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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Holiday Gifts

My favorite thing about the Holidays is finding that "perfect gift" for the people in my life.  I love the feeling of having paid attention to the wants and desires of my friends and family, and finding the thing they might not even remember they admired or commented on.  It's my own version of a treasure hunt; seeking gifts all year to give during the Holidays.

But this year, I was surprised with the most unexpected gifts - things I never even thought about needing or wanting.  The kind of gifts some people don't even realize they're giving.  The gifts of words.

First, it was my friends and family who gave me words of encouragement as I wrote and re-wrote Marking Time.  And as they read the various drafts, their words were complimentary, constructive, critical, and always supportive.  Then I published Marking Time and the gifters-of-words expanded out to people who heard my book was out, who didn't even know I'd been writing one, who wondered where I'd found the time to write with two children, and most precious to me, the people who looked at what I'd done in writing and publishing my book, and saw the possibility of realizing their own creative dreams.

As people began to buy and read Marking Time, they started reviewing it.  First it was my lovely friends and family whose words of encouragement translated into endorsements of my writing, characters, and the story itself.  Book reviews on Amazon can make all the difference in the world to an unknown writer's visibility and the marketing of their book, and those reviews are vital to gaining readers.  And then I started getting reviews from strangers ~ people with absolutely no vested interest in my success loved my book!  What an incredible feeling!  When an 8th grade teacher with a YA book review blog not only gave me five stars, but also interviewed me for her website and told me there's a waiting list for my book among her students, it was better than Christmas!

Even more generosity poured in among my community at a Holiday Boutique where I signed my books.  It wasn't just the book sales, which were wonderful, or the encouragement and support, which was incredible, it was fascination with the story I'd written, and the idea that their child or grandchild would love just this kind of book.

I truly hope that my words, in Marking Time, give my readers even a fraction of the gifts I've been given by friends, family, and complete strangers.  Those gifts of words are an absolute reminder that the most precious things in life can cost nothing.  Words of support, encouragement, delight and appreciation, in any context, and to anyone who has touched your life, are the very best gift of all.

I wish you and your family a peaceful, joyous and wonderful holiday season, and a New Year full of love, inspiration, and magic.  Happy Holidays!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Kindle Personal Documents and how to format a Word Document for Kindle

As anyone with a kindle, or kindle app on a phone or iPad knows, it becomes second nature to read books, magazines, or articles with a finger-swipe to turn the page.  I still love paper books and always will, but I justified my iPad with the convenience of having dozens of books with me whenever I travel, and that was before I’d gone trolling through amazon for cheap kindle books to buy and read.  There have been some really excellent discoveries among the kindle daily deals (usually $1.99) and books under $3.99 categories (including Marking Time) that I never would have stumbled on if it weren’t for the price.

As I was writing Marking Time I went through several drafts and burned through several readers (thank you Valerie, Mom, Angela, Tania, Alexandra, Yaniv, Sara, Linda, Laura, Dad and Ed)!!!  And though I did print some galleys, my most effective tool was the kindle documents feature.  I inserted whatever cover design I was currently favoring at the front of the manuscript, saved the whole thing as a PDF, and then e-mailed it to the kindle personal document e-mail address for each reader. 

 The kindle personal document e-mail address can be found through the “Your Account” tab in the upper right corner of the amazon home page.  Click on “manage your kindle,” then click on “Personal Document Settings” in the far left box.  That’ll bring up e-mail addresses for every device you have registered with amazon.  Find the one you want, then add your e-mail address to the “Approved Personal Document E-mail List” at the bottom (or have your reader add you) so your e-mail won’t be rejected, and then the reader will be able to access your document within a couple minutes of hitting “send.”

But the reading experience was often not the best, and when I finally did the proper formatting to upload the book to kdp for publishing, I discovered that I could send myself the fully formatted file as a personal document, and except for the cover, which I never figured out how to attach, it reads perfectly.  It was how I could do my final proof before uploading the completed manuscript.

 So here are some basic steps to formatting a Word document for kindle:

 First, you have to clean up the formatting nonsense Word (and habit) often add to your doc.  One shocker was the fact that printing convention has changed the two-space-after-a-period rule to one space.  It’s apparently a big clue that a book is self-published when there are two spaces.  The easy fix for that is the find/replace function: find two spaces (just hit the space bar twice) and “replace” with one space (hit the space bar once). 
The other major offenders are tabs.  They are the bane of a writer’s existence and will not translate welinto the html file that kindle can read.  In the “Home” tab at the top of your document, in the “Paragraph” section is this icon which allows you to change spacing. 
Click on that, set your line spacing to 1.15” and at the bottom of the screen, “add space after paragraph.” 
Then go to “line spacing option.
In the “Indents and Spacing” tab, under “Indentation,” find the “Special” tab and click on “First line.”  The default is .5, but I set mine back to .3 because it looks better on the page to my eye.  Those steps will set your document to automatically indent the first line of every paragraph without using the tab key.

I had only tabbed the first line of a few paragraphs, but the way I found them was by showing all the hidden formatting symbols.  Also in the “Paragraph” section, click on the backwards “P” symbol for paragraphs and it will show every symbol you’ve used.  If there’s a dot with an arrow pointing right, that’s a tab key and has to be removed.  That “show hidden symbols” key gets very useful when the document is finally in html, because you can find all the funky things you didn’t know you’d done, but which will show up as glaring errors in the final kindle book.

I did a lot of research about book fonts and chose Garamond as one that looks right to my eye on the printed and electronic page.  So I did a “select all” and changed everything to Garamond.  My book is long so I did 11pt. type, with 1.15 spacing between lines.  If I had set up my “styles” as Garamond first, it would have saved me a step, but I’ll do that for book two.  Of course having done a “select all” change means having to change all the chapter headings back to 14pt., but that change was easier because I’d already gone through the whole document and made sure that all the chapter headings are written in the “Heading 1” style. 
That way I could highlight one and do a “select all text with similar formatting” under the “Editing” button in the “Home” tab to change the font size and appearance.

The “Heading 1” style for chapter headings will allow you to create a table of contents easily (fodder for another post), which, in the kindle format, is hyperlinked to each chapter.
Finally, when you’ve made all the changes, save the word file as a “Web page, filtered (.html).”  I then put that into the show/hide all paragraph mode so I could see any other formatting mistakes before trying it out on my own kindle.  I was given great advice to save that .html on my desktop, so I could always find it easily.  I also gave it a file name that worked as the header for the book, because it will automatically do that.  Mine is: Marking Time (The Immortal Descendants) and looks good at the top of every page.

To test my formatting, I attached that .html file to an e-mail I sent to myself at my address.  It should look exactly like a regular kindle book, with side-swipe pages, etc.  It’s also a way to test any hyperlinks you’ve put in your book.  I added a page at the end, requesting that if readers enjoyed the book, would they please leave a review (and then linked my website, and on a later upload of the kindle, added the actual amazon and goodreads links for Marking Time).  Once I knew the formatting was correct, then I started working on the title pages, table of contents, and end credits, including the ISBN and Library of Congress numbers, but those are subjects of further posts. 
There are lots of blog and website resources for formatting for kindle, and formatting a book for publishing in general, which is where I found the information to do it myself.  The thing I discovered on my own, by accident, is that I could e-mail the formatted .html file to my account and it would read exactly like the completed and kdp-uploaded book would.  It’s how I’ll be sending each draft of my next book to future beta-readers, so as not to make the reading of a work-in-progress any more painful than it has to be.