Resources for Writers (February 2014 edition)

This is one of those posts that I’m mostly doing for my local writers’ group, but if you are doing anything with self/indie-publishing, you might also find them of interest. There’s no grand theme here, just a handful of links I promised.

E-book Formatting

I learned e-book formation from this series of 10 blog posts: Take Pride In Your E-Book Formatting It’s been around for a couple of years, and parts of it are showing its age. In particular, I only use Calibre to produce the EPUB file, and then I use Amazon’s Kindle Preview app to convert that version to the MOBI format.

I have been considering moving to Sigil as my main e-book production tool, and here’s a good article that talks about a few different paths for e-book production: e-Book Creation: A Guide for Writers, by Lisa Cohen. It covers some word-processor-to-Calibre approaches, but it also has a section on going direct with Sigil.

Both of these lay out the simple fact that both E-book formats are essentially simplified HMTL web pages wrapped up in a zip file. Depending on how comfortable you are with HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), you can find a production path that works for you. For me, the key was to work through several iterations of a small file, something with four chapters of a few pages each. That let me work through the errors without dealing with a 90,000-word document.

I know a couple of guys (Jefferson Smith and Nathan Lowell) who seem to have super-streamlined processes for this, but I’m not quite there yet.

Print-book Formatting

I’m the middle of a stalled 3-4 post series on this. The first of which mostly talks about page size and margins and can be found here: Print Formatting: Page Size and Margins

In due time, I mean to write one on paragraph-formatting and font choice, another on some stylistic matters like chapter headers, quotes, etc., a third on header/footer stuff and the magic trick to get MS Word to do that, and finally one more on front and back matter. I’m not sure if I’ll get all those links back into this post or if they’ll just link one to another in a series.

In the meantime, I urge you to check out the archives of The Book Designer and his MS Word templates at Book Design Templates.

Self-publishing Sales Data

There have been several self-publishing surveys and reports lately. Some of them are almost worthless due to bad sampling and faulty conclusions. Some have been better. Here’s a good summary of several of them: All about the Money

But just in the last 24 hours, a new study has come out that has relied on doing some data-mining on the Amazon servers along with other reports that pieced together reasonable conversions from Amazon’s Sales Rank number to the actual rate of sales, i.e. how many books you’re selling.

Early analysis of the report looks fairly good, though it is upfront that it is looking only at Amazon data and only at the top few thousand books. (One set of data looks at the top 7000, while another expanded it to look at the top 50,000.) It was spearheaded and funded by self-pub success story Hugh Howey and can be found here: Author Earnings – The Report.

Book recommendation: I’ve also been recommending a great book on the no-luck strategy for self-publishing success called Write Publish Repeat. My review is here along with a link to the book.

That’s it for now. There may be more of these in the future.