Learning curves…

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a complete noob when it comes to this whole Kindle publishing thing, but as with much else in life, I figure, if other people can do it, then so can I. This attitude has been useful through life and usually served me well, though that logic implies that I should also, with a little effort and a few good books, be capable of brain surgery, quantum physics and accounting. Needless to say, I’ve embarked on this Kindle e-publishing path with my usual delusional optimism, and as is to be expected, immediately encountered a learning curve. Life would be far easier without these constant curves I keep throwing myself, but as with travelling a straight, flat, monotonous highway, I might arrive sooner but it’d certainly be a dull ride. That twisty, windy, scenic route may take longer, but half the fun is in the trip, and you never know what you’ll discover along the way.

Discovery number one came when I uploaded to Amazon what I thought was a properly formatted manuscript. I’d followed the instructions and saved it in MS Word as an HTML document by selecting ‘Web Page, Filtered’. That was simple enough. I checked the ‘preview’ button and all looked well. So far so good. I proceeded to check off all the other appropriate boxes, held my breath and hit ‘Publish’. A message informed me I’d be waiting somewhere between 24 and 48 hours so I moved on and went about my business, keeping myself preoccupied with Annabel Lee’s decks and life in general.

The following day a friend informed me it was online. There was my name, the title, cover and various other information, though it wasn’t available to purchase and there was no book description. Shortly later she called again, this time to ask, “So, am I your first sale?” And yes indeed she was, which made me the second as I downloaded to my freeware Kindle on the PC. I opened it up… and that’s when I panicked. This didn’t look right! I’d left two paragraph breaks at the end of each chapter and two below each chapter heading, but none appeared. It was just a mass of endless text!

While I could have sworn I’d read, I’m not sure where, NOT to insert page breaks between chapters. I guess I just figured the Kindle would put them in but it didn’t. Okay. That could be fixed, but I couldn’t understand why the paragraph breaks between chapters weren’t visible. They’d been there in the preview. Unfortunately, though the book was available on Amazon, from my Digital Text Platform, or DTP, (the control panel) was still gray and read ‘publishing’ under the status heading. I was locked out from making any adjustments, and I was left to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening rechecking, adding those needed breaks and waiting for the green light as I picked through my manuscript with a fine tooth comb. It wasn’t until midway through the next morning that my DTP went ‘Live’ and I was able to upload these changes. Once again I checked the Preview, and yes, all looked well, even the breaks between chapters. I hit Publish, my DTP returned to grey, and I clicked on ‘Send Sample Now’ on my page. The chapter breaks were there now, but not the spaces below the chapter headings! WTF???

It was by this point my daughter suggested we view it on her Ipod Touch. To my surprise, it looked perfect… almost. At least the formatting was all in order, though for some reason on her screen various lines of text were different shades of gray or black. Again, WTF??? But now I was getting the hang of this, so once again, back I went, this time making certain I’d selected all text in my story and assigning the font ‘black’. And then I waited, this time roughly 24 hours, for the DTP to read Live and yet again upload, preview and publish. I’ve come to see that the wait between publish and live can vary; right now it’s been over 24 hours since that last (I won’t say final) update and all is still gray.

I know many online instructions advise all of this MUST be coded in HTLM, and I know HTML, I’ve worked with it for years. However, to this point I’d found no issues that couldn’t be corrected (or avoided to begin with) while working in Word, in my case a 2003 edition. What you read on your Kindle or some version of Kindle you run on your PC, Mac, Apple device or Blackberry has been formatted entirely in Word. The question is: would formatting it in HTML perhaps eliminate the variations that appear between these various platforms? I’ll be looking into that further and comparing once my new –happy-birthday-to-me- Kindle arrives later this week and I will post the results.

Oh, and my description still isn’t there yet. Amazon states that descriptions can take up to 72 hours to appear, though it’s been over that long since my first publication. Have my re-uploads extended that time? Time will tell.

So there you have it. The grand experiment continues. The next step: you, kind readers who have ventured into my blog for whatever the reason, link on over to Last Exit In New Jersey. Read an excerpt… it’ll cost you nothing and you don’t even need a Kindle to do it. And if you enjoy the excerpt I can assure you, the rest of the story only gets better!

Quote of the day as per Felicia: “Wasted effort is the bread and butter of learning, which therefore I suppose doesn’t make it wasted effort.”

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