Can Everton Jones find out how his father stole Emperor Bokassa’s diamonds and, more importantly, where he hid them; before the world and his brother get there first?
Click on the picture link in the sidebar to read an extract of my first novel, which was published by Paradise Press in August 2012.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

How to create a new blank e-pub using Sigil

These posts presume you are using Sigil to make your e-pub ebook. This post is a primer on how Sigil works and how to get started by creating a blank e-book file. I also explain the structure of the first blank chapter. I will link into this post where appropriate. Some topics are best covered in more detail elsewhere and when that happens I will link OUT to those posts.

The latest version of Sigil contains a host of new and powerful features, and can do a lot of clever things for you. As with most automated systems, use these with caution. What you want to achieve is an e-book which is coded as simply as possible with as little as possible which can go wrong. EACH e-book reader will have its own software installed and the more complicated your code the more likely it is that it will render differently on different devices. This post covers only the basics.

Begin your e-pub project by downloading and installing Sigil. You can get it from here (NB As with all open-source software you might have to scramble about a bit to find the correct download for you.)

[added: 29 Oct. 2015: The download location for Sigil has changed. I have added a new post with the uptodate details here.]

Double-click the icon to open a new blank e-pub file. It opens in a new Sigil window:

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

How to markup an MS Word file to identify the formats before importing it into an epub

Your MS Word file will most likely be carefully formatted to look great. In particular it will have italic text for foreign words, book titles, emphasis, perhaps thoughts, etc.; there will be indented paragraphs in the main text, unindented paragraphs after a ‘scene break’ (preceded by a space) and quite likely displayed quotations. Perhaps you will also have text in Small Capitals. You will also have special formats for chapter headings, text in the preliminary matter and so on.

Before you import your MS Word file into your e-book you will need to save it as unformatted text, and all of these formats (styles) will disappear. So it is necessary to ‘mark up’ the file to identify all of the formats you are using. You will then use the markup to restore the formatting using CSS in the e-book.

First, consider the styles for individual paragraphs:

Each paragraph of your MS Word document will have a particular style , probably defined as a named style in MS Word. To mark it up, just add some sort of code at the start of each paragraph. For example, I insert something like ‘/ch/’ at the start of any paragraph which is formatted (styled) as a chapter heading. You can use Find and Replace in Sigil to replace this with your desired CSS styling later. Obviously, the markup: ‘/ch/’ should be a text string which does not occur anywhere else in the original text of your book. Use any suitable alternative, such as ‘¦ch¦’ or ‘\ch\’ if there is a possible conflict. Although be sure you can easily access the characters used for the markup from your keyboard! (Mac users might find ‘§’ is easy to find on the keyboard and will probably be unique enough to define a markup code like ‘§ch§’.)

You will need to go through the file editing in markup codes at the beginning of each paragraph which needs a special format. Examples would be entries in the table of contents, chapter numbers (if any), chapter headings (as outlined above), subheadings, unindented paragraphs, displayed quotations, etc., etc.

Each markup code will match a CSS style you will define later and apply to the paragraph using Sigil.

Here are a number of examples of markup I have used:

Sunday, 13 April 2014

How to clean up your MS Word file before you get started converting it to an e-book

So far I have posted on the most critical issues involved in converting an e-pub e-book to a Kindle e-book. These primarily revolve around the html table of contents and the cover image. I now want to go right back to the beginning and deal with the entire e-book creation process from scratch.

The starting point in making an e-book is obviously a complete, edited manuscript. Most likely the final draft of the print book. I will assume this is written in MS Word, although Open Office is a perfectly satisfactory (and free) alternative, and works in broadly the same way.

The first thing you will need to do is to clean up your manuscript. And I’m not talking about spelling or punctuation errors here, I mean dealing with more techincal formatting issues, some of which are peculiar to e-books.

Optional Hyphens:

The first among these is hyphenation. And I’m sitting on my hands here to stop myself having a go about the correct places to put the ‘normal’ or ‘hard’ hyphens. Get yourself a copy of New Hart’s Rules or the Chicago Manual of Style and a good up-to-date dictionary such as the New Oxford Spelling Dictionary and sort those out yourself. What I am talking about here are the extra hyphens you should have added in your print book file to break any long words which fall at the ends of lines so as to even up the white space between words. These are sometimes called ‘optional’ hyphens:

Thursday, 10 April 2014

DISPLAYING a WOWslider slideshow in a Blogger / Blogspot blog

This is my last post on this topic. But given the number of hits I’ve had on the others, I think I should post my last word. Here is a Wowslider slideshow of some of the bookjackets I have designed:

It should NOT be possible to do this in Blogger. In fact it isn’t, strictly speaking in blogger at all. I have signed up for a free website and uploaded the slideshow there. You see ALL the components of the Wowslider slideshow HAVE to be in the same folder. Blogger would have required you to put the <head> section bits and pieces in your blogger template and you would have had to store the other parts of the slideshow somewhere else, which breaks the scripts in WOWslider.

This is how to get around the problem: The slideshow above is uploaded to a free website which I just signed up for. Then in the blogger post I have used an iframe which DISPLAYS the slideshow. Having tried other methods, this is the only way I can find to show a WOW Slider slideshow in a blogger blog. It cost me NOTHING (provided I was prepared to accept the watermark on the slideshow), and took just a few minutes.

Step-by-step, this is how it was done:

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

How to link the cover IMAGE in a Kindle e-book

Once you have deleted the html cover, you need to link the cover image so the Kindle can display it at the front of the ebook.

When you deleted the html cover you should have left the cover image behind. Sigil should have correctly entered the cover image in the <manifest> section of content.opf when you imported it. If your epub passed epubcheck you can be absolutely sure that this has been done properly. If you have not already done so, you will need to unpack the epub and open content.opf using an html editor such as Komodo Edit.

Scan down the content.opf file and find the entry for the cover image. Finding it is easier if you gave the file an informative name when you created the epub. Mine was called ‘ebookFront.jpg’. The entry should look something like this:

<item href="Images/ebookFront.jpg" id="ebookFront.jpg" media-type="image/jpeg" />

The text in red is the label (or id) created for the cover image by Sigil. The example in the Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines uses id="my-cover-image", but that is just a label. There is no reason why you can’t use the label/id created by Sigil instead.

To link the cover image for the Kindle, add the following line to the END of the <metadata> section of the content.opf file:

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