KDP Conversion Oddness

Anyone who’s used Smashwords “meatgrinder” understands the sense of trepidation one feels while awaiting the outcome of the document-to-eBook conversion process. This is the process of turning a .doc format into the various formats readable by eBook readers, such as mobi and epub. Because meatgrinder spits out a variety of formats, one encounters numerous error messages before finally getting it right! It all boils down to how the word processor document is formatted.

Amazon’s eBook publishing service (Kindle Direct Publishing) only converts to mobi, which is the Kindle format. Because it’s only that one format, success is much easier to obtain. If corrections need to be made, it’s usually small design issues and rarely a problem.

Until now. Until yesterday when I tried to upload my eBook-ready Critter Tales book file. There were major problems. This was especially puzzling because I had used KPD’s own software, Kindle Create.

The file looked perfect in the Kindle Create previewer.

In the KDP previewer, however, something was clearly wrong.

Images were missing as well. Of course, I immediately contacted KDP and they were very prompt with a reply. It’s been passed on to technical support and they promise to get back to me by Dec. 23rd.

So much for getting it out in time for a good holiday promotion. It could still make it for Christmas and Kwanzaa, but I’ll have missed Hanukkah plus any opportunity to build an enticing case to promote gift-buying sales.

Oh well. No one to blame; sometimes things just work out that way. I could have started this project earlier, but I don’t even blame myself for not doing that. I’ve been busy finishing up my sequel, and of the two projects that’s my priority. So while I’m awaiting word from KDP, I’ll get back to that.

Font Squirrel’s Font Identifier Saves The Day

I’m wanting to offer an e-version of Critter Tales, like I did for 5 Acres & A Dream The Book. I plan to do this with Amazon’s Kindle Create, using the print replica option. This option works best for books like 5 Acres & A Dream The Book and Critter Tales because of the numerous images and complex formatting. The print replica option doesn’t require reformatting the entire book into a flowable form. Each page is a replica of the printed book.

Before I do that, I want to update the “Also By” page, to include the books I’ve published since Critter Tales. However, I need to remember which fancy font I used! Fortunately, I keep a record of the various fonts I use, but I also wanted to show you a very hand tool, Font Squirrel’s Font Identifier.

That’s it! Easy peasy

You can find Font Squirrel’s Font Identifier here.

AI for Proofreading

I decided to try something different for 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel. I decided to experiment with a couple of software programs that use artificial intelligence to proofread.

Spellcheck has been around for awhile, and many word processors have grammar checkers. LibreOffice does, and it serves for my first check. An independent grammar checker is LanguageTool. I downloaded it from the Ubuntu Software Centre and use it as my second check. The third is Grammarly, which I have found useful for catching things the other two don’t.

I think the AI proofreaders are helpful for basic copy editing. They catch spelling errors, punctuation such as comma placement, and some formatting inconsistencies such as extra spaces between words. Quotation marks are another helpful catch. Should they be straight or curly (aka “smart”) quotes? Traditionally, printers used curly quotes and these are still considered good typography. More good uses of AI are to catch hyphens verses the various kinds of dashes and ‘which’ versus ‘that.’

Sometimes it’s a matter of opinion. Temperature, for example. Is it written as 80°F, 80° F, or 80 °F? It depends on which authority one asks. The National Geographic style guide prefers the first. Technical style guides prefer the third. Some say to write the symbol out as “degree.” For anything where opinions vary, I think the most important thing is to be consistent.

I get dinged a lot for spelling. Usually, it’s because I’m using a word not found in the program’s spelling database. Grammarly has been useful for catching things such as ‘a while,’ which I tend to type as ‘awhile.’

Of the three, Grammarly offers the most detailed analysis. I started with their browser add-on, which I uninstalled after a couple of weeks. Problem? It “corrects” as one types, which is like having a backseat driver continually trying to grab the steering wheel. Then it sends a weekly score comparing word usage and error totals to other Grammarly users. I found those things to be annoying. Instead, I use the online version at their website.

They have a basic free version and a subscription version. The free version catches grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, alerts for wordiness, and detects tone. It grades clarity (“very clear”), engagement (“a bit bland”), and delivery (“just right”). It gives me a score and lets me know how many advanced alerts it found, in case I want to upgrade to premium.

To its credit, Grammarly recognizes ellipses, which the other two do not. Since this book is a sequel, I quote myself a lot, rather than rewriting the material as new. To keep it succinct, I use ellipses.

Grammarly’s paid-for premium service critiques inconsistent writing style, unclear sentence structure, overused words, ineffective vocabulary, hedging language, impoliteness (?), insensitive or non-inclusive language, inappropriate tone or formality level, and checks for plagiarism. All of this for about $140 per year if billed annually. They do offer frequent discounts. I haven’t completely ruled this out, but I haven’t ruled it in either. I don’t always agree with their assessment, and if they want auto-debit billing, forget it. Plus, if one follows up with a human editor, what’s the point?

Do any of these AI proofreaders take the place of a human editor? Of course not. But if one is paying an editor by the hour, it’s helpful to have as few errors as possible.