How to Use Twitter to Compile and Export Your Kindle Notes and Highlights

by Carla Douglas
@CarlaJDouglas

Image by MKHMarketing

Do you use your Kindle for proofreading? If you do, then you know that being able to compile and export your highlights and notes — to make corrections to send to an author or formatter — is one of the handiest features available on this device.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about using Send to Kindle for personal documents. This feature, which allows you to send documents from your computer to your Kindle, is similarly handy for editors and authors.

Oh. Except that after you’ve finished working away marking up a manuscript with notes and highlights, you find out that the export feature is only available for books purchased through the Kindle store.

There is a way, though, to compile and export your markup notes and highlights. I tried this procedure on the Kindle and the Kindle apps for the iPhone and Android tablet. It worked well on the first two, but the Android app doesn’t offer the same options, at least not yet.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Twitter account
  • Evernote
  • Kindle device or app

Here’s what to do:

1. Open a Twitter account. If you already have one and it’s linked to your device, then you’re ready to go. On the other hand, if you don’t want to broadcast messages from your personal documents, then open a new account and protect your tweets in the privacy setting. Have your new username and password handy because you’ll need them to link to your device later.

2. Create an Evernote account if you don’t already have one. I like Evernote because it’s fast, flexible and free, and it syncs across all my devices.
   
3. Find your document on your Kindle or Kindle app.

4. Mark up errors and key passages using the procedure described in this postThe actual process of highlighting and making notes varies slightly across devices. I found it to be easier on the iPhone than on the Kindle because the iPhone responds more quickly and involves fewer steps. 
If your markup is intended for your own use later, you can probably just highlight errors and passages you want to return to. If you’ll be sending notes on to someone else, you might need to add a few words. Number or mark the notes if you like — especially if you’ll want to talk about them later, and can refer to note 1, note 2, and so on.
5. Share your notes and highlights to Twitter. On iOS devices, tap the export box (with arrow pointing up) and a menu with options to share to Twitter or Facebook pops up. Tap Twitter. Here’s what the screen looks like on the iPhone:
The Kindle provides many more choices about what you can do with text once it’s selected. Just choose Share (you might have to tap More first).
If your device is already linked to your Twitter account, then your message will be sent directly. If it’s not, then you’ll be asked to authorize Twitter by entering your username and password. 
6. Go to your Twitter account, where you’ll find your compiled highlights, tweet by tweet. If you are compiling notes to share with others, you can make these tweets available to selected recipients through Twitter’s privacy settings (see Step 1). Or, you can share via Step 7, below.
7. Clip your notes to Evernote. Do this if you have a long list of notes. The links remain active and you can take advantage of all of Evernote’s features to work with or share the text. This post by Michael Hyatt tells you how to get your notes to Evernote (begin at his Step 6).   
A nice feature of this method is that the links are compact, but they contain the entire block of text you’ve highlighted. Links will open on your own Kindle page. There might be a word limit for what’s contained in the links, but I haven’t found it. Here’s what a link looks like open:
Here, you can make additional notes on individual selections and share them. Note, however, that although you have the option to save the highlight, this function isn’t active for personal documents. So nothing is actually saved on your highlights page.
This is not a perfect solution, but it’s not bad, either. Ideally, Amazon will make these notes available for personal documents just as it does for purchased books. But making the notes and highlights visible to others is currently part of Amazon’s social reading apparatus. To share your notes and highlights, you have to make them public on your Kindle book page — and they won’t be personal documents anymore.

Even though the Kindle and Kindle apps weren’t designed specifically for sharing notes and marks in personal documents, these “markup” tools have enormous potential for proofreaders and authors.

Update: Thanks to Len Edgerly of The Kindle Chronicles podcast for alerting me to the fact that this technique might not work if your Kindle is linked to Goodreads.

Is Goodreads the default destination for notes and highlights? Let me know if you’ve tried this method for exporting your notes. I’d love to hear what your experience is, and I’ll tweak this post accordingly.

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How We Use the Kindle for Publishing

by Corina Koch MacLeod & Carla Douglas

@CKmacleodwriter
@CarlaJDouglas

If you’ve been following some of our earlier posts, you’ll know that at Beyond Paper we are fans of the Kindle — not just for reading ebooks, but for a host of publishing-related tasks.

Below is a list of what we use our Kindles for with links to posts that will tell you more about how we use them.

Note: Carla and I each have a Kindle Touch — Amazon’s e-ink device that was the precursor to the Paperwhite. Len Edgerly of the Kindle Chronicles podcast (an excellent podcast about publishing industry news and tips for using the Kindle) demonstrates the Paperwhite’s additional features. For our purposes, it would appear that the Touch is similar enough to the Paperwhite with one notable exception: the Touch has a text-speech read-aloud feature, the advantages of which I’ll discuss below. If you have a Paperwhite and there are additional features you think we should know about, feel free to leave a comment.

While a Kindle e-ink device makes the most sense for the kind of work we do, we do read on and consult the Kindle iOS, Android, and PC apps for specific purposes.

Research and Productivity

Editing and writing is focused work, and it’s all too easy to get distracted or lost in a research vortex on the Internet when we should be writing (or working with someone else’s writing). We have a Send-to-Kindle plug-in in our Google chrome browsers so that we can capture self-publishing articles that we encounter in our Internet travels. We then read these articles on our Kindles later, so we can stay abreast of changes in the publishing field.

Feedback

You can load unpublished or “personal” documents to your Kindle using the Send-to-Kindle plug-in for your computer. This is particularly useful for manuscript evaluations in which we offer suggestions to authors on what might make their books better. Authors can send us a manuscript as a Word document, and we can pop it onto our Kindles to read it — much like a reader eventually will.

Proofreading

If you’re publishing an ebook, it makes good sense to proofread your manuscript in its final environment, ideally after it’s been copyedited and formatted as a mobi file.

We convert a file using Amazon’s converter (or receive a mobi file that has been already converted by a formatter) and then transfer the mobi file to the Kindle. Once it’s there, we can make use of the highlights and notes features on the Kindle to flag any changes the author or formatter needs to make.

There is a way to relay a list of changes to the author and formatter, and Carla will write about that in an upcoming post. If you’ve already published your book, but now realize it needs some proofreading, you can follow the steps in this post.

While proofreading, it’s important to read every word as you see it on the “page.” Our brains are meaning-making organs and have this amazing ability to see “from” when “form” is actually what’s written. To prevent your brain from tricking you into seeing what’s not there, it helps to read every word aloud, or use the Kindle Touch’s text-to-speech feature while proofreading. You can adjust the reading speed so that you’re reading at the right rate to catch errors.

Format Checks

It’s important to know that ebooks display differently on the various Kindle apps. Your book on the Kindle app will look and behave differently than it will on the iOS or PC apps. After we proofread a book on a Kindle, if an author requests it, we can page through the book in the various apps to see if it is displaying properly in each evironment. Of course, you can use the Kindle Previewer for this purpose, and while it’s an excellent option, it’s more accurate to page through the book on some of the devices readers will be using.

This is how we use the Kindle at Beyond Paper. We’re always looking for new ways to use our Kindles. How are you using yours?

*Image by Windell Oskay

Related Posts
The New Kindle Paperwhite Demo: Incrementally Great, by Len Edgerly
Scrivener Tip: Text to Speech, by Nicole Feldringer
Use Send to Kindle to Read and Review Your Personal Documents
How to Check Your Book Using Kindle Previewer
How to Proofread on a Kindle: 8 Steps to Proofreading Your Ebook
How to Get Your Book Ebook-Ready

How to Design an Ebook Cover in Word

by Corina Koch MacLeod
@CKmacleodwriter

Did you know you can design an ebook cover in Word 2010?* I’d have hardly believed it unless I’d tried it myself. Until now, I’ve been limping rather awkwardly in GIMP. But creating a cover in Word has blown things wide open for me.

Graphic designer Derek Murphy is responsible for inspiring me to create a cover in Word. Please know, I am not a designer (it’ll be obvious), but his tutorial is so good, my attempts were less of a fumble than usual. Following his steps was akin to peeking over the shoulder of a design master. If you have Word 2010 on your computer, and you’d like to try your hand at designing a cover just for fun, give Derek’s tutorial a try. It’s so much easier than designing a cover in GIMP. You can also subscribe to Derek’s template program at CreativIndie Covers, and choose from soon-to-be hundreds of templates to get you started.

From docx to PDF to JPG

After I created my cover in Word, I saved it as a PDF as instructed by Derek in his tutorial. From there, you need to convert it to a JPG. This is where things get interesting. Derek recommends a couple of workable options but also states that he’s open to other options if anyone has discovered them. So, in the spirit of discovery, these are the results of the various tools I used to get from PDF to JPG.

Troubleshooting Conversion Options

Zamzar (free)

Zamzar is a PDF to JPG converter recommended in Derek’s tutorial. It did a great job of keeping the lines in my design clean, but as you’ll discover later in this post, the colours have been altered. My cover background was originally orange, and less brown. The stripes at the top and bottom were orginally putty, not gray.

Cover converted with Zamzar

Zamzar also converts a PDF to a PNG or a TIF (Amazon accepts covers in JPG and TIF formats). I was unable to upload the TIF onto this blog (I got an error message), but the typeface in the TIF isn’t as sharp. The colour holds, though.

Derek Murphy’s Conversion Tool  (free)

As if providing a free tutorial isn’t enough, Derek Murphy has created a free PDF to JPG conversion tool, making him the new champion of cash-strapped self-pubs everywhere.

Derek Murphy’s free conversion tool

Derek’s tool does a decent job of converting my PDF, but my typeface isn’t as crisp as it is with the Zamzar conversion (at this size, the differences don’t show too much). But man, the guy wrote a piece of software that he’s allowing self-pubs to use for free, and it does an acceptable job, so no one’s judging here.

PDF to JPG (free)

Next, I tried PDF to JPG, a downloadable piece of software with a respectable rating on CNET. The interface is simple and fairly easy to use. The typeface came out fairly fuzzy around the edges, putting this conversion software behind Zamzar and Derek Murphy’s tool.

PDF XChange Viewer (free)

My editing colleague, Carla Douglas, suggested that I try PDF XChange Viewer — PDF mark-up software that many editors use for proofreading digital documents. Of course! As per Carla’s instructions, I right-clicked on the cover and exported to a JPG. Again, some of the colour is lost, and the conversion wasn’t on par with Zamzar or Derek Murphy’s tool.

PDF XChange Viewer, saved as JPG

I then right-clicked on the cover in Word once again, and exported it as a PNG. The original colour is retained.

PDF XChange Viewer, saved as PNG

Windows 7 Snipping Tool (free with Windows)

Windows 7 and 8 comes loaded with a Snipping Tool that allows you to take screen captures. I took this screen capture right in Word, where I created my cover. It retains more of the original orange colour, but introduces a bit of background “noise” when you save the cover as a JPG.

Windows Snipping tool, saved as a JPG

The background is cleaner if you save this cover as a PNG (see below). Remarkably, most of the colour of the original Word cover is retained and the typeface is crisper. This makes sense because JPGs tend to work better for images, while PNGs work better for line drawings (a nice little trick I learned from Aaron Shepard’s book, Pictures on Kindle.).

Windows Snipping tool, saved as a PNG

The only trick in working with the snipping tool is to ensure that you’re as precise as you can be when you capture the cover (you might have noticed the gray stripe on the left and right sides of the cover, where I’d inadvertantly captured Word’s background). You also need to remember to capture the cover at 100% of it’s original size (I enlarge the cover when I’m working on it).

Snagit ($49.95)
Like the Window’s Snipping Tool, Snagit allows you to take screen captures. Its results were surprisingly not as crisp as Window’s Snipping Tool.

Bottom Line

In the end, the PDF to JPG conversion tools didn’t retain the colours of the original cover in Word. This may or may not be too much of a problem if your cover has a background image instead of a solid colour. If you’re design-savvy, you may be able to troubleshoot any potential colour changes. So, it’s a trade-off: do you sacrifice colour for clean lines? What do you think?

*I use Word 2010 for Windows. Consult the Microsoft website for the capabilities of your version of Word.

Related Posts

Getting By With a Good Enough Cover
How to Design a Cover for Free
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Create a Book Cover in PowerPoint, by Diane Tibert

Why Authors Should Crowdfund for Their Books

Look for us this week at Pubslush, where we’ve posted Why Authors Should Care About Editing. In this spot, we welcome Justine Schofield, development director at Pubslush.

Launching a book is no small feat. And each stage — from first draft and on through editing, revisions, design, marketing and beyond — will have expenses attached. Some will be expected, and some won’t. 

In our guest post this week, Why Authors Should Crowdfund for Their Books, Justine Schofield explains what crowdfunding is and what it can do for your book — and its future. 

by Justine Schofield
@Pubslush

Crowdfunding is a new innovative technology that is changing the landscape of the publishing industry. No matter if you’re a publishing veteran or a debut author, crowdfunding for your book offers an amazing opportunity as one of the beginning steps in the publishing process. Marketing for a book should begin well before publication and now, with the introduction of crowdfunding, authors have a tangible way to focus their marketing efforts, all while reaping the invaluable benefits of conducting a successful crowdfunding campaign: raising funds pre-publication, collecting preorders and gauging the initial market viability.

Raising funds pre-publication can help authors choosing to self-publish cover out of pocket expenses, mitigate the financial risk and produce a higher quality book. If an author is hoping to pursue a more traditional publishing route, crowdfunding still offers a unique opportunity to prove market viability for their book. An agent or publisher will be much more likely to take notice of a book that has already found and proven their audience.
Conducting a crowdfunding campaign is a concrete way to create a buzz and rally interest and support around a book pre-publication, which is essential for the overall success of a book. Through the established reward levels of a campaign, authors can offer copies of their book to their supporters. This allows authors to collect preorders for their book during their crowdfunding campaign. The ability to collect preorders provides authors with an active audience to jumpstart the success of their book once it’s published.
For example, let’s say an author’s book campaign gains the support of 150 people who will receive a copy of the book as a reward. The day the book debuts, the author will already have access to those 150 people who will be able to review their book on Amazon (or the like) and help create a buzz. If a book is able to generate attention and momentum immediately after publication, the likelihood of success is much greater.
No product can be successful if the right marketing efforts aren’t employed, and publishing a book isn’t any different. The author’s knowledge of the audience of their book and how to reach them is the key to success in the publishing industry. Through crowdfunding, an author is able to test the market for their book and find and connect with their audience pre-publication, which gives them a tremendous advantage when the book is published and promoted toward the broader audience of readers.

Crowdfunding for authors could quickly become the natural and necessary step between the writing and publication of a book. Even if an author believes they don’t need the money, the other benefits are immeasurable. Plus, authors can come up with many other enticing ways to allocate their funds if they don’t want to use them for the publication of their book. For example, Tracy Seivers, the author of Home Runs in Heaven, pledged to donate all extra funds she raised to March of Dimes in memory of her son. There are so many opportunities to extend the impact of crowdfunding and authors should be aware of how their campaign can not only benefit themselves, but others, too.

Crowdfunding, an integral predecessor to publishing, is a commitment that will require time and effort in order to be successful. Authors should have an established platform and network in place and be ready to dedicate themselves to their crowdfunding effort. They must treat their book as their business and although crowdfunding certainly requires work, so does writing a book, and if they have completed that venture, the finished product deserves to be the best version possible.

***


Justine Schofield is the development director of Pubslush, a global crowdfunding platform only for books. Authors can raise funds and gauge initial market viability for their book projects. Justine graduated from Emerson College in Boston, MA with a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and is currently enrolled at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, earning her MFA in Creative Writing. She specializes in social media and public relations and in the past she has worked with growing companies to develop their online presence. Justine has become a prominent industry voice for educating authors and publishers about crowdfunding and her work has been featured on many online publications. She tweets for @pubslush Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Deciding what Matters when Writing for a Global Audience

by Carla Douglas
@CarlaJDouglas

In many of her books and again in her most recent title, How To Market A BookJoanna Penn talks about writing and marketing for a global audience. What, exactly, does this mean? Well, the short answer is that self-publishing authors can make their books available in English-speaking countries around the world. Your reader could be anywhere — and they’re probably used to speaking and reading a particular variety of English.

Do you adapt your book for a global audience? Do you need to? In the past, this would have meant possibly changing words like “jumper” and “chips” to “sweater” and “French fries” if you’re in North America, and it would also mean adapting spelling and punctuation. These considerations may have been important in the past, but many audience-specific conventions are changing.

A brief history of spelling.

Spelling and punctuation have been bugbears for the international English language market. In the English-speaking world, different countries conform to different spelling styles. And while there may be noticeable differences, we all seem to be able to communicate. The differences are historical, and mostly stem back to Noah Webster and his desire to assert America’s “cultural independence.” Grammar Girl provides a nice summary of the subject here.    

It used to be that when a book was released by an international author, different editions of the book would be published and printed in different countries. So that the new Iain Banks might arrive in everyone’s hands with the spelling and punctuation they were accustomed to — no colours or honours for Americans, no outside-the-box punctuation for Canadians. A seamless and transparent reading experience for all.

This is still often the case in the US — many foreign books in English for the US market receive a second copyedit and printing to conform with US standard style. But many are also left with their Canadian and British spelling. This difference seems to depend on the publisher. (It might depend on the author, too — apparently Alice Munro got to keep her labours and neighbours in the US edition of Dear Life.)  

Elsewhere, though, we read what we receive. Books by US authors purchased in Canada have US spelling and punctuation; the same goes for books by UK authors.

Spelling variations.

Some of the typical American vs. British styles you’ll encounter are

  • organize / organise (and other ize/ise words)
  • color / colour (and other “our” words)
  • traveling / travelling (adding ing to words ending with l)
  • theater / theatre (and other words ending with er / re)

If you’re interested, here’s a more detailed chart comparing the differences between British, American and Canadian spelling.

For readers in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and other English-speaking countries — and for those of you who write in English regardless of where you live — British and American are the two camps of English. For all of us who speak and write in English, we are generally more like one than the other.

Punctuation is a similarly two-camp way of thinking, but the differences between the two occur only where quotations are concerned. Double quotes for American style vs. single quotes for British, and end punctuation tucked in or left out. Again, the differences are noticeable but certainly not insurmountable.

What should you do? 

In Canada, we spell (mostly) like the British, punctuate like the Americans, and sound (we hope), like ourselves.

We could give you complicated steps for deciding what style to conform to and a list of instructions about how to handle changing the style from British to American, or American to British. Or, we could tell you something simple: pick a style and stick to it. If you are American, then use the American style you’re accustomed to. Same if you’re British or Australian or Canadian. But use it consistently.

Readers are adaptable. Be yourself.

We suggest you use the spelling, vocabulary, and punctuation you’re familiar with because we think readers will know what you mean. No, we’re certain that readers will know what you mean. The world is flattening out. Indeed, many editors agree that it has already flattened out, and that American style will eventually be the universal English default. (Cue Noah Webster waving his flag from beyond the grave.)

Be consistent.

Until then, pick a style, and use it consistently. Consistency is the mark of the professional. As we have said a few times already, and will continue to say, consistency is king: it is better to be consistently wrong than to be inconsistent.

* * * 

The “style” decisions listed in this post are those that traditional publishers wrestle with each day. Do you want to know more about how to produce a professional book that will rival that of the pros? Stay tuned for our upcoming book You’ve Got Style: A Self-Publishing Author’s Guide to Ebook Style, due out in March 2014. We’ll be posting more details on this blog soon.

Image by Free Grunge Textures

Related Posts

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The New Geography of Reading

by Carla Douglas
@CarlaJDouglas

Image by shordzi flickr
The print book is a bit like the typewriter — functional, durable, often an object of beauty — but ultimately, its a one-trick pony, a single-use device.
 
Have you heard anyone recently (say, in the last 20 years) complain that they miss the snap of the key against paper or the hum of the machine — distinctive sounds familiar to anyone who has used an old (really old) electric typewriter? Or, more to the point, have they said they miss tearing up a nearly finished page because of a typo or that they long for the smell of the ribbon and the greasy ink on their fingers and clothing?

Setting aside the fact that so many writers’ websites feature a picture of a vintage Remington or Smith Corona, is it safe to say that we’re over the typewriter?

We all remember our first computer — mine was a Macintosh Classic. It replaced an ancient Underwood electric, nearly identical to the one in the picture. I loved my typewriter, and it served me well through four years of university. It failed me spectacularly, however, the night in late April of the year I was to graduate, when my professor phoned to ask if I had a spare copy of my 26-page final paper because he had dropped the one I gave him into the bathtub! Amidst the ensuing panic and efforts to block the visuals associated with this news, I cobbled together a passable substitute from a rough draft and from memory.

No one wants to return to the days of old technology. Now, though, several years into the e-reading revolution, we still hear a lament for the paper book: ebooks and e-readers don’t have the familiar heft of paper books, people say; they don’t have that bookish smell or provide that tactile pleasure; and, without physical dimensions, you can’t see at a glance how far into a book you are, how far you have left to go, or, indeed, how long the journey is to begin with.

Most of us who have moved from paper to ebook have made at least some of these observations. You might have experienced this yourself: as youre reading a print book, you want to refer back to a passage you’ve read, and you can remember with certainty where it is in the book, which page — left or right? — and how far down the page you’ll find it. You can easily flip back in the book to the right spot. 
In an ebook, you can’t flip around like this, and it’s this tactile navigation of books that people comment on most when they try to switch to an e-reader. Theres some research, too, that focuses on the geography of reading, suggesting that learning and memory are connected to our spatial capabilities and that how we so effectively navigate physical books bears this out. If you’re interested, articles in Time (March 2012) and Scientific American (October 2013) go into some detail about how the brain experiences digital text.     
   
Of course e-readers do have design features that try to replicate the geographical landscape of the print book — the progress bar, indicating what percentage of the text you’ve read; bookmarks; the page numbers that some e-readers have (my Kobo Touch is one), which become irrelevant when you change the font size; and the location numbers in Kindle books that substitute for the awkward page numbers and put a pin on a digital place in the text — as close as the ebook gets to providing a spatial marking. (Tip from CNET: divide the location number by 20 for a rough estimate of the book’s “real” pages.) Ebooks are also searchable, so that you can easily find the passage of text you’re looking for (if you can remember a word or phrase to search for).

So there are actually many ways to “get around” in an ebook. Granted, some of them are a bit clumsy, but its still early days for the ebook and e-reader. Some apps and devices are better than others, and new ones are being developed all the time. And while most readers dont find Kindle’s locations helpful, some teachers are using them to make sure all their students are on the same page, so to speak. So many of the advantages of ebooks and e-readers — theyre compact, portable, provide infinite storage and options to customize, for instance — arent visible until theyve been given a good test-drive.

Nearly every step forward comes with a learning curve, and weve proven in the past that were adaptable creatures. When personal computers became affordable for the average writer, many claimed they couldnt compose at a keyboard. Instead, they wrote drafts in longhand and then copied and revised at the computer. By now, most have made the transition.

The standing desk provides a more current example of humans resisting — and adapting to — change. Some of us have quickly adopted the standing desk for health reasons — one editor I know has ingeniously co-opted her ironing board as a station for her laptop. Others, though, report that they cant focus properly while standing, that standing just doesnt work for them.

The move from print to ebook is proving to be a bumpy ride for some readers. But if theyll just get on board, theyll find that digital is trying to smooth the way, and that the potential rewards are many.

Related Posts

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Getting an ISBN for Your Ebook (for Canadian Authors)

by Carla Douglas
@CarlaJDouglas

One of the last things you need to do before publishing your ebook is to get an International Standard Book Number, or ISBN. In Canada, ISNBs are administered by the National Library and Archives, and they are available at no cost through an online submission form.  
While it’s not mandatory  you can publish your ebook without an ISBN  we always recommend that you get one, especially if you plan to use traditional methods for distribution. It’s an identification number, and it carries important information about your book: where and when it was published, format, etc. As well, the ISBN can be used to track sales, and it helps to provide information about the wider books and publishing industry. It also stands, finally, as a permanent record that you wrote and published this book, and as such it marks your cultural participation and contribution. In short, it’s better to have an ISBN than not.
Here’s how to get one in Canada:
Go to the Library and Archives Canada (Collections Canada) home page.

Under Services: Quick Links, select The Canadian ISBN Service System (CISS).
If this is the first time you’ve requested an ISBN, click Join.

Fill in the registration details. If you are self-publishing, simply put your own name in the Publisher Name box. Alternately, if you have a name that you publish under  Icon Books, for example  use that. It’s a long registration form and is perhaps a little dated (there’s a space for your facsimile number!), but you only need to fill in what applies specifically to you. You’ll see that there’s an option to remove boxes from the form if they’re not relevant.
     

If you already have an account at CCIS, then simply log in. This is where things can get a little confusing. Here’s what the form looks like:

In the categories Product Form and Product Form details, you’re offered altogether too many choices. I have learned through trial and error that it is more important to simply make a selection than to try to fine-tune your book’s profile here. So for Product Form, choose Electronic book text. And for Product Form details, choose whatever most logically fits your book. Your ebook is probably not a pop-up book, a mass-market paperback or a lift-the-flap book (all options on this menu). It might well be, however, a picture book. If you’re in doubt, then choose Other operating system. That makes it clear that your book is digital.

Complete the remaining categories as accurately as you can. Choose the subject that best fits your book, given the available choices. Note that your ebook doesn’t have pages, and that it’s okay to place a zero in this box. Further down the page, however, you’ll find a request for specs re your book’s physical properties.

How much does an ebook weigh? This isn’t an existential question – you’ll have to come up with an answer, or you won’t get your ISBN. Sorry! Hint: I just put down 10 for everything, and my answers were accepted.

The form is long and not always logical, but if you fill in all the information, your request will be processed fairly quickly. They’ll tell you that you’ll have a number within 10 business days, but it’s usually much sooner  2 or 3 days, sometimes even the same day.

Here’s one more tip: If you have applied for a block of ISBNs in the past and haven’t used them all, or if you entered Forthcoming for the publication date of a previous book and haven’t updated the information (to let them know the book has been published and is available), then your application for a new ISBN won’t proceed. So make sure you keep track of the ISBNs you’ve been issued, and also keep your CCIS profile up to date.

That’s it. Fill out the e-paperwork, and you’re on your way. If you do run into trouble, the Help menu is quite detailed, and you can also get assistance through the contact form. I’ve had adventures of my own with the ISBN  mostly with remembering to get one in the first place and then trying to get the request form to accept my responses.

Some say that the ISBN is an anachronism in the digital age, but there are also plenty of reasons both to retain it and to encourage its broader use. In many countries  the US and the UK are two examples  publishers and self-publishers have to pay for ISBNs, and this makes the issue more contentious. It’s an interesting subject  and a surprise, too, that the unglamorous ISBN can stir such discussion.

Read More  
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How to Prepare Images for Ebooks Using a Free Image Editor

By Corina Koch MacLeod
@CKmacleodwriter

If you’re writing a nonfiction ebook, including images in your book can help readers to better understand concepts you’re describing with words. Sometimes, images are an economical way to convey information because they can take the place of a page of written instructions. Images also give readers a bit of a break from reams and reams text.

When selecting images for your book, only include images that add to the reader’s understanding. In other words, don’t decorate your book with images just because you can. Images take up a great deal of file space, and most ebook distributors have a file size limit for an ebook, so use them judiciously.

Using images in your book requires a bit of extra tech knowledge. But you can manage this tiny learning curve with a bit of know-how and a free image editor like Paint.net.

*Note: the instructions that follow require you to work with your images outside of your ebook file. If you’re writing your book in Word and you’ve inserted your images into your Word document, take them out and store them in a separate folder, titled Images. You can re-insert them into Word after you’ve made the required adjustments in Paint.net, or some similar photo-editing software.

Here are the basics for preparing images for ebooks:

1. Decide on an image format. Most images can be saved in a variety of formats. JPGs,  PNGs and even GIFs are the recommended formats for ebooks. Line drawings look best when saved as PNGs or GIFs and photos look best when saved as JPGs.

Save line drawings as PNGs

Save line drawings as GIFs

Save pictures as JPGs

2. Edit your image (optional). I’m not an image editing expert, but I do know that taking a picture in good light or finding a quality image can reduce the amount of image editing you need to do. I also know that the tiniest tweak in image-editing software can sometimes make a big difference to the appearance of a photo. If you’re a bit of a hack, like me, you’ll keep things simple by cropping, sharpening, and maybe adjusting the light levels of your image.

I like to use Paint.net for image editing because it’s free and simple to use. I’ve also experimented with GIMP (also free), which I’ve heard is a lot like Photoshop. GIMP is an excellent tool, but I’ve found that it’s a Mercedes when a Volkwagen will do.

Here’s how to do some simple image editing in Paint.net:

Crop
  • Cropping: Click on the Select Rectangle tool (see the image on the right) on the Tools bar: Image>Crop to Selection (video)
  • Sharpening: Effects>Photo>Sharpen
  • Adjusting light levels: Adjustments> Brightness/Contrast

3. Resize your image. Ebook distributors have restrictions on how many pixels wide and how many pixels high your image can be. Most distributors can accommodate an image that is a minimum of 300 pixels wide and maximum of 800 pixels high. Check your distributor (Amazon or Lulu, for example) for exact image measurements.

To adjust your image size in Paint.net: Image>Resize and fill in the desired pixel width. Your image will keep its height and width proportion if you have the Maintain aspect ratio box ticked, reducing the chances of a distorted image with that “stretched” or “squashed” look. Play with the height or width so that your image is within your distributor’s pixel range.

4. Compress your image. Compressing your image reduces the amount of file space your image will take up. This is important because distributors have restrictions on how big a picture file can be. True, compression slightly reduces the quality, but really high quality images are not as necessary for ebooks as they are for print. You can compress a JPG image in Paint.net by setting the image quality to about 75%. Go to File, Save As, insert a file name and a menu will pop up. Set the Quality slider to 75%. For a PNG, set your image resolution to 72 ppi: Image>Resize>Resolution.

5. Insert your image into your book file. If your book is in Word, insert your image by going to Insert>Picture. Make sure that it’s left-justified or inserted “inline.” If you’re using Jutoh to convert your ebook, this image will travel with your book document when you convert from Word to Jutoh. Otherwise, it’s also possible to insert your image directly into Jutoh.

That’s it! With the right tools and some simple instructions, including images in your ebook is a snap.

Want to know more about images in ebooks? Check out Aaron Shepard’s book, Pictures on Kindle. For help using Paint.net, consult the Paint.net beginner tutorials or the Paint.net manual.

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Collaborative Writing: Why Writing Together is Better Than Writing Alone

by Corina Koch MacLeod
@CKmacleodwriter

Yin yang
Image by Brian Snelson (CC BY 2.0)

Do you write alone? I used to. About twelve years ago, I started a book  a historical YA novel set in post-war Germany. A traditional publisher had seen an excerpt from my manuscript, saw something in my writing and asked me to submit it when it was finished. That’s great news, right? Except that I never finished that manuscript. It’s languishing on my external hard drive and should be out in two thousand and never…

Since then, I’ve co-published seven books and I’m working on my eighth. Life is actually more busy than it was twelve years ago (the pre-parenting era) and yet, I’ve managed to produce an acceptable amount (I think) of publishable writing. What’s the secret?

Never write alone.

You read that right. About eleven years ago I embarked on a writing project with another author, Carla Douglas, and it was such a positive experience, I’ve never looked back. Here’s why I think that writing together is better than writing alone:

1. Two brains are better than one.
There’s a great deal of chatter in business and education about the value of collaboration. When you work with someone on a writing project (any project really), you potentially double (even triple  collaboration math isn’t always predictable) the amount of expertise, experience and creativity that you bring to a project. Working with someone means you’ll learn to see a challenge in different ways, which gets you closer to seeing a challenge from all angles.

2. Brainstorming is more than a breeze.
Working with a partner takes brainstorming to a new level. Some of your seemingly “dumb” ideas may see the light of day because your writing partner champions them and points out how they just might work. You’re also exposed to more possibilities when your partner’s ideas lead your brain in directions it wouldn’t have gone in on its own. Brainstorming alone is a gentle breeze. Brainstorming together brings on gale force winds.

3. You don’t need to know everything.
I only need to know half the stuff that any other writer needs to know. Carla needs to know the other half and then we have our writing knowledge bases covered. Whenever there is something writing-related to be learned (a new writing tool, or a new concept, for example) one of us learns it and then shares what we know with the other.

4. You don’t need to do everything.
Many writers have nonwriting tasks that they need to attend to, such as writing blog posts, setting up a website, monitoring the Twitter feed, and maintaining the Pinterest page. Working with a partner means you can do half the work. Which leaves more time for writing…

5. You can leverage your strengths.
Carla and I have different strengths. She reads widely and is expansive in her thinking. I dive deeply into a topic, and I like to sort things into boxes. She is yin and I am yang. I don’t need to be more yin and Carla doesn’t need to be more yang. Nevertheless, our writing projects benefit from both approaches, resulting in potentially well-structured writing that explores the boundaries of what’s possible.

6. You have someone to be accountable to.
Do you ever feel like you’d rather be doing anything other than writing? We all have those moments. When I’m writing alone, it’s far too tempting to ditch a writing session and curl up with good book and a cup of dark roast. But if I know someone else is relying on me to pull my writing weight or take my turn, I find a way to beat back the I-don’t-wannas. My writing partner is counting on me. I don’t want to disappoint her. Sadly, I am far too okay with disappointing myself…

7. You have a built-in fact checker, editor, and proofreader.
Pretty much everything I write has to get past my writing partner. She’s a wonderful copyeditor and proofreader, and she’ll often point out those instances in my writing that are unclear, and catch those missteps that will surely mortify me.

8. You can get more done in less time.
If you’re writing on your own, you often need to set your writing aside for a week at least, before you can see it again with fresh eyes. If you’re writing with a partner, fresh eyes are waiting when you hit the period on that last sentence. You just saved yourself a week. And that’s going to matter when it’s time to hit Publish.

9. You have someone to gripe to (and celebrate with). 
Writing is hard work. Your nonwriting friends won’t understand the agonies and ecstasies of writing the way your writing partner will. And when the going is tough, it’s affirming to have someone in the trenches to grumble to. Getting it out clears the way for getting on with it.

10. You have someone to cheer you on (and cheer you up).
Don’t underestimate the power of an encouraging word. I can’t tell you the number of times I received a cheer from Carla when my energy was flagging. Or a humourous anecdote that helped me to see the hilarity of a challenging moment. Writing alone can be lonely and staying connected throughout the day is the equivalent of the workplace water cooler. Having a writing partner means that you’re not standing at the water cooler by yourself.

I could go on about the benefits of writing together, but I think you have the idea. It’s amazing to me how many authors go it alone. I’m not quite sure how you do it.

Do you collaborate with another author? Tell us about it. Do you work alone? Tell us why that works for you.

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If fragmented is how we read now, then how should we write?

by Carla Douglas
@CarlaJDouglas

Image by Fire Monkey Fish  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In my last post I talked about how the digital disruption has reached right into our reading process. We’re offered an infinite buffet of choices, but they come just as the time and focus we need to enjoy them have become more and more scarce.    

What does this mean if you are a writer?
It means that when you publish your book, you are casting it out into the gale, to compete with every other book with a similar title and description. It means that your hard work might have only a chance in a million of getting caught in someone’s net unless you can find a way to make it stand out, give it both weight and stickiness that will improve its odds.

There are a few things you can do to improve your book’s odds. Keep in mind these tips are for nonfiction – especially in the informational and how-to categories. Narrative nonfiction and fiction are so much trickier, and will require their own post at some future date.  

Know your reader.  
First, you need to know that your reader isn’t reading. She’s skimming and scanning text to cherry-pick and harvest keywords and key ideas. Knowing this can be discouraging, especially if you take a lot of time and care with your writing. 
Jakob Nielsen and others have written extensively about how to write for the web. Here’s a recap of top tips:
  • Use shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs.
  • Use more white space on the page.
  • Use bulleted lists to offset key information.
  • Use headings and subheadings to help the reader navigate your content.
  • Do everything you can to make your content visually appealing. Will it be a book, an ebook, or both? Consider your fonts and layout, and whether you can handle these yourself or if you would benefit from using nonfiction book templates such as those available at thebookdesigner.com.

And note also that ebooks are considered part of the web. The habits we’ve developed for reading online – all of the digital snacking we’re doing – apply to the printed page as well.  

Here’s a link to a video clip from PBS that queries how the average reader reads. Remember: this is your audience.

Keep your content sharp, focused, and short.
Finely hone your topic so that you can cover the key points in a short book. Recent reports suggest that shorter books appeal to readers – remember that short attention span? Kindle singles are doing well. So are Minibüks (print shorts). Oh, and at least one airline – Qantas – is publishing books that can be read during the course of a flight.
Research your topic to ensure there’s a demand for it. One theme at last month’s Books in Browsers conference was well articulated by Adam Hyde at Booksprints. In his presentation, The Death of the Reader (19:50), sees the book buyer as not simply a consumer of a publisher’s output, but a person with knowledge needs. The reader’s knowledge need is the writer’s opportunity to provide it.
Work on perfecting your writing style. In an effort to prune your writing to appeal to the reader’s short attention span, you risk excising the very elements that give it its personality and voice. The line between not enough detail and too much isn’t always clear. Take the time to read widely in the genre you’re writing to see how established authors handle these questions.

Consider all the possible destinations for your content.  Maybe your book is just a book to begin with. How can your content be recast to appeal to a wider audience – an audience with the same knowledge needs but different abilities or learning preferences? Here are some options: ebook, print book, podcast, video book, video, blog with video clips, interactive web-based resource, online course. How we define a book has changed – the possibilities are many.

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