From now until July 9th, my science fiction novel called Creator Sky is free on Amazon as a Kindle Ebook.
From now until July 9th, my science fiction novel called Creator Sky is free on Amazon as a Kindle Ebook.
I feel that it is important to always be open to improvement. The desire to improve can come from simple or elaborate reasons. Who doesn’t want their works to be well known and well received? Do you have a big plans for something you are spending countless hours on? Do you simply want your work to be the best it can be? Take those reasons and keep them at the forefront of reminding yourself that you don’t know, and will never know, everything about your craft. It doesn’t mean to give up, but to notice and take opportunities to generally learn more and improve your technique.
My history in writing has been very non-traditional. It doesn’t necessarily apply to the novel writing that I’ve been doing more of lately. A lot of it is based in the Internet. From reading numerous articles for the enjoyment of learning to writing articles and content for the websites I’ve created over the years. A lot of them were informational or instructional, but others were journal based. A few of those I’ve turned into books, or at least used them as content sources. I did have a few composition classes in college that were really memorable to me thanks to a great teacher, but like I said, it’s been pretty non-standard.
I have a few mental walls that I am working toward lowering. At least these are the few I’ve been able to notice or are prominently placed in my mind:
Occasionally, I visit the local “Half Price Books” outlet store. They have extremely cheap used books. The challenge is finding books that I consider useful to me in the multitude of stuff that are likely not the most desirable seeing as they ended up there. The main issue for me is lack of space and finding the time to read what I buy.
I picked this older (circa 2003) book up called “The novel writers Toolkit” by Bob Mayer. There were a few similar books, but this one had a good feel to it while skimming. I’ve been reading it before I sleep since then and have started to gain new insight. It’s interesting that a lot of what I’ve done fits within his suggestions. Other suggestions such as reading best-sellers and breakout novels, with a mindset of analysis and deconstruction of their techniques, is something I’ll have to work on. So far, it’s been insightful even though a few things related to the current state of technological tools when writing is dated.
That’s it for now as I’m in a bit of a rush, but there is a lot more to be said on this subject.
This all came about when I decided to try voicing my first Creator Sky book to make an audio book. By the time that I got to chapter 4, I was seeing various issues with the text flow when read out loud. Because I want the text to be the best that it can be, I decided to revise it. It might have introduced new typos, but I felt it was necessary. I added some additional flair to sections and also simplified some odd wording that doesn’t work well when spoken.
Throughout the editing process yesterday and today, I refined the technical aspects of my self publishing process.
The first step was to revise the Google Doc. I went back and removed all formatting I had in there. Before I (re)figured out the entire publishing process, I had formatted my google doc with a non-standard page size as well as other anomalies that were not needed and ended up making the entire process more time intensive (unnecessary page breaks, wrong heading types, too many spaces between chapters, etc).
For Google Docs I format the document like this:
1. Leave the page size as standard, it doesn’t matter.
2. Do not manually use tab in the document.
3. The book title is at the top of the document with “Heading 1” applied to it.
4. Chapter titles have “Heading 2” applied to them.
5. I justify chapter text (only for readability when writing)
6. I use the “first line indent” feature (only for readability when writing, see graphic for details)
You do #6 by dragging that first line indent rectangle to your desired position. I just do half an inch. It isn’t going to be how your final result is going to look, because I still do that in Libre Office. I do this because it makes things readable while writing or editing.
Once I finished editing the text, I move on to the export. (oops: Another tip is to try to use multiple sources to spell check. I rely heavily on computers fixing my spelling and ended up using a lesser known spelling of monologue [monolog] that Docs and Libre Office didn’t pick up on, but WordPress’s post form did… Going to leave it for now because I already re-submitted the text to the publishing services.)
I export the text from Google, as I did before in my previous article, by exporting in odt format that Libre Office reads. I also do the same new-document and copy-paste special as unformatted text routine to get the cleanest output as possible.
In this case the entire text needs to be reformatted with headings and body text formatting. The main difference here is that I adjust the styles (Styles and Formatting, F11) I had used in Libre Office by setting the font to Times New Roman instead of the default because LuLu doesn’t support it. All this does is avoid their auto-conversion to the default font. Not needed, but limits any unintended results.
For the “first line indent” style in Libre office, I change the font but I also change the “Alignment” to “justified” that saves me a few extra clicks for each block of chapter text.
From that point on, I have a clean formatted odt that I submit to Lulu as usual.
Let me count the ways I find Google Docs (Drive) useful:
1. A centralized location for my texts as I work on them.
2. Easy to access from many types of devices.
3. As long as you keep it up to date, it’s your go-to source.
4. Seems pretty good at spell check and grammar.
5. Basically an off-site backup to any copies of the text you have locally (backup to as many services as you can, you will thank yourself someday).
6. Potentially offer it up in read-only/comment mode for someone to offer their thoughts on or proofread (haven’t done this yet). You can share to individuals or with a custom generated link that’s basically private yet publicly accessible.
7. It completely logs your revisions. You can go back and view them or do whatever else. It’s similar to revision control systems often used in computer programming to track source code files (I use a GIT server myself quite a bit for personal/business projects).
It isn’t perfect. Output from the service, at least for me, requires some revision in Libre Office before I’ve been able to submit it to any type of publishing service. As I mentioned in a previous post, I usually export as “.odt” and then just copy/paste that as unformatted text into a completely fresh document.
My biggest thing lately is relaxing at a restaurant and using my smart phone to edit, write new text, or take notes of ideas that I have. The goal is to chip away at that task until it gets done.
Along with Google Docs, Microsoft’s OneNote service is a good option as well.
I’ve further adjusted this site’s Style Sheet code so that posts and pages have separate formatting. My posts didn’t work well with indented paragraphs, but I wasn’t separating the CSS code between the two. I was able to create a “class” for the pages so that I could keep indenting (text-indent: 3em) on those, but have normal spacing on these posts. It looks a lot better. I’ll have to think about future writings that will allow me to have book styled formatting on only specific posts. I think it will be as easy as adding a div tag with a special class to each post.
I had a long lull in my self-publishing efforts. Most of what I learned back in 2011-2013 was forgotten. I’m going to write down the process I’ve (re)figured out recently so that I can have it as backup in case the same thing happens again. It’s currently a little “hackish” in how I get the final product, but I’m happy with the result. With more effort, I think it can be done by hand with the tools available if someone insists on doing that or LuLu someday goes away.
I write my books in Google Docs (Google Drive). It’s great because I can use almost any device as long as it has a decent web browser or supports their related apps. I sometimes write or edit on my big screen phone while at a restaurant or where ever. It’s extremely convenient because it helps me chip away at getting things done. Plus, it’s the one true source for the document because it’s so easy to keep track of and keep up to date.
The main issue with Google Docs is that the output isn’t good for either Amazon Kindle (KDP) or LuLu.com. While they offer a ton of formats, I’ve not had luck getting good conversions out of it so far. Once I’m “finished” with the book on Google, I start the conversion process. In this step, it’s probably best to have as little formatting as possible. Mostly just separate the “CHAPTER #” with extra spaces and make sure that each text paragraph is on a new line without additional spacing. Tabbing paragraphs is optional, but might help you edit your book.
I export the Google Doc as OpenDocument Format (.odt). This file is usable in a free open-source editor called Libre Office. This step just helps me cut down on any odd Google Docs formatting.
I make a new fresh document in Libre Office. Everything formatting related is set to default. This will be the final file to use in the conversion step on LuLu.
Here is a screen from the program showing important details:
From the exported Google Docs odt: Copy the entire text, paste that text into the fresh document with “Edit” -> “Paste Special…” -> “Unformatted Text”. Now we should have clean text with only separation by newline characters (CRLF, whatever you want to call them).
For my novelettes, I have my first page as the title page. I remove all white space from the top so that the first line in the document contains the book’s title. The second line is the sub-title, and third (two spaces down) is the “by Scott…” text. I also have some copyright text below that, but it’s not too important. For the title, assign Heading 1 to it. For the sub-title and my name, I leave them as normal text.
For all chapter titles I use Heading 2. Be mindful of this step. If the heading is applied to blank space along with “CHAPTER #”, it will result in odd formatting when converted later on. What I do usually is clear out the text between chapters and then press enter a few times to get fresh formatting in there. I select “CHAPTER #” and apply the H2 formatting. You can check above and below the text to make sure the heading wasn’t applied to that white space. If it was, clear the formatting and try again.
For the body text, it’s a two step process. Open up the Styles window by: “Styles” -> “Styles and Formatting (F11)”. A window should pop-up. In there you should see “Default Style” -> “Text Body” -> “First Line Indent” is the first step. Select all of the text for a single chapter. Apply the First Line Indent, and then make the text justified (in the tools menu). That give the text a nice formatting. You should see each paragraph indented and slightly spaced apart from the next. The justification is a standard thing to do with books because it looks a lot better to have words line up on the sides.
Once you have done that for the entire book, it’s ready to submit to LuLu.com for their epub conversion step. To verify the conversion, I use an open-source e-book editor program called Sigil (download it here on GitHub). As mentioned earlier, here is where you could do the entire process yourself. It’s possible to use Sigil to make the ebook, but it would likely take quite a bit of effort doing things by hand. Then you would have to edit further to get the Sigil epub accepted by the publisher sites.
I like LuLu’s conversion results, so I’ve started using them for the submission to Amazon’s Kindle KDP system. When you make a new book on LuLu, you submit the .odt file you just made. Once they convert it and you get to the last step of their submission process, they offer up a XXXXX.epub file for you to review. Open that epub into Sigil to verify that the table of contents, chapter headings, and book text are formatted properly.
Here is what mine looks like in Sigil from LuLu’s conversion of the odt file:
I think that’s it. You can use that epub from LuLu when making the book on Amazon’s KDP website. Though, it looks like you could just use LuLu to publish to that marketplace if you feel like it. I started with Amazon, so I prefer to keep them separate. I haven’t bought my own books to verify things, but they look good in the previewing features on each site.
I moved the book from PhotographyBanzai.com to here. The biggest benefit is that the text is much easier to read and broken up into chapters. Paragraphs are now tabbed, spaced, and justified like you would expect a book to be formatted. It’s a better reading experience by far.
I’m in the final stages of editing book 2 of this series. I plan on having a few sample chapters posted here and offering it on Amazon.