Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Maybe Really Ready Damnit – My Experience Building an eBook

I cleared a major hurdle last week when I created a Kindle version of my novel. It’s something that had been on my to-do list for months. It’s also something I avoided because I knew that, at a certain point, I’d have to do some technological things I’ve never done before.

The whole process took about 40 hours, and that time might have been cut in half had I had a final copy of the manuscript in Word format. But, alas, I didn’t. You see, back in the summer of ’08, the last few rounds of editing were done during the time that the novel was with the PDF chick. Accordingly, the only final copy I had was in PDF. And so, beginning a few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure (not!) of copying the entire manuscript into a Word document, and then going through it, line by line, reformatting the text to ensure each paragraph filled the page from left to right. And offline, I had to keep a copy of the paperback open so I could capture the formatting of the dialogue correctly.

It goes without saying that it is impossible to catch every line break when doing this sort of exercise on a manuscript that represents a 332-page book. So, when I embarked on the final several steps Sunday before last, I knew that I still had quite a few hours ahead of me.

Make that 15 or so…

Consulting the Easy Instructions provided on the Amazon site, I saved my newly formatted manuscript as a Web, Filtered (HTML) document (but not before copying it, so as to still have access to the Word document). I believe I called this first HTML (and its corresponding Word doc) “MSS Sunday afternoon.”

Then, I downloaded the software (Mobio-something-or-other) that would take me on the next leg of my journey.

You need to know something about me: any time I am required to download a new software, I get very nervous. (Seriously; I physically shake.) I’m just not sure it will work, and I am convinced that when it doesn’t, my computer will blow up in my face, the world will stop spinning on its axis, and George W. Bush will be reinstated into the White House before the end of Obama’s first term. No, it’s not that I have a tremendous sense of power. Quite the contrary – it’s pure, unadulterated paranoia.

But, wonder of wonders, I was able to download and install the software without a glitch.

One small step for most people; one giant leap for me and my kind.

Then, I followed the instructions to “build my ebook.” And I gotta say, people, these really are easy instructions.

Once I’d done that, I then had to confront my download/install fears again – this time to enable access to the Kindle Previewer. I was not yet feeling entirely confident as I hit all the correct buttons (but at least I had stopped shaking).

With that step behind me, I was on to the next: retrieving the ebook so I could review it on the Previewer.

I hit the necessary buttons and voila, my novel appeared before my eyes as an ebook. Immediately, I realized I needed to lower the minimal content on the title page, so I made a note of that. Within several pages, though, I realized that note-taking was not the way to go. So, I retrieved the document entitled “MSS Sunday afternoon,” and I went back and forth between it and the version in the Previewer. I caught a few formatting issues as well as dozens of premature line endings that I’d missed the first time around. When I reached the final page, I thought I was good to go.

I closed the Previewer, returned to “MSS Sunday afternoon,” and I saved it, this time calling it, “MSS Ready Maybe.”

I then returned to Mobio-whatever, created a new ebook from this second version and uploaded it into the Previewer.

Damn! More issues I hadn’t overlooked!

So, I once again retrieved the document, but even as I did, I had a bad feeling… when I saved it as an HTML, I did so without also saving it as a Word document.

Sure enough: I could not make changes within the saved HTML document. I’d have to return to “MSS Sunday afternoon” (though it was about 9pm at this point) and find the newest issues as well as the dozens of old ones. But this time, I made a copy first. I called it “MSS Sunday Night.”

Back to the Mobio, I created a new ebook and returned to Kindle Previewer.

My eyes were starting to glaze over, but I was at least achieving some kind of rhythm.

A few hours later, I had a new version, in both Word and HTML. I called this one “MSS Ready Damnit.”

But it wasn’t. I’d have to wait until Monday to pick up where I’d left off. There was no trusting my brain-eye-hand coordination at this point. I was fried.

On Monday afternoon and evening, I went through two more reviews. I called the first of the two “Maybe Ready Now,” and I dubbed the second “Really Really Ready.”

And what that ultimate “really really ready” status meant was this: I’d have to hit the scariest buttons of all. The ones that put my novel out there to the Kindle-reading public.

The final steps were pretty simple in terms of key strokes. I had to register an account, name my price, etc. And when all was said and done, I hit that final button.

And I immediately freaked.

What if I hit the wrong button? What if I had sent “Ready Maybe” or “Ready Damnit” instead of “Really Really Ready?” Or what if I totally erred and just uploaded a grant proposal that I recently drafted for one of my clients? What if a nasty note sent to my landlord is now an ebook entitled The Somebody Who?

People with Kindles (I’m not one of them) will have to let me know. I imagine the reviews will be some indicator. I.e., if a review states that the grant request is valid, but the competition is too severe at this time given the Foundation’s limited resources, then I’ll know I hit the wrong button. Likewise, if someone, reviewing the ebook, lauds my use of expletives when describing a plumbing problem, then that also will indicate a user error on my part.

But I think it should be okay…

And, may I add, now that those hours are behind me, I think it’s quite remarkable what technology allows us to do. I also am grateful for the learning curve I recently scaled. In retrospect, it wasn’t such a bad process because I gained knowledge through my mistakes.

In fact, the next time I want to create a Kindle ebook, I may act downright cocky.

I might even do it with my eyes closed.

(God knows, they need the rest!)


Lisa Ricard Claro said...

You're a brave spirit, Katie Gates. Like you, I'm terrified every time I download/install anything. I do so much double-checking that by the time I hit the button I'm hyperventilating. LOL And despite all my checks, I have still been known to shout out, "Oh, crap! I hit the wrong thing!" LOL I had planned on loading your book onto my Kindle last week, but my father-in-law had a bunch of post-surgery doc visits and I never recharged my Kindle! Doing that today, so I should have your book in my hands by tonight. I'll let you know how the format looks.

You said you don't have a Kindle. I love mine because it is easy to keep in my purse. I still prefer a real book, though--the weight, the smell, etc. But my Kindle is a nice convenience.

Jules said...

LOL, I love your naming convention. I'm sort of hoping we get to choice between "Really Ready Dammit" and "Really Really Ready." :) I don't have a Kindle either.
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Sioux said...

Your sweating over technology reminded me of when I created my first digital story during a workshop. It took me all week to finish it, I made hundreds of stupid mistakes, I somehow deleted a voice-over I had worked on all day, and it still ended up lame in spots. On the credits, "Another Major F--- Up Production" rolled across the screen. (Except there were no dashes.)

It HAD to be said...

Anonymous said...

Golly, I had a headache when I got up this morning - you have just about finished me off LOL! My son was looking for software to convert PDF to Word the other day, I found some online and he found a site to subscribe to. Do you think that might have helped? Probably not formatting and everything tends to fly out of the window when we tamper with documents at the best of times!

Well done for sticking with it! :-)

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Katie - I downloaded yesterday. Loving the story (though my son is visiting this weekend from Florida so I'll not have much reading time) and the format looks great so far. :)

Theresa Milstein said...

I'd be intimidated to create an ebook. 40 hours made it a full-time job! At least for a week. Good luck with the book.

Andrea said...

Oh Katie, what a job! And you describe the process so well. If I ever decide to do it with my book, I'll come here and reread this, but I'm not sure I could do it. I've thought about it several times, but always come up against a little voice inside that says, "Life is short." I'm glad that little voice didn't stop you, and now you have a sense of accomplishment and an e-book.

Linda Medrano said...

Katie, all I can say is YOU ROCK! I don't think I could ever do what you did. Not in this lifetime! This is awesome!

Deb Shucka said...

You are such a brave soul! I don't have a Kindle, or I'd be checking out the fruits of your considerable labors. I loved your working titles - they tell a story by themselves.

cj Schlottman said...

.....and one arm tied behind your back! I love a woman who exudes self-confidence. You know what was best about this post to me? It was the way you presented all that technical BS in a way we mere mortals could understand it, and at the same time, your angst was palpable. It literally has pulse. You are a damned fine writer. But wait. I think I said that to you before.


Amy said...

I'm getting my very own Kindle this weekend. I'm excited to be able to download your book.

Kristy said...

My goodness, what an ordeal! But, it must feel so good to have it all done!

Jayne Martin said...

I broke out in hives just reading this. You are totally awesome and should run for President. I've been toying with the idea of self-publishing a book of essays on Amazon and those "easy" instruction could be written in Farsi for all I understand them.

You are a goddess.