Sunday, July 19, 2015

Making Redacted Text in Your E-Book

A recent post in the Boards Writer’s CafĂ© asked:

“In my novel I have a scene where the characters find a document that has redacted passages and phrases, like in the movies. Couldn’t find any font or trick in Microsoft Word that could achieve this effect. Any ideas?”

You can do it in Word and have it work well… if you then convert your file correctly before you upload to KDP.

First, you need to use Word’s Text Highlight Color command. One of the color choices on that palette is Black. It’s designed to be used over white- or light-colored text, but, in this case, you want it over black text so nothing readable shows up. In the spot where you want the redacted text, you could place a series of “words” into your story that are actually bunches of XXX XX XXXXX XXX XXXXXX. Then highlight them with solid Black. If you try to just use blank spaces it probably won’t work. Kindle devices usually truncate multiple blank spaces down to one space. You need to use actual letters instead.

The one conversion method that always works for me is to use Calibre to convert your Word file to an EPUB file (not a MOBI file). Upload that EPUB to KDP and the highlights are retained. That solid Black redacted text should work on any Kindle device or app. The XXX words will also mask the redacted text from any viewers that happen to use the “Night” setting on their device and their device happens to make the highlights disappear, though that shouldn’t happen. I have always had my highlights work with this method, even in “Night” mode.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Non-Justified Text on Kindle Devices

Recently there was a post on the Kindle Formatting Forum where the Original Poster complained, as many people have done over the years, about Kindle devices and apps insisting upon always justifying body text. In fact one response to the post said exactly that:

“Obviously all Kindles and apps display justified body text and always have.”

Well, that’s not really true. It’s just what most people have accepted because they didn’t know how to write the correct code. Kindles have always—or at least as long as I have known them—displayed pretty much exactly what your HTML code says to display, at least as far as justification goes. If you want to have ragged-right body text, all you have to do is say so.

I have posted several examples of roughly the same place in my forthcoming book, Kindle Formatting for Smart People, to show how this ragged-right formatting works correctly on a variety of Kindle displays.

Kindle Previewer Fire simulation:

Kindle Previewer E-Ink simulation:

Kindle Keyboard screenshot:

Kindle HD 6 screen shot:

Kindle for Mac screen shot:

Exactly how to do this, I’ll cover in another post, but you can see that it really does work, so don’t let any of the so-called formatting “experts” insist to you that it can’t be done.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Text Character Drawing

There was a post on the KDP Formatting Forum recently that asked if it was possible to draw a figure composed of text characters and have it display correctly on the e-book page. This would be sort of like the printouts that you used to see for sale at shopping malls and county fairs, where they would take a video photo of your child and then print it out on a black ink printer using alphanumeric characters as the image pixels.

The Original Poster was told that the only way that it could be done, and display correctly across all e-book devices, would be to include it as an image of some kind: GIF or whatever.

This is not true, as I show below. This example is from a Fire HD 6 but it is the same as what showed in iBooks on my desktop Mac.

Click on the image to enlarge.

If I get time, I may discuss how to do this, though, frankly, there's not much call for it and it takes a bit of work.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Zombies As Literature

I, ZOMBIE by Hugh Howey
A review

There are conventions that are common to each type of monster story: vampires suck blood, werewolves grow hair, and zombies are mindless, out-of-control creatures whose only thoughts—if they can be said to have any at all—are to kill and eat living people.

But what if zombies were not exactly like that… mindless, I mean. What if a zombie’s brain was a still-functioning, still-thinking organ trapped within a body that it couldn’t control, a body that obeyed its own primal instincts (and, yes, hungers) irrespective of what that body’s conscious mind wanted it to do.

The mind, the consciousness, the *person* within that shuffling hulk would be forced to watch as that body stalked, killed, and ate anyone in its path—friend, foe, or family alike—all the while screaming silently in horror, disgust, and despair at its own inability to prevent the inevitable.

This is the affliction that Hugh Howey gives us in his novel I, ZOMBIE, and it is a monstrous affliction, indeed!

Mr. Howey is a truly talented writer. That is not to say that I, or anyone, would like everything that he writes, but he is, without a doubt, one of our greatest living storytellers. As he puts down his well-chosen words he places you, the reader, firmly within the story that has created, whether you want to be there or not, whether you are comfortable with what you are experiencing or not, and he doesn’t let you leave until he’s damn good and ready.

I, ZOMBIE is a long, thorough, and well-thought-out examination of what it would be like to be a zombie of that aforementioned type: a mindful brain within a mindless body. The book’s tone, its emphasis on character more than on action, its examination of the motivations of those characters rather than merely the mayhem that they cause, all serve to drag this book, kicking and screaming, out of the usual mash of genre trash and into the lofty legions of—dare I say it—the literary novel.

It is a lonely loft, that of the literary zombie novel. Mr. Howey’s book is one of only two of which I am aware, the other being ZONE ONE by the Pulitzer-nominated, MacArthur-Fellowship-winning novelist Colson Whitehead. The fact that Mr. Howey’s zombie novel has not received the same attention from the same mainstream publications that Mr. Whitehead’s book has (those being the likes of Esquire and The New York Times) is, I believe, not because of any perceived difference in the quality of the writing. I have read both books and, to my mind, there is none. There is, however, a distinct difference in point of view—that of the survivors in Mr. Whitehead’s novel, that of the monsters in Mr. Howey’s—and that difference makes all the difference. It’s bad enough to be living through a zombie apocalypse, even vicariously as the reader of a book. To experience it as one of its perpetrators, however unwilling that perpetrator might be, will undoubtedly be just too much for some.

Which brings me to this: I, ZOMBIE is not an easy novel to read. That is to say: it is not a comfortable book, even of its kind. But it is, without a doubt, one of the most intelligently written zombie novels to be found anywhere.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


As of May 1, 2013, I am out of the formatting-for-hire business. (For those of you not familiar with the above acronym, O.O.B. means “out of business.”)

From now on the only e-books that I will be formatting are my own, and I’m almost finished with a revision of Anyone Can Make a Kindle Book (present owners will be able to get the revision for free), which is still the best book out there for PC users to make their Kindle books.

I say “PC users” specifically because I’m also finishing up (though it’s taking longer than I planned) my book about using the program called Pages (made by Apple and available for Macintosh computers and also for the iPad) to quickly and easily format both Kindle and EPUB books… even more quickly and easily than the method that I wrote about in Anyone Can Make a Kindle Book. The title of the new book is Easiest Ebooks Ever! I discovered the new method a short while ago, it works great, and anyone with a Macintosh should use Pages with my book to format all of their books. I’ll let you know when it’s finished and available for sale.
I also have a whole bunch of my own fiction just crying to be finished and put out there, so that’s where I will be concentrating my efforts from now on.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Well, I was wrong.

A while back, I thought that if I offered a basic, simple, cut-rate formatting service that I would increase my business and help out some cash-strapped writers.

It didn’t work.

My business increased, all right, but what I got were clients who don’t understand how ebooks and reading devices work. They were used to paper books, where one can say: “I want this to look exactly like this, and that to look exactly like that.”

Ebooks don’t work like that. And I don’t have the time to spend two weeks on one book going back-and-forth with one client who doesn’t understand the amount of work involved.

So, I’m going back to my original price of $99.00.

At that price you won’t get cut-rate work. You won’t get a special deal. You won’t get only the basic service. You will get the best that I can do for you.

And if you want extras—like drop caps and floating images—I can do those for you, too. They will cost you a little extra, but I can do them and do them well.

In fact, I think that I offer the best ebook formatting service anywhere, especially at a base price of $99.00 with a money-back guarantee.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How To Load An Ebook File To A Reader Device

Being able to manually load a MOBI or EPUB file onto your ebook reader device is handy for a couple of reasons: it gives you a way to test a book before publishing it, and it allows you to read a book that you may have acquired outside of the normal retail channels (by purchasing it from an author’s web site for example).

I recently had to answer this question for one of my clients in Germany, so I decided to expand upon it a little and post it here for everyone. He has a Kindle device in particular, and wanted to test his book before publishing it to KDP, but the process is also similar for most recent dedicated ebook readers that accept EPUB files (Nook, Kobo, etc.) though you should double-check your particular device’s instructions sheet for it’s specific procedure.

Having an actual reader device is the very best way to test the formatted file that will become your ebook. It’s a good idea to give it a preliminary test—before publishing it, not after—so you can catch any mistakes that a reader of your book might object to. If your particular publishing service allows you to upload your book in something other than the finished MOBI or EPUB format (as a Microsoft Word DOC file, for example, or as an HTML file), it is especially important to check your converted book before the final publishing, since you need to know (before your customers do) what the converting computers have done to your book.

This is most important in the case of Amazon because of its extensive and complicated conversion process. I can’t stress enough that it’s especially important to test your Kindle book by downloading it back to your computer, after you have had Amazon’s KDP computers convert it but before final publishing, so you can have another very close look at it. Don’t just look at it online. Download it back to your computer.

The uploading of a file from your computer to your device is a fairly simple process, though it is specific:

1.) Use the device’s USB cable to plug it into your computer.
2.) After a moment, it will show up somewhere on your computer as an external hard drive or a jump drive or something like that.
3.) Charge up the device if it needs it. [If you are charging it for the first time, or after a long period of non-use, this charging session may take several hours.]
4.) Leave it plugged in. [One note here: never just unplug your device from the cable, or the cable from the computer, without ejecting the device from the computer first; you could scramble the device’s memory chips or the information that’s already on the device. Sometimes the damage is permanent, so don’t do it. Always eject it first.]
5.) On your computer, treat the device like an external drive, i.e., select it and open it so you can see what’s in it.
6.) You should see a list of folders/directories.
7.) One of them should be named something like “documents.”
8.) Open it.
9.) Now drag the formatted file from your computer to the “documents” folder.
10.) Wait a few seconds for the device to assimilate the file into its memory. [I wait about 15 seconds. Ebook reader devices do not work as fast as personal computers, so it takes them a little longer to do stuff, and there may not be any indication on the device’s screen that anything is happening.]
11.) Eject the device from the computer screen, wait a few seconds more for the device to get itself all re-set again, and then unplug the USB cable from the device.
12.) In a few more seconds the device will re-organize all of its files, and your file will show up in the list of books. It will be at the top of the list if you have your books sorted on your device by “Most Recent First” or something similar.
13.) Open your book, page through it, check all of the sections including the Table of Contents, and see if the book looks and works the way that you expect. If not, make notes about what needs to be fixed.
14.) To remove that file, go to the screen on the device that lists the books that are on it (on my Kindle Keyboard that screen is called “Home”), select that book, and delete it.
15.) Then, fix your manuscript, re-format it into an ebook file again, and try this all again.
16.) When it looks the way that you want on your device, continue with the publishing process.

I hope that this helps. If you have a question that I have not answered here, leave me a comment and I’ll try to clear it up.