Monday, August 8, 2016

Adding Monospaced Text to Your E-Book

Recently, on the Writers' Cafe forum, a person asked about making a character's text messages in an e-book display differently from the running text. 

They wanted the text messages to show up as Courier or something like it. They usually use Microsoft Word to create their manuscripts and Jutoh to make their e-books.

Actually, there is an easy way to do this that few people seem to know about.

In Word, there are at least 5 Styles that you can use to accomplish what you want. However, they only appear in the Style list if you ask Word to show “All Styles.”

They are:

• HTML Code

• HTML Keyboard

• HTML Preformatted

• HTML Sample

• HTML Typewriter

You can use one of these for your text messages in your Word file, adjust the indent to what you want, then do a Save as Web Page... to change the Word file to HTML code. On Windows machines, you use the “Filtered” choice of that web page save. On Macs, you use the “Save only display information” choice.

Then, you have to use some sort of conversion engine to make that HTML file into an e-book, either MOBI or EPUB. I use Calibre. (Jutoh may work but I don't use it so I don't know for sure.) I do know that, using Calibre, all of those HTML Styles in Word get converted into your e-book correctly.

I think that HTML Sample is the best because it shows up slightly larger than the others, but all of them end up in your e-book as a monospaced Courier-type font.

Monday, June 6, 2016

I’m not perfect, but…

(This is a bit of a rant.)

As a writer, I have just one set of tools to use in my work: my words and the language in which they are found.

Which words I choose, how they’re used, how they’re assembled, how they’re combined, which rules I adhere to slavishly, which rules I deliberately bend or even break…. These are the tools that I have—that any writer has—to use to surround a reader with the story and entice them inside. When that happens, when that siren song is successful, a reader can become totally submerged in the story, so much so that they never want to leave.

So it bothers me to stumble across the sloppiness of other people. When I, as a reader myself, want to be submerged but I’m brought up short by someone else’s carelessness. It could be the author, the editor, the typesetter, the I-don’t-know-whom, but SOMEBODY has goofed up, and it throws me right out of the book!

I’ll give you just two examples.

“[the hedgehog] was very prickly and riddled with flees.”
The Mermaid Garden by Santa Montefiore, published by Simon & Schuster, 2011
No, the hedgehog was “riddled with fleas.”

“The boat moved with a nauseous, relentless rhythm.”
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, published by Amulet Books, 2016
No, the boat itself wasn’t feeling sick (“nauseous”); it was causing sickness in its passengers (“a nauseating, relentless rhythm.”)

Things like this bother me because all of the people involved get paid—and get paid real money—to do their jobs correctly. And it’s not like they are being asked to design a skyscraper or pilot a cruise ship. This is not (to use two very overused clich├ęs) “brain surgery” or “rocket science.” They accept their jobs with the understanding that they can and will perform those jobs well. And then a lot of money is spent creating and publishing a book. (One source says that the total cost of publishing the first printing of a typical hardback book can be as high as $250,000.) And then, for as long as physical copies of that book continue to exist in the world—for multiple decades—the mistakes that are in it are out there, confirming just how lazy or ignorant someone was who was supposed to help make that book look good, but also—and even worse—spreading that ignorance to other people, people who believe, rightly or wrongly, that what a person reads in print has to be correct. This is especially bothersome for things like the “nauseous, nauseating” example, above, since that mistake is in a Young Adult book, and now tens of thousands of young people can go through the world forever misusing those terms with confidence.

It makes me very angry and very sad at the same time, and I have to ask: Doesn’t anybody read these things before they’re published? I don’t mean merely cast their eye over them; I mean actually read them.