Wow, it’s been a few months since I blogged. That’s what happens when you’re working with clients and trying to finish 3 of your own novels. But I seem to have a window of opportunity today, and I’ve learned some new things lately so I thought I’d pass the info on.
1) There are still reasons to use a distributor such as Smashwords or Vook to make sure that all of the eRetailers have access to your prose. However, lately many of my clients are getting publisher accounts at not only B&N but also Kobo and iTunes/iBooks. They are asking me to just format an epub and a mobi/Kindle for them instead of the very simple Word document that Smashwords and others require. This is good for me because I can work on just one format and not two.
2) Cascading Style Sheets or CSS. This just means that you can use more simple styles such as Normal and Center and adapt them to your needs on the fly so to speak. If all of a sudden you would like a regular paragraph (Normal, with an indent of 0.25″, single space) to have a trailing space in just this one instance of 12pt or 1 blank line, then you just adjust that one paragraph (with your ‘Paragraph’ feature on the ‘Home’ ribbon of your Word program) but leave the style at Normal. This works well with Word docs and epubs but doesn’t work for most older Kindle eReaders as they don’t ‘read’ the CSS style of formatting. So to get my formatted eBooks to look correct in ALL eReaders (epubs and Kindle) I have set up specific styles for every instance… a) that trailing 12pt space is now a Style named Normal12 b) An entire paragraph of italics within normal text is now NormalItalic c) A line of italics which is centered is CenterItalic… the list goes on to about 40 specific styles. So when I’m formatting using the more complex epub or Kindle KF8 formats, and I run into a section of text such as a poem or a dream-sequence, I just pull up that NormalItalic (dream-sequence, the entire paragraph is italicized) or CenterItalic (poem) and… voila… every eReader will see what I want them to see. CSS vx Complex Styles for Kindle was one of the most confusing aspects of the formatting process that I had to overcome. I’m actually working on a tutorial which can be viewed soon on my website (www.athirstymind.com) I find that most of my clients aren’t familiar with using or adding Styles to their Style set on the Home ribbon and I hope after viewing this tutorial, they are at least on the same page when I talk to them about Styles.
3) Editing epubs using Sigil. This little free program is actually fantastic, a text editor similar to Notepad but with a WYSIWYG, What You See Is What You Get feature so you don’t have to blow up your brain looking at HTML code! You drop an epub file into the program and you can choose Book View (WYSISYG) or Code View (HTML). Say a reader complains about a typo in Chapter 6… ‘comer’ instead of ‘corner’… a very very common OCR error. Well you go to Chapter 6 in your epub… by the way, each chapter/page break will be a separate html file in this program because that’s the way an epub is constructed so you have to actually find (on your left you will see a menu listing each file in the epub) the Chapter 6 file, then you can search for ‘comer’ in the text with the search feature… then just correct the word and save the file… There… you have a corrected epub to upload a new version to the eRetailers or just send the epub file directly to your reader for them to sideload into their device. This ‘save’ feature will overwrite your original epub, so be careful with it. If you’re editing something like buy-links that you want to go only into B&N or Amazon, then use the ‘save as’ button instead and it will give you a chance to name this new epub with buy-links something like booktitlewbuylinks.epub. But you won’t have added those buylinks to the original epub file. Lots of site that let you upload your epub book to them don’t let you have links within the file to any other eRetailer. And now that you can actually upload an epub at Smashwords, you don’t want to have that buylink in the epub for Smashwords.
4) By the way… epubs to Smashwords. If you are uploading an epub there remember you must leave in that “Smashwords version” phrase which lives in the Smashwords Word file on the copyright page. If it’s not there, they will reject your file. But you want to take this phrase off of any epub that you upload yourself to B&N or iBooks or Kobo. A good time to use that ‘save as’ feature at Sigil I’m thinking.
5) Editing a mobi file. This is a bit different but if you have a corrected epub (see above) then you can use KindlePreviewer, a free Amazon program, to quickly convert that corrected epub into a mobi file and upload the new version to Amazon.
6) Changing the name of a ‘converted through Kindle Previewer’ mobi file. This may seem weird, but when Kindle Previewer converts an epub to a mobi file with the old mobi format plus the new KF8 format entwined in the same file, you get this humongously long file name. I don’t know about your computer, but mine will accept that name, but my offsite backup program will not because the path is too long. So I have to go into my documents folder, find the file that was converted, then rename it. This is normally a very simple process but for some reason (on my Dell Windows 7 computer) if you don’t do this exactly right the renaming process (for just these Kindle Previewer converted files) will blow up in your face. At least you’ll get a dire warning about the file not being usable and are you sure you want to do this. So for me I have to do it exactly this way… every damn time… a) at the end of the file name you will see a long string of date and time numbers, you don’t need those b) highlight the number after the underline _2013-11-3-12:30 highlight everything after the underline but stop before the last -45 or whatever you have at the very end with a dash and a number. _2013-11-3-12-30-45 everything between the underline and the -45. Then delete the highlighted material. c) in step three you backspace and take the underline _ out d) step four you delete the -45 although I don’t highlight it, I just hit ‘delete’ 3 times until it’s not there anymore. OK, you ask, and why will this work like this instead of just deleting the extra numbers and underlines? I haven’t a clue, but that’s what I have to do on my computer. ‘Tis a puzzlement! This kind of file is the only file that a simple re-name doesn’t work on.
7) Embedding fonts… and what that actually means particularly to a Kindle Reader. I got hung up on this a few months ago. Before that the conversion software I was using to make a Kindle or prc file could overcome this ’embedded file’ issue. At least when I formatted a book for Kindle/prc and previewed it I could access all kinds of fonts on my Kindle device and apps. However, since the onslaught of Kindlegen, the conversion of choice for all Kindle ebooks, if you have set your default font to Times New Roman or used TNR in your Style descriptions… then this is considered embedding. And that’s the only font available to use. So my Kindle Fire can only ‘see’ Times New Roman, and cannot substitute Arial, or Verdana or Courier or Caecilia. At this point of frustration I contacted by wonderful wizards on Mobilereads… a forum for ebook users and formatters. They suggested that I edit out all instances of fonts in my HTML file for each ebook. Well the best way to do this is to edit the ‘Style Sheet’ within Sigil. Now the first step in my Sigil edit process (where I tweak the heading font sizes and add Guides to the cover, copyright data, table of content as well as where I want the ebook to begin or start) is to go through each listed Style and just take out that font line. The ebook still has the font (Times New Roman) but it’s no longer considered ’embedded’. A Reader can now choose whatever font is available on their specific reading device to enjoy my fantastically formatted eBook!!! However, since you’re working within an epub (which will soon be converted to a Kindle file) you can actually choose to embed a specific font for your Title, your Chapter Headings and maybe a specific section of your text such as that NormalItalic Style. This has some interesting possibilities actually. I may try this with my client’s permission on an upcoming format. I’ll let you know the outcome.
This blog post seems a bit disjointed, but maybe you can find a couple gems of wisdom among the weirdness.