Saturday, June 11, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

More blog behavior I don't understand

A year ago literary agent Rachelle Gardner had a contest over on her blog for writers to send in their best one-sentence summaries of their books. The whole thing was about how a one-sentence pitch is important because it answers the question “What’s your book about?” and generates interest in the book. Something like 500 writers responded in the comments below the post and a winner was selected.

If you were a reader like moi and you liked any of the pitches you read it didn't matter because there were no links to any of the authors. There wasn’t even a link to the writer who won. I mean, the writers were pitching to Ms. Gardner, an agent, but weren't they also pitching to me, the reader who stumbled upon the post a year after it was written?

It is amazing now that if you’re an author, virtually anything you write anywhere is promoting your writing. If you contribute to someone else’s blog though (with a comment or whatever), the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the blog owner to make it so that your contribution has legs. Because if I like something you’ve written somewhere and after a few seconds there’s no easy way for me to read more by you, I move on. It happens so fast I almost don’t even think about it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

There is no page

Where I work they block 99% of the internet during work hours. Understandable. Most anything related to Google is still available though, and that gives me enough of a hole that I can still read just about anything I want online by using the Google cache link.

The cache link is located below a Google search result and the cache is a snapshot of the page as it looked when Google indexed it. It’s not the most current version of the page, but it works just fine for articles. All the images on the page are blocked though, so basically all I get is cold text. But the text is really all I’m looking for.

I spent all day yesterday formatting an ebook that I’m preparing for Kindle. The first thing you learn when you’re putting an ebook together is that the only thing you really have control over is the text. How it looks (font size, page layout, line spacing, etc.) depends on the preferences of the reader and the limits of the device they are using. That's a good thing, but it does mean that once the book is done there are more than a few questions about how to get the book to look right. Luckily there are a few books out there that help explain ebook formatting.

One of them I like is a free ebook style guide by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. One section in particular talks about how ebook formatting is different than print. I liked it so I thought I’d bring it here:
"With print, you control the layout. The words appear on the printed page exactly where you want them to appear. With ebooks, there is no “page.” By giving up the control of the printed page, you and your readers gain much more in return.

Page numbers are irrelevant. Your book will look different on every e-reading device. Your text will shape shift and reflow.

Most e-reading devices and e-reading applications allow your reader to customize the fonts, font sizes and line spacing. Your customers will modify how your book looks on-screen to suit their personal reading preference and environment. By transforming your books into digital form, you open up exciting possibilities for how readers can enjoy them...

Most readers want your words, not your fancy page layout or exotic type styles. This is especially important for your ebook customers, because you want your work to display well on as many digital reading devices as possible so the reader can have their book their way."
When I’m not cache surfing, I actually do a lot of work with print formatting where I work. Generally it’s a nightmare because people don’t understand that we are not living in 1985 and printing user manuals is for dummies. But that’s okay. They have a lot to learn about how users find answers, and I’ve got a lot to learn about everything else.