Formatting eBooks: Final Touches

So we’ve talked about the basics of formatting eBooks, and why it’s important to do it well. Today we’ll look at a couple tips for going that extra mile.

I should say that I got most of these ideas from others, and you can find the relevant links on my Writers Resources page under formatting. Special thanks to Cameron, Guido and Piotr.

So.

The main things you want to look for when you’re formatting is that your line spacing is correct (Word can really mess with this), and that you’ve got a working Table of Contents. We’ll start with the TOC–Sigil makes it really easy for you.

The bold text is your Heading and will show in the TOC.

The picture above shows a heading–the bolded text. At the beginning of each section, you’ll want to highlight the chapter title (in this case, the story title, as it’s a collection of stories), then click the H1 button on the top left of the program. This gives it the <h1></h1> tags, which tells the final file that it’s a heading. Do that for all your sections. When you’re done, go to Tools and click on TOC Editor; this will allow you to select which Headings will appear in your TOC. Deselect things like the copyright page and other front matter if you like, and there you go. On the right side of the picture above is the complete TOC. When you run the finished ePub file through Calibre, you’ll be able to further codify the TOC, which will then appear in the final book.

In professionally published books, you’ll often see the first words or letter of a new chapter highlighted somehow. Sometimes the first few words will be in bold text, sometimes the first letter is an image file of an ornate letter, with the rest of the text wrapped around it. This is something you can accomplish in Sigil.

Capitalise

Note the first few words are capitalized. Neat!

 

Here, I’ve highlighted the first few words and used another feature of Sigil: the All Caps button. You find this in Word as well, of course, but if you carry it over to Sigil from there, it’ll mess up the formatting. You want to do this in HTML, so don’t do it in Word, let Sigil do it for you. Highlight the text you want, click the button (it’s the one I’ve circled in Red) and there you go. This nicely sets the first few words apart, a simple way to give a nice polish to the book.

I’m not sure I like it for my book–my second story, Room With a Corpse, looks a bit silly when I do this–but it’s an option. You could also just bold the text. If you want to add the ornate letter I mentioned (you can see a nice example on the Sigil page), just delete the first letter, then right click in that spot and click “Add Image.” You’ll need to find an image of the letter or make one yourself, but that’s all there is too it.

Which brings us to the next example. Because you’re effectively editing in HTML, you can’t use different fonts without going into the “back end” and editing font tags. Even if you do that, there’s no guarantee that your fonts will display on all readers, so it’s not advised. But there is a way around it.

Open up an image editor–I use Paint.net–and make a small canvas that’s 500 by 375 pixels. This is a good size for most e-readers. Then click on the Text tool and type the title of your book in whatever font you like.

Title Block

Here’s the Title Block for my book–nice font!

You can use some of the main fonts you’ll find installed on your computer–but they’re pretty boring, and people will recognize them. (Remember when Stephen Spielberg used the Papyrus font in Avatar?) Look for other fonts online–they’re easy to install and use–but be careful, because many of them are licensed, and you’ll need to buy them. Don’t go stealing fonts! Instead, go to Font Squirrel, where you can download fonts for free. In the picture above, I’ve used League Gothic, a popular font that “pops” nicely.

So make your image (make the background transparent) and save it as a jpg file. Then create a new section wherever you want your title block to appear. Instead of adding text, just right click and Add Image, throw in your new title block, and ta-da! A nice attractive font to act as your title page without screwing up the user-end e-reader.

Finally, you’ll want to do the same thing with your cover by adding a new section at the very beginning and adding the cover as an image. This will display it on readers not only as a thumbnail when the user is looking through their library, but when they first open the book. I don’t have an example, but check out the link by Cameron above for a nice one.

So there you have it. A few quick tricks that will give your finished book just that much more polish. It’s true what they say: the devil’s in the details. It may seem like a lot of work to add things people probably won’t notice much, but as I said in my last post, people will notice if they’re not there.

And now a quick plug. You might have guessed that because I’m in the final stages, I’m ready to release my book soon–and you’d be right! Watch for The Astrologers and Other Stories to be available on Amazon and Kobo stores by October 23.

And, if you’d like a free copy, why not join my mailing list? Anyone who signs up before October 23 will receive a copy as soon as it’s ready for distribution.

Who doesn’t like free books?

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Drop by Drop–or Splash

Image by Ian Sane via Flikr

This morning I found a nice quote on my Twitter stream:

A bowl fills drop by drop.

~Buddha

I found it very apropos to my journey into e-publishing so far. It’s been a learning curve, and I’m finding tons of little details need to get taken care of–most of which I’d never thought of before. Drop by drop indeed.

And then, sometimes, there’s a splash.

This morning, I received notification by the Government of Canada Library and Archives informing me that my application for a publisher’s block of ISBN numbers had been approved. Which means that I can now add ISBN numbers to any of my forthcoming published works, all online, all at the click of a button–and all for free. Not that I’m bragging.

Getting an ISBN number has always been a goal of mine, in a geeky spent-too-much-time-at-the-library-as-a-kid kind of way. I always figured that, as a writer, it would be one of those great measures of success. Get an ISBN number, and your book could be sold in bookstores. It could be stocked in libraries. It’s in a national database.

It’s real.
Suddenly, that bowl is filling pretty darn quickly.

Of course, in the world of e-publishing, it’s pretty easy to get an ISBN number, and it’s not a validation of your writing by any stretch of the imagination. Still, it’s a significant step for me, and one that makes this goal of mine seem more within reach than ever.

Anyway, ISBN Numbers. Why bother?

An International Standard Book Number is used to set one publication apart from another–even separate editions of the same text. It’s an important tool for librarians and booksellers, allowing them to easily categorize and track books. For eBooks, it’s a bit different. The ISBN (you might see eISBN) is obtained in the same way, and serves the same purpose. But not all vendors require one.

The Kobo and Amazon and Barnes & Noble stores don’t require an ISNB, though you can add one if you like. The Apple and Sony stores do–and by extension, Smashwords requires an ISBN if you want to be included in their Premium Catalogue, which pushes titles to both those stores (you can still publish on Smashwords without an ISBN, just not in the Premium Catalogue).

Which brings us back to the question. If many distributors don’t require one, why bother? If you don’t mind not getting into the Sony or Apple stores, maybe you don’t need one–but an ISBN is nevertheless a helpful marketing and tracking tool that could give you an edge.

Of course, there’s also the expense to consider. In the USA, there’s a service charge for getting an ISBN. On ISBN.org, they’ll cost you between $27 and $40 each to start, but you buy them in blocks of ten. Smashwords seems to offer them for free. And if you live in Canada–which encourages the creation of new Canadian Creative Content–all you have to do is go to the Canadian ISBN Service System . Sign up, and in a couple weeks, you’ll be assigned a unique ISBN publishers block. From there you’re only a couple clicks away from a unique ISBN for each new publication. Easy!

 

This might be a good time to remind everyone that my collection The Astrologers and Other Stories will be published soon–I’m aiming for a release date of October 23. It will be priced at $2.99, but I’ll be offering the titular story separately for free. Look for it on the Kobo Store and Amazon.com soon!

Tapestry Sample part 2–and exciting news!

Following up on my last post, today I have the second part of Garden, the sample from my upcoming Tapestry project. But first, some exciting news!

Yesterday I got my manuscript for The Astrologers and Other Stories from my editor, Yesenia Vargas. This is the first time I’ve had my work professionally edited, so I was a bit nervous. But it wasn’t as error-ridden as I’d feared. Once I go through the edits, I’ll be ready to start formatting–one more step taken!

This is where it starts to feel really real. Now I have a manuscript that’s been tinkered with, ad somehow that drives it home for me. I’m looking forward to my first real release!

In the meantime, I’m still working on my new project, Tapestry. Here’s the seond half of the sample I introduced in my last post:

Garden, part two

Metedre raced down the stairs and into the garden, her heart in her throat. Kthone didn’t contact her often—she rarely showed herself at all—but she had proved to be a great source of advice. She carried with her an immense store of wisdom, and was eager to share it with her—to the point, in fact, that Metedre often wondered if she were being groomed.
The scent of jasmine was cloying in the garden, but she reveled in it. The aroma of damp soil mingled with the flowers, creating a wonderfully textured sensation. She stepped out of her slippers so she could feel the grass on the soles of her bare feet, and found her way through the winding path, looking for her charge.
Kthone stood beside a tall willow—also imported, and sadly not doing well in its new habitat—both hands resting on a small knobbed cane. She was clothed in an earthy taupe robe, cinched at the waist by a thin green cord that could have been a vine. A tall flat hat was perched on her head and appeared forever in danger of falling off, though it never did. When she smiled at Metedre’s approach, her face folded into a labyrinth of wrinkles and she showed brownish teeth. Patches of coarse hair dotted her face and hands.
“Evening becomes you, Empress,” she croaked, her voice deeper than one would expect. Metedre nodded her thanks, folding her hands into the sleeves of her gown.
“Well met, my friend,” she replied. The unusually cool air chilled her, and she wished she’d fetched a thicker robe than the simpler shift she’d donned after Alkut had left. “And to what do I owe this visit?” She shivered, moving from foot to foot.
The Crone lifted a hand, as gnarled as her cane, facing a palm toward Metedre. The Empress knelt and pressed her palm in turn; a shallow warmth emanated from the Crone, filtering through her own body. She smiled.
“The warmth of the land permeates all; you are forgetting your lessons,” the Crone chided. But there was a lilt of humor in her voice. Metedre stood again, and nodded.
“I have been…preoccupied of late. My people…”
“Yes, yes, my child, I know of your troubles. They matter little, but weigh much. This land,” the Crone said, gesturing with her arm to include the whole garden, “has been transformed. You brought life to it, continue to nurture it. Your people weep for lack of resources, for want of fertile land, but it is all right here. This is all you need.”
Metedre nodded again, but her smile had faded. She had heard this talk before, and while she saw the wisdom in what Kthone was trying to tell her, the Crone simply didn’t understand the depth of the situation.
“My people are starving, Kthone.  Our population grows faster than we can feed it, and for the first time our Empire can’t seem to sustain itself. We have tried irrigation, rotating crops, cultivating hardier strains; nothing holds. We have imported dozens of species from Tornum, but this garden is the only place they grow and thrive.”
The Crone hobbled closer to Metedre, gazing idly around the garden as if taking it in for the first time.
“Yes. And this garden is a formidable achievement. This is harsh land indeed, all desert and sands. And yet you have wrought this bounty from the earth, teased it to your will. Why has it not been so elsewhere in Yzima?”
Metedre winced. It certainly hadn’t been for lack of trying. The problem was a source of water; Yzima had an extensive coastline, but little water flowed through the interior of the Empire. Most of the major settlements were on the shores, and industry followed—leaving little room for the cultivation of crops in the areas that were best suited to it. Many Emperors had tried in the past to pass reforms to clear that land, but the Empire had always been built on Industry; their wealth, their very livelihood depended on the kind of invention that pushed agriculture aside. Their factories and refineries and smelters needed water too, and it was a matter of simple economics that the results of that toil created more wealth than farming.
It had never been an issue before now. They were expanding at a record rate, and people were moving inland. The continent had been plotted centuries ago, and people were delving into the interior for want of space. But neither industry nor agriculture could function well in the expansive desert, and so the coastlines became more and more clogged with people competing for prime land. The result in recent years had created a sever issue of supply versus demand, as both major <industries> competed for the same scarce resources, and both flagged in response.
But Kthone knew all of this; they’d had this conversation several times before. Metedre saw the small woman’s smile and knew she was being tested.
“Other areas of Yzima haven’t received the attention my garden has,” she replied tentatively. The other woman nodded, encouraging her. “I have tended these plants tirelessly,” she continued, “even had the course of the River Umen turned to irrigate it. But the toil of my people hasn’t been any less than mine. “
“Their toil, no,” Kthone said, setting her cane aside and bending to the ground. She gathered a clump of soil, and waddled closer to Metedtre, pressing it into her hands and closing her fingers around it.
“Their will, perhaps not. You have life in you, Empress, and you send it forth as others send words of war and hate. These people, your people…they are hard and sharp, like the sands of the desert. They do not understand as you do. You are a mother, and have wisdom others lack.”
She smiled, placing a muddy hand on Metedre’s abdomen.
“Yes,” she muttered, gathering her cane.
“Mother?” he asked, “why are you out here alone? Who were you talking to?”
Footsteps approached from the palace, echoing in the silent night. Startled, Metedre turned, childishly hiding the soil behind her back, as if she’d been caught stealing. She couldn’t think of who else would be up at this time of night, let alone wandering through her garden. General Ohmelus, the General of Tauri’s armies, walked down the path, and she relaxed.
Metedre gestured behind her, but the gnomish woman had already turned away and was walking into the trees.
“A friend,” she replied. The Knight gave her a curious look, his eyes searching for this “companion,”but saw nothing. He didn’t pursue the issue. Instead, he nodded towards her clenched hands.
“It’s a little late for gardening, mother,” he quipped. “Or are jasmine saplings best planted in the dark?”
She ignored his tone—he seemed surlier than usual—and looked at the wad of dirt in her hands. A small spout had grown out of it, already arching toward the moon for light. Laughing, she tenderly planted it in the ground, wiping her hands on her shift.
“Come, Ohmelus, walk with me.” She offered her arm, and they strolled together down the moonlight path.

Tapestry–A New Project, and a Sample

All Sizes

Image by shutterhacks

While I’m in the midst of planning the marketing and production of my upcoming collection–The Astrologers and Other Stories–I’m also continuing to write. I have a file on the memo app on my phone that teems with story ideas, and one of them is particularly exciting for me.

Those of you who read The Astrologers (which you can find here, here, and here), will have an idea about the World of this project. The setting is one I created many years ago, but my planned novel never got finished. The Astrologers is a stand alone story I wrote partly in the hopes of rejuvenating that world–and it worked. The ideas started flooding in, and now I’ve pencilled out an outline for a large project.

It starts two hundred years before the time of my planned novel–which I still plan to write one day–and The Astrologers. I wanted to explore the backstory of my World, and in the process, help build it. I’m also planning on featuring a favourite character of mine, the Prophet Osir–a character that never appears in the aforementioned novel, but is a significant figure in its mythology. Now, I get to tell his story.

The project–tentatively titles Tapestry–will be written in three phases. Phase one is a collection of sixteen short stories, each working as character studies; they will be released in four sets, each between 8000 and 10,000 words long

Phase two will consist of four novellas, each following the story revealed through the earlier character studies. These stories are interrelated, and some scenes from Phase one will be revisited from other viewpoints, or otherwise expanded upon.

Phase three will be a longer novel that concentrates on Tobias Osir, a young soldier in the army who is caught in the middle of a religious and political war. Osir is forced to question his faith and his place in the world. It will follow him from his naive beginnings to…well, you’ll just have to read it.

In the end, we’ll have nine separate stories, each interrelated and connected to each other: a true literary tapestry. There’s a specific structure behind this–but we’ll talk about that another time. In the meantime, here’s a sample: the opening of the series. Let me know what you think in the comments!

 

Garden

Lamplight flickered, and shadows danced on the wall. Verdant silence filled the halls, and the only movement was the opening of the door to the Empress’s chambers. A dark form slipped out and closed the door behind him with a soft click. Alkut stopped for a moment, listening; content that he was alone, he sneaked quietly away. He did not notice her son, Ohmelus, General  of the Court, watching him.

****

Metedre fell upon the door as it closed, resting her forehead on the rough wood. A heavy sigh shook her shoulders, and yet she wore a faint smile; these encounters were always bittersweet. She bit a lip. More sweet than bitter tonight.
But the guilt would come. It haunted the dark, sang refrains in her mind as she held court with her Emperor. She never ceased to marvel that he didn’t know—or if he did know, that he didn’t care. She would be naïve to think that it was as well a kept secret as she wished, and that thought kept her continually on edge.
And yet she would not deny herself. Tauri was cold, distant—he had an empire to rule, and had no time for her. She had known that even before they were married. She had but one role as Empress: continue the line. That she had, with Ohmelus, and though more heirs would be welcome, her function had been served. Tauri had little to do with her, nor should he. His eyes were on the governance of the realm.
When Alkut’s footsteps receded out of earshot, she stepped away from the door and padded her way, barefoot, to the window overlooking her garden. A small marble bench sat by the sill, and she wrapped her robe more tightly around herself as she sat. For once, the breeze was cool tonight. The soft caress was welcome.
She did not love him, and he had as much as admitted that he had no love for her. Their…arrangement was mutually beneficial, and that was all. Occasionally, she revelled in the thought that all she need do was give the word, and he—and his temptations—would be removed. She need not expend any further thought on the matter, and no one would dare ask questions, even tell the Emperor if she bade them not to. Her quandary would be erased. But then, Alkut served not only to warm her bed. He was critical to the Empire’s survival.
The breeze wafted through the window and brought with it a scent of jasmine. They had been imported from Tornum at her request—and no little expense—and had become one of her greatest pleasures. It was a slave for an overwrought mind, and always served to bring her back down to earth.
Tauri had acted interested when she asked for the flowers, and the Court did as they always did, applauding his decision despite the cost. In the end, it had been to him little more than an opportunity; he’d had the flowers planted all through Ais for the populace to enjoy, and spoke at length about the benefits of bringing such beauty to the normally hot and dry city. Indeed, the white blooms had infested the city, and everyone praised the wisdom of the Emperor for bringing such life to their veritable desert. Not a word was spoken about her own involvement, but that was immaterial. She relished in the people’s enjoyment, and was happy that her own request had benefited them.
Still, she was the only one in Ais with a full garden. Many of the richer caste had flowers in their yard, even grass and fountains—but not a real garden like hers. It was a great indulgence in a realm with more sands than people, and the resources it took to cultivate and maintain the plants was considerable, but nobody begrudged her. Occasionally she held lavish public parties in her garden, welcoming everyone, regardless of caste or wealth. The people often called her The Jasmine Empress because of it, and celebrated her generosity. No regent of the Empire had ever done this for the people, and she knew she would be remembered for it long after she turned to dust. It was a legacy that gave her more pleasure than that of the Tauri line ever could.
The parties were becoming more frequent, and more necessary. Her people had fallen on difficult times; populations grew while resources grew thin, and there seemed to be more problems than pleasures. Her garden had become a bastion of peace, a refuge where people could forget their cares, if even for a short time. Something about the verdant growth entrances the Ozym; they felt grounded in her garden, rooted. She liked to think that being connected to the land gave them a new perspective of their problems—that they were fleeting, however taxing, that these blossoms, properly tended, would outlast all of their problems. She wanted this garden to become a symbol for her people, a sign that the problems of their material world mattered much less than the wonders of the world around them. This garden, she hoped, would continue thriving long after all of them had turned to dust.
She smiled at the thought, her indiscretions of the evening almost forgotten. Then, gazing dreamily out the window, she caught a flutter of movement in her garden, and a small gnomish figure stepped out of a copse of trees. Metedre stood at once, and fled to the door. The Crone had news.

Formatting eBooks–for Newbs

Last time, we spoke about the very basics of doing a book cover–today, another integral piece of the puzzle, formatting!

Before I got into e-publishing, I thought I knew what publishers wanted when you submit your manuscript. There are certain protocols you’re supposed to follow–name in the upper left corner, word count in the upper right, etc. The purpose of this is for the agent or publisher to have a quick reference, and for the editor to be able to easily get around your work. In e-publishing, though, the writer is filling most of those roles, so the game is completely different.

So why not just write the book in MS Word the way you want it to look, upload it to Kobo or Amazon, and press publish?

If you do that, I’ll guarantee you one thing: the end product will look horrible.

The thing is, a lot of the formatting in MS Word–or other word processors for that matter–is done in the background, where you can’t see it. Here’s an experiment: go to the View tab,

Word Formatting Marks

Formatting Marks: note there are even dots to indicate the space between words.

and find the option that shows your formatting marks. (In Word, go to Options, Display, and Show All Formatting Marks.) Your manuscript will be riddled with symbols; this is coding Word inputs into your file as you’re writing to determine what the output will look like. What many people don’t realize is that Word is not a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get program. Far from it!

Here’s another experiment. Copy a paragraph of your manuscript, open a blank file in Notepad, and paste it. The text should go, unbroken, on one line, and you’ll have to scroll to the right to see it all. This is because .txt files, unlike files from word processors, don’t have “Word Wrap,” meaning that the text will go on forever until a new paragraph is started. Looks hard to read, right? Surely we want our manuscripts to “wrap” when we format them for eBooks, right?

Actually, no. The thing is, there’s no standard for electronic books. Many–I’d even say most–go with the ePub format, while others–like the ubiquitous Amazon Kindle books–are .mobi files. There are several other formats; the point is, they’re all programmed differently. So when you upload a particular file to, say, Kobo, it might look vastly different when Amazon gets a hold of it. The difference comes in how those files interact with the formatting marks I mentioned earlier.

I haven’t experimented with every kind of file, so I can’t tell you yet which works best–what I can say is that, for the sake of your own sanity, the easiest thing to do is start with a raw file. I do a lot of my writing in MS Word through Google Docs–because it’s accessible anywhere, even on my phone–and copy and paste the text into Scrivener. Scrivener can output into several file types, including Real Text Format (rtf) or the MS Word .doc. Of, you can export it as a text file. This is the raw text–no formatting at all.

What I’ve been doing is exporting as a text file, then opening up a program called Sigil, a WYSIWYG editor (unlike Word!). Sigilis basically an HTML editor, meaning you’ll be coding in the same way you would a web page–or an eBook. It’s really simple to use, and you don’t need any experience with HTML. Just copy and paste your work, create headings (which will create a table of contents for you), and images if you have them, italicize and bold your text if need be. That’s it! There’s a handy tutorial here, and the whole process isn’t very long or arduous (though poetry is another story–it took a while to get Muzak for the Metro to look right).

It might even be simpler, though. I haven’t tried it yet, but I imagine you could output your Scrivener files as an eBook, which would open in Sigil. This way, you do most of your formatting as you work in Scrivener, and use Sigil for touch-ups.

Once that’s done, you use Calibre to tweak things like metadata and making sure everything is “just so.” But that’s a topic for another post.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to eBook formatting, but it’s a start, and it’s a lot easier than some might lead you to believe. If you want to check out a sample of just how this turns out, you can go to Amazon to find the eBook I created with this process (including a cover) this weekend, Muzak for the Metro. It’s only $0.99, and it includes a poem that wasn’t in the original collection–plus an excerpt from “Room With a Corpse,” a short story which will appear in my forthcoming collection The Astrologers and Other Stories. Check it out!

Creating eBook Covers–For Newbs

In yesterday’s brief post, I mentioned that I spent some time this past weekend learning how to format eBooks and make covers. Now, I’m by no means an expert at either, but I learned a great deal–and since this blog is about learning how to publish, why not share what I learned? Today, I’ll touch on creating covers–but fair warning, this is a large topic, so it won’t be a comprehensive how-to. Look in the future for more tips and tricks on making eBook covers.

For now, we’ll start easy. Why should you even bother? The short answer is what I’m going to call “Browse Potential.”

A lot of books get sold because readers are familiar with the author or because they’re aware of the story; some get sold by word of mouth or people reading reviews. But a lot of books are sold because someone was wandering the aisles in the bookstore and found something cool. This is my favorite way to shop for books: browsing. You never know what you’re going to find, so it’s a bit like a treasure hunt. And when I’m browsing, it’s often the books with the flashiest covers that catch my eye.

It works the same when you’re buying eBooks, but I’d argue that covers are even more important. It’s easy to just breeze by all the little thumbnails on your screen without giving any of them a second thought. Or worse, picking out a particularly bad cover and deciding (without having read it) that it’s an amateurish or poorly written book. In other words, not worth buying.
The sad truth is that people will judge your books by it’s cover–so make it a good one!

Now, I’m no artist, so I can’t pretend to know anything about effective composition and drawing the eye to the corner or color theory. But I do know what I, as a reader, like to see in a book cover. I think this is the best place for someone new to start: design a cover for a book you’d want to buy. You may not share everyone’s tastes, but chances are your readers–having chosen to purchase a book in the genre you’re writing in–will share at least some aesthetics.

So you’ve got a concept you think will draw people’s attention. What then?

There are lots of people online who will design a cover for you, for various fees (I’ve seen them go up to $200 for one cover). I haven’t started generating revenue yet, so I don’t want to pay that right off the bat…but I still need a good cover. Fortunately, my sister-in-law is an artist, and has agreed to help me out. She’s providing the artwork in a digital file, and I’m using graphic design software to make it into a cover.

I went to a site called eBook Rights Management, which offers DRM protection for eBooks, as well as templates you can use to design covers. Their covers are free, but if you’re going to use them, it’s only fair to credit them in your book. I mocked up a simple cover, then downloaded the image and loaded it into a program called Paint.net to manipulate the image into what I wanted.

(I’m not going to get into how to use Paint.net here, as it’s outside the scope of this post and you can find much better tutorials than I could write online. Suffice it to say that it’s got most of the functionality of Photoshop,  but it’s free!)

This was the arduous part. I’m picky when it comes to this kind of thing, so it took a few hours to get one solid image–the one above–which I’m not completely sold on yet. But it’s a start. While I was making the image, I saved a template with the correct canvas size for an eBook; this will enable me to quickly create new covers without doing all the set up first.

The next step was finding a font. The number of fonts you have will depend on your own software, but it’s easy to find new ones online. A word of warning, though: many font packages will cost you, and some of the ones that say they’re free actually aren’t (they involve royalties, or when you click through to download it asks you to pay). Do your research before settling on a font, and make sure you’re attributing it correctly in the book’s front matter. Nothing in this world is completely free, but that doesn’t mean you should rip off someone else’s work!

Now all you have to do is put it all together. I’d recommend creating a new layer in your image for anything you add–it will make further edits much simpler. A layer is just what it sounds like: a layer you can edit without affecting the image beneath. I had one for my border, another for the image, a third for my title, and a fourth for my name. It seems like lots of work, but it’s well worth it for the hassle you’ll save yourself.

And there you have it: a quick and dirty cover. Of course, this is a very basic way to go about things; I have some experience with image manipulation, but I wouldn’t call it graphic design. If you want a seriously well done cover, you should either learn the programs you’ll be using, or pay someone else to do it. You don’t have to be incredibly ornate, but the end result should look better than something you threw together in MS Paint. And the more professional it looks, the more “Browse Potential” you’ll earn.

Got any tips for cover design, or a link to a resource? Post it in the comments!

Muzak for the Metro

In my ever continuing effort to experiment with this self-publishing thing, I spent much of the day yesterday playing with two programs: Paint.net, learning to make covers; and Sigil, an open source ePub editor, learning to format ebooks from scratch with HTML. It was enlightening–the editing, formatting, and graphic design work in publishing is two or three times the work of actually writing–but interesting. I’ll be sharing my experiences with you in the coming weeks.

But I wasn’t just fiddling around. I took my previous “test project,” Muzak for the Metro, and spruced it up a bit. I included a poem that wasn’t in there before–Adam’s Tree–and a snippet of a short story called Room With a Corpse–which will be included in full in my upcoming collection The Astrologers and Other Stories.

And now I’m happy to announce that it’s ready for sale on Amazon! You can purchase it here. If you do, please consider leaving a review!

The book has also been uploaded to the Kobo store for those of you up here in Canada, but it’s not live yet–stay tuned!

Editor’s Appreciation and an Interview

from Generationbass.com

So as I’ve been saying on this blog, my first publication–The Astrologers and Other Stories–will be published soon, and has been sent to an editor in preparation. That editor is Yesenia Vargas, who can be found here. Yesenia just started offering editing services, and I jumped at the chance to be a client for two big reasons: she’s a fellow indie writer with aspirations toward self-publishing, and her rates are great.

In fact, she’s got a special rate for a limited time–50% off! That’s an amazing $2 a page for copyediting–you will not find a better deal. Go here for details, and don’t dawdle–the discount is only for the next four clients!

Yesenia mentioned to me that September is Editor’s Appreciation Month–which is timely, given her venture and my first experience with professional editing.  I also thought that this confluence made for a great opportunity for an interview. Below is the first half of our exchange–enjoy! My questions in bold, her answers in regular typeface.

You’ve been blogging and writing for a while–what made you want to also offer editing services?

Not to brag or anything, but I’ve always been pretty good at grammar, punctuation, and those kinds of things. It’s something I enjoy and do even when I’m not thinking about it. In school, I was the one my peers went to when they weren’t sure about how to spell a word or use a comma. My friends would also regularly give me their English papers to edit or proofread before submitting them.

I never thought I could be a professional editor, though, until I read a writing friend’s book and pointed out a few typos and grammar mistakes I had found. She said I should be a copyeditor since I seemed to have a knack for it. Her comment really stuck with me, and I started researching what it took to be a great copyeditor and how to start my own business.

What are some of your experiences with editors?

To be honest, I’ve never worked with one as a writer since I’m not published yet. However, I do read some editors’ blogs and websites because there’s a lot I can learn from their experiences. In addition, I’ve chatted with a couple of editors via social media who seem like nice, hard-working people. I mentioned to one that I was going into copyediting, and she was actually really supportive.

How do you think editing differs between self e-publishing and so-called “traditional” publishing?

Well for one thing, the publishing house is the one that hires (and pays for) the editors, although the writer will most likely also communicate with them. In e-publishing (or self-publishing) the writer is completely in charge of finding and hiring an editor. In e-publishing, I would also say there’s a higher risk of getting scammed or having an editor who doesn’t really know what he or she is doing because the publishing house has access to people who regularly work for them and do a great job.

Either way, a writer shouldn’t think that just because a book is traditionally published that the editing will be 100% perfect or mistake-free. Editors are human. You’ll always have at least a couple of typos no matter who edits the manuscript. Nonetheless, it’s smart to make sure any editor has references and that you check them.

On Wednesday I’ll post the second half of our interview, so stay tuned! In the meantime, if you’ve had some experience with editors you’d like to share, post in the comments! We both want to hear from you.