Twitterizimization, Twitterizing Adimification. Twitter Ads.

Back in the day I aspired to be a graphic designer. I’m not overly great at it, but I always wanted to do it. I suspect being a designer is much like everything else – better on paper than in the real world. So I became a programmer instead and now I spend my days parasailing with movie stars and lounging on beaches. It’s a rough life, let me tell you.

hackgibson

Programming is exactly as awesome as this, only I’m usually surrounded by supermodels.

But there’s always that itch, that strange desire to create something visual that claws at the back of my head. It’s a feeling that simply writing doesn’t quiet so I create random things like book covers and twitter ads. P.S., if you need a cover designed drop me a line; I work cheap.

The combination of programming and some design background has given me access to a bunch of tools and the understanding that images have certain sizes that are expected from the applications that display them. Facebook cover photos are supposed to be 851 x 315 px. Shared FB posts render out at 504 x a variable number and the recommended strategy is to upload a 1200×1200 px pic. Twitter banners should be 1500 x 500 px. WordPress header images are variant depending on the theme you’re using. Tumblr banners have some size recommendations, too.

So when I set up my Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and WordPress sites, I followed the instructions and used images that would fit where they were supposed to go. I’m a little less rigid with my Facebook posts because they’re usually just random things or text string and everything works like it should. When I started putting up Twitter posts about my books I followed the same philosophy and wound up with things like this.

It looks okay here, but it’s cut off in a feed so you only see a portion of the whole image.

shocked

The problem was I stopped thinking like a programmer or a designer and started thinking like a lunatic. A little thinking and a little research and I actually managed to make a few Tweeted images that didn’t look like ass. Things like this, which look much better and can easily be viewed directly from a feed.

The trick was to get the sizes right. Shared images in Twitter (think things like your book covers and ads and stuff) are rendered at 590×295. That’s a 2:1 ratio. Twitter has an algorithm that decides how to handle images that are above that scale. That algorithm examines portions of the image and attempts to determine the important parts and scales the total width based on the important parts it finds. While this is an impressive bit of coding it’s not always going to render things the way you want them rendered. The solution: understand the image size limitations and work within the confines. Rather than pushing up an image that 1563×2500 (Amazon’s recommended book cover size), I pushed up an image that was 181×290. Small, to be sure, but good enough for Jazz and government work.

Book covers are only a part of the equation, though. An ad for a book gives you a bit more flexibility than just a simple 140 characters and some hashtags. They allow you to spend more time on things like dialog or extra explanations. This comes in really handy on a book like … well, anything I’ve written. For instance, look at The Clock Man images above and they don’t tell you an awful lot about the stories. They give a basic indication of the primary story, but there’s a lot more going on in the back ground and the cover doesn’t really describe the text. That’s why I came up with this guy:

I like to think the dragon itself (himself) is eye-catching and the text (pulled straight from the story) gives a hint of what lies inside.

That ad was done in my best friend, Inkscape. The dragon image came from Dreamstime and the text came from The Clock Man. The image was resized in GIMP and the whole piece was all assembled in Inkscape, then fed back into GIMP for some cleanups like getting the sizing right. The sizing was the key. Twitter images are rendered out at 590×295, so I designed the image at 1024×512 and then let Twitter’s algorithm shrink it all down to size. The result worked.

WOOO!

WOOO!

But let’s say you don’t have all the time in the world, don’t want to learn GIMP and Inkscape, and generally just need to knock a few things out quickly. Well, that’s where a little place called Canva comes in. It’s a free site that has pre-built templates for most social media and enough flexibility that you can make something that looks pretty good without killing yourself figuring out GIMP and Inkscape. Canva isn’t quite as flexible as GIMP and Inkscape, but it cane make some pretty slick looking ads with a minimal amount of effort.

As an example: here’s an ad I was working on today for The Clock Man. Aside from the very obvious fact that sex sells, the image actually does have a purpose, but you’ll have to read Zona Peligrosa to figure out what it is. Just to experiment, I first created the ad in my usual combination of Inkscape and GIMP and then tried to recreate it in Canva. The results are below:

ClockManLingerieAd

Created in Inkscape. Main image from Dreamstime: ID 22789426 © Alenavlad

 

ClockManCanvaBlackLingerie

The Canva version

The two images look pretty similar which means you can get a lot of quality design out of Canva for not a lot of effort. I like that. There are a couple caveats, though: the smoke rings and Clock Man logo were done in Inkscape and uploaded to Canva, so some of the image elements were pre-created. Canva has a ton of prebuilt images you can use, but if you want something special you’re going to have to create it yourself. Personally, I prefer the text work I can do in Inkscape; Canva doesn’t seem to have the ability to modify leading, kerning, and tracking. This isn’t surprising and isn’t really a show stopper. You can can get leading effects easily in Canva by using multiple body text elements and scrunching them around.

So which one did I go with? The Inkscape one, but that’s just because I had a specific font I wanted to work with and I had already done the layout in Inkscape.

But you’ve got to admit, Canva’s a hell of an awesome chunk of code. It’s fast, friendly, and easy-to-use. It has pre-built template sizes that are a breeze to work with and a very minimal learning curve. The kicker, though, no matter which program you use is to get the sizes right. If the ad comes out at a non-standard resolution it’s going to look wonky in the feed.

So, here’s the ad posted to Twitter.

If you want to learn more about the various image sizes, you can’t go wrong with a little research. Fortunately, someone’s already done the heavy lifting for you. Social Media Design Cheat Sheet

The Digital World

Like a lot of kids growing up in the 70s and 80s I had a shit-ton of music on cassette tapes.  For those who are wondering, a shit-ton is slightly more than a short ton, but less than an full ton.  Each cassette held between twenty and thirty minutes of kick-ass music per side.  Some cassettes went up to sixty minutes per side, giving you a full hour of rockin’ before you had to flip the tape.  If you were really cool, your cassette deck would auto flip for you and you could listen to the same 120 minutes of awesome all day long.

They were dope.  They were boss.  They had tiny album notes and lyrics printed in 6pt type.  Iron Maiden’s Live After Death (may it forever be remembered as the best live album ever) almost had more paper in the fold out than cassette tape in the case.

liveafterdeath

Imagine this only much smaller. And with more words.

Cassettes were the bomb-ass-crank, but they had two glaring drawbacks to them.

  • You could only get a couple hours’ worth of music on each tape
  • Cassette decks (like the one in my Suzuki Samurai) had a nasty habit of eating tapes

Any time I traveled (which was a lot back in those days) I had to take a lot of music with me.  Picking the twenty or so albums I had room for was an exercise in paring down.  This tape had four good songs and one pretty kick-ass song, but three I couldn’t stand.  This other tape had six songs that were only okay, one good one, and only one I didn’t like.  I’d take the one with the six songs because fast-forwarding through three songs I didn’t like was more trouble than fast forwarding through one song and fast forwarding ate batteries like no one’s business.

In the end I’d wind up with an incredibly eclectic selection of music my mom wouldn’t like.

For the record, I never cared for Michael Jackson.

For the record, I never cared for Michael Jackson.

From there it was just a matter of time before I started mixing tapes.  That way I could get exactly what I wanted.  Then I wound up with a stack of tapes that weren’t labelled correctly (or at all in some cases) that still had songs I had fast forward through.  Or a copy of tape that I copied from a friend who’d copied it from his buddy who bought it at the flea market.  Click, pop, hiss, grumble, crunchy guitar, hiss, hiss, hiss, crack, pop.

The mix-tape, though, was an important courting ritual.  One of the last mix tapes I made was for the woman who would eventually become my wife.  It was a labor of love, a weekend’s worth of listening to cassettes, using a pencil to make sure the recipient tape was cued up just right and counting to three to make sure I pressed play on one deck and record (and play) on the other deck at exactly the same time.

A full weekend and a custom designed, printed-on-my-inkjet-printer-and-cut-to-fit-cover later, I had a mix tape.

Nowadays, of course, no one uses cassettes anymore.  CDs have made the cassette obsolete in much the same way that cassettes made 8-tracks obsolete.  You can make mixed CDs – in fact my wife and make each other discs pretty regularly – and it doesn’t take a full weekend to do it.  Drag some MP3 files onto a CD and hit burn.  Boom!  Mixed music in a flash.  The still have similar portability issues, though.  LPs made a flash-in-the-pan resurgence they haven’t exactly brought back the old era of gorgeous art and endless lists of exactly how much vodka and orange juice Iron Maiden drank on that fateful tour in the early 80s.  If you want to talk about portability issues, LPs are pretty much the king.  But with good enough equipment, they do sound really good.

The format of the day is MP3.  You can sometimes get liner notes for albums, sometimes not.  On the plus side, I can fit a huge amount of music on my phone and get better sounding playback than I ever got on my knockoff Walkman with the orange foam ear pads.

And it all fits directly on my phone.  No more tapes to lug around.  No more tapes getting eaten in the cassette deck in my car.  It is, as the saying goes, a brave new world.

steampunktotoro

Books and other media are working along the same lines.  I used to have to dig through the books I wanted to read, estimate how much time it would take get through them, and find places to stuff them in my luggage.  Things like The Satanic Verses took up a huge amount of space.  Now, my tablet has everything I’ve ever bought from Amazon ready to be downloaded and read with only the tap of a cover icon.  All I needs is WiFi and the world is at my fingertips.  My old Kindle Keyboard didn’t even need that; it had permanent 3G wireless built right in.  As long as there’s a cell signal, that sucker can get anything I want.

This is, of course, not to mention the fact that my phone can act as a WiFi hotspot.  If I tether my tablet to my phone I can access the same resources anywhere a cell signal exists.  Or, heck, just read things off my phone.

Remember what Arthur C. Clarke said:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

We live in magical times.

Data flows easily from enormous racks of servers hidden away in a super cooled location somewhere over wires and thin air into the magical little computer in your pocket.  That same magical little computer lets you send messages and talk to friends and keep your sanity while you’re waiting in line at Chipotle.

Now, this is not to say I’m averse to traditional media.  CDs still sound better than MP3s, it’s just the nature of compression.  I still have (and will continue to have) scads of books.  There are some things that traditional media is just better for; you just sacrifice portability for fidelity.

You also need more storage space.

swbooktrader

This is an interior shot of the Southwest Book Trader in Durango, CO. I think some people think I made the place up for Henchmen and Arise, but it’s a very real place and I seriously believe if a book has been written, it’s in this store somewhere.

Which all leads to a point laid out neatly in this article from aeon.co.  Where music lost a certain je ne sais quoi when the ambitious artworks and copious liner notes went away, so too do some books as they make the journey to their portable digital selves.  Just like you don’t kick back on your bed with your headphones on and listen to Pink Floyd and read Roger Waters’ ramblings or marvel at the sheer audacity of the album art for Appetite for Destruction, something has gone away from the reading experience.  A certain flair – the artistic side of book layout – has disappeared.  Gone is the flourish and the flash; replaced by Times New Roman.  There’s nothing wrong with Times New Roman, it’s a fine font and easily readable but it lacks what can only be described as panache.

booth

Had panache.

The really disturbing thing about this is, as I’ve pointed out before, eBooks are just little web pages.  Go check out your favorite web site (you can use mine if you want), and see all the magical things that can be done with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.  There’s so much more that could be done with eBooks.  Just like music could bring back the liner notes (you can sometimes get them as PDF files), eBooks could open up to a lot more.  They could become Harry Potter-esque.  In fact, some kids’ books already do this, but when you publish a digital book the rule of thumb is always keep it simple.

Why can’t we go nuts and turn a book into a work of art?  It’s dirt cheap to run color in an eBook.  Images are just rendered jpg, png, and svg files – eminently reusable.  Done well a clever use of iconography and color could enhance the story.  I know authors are all about the story itself – I’m the same way – and loath to introduce anything that detracts from the words, but think of the things that could be done.  I’ve made use of glyphs for chapter headers that tie back to the cover.  Simple and effective.

Ebooks will never give you the ability to put your finger between the pages and marvel at the cover, but what if you could click a link and get a huge version of the cover displayed right on your tablet, an image that wouldn’t have the resolution issues that are native to a paperback book?  You may not be able to open an eBook and find it was signed by the author and dedicate to a fan, but what if that was possible?  There’s nothing technologically that can stop that from happening, someone just needs to take the time to do it.

What if we could put the magic back in our magical technology and turn reading digital items and listening to digital music back into an experience?

Walter Gibson is My Hero

shadow9v

Ever heard of Walter Gibson?  How about Maxwell Grant?  Actually, they’re the same guy, so if you’ve heard of one you’ve heard of the other even if you didn’t realize it.  If you haven’t, don’t fret; not a whole lot of folks in this day an age have.  Walter Gibson was an extremely prolific author in his day (he died in 1985) and stage magician.  He’s estimated to have no less than 300 novel-length books (60k+ words) under his belt.  Gibson (as Maxwell Grant) wrote The Shadow novels that were popular in the 30s and 40s.  He also wrote more than a hundred other books on magic, psychic phenomena, true crime, mysteries, rope knots, yoga, hypnotism, and games and was a ghost writer for Harry Houdini.  It’s estimated that at his peak he was writing nearly 1.7 million words a year and to satisfy the demands of his fans he was writing two Shadow novels a month.  Each of The Shadow novels clocked in right around 60k words each.

By any reckoning, that’s a lot of typing.  And remember, he was writing on one of these:

Even works during blackouts; just add a candle.

Even works during blackouts; just add a candle.

For those of you too young to remember manual typewriters they were cantankerous beasts, prone to jamming, running out of ink, and breaking keys.  Also, here’s your intersting but useless bit of trivia for the day: the current standard keyboard layout is set up the way it is because of mechanical typewriters.  Each keystroke pushed a physical level forward that caused that character to impact on an ink tape and make a mark on the paper.  The way the letters were laid out meant that some of the letters had longer levers.  The longer the lever the more prone to breakage it was, so someone did an analysis of character use in the English language.  Characters that were used less were relegated to the outer edges where the longer levers lived.  The logic was since those characters were used less there would be less wear and tear on those longer levers and the whole typewriter would last longer.

If you ever get the opportunity, try writing on a manual typewriter; it’s definitely an experience.

I guess one thing spouses of serial writers have going for them is very few people use manual typewriters anymore.  Imagine living in a house with someone knocking out 10k words a day on machine that made a noise every time a charater was typed.  Now, you might have the click clack of laptop keys, but it pales in comparison the thundering hammers of a typewriter.

Last week we were watching Romancing the Stone and something about it clicked in my head.  Remember that scene where Joan Wilder is taking he latest novel to her editor?

Yep.  That's the one.

Yep. That’s the one.

See that big box of paper?  That’s her book.  That’s how manuscripts used to be sent to editors.  You type them out, put the pages (hopefully in order) back in the paper box and walk it over.  It was likely a huge pain in the ass and you had to have a ton of paper handy.  Also, try kicking back on sofa and writing with a manual typewriter in your lap.  If it didn’t break your knees it would cut off all circulation to your toes.

Writing was different back then.  If you had a story you typed it up, shopped it around, hoped someone would buy it and publish it.  From that point on, your words were out of your control.  Where it went, what it cost, how it was advertised, all that was out of your control.  You could make some good money writing as a traditionally published author, but the vast majority of published authors still had to have day jobs.  One of my favorites, John Steakley, made ends meet by owning a car dealership.  He was apparently part way into Armor 2 when he died.

Such are the ways and means of traditionally published authors.  For every E.L James there are thousands of John Steakleys.

Now, one advantage those traditionally published folks had over us indies?  All they had to worry about was the story.  Before everyone starts squawking, I get it: there are plenty of indie resources out there.  You can find people to edit and proofread, design your cover, format your ebook, and do everything but write the story for you.  Some folks go that route, others don’t.  I’m one of those that insists on doing as much as possible myself; I do my own covers, I do my own formatting, I make my own marketing decisions.  Good, bad, or otherwise, I’m pretty much on my own.  I’ve had help with editing and proofreading from a few trusted beta readers (editing is pretty much impossible to do on your own), but otherwise, I’m on my own.

Yep.

Yep.

I’m not saying this to toot my own horn or say I’m more indie than anyone else, it’s just how I am.  I enjoy writing, I’m actually learning to like editing.  I like designing book covers.  I like doing book layout.  I enjoy learning the little tricks that make things easier.

It wasn’t always like that, though.  I finished Henchmen in 2013 and thought it was the greatest story ever told (it wasn’t and it actually required some monstrous rewrites later on).  I’d heard it was easy to publish on Amazon but still largely didn’t what I was doing.  I knew what mobi files and epub files were but as for how to make one?  Not how to create one, mind you, but what they were.  I thought I was ready.

Boy was I wrong.

Henchmen went live with a bad cover, tons of editing issues, missing an internal image, and was generally not a good product.  It was a product of “I’m tired of this, let’s just get it done.”  I tried to follow Amazon’s instructions and created an HTML document out of my Word document.  The results were less than spectacular.

Since then, I rewrote huge portions of Henchmen, wrote Arise, learned a lot about making a decent cover, figured out how to write a better blurb, convert and edit files before uploading them, make a decent looking Table of Contents, and a handful of other things.

In the interest of saving some other folks that kind of misery, when The Clock Man is finished and edited, I’ll be taking copious notes and screenshots about the process of putting it together, how the cover came to be, and some other technical issues that popped up.  Then, I’m going to take all that and compile it into a simple how-to book that will hopefully stave off some of my problems for others.

Consider it a thank you to all the authors, designers, and readers who have helped me out over the past couple year..

 

eBook formatting

In addition to having trouble figuring out how to make my first cover, uploading Henchmen to Amazon proved to be a baffling ordeal.  Amazon’s instructions consisted of converting my Word to doc to filtered HTML and uploading it.  It worked but it lost some of my formatting and there was an image at the beginning of the book that disappeared.

I’m a little wiser and more experienced now, so let me give you a little primer on some formatting and getting things ready to go.  When your book is done and you’re ready to push the button the actual upload to Amazon is pretty straightforward.  Getting the ebook to that point can be a little more involved, but isn’t overly difficult.  Be ready to take some time, have backups of your book, and do some trial and error.

You’ll need some software, all of which is free (except the word processors, those range from free to a whole damn lot of money for MS Word).  Some of these links may be dead, but they all worked as of this writing.  I’m assuming you already have some sort of word processor, but there are some other tools that will come in handy.

  • Calibre: This is an ebook converter that can convert from and to almost any format on the planet.  I use it covert from .docx to .epub for upload.
  • Sigil: This will let you crack open an epub and edit the HTML inside of it.  It’s great for tweaking the little things that Word messes up.
  • Kindlegen: Convert .epub files to .mobi files.  This is basically the system Amazon uses on their server side to convert to their version of .mobi so it’s invaluable for seeing what the final product will look like.  Kindlegen is a command-line tool so make sure you’re comfortable with that.  If not, you can use Kindle Previewer to accomplish the same thing.
  • Kindle Previewer: Uses KindleGen in the background to compile to Amazon’s .mobi and let you see how it will look.  It’s great for fnding the little issues you weren’t expecting and you can even copy the created .mobi file to various devices to see how they’ll look.

On the off chance that you’re looking for a decent tool to actually write your book in, there are a whack of them out there.  I use Word 2010 but that’s just because I happen to have a copy of it.  OpenOffice is a great (and free!) alternative.  I’m not as familiar with the quirks of OpenOffice so I’ll write a story in it later and report back.  I know some people who swear by Scrivener, but I haven’t found as much use for it.  Again, I’ve got a copy so I’ll try to create something in it and report back.

So, to clean this mess up a bit, there’s a process that I follow that seems to work well for me.

  1. Write the story or book in Word.  I do my editing and most of my formatting in Word also.
  2. Load the book into Calibre and set some metadata.  Use Calibre to convert to epub.
  3. Use Sigil to edit the epub file
  4. Use the Kindle Previewer to see what it will look like and generate a mobi file
  5. Upload to Amazon KDP
  6. Kick back and wait for it to be processed

To make your writing life as easy as possible just write the story and don’t worry about formatting while you’re writing.  I referenced this in an earlier post, but let me reiterate it.  Don’t do any formatting until you’re done with editing.  Change the default font if Calibri isn’t your cup of tea, but other than that don’t do a thing but type.  The only bit of formatting I recommend is highlighting chapter headers and setting them to Word’s Heading 1 style.  The only reason I do this is because as soon as you set a block of text to Heading 1 or Heading 2 in Word it automatically gets added to the navigation pane.  That makes finding things in a long book much easier.

SampleHeadings

Word styles are basically CSS styles. Word docx files are zipped XML files with some formatting instructions dropped in.

After you’re done writing and editing you can start formatting.  This is where things start getting more and more nebulous.  There aren’t a whole lot of standards out there for formatting a book other than the end result must be readable.  I prefer a clean look personally, but others prefer more ornate looks.  For some background on formatting and some things that approach being a standard, look to Amazon’s formatting guidelines and Smashwords (PDF download) has a formatting guide of their own.  There are also a whole whack of good formatting guides out there.  Take some time to read up and see if you’re doing anything that’s an absolute no-no.

The general gist on all the formatting guides is to let styles take care of the formatting instead of using lots of hard breaks or tabs.  This is because an ebook is really nothing more than a zipped website and your ebook reader is just a fancy web browser.  All your styling should reflect this.  We’ll see a bit more when we hit the Sigil section.

One thing to definitely take a look at is the use of the magical Pilcrow.  This is the formal name for the paragraph symbol and something I work into casual conversation when I want to make myself look smarter than I really am.  The pilcrow will reveal all your formatting including hard returns, tabs, and whatnot.  If you’ve got a section that simply doesn’t work like it should, use the pilcrow and see what’s going on in the background.

So I told the President, "You really should consider using the picrow to track down that problem."

So I told the President, “You really should consider using the picrow to track down that problem.”

Once you’ve got it formatted and it’s looking good to you, make a bunch of passes through the entire text and see if you’re missing something.  One of the print versions of Arise came back without a page break between a couple of the chapters and the ebook version was missing the glyph on a couple chapters.  It’s easy to miss the little things like that.  But, it did get formatted and came out looking like this:

WordUpYo

So … beautfiul …

My normal-style setup was 11pt Garamond, .3 indent from the left, no extra spacing before or after, and a 1.15 line space.  The Heading was set as 14pt Garamond, Bold, Centered, no paragraph indent, 24pt before, 0 after.  The glyph was set centered, no paragraph indent, 0 pt before, 50 pt after.

Don’t get too wedded to your font choice.  Remember, an ebook is a web site and the eReader is a web browser.  Files called .css (Cascading Style Sheets) determine the formatting and can be overridden by the browser.  Some things like centering, bolding, points before and after elements, and things like that will stick, but your font can be whisked away in the blink of an eye by a reader who prefers her headlines to be displayed in Comic Sans or his body text in Papyrus (there’s no accounting for taste).  As soon as you decide to do the print copy through CreateSpace you can really fret about fonts; until then find something that works and realize most people will be reading in Times New Roman or something like that.

Just as quick show, here’s the TOC from Henchmen formatted in Word.  Each line is selectable and will link to the appropriate chapter.  Looks good so far, right?  Hold onto that thought for a minute.

TOCFomatted

Not gonna lie, editing a TOC in Word is the stuff of nightmares. It tooks several iterations to get to this point and I swore I’d never touch it again.

That done, it’s time to load the sucker into Calibre and let Calibre perform its magic.  There are much better and more thorough guides out there on using Calibre than I could come up with here.  For our purposes, you need to add your document (straight from .docx, in my case), edit the metadata to set the title and author correctly, convert to .epub, and save to disk.  Don’t worry about adding a cover at this point.  I just added a cover to mine because I was sending it out to reviewers (none of whom were interested :(, oh, ah).  Recently I’ve heard some rumors that epub files created with Calibre won’t upload to Amazon, but I just did one to try it out and it worked fine so there may be other extenuating circumstances.

Had to clean up my Calibre list.

I appreciate software of this calibre.

Now, we’ve got the book written, edited, formatted, and coverted to epub.  It’s time to see what it will look like on a Kindle.  Fire up the Kindle Previewer and load up your epub file.  NOTE: Kindle Previewer is using Kindlegen in the background to convert your text.  When it’s done it will show you where it made the converted file.  For the most part it comes out okay until we hit this page:

TOCInKindle

Standard issue HTML tag rendering.

The TOC is a list of hyperlinks and <a> tags usually render like this.  It’s both a good and a bad thing.  It’s good because it’s a visual cue to the reader that they can click on a chapter title and go to the chapter.  By the way, this is how Henchmen actually looks on a Kindle.  I left it alone because of the visual cue thing.  It may not look as clean as it could, but this isn’t a print a book so some aspects of design have to be different.  It’s largely due to our good friend CSS acting up again.  Here’s where Sigil comes in handy.

Fire up Sigil and open the epub you created earlier.  You’ll get a mass of raw HTML.

Sigilizer

One HTML file per chapter. I’ve also seen other programs create a single HMTL file for the whole book.

Note the highlighted text:

<p class=”block_6″><a class=”text_1″ href=”../Text/index_split_004.html#id_Toc403116700″>01 | It Doesn’t Stay In Vegas</a></p>

That class=”text_1″ links to the CSS file stylesheet.css down in the Styles folder.  If you scroll down you’ll find a section that looks like this:

.text_1 {

color: #00F;

text-decoration: underline

}

.text_1 is the class name.  Color (#00F) is the hex representation of the color and text-decoration: underline says underline the text.  If we tweak around a little and set the Color to black (#000) and comment out the text-decoration line we can change the way hyperlinks look.  So I’ll change to the following:

.text_1 {

color: #000;

/*text-decoration: underline*/

}

and get:

TOCKindleMod

CRAP!

Two things to note here.  1: The links are still underlined.  This is because, like font, there are some expected things that just happen; in this case links are underlined.  2: Note the color for chapter 3 is still blue.  Go back to the big Sigil picture and you can see why.  Chapter 3’s css style is text_2, not text_1.  You can either modify the text_2 style in the stylesheet or reset the Chapter 3 line to use text_1.  Personally, I’d recommend fixing the HTML instead of modifying the css.  CSS styles apply to all elements that reference that style so a change in one place can have far reaching effects.  More than likely it’s fine to just change the text_2 css, but if anything else anywhere in your book was using that style, it will be refomatted.

Keep iterating through this process until you like what you’ve got.  Remember how I said Kindle Previewer will make a converted file for you?  Keep track of where it puts them.  When you’re satisfied, take the final mobi file and you can upload it directly into KDP.  Amazon will also accept HTML files, doc and docx files, and epub files.

I didn’t go into too much depth here on using some of these tools because there are other, better tutorials out there for them.  This post is just meant to give you an idea of what you can do and some of the tools that will help you do it.  There are also people out there who specialize in formatting eBook files so if it looks too arduous, check into a professional formatter.  If you have other questions or comments, drop ’em in the comments and I’ll see if I can help out.

Spend some time on your formatting.  You spent months writing the book, a few days of formatting is time well spent.

Sorry, Dr. Spengler

In 1984 an emboldened Dr. Egon Spengler proudly declared print was dead.  The movie, of course, was Ghostbusters and I was thirteen.  I loved every second of that movie and went on to watch it a couple more times in the theater.  Times being what they were, I didn’t see it again until it aired on TV many years later.

Still loved it.

Who da man?  You da man!

Who da man? You da man!

For the most part, Spengler was the man.  Stantz and Venkmen got all the credit, but it Spengler who did the real work.  He and Zeddmore were the unsung heroes of the movie.  Remember that, and then forget you ever heard it.

Still, it was a bit premature for Spengler to declare print dead.  After all, computers at the time were clunky, cantankerous beasts.  I know, I started programming them right around the time Ghostbusters came out.  It was all one cryptic command after another and I soaked them up, which may explain why I’m kind of hard to communicate with.  Even now, with the rise of ebooks and readers, it’s difficult to declare print well and truly dead.  As I pointed out in a previous blog entry, the print on demand services have finally realized Gutenberg’s goal of easy and cheap printing.  Throw some data in one end and pop! out comes a book from the other.

Books have some advantages that tablets and eReaders lack, too.  Sure, sure; you can put like, a gagillion books on an eReader and they’re easy to read, easy to find, and easy to buy.  But take this scenario into account:

There you are, lying in bed, reading the latest Bigfoot Erotica or staring at pictures of bunnies with pancakes on their heads and you notice something small and black crawling on your bed mate.  Whatever it is, it has far too many legs and its beady little eyes are shining in the soft light.  This being the Southwest, you immediately recognize the hateful gaze of the wily(1) – and deadly(2) – Black Widow Spider, the scourge of the Southwestern United States(3).

black-widow-jg-jones

Whoops.  Wrong one.  This is the beast:

Stealing your soul through this very picture.

Stealing your soul through this very picture.

Keep your wits about you, lest the foul beast suck the very soul from your bed mate!(4)  Look around and find what you have at hand: a pillow, your trusty Nexus 7 tablet, and your fists.

The pillow won’t cut it; it’s far too fluffy to take out the beast with many legs.  Your fists won’t work because the demon will sink its fangs into your hand and the last thing you’ll notice before you die is a sudden craving for human brains!(5).  This leaves your Nexus 7 tablet.  There are two problems with smacking a black widow with your tablet: You may kill the beast, but you’ll hurt your bed mate because tablets have sharp edges.  The other problem is you’ll likely break your tablet that’s loaded with Bigfoot Erotica and then where will you be?  SOL, that’s where.

Don’t fret, though!  I’ve totally got your back here.  With a little help from my buds at Amazon, I’ve cut a deal whereby you can buy physical copies of Henchmen or Arise and get their digital versions absolutely free!  That’s right!  FREE!  These are friend prices, you understand.

SO AMAZING!

SO AMAZING!

So, next time you find one of the blasphemous little devils crawling on your bed mate, reach for a copy of either book and send that eight-legged demon back to Hell.  Each book is printed with special ink on the covers that will allow you – yes, you! – to smack the living snot out Black Widow spiders and just wipe their hated remains off with a tissue.

BAM!  No fuss, no muss.  That’s how much I care for you.(6)

How many other books do you know of that double as stories hailed as “the greatest ever told”(7) and spider killers?  None that I’m aware of.(8)

What are you waiting for?  It’s time to LIVE!

Would you like to know what else you can do with a print book that you can’t do with an eBook?  Look awesome.  Unless you’re reading Bigfoot erotica, there’s no better way to meet new friends than by reading an awesome book in public.  Especially if it’s one no one’s ever heard of, like one of mine.  So, buy several copies, go forth, and look awesome!

whosawesome

 

So, sorry Dr. Spengler.  It would appear print is very much alive and well.

notes

(1) They’re not really terribly wily.  Black Widows are actually pretty shy critters

(2) Sometimes, not often.  Most bites are dry bites.

(3) I think Taco Bell is actually the scourge of the Southwest, but that’s just my opinion

(4) Black widows don’t actually steal souls.  They have been known to borrow them, though.

(5) The link between Black Widows and Chronic Zombieitis is tenuous at best

(6) And dislike Black Widows.

(7) I said that, but you can totally trust my unbiased opinion

(8) Try it with War and Peace or The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich; you’ll break your bed mate’s bones.