The Joys of Publishing

Parking Meters

Although anyone can now be ePublished, there’s more than a little prep required to get there. The first thing you’ve got to do is reformat it to a file type that your ePub platform of choice will accept.

That is, once you’ve chosen a platform. To land in the largest pile of elephant dung, and hence to be available to the greatest number of shovels, Amazon’s Kindle platform is the obvious choice. Barnes & Noble had a competing platform tailored to their own e-reading device, but just as my graphic design ace and I were researching the options, B&N went out of business.

Having thus had our choice pretty much made for us, we looked into how to do the file conversion. Initial web searches turned up lots and lots of fresh new services eager to cash in on the burning desire to get one’s art out there. Hence the title of today’s post. There’s an old Gary Larsen cartoon. Two cavemen. (Larsen’s always good with cavemen.) One of them is carving a wheel from a rock. He looks over his shoulder to where the second caveman is carving a parking meter.

Further web searches turned up a file conversion program. And so the fun began.

Although MS Word frustrates the hell out of me, it is what I use. Vastly more user-friendly is WordPerfect. I switched over to WordPerfect during the writing of Great American Desert, and was in bliss until (because Microsoft does own the world) I had to convert my baby into a Word file. Which can be done, theoretically, at the touch of a few buttons. Post-conversion inspection revealed that quotation marks, for example, did not convert properly. Certain kinds of formatting, also, did not translate well. So for the next few days, I had to comb through my new Word file to find and correct all the errors.

Formatting codes were also a problem during the Word-to-Kindle conversion. For instance, an automatically-generated-via-the-return-key indented paragraph is indicated using a different code than a new paragraph created by dropping down a line and hitting the ‘tab’ key.

(An aside. Word’s insistence on auto-this and auto-that drives me berserk. Countless times, I have customized Word’s settings to stop it from doing things I have not asked it to do. Countless times, Word has reverted to its default settings.)

This was one of many, many, many formatting bugs that had to be tediously worked out. Fortunately, not by me. Have I mentioned my eternal gratitude to Anna the graphic design ace?

The last one to be worked out was a problem with italics.

I’ll need to backtrack again here. Loyal readers will be used to this by now.

For What is the Meaning of All This?, which is told by I couldn’t even tell you how many narrators, I’d begun using, occasionally, alternative fonts. I forget which narrator insisted on this originally, but once it got started it turned out to be a most useful narrative device. The finished MS included a bakers’ dozen of different fonts although the vast majority of the text remained in good old Times New Roman.

Kindle readers do not support the use of alternative fonts. So right away I had to jettison that useful narrative technique I’d grown so fond of. At least I still had italics. At least I still had boldface.

However, during an early editing session, we discovered that a few sections designated as italic did not show up italicized when uploaded to an actual Kindle reader. Six of these, or seven, absolutely refused to lean no matter how they were pushed. Online forums provided a number of helpful tips, none of which did the trick. In the end, after too many days of frustration, I re-wrote those six or seven phrases in ways that let me take out the italics. Just one of those compromises one makes. Someone (I frequently disremember the authors of my favorite quotations) once said that a work of art is never finished, but only abandoned.

 

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