Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Adventures in Formatting - Part 2: Uploading, or Not So Fast, Pardner

The last time we left our intrepid heroine, er, me, I was telling the thrilling tale of uploading my first manuscript to the Smashwords Meatgrinder. What did we learn last time, kids? That's right: TABS BAD. And the space bar is not your friend, so ignore its siren call.

So we had a cover. We had a formatted file that contained a title page, "front matter" (that's your copyright, attributions for design, etcetera), a linked table of contents, the story, a short "about the story" feature, and previews of two upcoming novels that included covers, blurbs, and a sample first chapter. I wanted to really test the formatting by making it a complex file.

In studying about the different file formats Smashwords will provide you with, we learned that everything is not going to look exactly the same in every format. For example, some formats will not honor your page breaks. Ouch. This is a nightmare for the OCD-afflicted among us. Some people will go the route of formatting for each separate platform separately, but I found that I could get things to look good without going that route, so I'm just letting Smashwords create those files for me right now.

One thing we did decide to do, however, was to insert glyphs to indicate section breaks so that in the formats where page breaks vanish, everything would still look separate and organized. To do this we searched for free clipart gifs, found one we liked, saved the file, resized it to be small enough, then inserted it according to the instructions in the Smashwords Style Guide. Worked like a charm. The trick is to pick something simple, black, and distinct enough so that it still looks like what it's supposed to when it's tiny.

We went with the cat because it was still clear when reduced. The quill pen is cool, but became sort of abstract small.

So with that done, we uploaded all our stuff for the first story to the Meatgrinder and were put into the queue. A LONG queue. It took about 48 hours to finish. I clicked through on my Smashwords dashboard and was greeted with three AutoVetter errors. Oops. (And even though there a button saying "Submit for Review" after the error list that's just begging to be pushed, don't push it until you've fixed your errors.)

The three AutoVetter errors: tabs, spacebar, cover image too small. We went back through the files, and sure enough there was a single forgotten tab left in. Since we had combined several files into a single manuscript, there was a spot where we hadn't double-checked. Likewise an extra space at the start of a paragraph. We found them by turning on the formatting view and dispensed with them.

As for the cover being too small, that was a bonehead move on my part. When I'd "saved for web" on the cover, I'd forgotten to set my pixels to 800x1200. I just reopened the cover in Photoshop and changed the setting and we were good to go.

So we uploaded the single story again. This time it took about 24 hours, and the manuscript came through with a clean bill of health. We dutifully checked it out in every format. (You'll need Kindle for PC to check your .mobi file and Adobe Digital Editions to check your ePub file, but both are free downloads.)

I'm published! Yay! We submitted it for review to go into the Premium Catalogue and, using what we had learned, formatted the next three packages. While the first package had taken about 8 hours of work, each subsequent one took about 1.5 hours. (No doubt it will be longer with the novels, but not too bad.) At the end of the process, the next three short stories had no errors and went live. Success!

It's been a week now and, while I'm still waiting on admission to the Premium Catalogue, I've had over 200 downloads. No reviews yet (disappointing), but I'm looking at it as more than 200 people who have seen my name and been made aware of the novels that are coming soon. Most importantly, I found that I could produce a professional-looking ebook without spending a ton of money.

Next up - Adventures in Formatting - Part 3: Kindle, the Final Frontier

1 comment:

  1. Note: Novels only take longer in the sense that there are more chapter breaks to fiddle with. (boldfacing them, adding hyperlinks, whatever it is you like to do with chapter breaks). If you followed Smashwords' instructions you turned the entire document into one format at the very beginning, then use find/replace to remove all occurrences of ^t. Bam, your entire book formatted as fast as a short story. ONLY the chapter breaks are extra labor.

    Since I'm still waitin' on my cover art (and now only a quarter out of my mind and maybe no longer totally bedridden) I haven't gotten to go from 'formatting and using Kindlegen to check it' to 'submitting'. Thanks for the heads up on whether there are hidden traps waiting for me!