Kindle-izing Kittens & Conference Success

Last weekend I attended the Oklahoma Writers Federation annual conference. Any gathering of like-minded writerly types inspires me with rocket-fuel determination to GET-STUFF-DONE! This conference was no exception.

Right on the heels (paws?) of Kindle-izing my first book, Complete Kitten Care I met a savvy writer named Maria Hooley at the OWFI book signing. She’s had great success with the process and gave me some wonderful tips (thank you Maria!). You see, while there’s a savvy group in the DTP area at Amazon Kindle, they frown on self promotion there–techie questions only need be posted. Otherwise you risk getting nether regions singed. Maria pointed me to KindleBoards which still has strict rules–but also opportunities to get the word out. There, you can create a signature that includes a picture/link to your Kindle book, for example, and post a thread about the title.

I’m still very new to this process and learning as I go. The key to getting a book noticed on amazon and raising sales ranking has to do with “tagging” the book, as well. Huh? Who knew? Go to the book page, scroll down, and you’ll see a list of words that the author and/or readers have generated that describes the content. Click on those that you agree with, and as the #’s increase, potentially your ranking also rises. The community at KindleBoards helps each other out with this process.

Finally, from what I’ve gathered, book sales rarely happen unless/until the book receives several positive reviews. Now, when Complete Kitten Care first edition hit the shelves, cat-savvy folks from the writer community came out with meows and yowls of praise! But those stay with the paper book–they don’t carry over to the Kindle version. *sigh* Therefore I’m asking–actually I’m sitting-up-and-begging for anyone who generously reviewed the book previously to do so again. Oh, and go “tag” the sucker, too. Tag Maria’s books as well. She’s good people!

Switching gears–some of y’all know that I’ve long aspired to write fiction, thrillers actually. While at the OWFI conference, I was very pleased to receive absolutely stunning positive reviews of my WIP, which incorporates dog viewpoint as one of the major characters! No, this isn’t an anthropomorphic warm-and-fuzzy pooch, but a thriller with a dog that thinks/smells/acts/communicates like a dog–partnering with his trainer/behaviorist protagonist. So I’m PUMPED to finish revisions and get that puppy (literally!) into the hands of agents. SNOOPY-DANCE-‘O-JOY!

woofs and purrs until next time,

amy

It’s Alive! The Kindle-izing Journey Continues . . .

After a little over a month, much research and even more angst, Complete Kitten Care is LIVE and available for $2.99 at Kindle. Whew!

While publishing via the DTP (digital text plaform) provided by Amazon works great for text-only (fiction) works, there area number of hoops nonfiction cat-egories must leap. Pun intended. I promised a recap for all my followers, and I promise it’s not nearly as difficult as I made it. So for all you other DWAA and CWA and other nonfiction authors including all my good friends at OWFI, (maybe even some nonfiction Thriller Writers?) here’s how I did it.

1. Create a single document by combining all chapters into one

2. Format with the “style” templates to code your documents for the table of contents. For each chapter heading, I used “Heading 1” and then “Heading 2” and so on for either section heading and/or breakout boxes of text. I found that the software default for HTML codes in the TOC recognized Heading 1, 2 and 3.

3. Remove any tables, boxes of information or other such graphics, as they will not translate. Instead format them with bolded or italicized text, or use Heading 4, 5, 6 etc. These won’t be recognized in the TOC, but the look/format will remain true once translated into HTML. I used this technique to highlight “pull out” information such as sidebars.

3. Insert any photos at low resolution (72 dpi) but as large as possible to be viewable once published in the Kindle. A gif or jpg file works well. Kindle only displays black and white pictures; HOWEVER, if you have color, why not use them? The FREE Kindle-for-PC does display color, and perhaps in the future the handheld will as well.  For what it’s worth, I set my page size to A5 (about 6″ x 8.25″) to approximate the view from the smaller Kindle, before sizing my photos. I also placed them between paragraph breaks, which worked well at that size–but not as well if the page is read in larger format or changed to smaller type. I suspect there’s not much to be done in this case although you can set it to “word wrap” which helps a bit.

4. Insert any links you wish. In my bio section, I’ve included my other writing venues as well as my website. Throughout COMPLETE KITTEN CARE, any website mentions for products or resources also have live click-able links. When the books COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING CAT and COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING DOG are updated and published, they will include hot links to veterinary resources, and the experts interviewed for the books in the Kindle-For-PC version, and PDF versions if you so desire (but not on the Kindle itself).

5. Click on the “references” tab in Word software, and find the “table of contents” command. There are default choices, or you can build your own. I used the template. It automatically lists, in order, every single word you’ve “coded” with Header 1, 2, and 3, with associated page numbers and clickable bookmarks to that given page.

6. To convert the finished document to HTML, you will SAVE-AS, click on OTHER FORMATS and save as a WEB PAGE, FILTERED. You will lose much of your margins and formatting, but don’t let that scare you. Check throughout for any inadvertent missing paragraph tabs. Remember, this will be translated once more by the Amazon DTP software.

7. If you have any photos in the text, the HTML conversion will create both an HTML text document with ‘placeholder’ spots for images, and a second folder that contains the files of those images. You’ll need to ‘zip’ or compress both of these into a single document. Highlight both files, and then right-click the mouse, SEND TO, and click on compressed (zip) file. THAT is the file you will upload to the Digital Text Platform.

Once you’ve uploaded, be sure to view the test version. This process can be tedious because each page takes a couple of seconds to load. It is well worth checking for formatting errors at this stage, though. If you publish at this stage, and later find errors, you will need to re-publish all over again.

Good luck! I hope this journey helps others. And once again (cuz it’s my blog and I can!), I hope y’all will spread the word about this how-to blog. And if you need good pet care information or know someone who does, please consider my Kindle-ized books.

I’ve just updated my homepage to reflect the new kitten book–along with a new author photo, what fun!

Happy Writing!

amy

Kindle-izing the Backlist–Shoelaces for Dummies

This is my third blog about my Kindle-ization journey. The feedback has been incredible. And some of y’all had the nerve (pronounced “noive”) to say, “Publishing with Kindle is easy!”

Well excooooooose me! Perhaps for those with text-only content, I agree. And for those technorati-inclined yahoos who never have to ask where the on/off switch might be (my husband is one…he actually built our first computer), just go back to your little perfect right-brain world and let the Dummies-R-Us club have our own play date. Ahem.

It’s been tedius, frankly, with lots of do-overs. But it’s sort of like learning to tie shoe laces. After you’ve managed the feat a few times on one pair of shoes, the “duh!” moment comes and it’s a no-brainer with future footwear.

My struggle has been in two areas. First, the pictures which add so much to nonfiction books. And second, the “added value” text in boxes and sidebars in print versions that simply run together in the HTML that Kindle requires.  

In a previous blog, I reported removing the text from boxes, and changing the font face while including an “auto-line” break before and after the call-out text. It worked on my laptop, looked keen when translated to HTML. I also reduced my images size to 72 dpi (from the 300+ needed for printed work), and inserted in the text. In addition, since the Kindle screen size limits viewing, I changed my page size to approximate that finished reader. I used the “A5″ setting which is approximately 6″ x 8.28” and still isn’t quite right but comes close.

One of the complaints I’d heard about Kindle was that pictures often were too small to view, so I wanted my pictures to be as large as possible and fill the full screen. The text-wrap default cut words in half in odd places if pictures weren’t inserted at hard-text-breaks. Placing images between paragraphs eliminated that problem.

To save in HTML, you go to “save as” and click on “other formats” and use “web page filtered.” You will lose pretty much all of your margins, and the text will run together. But you also can see where you need additional hard-returns or tab-indents, and can check to be sure photos are not too close together (which really screws up formatting).

At this point, probably three weeks or more into the project, I felt ready to ‘test’ the finished updated Complete Kitten Care book in the Kindle Digital Text Platform. They actually do walk you through the process, folks. I’d already set up my bank account for electronic funds receipt (for all the many hundreds of thousands of sales I expect to make–ha!). The first step includes providing book copy that one might read on the back cover or inside flap. You also must provide a jpeg or tif image of the book cover, with very specific size requirements. Another step covers your assertion that you are the copyright holder and/or can substantiate reversion of rights. You also will be asked to price your book, and the size of the file dictates that to some extent. All of this information can be edited, prior to you actually submitting the whole schmear for publication.

The step that took quite some time was the “publish” and “review” section. It’s dummy-proof (and that’s saying a lot, coming from me). Basically you upload the HTML file you’ve saved, and then click the “view” button. This shows you an approximation of how your book looks on the screen of the Kindle.

My pictures weren’t there. And the lines containing the changed font sidebars had disappeared, as had the font change. Grrr! Another pass through the manuscript removed all the lines-that-wouldn’t-be-seen, and switched the font to the Header 5 default. I changed the photos from tif and jpeg to gif formats. Uploaded the manuscript again, and clicked “view.”

Now the pull-out boxes looked great! Eureka! But…still no pictures, only place holders. Double grrr. They showed in the HTML version, but disappeared on the Kindle. So when you’re driving along in the car, in unfamiliar territory and get lost, it’s best to find a safe place to ask for directions. After a search for info in the Kindle Forum I found my answer. When pictures are imbedded in a Word file, but then saved-as an HTML file, the pictures are dumped into a second folder and the two link together somehow…

Okay, I can hear the hyena-laughs from all you techies out there! Just stop, okay?

Anyway, when uploading to the digital text platform of Kindle, both files must go together. To do that, you must first combine them in a zip folder. Sounds difficult to do, but proved surprisingly easy. Just highlight both files, RIGHT click your mouse, and select the “send to” option which includes a zip (compressed) option. Once that’s done, upload this single zip/compressed file to the Kindle and view the results.

SNOOPY-DANCE-‘O-JOY!!!!!!!!!

The pictures were there (they looked great!). The pull-out blocks of text looked fine. So last Thursday–April 15, 2010–I sent the updated kindle-lized version of Complete Kitten Care to be published. Somehow that date seems appropriate. An email shortly came confirming that the material had been received, and would be reviewed and published within 24-48 hours. The next day another email message arrived, this time requesting documentation of right-of-reversion, and I sent a scanned copy of that letter from my publisher New American Library. Late last night, another message–this one stating that my book had been published by Kindle and would be available for purchase — $2.99–within 24-48 hours.

When that happens, I’ll publish another blog announcing the re-birth of the baby, along with a recap how-to. Believe me, the next Kindle-ization backlist books Complete Care for Your Aging Cat and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog won’t take nearly the same effort or angst.

Heck, I may just look into Sony-Reader-izing the books, too. Because I’ve learned how to tie these shoelaces. And you can, too, if you want. Don’t settle for the Velcro fasteners or zippers for your hightop shoes just yet. You’ll be strapping on those high-fashion sparkly designer slippers in no time!

Whether or not readers will buy the polished footwear is another question–and topic for a future blog.

Kindle-izing the Backlist, Headaches & Headlines

My journey into Kindle-land continues, and the tedium-monster (“it’s alive!!!”) has an endless appetite. Actually, I’ve made good progress. But since I promised a step-by-step account, this entry describes my AHA-discovery of a week ago regarding the HTML worry.

You see, in a paper book the table of contents (TOC) set down in black and white in the front matter proves easy enough to review. Most nonfiction books also include an index for additional help to access must-know information. That saves the reader from flipping through tons of pages to get to the really good stuff. I don’t know about you, but my favorite reference books also sport a bristling array of Post-It book marks that highlight the information I may want to easily find. Even in a fiction book, folks use bookmarks to remember where they left off reading the day before or (gasp!) fold a page corner as a reminder.

Enter the Kindle (or your flavor-of-the-month E-reader). Without physical pages to flip or fold,  the reader instead must scroll through the pages to find the information that floats their boat. As with Webpages, the text can be coded to allow shortcuts to “jump” from a particular keyword to a “bookmark” later in the text, typically using HTML code.

If I got the details wrong, please don’t jump down my virtual throat–I am not a techie, and am lucky to have even this wispy grasp of the subject! Until now, all I wanted to know about computers was where to find the “on/off” switch. Ahem.

In any event, in debating whether to take the Kindle-leap, I debated about purchasing HTML software. Or perhaps, I thought, turning the file into a PDF version (complete with color photos?!) could work? Uh…nope. The folks at Amazon Kindle have kindly created a forum for would-be self publishers and a quick search there revealed that a PDF version must be translated into something else before being uploaded to another something else and…

Suffice it to say, PDF means more work. The HTML software programs costs $$$ that I’m not interested in spending on an experiment meant to cost only time. Others may feel differently (I can hear the technorati folks snickering. Yes, I mean you!). I do know a bit of HTML coding, simply from keeping my website updated. But I learned by cut-and-pasting existing code, with trial and error. You can do the same, in a blog post like this one, by clicking the HTML button to reveal codes. But good gosh-a-mighty, I really don’t want to deal with all that crappiocca when time could better be spent updating the content. It involves first typing (text) your TOC, inserting a bookmark code/hyperlink to a keyword in the TOC that’s then tied to that same word (chapter title, for instance) that appears later in the text. Yikes!

The good folks at the Kindle Forum noted that the MobiPocket (another E-reader) can be used as sort of an interim step to add the HTML coding to your manuscript, in particular the TOC. So quick-like-a-bunny, I downloaded the free MobiPocket Creator software and took some time exploring that avenue. It still looks like a good bit of work.

Meanwhile, as I revised the manuscript, I made an effort to keep the chapter titles, headings, and subheads consistent simply for looks. There’s a nifty tool in Microsoft Office Word 2007 for text styles that I like, and mine defaults to the “normal” setting. There also are templates you can use for “title case” and “heading 1” and so on that work well. As it happens, I discovered that if you use these templates for your headings, they AUTOMATICALLY CODE for HTML when you later use the Table of Contents tool (on the “references” tab). I didn’t need the MobiPocket after all!

SNOOPY-DANCE-‘O-JOY!!!

With the stroke of a key or two, my TOC appeared already typed, coded, and ready to rumble. Here’s what you need to know, though. DO NOT use the “title case” as it doesn’t seem to appear on the finished TOC. I used the “heading 1” to type each chapter heading, and then “heading 2” for the subheads, and even “heading 3” for further divisions. That’s as far as the TOC auto-setup appears to work to code the bookmark HTML. If you need to change or add anything later in the text, you also can simply “update” the TOC and it will insert or remove automatically.

Therefore, rather than getting your tail in a twist over TOC and HTML, investigate the potential of your current wordprocessing software. I’m a PC (as the commercial says) but have no doubt that pretty much any popular wordprocessor has similar capabilities.

Next installment–pretty pictures and more!

Happy Kindle-izing!

amy

Kindle-izing & Backlist CPR

My last blog post “kindled” several email list discussions (sorry, couldn’t resist). It seems many of us have been frustrated by the stack-o-books under the bed collecting dust, while the hoards of used book sellers camped out on our online book pages collect inflated $$ on the same title, often before the R.I.P. trumpet finishes its echo.

There’s nothing restful about a dead book. After the weeks, months, or years of teeth-gnashing, blood-letting angst required to give birth to them, a book shouldn’t die in infancy. So I’m performing CPR on my backlist-babies: Copyright Publishing Redistribution. 

A colleague just asked me about prevailing upon my publishers to bring out these books in Ebook version, that it would be in their interest to do so and earn royalties? Well…yeah. But why should I give them back that right, when I can do it myself and earn much higher royalties than ever garnered with the paper versions? Granted, I may not sell a single Kindle book–which is a really good reason for the original publishers to steer clear. On the other paw, maybe I’ll raise some gas money.

On to the nuts-and-bolts of CPR. The Ebook formatted manuscript must be a single file. So I first opened each chapter/file in turn, and cut-and-pasted to one master file. Remember that you won’t necessarily need page breaks, or specific margins, because that all goes away once it’s translated to the HTML. Also, remember that chapter titles, headings, and the like need to be consistent throughout. This will be VITAL when creating your TOC in HTML (more about that in a future blog).

Last night, I completed the text formatting of Complete Kitten Care, including hyperlinks to product sites, and clickable links to additional information, such as my About.com columns. Heck, it’s all about cross promoting, right? Today, I’m ready to import the cute-and-fuzzy kitten pictures and illustrations–but wait!

Will the links work? For the Aging Cat book (and others), I’ve included hyperlinks to the expert veterinarians and researchers, their university pages, bios and such-like. I believe that’s an incredible value-added for the books. The pictures–well, if they don’t work as well, the text should still do most of the heavy lifting. Nothing to do but try and see how it works in the test uploads.

I do know that graphics suck when translated. My books have LOTS of text boxes and breakout sidebars. So I needed to find a way to have those set out, but without the boxes. Because when the boxes are translated to HTML, they “float” and move where you don’t want them, often over top of other text.

My answer: The running boxes, sidebars, and other pull-out material may be 1) title bolded, and used as regular paragraph within regular text; 2) typed in contrasting font from other text  and/or 3: place inside horizontal lines above/below text. 

I found that it works best to format each individual chapter/file first, before cutting-and-pasting into your master file. Make a note of how you plan to treat each heading and pull-out box of material, so you’re consistent. 

More on the CPR in future blogs. Kitten pictures am-a-calling! Incidentally, Kindle does not display color images (at least not yet). But the PC version DOES display color images. I suspect pictures will be a PITA so unless you’re a masochist, don’t bother. I may do a PDF version downloadable from my website, for those who want that version–complete with color photos, text boxes, and other cool schtuff.

PITA, here I come! Hell, successful writers have to be something of a masochist to endure all the rejection that comes with the job. It HURTS so GOOD! LOL!

Happy Kindle-izing!

 amy