Posts Tagged ‘formatting’

Weird Editing Requests

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for not pointing out the fact that April Fool’s Day is on Sunday, not Monday, and invalidating the entire first paragraph of Wednesday’s post. I appreciate it. This way I don’t feel like an idiot and can still pretend that I’m funny.


So, I think y’all know that I am an editor by profession. I work freelance, for the most part, with the exception of a couple of different contracts that I work on periodically. Most of the people I deal with are people who have a single project they need help with, which is lovely; it lets me fill up the time in between my contract work and gives me a wide-variety of things to do, which is always good for keeping the ol’ brain in shape. I love trying something new.

Most of my advertising is done on the internet. If you ask, I will tell you it is because it allows me to serve a greater number of clients, but the truth is that the less I have to talk to people, the better. (My husband often, exasperatedly, asks if I could get any more introverted.) All the places I advertise, I make sure it’s clear that I deal in documents. I talk about proofreading and grammar. I give examples of what I’ve done before – resumes, essays, scientific papers, novels, short stories, newsletters, etc. I talk about word counts.

Most people are literate enough to read these and figure out what services I offer. Some people see “Editor” and don’t bother to look any further. And I swear some people don’t actually get that far.

Weird requests I’ve gotten:

  • There was the guy who wanted me to reformat his phone. The hardware.
  • I get a lot of requests for video editing. Also image editing.
  • Someone wanted me to fill out online job applications for him while he dictated what he wanted to put in over the phone to me.
  • I received a request for me to type up a 75,000 word document from the original hand-written pages.
  • Within the last few days, I had a request from someone to edit their music composition. Not the lyrics – the notes. What does that even entail? I’m still pondering this one because I can’t figure out what they expected at all.

Also, people, if you are self-publishing, I do not need your Createspace/Lulu/Smashwords, etc. password to format your book. You send me your files. I make them pretty. Then you upload them yourself and have full control of your financial and creative material. If someone wants that information – don’t give it to them. I bring this up because I have to tell almost every formatting client of mine this.

It’s been busy this week. Remember: Grammar Week next week! Monday we shall explore the proper usage of speech tags.

Revisiting Picture Books

January I brought up how I was going to be participating in #kitlitart’s PB dummy challenge. It’ll be new and exciting! I said. It’ll be fun! I said.

Turns out writing picture books is really hard.

It’s interesting, because I’ve never really been terribly in-tune with picture books before, but now that I’m working on one myself, they seem to be everywhere. I’ve been getting requests in my editing/formatting business for picture books left and right – and believe me, formatting has not been truly frustrating until you have to convert a picture book into an epub. (Epubs? Don’t like pictures.)

(On the other hand, editing picture books? Lovely. I would do it all day.)

I even went to a critique group last month and someone had a picture book.

Picture books are hard for a number of reasons:

1) How much description is right? Too much and you risk bogging the story down for the kidlets. Too little and no one has any idea what’s happening, and you can only distract them with landsquid for so long.

2) Word choice. A few new words are probably okay, but you have to make sure the kids are going to understand what’s happening.

3) I am a not a child. I occasionally read picture books but am definitely not the target audience, so sometimes it’s hard to get in the right mindset.

I know that picture book writing, like everything else, is something that will take time and dedication, and I’m beginning to wonder: am I spreading myself too thin? I don’t really need to be good at novels and short stories AND picture books, necessarily.

Not to say that I’m giving up. I have a first draft and I’ve gotten some feedback on it. I’ll try to fix it up before I throw in the towel. But it kind of seems to be going the way screenwriting did – interesting, good to try, but not necessarily what I want to do.

Time will tell, though.

How do you feel about picture books, Squiders? Ever tried to write one? How do you feel about choosing formats of writing and sticking to them?

Ebook Formatting for Self-Publishing

Ebooks!  Wave of the future!  Whether or not you prefer your novels cheap and virtual or paper, if you’re self-publishing these days you need to have your book on as many platforms as possible to reach the widest readership.  Ebooks are an excellent way for an unknown author to get their name out there, because it allows readers to try you out without investing a huge amount of money on you.

I spend a lot of my time formatting ebooks, as it’s one of the freelance services I offer.  (As you can see if you click the lovely ‘editing and formatting services’ tab above.)  Admittedly, formatting is a bit frustrating because the oddest little things will throw your book into chaos, but!  It is doable if you are patient and willing to spend time trolling internet message boards.  Or you can hire someone (like me) to do it for you if you are short on time/patience and don’t mind spending some money.

There are three ebook publishing venues you should be using (all are free, so if you’re not doing this you’re only cheating yourself):

1. Smashwords
Smashwords takes your Word document, converts it to a gazillion different formats and, as long as your book meets their standards, they’ll allow you not only to sell your book on their website, but will distribute it to pretty much every other ebook retailer out there, including the iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Sony, etc, etc, et al.  They’ll even create a version that will run on Amazon’s Kindle, though last I checked, it will not list your book on Amazon for you.  (Note: Smashwords is one of only a few ways to get into the iBookStore. is another, and something you should look at if you are publishing a print version through them.)

However, Smashwords requires you to strip your book down, getting rid of almost all your formatting, to ease the conversion between platforms.  If you have something formatting-intensive, you might have issues meeting their standards, or you might find you cannot get your book to look like you want.

Smashwords offers a comprehensive formatting stylebook to help you meet their standards.

2. Amazon
The Kindle still owns a good majority of the ebook-reading public.  Plus it’s something to see your book listed for sale on Amazon.  Amazon offers authors a 70% royalty rate within a certain price range, which you really can’t go wrong with.

The Kindle is kind of a pain in the butt to format for, however.  Each Kindle book is, at its base, an HTML file.  (Not unlike a website.)  If you know how to program in HTML, good for you.  You are good to go.  There are some programs that you can use to convert your book to HTML (or .mobi or .prc, the other two file formats Amazon will accept) though they are a bit buggy and I recommend fixing the HTML after you’ve done so.  There’s Mobipocket Creator (which I prefer to use, because although it’s buggy, it’s easy to get into its guts to fix things) and Calibre (I honestly think it’s easier to program your entire document from scratch than use Calibre, but your mileage may vary).

If you want NCX files or a lot of pictures and you are not HTML proficient, I recommend hiring someone.  You will spend a lot of time trolling the internet and it will be full of sad, confused people.  (Luckily, if you have a novel, both are usually unnecessary.)

3. Barnes and Noble
The Nook is the easiest of the three basic platforms to use.  You can pretty much just upload your Word document, no changes needed, and it will look pretty and be readable. Barnes and Noble holds about a fourth of the ebook market these days, so even though Smashwords will eventually get your book listed on B&, I’d recommend going ahead and uploading directly to PubIt!  You won’t have to eat all your formatting and it will go live faster.

So there you have it, a very basic overview of ebook formatting for your self-publishing needs.  Have at it, Squiders.