In last week's blog, I revealed a little about how I created a cover for the Mama Hog short, Knob Hill Haunt. I also promised to explain how Knob Hill Haunt made the transition from Word document to Kindle ebook.
I've used a lot of methods over the years to turn manuscripts into ebooks. In theory, you can just save your Word document as a .doc, or a .docx, or a filtered Web page. This format will then be magically converted into a perfectly formatted Kindle book by Amazon's conversion process.
Note the disclaimer 'in theory.' In theory, I can skip lunch and not devolve into a ravenous maniac. In theory, I can eat healthy and lose weight.
I think you begin to see the disdain with which I view the phrase 'in theory.'
In practice, you can follow Amazon's guidelines to the letter, and about half the time you'll wind up with an ebook that contains random changes in justifications, weird characters sprinkled throughout the book, and inexplicable shifts in justification and even fonts.
You don't want that. Readers don't want it. They paid money for a book, not an exercise in 'close enough.'
Keep in mind the process I'm about to describe is only the mechanical process. I won't be talking about editing, but if you're new to all this please don't mistake this intentional omission for a suggestion that you throw all your stuff out there unedited. That's not what I'm implying.
Here's how to determine if you need an editor, in one handy step:
Ask yourself "Do I need an editor?" Then look yourself right in your eyes and say, in a loud firm voice, "Yes."
Easy. Now the next question is probably "How can I afford to pay for an editor?" and my answer is a muttered rant about masks and liquor stores or shady cryptocurrency scams, but that's a topic for another day.
So assume your editing is done before you proceed with any of this.
You have your manuscript. It's perfect. It's a work of literary art. But it's a Word document, not an ebook. What's the next step?
- Upload as Amazon suggests, and fix the oddities one by one using the upload, preview, and fix method.
- Hire someone to format your manuscript.
- Use free software such as Calibre to create a .mobi file and upload that.
- Use what I used this time around, which is a paid conversion service called Pressbooks.
Pressbooks, at pressbooks.com, lets you upload your word docs to your areas on their site. You don't upload the whole book at once -- you organize it by section. For instance, you put the title page material in the title page part. Chapters go in the Main Body. It creates a table of contents for you. Back matter goes in back matter, and so forth.
That part of the process is a bit of a pain, yes. But it also allows you to move things around easily. And you can select from dozens of premade styles and apply them to the whole thing with a single click.
I rather enjoyed being able to play with styles so easily. When you think you have things ready, you just export the ebook in whatever formats you wish -- mobi, epub, pdf, etc. Then you can load the ebook on various devices and make sure everything works before you release anything into the wild.
How much does this cost?
You can create a free account and do everything, including the exports. There's only one catch -- every exported ebook contains a one-page 'watermark' which consists of an ad for Pressbooks. You can generate an export that doesn't contain the watermark for 19.99 USD per title.
That's a bargain, at least to me.
Here's what the Pressbooks dashboard looks like:
Yes, that's the draft of the new Mug and Meralda book shown. I used Pressbooks to convert the manuscript into Kindle format for my helpful beta readers.
But you can edit in the dashboard, too. Just click on a chapter or part, and there you are. Make changes, save, and done.
There is a small learning curve, mainly because there are so many options. But getting the hang of it is easy and fast.
There are other ways to do this, of course. I mentioned a few above. I like Pressbooks, especially for fast conversions of short works, so for me, it's a good tool to have.
If you are on the lookout for an editor or a conversion service, I recommend Holly at EvilEyeEditing. She edited the last several Markhat books, and has real-world publishing industry chops.
THINGS GOING BUMP
One of my favorite pastimes is surfing YouTube for paranormal videos.
Most are hilarious fakes. Even those are fun to watch, though, so I keep searching them out.
I'll post a link to an example below. In this short segment, several so-called paranormal video clips are shown.
Go watch it, if you want, and then come back. I know the title claims the videos cannot be explained. I disagree. Here's what I know about the incidents referenced by the video host:
The first video, about the sad disappearance of the kid on holiday, is real. He did in fact vanish without a trace, and the footage from the airport is genuine. There's nothing paranormal about the video, although the poor kid was obviously scared and in trouble of some sort. I wonder if his head injury was worse than the doctors thought. I hope one day his family finds out what happened.
The second video, which shows an unnamed shopper in the throes of apparent possession, is a wonderful example of how strings and a few close friends can make a fairly convincing scary video. It's well-acted, I'll give them that. Nice how the 'random' security camera just happened to be aimed at the center of the action. Quite the coincidence.
The next segment, about the hotel ghost and room 209, looks authentic. It should, because it won an award for best short horror film in a tiny obscure film contest several years ago, if I remember correctly. Almost certain this one was made for entertainment.
Then we have the infamous 'Men In Black' captured on hotel security cameras. After a witness spotted a UFO hovering over the hotel, presumably in an attempt to cheap out on paying for hotel parking, the MIBs showed up, went to the front desk, and demanded to speak to the witness. That's the story, anyway. Maybe it's just me, but if the aliens had the means to identify the witness and and the motive to silence him, why couldn't they also determine his room number? Just pay the parking fees, guys. And buy some coats that fit.
The next video is the most disturbing of the lot. Elisa Lamb did die, drowned in a hotel water storage tank. The bizarre video of her in the elevator is real. The official verdict was accidental death. That's one heck of an accident, since the rooftop tank in which she was found had to be unlocked with a key, and the only access to the tank entry was by ladder, which wasn't present. Stranger still, the hotel has a long history of sinister occurrences. I doubt we'll ever know what happened to this poor young woman.
In the sixth video, we see an unusual traffic accident in China. A traffic camera is trained on an intersection, and everything looks normal until two vans are suddenly lifted into the air and tossed about by 'invisible' forces.
The video is real, and it's a good lesson in how low-resolution cameras can show just enough of the truth to fool us. What happened was this -- a steel cable lay across the road. The cameras can't show it because it's too thin. When something off-camera yanks the cable suddenly taut, the vans are lifted a few feet and bounced around. It looks supernatural, but it's just a freak accident.
I'm certain the same phenomena makes the next video, the so-called 'teleporting man,' look more mysterious than it is. A car dashcam captures a semi-truck swerving suddenly. A pedestrian appears, narrowly avoiding being run over by the truck. All I see here is an example of why frame rates matter if you're filming high-speed vehicles.
Next, we are treated to a brief glimpse of a face in the window of a burned-out house. The segment is called 'The Del Rey Witch.' I think it should have been called 'The Homeless Guy In The Burned-Out House.' The bit about the newspaper article on the ground is what some experts would call 'silly.'
"The Girl In the Red Dress" is spooky. We see an alley, a parked van, and a little girl who is wearing a red dress, which suits her overall translucence. Somebody is pretty handy with their video editing skills. Filters are a lot of fun when you can select any transparency you desire.
"The Hospital Ghost." Dark figure passes behind hospital doors. Nurse and camera person rush into room. A table mysteriously moves in a way THAT NO MERE HUMAN COULD REPRODUCE WITH EIGHT FEET OF STRING. Room is empty. People run. Nice spooky little segment, but I'm getting bored with strings.
The last video, called 'City in the Clouds,' is footage from a Chinese news report. In it we see -- well, a city in the sky, or at least the basic outlines of tall buildings amid the clouds.
This was seen by thousands of people, so it's not a fake video. The offered explanations range from secret NASA holographic projection tests to magical portals to another world.
I'm going to go with 'This is what happens when the air is so polluted it can act as a crude lens' and wait for the next round of videos.
If you've seen a video you'd like to share, post a link in the comments!