Friday, October 18, 2013

Digital Publishing, Quality Control.

Like that sullen Alex look.

Quality control is important in digital publishing because very often one person is doing everything themselves. If you haven’t done it too many times, it can be a murky process. More than anything, I want to be fresh and with a rational time slot available. I can upload to Smashwords or Kindle in about ten minutes, but if there is a problem, you don’t want to be running out the door to get a box of diapers or whatever right in the middle of fixing a problem with a book

When uploading to Smashwords, you need a clean .doc file as per the Smashwords Style Guide. As soon as it’s done converting, I download Epub and Kindle versions onto my desktop where I have the desktop Nook and Kindle reading apps. What I am looking for is good formatting. I want to see clean scene breaks, with the blocks of text above and below set at the right distance apart. Generally speaking, if the Kindle version looks good my Epub usually will too, but I flip through both of them right to the end. Then I go back to Smashwords and assign an ISBN, submit the converted file and have some fair degree of assurance that it will make it into the Premium Distribution Calalogue.

You want to read the chapter numbers on that Kindle version—recently I read : Chapter Four, Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six…Chapter Seventeen, Chapter Nineteen…this is the time to fix it, right?

You want the right number of chapters!
What you are hoping for is a clean upload. Sooner or later the book will pop out onto the home page as a new release, and this puts a little pressure on the new author to do it right.

Before uploading to Kindle Direct Publishing, I take out the Smashwords standard disclaimer, as I have my own anyway, and Kindle certainly doesn’t require the Smashwords disclaimer!

On Kindle Direct Publishing, there is now spell-check for English-language titles. I always read this report. If you have a lot of made-up words, alien names or planets or whatever, those will always be ‘errors’ to the computer program, so make sure you proofread those for spelling thoroughly.

Fix all the ‘real’ errors and upload a corrected file. Use the digital previewer, and go right through to the end, as this is exactly how your book is going to look in a Kindle device. This is useful in helping an author to sleep at night—one or two reviews have mentioned “well-edited,” and good formatting, et cetera. (They also liked the story.)

I never use Digital Rights Management, as on Smashwords there is no provision for it anyway. If someone wants to pirate the book, they can do it easily enough. Since I give away thousands of books in a year, there’s not much demand for pirated books. I click ‘enable lending,’ and MatchBook since I have PODs.

There was a site once that had a free download of a title that I had been giving away for free. It was an old version, with an old and not very good cover. You can try and find a contact form, or an email address on the site. Generally speaking, they do take it down. If it’s just a ‘cheap ebooks’ site, and if all that is there is an image and buy link going back to Amazon or something don’t worry about it. Hope that they sell a few copies for you, as most likely they have an affiliate account and they’re making a small commission. It is not necessary to thank them.

Be glad someone thought they could make money on the book.

Uploading to Createspace is easy enough. For that I use the ebook file, format it, then save it as TitlePOD or whatever, and if I update a version I’ll put Oct13 or something on the end of the file name.

I wrote a blog post on version control, because after a while you just spawn so many files. In my case I tend to back them up like a squirrel, all over the place. I’m sort of worried the computer will crash, and every so often there is an odd-ball glitch that just locks up a file on me.

Another thing is to e-mail those files to yourself at the end of every working day. For that you need maybe two accounts.

My chapter number is six 12-pt spaces down.
A paperback is obviously formatted differently than an ebook. You can and should have page numbers for example. But also, I put section breaks in for the front matter and end matter, so the page numbers are only in the actual book. If you have a foreword, stuff like a dedication, acknowledgements, that’s front matter too—no page numbers, no headers, etc.

The free cover templates on Createspace are easy to use with a little fiddling around, and like many other self-publishing sites there are professional cover and formatting services available.

Learning to do everything myself keeps the cost down and gives me a bit of power in a sense—now I can write how-to articles and post them on my blog, and it might be helpful to someone else along the line.

Before uploading my next two ebooks and five more POD files, I will proof each file at least one more time, take a look at the covers again, get a marketing image (and maybe a better title for Collection # 4 Dark Satires) and ISBNs, write blurbs for new titles, and stuff all that into a folder on the desktop. For one thing, 

I’ve been thinking of a new image for Core Values. It’s not ready to upload until I have a cover.

The books will be uploaded in order of priority:

Third World > my new science fiction novel > ebook > Smashwrods > Kindle > POD

Collection # 4 > ebook SW > K > POD

Engines of Creation > POD after ebook published around Dec 1. The ebook is already on the platform, it’s just been unpublished after uploading. (That one had a small error which I think has been fixed as well.) 

But the Kindle version is not fixed. That’s why I make lists in the first place.)

Ghost Planet > upload POD file and cover to Createspace as the ebook is already published.

Core Values > POD this book has been out for three years so it’s high time I made the POD, however it’s not my highest priority in uploading. During the POD file creation process, I noticed one error, so after this is done I will go back, fix the .doc file, upload to SW and then upload an .html file, a corrected one, to Kindle.

During the POD process I might have to go back and forth between Createspace and my desktop via tabs to fiddle with marketing images; as often the name and title are off-center a wee bit, and sometimes it can’t be adjusted properly with the free templates that I use.

Once your POD goes live on Createspace, it will be automatically linked to your ebook on Amazon after about a week, but you have to check and if it doesn’t show up, contact them through the form on the site and tell them. On Smashwords you can also link to a print version from the ‘manage links’button on the right side of your book’s page.

Notes: on Kindle, as long as you haven’t completed the second of the two publishing pages, you can quit and the thing will be saved as a draft. You can trouble-shoot and go back later with no harm done. On SW, you can always unpublish and when you come back a few minutes later, uploading begins the conversion and submission process again. Simply do the coversion and proof them puppies one more time.

On Createspace and other platforms there are digital proofers, human review, and in many sites you can download PDFs to your computer and see how your book turned out.

Since it takes about a week for a POD to pop up on Amazon, presumably you could do PODs first and then upload your ebook. As an experiment, I loaded up to Amazon and used their spell-check as it saves me the time of scrolling through fifteen times. Then I fixed the .doc file and published it first on Smashwords. Over time, I have evolved a process, and yet if you haven’t done it in a while, or if you’re nodding off to sleep, it can definitely still be irritating. That’s why I like to have a bit of time—enough time and forsight and it’s just less stressful.

Ebooks and paperbacks of the same title must have different ISBNs, and if you even change the colour of paper, (I read this on Createspace) you will need a new ISBN.

With a Createspace assigned ISBN, (free) they are the publisher of record.

With a Smashwords-assigned ISBN, they are the publisher of record, with your own ISBN, you are the publisher of record.

POD tips: Use mirrored margins, and use the format header and footer feature to raise your header and lower your page numbers away from the text. There is a minimum gutter depending on the number of pages. A wider page margin at the top lowers the top of the text.

You can stop the process and go back to the document in order to fiddle with that. Upload it as many times as necessary to get it as good as you can get it.

As things stand right now, (Friday, October 18,) I have had to ‘nuke’ my new collection Dark Satires, but Third World went through just fine. The collection has stories that go back some years and have been through two or three computers and two or three crashes. So now I upload Dark Satires to Amazon, and this evening I’ll put them up on Createspace as PODs.

After that, I have another several PODs to do, but no more ebooks for a while.

Nuking a File.

To nuke a file, save it as a .txt document. Highlight the whole .txt document and then copy and paste that into a fresh, blank .doc file. Now re-format the thing from scratch, although the .txt saves scene breaks and indents. It will strip out bold, italics, bigger fonts for titles, stuff like that. Comb through the file carefully, and if it takes an hour to redo it, it’s better than releasing a badly-formatted product.

Here’s my new science-fiction novel Third World on Smashwords.


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