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Old 01-30-2013, 05:40 PM   #31
JSWolf
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Originally Posted by sarahdalton View Post
Kobo is a hard sell, anyway. I decided to go direct to Kobo and use Smashwords for everything except Amazon, and I still have very few sales.

My only complaint about Smashwords is the description that ends up on the distributor page. I think (unless I got it wrong - it feels like ages ago now) that there's a short word limit so you can't use the whole blurb. It makes my book look quite unprofessional on the page.

I have the same complaint with my POD. Because I'm not there to adjust and perfect my book description, it's shown in one big lump of text without paragraph breaks. It just makes it look unprofessional.
Thing is, I don't buy from Smashwords unless it's something I really want. I don't like having to clean up after the meatgrinder.

Now, I might consider buying your eBook if you hand crafted it and put it up and Kobo and B&N. But if I get a Smashwords copy, I have to fix it before I can read it. So take that as a bit of advice. Hand craft and put up good copies where possible.
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Old 01-31-2013, 12:32 AM   #32
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As a reader and now an author I love smashwords. Some of my first e-books I ever purchased were through smashwords. I also have a lot of respect for Mark Coker. His free books taught me a great deal about publishing and helped encourage me to follow through with my dreams of writing.
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Old 01-31-2013, 05:58 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
Now, I might consider buying your eBook if you hand crafted it and put it up and Kobo and B&N. But if I get a Smashwords copy, I have to fix it before I can read it. So take that as a bit of advice. Hand craft and put up good copies where possible.
I've seen you mention "hand crafted" ePubs before, and I'm curious. What exactly do you mean by hand crafted?

To me, hand crafted means writing the relevant files by hand in a text editor, putting them in a zip file and renaming it to have a .epub extension. Or do you consider an ePub created with a program like Sigil to be hand crafted?
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Old 01-31-2013, 07:14 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by avantman42 View Post
I've seen you mention "hand crafted" ePubs before, and I'm curious. What exactly do you mean by hand crafted?

To me, hand crafted means writing the relevant files by hand in a text editor, putting them in a zip file and renaming it to have a .epub extension. Or do you consider an ePub created with a program like Sigil to be hand crafted?
I'm wondering myself, although I always got the feeling he was writing them by hand.
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Old 01-31-2013, 08:07 AM   #35
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Most to-epub conversion processes leave a certain amount of garbage or inconsistency behind. One of the best I've found (for OpenOffice/LibreOffice) is writer2xhmtl and I clean up even after that. It's not so much that it has a problem as that it hands over the detritus that exists in your files that you don't even know exists. For example sometimes there are paragraph and character formats left over/ orphaned as you've manipulated the text. They don't show up in print, but they can upset the xhtml export (and, if nothing else) they are unnecessary clutter in the final file. So, after conversion to epub, I go through the css and xhtml files looking for stuff that doesn't belong there.

Specific issues in the css include things like absolute measurements (inches and pixels) when they should be relative (em or %). Also, with my conversion processor, the css styles are come over with name I know, so when I look in the css I can see when there's something in there that I'm not expecting.

I also make sure all the components are carefully named (rather than abusing UUID strings). I think I have certain obsessive traits, and I like even the parts that the reader doesn't see to look neat and tidy. When you open a typical Smashwords epub it's like walking into a house after a wind-storm has been through, and any minor adjustment you might want to make for your own purposes is more difficult because it's all so messy, so many styles and none of them named in any meaningful way.

Much of this probably doesn't matter to the average reader, but it matters to me, I know it's in there.
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:11 AM   #36
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+1 to gmw

Part of "Hand crafting" is going in and cleaning up the mess that comes from automatic conversions. While those conversions are easy, and get the job done (mostly), they are usually very "sloppy". While the reader might not "see" any effects from a single conversion from a well-made source, taking that conversion and converting it again increases the chance of errors/flaws quite a bit. Taking a .doc and SavingAs html and then using some software to convert that to epub and then using that epub to convert to mobi and then.... I would think that a reading device would implode when trying to open that file!

Having a clean, hand crafted file is the best way to minimize any rendering artifacts/errors that a reading device/app might display due to that sloppiness.

I personally have never used, or edited, a Smashwords "meatgrinder" converted book so I can't comment on the quality of it's conversions. But the fact that it starts with a .doc is scary...and "grinder" does not promote confidence...

Sigil is software that makes it easier to hand-craft/clean/edit your html documents. It doesn't do any "conversions" from one format to another. The closest it comes is automatically creating your TOC and metadata files - but even those can be, and sometimes are, manually edited. This "source" epub can be used directly by any reader/app except Amazon's kindle...and they have a single conversion to their mobi format.

I have read that Smashwords is accepting ePubs now to begin their conversion process, but that there are still many glitches in their "beta" program....but that is another thread.

Cheers!
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:18 AM   #37
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I have read Smashwords conversions on a Nook and a Kindle, never saw any particularly glaring mistakes/errors/problems. Now, I may not be looking for the right kinds of things, but if I don't notice anything are regular readers going to?
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:24 AM   #38
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I have read Smashwords conversions on a Nook and a Kindle, never saw any particularly glaring mistakes/errors/problems. Now, I may not be looking for the right kinds of things, but if I don't notice anything are regular readers going to?
Exactly.
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:29 AM   #39
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What are "regular readers"? Are you assuming that they have the same level of technical knowledge/experience that you do??

What happens if a reader does see an error? Do they have the knowledge to realize that there are rendering errors with such and such version of Nook/kindle - shake their head and scoff at Nook/Kindle? Do they know that there are bugs in the conversion program that the publisher used - shake their head and scoff at the publisher? Or do they say to themselves "this is not a professional book - what author put out this garbage"?

In my HUMBLE opinion, I would not want to take the chance. I would want to provide the best possible document to the consumer. That means a clean, hand crafted, document. That's the advice Jon was giving on an earlier post.
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Old 01-31-2013, 12:15 PM   #40
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Well, like I said earlier, I always use the Smashwords version for reading/reviewing what I've written [getting away from the computer monitor really works wonders for spotting grammar mistakes and such]. I've only noticed a few formatting problems, generally nothing major, and they've all been easily fixed by going back into the documents and making a few tweaks.

I mean, if you don't like using Smashwords and think you'd rather use a converter that you have more control over, then that's perfectly fine. I'm just saying that, in my experience, Smashwords does not produce an ebook riddled with formatting errors and glitches.
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Old 01-31-2013, 12:47 PM   #41
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Like I said, I have never used or edited a smashwords document, so I can't comment on their quality...

When you edit/review your smashwords, are you displaying it in a "text only" type view, or can you see the html formatting codes "behind the scenes"?

I would submit again, as gmw did above and ePub/eBook creators would all agree, that you may not "see" the errors if it is a "text only" type view. But those errors are still there. Whether or not those errors are noticeable on a users device/app are dependent on several factors....make/model/version of device/app to name a few (sometimes it feels that which day of the week it happens to be is a big factor ). Each has their own little quirks, and what looks fine on a nook might look like total dog doodoo on a kindle or iBooks.
Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
They don't show up in print, but they can upset the xhtml export ... When you open a typical Smashwords epub it's like walking into a house after a wind-storm has been through, and any minor adjustment you might want to make for your own purposes is more difficult because it's all so messy...
When you use automatic conversion processes you are taking a big gamble on the quality of your product.

Having said all of that...you are completely welcome to do whatever you wish..."I have no dog in this fight!"....I was simply clarifying what Jon meant when he recommended using a "hand crafted" book.


Cheers!

[edit] For clarification - I am NOT an author - but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night!
I do not participate in the creation of the story...I am simply speaking from my experience as an HTML coder / ePub creator....and longtime READER (for many decades)!! I have personally seen absolutely atrocious eBooks (formatting not content) from "professional" publishers. When I look at the html coding to try and find out WHY these books are in such sorry shape, they invariably show the signs of having been through an "automatic converter".

Last edited by Turtle91; 01-31-2013 at 12:54 PM.
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Old 01-31-2013, 03:00 PM   #42
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Part of "Hand crafting" is going in and cleaning up the mess that comes from automatic conversions.
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Sigil is software that makes it easier to hand-craft/clean/edit your html documents. It doesn't do any "conversions" from one format to another.
I'm aware of what Sigil is. I wouldn't call cleaning up a converted ePub, or creating an ePub in Sigil, "hand crafting" an ePub. To me, the term "hand crafting" implies writing the raw code in a text editor. In the same way, if I created a web page in a WYSIWYG HTML editor, I wouldn't say I'd hand crafted it.

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I was simply clarifying what Jon meant when he recommended using a "hand crafted" book.
I get the impression that Jon would consider editing in Sigil "hand crafting" an ePub. Ultimately, though, only he can really say what he means, which is why I asked
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Old 01-31-2013, 03:37 PM   #43
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I suppose you could say that only he can explain what he means...but what I described is kinda the common understanding...

Have you ever been to the Pacific Northwest? I've seen some wood sculptors there that take driftwood from the ocean - carve away pieces here - smooth areas there - highlight certain areas with just the right kind of varnish. What they end up with is a work of art. Yet all they do is clean up the mess that is left from the salt and sun... If you were to tell them that what they do is not "hand crafting" then you had better learn to swim very fast!

If your definition of hand crafting is only "writing the raw code in a text editor." Then you can "Hand craft" an html document in Sigil...it is a text editor - albeit specialized. You go into "Code view" and just start typing on a blank sheet...codes and all. And yes, I have done exactly that with Sigil.

Even with a text editor (my favorite up until recently has been notepad++) there are built in tools that make your job of writing the code easier...if I tell it that I am writing in xhtml it will turn all the appropriate selectors/properties/values pretty colors and highlight matching tags. The editor also has certain functions that are built into it...like being able to save the file into a particular folder in a given format - open multiple files up from the same folder - rename the files, etc. Using those tools/functions in no way lessens the "hand-craftedness" of my html work. Does the fact an artist uses a saw and sandpaper discredit their work?

The same goes for Sigil. It has an added set of ePub specific functions that I use as tools for me to create an ePub.

Did you know that there are many different ways to achieve the same result when it comes to formatting an html document?? Different people will do things different ways. The act of going through a document line by line tweaking tags and THINKING about what is wanted - rather than letting a computerized algorithm make assumptions about what is intended - is the difference between "hand-crafted" and "automatic conversion".

So...back to my original clarification:

Quote:
Part of "Hand crafting" is going in and cleaning up the mess that comes from automatic conversions.

Cheers!

Last edited by Turtle91; 01-31-2013 at 03:42 PM.
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Old 01-31-2013, 03:53 PM   #44
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I'm aware of what Sigil is. I wouldn't call cleaning up a converted ePub, or creating an ePub in Sigil, "hand crafting" an ePub. To me, the term "hand crafting" implies writing the raw code in a text editor. In the same way, if I created a web page in a WYSIWYG HTML editor, I wouldn't say I'd hand crafted it.


I get the impression that Jon would consider editing in Sigil "hand crafting" an ePub. Ultimately, though, only he can really say what he means, which is why I asked
I would say that Sigil is fine for hand crafting. It's your words, your code, your format. Sigil just helps you build the shell. What goes into the shell is all yours.

Also, I would agree that hand crafting is also taking a converted ePub and fixing it so the code is neat and easy to deal with.

I just finished fixing up an ePub that now no longer longer look (internally) like it used to. All the messy code has been replaced. I would call it hand crafted given how much I changed. None of the original CSS exists.

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Old 01-31-2013, 04:00 PM   #45
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I've read quite a few pieces from Smashwords -- from short stories to longer novels, in both EPUB and MOBI formats. They've all looked just fine on my technologically naive Jetbook Lite. Certainly nothing I would call a "glaring" error.
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