The trials and tribulations of an author-publisher

I woke up at about 3 this morning, unable to sleep.  My mind is just too clogged with details and minutiae of preparing my prison chaplaincy memoir for publication.

This is proving to be a far more difficult book to prepare than my first two (both of which were science fiction novels requiring much less formatting).  It has a Table of Contents, which has to be hot-linked to the various chapters so that a Kindle user can click on a chapter title and be instantly taken to that place in the book.  It also has 30 end-notes, which require hot-linking so that a user can click on an end-note number, be taken to that note, then return to their place in the text to continue reading.  There are also more than a few Internet URL’s in the book, linking to sources of information.  All of them have to be hot-linked;  but, to my frustration, some of them are already out-of-date thanks to the ever-changing Internet address landscape, so I have to try to find updated links.

Miss D. is being very helpful in getting the TOC, end-notes and URL’s formatted and testing the hot-links, while I get the paper edition of the book prepared for publication.  As I write these words, the initial draft has been approved by CreateSpace as meeting its guidelines.  I’m proof-reading that draft line-by-line in an Adobe Acrobat Reader window, with the manuscript open in another word processor window, and making last-minute changes to the latter as required.  When I’ve done that and put the print edition to bed, I’ll take its text as the ‘master document’ and make sure the Kindle edition conforms to it (again proof-reading the two editions line-by-line against each other).

The process is made more frustrating because – I admit it – up to now I’ve been doing things ‘on the cheap’, using various software packages to prepare my books.

  • I’ve used OpenOffice for years as my primary word processor and office software suite.  Unfortunately, whilst it’s a very good suite indeed, its native OpenDocument format isn’t used by many Web publication sites, which prefer the Microsoft Word document format.  OpenOffice’s emulation of MS Word’s .DOC format isn’t perfect – and as a result, when formatting becomes more complex, I find that errors creep in.  For example, when uploading the new book to CreateSpace, OpenOffice’s .DOC file produced pagination errors.  Converting the file to an Adobe Acrobat document (in .PDF format) on my computer, then uploading that, removed all the errors.
  • I’ve been using Jarte (a very good basic word processor, with one of the best search-and-replace functions I’ve found anywhere) to correct my formatting (e.g. searching for single quotes, like those around ‘this phrase’, and replacing them with ‘smart quotes’ that look better on the printed page;  or replacing double spaces between sentences – which I was taught to use when learning to touch-type many years ago, and still instinctively type – with single spaces, which is the current standard for typesetting).  However, to make that work, I’ve had to convert my document to Rich Text Format, edit it in Jarte to make the corrections, then convert it back to Open Document or MS Word format for further processing in OpenOffice.
  • With the more complex end-notes and hot-linked Table of Contents in the current book, Miss D. and I have been trying to find software that would let us create them and upload them to Kindle without breaking the links.  That’s been more complicated than we expected.  She finally decided to use Atlantis, which I don’t like for its primary function – as a word processor – but which does very well at hot-linking TOC’s and end-notes, and producing functioning output as an EPUB file (which can easily be uploaded to Kindle).  However, importing my master file into Atlantis produced more formatting errors such as words running together (i.e. the intervening spaces were somehow deleted) and other problems.  Fixing those has been time-consuming and frustrating.

We’ve also experimented in the past with Scrivener and other software.  That’s what comes of trying to do one’s work as simply and cheaply as possible, I’m afraid.  It was ‘do-able’ for simpler formatting such as used in my two novels (so far), but it’s not good enough for the more complex formatting requirements of my prison chaplaincy memoir.

I bit the bullet a couple of days ago and ordered Microsoft Office (sticking with the 2010 edition, which gets high ratings from users, rather than the 2013 edition, which is much more poorly rated).  It’s expensive, much more complex and complicated than I want or need, and will involve another frustrating learning curve . . . but if everyone’s using it, and its format is a native input to almost every important publisher out there, I’d better get used to it!  I hope it’ll replace the patchwork of other programs I’ve been using up to now.  I’ll complete the third volume of the Maxwell Saga using MS Office, and see how it goes.

Oh, well . . . all part of the learning process, I guess!  I hope to have the memoir ready for publication by early next week.  After that, “Heigh-ho, it’s off to work I go” for Maxwell Volume 3!  If I want to get that out by the beginning of December, I’ll have to work fast.



  1. With links in a book, you may want to link to a site you control and can change the links later if they need to be updated.


    Then you can have that url redirect to wherever you want, and if you need to change it later, you can do so without editing the book and requiring people to update their copies.

  2. Interesting. I'd long suspected that there was a formatting gap.
    I'ver really only approached it from the other side: the complex formating requirements of academia. (Until recently, I had never written anything without footnotes)
    People have often asked me why I stick with MS Word, my answer has always been: Footnotes. (and endnotes, and set apart quotations, and italics, and super/sub scripts, and tables of content, and,…) If you have, as I did 400 pages with an average of five footnotes a page and those footnotes may be quite complex themselves…you want something specifically designed for that purpose.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *