Transform Your Manuscript into an eBook Ready to be Sold

 

To create an eBook is tricky. It’s tough to do it the first time, but it gets easier with experience and practice, and finally, it becomes a snap to do it.

I’ll dissect the process of creating an eBook from a manuscript to a finished eBook with EPUB, PDF and Mobi versions.

All the tools used to create an eBook with this guide are free and available for download. They work with the manuscript in HTML form, but no HTML knowledge is required.

 

1 — The Manuscript

If you want to create an eBook with minimal hassle, the ideal is to begin writing it (and keep writing it until finished) directly in a text processor that is compatible with Microsoft Word. Preferably one that can export EPUB, the new industry standard for documents of reading material. In these edition programs there's an option to enable formatting marks.

To see the formatting makes all the difference. I'll give two examples, TextMaker 2016 and WPS Office, two free programs. In WPS Office's Writer (also known as Kingsoft Writer) the feature I'm talking about is called “Show/Hide Editing Marks & Show All Formatting Symbols In The Document”, and it's an icon with arrows, in the Home section of the ribbon menu. In TextMaker 2016 it's a button with a green Pi symbol called “Show Paragraph Breaks, Tabs and Spaces”, near the right extreme of the icons menu.

If you have no problems with the dated interface of TextMarker 2016, I'd recommend you write the whole manuscript directly in that program. TextMaker has a great feature, and that's the option of exporting a structurally-sound EPUB file. Each page break (which you should use at the end of each chapter) functions as an html EoF (end of file), a way EPUB has of organizing a book. You can see this clearly if you decide, once the manuscript is finished, to edit it in an EPUB editor such as Sigil. Doing it is a good idea, to check for errors in the chapter titles. This is seen in a dialog called Book Browser in Sigil, in the left side of the editor's screen.

The way to see if the manuscript has errors in the chapter titles and overall structure I used, was exploring the finished manuscript's table of contents in Sigil. The table of contents should be a dialog in the right side of the screen in Sigil.

Some recommendations. One, don't use many fonts. Use two or three at most. Use common (preferably core) fonts. A sans serif for titles and a serif one for the content. Don't use fantasy fonts. Stick to the tried and proven ones. If this rises a red flag, please read a few articles about eBook fonts and the EPUB format.  You want to use a sans serif font for the chapter titles, and a serif one for the chapter’s gloss.

Two, formatting is a great temptation to attend to, but it doesn't make sense to give it importance when you are writing or rewriting the eBook. Why not to give one's best shot at the formatting, because it's not time-efficient. It's an edition task to be left for after the last correction.

Three, use blank space when appropriate. Specially at the start of each chapter. In a book I finished recently, I used seven soft breaks at the beginning of the first page of each chapter.

If you want to use different correction tools, the best way is to write the first draft using minimal formatting. Then, once you parsed the first draft with correction tools, corrected all the errors, and cleaned the formatting errors, apply the final formatting. The reason I'm propounding this way of sequencing the creation of the eBook has a reason. Books are a long kind of document, if your manuscript has a lot of errors, it may become a hassle to fix it manually. When correction tools have automated procedures to fix a manuscript one may want to use them. The catch here is that the tools I'm talking about aren't developed enough as to keep the more sophisticate formatting. Some of them, like for instance Hemingway, may have trouble even to keep the basic formatting. They generally work with plain text only. That's why I say to leave headings, blank space, perfect line and paragraph spacing, emphasis, italics and typesetting characters (like the curly double quotes) for the last thing to do.

Saving a manuscript in plain text is a great way to spot formatting errors. Once it's saved in plain text, the whole manuscript must be checked with any text software that can do word-wrapping. Also, I must repeat something once more. The more correction tools one uses, the plainer the formatting prior to the parsing through those tools. I'd recommend to parse the manuscript with at least three correction tools. First, and easiest, orthographic and vocabulary check with the spell checker of the word processor. Then it should be checked for grammar and style errors with tools that check for things as diverse as idioms, paragraph and sentence length in words, use of passive voice, use of adverbs. A good one is The Hemingway Tool, a fastidious alternative, The Language Tool.

The table of contents. It's not required, but can be generated to check for chapter title errors.

Check that each chapter title has a header HTML tag assigned, and use that tag only for the titles of the chapters. The h1 tag is too big and we need it for sections of the eBook like title page. Each chapter title should use h2, and each subsection of a chapter h3. Online eBook sales portals accept a reduced quantity of header levels. Lulu for instance accepts only h1, h2 and h3. 


Warning

Creating an eBook directly in an eBook creator like Sigil or BlueGriffon has a great disadvantage. You can't see formatting marks with them. They are great for those with knowledge of CSS and HTML. But for others that lack that knowledge all the cleaning up of the formatting has to be done in a text processor that can show them. Still, you should keep Sigil to check for EPUB errors.

The important marks that the word processor must show to check the formatting are:

  1. Soft Line Break (new line mark)
  2. Hard Line Break (new paragraph mark)
  3. Spaces

The eBook can have indented or block paragraph formatting. Block paragraphs is the method with more chances of working in any text processor.

Guide for Block Paragraphs Formatting:

  • Lines of the front and end matters: can have combination of hard soft breaks and use headers
  • Chapter Titles: hard break, h2
  • Chapter Section: hard break, h3
  • Paragraph: hard break, normal
  • Empty line between paragraphs: soft break

A good and free text processor that can show the editing marks is Kingsoft Writer. It's a button in the home ribbon that looks like two enter signs or arrows.

Other than fonts, headers, page breaks, italics, emphasis and paragraph style your manuscript shouldn't have any formatting.

 

Formatting No-Nos

Page numbers
Linked (or page-numbered) Table of Contents
Bullet lists
Numbered lists
Page sizes
Direct formatting (creating blank space or page breaks with, hard breaks, tabs and/or spaces)

Once the manuscript is clean and tight, it can be copied to a program like Sigil and check for errors in the EPUB structure, like I already explained.

 

2 — The Creation of The Table of Contents (optional)

If you are planning to create an EPUB that you can upload to eBook market portals like Lulu and SmashWords, then the eBook shouldn't have a ToC. It can have one, but it must not have links or page numbers.

First off, auto-generate a table of contents to spot any errors. The ToC has to have the same quantity of items as the book has chapters. If it has more, you used your chosen title h tag for something else other than chapter titles, and if it has less or none, it’s because you haven’t tagged all your chapter’s titles with the same h tag. Goes without saying that any piece of content that comes before the chapters must have a different h tag.

The auto-generated table of contents may have links or page numbers. In that case, copy to a plain text editor to remove all the formatting. Delete page numbers if any. Replace the ToC in the manuscript.

 

3 —The Placing of Front and End Matters

As you may know by now, EPUB, the contemporary eBook standard, doesn’t carry embedded fonts like PDF did. Every formatting niceties and emphasis must be achieved by header tags, font size, italics, and bold emphasis.

Read a guide on the web on how to write the front matter of your eBook, it’s all the content that comes before the main content.

If you think it’s too much work or you can’t find one, then get five paper books and study the first pages, you’ll see a more or less rigid pattern to it. Follow it as it is, don’t get creative with the front matter. Copy it, changing the content of the title of the book, the author’s name, and the rest of the front matter content.

The same goes for any additional content that is not the manuscript but the supplementary matter that you decided to put in the last pages, like bibliography, notes, appendixes.

 

4 — The Cover, The Spine and The Back Cover

Since this is just an eBook, we aren’t concerned with creating a spine cover. Also, I’ve seen many eBooks to have a cover but lack a back cover, I personally won’t go that far. It’s nice for an eBook to have a back cover, even if only for aesthetic reasons. Like the unlinked ToC.

Use a vectors program like Inkscape to design the cover. But first, you need a picture and the typography. Source an image by either designing it, shooting it yourself, buying it from a stock photography silo or getting it from Creative Commons (if you want a free image), and resize it to at least 1400 pixels wide to comply with most of the eBook markets.

Conventional book cover fonts to use are:

  • Baskerville
  • Bodoni
  • Calibri
  • Dings
  • Futura
  • Garamond
  • Helvetica

There are free imitations of these fonts that you can use without having to buy them.

Create also the back cover (generally a summary of the book and/or the writer’s bio) in the vector design program.

Export the images from the vector design software in a high definition format like .TIFF.

Embed the cover and back cover in the eBook. Save or Export as EPUB.

Presto! You created an eBook!

It’s time to go to Amazon, Lulu and Smaswords and begin selling it!

 

© 2018 Wensley Evolo
Photo Credit: Javier Candeira

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Mystery Train A Long Train of Aesthetic Pleasure Passing by Memphis, Tennessee

still of Mystery Train

I went into Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train without expectations, my only feeling for this movie before watching it, other than the hope of seeing and learning things about Memphis, was the prejudiced notion that I would not like it as I liked his other movies, the ones I thought were more underground, and perfect examples of the no-wave film movement, like Permanent Vacation and Stranger Than Paradise.

Mystery Train is an anthology film transpiring in a down-and-out, hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, the Arcade Hotel. The hotel’s receptionist (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) and bellboy (Cinqué Lee) simplistic storyline serves the purpose of the movie’s wrapper.

In this movie, the three main storylines interlock nicely and we get a more meaningful narrative by seeing how the three segments were related, by the time the final events unfold; in the third and last segment of the movie.

The first segment is about a couple of Japanese tourists, Mitsuko (Yûki Kudô) and Jun (Masatoshi Nagase). They go to Memphis to visit the mostfamous rock and roll landmarks, like Graceland, the Sun Records studio and the Arcade Diner, where Elvis used to take his nourishment.

The second is about an Italian woman, Luisa (Nicoletta Braschi), dispatching her husband’s remains from Memphis to Italy, who has to pass the time until her plane’s departure time comes. She then meets with Dee Dee, (Elizabeth Bracco) and they book a room in the hotel together.

The third segment is about a British immigrant, Johnny (Joe Strummer), who’s fired from his job and his mind breaks. He ends up pushing his two friends into an emotional roller-coaster, first with a frustrated joyride and then with something way more serious.

short blog post example

 

No-wave Anthology?

At first, I thought that the first segment’s couple was a brother and sister thing, but they were actually a couple of kids in their late teenage years. It was strange, to see a couple of middle or middle-high class kids traveling so far from their home, but I saw it as a good depiction of rocker culture, even if coming from characters of that kind of pampered socioeconomic background. Some people may root for the Japanese girl and think that her boyfriend acted in a way that was too stoical, but that would be only out of ignorance of rocker/rockabilly/greaser culture, not knowing that the character’s way of being is a common attitude of the aforementioned youth culture tribes.

The second segment is where it hit me, this wasn’t a movie that was only about the characters, their transient take on Memphis, and a few Tennessee tourist spots. It is pretty much a movie about Tennessee too. In this segment, we are treated to some atmospheric shots of Memphis that we might have overlooked in the first.

There is a phone call scene in this segment that, I thought, was overacted. Yet, for others, it may come as a comic relief moment. In this part of the movie, I noted that the character Dee Dee was a blabbermouth, and I felt vindicated when the characters in the last segment talk about her and confirm it.

The third story was a surprise for me, to see Joe Strummer in the skin of the Johnny, AKA Elvis, character. It’s the most emotionally charged plot of the three and the part of the movie in which there are more action scenes. Like I said, his character was fired, and he’s drowning his sorrows in abar when he flips out and takes out a gun, his workmate, Will Robinson (Rick Aviles) calls his brother-in-law Charlie (Steve Buscemi), to pick them up. Things get worse from there, much worse.

Behind the simplicity of the stories and lack of plot, there lies a meta-narrative of which the hotel is the focal point, and the way in which the three stories and the wrapper were put together were something new. I personally think Quentin Tarantino must have drawn inspiration from this movie for Pulp Fiction because the manner in which the four stories are told is similar.

I was already thinking that from the scene in which we’re introduced to Buscemi’s character, Charlie the Barber, as he cuts the hair of a customer. In that scene the lines of dialog sounded suspiciously familiar:

“You know what? I saw it on television, that the Chinese who are in China they all wanted to eat maccaroni with cheese, don’t you think is kinda odd with all the Chinese food they got?”

I think there isn’t anything I don’t like about this movie. Maybe some scenes of the second story, but like I said, the atmospheric scenes of that segment make up for any of its shortcomings. I wanted to relax with a generally plot-less movie like the ones by Jarmusch that came before Mystery Train, and even though the cast has many known, and we could say mainstream, faces (and even the voice of Tom Waits as a
radio DJ) I think that with this movie, Jim stood true to his no-wave origins.

 

© 2018 Wensley Evolo

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Primlabs SRL
Sarmiento 7025, 3rd fl, ste D
+54-911-746-63483
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, 2900

There is going to be 200 million VR headsets sold by 2020. The research
firm tractica forecasts that the market for consumer virtual reality
content and hardware will reach a whopping $21.8 billion of revenue by
2020.

The rise of broadband consumer internet almost completely killed the
community cinema and video arcade of the 1980s and ‘90s.

 

Leisure Problem

In mega-cities in which amusement adopters, video game aficionados and
people in need or want of being entertained could find many of the aforesaid
businesses in the marginal areas — let alone the central ones — there isn’t
any anymore, or what is left is an aberrant vestige of the past.

What is more, in big cities that featured video arcade and “pleasure lane”
types of business street configuration, video game recreation is missing.
It has been clearly delegated to the malls’ leisure courts. Gone are the
days when video gaming formed part of fast-paced, day-to-day downtown and
uptown district life.

In the street malls and pedestrian streets of cramped mega-cities where
cinemas and video arcades where a part of the landscape, the situation is
felt when the shops that used to be video game galleries are now dingy
fairs and the cinemas, evangelist churches.

 

Tech Solution

My idea for a modest attempt at bettering this unsettled situation is to
bring cutting-edge leisure where it once thrived, without the risks of
getting stuck in any particular place by means of an easily transportable
virtual reality games stand of high-end hardware configuration.

It will be operated by one person and it will have the capacity to run
networked first-person shooters and games designed for VR platforms.

Customers will purchase passes for the attraction, each pass will be valid
for fifteen minutes of game-play time.

Facebook owns Oculus, one of the top three companies in VR equipment sales.
Because of this, striking a partnership with either Oculus, Facebook or both
companies may help the business grow greatly. An affiliate agreement for when
we refer a customer to Oculus and the customer buys from them should also
be added to the marketing mix.

This stand will be small, about a third the size of a common fair stand,
around thirty-two by twenty-two inches of surface size. This to give the
business capacity for mobility. Also, to do away easily with tying the outfit to
a particular venue to the exclusion of others.

As venues that come to mind we have thought of:

  • Getting a concession in a mall’s amusement court
  • Parks, squares, and street malls (previous granting of needed permits by
    the city)
  • Renting it, with an operator, for events (birthdays, etc)

If this business succeeds, it might allow for global escalation to bigger
markets than Argentina. Think USA, India and China.

 

Some Figures

We expect this business to make from 60 (sixty) to 120 (one-hundred and twenty)
dollars on the daily. In an ideal scenario of only half of all the work hours being
occupied by customers that buy passes, this business would make 6000 (six-
thousand) dollars monthly, or 72000 (seventy-two thousand) annually.

We need $11000* to develop this opportunity.

 

Costs Breakdown

1. Laptops (2) (Dell Inspiron 15 7000, 34watts): $3538.77

2. Headsets (2) (Oculus Bundles, Rift+Touch kits): $1712.31

3. Portable Generator (Honda Eu 20, Soundproofed Inverter): $1820.76

4. Game (two boxes): $97.03 (+ License to use as Paid Amusement, $…)

5. Cash Register: $913.23

6. Stainless Steel Cart: $570.77

7. Advertising Campaign and Promotional Material: $1847.23 (budget for ~six month)

8. Paperwork Fees: $…

 

© 2018 Wensley Evolo
Image Credit: Mike Lawrence

 

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Primlabs SRL Sarmiento 7025,
3rd floor Suite 3 +54-911-746-63483
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, 2900

 

Dear Shannon:

I’m submitting this letter of inquiry on behalf of Primlabs SRL. I want to request your consideration to receive our investment proposal. We’ve just finished drafting it. We would like you to read it and tell us what you think. Is that okay with you? This opportunity is a great fit for you. We have proven successful as providers of amusements. We delivered amusements under the free-to-play and pay-as-you-like business models. Social gaming platforms, like Second Life, Blue Mars, Project Entropia and Facebook. We believe there’s an unexploited market in the trifle amusement niche you are seeking to fund. This is based in a recent customer research we conducted.

 

Problems to be Tackled

The rise of broadband consumer internet changed the urban landscape. It almost completely killed the community cinemas. Same for the video game galleries of the 1980s and ‘90s.

In megacities you can find different kinds of entertainment enthusiasts. For instance early adopters and video game aficionados. And other persons in need of entertainment. These peoples are nothing but disenfranchised while things stand as they are at present.

Before one could find plethora of the aforesaid businesses even in the marginal areas. Not to mention the downtown ones where this commercial phenomena reached colossal proportions. But here isn’t practically any of these venues any longer. If something still stands, is a minuscule remnant of the past.

Or even worse. Sometimes what’s left is not something of the previous eras. Sometimes it’s transplants of the mall’s leisure court to the streets. When the same buildings that housed video arcades house these transplants, it only amounts to an insult. If we bring this kind of business to the spots where it’s expected, we could fill a vacuum in the needs of an important market.

 

Virtual Reality Games Stand

Our idea is for a cost-effective opportunity. To bring cutting-edge recreation back to where it once flourished. Without the risk of tying it to any specific venue. We want to build a transportable “Virtual Reality Diversions Stand”. One person will operate it. It will have the capacity to run online games, first-person shooters, and games designed and programmed for VR platforms.

Customers will purchase passes for the attraction. Each pass will be valid for fifteen minutes of game-play time. We have outlined all the components of the business in detail in the proposal. Our proposal is for eleven thousand American dollars to establish the business and fund six months of advertising.

 

Additional Funding Sources

Facebook owns Oculus, one of the top three most popular companies in VR equipment sales. Striking a partnership early with either Oculus, Facebook or both may help the business grow greatly. Plans for strategic partnership agreements must be a core piece of the business model.

 

Summary

This opportunity would leverage the rise of consumer virtual reality.

Also the buzz around it, and the limelight is going to receive. The need for weekday/downtown area brief amusements is great and unfulfilled. We must evolve the trade from where this mass-market industry left off. It has a high chance of being profitable. VR is a market bound to thrive in upcoming years.

Let’s build on something that has proven time and time again to be successful with audiences. It has the potential to reap great dividends.

Thanks in advance for your time and consideration. We will be waiting to hear from you.

All the best,

Ennio Moretti, CFO at Primlabs SRL.

 

© 2018 Wensley Evolo
Image Credit: re: publica

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think piece example

The Wrong Turn Saga’s Backwoods-ness is Just a Gimmick

Wrong Turn failed to become big as a horror franchise, for five wrongs
and one or two averages don’t make a right.

Not a single sequel or prequel in the Wrong Turn series has an IMDb.com
rating above 5.5 (which only part two manages to achieve).

Wrong Turn is an intellectual property with potential to enrage horror
fans in general and backwoods horror buffs in particular.

A godsend for gore and splatter horror audiences, but borrowing from
the older and more established, sub-genres of the macabre: backwoods
horror, and its two brother genres hillbilly and redneck.

I generally classify a movie by how many of its scenes stay with me
through the years after watching them. It’s a common way to calculate
how good a movie is, and it’s popular with many.

Even if there are many other parameters to judge the worth of a movie,
like how true to the genre it is, how much of the film panders to its
target audience, or how script, photography and acting are executed,
the generally wafer-thin plots of each Wrong Turn and the shallow
and forgettable back-story and characters of the property make for
a very disappointing experience.

The filmmakers may have attempted to come up with a great idea, a crossover
between splatter and backwoods horrors but, even from the first view,
for me, it wasn’t really that good. I’d define the final product and general
feel of the series as popcorn torture porn.

Maybe they conceived the original as a crossover between gore and summer
blockbuster. Either way, not taking on account the original, they were all
straight to DVD movies. That should rise some red flags already.

I have to give to the original Wrong Turn the recognition it deserves. It was
released the same year as Saw (2003), and two years before Hostel (2005),
probably the two most recognized splatter/torture porn horror movies of
the first decade of the twenty-first century.

The first might have been good, but as I watched the subsequent ones anything
I could have treasured from the first became diluted by a hodgepodge of
entrails, blood and predictability. Without any thread to hold the narrative
together other than the boorish Hilliker clan’s story-line.

Notwithstanding, I noted the lack of transparency and disregard for smart
backwoods audiences in the choice of theme and setting borrowing from
backwoods/hillbilly/redneck and never, ever, repaying with a decent,
well-thought plot or memorable hero or heroine in a string of six movies.

The formula of the first, repeated ad nauseam in the following five, gets
progressively boring if one approaches these movies expecting the gore,
updated versions of Deliverance (1972), Southern Comfort (1981) or even
The Hills Have Eyes (1977).

If these movies attempt at being intelligent or make a pun at casting nobodies
to play characters who are also nobodies that always get mercilessly killed
and about whom you can’t remember a thing later, as if to say that giving
the audience someone to identify with and succeed is very last summer,
they fail, and not just that, they also insult our intelligence.

© Wensley Evolo, 2018.
Photo Credit: Melissa Lewington

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