Google’s Auto-Narrated Audiobooks

Finally, after years and years of not trying, I have got my books onto Google Books.

After doing so, I had an interesting offer: be a part of their beta for auto-narrated audiobooks. Auto-narration means that a modern day Microsoft Sam reads to you, entirely failing to understand nuance and emotion, but randomly being pitch perfect when you least expect it. Usually when he has to swear.

Given the number of people who have recently asked me if I have audiobooks available because they can’t read for various reasons, such as dyslexia (it’s three – three people asked), and the currently-prohibitive expense of flesh and blood narrators, I thought I might as well give it a go with book one, Shadow of the Wraith. The result isn’t terrible, bar for the inability of the platform to let me control the length of pauses or use any kind of emphasis. I quite enjoyed listening to it, even if the content itself did make me acutely aware that I wrote most of it when I was twelve and thirteen.

The partially robotic delivery certainly won’t be for some people, and I obviously intend to eventually make real audiobooks – probably after Hollywood gives me an advance for the Avengers-style film series it wants me to write and direct – but hopefully this will allow some people who are interested in the book, but can’t read it, to enjoy it.

Listen to a sample here.

Meanwhile, Shadow of the Wraith is currently free as a clever/crafty way to try to get more sales for the better other books. Find your version of choice here.

How to Write a Book: The End

We’ve done the preparation, the writing, the editing, and you feel like you’ve reached the peak of a mountain. Now it’s time to turn around and see the next peak looming over you.

Remember, as with everything that has come in part 1 and part 2, everything I mention here needs its own in-depth research.



Perhaps you were writing only for yourself, or your friends and family, or because an alien parasite crawled into your head and made you. In these cases, you may not be interested in publication of any kind. However, even in such cases, you may still want to have a professional-looking book to give to said friends or family, or even to have sitting on your shelf where no one will ever see it but you. And the parasite.

– Which Road?

Will you be taking the traditional route to publication, via an agent and publisher, or will you be self-publishing? Again, this is an entire article’s worth of debate and discussion. Self-publication doesn’t have the same stigma as it used to and is not the easy route, or the one you only take after you’ve repeatedly failed to secure an agent and/or publisher.

Each route has it’s own pros and cons, and you should consider both properly and thoroughly. If you intend to go the traditional route, the next section is irrelevant to you.

– Ebook vs. Paperback

At this point, I’m sure you’ll have done some research…right? You’ll know the kind of prices you’re looking at for paperbacks/hardbacks and ebooks, which is more popular and from where, and which is best for first-time authors. I won’t try to steer you away from either, but I will say that whether you want a hardcopy version or not, you should do an ebook.

E-Book or Print

On the customer’s side of an ebook, they are usually cheaper, meaning people will be more likely to take the risk on an author they’ve never heard of. They are also more likely to buy it on a whim, just to have things loaded on their e-reader; fewer people do this with physical books.

On the author’s side, ebooks cost nothing but a percentage of every sale. Paperbacks cost quite a bit, depending on what source you use, and thus usually need to be sold at higher prices than paperbacks or hardbacks normally would.

Createspace and Lulu are probably the most popular destinations for those wanting physical copies of their book. On the surface, it seems free, but you’ll need to pay for a proof copy before you publish. That’s not really a big deal, although the price to you is usually the same as you would pay for an actual published book.

This leads into the main downside to services such as these. Because they charge so much for print on demand, you will have to up the sale price considerably to even make a tiny profit. I had to up the price of the paperback version of Temple of the Sixth to $14.84 (and £9.99) in order to be making $0.05 through the Expanded Distribution (i.e. channels other than Amazon and Createspace itself). Let’s be honest: that’s a little too much for a paperback.

For Shadow of the Wraith, I now use Lightning Source. They are a little different to the aforementioned places, and require a small annual fee. This fee means that the cost of actually printing a copy of the book is lowered, and I’m able to sell it for £7.99. Bearing in mind that this book is just under 130,000 words, that’s a lot more reasonable.

The percentage of sales I get from the physical versions of the books is so low as to be practically non-existent. Due to this, I made Acts of Violence ebook only. It’s a lot more popular when it comes to unknown authors.

– Cover

Despite the saying, your book will be judged by its cover. If you are taking the traditional route, this will be taken care of by other people.

If you are self-publishing, don’t make the same mistake that so many self-published authors make, and create the cover yourself. Unless you are a very talented graphic designer, the results are likely to be catastrophic. And the worst thing is, you probably won’t even realise.

I can genuinely say that I could count on one hand the number of good author-made book covers I’ve seen. You might think that the content is far more important than the cover – and it is – but if your cover looks cheap, unprofessional, and lazy, it will reflect badly on you and the book. Many, many people will not make it past the cover if this is the case.

Of course, just because someone is a professional doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a good cover. There are professional cover designers out there, but be wary that they aren’t just people who know that a book cover needs a picture, the title, and the author’s name, and so decide that they’ll call themselves a professional. Make sure to look at their previous cover designs. I’ve seen so-called professional covers that are simply horrendous Photoshop jobs too.

Kira cover

Another thing to know is that being artistic and being able to put together a book cover are not the same thing. That said, simply finding an artist may work for you. If you do it this way, the thing to remember is the size ratio. The largest size I have my ebook covers in is 1400×1867 (pixels), and that’s for uploading to Smashwords. Your artist will almost certainly work in a large size anyway, but make sure they know that it’s for a book cover and so needs to be large (the artist made the image for Kira’s cover 2400×3200, which gives me plenty of room to work with), and that it needs to be a certain ratio. If you want, just tell them the minimum size you need (as above, with Smashwords) and ask them to work on it at double that size.

Be aware, too, that ratios will be slightly different for different places. The ratio for KDP is different to Smashwords is different to the paperback. So to be sure, try to know in advance all the sizes you’ll need and tell the artist so he/she can incorporate bleeds (i.e. they’ll make sure the image reaches the limits of the largest size, while the important parts are placed so that they won’t be cut off in the smallest).

If it’s a paperback, you’ll need a back cover and spine as well. Createspace will have a cover template that shows not only the size the image should be, but where the spine text goes, etc. Even if you’re not using Createspace, if the company you are using doesn’t have such a template (although they should), then steal it from Createspace!

Obviously, I’m biased, but I think this method of finding an artist to do the cover art has worked well for me. They create the art based on my (probably overly-) detailed descriptions, and then when they give the me the finished work, I put on the text. Again, you should have at least a basic knowledge of design before you put the text on, or you may end up ruining a perfectly good piece of artwork. I created the plaque for Kira’s cover, and put the text in as though it were engraved, but I did it too small. It looks good on the A3 poster I have on the wall behind me, but you can’t make out the title in thumbnails, and my name is too small even in larger sizes.

– Formatting

Not hugely important if it’s going to sit on your computer, or be printed out on A4 pages and stapled together, but otherwise this is vital. It’s all different depending on whether you are going for paperback (or hardback) or ebook format.

If this is for an agent or publisher, they will likely have their own requirements for formatting. Usually, it should be double-spaced and in a certain font size. Tailor it to their requirements. For self-publishing, continue reading.


If you’re formatting for a physical copy, most of what you’ll need to do is obvious: centre the title, author name, and copyright details; set the title, author name, and chapter headings to larger font size and maybe bold; indent paragraphs (but not the first paragraph after a break); set everything to a good, readable font and size; set out paragraphs correctly (again, indented and with no spaces between them for fiction, vice versa for non-fiction); set justified alignment.

Then the printer will have their own requirements. Usually, you will be able to download a template if you really want to, otherwise you can simply set the margins, paper size, etc. to what they tell you.

Formatting for an ebook is both easier and more difficult. Easier because there’s pretty much no design decisions for you to make. More difficult because it’s a more in-depth process.

If you are self-publishing with Smashwords, you’re in luck, because I’ve already written a guide to formatting for that site. I recommend that you do use Smashwords, but I’ll say more about that later.

For Amazon, you should preferably know HTML, as you can make the ebook look exactly how you want it, and ensure there are no formatting issues or glitches (other than by human error). Otherwise, you can simply upload a Word document to the Kindle Direct Publishing platform and it will automatically convert it for you. While this method does seem to be pretty well done, I personally prefer to the peace of mind that comes with knowing I put in something that couldn’t be screwed up by an automated process.

While writing this, I have decided to write a guide to formatting via HTML for Kindle (if you want the guide, let me know in the comments so that I’ll be enthused!), but until then, just follow Amazon’s directions and then go through the converted file with a fine-tooth comb to ensure there are no issues.

EDIT: I have now written the KDP guide!

– Proofreading

Again, this is unnecessary for those travelling the traditional publication route, as the publisher will deal with this and editing.

Proofreading comes after a professional editor goes over your work and makes you cry. They are the last stop before the book goes to print, and the last hope for errors to be eradicated like the vermin they are. They are unsung heroes.

Incidentally, I’m about to start my proofreading business


First, know the difference between a copy-editor and a proofreader, as you don’t want to be paying for something that you’re not going to get. For example, fact-checking is not up to the proofreader. If you claim King Henry IX had six wives, then that’s your error. Granted, in such an obvious case, the proofreader may spot it, and probably won’t ignore it, but don’t expect fact-checking.

If you’re self-publishing – which you are if you’ve read this far – there’s a good chance you won’t be able to afford an editor and a proofreader. Proofreaders are, although fairly-priced, quite expensive, and editors even more so. All the more reason to learn the difference before deciding which you need.

Most self-published authors tend to go for a proofreader. This may be the price difference, or ego, or perhaps enough work is put into their own editing that a proofreader is more cost-effective. The choice is yours, as always.

One thing I will say, though: don’t go to publication without having an editing professional of some kind go through it. For an average length novel, I would say aim for £600-700 and start saving a little bit every week even before you’ve started writing. Unless you have a money tree. Or a good job.

– Finding An Agent

Harder than writing your work of art is finding an agent for it. You will, of course, need an agent who represents the genre that you’ve written in. This has varying degrees of difficulty depending on said genre. When I was looking for an agent for Shadow of the Wraith, it was quite difficult to find agents who represented sci-fi, were taking submissions, and weren’t looking only for hard sci-fi or YA sci-fi.

Don’t be afraid to query the agency if you’re unsure. They might list sci-fi but not fantasy, and while the chances are that means they don’t accept fantasy, the two are usually pushed together so it’s reasonable to ask. But don’t ask an agent who lists only children’s books if they’ll accept your anthology of erotica short stories, or one who lists only romance if they’ll accept your dark fantasy Game of Thrones killer.

Literary Agent

As usual, a good place to start is the internet. You can find lists of literary agents such as this one, which is for UK agents. There’s not a lot of point trying to get an agent who isn’t based in your country, so search for ‘literary agents [country]’.

Next, follow the submission guidelines for the agents very closely; don’t assume that simply getting in contact is sufficient, or that every agency’s policies are the same. If an agency lists on their website an agent dedicated to your genre, address your submission to that person (unless otherwise directed), using their name in the cover letter.

NOTE: Before you send anything to anyone, take a copy of your work – be it printed, on CD, or on a flash drive – and post it to yourself. Then don’t open it when it arrives. This way, you’ll be able to prove (with the sealed, dated envelope) that the work is yours, should the need ever arise. Which it probably won’t.

Generally, you will need the following:

  1. A cover/query letter – this basically states the genre, the word count, a brief outline (the blurb should suffice), and perhaps anything unique about the book. DO NOT write one cover letter and send it to every agency – address the agent by name if you know it, and if possible, make a mention of something about the agency (without being contrived) that shows you’re not just using the spray-and-pray method.
  2. The synopsis – this is a more detailed outline of the book. It is notoriously difficult to write a synopsis, but read some samples and a few guides on how to write them and it won’t be too much of a challenge. Don’t be afraid to give away plot twists in the synopsis, as much as you want to keep them close to your chest. A synopsis is usually between one and two A4 pages (the agency may specify a length).
  3. The manuscript. Not all of it, of course. Usually, they will ask for around 2-3 chapters or 30-50 pages. By this, they mean the first chapters or pages – and they usually clearly specify that too – so don’t try to pick out the best 50 pages in your book. Make sure it is in the specified format (usually Word, sometimes PDF, or simply posted).

Again, follow the individual agency’s directions closely. Don’t email the manuscript to them if they say postal submissions only, don’t Tweet them your pitch, etc. Do only what they say, or you will annoy them and make yourself seem unprofessional. Not to mention if you show that you can’t read and follow simple directions, why would they want to work with you?

It will be helpful to set up some kind of document to keep track of what agencies you have submitted to, when, who has responded, who has rejected, etc. You will probably be submitting to quite a few agencies and you don’t want to accidentally do so twice.


You will be getting a lot of rejections, unless you’re very lucky or have insane, never-before-seen talent. Don’t forget that a lot of agents will have interns or whatever who look at the submissions before any actual agent does, and it might not even get past them. Cruel and unfair, but reality. Also, plenty of agents have to confer with their colleagues even after they decide they like a manuscript, so the final rejection may come after long deliberation. Just look for lists of how many times famous authors were rejected, and you might feel a bit better.

You’ll have come across the warnings in your RESEARCH, but make sure you don’t waste any time with an agent (or publisher) who wants you to pay them for anything. At best this will turn out to simply be vanity publishing (where your books will get printed out and then sit in a warehouse doing nothing), or at worst it will be a scam. Real agents will only ever make their money as a percentage of what you earn.

– Finding A Publisher

This will be taken care of by your agent, once you have secured one. While actually getting an agent is a very big step, getting a publisher will be equally difficult and stressful. But at least your agent will be doing the work for you.

There are some publishers – indie ones – who will accept submissions directly from authors, in the same way as an agent. One problem with these is that their funds will be limited, and you will end up doing a lot of work to market and get your book into bookshops and so on. On the other hand, authors are having to be more involved in that with bigger publishers these days anyway. And an indie publisher will have the enthusiasm to do the best they can for you; they won’t be foolish enough to be in it for the money!

The bigger downside is that this is the area where most scammers operate. They will pose as indie publishers, waiting for naïve, hopeful first-time authors to walk into their trap, thinking that they’ll cut out the middleman and keep more royalties. Again, though, if there is any mention at any time of you paying the publisher for anything, you know to walk away. Which means not signing anything until the entire process and obligations of both parties are down in writing. Make sure to read that writing very carefully, and if you don’t understand anything, get professional help to read it (asking the publisher what it means kind of defeats the point).

But genuine indie publishers do exist; I’m friends with one on Facebook.

– Where To Self-Publish

If this is the route you decide, there are multiple platforms for self-publishing. To name just a few:

Buy from Smashwords

As I mentioned, I use Lightning Source and Createspace for the paperbacks, Lulu for a hardback, and KDP and Smashwords for the ebooks. I looked into Feed-a-Read and found it to be too expensive, and the same goes for Lulu – although the special edition hardback of Shadow of the Wraith is for sale, I really only went that route for myself.

In the future, I will only use Lightning Source for paperbacks, as Createspace is expensive and has pretty poor service. If you decide to publish in paperback, do plenty of research into who does what. You’ll want to know where they distribute to, and if it costs extra to distribute beyond their own marketplace (Createspace only recently made it free to distribute to outlets beyond it’s parent, Amazon, even though in reality this means simply listing the book title with those outlets, not shipping physical books to them).

When it comes to ebooks, I don’t think there’s any need to look beyond Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and Smashwords. Obviously you’ll want your book available on Amazon, for Kindle. The way to go about this is directly publishing with them. As I mentioned, I will at some point write a guide to properly formatting your book for KDP with HTML, but until then, just follow their directions.

You will be hassled at first about enrolling the book into KDP Select. This requires you to give Amazon exclusivity for 90 days, meaning you can’t publish the ebook anywhere else. Again, research it. I enrolled Shadow of the Wraith into Select, and got a lot out of it. I was able to set the book to free for up to five days within those three months, and a lot of real sales came out of that. However, when I did the same with Acts of Violence, I think something had changed. The free days yielded no real sales at all. I can’t be sure, but I think when I first did it, the book’s rank remained high for a while after it was free, allowing it to be seen more. But the second time round, the rank disappeared the moment it went back to normal price, meaning it didn’t have any extra exposure. I won’t bother with it again. It’s only 90 days, though, so perhaps you’ll decide it’s worth a try.

After KDP, really the only other place you need to go is Smashwords. There are others, but Smashwords pretty much covers everywhere you’ll want your book to be sold, including Apple iTunes/iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. It will also be distributed to three companies that sell to libraries, a handful of places you’ve probably never heard of, and will be sold on Smashwords itself. It will also turn up in places you don’t expect, like Waterstones and so on.

So, in short, publish with KDP and Smashwords.

– Advertise

Don’t sit back and expect the book to start selling by itself. Inform those writing groups and whatnot that you’ve been in contact with, use Facebook and Twitter (learn to use hash tags properly), find other websites to join and utilise, such as creating an author profile on Goodreads.


Forums are good places to go, if you are going to participate in conversations, and not use them solely for advertising. There are two Kindle-specific forums that I use occasionally: Kindle Users Forum (UK) and KBoards (US). Each have some small downsides, such as restriction of threads and posts about your own work, but if you use them right, you’ll see a spike in sales.

As with everything else, research. The advertising part is a process almost as in-depth as the rest, and there is no sure-fire way to success. There are places to get free press releases, review bloggers to get you well-written reviews, and plenty of other things you won’t think of if you haven’t researched.



Or more likely, don’t. Receive a trickle of money, if you’re lucky. Either way, keep advertising and keep writing.


The Indie Author Manifesto

The Indie Author Manifesto, by Mark Coker

The Indie Author Manifesto, by Mark Coker

This is fairly self-evident. Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, has created this manifesto of what it means to be an indie author. The original post can be found here.

Anatomy of a Book Cover

As usual, a slightly misleading title. I’m not going to share my theories of what makes the perfect book cover. I’m going to share my process of getting a book cover. Because I don’t have anything better to do.

Step Uno

The first thing I do is think what I want the cover to be. Quite an obvious step.

Shadow of the Wraith, Kindle coverPaperback cover

For Shadow of the Wraith, I decided I wanted a stark space scene, with the almost-titular ship looming over a planet featured at the end of the book. I later decided that I wanted a different cover for the e-book version (I don’t really remember why). I decided that one should be slightly more informative, so I decided that it should show the ship heading towards an Earth-like planet (Orion), having just cut straight through another ship. I thought/hoped that would give an idea of the threat before people even read the blurb.

Temple of the Sixth Cover

For Temple of the Sixth, I wanted an image of the titular character (the Sixth) standing at the mouth of her ‘temple’, seemingly oblivious of the predatory animals stalking her. She had to be looking out at an eclipse. From within, a thin stream of blood was to trickle out. The first part was a scene from the start of the book, and the blood and eclipse were references to the supposed End of Days omens that start appearing halfway through the book. The blood stream ended up looking more like a crack in the ground though.

Kira Cover

For Kira, the cover seemed obvious to me. The ‘camera’, as it were, was to be looking down a street in the city. Cold, dark, scary. The end of the street was to open into a stark desert, with nothing in sight. In between the two, I wanted Kira, as though stuck between two worlds, both equally unwelcoming. She had to be looking out towards the desert, where her future was. But it’s bleak, empty, nothing on the horizon. Above, the sky was to be dark and stormy.

Wyrd Worlds Cover

Wyrd Worlds is a sci-fi and fantasy anthology by several authors. To be completely honest, I wasn’t fond of any of the covers other authors were putting forward, so I created my own. It’s very difficult to put together something that portrays both sci-fi and fantasy at the same time, and I think the others were trying to hard to accomplish that, so I decided on something that didn’t try. Something fairly plain that also clearly showed that it was an anthology. The books putter-togetherer created a poll and mine was voted the cover to be used.

Acts of Violence Cover

Acts of Violence was different to all the others. I had to work at it! For the others, the cover presented itself to me easily, but for AoV I couldn’t decide. I had a few ideas, mostly comprising rain and darkness. Eventually I decided on a scene from the book. I thought that having the main character, Jack Mason, sitting in a diner, staring across the road at a club, gun on the table, would convey some sense of what the book contained. It would be the small, subtle things that would make the difference.

Step Zwei

Now, my second step is simply emailing the artist to see if he’s available to do the cover. But I had to find the artist first.

For Shadow of the Wraith, that wasn’t too hard. I did the cover myself. Then I decided to have a different one for the e-book, so I had to find a proper artist. My first (and only) stop was deviantART. deviantART is full of artists of all kinds and degrees of skill. There are amateur photographers all the way through to professional oil painters selling their work for thousands. Quite a lot of concept artists for games and films have their work on there.

First, I trawled through page after page of art to find artists whose work I liked. Then I would send them a message to ask if they were interested in doing a commission, and if so how much they would charge. Most said no, or were too expensive.

Secondly, I went to the forums, where there is a specific section set aside for advertising your project to find an artist. I got a number of responses there, including one from Mark Williams. I told him some more about what I wanted, and he thought he could do it and quoted me a good price for it.

Since it was the first time, I wrote up a brief contract to specify what work was being done and how much I was to pay him and who had what rights and so on. I don’t do that any more, but it’s probably a good idea the first time you work with someone.

Kira came next, and Mark was unable to complete it, so a friend of a friend (Cui Yuan) did the cover for me. His style is just right for what I want in my covers, so I stuck with him for Temple of the Sixth too. He was unable to do Acts of Violence, so I went back to Mark for that. The picture of Juni was drawn by Mark too, as an apology for having to stop halfway through doing Kira’s cover.

Steppe The Third

Now comes the tricky bit: working with the artist. Artists are fond of doing their own thing, and it can be difficult to get them to do your thing! You have to find a balance between cementing the important parts of the cover, and leaving the artist to their creativity and freedom with the rest.

The first thing I do is put together a very rough and ridiculous looking example of the basic layout. Thankfully, I’ve deleted those from my computer, so I can’t show you. Then I write as detailed a description as I can, including quotes from the book/s if it’s a scene, or involves a character.

Temple of the Sixth Rough Draft

By Cui Yuan

Next, the artist does up a rough example of his own, to show me what his vision of the cover is. Sometimes, I draw a little bit over it to show what changes I want. Then it’s a process of more and more alterations and slightly more detailed previews until the whole layout and ‘camera’ angle and sizes and so on are correct.

The artist then puts in full detail and colours and shadows. Then it’s a matter of going back and forth to sort out little details.

Step Chetyri

Once we are both happy that the artist has finished, he sends me the full-size image (and I pay). Then I make my own little alterations to it. These may range from simply inserting the title and my name, to changing colours and the like. I have not yet employed the services of someone who can create the title and its font for me. So far, basic and fairly plain fonts have suited the covers well enough.

And that’s about it. Below, I’ll post some images from the process of each cover (though I don’t seem to have the process images from the e-book version of SOTW).

I always recommend against people doing their own covers (mildly hypocritical), as I have yet to see more than a handful of covers that the author has done themselves that are actually decent. People DO judge books by their covers, and it will always be the first thing they see of the book. It needs to look professional. Searching the internet for some stock images and shoving them together in MS Paint will not achieve this. That’s not to say that getting a good artist will result in a good, professional cover. Book cover design is an art in itself, in a way. But I’ve also seen a good deal of covers created by so-called professional cover designers that aren’t much better than those stock image ones I mentioned. So you simply have to shop about and make sure you see plenty of previous work by the person.

Hopefully this was helpful, or at least vaguely interesting.

Shadow of the Wraith – Me (E-book version by Mark Williams)

My first idea for SOTW

My first idea for SOTW

Second try

Second try

Hardback Cover

Hardback Cover

Paperback Cover

Paperback Cover

Temple of the Sixth – Cui Yuan

Cui Yuan, Coloured Update

Cui Yuan, Coloured Update

Coloured and Shaded

Coloured and Shaded

Final Version

Final Version

Kira – Cui Yuan

Cui Yuan, WIP 1

Cui Yuan, WIP 1

Yuan's Final Version

Yuan’s Final Version

My Final Version

My Final Version

Wyrd Worlds – Me

Original Idea

Original Idea

Wyrd Worlds Final

Wyrd Worlds Final

Acts of Violence – Mark Williams

I started this one myself before I knew the title. It was more to waste some time than a realistic effort to make a cover.

Rough Attempt 1

Rough Attempt 1

Rough Attempt 2

Rough Attempt 2

Rough Attempt 3

Rough Attempt 3

Rough Attempt 4

Rough Attempt 4

Then I contacted a professional.

Mark Williams, First Sketch

Mark Williams, First Sketch

First Update

First Update

Mark's Finished Version

Mark’s Finished Version

My Finished Version

My Finished Version

All Authors Blog Blitz

Today, I am hosting an author interview as part of an ‘All Authors Blog Blitz’, started on Goodreads. My own will be hosted by Patti Lavell. My guest is Max E. Stone, a thriller writer. So…here he is, I guess (just pretend there’s trumpets and things):

Let’s start with the obvious: tell us about your book, August To Life.

“August to Life” is the story of three families—the Warrens, the Bennetts, and the Johnsons—unwittingly and reluctantly thrown together by their children which forces them to deal with the secrets they’ve buried for years. And that’s just the beginning.

What led you to write in this genre? Would you consider venturing into other genres, and if so, which?

I’ve always enjoyed reading fiction and writing it is no exception. It’s an escape for me and gives me an opportunity to create something new. For instance, “August to Life” was the result of a series of traumatic incidents during my junior and senior high school years. During that time, escaping through fiction writing was all I really had to keep me sane. As far as other genre’s I would like to at some point do paranormal and maybe children’s books.

Thriller and mystery works seem to me some of the hardest fiction to write, with all the interconnecting threads and so on. How do you go about it?

You’re right. It’s not an easy genre at all because there are so many different threads of storyline that you have to clearly connect to create this yarn of one interwoven story and then you have to show the audience how its all connected. It took me years of practice with writing prompts, reading, agent rejection letters, and the like to have an idea of how to do it and even now, I learn something new every time I pick up a book by another author.

What kind of challenges did you come across in bringing this book to life?

Writing in a way that scared me was one of the most challenging aspects of bringing this to life. My mom, one of the smartest people and biggest book lovers I know, taught me that. I always let her read my drafts. I let her read the first draft of “August to Life” and she commented on how dialogue should go with the character at least in the context of the moment. From then on, I had to make sure I said what my character said, regardless of my feelings.

Another challenge was publishing. I didn’t know much about the self-publishing industry or publishing in general, which is another place my mother shined. She found all these details and information about publishing with Amazon and Smashwords. It helped me to get my voice heard so thanks mom 🙂

What lessons have you learned so far from your writing?

One lesson I learned was not to be afraid to be me. Sometimes what works for someone else may not work for you. For example, Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder were just two people who changed the face of music simply by doing what they did best: being themselves. My writing role model is Quentin Tarantino. He’s not afraid to say what needs to be said the way it needs to be said. His structure and dialogue is phenomenal.

If you knew everything you know now about writing, what, if anything, would you go back and do differently?

There are a few things, but mainly I would definitely read more of a wider range of authors both in and outside of fiction to see their different styles and tactics of reaching an audience and telling a story.

I’m pretty sure it was Elmore Leonard that said (but don’t quote me) that writer’s block is just another term for lazy. What do you think of that? Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?

Well, I’ve never really considered it before. I have suffered from writer’s block before so I would have to both agree and disagree. You’re never truly blocked just because you don’t know where to go. Sometimes you just need to write or talk it out to get back on track.

Lastly, tell us anything else you want us to know: coming projects, tips, interesting facts about yourself… Anything.

“August to Life” is part of a series so you’ll be seeing more of the Warrens, the Bennetts, and Johnsons. The second in the series “The Bleeding” is a hard core thriller that goes into why one character is what he is and what he is planning next (if anything.) It will be available September 2013 and I will be posting updates and changes on twitter on my pages at @maxestone and @maxestonebooks as well as my blog “The Coloured Blog” on Tumblr at

August to Life

‘Around, Around, and Around they go. Where the blood stops?…Who knows?’

August to Life is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US now.

The Place For Ebooks

I thought I’d make a quick post to plug a blog by John Harold McCoy, author of The Absence of Harry.

John has put (and still is putting) together a list of self-published books available on Amazon. I’ve read some of these and I know for myself that some of the writing from the listed authors is extremely good. And of course my own book, Shadow of the Wraith, is listed, so I have to share!

Have a look at the list and see what takes your fancy: The Place For Ebooks.

Smashwords Formatting Guide

Ok, it’s not a clever title, but that’s what it is. Quite a lot of people seem to have trouble with formatting their ebooks for Smashwords, so I am writing this guide. It isn’t exhaustive, but it details everything I’ve done for both of my novels and my short story, so I know it works (feel free to check this outrageous claim for yourself by downloading my works here…)! And I want to make it as simple and easy to follow as possible.

Because I was asked, I have made this post into a PDF, too. It’s not great, as I just saved this web page and edited it a little. But here it is (right click the link and ‘Save As’):

Smashwords Formatting Guide

For introducing me to Notepad++ and for simplifying the table of contents process, I’d like to thank Paul Salvette.

A disclaimer of sorts: I’d like to note that I will be assuming you are formatting a novel. I don’t know about the formatting of non-fiction, or how it differs. So if that is what you are doing, it will be up to you to know how it differs, and make those changes to the guide (it’s not difficult – just change the styles accordingly). Also, it’s always a good idea if you have, or can borrow, some kind of e-reader to test the finished product on to ensure everything looks the way you want it to look. Lastly, this is only a basic-formatting guide – I’ll tell you how to have italics, bold, underlined, images, but nothing particularly fancy. If you want fancy, this guide can still be your base, but you’ll need to find out the rest elsewhere! The more fancy you get, the less I can guarantee it’ll pass the Meatgrinder, though.

Apologies for the rough red circles round things in some screenshots – I don’t have a tablet or a mouse, and using the laptop’s trackpad to draw circles isn’t easy.

NOTE: Some screenshots here of Word will be very slightly different to what you see, because I used a new document for most of it, and didn’t save as a Word 97-2003 document (which you have to do), which minutely changes the layout of some menus. By minutely, I mean that I may say something is on the left of the toolbar, but you’ll see it on the right. Nothing more major than that.

What We’ll be Doing:

What we’re doing here is known as the ‘nuclear option’. It means getting rid of every last bit of formatting, and starting again, basically. Smashwords’ Meatgrinder (their converter) isn’t all that fantastic. It’s not Smashwords’ fault – there’s a lot of different formats for it to convert your manuscript into, so the more messy it is, the harder Meatgrinder finds it to get everything right. This guide will get you into the Premium Catalogue, making your ebook available from lots of websites, such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBookstore, etc.

Basically, all we’re doing is cleaning up the Word document so that it will pass the Meatgrinder and Autovetter. So you’ve probably spent ages making your manuscript look pretty with different formatting, but unfortunately, all that has to go. The less formatting, the lower the chances Meatgrinder will mess things up for you.

NOTE: I will be using quotes around things you need to type in order to make it clearer. Please don’t be a fool and type the quotes too! I will also try to put anything you need to click on in bold. Hopefully that will help too. Click the screenshots for a larger image if you need to compare with what you’re seeing.

What You Will Need:

  1. Microsoft Word (I’m using 2007)
  2. Notepad++ – you can other text editors, but I’ll be showing you how to get rid of everything you don’t want with this one. It’s free here

Special Characters:

To make your work look nicer, you’ll want that nice curved speech marks and proper dashes and ellipses and so on. Word should automatically do this as you go. Skip this section if you already have these, otherwise:

  1. Click the big yellow button in the top left, then Word Options at the bottom of the drop down list
  2. Click Proofing and then AutoCorrect Options
  3. In both the tabs Autoformat and Autoformat as You Type, uncheck all boxes except ‘Straight Quotes with Smart Quotes’ and ‘Hyphens with Dash’. NOTE: If you have Ordinals or Fractions, check them too, but I haven’t used either, so I can’t guarantee it will work

Click OK until you get back to your manuscript. Now we’ll use Find and Replace. NOTE: It’s very important that you change the em dashes BEFORE the en dashes, otherwise you will lose the former.

  1. Press Ctrl+H to bring up the Find and Replace window.
  2. Find: ” and Replace: ” (double quotes will now automatically be changed to the nice curved ones)
  3. Find: ‘ and Replace: ‘
  4. Find: ‘–‘ and Replace: ‘^+’ (This creates an em dash)
  5. Find: ‘-‘ and Replace: ‘^=’ (This creates an en dash. Remember to do this second!)
  6. Find: ‘…’ and Replace: ‘…’ (In Find, type three full stops (periods). In Replace, press either Ctrl+Alt+. or Alt Gr+. for a proper ellipsis)

Now check your manuscript to ensure the changes have taken effect.

Intelligent Layout:

With Smashwords, potential readers can read a sample of your work. With that in mind, it may be advisable to make the story itself available as close to the front as possible so they won’t feel cheated (and because they want to know what the story is like, not who you want to thank). That said, it’s advisable to make the Table of Contents (if you have one) easy to get to for the a reader who actually has the book. Being at the front rather than the back is the more obvious thing, although if it is the very last thing in the book then they need simply select ‘Go To End’ to get to it. In short, aside from the title and copyright pages, it’s up to you what order you put things.

This is the order I’ve gone with:

  • Title
  • Copyright
  • Table of Contents (also known as NCX)
  • Author’s Note (I have a number of special characters in the book which won’t show on some e-readers, so because I can’t make a file for each file type, I took them all out. I need the reader to know this right away, and to apologise if I missed any!)
  • The story itself
  • About the author
  • Anything else you want to put in

This might be frowned upon by some, since the potential reader will have to skip though all that to start reading, but it’s how I did it…so there. Also, because of the way my ‘chapters’ are done, I only have about three or four entries in the TOC. Others may be multiple pages on their own, in which case putting it last may be the best choice. As I said, it’s up to you.

Another thing worth noting about the TOC is that it is optional. Kind of. Most places will accept the book without one – Smashwords itself certainly will, and it will be put in the Premium Catalogue without one. However, my second novel was rejected by Apple due to not having a TOC. This confuses me, because my first novel didn’t have one either. Apparently they changed their requirements soon after, or some such. So in short, I’d recommend putting in a TOC. If you have abnormal chaptering like I do, you could try putting ‘Title, Table of Contents, Author’s Note, Story Begins’ or something of the like.

At this point in the process, don’t bother with actual links for the TOC. Just the text itself for now.

NOTE: It is essential that ‘Smashwords Edition’ be added to your copyright page. If it is not, it will be rejected. A simple copyright page is fine, and it can even be a part of the title page if you want. Simply putting ‘Copyright 2013 [Your Name]’ is sufficient. I went a bit further with this:

Copyright © 2012 Ross Harrison
Cover copyright © 2012 Ross Harrison
Cover design by Mark Williams
Smashwords Edition
The right of Ross Harrison to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents act 1988.
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.

It is unnecessary, but it’s what I wanted to put in!

Preserve Your Thick Slanty Stuff:

The nuclear option will remove all formatting. That means your italic, bold and underlined text will become normal text. So here is how to preserve those. This is only for body text, so remove these from headings first, as they’ll be done separately later. There’s a small annoyance with this method. Take italics for example. If you had a word in italic, but then you deleted it, or decided to remove the italics, there’s likely a blank space that is still italic. It’s tedious, but the way I do it, is to search through the document to ensure only the text is italic. No random white space italicized. If you want to do this, the best way is to press Ctrl+F, click in the Find box, and then press Ctrl+I so that beneath the box it says ‘Font: Italic’. Click Find Next. Then click Cancel and use Ctrl+Page UP/Page Down to cycle through the italicized text, removing any white space. You may decide this is unnecessary, but I like to be as clean and tidy as possible.

Next, press Ctrl+H to bring up the Find and Replace window. During the following, you can either do each manually to ensure precision, or you can click Replace All. If you do the latter, I recommend taking italics, bold and underline off headings. If you do the former, then simply skip them. Remember not to type the quotes in the following!

  • In the Find box, press Ctrl+I so that it says ‘Font: Italic’ beneath. Leave this box empty and go to Replace. Type something like ‘II^&II’
  • In the Find box, press Ctrl+U so that it says ‘Underline’ beneath. Leave empty and go to Replace. Type ‘UU^&UU’
  • In the Find box, press Ctrl+B so that it says ‘Font: Bold’ beneath. Leave empty and go to Replace. Type ‘BB^&BB’

Preserve italics

Preserve italics

The reason I say ‘something like’ is that it’s the ‘^&’ that’s important. It simply refers to whatever is in the Find box. In this case, it’s simply whatever font formatting you have chosen. So now your italics will have ‘II’ on either side, and ‘UU’ and ‘BB’ respectively for underlined and bold. So ‘Bring back Firefly!‘ will now say ‘IIBring back Firefly!II‘. As you’ve guessed, we’ll do something similar after the nuclear option to reverse that. You can change ‘II’, ‘UU’ and ‘BB’ to whatever you want. It could say ‘JamesEarlJones’ and so long as you have the ^& in the middle, it will work.

Going Nuclear:

Now we have everything preserved and laid out correctly, it’s time for the nuclear option. This removes every last bit of formatting and hidden crap from your manuscript.

  1. Open Notepad++ and create a new file if necessary
  2. In Word, press Ctrl+A to select everything. Then Ctrl+C to copy it
  3. In Notepad++ press Ctrl+V to paste in your manuscript

Notepad++ with rough text

Notepad++ with rough text

Now it will look a bit of a mess. Every paragraph should be on a single line. Everything will be the same size and there will be no italics, bold or underline. There will also be a lot of white space. So let’s get rid of it:

  1. Press Ctrl+F and click on the Replace tab. Click ‘Extended’ under ‘Search Mode’ at the bottom. In the Find box, type ‘\t’ and leave the Replace box blank (make sure there isn’t a space in there by default). Click Replace All. This deletes tabs
  2. In the Find box, now type ‘\n\r’ and again leave the Replace box blank. Click Replace All. This deletes blank lines. NOTE: You may need to perform this step last
  3. In the Find box, type ‘ ‘ (two spaces) and in the Replace box type ‘ ‘ (one blank space). Click Replace All. This removes any double spaces. Close the Find and Replace box
  4. Click Edit -> Blank Operations -> Trim Leading and Trailing Spaces. This will delete space before and after paragraphs

Now your work will look equally confusing, but less messy. There should be no blank lines at all. The title line should be immediately followed by the copyright line followed by whatever comes next, with NO BLANK LINES between. Check the document over for white space that shouldn’t be there.

Deleting Blank Lines

Deleting Blank Lines

Trimming Blank Space

Trimming Blank Space

Cleaned Up Text

Cleaned Up Text

Back To Word:

Now we can take that cleaned up text back into Word. Before you do so, create a new file and check that the AutoFormatting options you choose at the start are still the same. In other words, only the opens about dashes and quotation marks should be checked. Also make sure ‘Replace Text as You Type’ is deselected, under the tab AutoCorrect.

Next, check your page layout. Margins should be ‘Normal’. That is ‘Top: 1″, Bottom: 1″, Left: 1″, Right: 1″‘. Ensure that the style selected is ‘Normal’ and that there are no Headers or Footers.

IMPORTANT: Save your document as a Word 97-2003 document (.doc). Firstly, this is what Smashwords accepts. Secondly (and less importantly), as I mentioned earlier, doing so slightly changes menus, so it’s best to do it now before you get confused.

Style 'Normal'

Style ‘Normal’

Margins 1 inch

Margins 1″

Now, in Notepad++, press Ctrl+A to select everything, and Ctrl+C to copy it. Go to your new Word document and press Ctrl+V to paste it all in. It won’t look anything like you want it too, but it does look how it’s meant to, for now. Resist the urge to start clicking things and putting in tabs, etc. We will do all that shortly.

Restoring Your Thick Slanty Stuff:

So now we’ll use special codey type things to undo what we did earlier with the italics, bold and underlines. We need to tell the find and replace utility that it needs to replace any text with ‘II’ tags with only that text, italicized. We’ll that like this:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the find and replace window. Click More. Check the box Use Wildcards
  2. In the Replace box, type ‘\2’. This will be the same for all three.
  3. Now press Ctrl+I so that it says ‘Font: Italic’ under the Replace box. In the find box, type ‘(II)(*)(II)’. Press Replace All
  4. Go back to the Replace box and press Ctrl+I until nothing is written under the box. Now press Ctrl+B until it says ‘Font: Bold’ underneath
  5. In the Find box, replace the ‘II’ with ‘BB’. Press Replace All
  6. In the Replace box, press Ctrl+B until there’s nothing written under it. Now press Ctrl+U until it says ‘Underline’ beneath the box
  7. Surprise, surprise, you now need to replace the ‘BB’ in the Find box with ‘UU’. Press Replace All

Restoring Underline

Restoring Underline

Now all your italics, bolds and underlines should have been restored. Basically what we did with all that was tell it to find any text with ‘II’, ‘BB’ or ‘UU’ on either side and replace the whole thing with whatever that text is, and make it italic, bold or underlined, respectively. Check your manuscript to ensure it has worked properly.

A Note About Styles:

We’re all used to using the toolbar at the top of Word to change font size and type, and underline, and justification and so on. But that isn’t how we’ll be doing it for Smashwords, or else it might not make it through the Meatgrinder. We’ll be defining Styles. We’ll also be keeping it simple so as to make sure that it doesn’t get spat back out of the Meatgrinder either badly converted, or telling you to do it again. As I said, I’m using Word 2007. Anyone using a different version may not be able to follow the steps as easily, but the same process applies. If this is the case, then you should just Google how to find and edit your styles.

The other thing I wanted to note is that this may cause some issues if you have to come back to it. I mentioned earlier how the TOC/NCX is optional. Well, I didn’t use one for either of my novels. Apple allowed the first one through, but rejected the second because it didn’t have one. So I went back into my Smashwords .doc file to insert one. I found that Word had helpfully got rid of most of the styles I had created for it. This doesn’t seem to happen to everyone, and even when I checked the file for my short story, the styles were all still there, so hopefully it won’t be a problem for you. But, just to be safe, I strongly recommend that from this point, you continue straight through to the end of your file creation without quitting Word. It probably won’t be an issue, and can be fairly easily rectified (it’s mostly time consuming), but it’s best to be safe.

Defining Your Headers

This style will be applied to your title as well as your chapter headings (and other headings such as About the Author, etc). We will base it on the existing style Heading 2, as recommended by the Smashwords Style Guide.

This is how we define the style:

  1. In the Styles section of the toolbar, there is a darker strip at the bottom. At the end of that strip is a little arrow. Click this for a new box titled ‘Styles’ to pop up
  2. Hover your mouse over ‘Heading 2’ and an arrow will appear for a drop down box. Click it
  3. Click ‘Modify…’
  4. Make the following changes under the ‘Formatting’ heading (some may already be set):
    • Font: Times New Roman
    • Font size: 14pt (Smashwords’ Style Guide recommends no larger than 16pt)
    • Bold (and underlined, if you wish)
    • Colour: Automatic (which is black)
    • Align: Centre
  5. In the bottom left, click Format > Paragraph
  6. In the ‘Indents and Spacing’ tab, make the following adjustments:
    • Indentation – Left: 0″, Right: 0″
    • Special – (none), By: leave blank
    • Spacing – Before: 14pt, After: 14pt
    • Line Spacing – Single, At: leave blank
  7. Click OK
  8. You can leave the style’s name as ‘Heading 2’ if you want, or you can change it to something more personalised, such as ‘My Headings’
  9. Click OK

Style Box

Style Box

Modifying Heading 2

Modifying Heading 2

Paragraph Options

Paragraph Options

That’s the first style defined. Not hard. I actually created two Heading 2 styles, as I wanted my title to be slightly larger than the chapter headings, and I wanted those to be left aligned, not centred. If you want to do the same, then in the ‘Styles’ box from step 1, go right to the bottom and click on the left button showing two ‘A’s with what appears to be a little sun behind them. Then select ‘Heading 2’ beside ‘Style Based On’, give it an obvious name (like ‘My Title’) and then change your font size. We’ll be doing other styles by this method, so if that confused you, leave it until later.

Page Breaks:

I’m putting this right after the headings style because we’ll edit that style for this, but I’m making it separate to ensure it doesn’t get buried in a mess of instructions. Apparently, simply pressing Ctrl+Enter will create a page break (i.e. force a new page) and will still get you through the Meatgrinder. You can do that if you want, but I like to make it a built in part of my heading style to make certain it works they way I want. NOTE: The guide I cited earlier says that the Meatgrinder gives the Ctrl+Enter method ‘erroneous errors’.

So if you’re not going to use the Ctrl+Enter method, do this:

  1. Click the little arrow in the styles section again to bring up the Styles box. Go again to ‘Heading 2’ (or whatever you have renamed it) and bring down the drop down menu. Click Modify…
  2. Again, click Format > Paragraph
  3. This time, go to the Line and Page Breaks tab
  4. Under the ‘Pagination’ heading, check the box ‘Page Break Before’
  5. Click OK and then OK again

This does not affect the first page, so if you apply this style to your title, it won’t give you a blank page before it. But from then on, it will put your Heading 2 text on a new page.

Defining A Centred Style:

You may not need this, in which case, skip this section. You can use this style for the asterisks used for section breaks. Also apply it to the series name and author name on the title page, and copyright information.

Remember that I said not to set anything using the toolbar, so we need to define an entire style for centred text.

  1. Click on the little arrow in the style section again.
  2. Go to the bottom of the resulting styles box and click on the left hand button showing two ‘A’s with what looks like a sun behind them. If you hover the mouse over it, the tooltip will say ‘New Style’
  3. Now make these changes, where needed:
    • Give it a name, such as Centred (simply putting ‘My’ before any name will make sure you won’t get confused about whether or not it’s one you created
    • Style Type: Paragraph
    • Style Based On: Normal
    • Font: Times New Roman
    • Font Size: 12pt
    • Colour: Automatic
    • Alignment: Centre
  4. Now go to Format > Paragraph
  5. Under the Indents and Spacing tab, make the following changes:
    • Indentation – Left: 0″, Right: 0″
    • Special – (None), By: leave blank
    • Spacing – Before: 10pt, After: 10pt
    • Line Spacing – Single, At: leave blank
  6. Click OK and OK again

Creating A New Style

Creating A New Style

The one problem with this style is if you have a separate page for copyright information. Some people put it on the title page, but I have it separate. That means I have to create another style, identical to this one, but with the same ‘Page Break Before’ option as we did for the headings.

Defining Your Main Text Style:

Now, the first line after any kind of break should not be indented. This means that we’ll need to create two styles: one for the first paragraph of each section and one for the rest of the text.

  1. Click on the little arrow to bring up the Styles box
  2. Go to ‘Normal’, bring down the drop down menu and select Modify…
  3. Make these changes:
    • Rename to something like ‘First Paragraph’
    • Font: Times New Roman
    • Font Size: 12pt
    • Colour: Automatic
    • Alignment: Left (not Justified)
  4. Now go to Format > Paragraph
  5. In the Indents and Spacing tab, make these changes:
    • Indentation – Left: 0″, Right: 0″
    • Special – (none), By: leave blank
    • Spacing – Before: 0pt, After: 0pt
    • Line Spacing – Single, At: leave blank
  6. Click OK and then OK again

Creating A First Paragraph Style

Creating A First Paragraph Style

That’s the style you’ll apply to the first paragraph of every chapter and after every break. For the rest of the text, do this:

  1. Click on the little arrow to bring up the Styles box, then create a new style with the left hand button at the bottom
  2. Rename this style something like ‘Main Text’
  3. Style Type: Paragraph
  4. Style Based On: Normal
  5. Set the rest of the options the same as we did in the previous style, with one difference:
    • Under the Indents and Spacing tab, go to the ‘Indentation’ heading
    • Special – First Line, By: 0.25″
  6. Click OK and then OK again

Style For Main Paragraphs

Style For Main Paragraphs

You now have a second style, almost identical to the last, except that the first line of every paragraph will be indented. You’ll apply this to every paragraph from the second of every section to the last.

Applying Your Styles:

Now it’s time to apply all these styles you’ve created. Remember to be careful not to slip into the familiar use of the toolbar at the top to change fonts and so on. Only do this through styles. Also remember to use only the styles that you have created/modified. You can create as many as you want, but the more fancy you make them, the less I can guarantee the manuscript will make it through the Meatgrinder.

NOTE: A helpful thing to know/remember is that if you want to force your text onto a new line, you can use Shift+Enter. For example, I set my copyright style to make a page break before, so that it wouldn’t be on the title page. That meant, however, that each line was on a separate page. That was easily fixed by deleting the line break I’d created by pressing Enter the first time I wrote it, and instead pressing Shift+Enter. On the surface, it appears to do the same thing, but when I apply my style to the whole of the copyright information this time, it all stays on the one page.

These are the styles I used for the different parts of my own books:

  • Title: A slightly larged fonted version of Heading 2 (which I imaginatively named ‘My Title’)
  • Author and series name (directly under the title): Centred
  • Copyright information: A style identical to ‘Centred’, but with a page break before
  • Author’s Note: Main Text
  • Chapter headings: Heading 2
  • First paragraph of every section (in new chapters and after section breaks): First Paragraph
  • All other paragraphs: Main Text
  • Section breaks: Centred

This is pretty time consuming, but take your time and make sure everything looks the way you want it to.

Table of Contents (NCX):

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that there is a problem with Apple when you use the name ‘Prologue’ for a bookmark. For months, Apple rejected one of my novels until another writer told me this was sometimes an issue. This wasn’t an issue with anything else I’ve uploaded, so I assume they’ve changed something. So don’t name any bookmarks ‘prologue’ – just use ‘start’ or something.

Supposedly, Smashwords generates a NCX itself based on what you applied the Heading 2 style to. It did not do this for any of my three works, but it occurs to me as I type that this may be because I renamed the style. But it doesn’t matter because apparently, it’s a bit unreliable.

I’ll point out here that the NCX is the Smashwords table of contents, rather than your own table of contents, but I’ve shoved the terms together in case you’re looking for the term NCX.

According to the blog cited earlier, the .mobi file has a problem with doing the Table of Contents the way we’ll be doing it. It works fine, but when a link is used from the ToC, the chapter heading is put into the ‘normal’ style. It’s not a big problem, so it’s up to you. Either put up with that little problem, or don’t put in a ToC and have your book rejected by Apple.

So you should already have in the text for the Table of Contents (title page included). I’ll show you what my ToC looks like. As I said before, I have abnormal chaptering: the ToC would have been far too long, and it would have made no sense to anyone. A Smashwords member of staff suggested that I make a very simple one, like this:

Very Simple ToC

Very Simple ToC

Like I said, very simple, but acceptable to Apple. So once you’ve got the text of your ToC laid out, do the following:

  1. Apply the style Heading 2 (or whatever you’ve renamed it as) to the heading
  2. Go to the first place your ToC will link to (the title)
  3. Click somewhere in the title text and then go up to the Insert tab, then in the ‘Links’ section, about halfway across the toolbar, click Bookmark (If you’re not using Word 2007 or later, then you just go to Insert > Bookmark…
  4. Check the box Hidden Bookmarks at the bottom of the new window. Delete anything that is there. If this is already checked, I recommend unchecking it, and checking it again just to be sure
  5. Name your bookmark. It could be anything, but I named them to correspond to whatever was in the ToC text (‘Title’, in this case)
  6. Click Add
  7. Do the same for everywhere the ToC points to
  8. Go to the ToC text
  9. Highlight the first entry (‘Title’, presumably)
  10. Press Ctrl+K to bring up the Insert Hyperlink window
  11. On the left hand side, click Place In This Document
  12. In the central box, you’ll see your bookmarks. Select the corresponding one and click OK
  13. Repeat for every entry in the ToC

Inserting Bookmarks

Inserting Bookmarks

Ctrl+K To Insert Hyperlinks

Ctrl+K To Insert Hyperlinks

You can now test that the ToC entries all link to the correct place by holding Ctrl and clicking on each one.

NOTE: If for any reason you want external hyperlinks, perhaps to somwhere where all of your books can be purchased, use the same Ctrl+K method, except that you’ll click on Existing File or Webpage
on the far left, and simply type in the address at the bottom (the full address, including ‘http://‘). If it is an email address, type ‘mailto:’ followed by the address.

Adding Images

The last thing this guide will cover is adding images to your file. Generally, fiction won’t have any images, but perhaps you’ve written an epic fantasy tome and need a detailed map of the realm/s inserted. Or a photo for the About the Author page. NOTE: Bear in mind that there is no need to add your cover, as it will automatically be put into the front of the file the reader downloads. Also bear in mind that most e-readers are black and white.

For photographs, use JPEG (.jpg) format. For anything else, use PNG. The last time I checked, these were the only formats Smashwords accepts. Also last I checked, Smashwords does not allow for text wrapping.

  1. Click the Insert tab, and then click on Picture
  2. Select your image and click Insert
  3. Select your image and apply one of the styles we created earlier to it (it doesn’t matter which, but it must have one of these applied)
  4. Adjust your image to get the right size, etc
  5. With the image still selected, go to the Format tab and click on Text Wrapping
  6. Make sure it says ‘In Line With Text’, or the Meatgrinder will reject it
  7. Arrange your image and text so that it looks presentable despite the flaw of being unable to wrap text

Inserting An Image

Inserting An Image

Adjusting and (not) Wrapping

Adjusting and (not) Wrapping

Now, something else to consider with images is size. Smashwords allows a limit of 5mb for images in the file. That isn’t much for an image. The example I used in the screenshots is just over 1mb. So we need to compress the image.

Note that if you have not saved your document as a Word 97-2003 document, what you see when you click ‘Compress Pictures’ will be different. But you should have done that right at the start, so it’s your own fault!

  1. With your image still selected, go to the top left of the Format tab and click Compress Pictures
  2. Set the following:
    • All Pictures in Document
    • Web/Screen
    • Check the box ‘Compress Pictures’
    • Check the box ‘Delete Cropped Areas Of Pictures’
  3. Click OK

Compressing Images

Compressing Images

And that is that. If you have any questions, or think I’ve missed anything, leave a comment. I hope this has helped!

Long Time No Somethingorother…

I’ve been moving stuff for nearly two weeks, and not doing much else, so I’ve had very little to blog about. Not that I blog much anyway. But I thought I should update a bit.

At the weekend, I took up another shipment of books to Waterstones. The manager had me sign them all. That’s the first time I’ve ever used my little squiggly combination of the R and H! Although it was quite small… I’ll get used to it. We’re also trying to organise getting the books into more Waterstones branches. Which will be good.

The small amount of writing I have done has been all over the place. I was reading through what I already have of my third NEXUS novel when I got the urge to start…a noir. I’m not sure where that came from. Well, I think the urge started when I was playing Max Payne 3, ages ago. But now I have five chapters and 12,000 words of it done. At the moment, it is set in the same universe as the NEXUS novels, but not a part of that series. I don’t know at the moment whether to keep it like that, or bring it back to more modern times. We’ll see.

So, I will finally get back to writing more of the (semi-)noir today, and I’ll continue to go through the third NEXUS novel, and the short story I was writing ages ago. Maybe I’ll finish one of them at some point.

Also, I despise Skype. It’s garbage. Microsoft deserves a slap in the face with a very heavy glove for forcing me to use it.

Witty & Clever Christmassy Title

Yes, my post titles are getting worse.

I think ten days was enough of a break. Now that Temple of the Sixth is out, I have started work on the third novel of the NEXUS series – with the working title of Rise of the Fallen. Yes, it appears every NEXUS title will be something of the something. Given that title, fans of the series may already be able to guess something about the storyline. As I mentioned in my last interview with Mary of Zigzag Timeline, the protagonist/s in this novel will probably not be expected.

I’m happy to be getting back to proper writing. Temple of the Sixth was actually written before I’d even started proper edits Shadow of the Wraith, so it wasn’t very fun to go straight from the gruelling edits of SotW to more editing on TotS (I really shouldn’t abbreviate that one; ‘TOTS’ just sounds ridiculous).

Granted, I did take some time out from editing to write Kira, which was entirely from scratch. That was written for someone else though, really, and so didn’t have the same feeling to it as writing the NEXUS novels does. I have been asked repeatedly if and when I’ll be going back to Kira’s world, by the by, and yes I will, but I don’t know when.

I have about 30,000 words of Fallen already written, I admit, but I changed so much throughout the first two novels, and had ideas of what needed changing in this one, that I have a huge amount to redo. At present, I’m just reading what I already have, with the odd edit, just to remember exactly what’s going on. I’m six (A4) pages in and enjoying it. So that’s a good start.

I have no idea when Fallen will be completed, let alone when it will be available, but it will give you all enough time to become familiar with the universe in Shadow of the Wraith and Temple of the Sixth! And you might even have some time left over to see what Kira’s up to.

Until my next post at an unforeseeable point of time in the future, near or far, Merry and/or Happy steal from the Pagans and give to the Christians and then lie through your teeth about it.

Temple of the Sixth

The second book in the NEXUS science fantasy series is now available! I might even give a second exclamation mark to it -> !

Presently it is available for Kindle on Amazon (UK and US) and for all other E-formats on Smashwords. Over the coming days, it will become available in e-formats from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Sony and Apple’s iBookstore. It will also, very soon, be available in paperback.

Don’t worry if you haven’t read the first book of the series – this is standalone. You don’t need to have read Shadow of the Wraith first, but if you have, you’ll get a little bit more out of it!

Keep an eye on the reviews page, as there are at least two review blogs preparing to post their reviews soon.

So lastly, here’s the cover and the blurb:

Temple of the Sixth Cover

When omens of the End Times appear across the galaxy, it signals the start of a war between two immortal forces – the Celestians and the Hierarchy. The Hierarchy have learnt and adapted since they last waged war, forcing the Celestians to enlist the aid of mortals to free a kidnapped god.

Thardriik Jhunassi Kortlyn III – Theak – was a private detective. For a day. Then came the incident with the dead puppy and the inevitable end of his crime-fighting career. Despite his flaws, Theak is a clear choice for the Celestians, and he is drawn into the centre of a battle that will decide the fate of the galaxy.

Time is something the Celestians’ heroes do not have as the Hierarchy’s infection spreads across countless worlds, bending every living creature to their will. With the heroes’ every step bringing them closer towards one final battle, there is only one question: can they defeat an ancient and immortal enemy?