my Kindle. Nevertheless, I need to get a Nook reader.

    I bought Kindle when it first came out. I now own a Kindle II. When it first came out it was expensive and I had two wait two months to get one. My wife now uses that one, and I use the Kindle II.

    Oh my God, that's just sad as hell, isn't it? We all want to be significant in this life, and nothing says "significant" better than a byline. But if the editing is absent and the formatting sucks, it's like celebrating your 18th birthday on a ten minute break from the assembly line. It's getting married in sweat clothes.

    Ok, that answers what I asked you in the PM (whether or not you own a Kindle) :)

    I don't know why, but there are words misspelt or blank pages or embarrasing mistakes.... I have purchased some popular big-house published books and noticed the same though - so it's not always a small-house publishing problem.

    Totally agreed. I came across several glaring punctuation errors in a Stephen King book I bought (Either Under the Dome or Full Dark, No Stars. I can't remember which).

    Not so weird when you are experienced with formatting for Kindle, which I am (I know that sounds arrogant, but I really am.). Here's the basic process:

    You write the book in Word, or something. You edit, revise, etc., to the very best it can be--maybe even hire an editor if the book means a lot to you.

    You convert it to HTML--but that's not the end of it.

    One MUST, MUST, MUST, clean up the HTML version, which is exactly like going through and doing another line edit. You have to get rid of stray code put in by the word processor so you have a "clean" HTML copy of the book (with all the page breaks where they need to be, all the JPGS where they need to be, the table of contents links and anchors where they need to be, etc.).

    Once you have a distilled HTML source document, you then have to create a .prc file using Mobipocket Creator (that software is free for download on line).

    With that .prc, you can now begin the process of making sure it looks right and works right on a Kindle (which means you have to own one). You can just upload it to your Kindle.

    Once all that is done, you can then upload the .prc to your bookshelf on the Digital Text Platform at Kindle (which Amazon has recently renamed, Kindle Direct Publishing). But you will also have to have created a TOC.NCX file so the toggle can scroll chapter to chapter on the Kindle II. This is all uploaded to KDP in a zipped file.

    Then after a few days, you have to buy a copy and make sure it's all working right.

    It can be quite complicated for the not-so-software-inclined. But the problems in formatting, I can tell, are caused by a poor line edit with the HTML. That and many books don't have their cover or table of contents done correctly. For some reason covers and TOCs seem to mystify those who prepare Kindle books--they shouldn't.

    All the information for formatting a Kindle book is available right there at Kindle Direct Publishing and in books put out on the subject over the last few years (available often times as Kindle books). Of course one could say the same thing about building a skyscraper I suppose.

    When a paper book is put out, the printers handle all the formatting and the publisher handles all the editing, and there's no HTML coding at all. Not to mention, books have been made for hundreds of years. In twenty years, there won't be bad Kindle books either.
     
  6. Fiona
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    Fiona Member

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    Thanks Edward for that really informative reply regarding formatting. I didn't realise so much work went into it! I agree with what you've said: in years to come there probably won't be such an issue. It will be an easier process - whether because the formatting will become easier OR people will learn how to do it well by experience.

    I find it frustrating to see mistakes pop up on Kindle, but because I know it's a very common issue at the moment - and not the author's fault - I stick with the book regardless.

    Bad writing might be a reason I pass up a book but I won't over formatting - even though I admit it bugs me a LOT!

    :)
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think like we anything doing the research is important - I have learned a lot from being in a chatroom setting with ladies that write romance - they have have been epublishing for 10 years some of them. I know exactly who I will be getting to format and edit my ebooks, I'll wait rather than rush into it.

    Like Edward says buy some books from the person you want doing it first and look at the romance publisher/epublishers they are old hands.
     
  8. Heather Munn
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    This is a timely warning and you make a lot of sense, but I'm a little taken aback to hear it being made about "small publishers" in general. I realize you didn't say all small publishers, but still.

    Isn't this about scam publishers? There are many actual, genuine small publishing houses that care a great deal about the books they publish. There are also many unscrupulous people doing exactly what you've described. One I've heard of a lot recently is PublishAmerica--your description fits them exactly.

    It seems to me that part of the message should be: do your research and find out if what you're looking at is a legitimate publisher or a predator. There are a lot of good resources out there listing who the scammers are--Preditors & Editors and Writer Beware are two good sites.
     
  9. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    When the Kindle started being advertised on Amazon, I learned that you had to send in stuff for them to convert for you and put on the device. I think that's finally been improved, and you can copy directly from your PC?

    They would not take any questions, such as how it supported non-Latin character sets. I got the idea later that it simply would not.

    The Nook is fully "open", and I can load my own apps. The ePub format is open and standards based. So, I don't have to worry about vendor lock-in or being orphaned.

    The platform is more powerful and general than the reader it came with: I was able to view Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and Korean text simply by specifying a suitable font in the style sheet. The embedded Linux it is based on includes a full set of Unicode fonts.

    When the Nook came out, the epaper was the best around. The very newest Kindle might be the same or better; I've not seen a newer comparison done.

    With ePub, it's simpler. ePub is just xhtml like a web page. Exporting from MS Word is half the problem I suppose, with stupid crazy codes being put in. OpenOffice is better. The clean-up can be automated using the DocBook support, or other xml processor to strip out all the crud and produce a minimal mark up showing just <p> for paragraphs and any bold or italic or whatever, and nothing else.

    Or, pasting from your word processor into Sigil would probably do the trick. Just ctrl-a and paste the whole thing!

    ePub doesn't have page breaks. The pages depend on your screen size and selected font! If you don't have slow-responding epaper, you don't even need pages, but can scroll continuously like a web page.

    Using Sigil or any text editor, you can edit the ePub directly and not worry about a magical conversion process messing things up or doing something odd for unknown reasons. You can just view it and directly change the trouble spots.
     
  10. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Excellent point! No doubt about it.

    That would save a lot of time.

    Same with .prc files, but you can put in page breaks to separate, for instance, the dedication page from the next page that follows, or the end of the table of contents from, say, chapter 1, or a page break at the end of chapters before starting the next one. These page breaks are essential to making a good looking presentation.


    I'm not sure what Sigil is, but what I do know is that in e-publishing, Kindle is the big dog, and even if you do it right for every other kind of format, you're going to have to do it right for Kindle, because that's how a lot of e-books are sold.

    When a Kindle book is formatted correctly, I honesty believe it is a superior reading experience to that of a paper book. Amazon has recently reported that they are now selling more e-books than paperbacks. The world is changing. Self-publishers must acquire the skills needed to format to Kindle correctly. It is becoming as essential to a publisher as being able to type. In my opinion.
     
  11. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    Code:
    h1, h2 {
        page-break-before: always;
        }
    

    For sure look at this link.

    Then, use Calibre to convert between different formats, including Kindle.
     

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