Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Simple E-Book Formatting Tips.

Photos by Louis.

Formatting an e-book is relatively simple. It just takes a little time. It consists of a number of repetitive operations, for example checking every scene break and chapter heading for centering. They do not need an indent, and should not have an indent.

All lines should be set at a trailing space of 0. I can’t really tell you what style to use or exactly how you should format your e-book. What I can say is that some try to format it exactly as a print book would look, and that includes title pages, blank pages, and section breaks to keep page numbers out of the front and end matter. It includes page breaks between chapters. There is no white space in an e-book by conventional standards. It’s not meant for human hands, only an electronic operating system.

In the Smashwords style guide, it says, ‘Do not put more than four lines between sections of text.’ I use three for a margin of safety. There are no section breaks, there are no page breaks, there is no page mirroring, there are no page numbers, and therefore no page number mirroring from left to right. It is designed for either scrolling, like on a blog, or page flipping electronically.

It has no gutter, which keeps the text from being buried in the spine, or the glue, or being unreadable because the book is a physical object and it’s buried down in a tight corner.

None of that applies.

Now, in paragraph styles, I set the indentation at 0 left and 0 right. I set line spacing before and after at 0. I use a 0.25” indent, on Word the default is 0.5”. I have used 0.3 in a book or two, but you can do it any way you want as long as it is consistent throughout the book. In that dialog box is the option for block paragraphs, indents, line spacing etc.

On the bottom right side of Word's toolbar there is something called styles, and if you click the tiny little black button, up pops styles. You want to use the minimum number of styles, as Smashwords’ meatgrinder will reject you otherwise. Other systems are different, but Smashwords is important because they have so many distribution channels, all going to online bookstores. They use different operating systems, including Sony Reader, Epub, Kindle, etc. That’s why the system is so picky. It has to operate across a greater number of systems, and since Smashwords is doing the conversion for you, you have to go through the meatgrinder autovetter process. After that there is a human review.

If you just want to produce pdf’s on Smashwords, no problem. A pdf can be formatted to look just like any paper and ink book. I made pdf’s at first myself, using Free Pdf Convert. You never have to go near Smashwords, Amazon or any major bookseller if you just want to send it to a buddy by e-mail. But if our goal is to make it into Premium Distribution then it has to meet criteria set by the service providers.

Many operating systems can read pdfs, and pdf’s can be converted into other file types.

So, when I hit control + a, the entire text from front to back is highlighted. What I want is to click on ‘styles’ and see it reads ‘normal’ throughout the book. You can’t use too many styles. If it is blank, or if something else is showing, the meatgrinder will probably reject it. If not, a human vetter will reject it. I’ve been caught out once, and in fact I had never used the ‘styles’ feature on Word. I was totally mystified by the notice in my inbox, until I followed a Smashwords employee’s instructions to click on styles. Honestly, I e-mailed them back and asked what they were talking about. She sent me pictures, although these are my own on this blog. Then I had to go back through my entire book and format every single thing in there until every paragraph read normal in the styles dialog box. That book is now in Premium Distribution.

My computer is finicky. It’s been acting up lately. I had to re-do chapter eight about five times, and now it’s okay. When I highlight the chapter, it shows ‘normal’ in the styles dialog box and that is the way it should be.

Print on Demand Proofs.

When I produce a print on demand paperback novel, just like in the Beatles song, ‘Paperback Writer,’ the thing has to be proofed. I order a copy of the book at a reduced cost, as I don’t get royalties, and Createspace lets it go at $4.88 plus shipping and handling.

They have a digital proofer. If your book has been published before and you are absolutely convinced it is a clean file, that might be one thing. I was looking through a proof copy and I found any number of things that needed to be fixed. The digital proofer is small. So far I have a list of about thirteen items which needed to be fixed, and there are still a few pages left to go in the book. It’s kind of a weird feeling to go to bed with a glass of milk, a bowl of cookies and start reading your own book, but clearly for a new file, still not finalized, eh, maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

This is what my E-Book front matter looks like:

Time-Storm on Althea
by Louis Bertrand Shalako
Copyright 2012 Shalako Publishing
Marketing Image Copyright 2012 Louis Bertrand Shalako
ISBN 978-0-9879723-5-4
This Smashwords Edition is published by Shalako Publishing

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or deceased; or to any places or events, is purely coincidental. Names, places, settings, characters and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination.

Here is an excerpt from the book I am doing now, 'Time-Storm on Althea.' This version may change before publication, and the title isn't final until it is final. The excerpt is formatted in blog style, in the photos above, the reader can see how the actual book might look. E-Books have 'flowing text' in order to be readable on the gretaest number of screen sizes as well as different operating systems. Note the minimal number of lines between bits--not a lot of white space, but then these would be readable on a telephone.

Chapter One

A bad day in the executive dining room…

Oil paintings of the Company fathers, each under its own intimate little light, frowned down in fastidious disdain at the ruckus Mickey was making. Unwavering, he held the gun pointed straight at Freddie’s heart.

Seated at the long table in the senior management dining room, Melissa and Tom Deloussian were on his right, while Freddie Smith sat across from him.

The newcomers, the strangers, sat at the head and foot of the polished ebony-like slab of fake walnut.

Blond-haired, blue-eyed and slender, about thirty years old, the always slightly-disheveled Melissa was deferential, apologetic. She didn’t understand the problem. Mellissa was a soft-spoken and non-confrontational person.

In the background, dark oaken panels and warmly gleaming brass fixtures contributed to the stark contrast between their immediate environment and Mickey’s erratic behavior.

Barely knowing Melissa and Tom, Mick couldn’t help but be aware of her scent. Even though they seemed happily married her tousled mop kept troubling the fringes of his highly-alert state. He was very young, just twenty-three three years old. There weren’t that many women on the planet at the best of times. He couldn’t escape the logic of her scent, and his own glands. As chief of the maintenance department, he was outside the loop, both as regards to management and the contract employees, which made him a very lonely young man around here.

“We just want to understand. Mickey is upset about something, after all, and no one thinks, well, no one thinks you’re crazy, Mick.” Melissa gave Mick’s arm a friendly and non-judgmental squeeze.

Very reassuring, but he knew what he knew and saw what he saw, as the saying went.

“Just do it.” An angry Mickey watched the lady on the left side, and then glared at the man at the other end of the table.

The two newcomers exchanged a long look. Silent communication passed between them, but as yet no decision had been made. Tom, Melissa’s hulky, hundred-ten kilogram hubby, built like a barrel and not much smarter, or so all the contract employees said, made as if to speak, which as often as not began with a thorough throat-clearing.

Tom wasn’t a bad guy, just cautious, and always the doubts. Thomas was a doubter.

Tom was an engineer, with all of their virtues and all of their faults, right down to a ‘T.’ Always needing to consult, always seeking clarification, or even just approval, from some higher authority. They didn’t have time for all that right now. They weren’t going to get it.

The pistol pointed unwaveringly at the casually slouching Fred, whose boyish, open face, puppy-dog blue eyes—dogs rarely had blue eyes in Mick’s estimation, but there you have it—just stayed on his own. There was no sign of fear in them and as far as he was concerned that was real bad. But how do you explain, when everyone thinks you’re nuts? When no one ever listens? Fred was about thirty-two years old. He had straight blonde hair, with one lock always hanging down over his forehead. Mickey just wasn’t buying the youthful innocence act any longer. He felt betrayed in some irrational fashion, yet it wasn’t poor Fred’s fault. He was about the closest thing Mickey had to a friend around here.

Poor Fred. Poor fucking Freddie. Jesus forgive me.

Months ago, someone had accused the tall, dark, and quiet Mickey of something he didn’t do. Give a dog a bad name, it will stick. Someone had taken real trouble to set him up, to make him out to be a bad one, and it was coming back to haunt them now. He could see that as plain as day.

“Just do it, Fred.” His glittering hazel eyes bored into Freddie’s.

“It will all become clear soon enough.” Freddie lifted his hands calmly off the table, turning them up so they could see the palms, as if that would make everything go away.

“I know you can do it, Fred.” Mickey’s voice echoed off the walls.

Again that silent, speculative look passed down the table, but Fred’s eyes just flicked to Melissa and Tom. The pistol was a curious device, a survival gun, and probably very good at any one job. It was too short for long-range accuracy, too small for big game, and it only held one little .410 cartridge in each of its double barrels. Freddie could try to bluster and dominate Melissa and Tom all he wanted, but Mickey was the one with the gun. It was a cross between an old ball-butted dueling pistol and a sawed-off shotgun, and deadly enough at close range. The only concern he had right now was not enough bullets for the job in hand. It was a big derringer, nothing more.

“I’ll do you, Fred.” Mick used the left hand to gently release one of the triggers so only one cartridge would fire.

Solid slugs nestled snugly inside in little brass and plastic tubes. He knew absolutely for certain it would fire when he pulled the trigger. The right-hand barrel was still cocked. They just didn’t think he would do it. He had no doubts of his own.

“I have exactly two shots. Who wants to be next?” He asked the stranger-lady, with a lift of his left eyebrow. “I can save it for you, or your goofy buddy. Which would you prefer?”

The eyebrow-twitch was one of his little idiosyncrasies.

“Oh, hell, why not?” The man had been silent until now.

His deep, rich, brown voice should have been trained for the opera. A quick glance confirmed that his eyes were twinkling in humorous bonhomie.

“They got to you, didn’t they, Fred?” Mick murmured in sadness.

Fred wasn’t his best friend. But he was the only friend Mickey had on this stinking, rinky-dink little planet Althea, where for some reason piezo-temporal crystals oozed out of pores in the rocks and washed down into the lowlands, where it re-crystallized, making it easy to scoop the stuff up and bulldoze it into the hoppers. It was a real bad time, as far as he was concerned, with all the work crews gone and their replacements not due in for another few moon-cycles. It was a time for routine maintenance, and repetitious report-writing.

It was also a time for punishment. Under normal circumstances he would have gone with them, but he had been convicted of theft, and so the management tribunal assigned him an administrative punishment. They’d accused him of stealing an entire crate of stuff meant for the crews, snacks and candy for the on-base store, where the Company could take back from them some of the hard-earned money they had risked their lives for on this Godforsaken rock.

A time to sit and wait for a psychiatric assessment, and if he failed, well, he wouldn’t get paid. It was all nice and legal according to the contract. Worse, with no money to pay the fare home, he would be indentured to the Company for seven years.

He would be paying room and board, charged through the nose for everything, and trying to save the pennies left over so he could make the ticket price and go home. Mickey was technically a mechanical engineer, and so he would be paying executive rates. The Contract was rock-solid and airtight. Otherwise he would be indentured for another seven years. Nice set-up indeed. Set aside the old contract, and write a new one for you. No recourse to the law, no appeals, no lawyers, no advocates, no time to prepare a defense or call any witnesses. He had a funny feeling he was going to fail that test, no matter what he said or did. Who did they even have onsite to administer it?

“I saw what they did, Fred.” Everyone waited to see what he would do next. “I came in here looking for the doctor, remember? And that little bone-headed, piss-ant McNulty was standing there by the cabinet, trying not to laugh his damn-fool head off…I knew it then, Fred. He slammed the door just a little too hard when he saw me come in.”

McNulty wanted him to know. For some reason the cowards are always cruel, in Mick’s experience.

“Very intuitive, Mickey.” Freddie gave a little shake of the head and shoulders as he indulged himself.

Fred’s mouth gaped in a grin, as if he were about to laugh out loud, to laugh at the futility of it all, the sheer nonsensical ribaldry of life in a galaxy where everyone thought they knew everything all the time. Freddie had told him his sad story, over one of a thousand drinks together.

“They set you up.” The admission came easily. “They pick the most biggest new guy, and you are unusually tall. Johnson is heavier, but he’s such a screw-up, they figured he might be useless. Or if you prefer, he never asked any questions…you ask a lot of questions. And you’re a pretty good mechanic.”

“You asked one too many questions.” Again it was the tall handsome stranger. “It’s a good way to keep discipline.”

Three of them and only two bullets…Mick’s thoughts raced.

“I will kill you, Fred.” He raised the gun and pointed it, right hand and forearm rock steady. “Is that why they did it, because I ask too many questions?”

Freddie gave no answer, but then Mickey really didn’t expect one.

“I’m running out of patience with you people.” Freddie’s newfound friends didn’t seem too impressed.

Melissa’s breath hissed out of her in disbelief. Tom stared at him.

“You promised we were going to ask questions, just a few, ah, questions, and listen to what they had to say.” Tom’s reminder left Mickey unmoved.

The gun was staring straight into Fred’s eyes. Those eyes were widening in shock, yet there was a calmness in them as well, no outrage, and no surprise. He wasn’t quite scared enough for Mickey’s liking.

“All right then.” The lady on his left was not an exact copy, but her blonde head, with the shock of thick locks a near-enough copy of Melissa’s to fool someone, but who?

The foreman of the next crew? She nodded in Fred’s direction, and his foolhardy grin got even bigger. The bastard was enjoying this. Mickey’s guts sank, and it felt real hollow inside right about now, as if everything he had ever eaten in his life was going to fall out his asshole with nothing to stop it.

Freddie’s eyes got about four times the size of normal human eyes, big, slanted, almond-shaped orbs of glittering-sparkling blue, surrounding one-inch pupils that were black as coals. Those horrible eyes scintillated, yet that frightening grin just kept on grinning.

You could have heard a pin drop, or a mosquito fart right about then, even though Melissa’s left hand was digging into his right forearm. Her long, sharp, pale pink nails cut into him through the thin, one-piece Company-issued insul-suit. Many people habitually wore them when off duty and inside the weather-dome.

She was so intent, she didn’t try to pull on his gun arm, or it would have really been a problem. He shrugged her off and she didn’t resist. Her mouth opened, and he could hear the barely audible gasp, the quick little intake of breath she made as Fred’s head and especially his face and neck began to stretch, and bulge, and God, now the other two began to do it, all three of them. Mickey’s head was going back and forth like a cobra trying to take them all in at once, and Tom was half out of his chair, frozen in time like a statue of something or other. His chair fell over, and hit the brown neo-wool of the dining room carpet with a soft, dull, thud-thud-thud as it skittered away and came to rest three or four feet back of him.

“I told you, but you just didn’t believe me.” Mickey had some kind of irrational anger at his companions.

Melissa and Tom were nice enough people, but no one ever listened to Mick. That was one reason why he left home, and signed up with the Company. At a later date it occurred to Mickey that the Company had probably seen him coming, a nice, idealistic and lonely young man with no place to go except somewhere else. That thought helped his decision-making process in some way. He had nothing to lose, and perhaps everything to gain.

Mickey pulled the trigger right. Everything happened so fast after that, but he must have shot Fred right about then, and then they were all backing up from the table as Fred stared dumbfounded at the new hole in his chest. The two strangers began shouting at once. Fred looked up at him in sad, sick disbelief, and his grin began to fade into nothingness. He stared deep into Mickey’s eyes.

Freddie had the strangest look of curiosity on his face. It’s something Mickey would never forget. He had a look of awe on his face. He still couldn’t believe it, just couldn’t believe it. Terribly, his head had returned to normal and Mick wondered just what exactly what there was left to believe in.

Mick was having a hard time believing it himself.

“Stay where you are.” He pushed in front of Melissa and Tom, swinging the gun from side to side to try to cover them both.

He cocked the other trigger. It seemed like somebody else was doing it, but he saw it for sure—he took the time to double-check.

“I’ll get one of you for sure, you stinking bastards.” Mickey sure sounded mean right then. If the gun had been better, a repeater with some kind of magazine, he would have killed them both right then and there with no questions asked.

Their heads were really flickering now, as if they were about to change shape. He pulled open one of the cupboard doors. He pointed the gun at the woman stranger, moving to the left so it was easier to watch them both. Those two weren’t smiling anymore, but discretion being the better part of valor, they kept their mouths shut.

“Grab as much as you can.” He ordered Tom, as Melissa hovered by the door in shock and confusion.

A quick glance showed she needed direction. Her hands fluttered around on the ends of her arms, as she gasped and gulped like a fresh-landed fish. She was transfixed, an adrenalin rush stalled at the takeoff.

“Grab a bag, a box, a frigging pillowcase. Grab the tablecloth.” She scrambled to comply.

The crazy man had a gun, after all.

It took but a moment, as Fred suddenly slumped down in his chair, and then went over sideways, hitting the floor like a jute sack full of beans or something small and loose.

Poor Fred was out of sight, for the most part, just barely visible on the far side, under the table, surrounded by high-backed chairs pushed out of the way by his fall.

Mick reached in with his left hand, and grabbed packets of M & M’s and Smarties, and shoved them in the pockets of the utility coveralls, awkwardly trying to fill the right-hand pockets with his left hand, and at the same time cover the freaking aliens or whatever they were.

“I’ll kill your lady friend deader than dead.” He faced the quasi-male alien, who was rising from his seat, his features out of control, his head now twice the size of a human being’s.

An inarticulate growl came out of his distended throat and vicious, gaping red maw of a mouth. It was all Greek to Mickey.

Mickey jammed in a couple of chocolate bars, and then the kicker, a huge Toblerone, a triangular bar of chocolate in a stiff yellowy-buff cardboard tube. It was some kind of huge Christmas-gift type of confection. The damned thing must have weighed in at two kilos, and he one-handedly smashed it against a countertop, and broke it in three and jammed it into his left side pocket.

“Don’t try to follow us.” There was a sudden rush of silence as the male alien subsided back into his chair in the awful realization that they had blown their cover.

They really didn’t have to do that. They could have waited it out…maybe? His mind was going full blast, and there wasn’t time to think it through. Everything was happening so quickly, and so very, very slowly…Mick’s mind was crystallized from adrenalin.

“Let’s go.” He gave one more wave of the gun at the two aliens, and they pelted down the two flights of stairs of the Administration building then out across the parking lot.

The heat of mid-autumn hit like the mouth of a blast-furnace, oblique rays of the late afternoon star-shine stinging their cheeks with its radiation. The last thing he recalled from that flight, was McElroy, sitting stiff as a doorknob at the desk in the control room, sightless eyes gazing at the dials and displays on the console in front of him. What they did to him, Mick had no idea. But he was dead for sure, from what he could see in a quick glimpse through the window. Tom was running along close beside Melissa, as she struggled along with the bundle in the tablecloth, with his hand in the small of her back.

Mickey brought up the rear, ears agape and eyes agog for any hint of pursuit, fearfully wondering what they would find in the dormitory habitat. They slammed open the door of the building and pelted up the stairs, the rest of the place eerily quiet as their thumping footsteps clamored up and down the stairwell. Running purely on instinct, predictably enough they found themselves in the married quarters. Tom and Melissa lived on the second floor.

With a different kind of shock, he saw they had a kitchenette, but Mick lived in the bachelor’s quarters. He had never really thought about it.

“We can’t stay very long.” Mick was firm.

The two of them stood there in stark, naked, unadulterated fear. Their shock and confusion and the run made the breath ragged in their throats, as they stared wild-eyed at Mickey.

“Pots and pans, knives and forks, stuff like that.” Melissa nodded at the command.

Tom would be useless for this kind of thing. He’d have to make a list or something.

There were beads of sweat on Tom’s forehead, and he was breathing pretty hard. Melissa just kind of stood there, rocking left and right on the balls of her feet. Tom’s dark, straight hair was plastered down his forehead. He huffed and puffed, and stared at Mickey with wild eyes.

Big balls of sweat were running down Mickey’s ribcage under the arms.

“Five minutes. You’ve got five minutes.” Melissa’s eyes were wide with horror, and awe-stricken with new knowledge.

She got it quick, but Tom began to bluster. His numbed brain was beginning to ask a few questions.

“What—what? Why do we have to go anywhere?” Tom wasn’t so dumb, he just didn’t get it.

“I really don’t have time to build a consensus. You stand by this window and watch that fucking door, okay?” Mickey was angry with the whole damned galaxy right then, but he had to get control of these two right quickly.

He ripped open the curtains and pointed at the door they had just come out of, seventy-five metres across the way.

“There must be more than them two. I don’t know if you noticed, but the fire curtains on the control room door were open. They were closed before, when we went up!”

Tom shook his head.

“McElroy’s dead.” Mickey gave them the news, as they needed to know and it was as good a time as any.

“What, what?” Tom babbled as Mick pushed him forward.

Thank God, Mickey could hear Melissa behind them, pulling stuff out of the cupboards like a whirlwind.

“Grab all the food you can carry.” She was at least useful. “Make up five or six bags. Don’t grab a frozen turkey, okay?”

She was still shaky and confused.

“Dry, packaged foods, as much as you got.” Giving her a little push, he kept going.

“I’m going to search a couple of the rooms, see if I can come up with some more ammo.”

Mickey headed for the door.

“Bisson has a weapon. It might be in his bed table.” He nodded encouragement at this rapid re-framing of Tom’s head-space. “Thanks, Tom.”

He bolted from the room and up the stairs to the penthouse suites. As for swiping a vehicle, he had all that figured out ahead of time. He knew what he knew, and had seen what he’d seen. The blue four-wheel-drive pickup, with a crew cab, the one usually taken by Site Manager Guy Bisson on his daily inspection tours, was right outside with the keys in it and three-quarters of a tank of gas. Mick had stolen the gun from under the seat earlier that day.


This is a rough idea of what the markting image might look like. 

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