Saturday, November 20, 2010

Adventures in Uploading

Uploading your manuscript to Smashwords and Amazon is easy -- thankfully. I've done it a dozen times with Death By A Dark Horse. No need to feel hesitant, or fearful about mistakes. The world isn't going to see what you put out there until you hit the "publish" button, and even then it will take a little time -- a couple of days for Amazon -- for your book to hit the catalogs.

You already know I recommend scouring your manuscript using the Smashwords Style Guide. My totally arbitrary choice was to upload to Amazon first. You don't have to do it that way.

Once at the site I signed in (I already have an Amazon account, if you don't then create one) and followed the super simple steps to create my author account and upload. Don't worry if you mess up. There's very clear prompts that direct you back to the area you need to fix.

First, I uploaded the manuscript, then the cover (they're separate uploads), waited briefly and, when prompted, clicked on the "Review" option.


Yes. Review Every Last Page in the Kindle mock-up window.

"But," you say, "I've already done multiple read-throughs, had a content editor, copy editor, and beta readers go through it. Why am I doing this AGAIN?"

Because Odd Things Can Happen in the conversion process.

I feel somewhat compelled to repeat that -- how about you just read it again. I'll wait.

So, lets talk about what happened to me that caused the multiple uploads to Amazon I mentioned in the first paragraph. I might be able to save you some frustration.

The first couple of pages looked great, then…whoops. A small section had odd margins -- like a chunk of text had the left margin moved a number of spaces to the right…and…oh dear, there was no paragraph break for the second character's dialog.


And the further I got into the manuscript, the more frequently the peculiar margin problem and paragraphing problem happened.

Holy cow.

What a mess.

No way could I release this gobble-d-gook to the world.

I checked the Word Doc for anything that might have snuck in. Nothing.

I paced, ate chocolate, and stared at the screen. About then I noticed Amazon's instructions about downloading the HTML document created when I uploaded my manuscript. The instructions were to examine the HTML doc, fix the problem, and resubmit the HTML doc. How hard could that be, right?

Holy cow.

I must have stared at the screen for two solid hours trying to make some sense out of the pointy brackets, slashes, and plentiful-but-terse (and incomprehensible) coding. Never mind there were multiple colors. At long last I began to see a pattern. The same lines of code appeared before each of the oddly formatted sections and nowhere else. I tried an experiment -- how much worse could it get, right? I took out the errant lines of code and replaced them with the code that appeared regularly where there wasn't a problem. Just to be safe -- like a controlled scientific experiment -- I changed only one section. Then I resubmitted the HTML file and…


Non-techie me fixed the problem! All I had to do was replace each occurrence of bad code with good code and I was golden!

Five hours later (seriously, FIVE hours) with dinner hastily prepared and bolted, I was at my computer still exercising the search and replace function.

"What are you doing?" my husband asked.

I didn't take my eyes off the screen or my fingers off the keys as I answered. "I'm fixing this freaking HTML file of my freaking book so the freaking margins won't look like some freaking cat half digested my freaking book and freaking threw it up. I'm only one sixth of the way done, I have a freaking headache that starts in my freaking lower back and to be honest I just really don't feel like freaking chatting right now."

"Why don't you just make a new HTML file?"

"I'd have the same freaking problem."

"Use a different HTML generator," he said.

"A different one? That would fix this?"


I didn't believe him. He booted me out of my chair and ran the clean Word doc file through a different HTML generator…one on my computer. I didn't know I had it. I thought I had to use what Amazon created.

In less than five minutes we were uploading a new HTML file to Amazon. The peculiar lines of code (which I learned were obsolete HTML) were not there. To be honest I didn't think the problem would be solved. But…it was!

I don't know how the antiquated code got there, except that it obviously wasn't in my Word doc file and had to have been injected by the conversion process. I've heard that the conversion process has not been perfected yet. Guess it's true.

The moral of the story is: Check your uploaded book carefully. If you have problems like I did it may just take creating your own HTML file and using that to upload to Amazon. I hope they have the problem fixed soon. This kind of thing could get real discouraging.

Sorry about the long post. I was going to divide this in half, but I figured you'd want to know right away how I fixed the problem -- especially if you are experiencing the same thing yourself.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Death By A Dark Horse -- it's Launch Day!

It's here! Death By A Dark Horse is now available from Amazon and Smashwords in e-book format for $2.99!

This is a dream-come-true for me. The amount of work and love that went into this project is something every writer can appreciate. A million "thank yous" to every last person who has helped and encouraged me along the way. There will be a smile on my face for the rest of the week -- hey, the whole month!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

After the Editing - Cleaning up the manuscript

I'm pretty sure I mentioned at some point in the not-too-distant past that my plan for getting my manuscript ready for e-publishing was to begin with Smashword's Style Guide. The "word on the street" is that it's easy to follow and did a good job of getting you ready for a clean upload.

This is true.

I'll tell you right off the bat that if you're capable of following directions, you can pull this off. No degree in computer engineering required.

I opted to start by following the instructions for stripping out all the formatting, since I was afraid with all the messing around I'd done with my Word document that I'd left some stuff in that shouldn't be there. It was no big deal to go back and make the few additions I needed -- chapter headings and a few instances of italics.

Once I was done with that -- took only a short while -- I went in and did all the little "tweaky" things, like making sure the paragraph returns didn't have a space in front of them, only 4 blank lines existed between chapters (2 before and 2 after the page break), all the quotes (both single and double) were straight and not "curly" "smart" ones, and the other recommendations. Using the search and replace function was a life/time saver. I was done with the formatting so fast I went back and checked it all over two more times.

Then I added the title and copyright page, the author page, acknowledgements, and dedication. The cover is a separate upload for both Amazon and Smashwords.

Because Smashwords requires specific wording for the copyright page I made a copy of the document for them and a separate one for uploading onto Amazon.

Now I was ready to run a test. I highly recommend you do this step. You'll save yourself some grief. I'll tell you why next week!

Friday, November 5, 2010

10 More Days!

Death By A Dark Horse 
will be available in 
10 days!

The first 2 chapters are available on my website. Stop by and have a read!

Death By A Dark Horse will be available from and
after November 15, 2010 

No e-reader? No Problem! 
Most e-reader software is available to downloand onto your computer for Free from the manufacturer!
Check the website of your choice for details and instructions.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jargon: Instant Authority or "Geek to Me"?

This week I am thrilled to have fellow horse-woman and writer Rhonda Lane as my guest. Rhonda mostly rides a desk chair these days where she works on her mystery novels and The Horsey Set , her horses-and-culture blog. She lives in the Hartford, CT, area on a hillside with her husband and their three cats who allow the humans to share their domicile.

A matter of understanding

What does this next sentence mean to you?

“A chestnut wearing green leg wraps stood in the cross ties.”

If you know little or nothing about horses, it’s gibberish. You don’t know a “cross tie” from a “bow tie.”

If you have some familiarity with horses, a picture formed in your mind, except you may have wondered as to what shade of chestnut? And others who know horses may be focused on the cross ties because your barn doesn’t use them or you don’t approve of them.

So, you may not realize that “chestnut” in the earlier sentence refers to the horse’s color, a shade of orangish-brown.

And, if those details are important to the action of the story – even beyond helping you or imagine the scene – then you’re lost. You may even give up on a book you might otherwise enjoy, if you stumble too often on unfamiliar words.

One of the issues with writing “insider” books is making jargon from the world of the story accessible for a wide audience.

How I revise for non-horsey readers

Remember the sentence in question. “A chestnut wearing green leg wraps stood in the cross ties.”

Let’s look at the sentence with the following questions in mind.
The horse has a different question
(photo courtesy of Smitty, Walking Horse Trivia)
Who’s telling the story?

The story is told in first-person by a woman journalist with some knowledge of horses. She’s liable to use the wording of that sentence in question, but my goal is to make the scene vivid for any reader. I want a reader who’s new to anything about horses to see what the protagonist sees, but through the filter of the way my sleuth expresses herself.

Is the detail important?

That the horse is chestnut will be important later in the book. The cross ties? Some equestrian disciplines don’t use them, but this one does. That the leg wraps are green is part of an image system I’ve set up between two rival stables.

Does the detail slow down the plot?

A single short sentence? No. But I’m going to have to break it up into more sentences to help readers orient themselves. That in itself is risky. Unless …

Can I fold the detail into action?

My reporter protagonist is looking for people to interview after a horse show while people are preparing horses for travel. She comes upon a man wrapping the horse’s legs in protective bandages. The cross ties are important because this is a discipline that uses them and I want to show some of the culture and practices of this particular discipline.

What does the thing in question look like/sound like/feel like that everyone knows about?

I can serve two kinds of audiences by stating that the creature in question is “a chestnut horse the color of a caramel apple.” Equestrians now have a shade in mind, and those new to horses can imagine the golden festival treat. That people think happy thoughts when they think of caramel apples serves my purposes, too, because this is a “good guy” horse. (Oops. Spoiler)

Jargon can be good

From the film APOLLO 13 to TV’s ER and CSI shows, jargon usage conveys authority and an insider vibe. Yet, film and TV have the advantage of accompanying visuals to set the unfamiliar words into context.

Readers of novels don’t have visuals to help. Writers have to help readers imagine a scene and the action.

Have you ever had a book spoiled by too much jargon you didn’t understand? If you’re also a writer, how do you simplify your world’s jargon? Can you think of other ways to deal with jargon?

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's Almost Here!

The countdown has begun!
Death By A Dark Horse
will be available on November 15 from Amazon and Smashwords.

Thea Campbell goes out for revenge when the one person who is simultaneously the most likely and least likely candidate for thief steals her horse. But Olympic hopeful Valerie Parsons is past caring about being arrested. She’s dead. At first Thea’s horse is assumed to have killed the woman, but when the coroner determines it was a human hand and not a horse’s hoof that ended Valerie’s life Thea becomes a person of interest. Now intimidating people with little regard for due process are showing up on her doorstep looking to even the score. Toss in her wrecked love life, a sexy geology professor who stirs up more than dust, and an alleged psychic horse, and it soon becomes apparent that Thea’s predictable life is now out of control. As she takes charge of clearing herself of the murder she discovers the victim had a knack for making enemies—one of whom is Thea’s ditsy sister. She pursues her investigation with more at stake than ever, and in a seedy biker bar comes face-to-tattoo with information that will lead the police to the real killer. She dutifully reports to the detective in charge. But Thea is wrong. As close to dead wrong as she ever wishes to get.