NaNoPubMo: Day -8 and Counting

I don’t mind working hard when I have a reason to. Right now my back is aching a bit because I’ve been at the computer all day, but that’s okay. (I do get up to brew more coffee, thanks for asking.)

Today’s NaNoPubMo activities have been fairly rewarding. I emailed back and forth with several book cover designers. A guy I met in a Facebook writers’ group is interested in getting into the book design game, so he’s going to try whipping up a cover for my book for a very modest price. Whether or not he comes up with something great, the dialog process itself has already been helpful. I’m having to think not only about what sort of cover will portray my story accurately, but also about whether the design speaks clearly about the genre.

I’d like to feel I’m sort of transcending genre categorization, at least a little bit. But genre is a marketing category, not a literary category. If people aren’t attracted by the cover because they think the book is something it isn’t, or think it isn’t what it is, everybody loses.

Also: symmetry. I spent a lot of years in magazine publishing, where the cover design always forced the type over to the left. The left two inches of a magazine cover are often all that can be seen on the newsstand rack. (Are there even newsstand racks anymore?) For a book, that’s not an issue, so symmetry is better.

This afternoon I dug into the process of formatting a book manuscript for ebook distribution. The idea is, you never format a paragraph manually: You use paragraph styles in your word processor. I get that. But the Smashwords Style Guide is a little too Procrustean in instructing how to do it. They tell you to copy-all into Notepad and then back, which will strip out all of the formatting. Yeah, but my first attempt stripped all of the italicized words out of my text. For a work of fiction, that’s a disaster. Fortunately, I noticed it quickly and reversed course.

OpenOffice has a bug in the paragraph formatting routine that causes it not to remember that a page break before the paragraph is part of your defined style. I need that break for ebook formatting, so I downloaded Libre Office. It includes the page break properly in the style. I think I just switched to a new word processor. (Still using Scrivener for actual writing, of course.)

I downloaded Calibre, a free ebook conversion program. After a couple of false starts and a suggestion from a guy on Facebook, I tried saving my document from Libre Office in Word’s .docx format. Calibre then stopped being balky and cooperatively converted it to an EPUB or a MOBI. The Smashwords instructions on how to create a table of contents with bookmarks and hyperlinks are in a video — very handy. My test of this feature worked! I was able to load the MOBI file into the Kindle app and click on the bookmarks.

I also downloaded Adobe Digital Editions (another free app) to test the EPUB file. Strangely, that version displays my dummy cover image. The Kindle app doesn’t. There are still a bunch of things to figure out.

Having spent many years dealing with software (and publishing), I’m in a fairly good position to get this stuff working. I really feel for the writer who may have produced a great book but who is a novice (or worse, phobic) when it comes to the technology.

A day of progress. I sort of wish I had done some actual writing or editing today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get back to that. Wearing several hats now.

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