Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: e-books

Kindle-izing and Republishing My Old Novel

I’ve been Kindle-izing my first book A Place Without a Postcard. I started it in 1993 on a legal pad and then began typing it into an old Brother word processor, a beast of a machine that was part typewriter, part printer. It had a small screen and a floppy drive too. It was the transition step between typewriters and computers for those of us who couldn’t afford a computer.

Eventually, I got a ’94 Mac Performa and moved the files to that where I was running Claris Works. Then in 2000, around the time I finished the first draft, we made the move to a PC and it went to Word ’95 and then Word ’98. The master file has been through a lot and so the first step in prepping it for Kindle, a device as unimaginable as the cloud when I began, was to clean the source file, which now resides in iPages on my Mac. So I’ve been making changes to the file that never mattered when it was for print only.

But that was the easy piece and was partly a dodge to avoid the real challenge: rereading my ten-year-old novel. Gulp. I don’t tend to reread my stuff once it’s out there, and I had largely forgotten much of what was between those covers, and I shuddered to imagine what horrors I had penned so long ago. Would I want to change it, make major revisions? I didn’t want to.

But I did read it, and it was fun. It was like reading a book by someone else and other than the odd missing comma or unnecessary adverb, I didn’t find that I had to fight the urge to rewrite large sections or change much of anything. There are a few things I might have done differently had I been writing it now, but I’m happy to say I still like the book, and I still really like those old characters, Paul and Sergio and the coyote Mercury for whom this blog is named. I think I told their tale well and did them justice.

The Kindle edition will be out sometime in the next month or so and I’ll also be updating the paperback to a second edition and bringing it to my own Coyote Mercury Press. I’ll keep you posted and let you know when that happens including the free day when I intend to give away the Kindle edition.

Have you ever gone back to read things you wrote and published long ago? What was that like?

E-Booking

Deb Scott over at Stony Moss wrote a nice post about how Birds Nobody Loves looks, works and reads on iPads, Kindles and paper so I figured I’d put something up here by way of explaining how it came to exist in its various forms.

I kicked around the idea of doing Birds Nobody Loves as an e-book but an illustrated book of poetry seemed like it would carry a pretty steep learning curve for a first e-book what with the whole line break issue and that kept me from pursuing it until I read NS’s Dark and Like a Web on my phone (before buying the paperback) and saw how well it worked. I read her blog posts on the subject and learned how she used Dave Bonta’s hanging indent solution in her e-books and so, I decided to give it a try.

I coded the EPUB version of Birds Nobody Loves using eCub. It was surprisingly easy for me considering I’ve spent a lot of time playing with the HTML and CSS on this blog over the years. That was the biggest surprise for me: an e-book is nothing but a series of web pages governed by a CSS file. Who knew?

It wasn’t long before I had an EPUB file that looked great on my phone and that took my breath away when I saw it on a borrowed iPad, which rendered the illustrations beautifully. And, the hanging indents worked too.

Next up was Kindle-izing the thing, which required a conversion to MOBI format. ECub works with Amazon’s Kindlegen to create a MOBI file but when I checked it in Amazon’s Kindle previewer, which lets you see what your book looks like on various Kindle devices, I was horrified to learn that while it looked great on the Fire it looked awful on all the other Kindles. I could “fix” this by removing the hanging indent code, which made it look okay across all devices but the poetry would lose the formatting if the reader made the font too big.

I messed around with the code for the better part of the day and then gave up, figuring I could either ditch the whole hanging indent idea for Kindles or just not release it for Kindle at all. I thought there had to be a way for the book to know what kind of device it was being played on and then serve up the hanging indent CSS if it was being played on a Fire, but how?

And here’s yet another reason why I love the Internet: there’s always someone smarter out there with the same problem I’m working on. That very night, Liz Castro at Pigs, Gourds and Wikis posted an excellent tutorial on how to get hanging indents in a poetry e-book (using the same technique Dave worked out) and how to make them work on ALL Kindle devices by having the book serve CSS geared toward whichever Kindle device was playing the book. It took less than 10 minutes to have the Kindle version working perfectly.

The Nook was another matter. The EPUB file seems to play well on my Dad’s Nook but when I uploaded it to the Nook Store, I found that Barnes & Noble seems to make changes to the file that destroy all the line breaks. Either that or the Nook doesn’t read EPUB like Apple’s products. So, sorry Nook users, I haven’t solved that one yet.

After that it was easy to upload the book to Lulu, the iBookstore and the Kindle Store.

Now, go pay Deb a visit and see what she has to say about it. And then read her blog.

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