Since the last post I’ve been busy, so busy I’ve had no time to blog about what I’ve been doing. First off, I completed CampNaNo well ahead of the target which I had revised a couple of times but couldn’t increase above 35K (35 hours in my case, being an edit) because you’re not allowed to amend your goal once you reach the date when you can start ‘winning’. I left it too late for another increase so my last recorded goal was 35K and I ended up doing the word count equivalent of 65 and three quarters hours of editing. I completed the text-to-speech read-through I embarked on a while back and looked well on track for tidying up a new dummy ebook and performing another read-through to ensure no mistakes had been edited in.
But sometimes things are a slog. I went back to working on ebook production, and then became sidetracked into doing a full-blown edit once more because I picked up a couple of books cheap, The Penguin Guide to Punctuation and The Penguin Guide to Plain English. A perusal of the first one in particular convinced me that I still wasn’t using semicolons correctly and that most of them should be colons. Also, I wasn’t sure about comma usage in places. The upshot is that I’ve started re-reading the whole book onscreen and have done not only little tweaks, but a lot of full rewrites and rejigs of some sections. It has taken a few more hundred words off the word count. But I’m not convinced it’s correct as I get the impression that, in the process, I’ve introduced the passive – ‘was walking’ – into places simply because the flow seemed to require that. I need to go back over those first eleven chapters (as that’s how far I’ve got) to make sure I’m not doing too much of that.
I made progress in my understanding of ebook production thanks to finding some posts by Rudy Rucker which still have value despite being written in 2012: four covering ebook production, from the most lightweight process to the most thorough. The first post How to Get Started kicks off the process and each is linked through to the next if anyone wants to check them out.
I already knew that the foundation is to follow the Smashwords Guide to Editing first, to make sure everything is implemented through styles. That’s fundamental before embarking on any process. So I had already done that prior to creating the first dummy ebook for text-to-speech.
The process I’m following involves saving the consolidated book file (which I add the front and back matter to) as a filtered HTML file. The trouble is, Word incorporates all sorts of rubbish which isn’t needed in an ebook so I’m using an old HTML editor I have to strip out unnecessary style info and to create a proper CSS stylesheet with the correctly defined styles in it, linked back into the main file.
If I use Calibre to create an epub, I don’t need to remove the style section as Calibre will create a stylesheet, but I do need to get rid of lots of ‘panose’ entries and to make sure the styles that are left are correct. Also, for later stages, I may replace the embedded front page graphic which includes my publishing logo, with a link to the graphic file.
Word creates a lot of its own styles such as ‘msonormal’ where the normal style was used in the original. For the HTML I’m using a find-replace to turn this into a ‘para’ style instead. I’m also getting rid of the <SPAN> tags that it insists on adding, so that I make the HTML as simple as possible, formatted using <p class=”classname”> tags only.
As a troubleshooting step after that, I create an epub file from the cleaned up HTML one using Calibre. There’s a school of thought that Calibre files are not always accepted on Amazon. Whether this is currently the case or not, Calibre is certainly useful because it creates a lot of extra styles if there is anything odd in the input. I found a number of things that weren’t visible in the original Word files – spaces formatted as red, some letters that were formatted not to display in Word – plus a few paragraphs that stubbornly insist on having ‘inline’ formatting, in other words having a <p> tag around them with everything defined manually instead of using a CSS class. So I was able to use my HTML editor on the filtered HTML file to clean all this up, and in the case of things where the cause could be seen in the Word original, clean it up there also.
For ebook production, I’m probably going to take a cleaned up HTML which incorporates the fixes identified from the Calibre conversion, then take that into Sigil and manually add the file breaks for each chapter. I use Word to define a pagebreak for the chapter heading style, and ebook readers will normally obey that, but the ebook would remain one big file if it isn’t split either manually in Sigil or automatically by a Calibre conversion, and large files can give problems on some readers.
I’ve written up this process for my own use in a Word document, which is still in progress as I’ve broken off to do more editing, as I said above. Like I said, I’ve been really busy!
So to summarise the latest goals and progress:
- Play the novel through on text-to-speech and make further amendments – Completed that runthrough and will have to repeat when the latest editing is done
- Work out how to format a Kindle book including the front and end pages and what to put in those – Quite a lot accomplished. Have looked at other ebooks by self published authors I know though they all differ. Have a process now to follow which will be trailed when the next ‘dummy’ is produced for text-to-speech checking
- Complete the latest edit then produce another ebook for text-to-speech checking
- Once the final edit is complete, approach the various editors previously identified as possible pro editors to establish how much it would cost for this long first MS, and whether it can be done without having to spend ‘loadsamoney’.
Here is what those nice folks at ROW80 have been up to: