New eBook & New Approach to Discount Codes

gardening_for_goats350x233Here it is, book 6 of my eBook series, The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos. This newest one is entitled How To Garden For Goats: gardening, foraging, small scale grain and hay, & more. I find myself writing them whenever I take a break from Critter Tales, whenever I finish a chapter or section. Reception by my small audience has been great so far, and of course I’m pleased about that.

Regarding my discouragement from offering the introductory free code to my 5 Acres blog readers, I decided to take a different track. I announced it on my blog, of course, but this time I offered to code to a different audience. I’m a member of two goat email groups and figured they would likely be interested. So as a means of introducing them to the series, I offered the code to these groups. I didn’t get a lot of reviews, but perhaps trying to trade free copies for reviews is not the best reason for offering them. Perhaps thinking of it as simply a means of advertising the series is a better approach.

Expectations are often an emotional killer. I should know better, but find myself relying on them anyway. So much better to do for the doings sake with no specific expectations attached, especially when people are involved. That never fails to help me enjoy what I’m doing and take pleasure in the little outcomes whenever they occur. I like life so much better that way.

 

Of eBooks, ePub, and eReaders

Formatting eBooks is different from formatting books for print. The basics aren’t difficult; print books are consistent in that each page prints out exactly the same.  Not all eReaders are the same, so an eBook must accommodate for that. Much as website design must accommodate different browsers; each one “reads” and interprets the code with slight variations.

Even with Kindle, a book will look different on the various types of Kindles. With ePub for eReaders, I’m discovering it’s worse.

I have three eReaders for ePub editions. One is a Firefox addon, one is FBreader, a free open source download, the other comes with Calibre, also free and also open source. But what they do to an eBook seems to be nowhere near the same.

How-to_Firefox_reader

Firefox eReader

Firefox renders the text in different sizes. I’ve gone back and checked my original file, which is consistent in text size, font, and paragraph style. Can’t figure it out.

FBReader

FBReader

FBReader is quirky, as in the forward arrows don’t work. For the book itself, it doesn’t recognize the paragraph style (which should be indented). That annoys me.

Calibre

Calibre

Calibre seems to do the best job of interpreting my code. The font is different than the other two (serif rather than san-serif), but font and text size are adjustable anyway, to accommodate the reader’s preferences.

I will concede that I am no expert in the eBook writing and formatting department. ePub is important at Smashwords, because it is a format used by Nook and Sony (if I’m recalling correctly). Hopefully, I’ll figure it out with practice.

Writing eBooks, A New Learning Curve

About a month after my Kindle experiment for 5 Acres & A Dream, I was contacted by CreateSpace. They congratulated me on the paperback’s success (now over 2200 copies sold, pretty fair for an indie book) and asked if I’d be interested in publishing a Kindle edition. I explained why I hadn’t pursued that option, and learned that the newer Kindles can enlarge images. They offered to convert a sample.

I admit I’m not terribly enthusiastic about that. Now that I have my own Kindle, I have to agree with others that when it comes to this kind of non-fiction, I’d much, much rather have a hard copy in hand. Trying to research a topic on an eReader, for example, is a pain. True, eReaders have a search function, but I find it much more awkward and time consuming than simply looking something up in an index and flipping pages. And while I can highlight or bookmark something on my Kindle, it’s so much easier to simply stick a slip of paper between pages as a bookmark.

Still, there is an appeal to eBooks, especially in regards to price. They are great for buying and reading fiction, for which I wouldn’t pay a full cover price anyway (hurrah for libraries). And while I can’t see myself writing fiction, I’m still curious about learning how to format a book for a Kindle, or any other eReader.

That got me thinking about a book idea I’ve had rolling around in the back of my mind for awhile. I’ve thought about a companion volume to 5 Acres & A Dream The Book, a book of homestead how-tos. Perhaps I could try a series of short eBooks on on various how-tos, to someday be combined into another paperback?

There’s a lot to think about. Should I go with Kindle Select (making it an Amazon exclusive) or Smashwords to offer all eBook formats (including B&N Nook and Apple iTunes)? Both KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and Smashwords provide detailed guides to formatting that look easy to use. The only issue here is that the guides use MS Word as the example, while I use open source LibreOffice.

Then there’s images. I like to use photos (especially with how-tos) so I can’t help but how these would do in various formats. I may need to experiment.

Pricing? That’s a subject all eBook authors seem to wrestle with. A series of how-tos would be shorties, but perhaps too short to satisfy even a 99 cents offering? The general consensus is that non-fiction pricing is different than fiction and that non-fiction works can be priced a bit higher.

So the experiment begins, and along with it a new learning curve. That doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned Critter Tales, it just means I need to carve out a little more time. The upcoming winter months will be the best time to do that on our homestead.

How to Install a Script in Scribus

I recently had a problem with text I was preparing with Scribus desktop publisher. I needed a number of Semitic words, which I was easily able to copy and paste into the story editor. They looked fine there, but when I clicked the green check (okay) icon, the words were spelled backward in their text boxes. Scribus apparently only recognizes languages which are written left to right; most Semitic languages are written right to left.

This is a known bug for Scribus, which means developers know it’s something that needs to be fixed and should be working on. Being open source, however, development is done on a voluntary basis. That means that unless the problem is an urgent one which effects many users, a fix may be slow in the making.

Thankfully, someone wrote a script for this problem. A script is a bit of computer code which accomplishes a specific task or series of tasks. That meant all I had to do was copy the code and install it into Scribus. But how?

I found help at the Floss Manual website, Scribus – Scripter and Scripts. It was a simple matter of copying and pasting the script into a text editor, and saving as a .py file. Python is the language in which many scripts are written.

When I need to use the menu, I access it from Scribus’s Script menu. The first time I had to choose “execute script” and browse to the folder I saved the script in. After that, it showed up under Script > Recent Scripts.

Scribus

Initially I pasted the Hebrew words into the English paragraph. I learned the executing the script flipped the entire contents of the text frame! I had to go through each frame, cut the specific word, and put it in its own text frame. It’s a bit of work but worth it for the final result.

For more information on Scribus scripts (and a list of useful scripts), visit the scripts page at the Scribus wiki.

Rebuilding the Cover: I Think I’ve Got It!

My sixth proof arrived over the weekend. All of my tweaking had paid off, except, the text on the spine wasn’t centered. Yet, on the template, it was centered. I wasn’t sure what to do.

I reopened the cover file I made in Gimp. As I studied it, I realized that the bleed area on the front cover margin, was narrower than the rest. I checked the total file size in pixels, and compared it to the template I downloaded. My file was narrower by 15 pixels! In looking closely at the proof cover, I realized that if they printed the file from right to left, then the spine text would be off, just as it was. The only thing I can figure is that when I cropped one of the images on that front edge, I actually cropped the entire template layer.

So I’m rebuilding the cover, this time taking care with file size. I’ve learned that to resize images, I can use the “scale layer” tool, rather than crop. This is working very well. I’m using the old Gimp cover file as a guide for sizes and distances (with the aid of the grid), and it’s coming along fairly quickly. I can copy and paste text, so that helps as well.

I find myself wondering if I trust myself enough to approve it for print without ordering another proof! I’d hoped to have the book available my the first of November, now I’ll be lucky if it’s available the first week of December.

I’ve learned a lot, I will say that. I just have to trust that the care and attention to detail will be worth it in the end.

6th Proof Ordered

This morning I ordered the sixth proof for my book. It all boils down to what I think is an acceptable cover. Actually, I’m learning a lot.

The cover template includes a trim line (dotted) and bleed/trim variance area (pink).

template_trim&bleed Photos must extend over the trim line and cover the bleed area to ensure no white lines on the outside when the cover is printed.  The bleed area is 0.125 (1/8 inch) over the trim line. Inside the trim line another 0.125″ is allowed for trim variance. Printers keep the trim within those margins.

What I’m learning, is that 1/4 inch can make a huge difference in how the cover photos and text look, especially for a cover like mine with five photos. Even the same cover will look different if the trim is off a bit one way or another.

The challenge is to design a cover that doesn’t have these problems! I probably shouldn’t have started out with something so complex for my first book. But the cover design is in keeping with my blog, I think.

Hopefully, this is the last one! Hopefully, this one will be perfect, or at least acceptable. Of course, I’ve said that about all of them. I reckon I’ll just have to wait and see.

 

Styles Are Our Friend

There are many labors in self-publishing a book. Simply writing the text is a huge one. I opted to design my book myself, so that is another. Interior design is the order of the day: front matter, body text, fonts, images, captions, page numbers, chapter titles, appendices, index, all have to be added and formatted.

Originally, I did all this in LibreOffice. It was relatively easy to figure out how to add images to a document, how to work with text for various applications such as title or captions, how to add page numbers, even how to tweak paragraph placement. At that time, I thought all I had to do was to save each chapter in postscript, import it into Scribus, do whatever I was supposed to do there, and then save it, ready to load into Adobe Distiller. Of course it wasn’t that easy.

Scribus, I learned, couldn’t just take one of my LibreOffice .ps files and render as I left it in LO. Things happened that made me realize I would have to start from scratch in Scribus. And, I would have to learn how to do it.

The prospect of having to learn a new program and re-do my entire book was just a tad discouraging. I mentally kicked myself in the behind for “wasting” all that time in LO.  As I struggled to find tutorials on Scribus and researched how to put it all together to redesign my book, I realized that it hadn’t been a waste of time after all. True, I changed fonts, but the formatted book in LO became my visual guideline as I tried to figure out how to make Scribus do what I wanted. In addition, LO had made creating the index relatively easy; I had needed the images and formatting for the correct page numbers. Still, going was slow as I added text page by page. Having to format every title, every paragraph, every page number, got to be a drag.

Then I ran across a Scribus tutorial that mentioned styles. What are styles? These are a way to pre-set page formatting details so that they can be added automatically. I can create a style for different things: chapter titles, image captions, first chapter paragraph, the remaining chapter paragraphs, even page numbering. What a time saver!

Progress is still slow, I’ll admit it. There are many learning curves and learning Scribus has been no small one. Still, as I press on through my problems and challenges, it gets a little easier. The best part is that knowing in the end, it will be worth it.