So, I was reading my Publishers Weekly last week and ran across a big add for Vook. Have you heard of them? They’re a new company like Smashwords: you upload a Word doc or docx or an epub file and they convert it for you and then distribute it, royalty free to Apple, B&N and Amazon. Sounds good but it’s not really free… you pay a subscription to use the service. The one book package starts at $99. Check them out yourself by going to Vook.com.
I looked into this because it sounded like they were somehow affiliated with Publishers Weekly… but I’m not sure about that. Most of my clients upload to Smashwords who doesn’t charge a fee, but does take a cut (5% I think), so if you were selling a lot of one of your titles, Vook might work for you. On reading their instructions (Vook), I was pretty confused about how they wanted you to format your Word document though… really confused. In fact it went against everything that I have learned about constructing a good-looking document in Word. I guess I need to see one of their books because the examples that they showed to illustrate things like Titles was truly awful. But I have my methods, they’ve worked for me for a long time, and I’m sticking with them. And although I do give my clients a Word ‘doc’ for Smashwords, it’s very simply and specifically formatted so that it makes it’s way through Smash’s ‘meatgrinder’ unscathed. The epub and mobi/Kindle formats I build with an HTML file… so much more control over your output that way.
I guess I’m talking about this today because I’m concerned about the quality of the ebooks that I’m seeing lately. Quite a few just don’t look very good. All the words are there (or most of them are anyway), but they just aren’t very attractive… big honkin’ fonts, strange margins, odd image formatting, stuff like that. Of course the biggest offenders are the books converted by the New York publishers. I think they just try to get as many ebooks up as they can as fast as they can. Last night I started a book by one of my favorite authors, big publisher, very disappointed in the look of the book. In fact, although I bought it at the Kindle store specifically for my Kindle Fire, after a few pages I switched to reading it on my iPad because the story is just so freakin’ good, as are all of his books, even though the iPad isn’t very comfortable for reading in bed. For some reason it just looked better on the iPad, maybe because the font size coding in the book just wasn’t working on the Kindle Fire but did work in the ‘Pad.
You know, I don’t think of myself as a formatter anymore, but as an Ebook Designer. I’m striving to get my proofing perfect, but I still find that I overlook some words and punctuation even when I run that document through SpellCheck one more time, and I have my SpellCheck set so it finds everything. Just today, I went back over a book, a big book, and found two dropped periods, one beginning quote which should have been an end quote and upon instead of up on. That actually was a new one. Usually I’m looking for clown instead of down, or but instead of hut! Now that was a funny proofing error… the sentence had the heroine putting a notebook in her but instead of in her hut… a real story changer. Reminds me of what happened on The University of Texas School of Public (Pubic) Affairs Commencement program. Proofing is hard, and getting it perfect is just about impossible. After reading 120,000 words twice, your brain and your eyes start to battle for superiority… You eyes see one thing, but your brain (the dominant member of this partnership) just knows it’s something entirely different. What’s a girl to do… as a last resort, run it through SpellCheck… just one more time!
But to get back to Ebook Design, I think that ebooks should be as attractive as print books. Clear fonts, crisp images, small images for book excerpts, flourishes which look especially nice in Regencies. Some authors are beginning to use small line drawings as scene change markers as well as beautiful line work as borders above and below titles and other elements to set them apart. I really enjoy doing flourishes. I did a blood splatter for one of my clients and found that if I converted the ‘jpg’ mage to a ‘gif’ image with color fill (red of course) but no outline then it wouldn’t have that pesky white box around it in Kindle when you have your screen set on Sepia. That just drives me nuts. Epubs don’t react that way, no white box no matter what color you make your screen. So if any of you write Vampire novels, call me and I’ll do some flowing blood for you!
And in closing, I just have to give out a big Thank You to my fellow formatter and a fabulous author, Lori Devoti. She showed me how to save the italics during a nuclear purge… what an incredible time-saver. Go check out her books such as The Witch Thief and Trust Me, they’re wonderful. And don’t forget novels by her alter-ego, Rae Davies, such as Loose Screw and Cut Loose, Dusty Deals Mysteries.