On Kindle Create

I tried using Kindle Create on Illegal Aliens – you can, from pdf, include all sorts of neat fonts and things like that.


I repeat, don’t.

You’ll get a non-reflowable book and one that is too large to set to 0.99 (and thus misses promo’s).

The only solution is to republish as a second edition. The kindle creator, starting from docx, etc files, can handle text dividers and things like that easily. It does a surprisingly good job of formatting and is worth using.

The Uberization of publishing?

Not too long ago one of my works was accepted into Booktrope. Needless to say, I’m really pleased.

Bootktrope works differently from conventional publishers in precisely the same way that Uber differs from cab companies. Instead of a central controlling authority who schedules everything, Booktrope uses a cooperative control model. Authors, book managers, editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and all the various parts of taking a book from a draft to a publication that someone would actually purchase. Instead of the publisher, or in the case of an indie the author, putting up the funds and contracting what are in essence employees to do the work, the booktrope model has them work as a team for a percentage of the return. It spreads the risks and the returns.

Like Uber, Booktrope makes its money by coordinating the parts.

In some ways I think the method is a better fit for publishing than driving.

Checking Slang.

One big headache for historical romance is getting the slang correct. It’s 2015, and the tendency is to write in modern language. A “valley girls in gowns” regency romance won’t always work. To be accurate, it will work some of the time, but not always.

I’ve been using a pretty darn good online etymology dictionary to check on usage. But it’s manually curated. Therefore it makes mistakes (as do troll reviewers). An example from a book that is in the final editing.

‘“Under a pen name, of course. Won’t do to have the next Lord Caterham associated with slushy romantic poetry. Just not done.”’
Slushy sounds rather modern, and the etymology dictionary says it wasn’t used at the time. Ha! If I go to the google Ngram search, which automatically searches the corpus of English (and other languages) literature.  Turns out “slushy” is correct.

An Experiment.

Does punctuation matter?

I am performing an inadvertent experiment to see how much difference it makes. I ran my book Cynthia the Invincible through Grammarly, and caught many of the infelicities that slip through word, libreoffice and the hemmingway app. It’s not perfect, nor am I, but it seems to have improved the book’s quality.

Smashwords gives two counts. One is the number of sample downloads and the other is the number of “purchases.” The purchase/sample ratio is therefore a measure of the quality of the book.

My earlier books were averaging about 1/20. So far, although over a much shorter period the ratio is 1/6-1/7. We’ll have to see what happens with longer times, but I’m optimistic.

Update. It’s hanging around 1/7. So the details do matter.

Experiments with automated editors.

One of the few legitimate criticisms of “Indie” authors, myself included, is the uneven editing. Seriously, unless you expect to clear the $400-500 that a minimal copy-editor charges, this can rapidly run into large amounts of expense. Serious content editing can run into even higher amounts of expense.

I’ve tried the grammar and spelling checkers in Libre Office, Word, and the Hemingway app. In fact, I use all three on everything I release. They aren’t good enough.

I had a chance to try Grammarly and can give something of an initial review.

Grammarly is a Natural Language Parser combined with a spelling/punctuation checker. As it comprehends English at a deeper level than the simple tools, it is far better than the simpler tools that come with word processors. It’s not a replacement for a good editor but isn’t bad.

1) It’s excellent at detecting simple errors like missing articles, misplaced commas and homonymic misspellings.  Things like Lent vs. leant, lead vs. led vs. lead, and they’re vs. there vs. their.

2) It’s decent at understanding errors like the use of an inappropriate preposition, and some verb tenses.

3) It’s horrible with some things. “He’d been there.” Will be flagged. “Pottage,” is a medieval food and it will suggest “Cottage.” These higher-level errors mean that you can’t blindly accept its changes.

There is a trick that makes it easier to use.  Don’t bother with the online error by error report from the website. It follows the rules in the order that they were searched. Doing this means that the errors hop up and down the document. It’s slow and highly disorientating.

Instead, get the pdf dump. Open that in a window with a pdf reader and open your document in  another window with your favorite editor.  Then you can follow the errors in the annotated pdf dump and at the same time fix them all in the original document. It is both faster and easier.