Thursday, 31 March 2011

Kindle 12 – Publishing your e-book

This is the exciting bit… if you’ve been following my posts in this series, you’re now ready to make your book available for others to download and read on their Kindle or Kindle apps. To do this, you need amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform (the new name for the old Digital Text Platform). You can find it at
The first thing you’ll need to do is register. If you buy books from amazon already, you can use your existing account. If not, then follow the instructions to set one up. At the top of the KDP home page you’ll see three different areas:

Bookshelf – which will be empty at the moment. Later it’s where you’ll see a list of all the e-books you have published for Kindle and their current status.

Reports – sales reports, where you can check how many copies you have sold and see your royalty statements. These sales reports are instant, which is a bit scary for those more used to having to wait six months to see these figures. But they can be useful for judging how effective your marketing efforts are.

Community – the useful KDP forum, where you'll find answers to all the questions you are sure to ask once you’ve published your e-book. This is also the place to go if you can’t make horn or unicorn-tail of my formatting instructions. There are experts here... ibigtoad and notjohn in particular were a great help to me when I was fumbling my way into my first Kindle publishing project (thanks guys!). Amazon have official guidelines, of course, but I found these strangely unhelpful, perhaps because the publishing process is continually being updated at the moment. From time to time, amazon also make important announcements on the forum so it pays to keep an eye on this.

Once you have registered and accepted amazon’s contract – and do make sure you READ IT, because this is a legal agreement between you as a publisher and amazon as the retailer – then you are ready to upload your very first e-book. Simply go to your Bookshelf, click “Add new title” and follow the instructions. The upload happens in two stages:

1. Your book details – title, product description, contributors, language, publication date, publisher, ISBN, ownership, categories, search keywords, product image, and the book file that you’ve spent weeks formatting and testing (you can upload either your Word document or the zipped HTML, depending which worked best for you during the testing process described in my last post).

When you upload your book, you’ll see an online previewer where you can do limited testing before you continue. This can be quite slow at peak times, however, especially if your broadband connection is patchy, so I'd recommend using it only for a final check through, or when you've made a minor edit. To test your book works properly on all devices and generations of Kindle, it's a good idea to download amazon's Previewer software and test it offline on that. (You can always save your book as "draft" on your Bookshelf and then return later to upload your updated file before selecting "publish".)

Think carefully about your product description, because this replaces the “blurb” on your back cover. Your potential reader will see just the first couple of sentences when they view your book details on their Kindle and will have to page forward to read the rest, so make those first sentences count! Muse tip: If you decide to write your description in Word and use copy-paste, be careful about speech marks and paragraph breaks etc.

If your book has a print edition and you want your e-book linked up to this for the existing reviews, this will happen automatically after a couple of days provided you use EXACTLY THE SAME title and author name(s).

Do not enter your print ISBN in the ISBN field. You don't really need an ISBN for an e-book, but if you want one then it should be a new one. Amazon will assign your book a unique ASIN for identification purposes, so you can leave this field blank.

Only enter as contributors those names you want to appear in the book’s product description (when it says editors, it means the editor of an anthology).

The product image is the same as your cover image, so you can use the same .jpg file you inserted at the start of your e-book.

2. Rights and pricing
Make sure you only claim the rights you currently hold. If you have a backlist title and it has been sublicensed in the US, for example, then you might not be able to exploit these rights even if the UK rights have reverted.

You can decide the price of your own e-book, but be aware that amazon may discount this if your book is available cheaper elsewhere. You have two options: a 70% royalty or a 35% royalty. Before you decide, read the guidelines on the kdp help pages to make sure you understand the pricing and royalty calculations, especially with regard to the new European VAT rules. Basically, if you choose 70%, you are at amazon’s mercy on discounting and e-book lending and will have to price within their guidelines. If you want more control, then you might want to go for the 35% option and up your price a bit – but not too much, because e-books seem to be quite price sensitive! But don’t stress too much this stage, because you can always change the price - just as you can change the product description, rights claimed, your book’s content, and anything else at any time you like. These changes will go live within a few days.

And that’s it. Click publish, and you’re done. The book will then appear on your Bookshelf with its status shown as “in review”. Within a couple of days this should change to “publishing” and soon after that to “live”. If this doesn't happen within 48 hours, check your email to see if you have been sent an Amazon Alert. Sometimes you will need to confirm copyright status before the book goes live  -you have 14 days to do this to avoid having your title "blocked" on your Bookshelf.

At this point, your e-book will be available for people to download from amazon’s Kindle store. I suggest you purchase a copy yourself to get it off the nil sales ranking and check everything looks as good as it did in testing. If you've followed my steps, it should do. Also download the free sample and check this out, too.

Congratulations! You are now a genuine e-publisher, and it’s time to start telling the world…

At this point, the Muse is going to bow out gracefully and direct you to the KDP Community forum, where you’ll find all sorts of helpful ideas and links to Kindle websites and boards (nearly all of them US based at present, though hopefully this will extend to the UK soon.) Good luck!

This post ends my Kindle for Beginners series. I hope you've found it useful.

(IMPORTANT: If you are reading this series after its original posting in 2011, please be aware that things have moved on considerably in the ebook world and some details might have changed. Keep an eye on the kdp help pages and forum for updates.)

Monday, 28 March 2011

Meet King Arthur’s daughter - Rhianna Pendragon!

The Muse has been glittering to tell you about Katherine’s brand new Arthurian fantasy series, which she has had me hard at work on for some time. I've briefly escaped the enchanted mists to tell you the good news. From February 2012, you’ll be able to start reading the adventures of Rhianna Pendragon and her friends Elphin, Cai, and Arianhrod as they battle dragons and the evil Mordred in their quest to restore King Arthur’s soul to his body.

You didn’t know King Arthur had a daughter…? Well, that’s because she was taken to the enchanted isle of Avalon as a baby to grow up with the fairy people. Her friend Elphin is a prince of Avalon and can work magic with his harp, which is just as well since King Arthur’s druid Merlin is getting old and forgetful. Cai is a squire who dreams of being a famous knight like his father, even though he's more likely to drop his lance than hit anyone with it, and Arianhrod becomes Rhianna’s maid at Camelot after escaping the clutches of Mordred’s witch-mother Morgan le Fay.

If you ask him nicely the unicorn may bring you a few Arthurian legends during the rest of this year, but you’re going to have to wait until the first book is published to find out what happens to Rhianna and her friends when they set out on the ultimate quest that killed Arthur’s bravest knights…

Here is the official press release:

Templar have acquired an epic four book fantasy series for 9+ readers from award-winning fantasy author Katherine Roberts.

SWORD OF LIGHT, Book 1 of The Pendragon Legacy, will be published in February 2012. Set in the Dark Ages following the death of legendary King Arthur, the series follows the adventures of Arthur's daughter, Rhianna, as she sets out to reunite the four magical lights and restore her father's soul to his body.

Helen Boyle, Templar’s commissioning fiction editor, says: “We’re so excited to be publishing this four book series from Katherine Roberts. The minute I read the first chapter I knew it was something special. Katherine has created a gripping quest-based adventure series, with a really feisty female main character. Add to this a sprinkling of elvish and druid magic, action-packed battle scenes and, in Mordred, a truly twisted villain, and I know readers will be hooked. Our fiction list is developing a some real momentum at the moment and I was looking for some more core 8-12 fiction to complement the rich teen list we've developed. Rhianna Pendragon appeared out of the mists of Avalon and we're delighted to give her and Katherine a home at Templar Fiction.”

Katherine Roberts comments: “As a big fan of Arthurian fantasy, I’ve always wanted to write my own version of the legend but didn’t want to repeat the old stories. When I found red-haired Rhianna, King Arthur’s daughter, hiding on the enchanted island of Avalon, I knew she would make a great young warrior princess to carry the Pendragon legend to a new generation. It was important to me that the whole series should be contracted up front, so I am delighted Templar share my vision for these books and am thrilled to be joining such an exciting new fiction list.”

Founded in 1978, Templar has become one of the world’s most respected publishers and packagers of illustrated children’s fiction, novelty and picture books. In 2008 Templar was recognised by the Independent Publisher’s Guild as UK Children's Publisher of the Year and Independent Publisher of the Year. Templar joined the Bonnier Group in September 2008 and launched its fiction list in 2009. You'll find their blog in the list below.

Also see the Bookseller news item today.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Friday Favourite - WEST OF THE MOON by Katherine Langrish

The Muse has had his horn stuck into this book ever since Katherine Langrish’s Nis post.

If you’ve been following the official “West of the Moon” blog tour, you’ll probably realize by now that it brings together her three previous Troll novels: Troll Fell, Troll Mill and Troll Blood. But even if you have already read all of these, it’s worth getting your hands on this book because:
* it has a beautiful cover
* it has a lovely romantic title
* the original books have been reworked by the author to make an epic story in three parts, rather than simply binding up the three novels and slapping on a new cover, as sometimes happens.

The story follows young Peer, who is orphaned at the start of the book and dragged off by his wicked uncles to help them work the mill on Troll Fell. It’s a miserable, haunted place. His only friends are his dog Loki and the red-hatted Nis, who does the housework (sometimes) in return for a bowl of ‘groute’. Fortunately, Peer also finds a human friend in Hilde, the adventurous daughter of a Viking seafarer, and dreams of a time when they can sail away together to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. But unknown to Peer, his uncles have darker plans for him and Hilde: they are to be the gifts at a troll wedding, destined to a life of slavery underground in the dark. When Peer calls on the help of his magical friends, this plan backfires on the millers, enabling Peer (and the Nis) to escape the mill and move in with Hilde’s family.

Their adventures really begin when they board one of the dragonships Peer’s father helped build and set sail for the legendary land Hilde told him about. But it is no sightseeing trip. With them is the captain’s son, Harald Silkenhair, who owns a sword and has killed with it. When Peer discovers the terrible truth about their shipmates, he must decide where his loyalties lie. Can he find the courage to stand up to Harald and win the heart of his childhood sweetheart Hilde?

"West of the Moon" is an epic fantasy adventure and coming-of-age story with the kind of atmosphere that makes your spine tingle. There are no unicorns (Muse: they might be invisible?) but it’s full of Norse myth so its pages are bursting with other magical creatures:
The Nis – you’ve already met him!
lubbers – creepy creatures who live in the dark and crawl out of toilets, yeuch!
Granny Greenteeth – a witch with green hair who lives in the mill pond.
trolls – ugly beasts with horns and long tails who live under the hill.
seal maidens – who become human when their skin is stolen.
jenu – giants who roam Vinland with souls of ice
wiklatmu’jk – tiny people who live under the rocks and like pegging humans down
Skraelings – fierce natives of Vinland who paint their skin red and black.

Muse: Vampires and werewolves are SO last year… get your hands/hooves on West of the Moon now!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Kindle 11 – Testing, testing, testing!

If you've been following my Kindle posts so far, you’ve done most of the work. Now for the exciting part. This is where your e-book publishing venture either goes smoothly or horribly wrong, depending how careful you’ve been throughout the formatting stages and which version of Word you are using.

The good news is that it’s not vital to get things right first time with e-publishing, since even if you accidentally publish your e-book with errors in it (you won’t be the first!), you can easily unpublish it within a few days and either fix it up or start over. You haven’t gone to the expense of print run, so you don’t lose anything financially. But it’s always nice to get things right first time, so some kind of testing is advisable.

At this point you’ll need access to a Kindle. If you don’t have one, then you’ll have to cross your fingers and skip this stage. Come back next week to find out how to upload your file to amazon, where there will be an opportunity for some limited online testing before going live.

If you do have a Kindle, then you’ll probably already know about the personal document service, which allows you to send a personal file to your Kindle email address for conversion into e-book format. This is the route I used to test “Spellfall”, and the conversion process is the same as for the upload to amazon’s site, so it’s a fairly reliable way of testing your e-book before publication.
Muse tip: If your Kindle has 3G connectivity, then make sure you use your free kindle address (yourname @ rather than yourname @, or you will be charged a small fee for each download. Once won’t break the bank, but if you have to go through this process several times the charges can mount up!

You have a choice at this point. You can send in your Word file as it stands, and this will be translated by amazon into an e-book. Or you can convert your Word file into HTML first and send that in for conversion instead. I’ve tried both routes, and from personal experience the HTML route is the best way of getting a clean conversion, though this may depend which version of Word you are using. (I use Word 2000, which generates messy code! If you use Word 2003, the Word file might work well enough and save you an extra step.)

1. Converting from Word: Simply email your Word file as an attachment to your free kindle address, yourname @

2. Converting from HTML: First save your Word file as FILTERED HTML. (Muse tip: Word 2000 does not have a filter, so you can use File, Save as, Type = Web Page, or better still go to the Microsoft site and download a free filter patch.) Then zip your .htm file with the images file, and put this .zip file into another zipped file. This is called “double zipping” and the conversion software needs to receive it in this way. If you don’t have any images in your e-book, you can get away with simply emailing the .htm file.

Whichever method you use, amazon will return the e-book version to you within minutes (this will be an .azw file). You can either pick up this file on your computer and transfer it to your Kindle via. its USB cable, or connect your Kindle to a wireless network and download the e-book version direct. On your Kindle, this will look like any other e-book you have downloaded, except it’ll show your email address instead of the author’s name. Now you can test it works on your actual device. If you’re not very familiar with your Kindle, take a look at this post before continuing.

If you’ve ever written computer software like my author, you’ll probably be drawing up a table at this stage of every possible combination to make sure you test all eventualities. (Muse: my author's a nerd!) This is a good idea if you have the patience. I suggest you at least read your ebook with the screen upright and sideways, try all the sizes of text, and all options for line length and font, etc. Use the Kindle’s GO TO menu on your book to check it takes you where you expect. Test your Table of Contents to make sure nothing's broken. Play around with it, until you’re sure the book will look good however your reader decides to read it.

The chances are as you do this you’ll find some things that don’t look very good with some Kindle combinations. You might decide you can live with them if, say, it only looks peculiar using the largest text size with the Kindle turned upsidedown. But if strange and unexpected formatting distracts from your story, then you probably need to fix it. Make a note of anything that doesn’t look right, then return to step 8 Formatting for Kindle and work out what went wrong. Then test it again.

Now you can be confident your e-book will look great on an actual Kindle when you publish it. But will it look so good on an i-phone? Or a Blackberry? Or an Android? Or a Mac? Amazon have free Kindle apps for all these things, so before you publish you really should test it works on them, too.

Assuming you don't have a drawer full of these devices, you'll need to download the Kindle Previewer software from (you'll find it after the Kindlegen software download, which you don't need if you're using this route to Kindle). This is basically a program that imitates all the different apps, and is quite straightforward to use. It’s also reliable, so if it tells you something is wrong I suggest you go back to step 8 and repeat until things are fixed. You might feel as if you are going in circles at this stage! I spent about a week doing this for "Spellfall", so do not be surprised if this testing process takes you some time.

When you’ve tested your e-book in all possible ways on all devices currently known to amazon, and it works on all of them and looks good enough not to distract from the story, then you’re ready to publish. Next week, in the final post of this Kindle for Beginners series, I’ll take you through the publishing process with amazon's direct publishing platform and tell you where to go for more help, because by then you won't be a beginner any more and will be ready to tackle more advanced aspects of e-publishing, which my unicorn has not yet mastered. Well, he is only a muse...

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Kindle 10 – E-book covers

An e-book doesn’t have a cover or jacket in the sense of a printed book (i.e. to protect the pages inside) because your e-reader now does that job for you. In a sense, the device you use to read your e-books acts as a cover for your entire library bound up in one slim volume. This seems to be the main resistance readers have to e-books, because a nicely produced paper book with a well-designed cover is more than just the text inside. After all, you can’t decorate your bookshelves with thin grey e-readers… at least, not unless you are a very geeky millionaire! You can now get a range of pretty covers for your Kindle in the same way you can get “skins” for your phone, so you’re not stuck with boring grey or white. But each book on your e-shelf is physically coverless. So no cover needed, right?

Well, yes and no. E-books can contain electronic pictures (which you insert as .jpg files into your text). So, in theory, they can have a .jpg version of a cover, too. In fact, Amazon’s current guidelines for publishers require Kindle e-books to have a cover image, so they are not going the way of the dinosaurs and unicorns yet. (Muse: HEY, are you trying to say I’m a dinosaur?) Also, readers are still very much focused on the cover image as a buying tool, and the amazon website displays a thumbnail sized cover as part of the book’s product description. So if your e-book doesn’t have a cover, it’ll get a default image and lose that essential first-line marketing tool.

The good news is that an e-book cover is both simpler and cheaper to produce than a printed cover, because you don’t need a high-resolution file, and (obviously) you don’t need to actually print it. You don’t even need to worry too much about the colour definition, since Kindle currently displays in black-and-white and will convert a colour cover to greyscale anyway – though, of course, this might change in future, and other Kindle apps (for PC and ipad etc.) do display in colour, so it’s probably a good idea to go for colour in your cover if you can.

The bad news, as you’ve probably guessed, is that designing an e-book cover is no easier than designing a cover for the printed version of your book. And since it’s such a vital marketing tool, its design is just as important, maybe even more so, since all a potential reader will see on the website where they buy books is a thumbnail of your “front” cover. They don’t have the option of picking up the book and reading the back, and you can’t attract their eye with glittery stars or a slimy feel.

So where do you start?

I’ve already mentioned that you can’t just scan the cover of your print edition, because the copyright for this belongs to your publisher. If you ask nicely, and they are feeling equally nice, they may give you permission to use it, as Chicken House kindly did for “Spellfall”. This gets you out of having to design a new one from scratch. But don’t rush to use your print cover, because a cover that works well on the physical version of the book might not work so well as an e-cover (Muse: and you might have always hated it, anyway!) There are different things to consider for an e-cover design.

I’ve already mentioned size. If your printed cover has a lot of small writing on the front, this will not be legible at thumbnail size and will be hard to see on your e-reader (although Kindle does have a zoom facility so readers who have downloaded the book can take a closer look). The title and/or author’s name should therefore be large enough to read at thumbnail size. Which of these should be biggest – title or author – depends how famous you are. Be honest! The image is also important. If it’s fussy, with lots of twiddly bits and a subtle background, then this won’t show up so well at thumbnail size in black and white. To the Muse’s eye, the e-covers that work best are the simple ones. This often applies to print covers too, so some will translate fine.

The print cover of Spellfall actually works well as an e-cover, because it has a large title and fairly simple design with good contrast when displayed in greyscale. (The paperback book had glittery stars, which don’t show up here, but that doesn’t really matter.)

Here are a couple more e-covers the Muse likes:

Right, now  it's your turn...

1. Design a cover. You have four options:

(i) You can secure permission to use the print version, then scan or otherwise obtain a digital version.

(ii) You can paint/draw/otherwise create your own original design and scan it in.

(iii)You can base your design on existing pictures or digital photographs, provided you’ve checked these are copyright free and in the public domain, then use your photo-editing software to tinker with them and add the title, etc.
A good place to start looking for public domain photos is though you’ll probably find they don’t have any images that match your vision for your book. I find it easier to go out with a digital camera and take photos myself. You can capture some great images this way, and an advantage of taking your own photos is that when you crop the interesting parts out of them they’ll probably still be big enough to make an e-cover. And as long as you are careful not to take pictures of well-known products, or strangers' children, or on private property, you shouldn’t have to worry about product/model release or copyright issues... though it pays to err on the side of caution.

(iv) You can pay someone to design an e-cover for you. It’s a good idea to check out other covers they have done and make sure you pay a flat fee (rather than royalties).

2. Whatever method you choose, next use your photo-editing software to resize the image to 600 x 800 pixels and 72dpi, and save it as a .jpg file.

3. Insert this .jpg file into your e-book at location 1 (i.e. the very beginning), immediately followed by a page break. I’d also suggest using your CENTRED style to position it, so that if your reader turns their screen sideways it will display nicely.

4. Add a bookmark/anchor called “cover” just before the cover image (but not on a blank line). See Kindle 9 for instructions on how to do this. (Muse tip: The I-beam should display large, against the left side of the image.)

Note: If you are using e-book building software or a route to Kindle other than the one covered in this series, then this method may give you two cover images. Amazon’s guidelines frown upon this, but some of their published e-books have two so don’t panic if this happens. Two covers won’t make your book stop working. It’ll just look a bit strange.

And that’s it. Your e-book now has a cover, which Kindle should find when your reader selects GO TO cover from the menu.

This brings us to the end of the e-book build stage, so here would be a good time to back up your work if you haven’t done so already. Next time we’ll look at converting your Word file into a Kindle book, which is where the real fun starts!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Story Weekend - THE LAST ROSE by Alzrith

This weekend the unicorn is delighted to post a lovely sensitive story from Alzrith, who uses her own pen name as the heroine... bet you can't read it without getting at least one tear in your eye!

© Alzrith
The door swung loudly and deliberately behind little Alzrith, who was holding back tears.
  "I hate you, Daddy... I HATE YOU!" came her faint cry as she ran away.
  The master of the house – Alzrith's father – peered through his window, looking down at the little figure running away from the mansion into the concealed gardens ahead. Behind him, the door opened and closed.
  "Señor, are we to find the Señorita?"
  Without turning around, the Señor answered, "No need." A faint smile curved on his lips. "I know where she goes in times like this..."
  In times like this, Alzrith would go nowhere but the rose garden a few kilometers from the mansion. She stared longingly at her rose-bushes and, suddenly, her eyes filled with tears.
  "I don't believe him!" she wailed, kneeling to hug her flowers through the thorns. She ignored the little scratches on her delicate skin. "He's lying... whatever he says it's not true!"
  Then her feet touched something cold and metallic. She looked back to see what it was.
  A blue watering can.
  She released the roses and picked up the watering can, then started pouring cool drizzles onto the red and white roses. She wiped her tears away and started wandering around the rose garden while watering. Very slowly, she started to hum softly yet sweetly, joining her voice to the flowers' songs. As she wandered about her garden, caressing briefly white and red roses, her heart was overwhelmed with such joy of seeing her roses with wide-open petals spreading their blooms in the air that when Alzrith reached the deepest flowers she ignored the little scratches on her skin caused by thorns.
  The rose garden held memories of Alzrith's dear Grandpa. She used to cry when the thorns scratched her skin but dear Grandpa would come to the rescue and tell her, "Thorns are just being protective with their precious roses, my dear. Once you earn their trust, you won't feel the thorns anymore…" Then he'd pluck a white rose and give it to Alzrith.
  "I did it Grandpa. Roses trust me…" Alzrith muttered to a red rose, putting down her can. She finished watering the whole huge garden but she wasn't through with talking, which was her favourite activity yet, skipping from one rose bush to another.
  She felt a slight weariness when she reached the final bush of almost twenty roses, but still managed to mumble to them the sweet words of dreaming. When she reached the last rose, she was surprised to see it looked different among all the others. She bent closer to it. It was a dull-white rose but, unlike others, it was hanging upside-down in a sturdy, little branch with few thorns. What dismayed Alzrith was that the rose was closed, not like others with exposed corolla. The thought of touching it was interrupted by the feeling she might stop its bloom if she did.
  "What have I done, Grandpa? Why doesn't this rose bloom up?" Alzrith said weakly, tracing her fingertips to the leaves nearest to the rose. Her eyes moistened with uncontrolled tears. Yet she heard Grandpa in her heart.
  Every rose is a special one and exceptional.
  Instead of crying out loud for her failure in taking care of Grandpa's garden, she shed tears through the drizzles from the watering can down to the rose, expecting the rose to feel she shared sympathy with it. She thought of nothing but how would she make the last rose bloom, and even hid behind a rosebush from the gardener who happened by, cutting stray grasses with huge scissors. When the gardener was gone, Alzrith warily jumped out of her hiding place and dusted off tiny thorns that clung to her dress and went off to the bush of the last rose.
  She knelt so her eyes were level with the rose and studied it carefully, her mind running with memories of Grandpa. Her eyes filled with tears again, and she hoped that everything Daddy had said about Grandpa was false — Alzrith trusted her Grandpa.
  Then she saw the rose swung slightly. She blinked though she felt no wind. The rose swung again — this time, more obviously. Alzrith rubbed her eyes, suspecting them to be deceiving her. Yet the rose stirred— as if something inside it wanted to come out. She tried blinking and rubbing her eyes several times but the rose was indeed moving.
  Frightened, Alzrith staggered backwards. She wanted to run away and dive under her blankets... but curiosity got the better of her. The rose was tearing itself — or rather, some creature inside it with black thread-like limbs was tearing its way out. Alzrith watched wide-eyed and couldn't close her eyes no matter how hard she tried.
  The rose was transforming into some creature. That creature wriggled out of the torn petals and landed on soft grass beneath the thorns. Alzrith crouched lower to have a better view of the creature wrapped in colourful and moist petals.
  It was struggling.
  Alzrith carefully picked it up and laid it on her palm. The creature felt sticky and cold and it had a short thread curled at the end on its head. Yet she didn't feel grossed when she poked it slightly. Suddenly, the colourful petals flapped themselves into Alzrith's eyes. Alarmed, she instinctively waved her hands frantically and covered her eyes, wishing the creature gone.
  "It's beautiful, isn't it, my sweet Alzrith?" a male voice said from behind her.
  Alzrith uncovered her eyes and recognized the voice. "Daddy!" she said, hiding behind him. "There's a monster... a very beautiful one but it tried to blind me!"
  The Señor smiled down at her and pointed at the little creature that was traveling from one rose to another with its flapping petals.
  "Will it hurt me?" Alzrith gripped the hem of his black coat.
  But he laughed to her surprise. "Aw my dear daughter! I'm surprised you don't know what that creature is." He knelt on one knee and put both hands on Alzrith's shoulders. "That is a butterfly, sent by Grandpa to help the roses reproduce abundantly."
  "A butterfly?" she fumbled on the word, then eyed the creature called butterfly. "Oh, I thought Grandpa wouldn’t leave without leaving anything here! I always knew he could never leave me! See, Dad, he leaves the butterfly here to do his work while he's away."
  "Your Grandpa won't ever come home," her father said seriously. "He's now living in a beautiful Paradise where there's no sadness..."
  "Where is it, Daddy? I'd like to go there!"
  "God knows when to bring you there but now isn't the time. Just remember what your Grandpa used to say to me... Every dull, last rose has magnificent treasure inside."

Muse: How soon did you guess what the "last rose" was? Young writers are always welcome to share their work on this blog. Just email your stories and poems to the unicorn or see the link on the right for more details.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Kindle 9 – making your e-book work

Now the unicorn has seen Katherine Langrish’s red-hatted Nis off on the next leg of his blog tour, it’s time to talk about the extras found in an e-book that are not possible in a paper book. If you own a Kindle, you’ll probably realize I’m talking about the “go to” menu that allows your reader to jump to selected places in your e-text. If you are not familiar with reading on Kindle, I suggest you go back and read my second post in this series before going any further.

In the original version of the Kindle software 3.0 (Muse: the latest version when my author wrote her review of the Kindle… see how fast things move in this brave new e-world?), readers could pull up a menu and select GO TO:
cover – the book’s cover image, as seen on amazon’s product description page.
start – the place where the publisher suggests you to start reading (e.g. at the beginning of chapter 1).
location – any location between the beginning of your book (location 1 – which may be different to “start”) and its end (location x, which depends on the length of the book and is shown on the little bar across the bottom of a Kindle screen)
table of contents – your book’s linked contents list.

In the new version of the software 3.1 (available now for download from amazon), readers can GO TO:
cover – as before
start – as before
page – a page number corresponding to the paper edition of the book (if it has one).
location – as before
end – the end of the book (i.e. location x)
table of contents– as before

[Muse: A quick review of these new features... Although page numbers don’t really apply to an e-book, the unicorn understands they are easier to get your human head around than location numbers. Amazon have therefore included them where the book has a print edition so that readers can easily compare the two. This may be useful in classrooms or reading groups, where some people are reading on Kindle and others reading on paper.

If you select GO TO “end”, you’ll find you can give the book a rating between one and five stars and tell everyone what you think of it by tweeting to your followers or the Kindle community. You may also see a list here of other books bought by customers who own the book you’ve just finished, which might help you find more books of the same kind, and is a handy reference to keep on your Kindle!]

All these extra features are great if you are an e-reader. But they create extra work for those publishing e-books. So how do you make sure yours will work properly with the Kindle menu? Well, you have a choice at this stage. If you are really nervous about building your e-book by hand, you can use e-book building software to put these features in for you (I'll review some of the free available software later in the year). Or you can add them by hand using Word’s bookmarks, as I am about to show you. Don’t worry, bookmarks are easy enough to put in. But if you’ll need to be extra-careful when editing your Word file from now on, because bookmarks are also easy to delete by accident… and if you delete them, your links will stop working!

Let’s start with “start”.

Pick a place in your e-book you think your reader should see when it first "opens". This might be a message from the author. Or it might be your prologue, or the start of chapter one. The idea is to skip all the copyright pages and other non-story stuff you put in at the front, but if you want the book to open on the first page after the cover, then that’s fine. It’s up to you. Once you’ve decided where your reader should start reading your book, add a blank line just before this place and immediately following the last page break. (I know I warned you not to use blank lines in your e-book, but this one isn’t really blank, believe me...) Then on this line insert a bookmark called "start". (Word 2000: Insert Bookmark, name start, and click add).

When you view your file (with all the viewing options turned on, remember?) you should see your bookmark as something that looks like a capital “I” (Word calls this an “I-beam”). And that’s it. When you convert your file into an e-book later on, Kindle will find this bookmark in your file and the GO TO menu will take the reader to your chosen location if they select GO TO start. If you don’t specify a start location, Kindle will default back to location 1.

Told you it was easy, didn’t I?

Now you know what a bookmark is and how to put one into your file, let’s tackle the trickier Table of Contents. When your reader selects GO TO Table of Contents, the Kindle will look for a bookmark called “toc”. So in your Word file, go to your contents list and add a blank line immediately before its title and following the last page break. Using exactly the same method as before, insert a bookmark called toc on this line. Again, it will show up in your Word file as an I-beam.

This is where things get a bit more complicated, because your contents list should also be linked internally to the corresponding sections of your book. When your reader selects GO TO Table of Contents, they expect to be able to move the cursor down, click on one of the items, and be taken straight to that chapter or story or whatever. A linked table of contents separates the professionals from the free titles produced by volunteers. But now you know about bookmarks, so it’s really not that difficult to make yours work, provided you are careful and keep your head.

1. Add bookmarks to your chapters, etc.
First you’ll need to work through your file and find each section of the book you've included in your contents list. Put a bookmark on a new blank line immediately before each heading. The Muse suggests you name these bookmarks the same as your headings to avoid getting confused later. (For example, you might add bookmarks called abouttheauthor, reviews, prologue, chapter1, chapter2, chapter3, etc.) You don’t have to add a bookmark to every single item you've included in your contents list, but consider carefully before leaving something out, because your reader might think something is wrong. As you do this, you will no doubt come across your original “start” bookmark, but I suggest you don’t add another bookmark in the same place – the “start” one will do fine.

2. Link your bookmarks back to your contents list
Once you’ve got all these bookmarks in place, you can then return to your contents list and begin linking them up with your chapters/stories. To do this, highlight one of the items in your contents list and insert a hyperlink to that corresponding bookmark in your Word file. (Word 2000: Insert Hyperlink Bookmark, and select the correct bookmark name from the drop down list. This will show up in your insert box with the hash symbol in front of it – eg. #start. Click OK.)

When you return to your contents list, you’ll probably see the hyperlink underlined in blue. This translates fine to Kindle, so I suggest you go with it. When I tried removing all the underlines from my contents list, Kindle put them all back in again. (Muse tip: In Word 2000, if you hover the cursor over the hyperlink you have just created, you’ll see the bookmark name come up in a little box.) If you then click on the hyperlink, it should take you to the place where you added that bookmark… if it doesn’t, then check you haven’t accidentally deleted the I-beam!

3. Testing your Table of Contents
Work through your contents list, adding hyperlinks in exactly the same way, until you have linked up all of your bookmarks. Now test them one by one – ALL of them, both forwards and backwards – to make sure they work as you’d expect. (Muse tip: After clicking on a hyperlink, you can use the left arrow on the toolbar to navigate back to your contents list each time.)

Congratulations! You have just created a linked table of contents. When you upload your e-book and your reader clicks on them, these links should work in exactly the same way as they do in your Word file.

You'll be pleased to know this is handled automatically by Kindle, so you don’t need to worry about it.

This requires linking up with the print edition page numbers, which may or may not happen automatically when you upload your book. Since this is a brand new feature that I haven’t got to grips with myself yet, we’ll look at it in a later post.

This handled automatically by Kindle, so you don’t need to add a bookmark for it.

And finally, the first shall be last…

GO TO cover requires one final bookmark, which we’ll add next week when we’ve designed a cover and got it properly formatted and inserted into your file. (If you’ve already got an existing cover image as the first page of your file and are itching to upload your finished book to Kindle, the Muse begs your patience.)

Happy bookmarking! Oh and before I go, don’t confuse Word’s bookmarks (sometimes called anchors) with Kindle’s own Bookmark feature, which lets the reader fold down the “corners” of virtual pages. See you next week.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Story Weekend – Zhuangzi and the Butterfly

Since my author has been too busy to write a poem this week (excuses, excuses!) and nobody else has sent one in, the Muse would like to share this famous Chinese story with you, which comes from a book of ancient wisdom written by the sage Zhuangzi:

Zhuangzi fell asleep and dreamt he was a butterfly.
He fluttered from flower to flower, not knowing he was Zhuangzi.
When Zhuangzi woke up, he did not know if he was a man who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly now dreaming he was a man.

What do YOU think?

Young writers are always welcome to share their creativity on this blog – simply email your stories or poems to or see the “share your creativity” link for more details.


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