Ebook Conversion Tool Reviews





From The Book Designer

Previously, I’ve compared some of the computer apps that you can use to convert your manuscript into an ebook.

This month I’ll talk about online conversion tools — all of the ones I’m going to discuss are attached to the retailers and distributors that you are going to be interested in.

Eye of the Hurricane: Top Ebook Retailers

Let’s start with the most popular retailers and their conversion tools (or lack thereof).

Once again, I’m assuming that you’re in the US — which isn’t a given, I know. (Most of this information is true for non-US publishers as well.) Also, I’m defining “manuscript” as synonymous with “Microsoft Word document” (either .doc or .docx), since that’s the most common file format for authors to work with, and that’s the format I used in comparing the desktop conversion tools.

As before, these are the major retailers you will probably be looking at:

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
Apple’s iTunes Connect (iBooks Store)
Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press
Google Play
Rakuten’s Writing Life (Kobo)

They are the five largest ebook retailers in the US, and the sites I almost always recommend that clients upload to directly (rather than using a distributor). Three (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Rakuten/Kobo) have online conversion tools; Apple and Google only allow you to upload completed ebooks (ePub files), so they’re not going to be part of this discussion.

To compare the tools, I’m going to use the same chapter from my novel Risuko that I used to test the desktop apps — with one change: I’m adding two images — one centered and one inset on the right-hand side of the second paragraph — to test how the different sites handle pictures, in addition to text.

Here’s how the page looks in Word:

Ebook Conversion Tool Reviews

Note that the larger image is centered, while the smaller image of the woman playing the flute is flush with the right margin, and note the brush fonts that I used for the header and the drop cap. Note too that the body text is fully justified—the line down the right-hand margin is clean (except for where the paragraphs end).

Amazon KDP

KDP is probably the most important retailer site for most self-publishers, and so we’ll start here.

You can upload files in a number of formats to KDP: Kindle’s native mobi format, the universal ePub format, HTML, a PDF[1], and, of course, our friend the Word doc.

Click the Browse button, find your file, hit the Upload button, and within a few minutes, the page will offer you the choice either to preview the converted ebook or to download the mobi file. The best way to test an ebook is to download the file and load it onto a Kindle — preferably several, ideally of different generations (i.e., old-style Kindle, Paperwhite, Kindle Fire) and a couple of different apps (Kindle for Android/iOS/Mac/Windows). The online previewer and Kindle Previewer app will, however, do a pretty good job of showing you how the book will look on various Kindles/Kindle apps.

Here’s our file viewed on the online previewer, emulating a Fire:

The Book Designer

Not bad. The pretty brush fonts went away, but the images are placed and sized properly, the text is correctly justified, and the line-space remains consistent. If I could, I’d play with the size of the drop cap (it’s four lines high instead of three, and it’s set slightly below the level of the top line), but I can’t, so I’d live with it.[2]

I checked the file on a number of other Kindles; quality was acceptable on most (though on several the inset image was miniscule), except for the Kindle for iOS app, and my old Kindle DX, which looked like this:

The drop cap went away, the first paragraph is indented, and the inset image was simply placed on a line of its own before the paragraph. These aren’t conversion problems, per se; old Kindles and Kindle for iOS display a version of the mobi file (MOBI7) that is based on old PalmPilot technology; it can’t handle sophisticated formatting at all. There are some things that you can do (involving media queries) that will allow you to format the same file differently for old (MOBI7) and new (KF8) Kindles; however you can’t do that from Word. To make that magic happen, you’ll need to create an ePub file, edit it, and upload it.

KDP doesn’t have an online edit function, nor can you edit the downloaded mobi file directly. [3] KDP does, however, allow you to download the ebook as an HTML file, which you can edit….

Read the rest of the article by visiting THE BOOK DESIGNER.



ProWritingAid Tutorial




ProWritingAid Tutorial by me.

So, I’ve been going on about ProWritingAid for the last few weeks and it’s because I love it so much. I just finished editing Legion with it and it saved me so much time and improved my writing so much. Many of my colleagues have already grabbed a copy for themselves, but I realise that making a purchase ($35 per year, although you get 1st month free) is difficult without seeing a product in action. Because I know how useful this tool will be to new and old writers alike, I have put together a video explaining some of the main tools in use on my Scrivener manuscript (Word and Google Docs plugins also included).

It really is fantastic for improving your sentence structure, word choice, and style. It has already improved me as a writer after just a few months (really wished I’d discovered it five years ago). Anyway, this is the first video tutorial I have ever done, so go easy on me in the comments.

Please know that the links at the bottom are affiliate links and I will get a small commission if you do end up buying a copy. If you don’t like that, no problem, I still recommend the program and all you need to do is google ‘Prowritingaid’ to get to the website without my affiliate link. Otherwise just click either of the two banners contained within this post.

Writing Improvement Software

UPDATE: ProWritingAid are currently offering a free ebook about editing. FYI, downloading it also comes with a hefty discount off the price of the software if you were considering getting it: http://prowritingaid.com/en/Landing/Ebook?afid=2379

Writing Improvement Software





Demon Knight Movie Review – 10 reasons I love it!




Demon Knight Movie Review – 10 reasons I love it!

I can’t believe Demon Knight is more than 20 years old. I must have been about 10 when I first saw it on television late one night. It was unsuitable for a kid to watch, yet I wasn’t disturbed by it–I was excited. I had never seen a film like it or had so much fun. Even today it’s probably my favourite ‘people trapped in a house’ horror movie. Billy Zane and William Sadler are great too.

The plot concerns a drifter stumbling into a bar, apparently on the run. The man after him is Billy Zane, which is scarier than it sounds because Zane is a demon knight trying to reclaim a special key. The reason the key is so special is because of the blood inside of it (who’s blood you might ask?). Demon Knight is a 90s movie, which for me was a great era in horror. It was a time where special effects had come along but CGI was not yet prevalent, so we still got great practical effects. This movie reminds me very much of From Dusk till Dawn and Critters (get all 4 movies here), but it does enough to stand as a unique and original movie all on its own. The most modern comparison is the move Feast.

I will spoil no more and merely list the 10 reasons why I love it. Continue Reading →

Legion: Chapter 1





The room stank of death. A syrupy sweet odour melding with a brown, noxious rot. Sweat, blood, piss, and filth. It was all there. The blanket stench of the infirm.

Hospitals. If ever there were a place John Windsor loathed, it was hospitals. Prime Ministerial obligation was the only reason he inhabited one now, and the last time he had entered one voluntarily his granny Margaret gave in to the smoker’s curse and let lung cancer take her. He’d been twenty years old, but he remembered it as being the very last time he had cried. His Law degree completed not long after, he had begun his journey to the courtrooms, where emotion was a hindrance. Now, twenty years later he was the youngest Prime Minister of the 21st Century, the prospects of his own hospital stay still many years distant. Being faced with other people’s impending death was an unwelcome task, even if a necessary part of the job, and he was counting the minutes until he could leave.

A sycophantic nurse waddled over, a proud grin on her chubby face. No doubt she felt important, getting the job of shaking the PM’s hand, but the truth was she would be forgotten the moment he turned his back. Some people held such small ambition, yet he did not deny her the small moment of victory. Leaning forward, he paired the hearty handshake with a peck on the cheek that sent the woman giddy. He fought the urge to wipe his mouth on his sleeve afterwards.

The plump woman gushed. “We’re so glad to have you here, Prime Minister.”

John smiled, certain he could taste the woman’s sweat on his lips. “It’s my pleasure, Joan.” Good spot on the name badge. Plebs love it when you used their names. “It’s a wonderful job you’re doing here.”

“We do what we can. It’s a hard job, but so vital. We had our funding cut last-”

“Shall we take the tour?” said John, waving a hand towards the ward. Cramped tent cubicles filled it, and likely housed various dying occupants. So much money just to park the nearly dead. So inefficient.
“Oh yes, of course, the tour.” The nurse nodded. “This is the oncology ward where we care for stage 4 patients. I would introduce you to our guests, but most will be sleeping. Best not to disturb them.”

John nodded gravely although it was great news. He had held little desire to look upon the diseased. “Of course, Joan. You are an angel to these people.”

“Me? Oh no, I’m just one woman doing what she-”

“Shall we move on?”

“Yes, Prime Minister, of course. There is lots to see.”

And lots to see there was—a dreadful amount in fact. John endured over an hour of sweaty handshakes and prattling small talk. In the children’s ward, he had to go so far as to kiss a collection of clammy foreheads (his PR Secretary’s idea, not his). By the time John looped back around to where he had begun, exhaustion had set in. Two bodyguards accompanied him the entire time and looked just as bored as he was.

It was time to go. Continue Reading →

Top 10 End of the World Novels




Top 10 End of the World Novels

Hi guys. My sequel to The Gates will be out very shortly and as a way of getting you in the mood for some good apocalyptic fun, I wanted to give you my Top 10 End of the World Novels.

Here we go. In no particular order:

THE STAND

Let’s begin with the book that everyone will demand I include. Stephen King’s The Stand is a classic, and for good reason. Few books are as epic, and the amount of characters to connect with is astonishing. Everyone has their favourites like Stu or Nick, but the bad guys are equally as appealing and in many ways are grey of morality than outright black. What I love is that nearly everyone gets a character arc. No one is static and they all change (for better or worse). The book begins with a devastating plague, but the true theme of the book is simple: Human Conflict. Goddamn you, Harold.

“First came the days of the plague…
After the days of the plague came the dreams.
Dark dreams that warned of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads. The warlord of the charnel house and Prince of Evil.
His time is at hand. His empire grows in the west and the Apocalypse looms…”

Continue Reading →

Should you self-publish in 2016?




Should you self-publish in 2016?

Yes, so long as you set realistic expectations. Wanting too much too fast will deflate your passion quicker than a monkey in your underwear drawer (I have no idea what that means).

So, what is my story of self-publishing? In early 2011 I was in my 5th or 6th year of being a mobile phone salesman in a shop. For the last few years, I had flittered between companies and into and out of management positions (I was never any good at cracking the whip). I was constantly stressed and miserable–mostly because I loathed what I did. Everyday, I grew more and more irritable with the public, and a little bit lazier with my efforts to sell to them. Every morning, I wanted to cry rather than go in and face another day. And don’t even get me started on the immoral area managers who expected results at any cost (Simon Little I am calling you out, bitch!) and felt it was right to treat staff like dirt. Phones4U went bust a couple of years ago and I can’t say I wasn’t a little pleased to see such a dishonest company fall. By that time I was already earning a shit load of cash doing what I love. Charlie, I was winning! Continue Reading →