Friday, December 04, 2015

Adventures in Scrivener and ePub

I want to publish mobi filles in order to direct publish reprints to Amazon. 

I use Scrivener to produce my stories.  

Scrivener is a compiler: it takes bits of a story or book and compiles the pictures and text into a finished work. Depending on settings, I can choose to format finished work into chapters or sections.   Normally, I output stories as RTF files in standard McIntyre SFWA short story format, but in this case I'll want to change the output to mobi.

I open up a story in Scrivener.  In this case, I originally wrote the story with some other word processing tool, so I copy the text into a new Scrivener file.  Scrivener uses text blocks and folders to organize words.  Typically, each scene gets its own text block, and text blocks are gathered into folders.  The hierarchy of folders is used to organize story chapters, if any.

I have to break my story apart so the scenes are formatted properly; I manually search for the hash marks that separate my story into three scenes.  This breaks my story into three text blocks, which live in the main Story folder.  

Now I'm ready to compile.  I hit the COMPILE button and the familiar compile dialog box comes up.  Normally, I compile for RTF, so I change that option to ePub.  The normal Compilation Options on the left-hand side of the dialog box change to some new things.

First I chose the contents option.  I don't need need the First Page Header because I don't want to publish my contact information and other information only an editor would want.  

Under the separators option, I realize that instead of the usual hash-tag for separating scenes, I want to use a fleuron ❦  The Unicode standard calls them "floral hearts." I paste one into the Custom text box for the text separator.  Hmm, I might want to use a section sign, § but it's not as pretty.

Under the Cover option, I realize, oh yeah, cover.  I'll need a 500 pixel by 800 pixel cover.  I'm going to skip the cover for a moment; it looks like I can drag and drop a picture.

Onto the Formatting option!  Ooops, Scrivener wants to make my short story a book with chapter titles.  There's settings for each section type: folder, text block collections, and text blocks.  When I click on the folder, I see Scrivener wants to start each folder with a chapter heading and a title.  Since this is a short story, I'm thinking I might want to keep the title, but get rid of the chapter heading....and I can only remove the title.  I think the solution here is to unselect folders in the Contents option above (so now only the text blocks for each scene in the story are selected for compilation).

I click on the Level 1+ icon document, which controls the look of the text.  There's a "Section Layout" button I click on and I find a setting "Number of words to make uppercase" when starting a new section.  I select "Use small caps" and choose to make the first 3 words uppercase.

I'm running out of time, so I jump ahead to the Layout option and unselect "Generate HTML table of contents" because this is a short story.

There's a Meta-Data option, and I'm sure I should add things, but mostly I want to check out what the formatting is going to do, so I hit the COMPILE button.

To keep things organized on my computer, I save the mobi file to a folder within my Manuscripts folder called "epub", to reduce the chances later in the year that I'll grab the wrong compiled version of my short story.

Now I want to see what the story looks like, so I go over to https://kdp.amazon.com/bookshelf  I click on the web page's "Create New Title" button.  This takes me to a new page where I can enter in information about the book.  Of particular interest is the "book description" which would be either a story excerpt or a blurb, or at the very least a short teaser telling a potential buyer what the story is about. Oh, keywords, like fantasy... and Digital Rights Management (DRM), I'll leave that off for now, but I might want to enable it to allow for more sharing.  

At the very end is a button called "Book contents file," which I press.  A dialog box comes up asking me for my e-copy of the story, and I navigate to the epub folder I created on my computer.  The page thinks to itself for a moment, and the status of the manuscript is displayed.  The conversion from mobi on my computer to Amazon's Kindle format appears to have worked, and there's no obvious spelling errors.  Now I can preview...

Since I haven't saved a book cover, and I didn't include any front matter, my book jumps right into the story.  The first three words are in smallcaps, which is what I asked Scrivener to do.  On a third pass, I notice that only the first section of the story starts with smallcaps, which I suppose isn't so bad, but I did want each section to start the same way.  

Oops.  I didn't tell Scrivener to convert double-dashes (slush-pile format)  into em-dashes (finished format); I'll have to do some other conversions for ellipses and italics.  But oh!  The fleurons ❦ work!  Now of course, since this is a Winter Solstice tale, I'm wondering if I could use a snowflake ❄ instead of a fleuron.  Hmmm.  There's an extra blank space in the text, I'll have to go back to Scrivener and see if there's an errant carriage return.  And there's no ending symbol, this might be a good place for a a section sign,§ 

NCX view?  I don't know what NCX means, and it displays an inappropriate working name for one of my sections; I'll have to see why the Kindle previewer is slurping up just one section name.  

Hey!  I can preview on different devices.  Uh oh! Trouble in paradise; the fleurons don't work on iPad devices. Or a Kindle DX.  Bother!  It looks like more errant carriage returns are showing up.  I'm done for the moment, so I follow a link back to my Kindle bookshelf.  My book is still in draft format, and I can come back to it later.

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