Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Hyper-Writing Learning Curve.

Savoia-Marchetti S-55, 1933. This example flew with Aeroflot in the Soviet Union. (Wiki.)

by Louis Shalako

I’ve been fooling around with semi-scientific non-fiction, and so I am making an illustrated ebook hypertext. 

The first time I loaded it up, the text looked fine but the pictures didn't render, and so I inquired further.

I didn’t panic, and I didn’t get upset, I didn’t even really get all that irritated. I sort of expected problems going in.

It’s a learning process, it involves experimentation and research into the basic techniques.

It requires things like making pictures smaller than 127 kb, and I also learned Kindle doesn't support > right/left html tags, etc., for photos. Pain in the butt ensues.

It might not even be a very good book. However, without some kind of book, there is no way to learn the process, and until I learn the process, I don't know what kind of book I and the system are capable of producing.

So that's day one of the New Year--we learned something, and sooner or later there will be an illustrated hypertext with my name on it.

As of January 2, it looks like the thing is ready to go. We’ll see what happens in the Kindle previewer, and take it from there, one logical step at a time until it’s complete. Having compressed the file below 5 MB, it can now be uploaded to Smashwords, Kobo, etc, wherever I want it to go.

There are other possibilities, all opened up by this one experiment. An experiment may be defined as a learning experience, or even one step in “a learning curve” as Dr. Evil would say, making his characteristic air quotes as he did so.

An illustrated ebook without a lot of links out is also very feasible. In that case, normal footnotes would apply, and yet I can’t seem to put cut-lines or photo captions in the ebook format. In that case, a POD paperback or hardcover still works in the usual fashion. Simply put, I can make illustrated books now, however unskilled the first few might eventually turn out to be, looking back from my deathbed.

Now, what that does, is to open up the possibility of writing non-fiction, with graphs, charts, cartoons, photos and illustrations, all nicely laid out and formatted on the page—and a hard copy doesn’t suffer from the same limitations in terms of rendering photos. The layout in a POD could be really nice compared to the ebook version.

Before I ever heard of ebooks, I dreamed of writing a coffee-table book, in a couple of different genres, but then I owned a couple of big books that I read from cover to cover and still treasure.

(He likes big books, and he cannot lie. – ed.)

I still keep them books around. I trashed all my notes at some point, but starting the research off from scratch might not be a bad thing, and now my research would be online—no going to the library and writing old-fashioned paper and envelope-style letters looking for things like archival photo clearances. This dream has been around a while!

Whatever the dream turns out to be—a book on Italian WW I seaplanes or whatever, is made a little more possible by acquiring the basic skills on a project of less importance. This is only part-way along a particular learning curve, one that began four years ago, Jan. 1/2010 when I decided to publish a book if it killed me.

(So far it hasn’t)

All that posting and reading, all those photo-searches for my blog have paid off in terms of knowledge. 

Theoretically, I am capable of putting together an online magazine, although it’s never been a high priority, and I think if that’s your dream, fine—but it has never been my dream.

That’s not to say I am unaware of the potential, another side effect of learning new things.

We learn new things and therefore we can see new possibilities—possibilities that didn’t exist in our own little universe before.

And if you want to pay for colour in the production of the book, you can even have colour, print-quality pictures in your POD. That affects the price of the product. But that’s all it affects, it doesn’t affect the ability to actually create the product.

So all this learning curve for one thing goes to support the learning curve for something else.

It all goes to experience and creating a database of simple skills that transfer from one genre or format to another.

Someone once said, “To keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results is insanity.”

In the four years I’ve been doing this, I have done plenty of things differently from the established way, and learned a few things.

However, doing a few things the same way as the established way might help to get different results, so we’ll put some thought into that along the way.

The thing there (maybe for the next little while) is to model ourselves after someone successful in the marketing department—how a successful author formats a book, (or most likely ships it out to someone else to format) is a question of lesser importance than how in the hell they manage to sell so many short stories, or how the hell they manage to license their works in so many ways.

Whether they write in the morning or evening, whether they like coffee or tea is irrelevant to my needs.

I need to learn how to attract readers, generate revenue from selling short stories, maybe put a little more thought into this and that, and so that’s what we’ll be studying, assuming that’s what we (or the reader) want to do.

Note: I ended up contacting Amazon support. The reason my file was not uploading correctly is because I needed to save it to a zip file, which you can do by highlighting it on your desktop and then right-clicking. Now click on 'send to' and select > zip folder.

That's what you upload to Kindle--not the ordinary html file.

The book, Love, Money, Sex and Death, Questions for the 21st Century, retails for $3.99 and will be available on Kindle tomorrow.


It was all so innocent in the beginning: I just wanted to publish a book if it killed me.

Here’s what that mistaken idea has mushroomed into.

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