Friday, 29 March 2013

Cover Madness

Ever since I sold Secrets of the Dragon Tomb back in December, the thing I've been most ridiculously excited about is seeing the cover. Even more so than the interior illustrations (and you would not believe how excited I am about them...)

Now, I know that it's going to be ages until I've got a cover. The publisher has to hire an artist, work with them on what the cover is going to be, go through revisions, approvals, input from marketing and sales and so on and so on.

Thing is, I can't wait. I just can't.

Every time I take a look on goodreads, that sad blank, grey cover looks back at me, mocking me.

Well, I'm afraid I gave in.

I bought a rather nice image on a stock photo site, cropped it, and slapped some text on.

Not the real cover...

I was tempted to spend ages making it look like a real cover, but Steph quite sensibly gave me dire warnings about the confusion that it might cause.

So, it doesn't look like a real cover. But at least when I look at goodreads, I don't have that horrible blank giving me the evil eye.

And if you're on goodreads, feel free to add the book: ;)

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Creating Your Ebook the Right Way: Part 5

You can read the previous parts of this Ebook conversion series here:

In the last part, we finally finished the lengthy process of cleaning up the Word document so that it could be converted to a flawless ebook.

And it was a lengthy process. Which is why, before I show you how to turn the Word document into an ebook, I want to take a quick moment to introduce you to a way of speeding the process up.

If you're likely to ever convert more than one ebook, it would be utterly crazy to plod through every step I've outlined, one at a time. You'd never get finished.

Which is why Macros were invented.

A Macro is simply a recording of bunch of actions that you take in Word. Here's what you do:
  1. Start to record a Macro.
  2. Carry out the formatting actions in exactly the same way that you normally would.
  3. Stop recording the Macro.
  4. Now, whenever you want to repeat those actions, you play the Macro, and Word carries out the actions automatically exactly the way you recorded them.
Sadly, Macros aren't suitable for every bit of the process of creating an ebook, otherwise this job would be trivial. But you can use them for the parts that you repeat over and over again in exactly the same way.

For example, remember when we converted all our bolds and italics into weird code? Then later we fixed some issues regarding spaces and line breaks in the weird code and converted back to bolds and italics? Those two processes would each make a good Macro. They were a pain to carry out, but the process for each will always be identical.

So, you'd record those two Macros, one at a time, and save them as something useful (such as 'ConvertBoldItalictoCode' and 'TidyUpandConvertBacktoBoldItalic'. Or whatever. In my version of Word, at least, you can't have any spaces in the names.)

Things that wouldn't be suitable for Macros:

- Removing multiple spaces and multiple line-breaks (because you have to repeat these actions until you get no more replacements)
- Copying your text from Word to a text editor and back again (because those actions don't only use Word)
- Searching for and fixing apostrophes at the beginning of words (because you need to confirm these manually).

Hopefully, you can go through and figure out what you can save as a Macro and what you can't.

Recording a Macro

Go to Tools > Macro > Record New Macro...

Enter a name for your Macro (no spaces!) and hit OK.

You'll know the Macros is recording because you'll see a little thingy pop up with pause and stop option. Now just go ahead and carry out the formatting actions exactly as you want them to happen.

To stop recording the Macro, just press the stop button.

As usual, expect this to look slightly different on your version of Word. But you'll have the facility in there.

How to Run a Macro

Go to Tools > Macro > Macros...

Choose the Macro from the list. Click Run. It will now perform all the actions you've recorded in a tiny fraction of the time.

Learn how and when to use Macros, and they'll save you hours.

That's it! Next time out, we'll actually be making the ebook, and all this will seem worthwhile.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Creating Your Ebook the Right Way: Part 4

This is a series of blog posts teaching you how to convert a manuscript (novel / short story / story collection) into an ebook suitable for selling through all the major ebook stores. You can find the previous parts here:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Apologies for the delay in getting to this latest instalment. Too busy working! But we're back.

So, last time I left you, we'd just finished clearing out all the extraneous junk that had crept into our Word document when we'd written our story. We've got a few more things to do in Word before we head over and turn this into an ebook.

The few more things

We need to make sure that the punctuation turns out the way we expect it when we get to the ebook. The things we're going to cover today are:

  • ellipses
  • em dashes and hyphens
  • inverted commas and apostrophes
This is a much shorter process than the one I covered in the last part.


If you don't know what an ellipsis is, it looks like three dots, and it's used to show where a word or words is omitted from a sentence. Basically, this is it:

It is also used to indicate a pause or the trailing off of a sentence.

For example, 
"I'm … not sure," he said.
When most of us type this while writing, we tend just to hit the period (full stop) key three times.

However, an ellipsis isn't generally just three periods (full stops) one after another. It's actually a single typesetting mark.

The problem with using three periods is that they may end up being split over the end of a line, and that looks pretty unprofessional. To avoid that, we are going to replace the periods with a proper ellipsis.

First, though, you need to check how you are actually typing the ellipsis. Like I said, most people just hit the period key three times, but some people leave spaces between the periods, and you may have your own way of doing it.

So, how do we get the ellipses?

First, we need to find an ellipsis symbol. This is fairly easy to do. 

Open a blank document. Then go to the 'Insert' menu and click on 'Symbol...'. (Standard disclaimer: your version of Word may look a bit different, but they option will be fairly easy to find.)

When the Symbol dialog box is open, select the ellipsis symbol and click on insert.

You now have an ellipsis symbol in the document. Copy it.

Now, go back to the document you are formatting. Select 'Replace...' (Edit > Replace... in the menus).

In the 'Find what' box, type in whatever you use to represent an ellipsis when typing. For example, three periods.

In the 'Replace with' box, just paste the ellipsis symbol you have just copied.

Click Replace All.


Now, many of you will have set up Word to automatically convert three periods into an ellipsis when you type your book (look under Tools > AutoCorrect), and you may think that means that Word will have sorted it out already. Well, in most cases it will, but in a few cases, it won't have. You can't rely on it 100%, so follow this easy step and you'll know you've got it right.

Em dashes and hyphens

There are basically three types of punctuation mark that look like dashes. The hyphen (-), the en dash (–) and the m dash (—).

The hyphen is used to, well, hyphenate words. For example:
The well-known author.
 (Full rules on when to use a hyphen.)

The en dash is used when stating a range of time, and it is used to replace the word 'to'. For example,
The em dash is used as a form of parenthesis or to indicate the abrupt change of thought. In dialogue, we often use it to show a sentence abruptly cut off.

For example:
"I'm never going to—"
I thought—I really did—that this would soon be over.
(Full rules on when to use en and em dashes.)

Unfortunately, the only type of dash that you'll see on your keyboard is the hyphen. When we're writing, most of us use the hyphen to represent both the hyphen and the en dash, and use two hyphens (--) to represent the em dash.

The en dash is rare enough that you can go through and replace instances manually, if you need to (although many authors don't bother, and these is one of the cases where I think it really doesn't matter that much; punctuation police may disagree, but the visual distinction is slight, and you won't use en dash very often in most cases).

So, what you really need to do is deal with em dashes.

We're going to do this in exactly the same way as the ellipses.

In a blank Word document, go to Insert > Symbol. In the 'Symbol' dialogue box, choose 'Special Characters'. Click on Em dash and then Insert.

Copy the em dash symbol, return to your main document, and Find and Replace the double hyphen (or whatever you use) with the em dash symbol you copied.

Inverted commas and apostrophes

Our final bit to fix up is the inverted commas (quotation marks) and apostrophes.

Typographical purists will tell you that an apostrophe is not the same thing as a single inverted comma. While this is true, they are as close to identical in appearance as to make no real difference, and I'm going to treat them as the same. If you want to use different typographical marks for them, good luck to you. Life's too short...

Rather like em dashes or ellipses, most keyboards do not have individual keys for left and right inverted commas. This means that, by default, when you type you get straight, rather than curly, inverted commas and apostrophes. (The ones you'll see reading this blog post are straight). These are, to be frank, a bit crappy and amateur-looking. We want curly ones.

Which is why word processors, such as Word, have smart quotes functionality, which automatically replaces the straight quotes with curly ones.

We can leverage this very helpful behaviour to make sure we've got curly quotes. (Chances are you already do, but just in case, let's run through how to get them with your completed document.)

Go to the Tools menu, then choose 'AutoCorrect...', like so:

Again, different versions of Word have things in slightly different places, but the options are always there.

There are two tabs you want to look at. 'AutoFormat as You Type' and 'AutoFormat'. In both cases, make sure that the "Straight quotes" with "smart quotes" option is checked. Click OK.

Now, all you need to do is go back to Find and Replace.

In the Find box type a double (straight) quotation mark. In the Replace box, type exactly the same quotation mark. Now click 'Replace All'.

Every time a quotation mark is replaced, the AutoFormat will kick in and insert the correct left or right curly quote.

Do exactly the same with single straight quotation marks in both Find and Replace boxes.

Now you've got lovely curly quotes everywhere.

A problem

In 90% of the cases, your curly quotes will be lovely. But there is one problem. If you have an apostrophe at the beginning of a word, for example:
Go get ‘em.
Back in ‘45.
The AutoFormat will have replaced it with a left single curly quote, as you can see above, while all other apostrophes will be right single curly quotes, like this:
Don’t do it like that. Do it like this.
If you have these incorrect apostrophes at the beginning of words, you have two choices. You can either leave them the way they are and not care much, or you can fix them.

If you want to fix them, here's what you need to do. Go to the two AutoFormat tabs (see above) and uncheck the "straight quotes" with "smart quotes" option in both.

Once again, in a blank Word document, go to Insert > Symbol and insert a single right curly quote ( ’ ). Copy it and head back to the main document.

Go to Find and Replace. In the Find box, hit the space bar then type a single straight quote. In the Replace box, hit the space bar then paste the single right curly quote in there.

Unfortunately, you can't do everything automatically, and this is one of the times where you've just got to get your hands dirty. If you click Replace All, then you will also replace any opening single inverted commas that you might need.

If you know for sure that you don't need any opening single inverted commas, then Replace All. Otherwise, you'll need to go through one at a time by clicking Find Next and checking each to see if you want to replace it.

When you've done that, you'll need to do the same with any of these apostrophes that come at the beginning of a line. In the Find box, type ^p followed by a straight single quote. In the Replace box, type ^p and paste in the single right curly quote. Again, replace each individually where you need to.

That's it.

Now, you've fixed all of the formatting issues you might need to. You're ready to create a perfect Word document to upload to Smashwords or Amazon, or to create a proper ebook in epub and mobi format. That's what we're going to be doing next.

See you then!

Part 5 is now available: read part 5 here.