Archive for January, 2014

In keeping with one of my blog’s recurring themes—that my current computer “skills” would be thoroughly mocked by your average teenager in 1992—today’s post has to do with my trials and tribulations on the technical front, only this time with an M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist. A small measure of success!

This past weekend I finally got around to uploading my ebooks to Smashwords, which makes them available for purchase at Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony, and in many other formats on many other websites. The main reason I put this task on the back burner for over two months (aside from my usual procrastination), was my utter dread at the prospect of reconfiguring my babies for Smashwords. Though I’ve tried to repress the memory, the four-day formatting nightmare I went through when I published to KDP was still fresh in my mind. Thankfully, Smashwords (like Amazon’s KDP) provides a free detailed formatting and publishing guide for neophytes like me. Armed with that info and with the handful of lessons I learned during my adventures in November, I sat down at my computer Saturday evening and hoped to have my books uploaded by, oh, maybe Monday afternoon.

The part of the formatting process that nearly drove me to the loony bin the first time around had to do with the seemingly innocuous indent. It turns out that when you randomly alternate between using the tab key and the space bar, then edit your 112,000-word manuscript on multiple computers using multiple versions of Word over multiple years, your indentations (along with just about every other aspect of your formatting) come out a little, shall we say, wonky. Hence the four-day ordeal. Back in November (most likely because my eyes had glazed over due to exhaustion and much shedding of tears), I missed the part of the KDP guide that broke down how to properly format indents. Thankfully, I stumbled upon two little characters in the Smashwords guide that have officially changed my life—the beautifully awkward combination of the caret (^) and the letter t.

Using Word’s “Find” and “Replace” functions, I changed my indent issue from a four-day battle of the wills to, literally, a 14-second matter of pressing the right keys. I now plan on naming my first-born child ^t in honor of the wonderful person or persons who came up with this simple fix. Well, maybe T-Caret. Has a nicer, hipper ring to it. In any event, I had both of my books up and running in a couple of hours. Both I and my three previously trunked novels with the same formatting problems thank you profusely, ^t guy (or gal).

Now, if I could only figure out where all my italics went…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, technology and I have a love-hate relationship. So naturally, self-publishing through Kindle Direct in ebook format was the obvious path for me to take to get my work into the marketplace (he said sarcastically). And since I’m doing it on a shoestring budget, I get to do all the formatting and the marketing and the other things a trade publisher would typically do all by my lonesome.

Marketing in 2014 (for free, anyway) almost exclusively entails diving headlong into the social media sea. Unfortunately, I’m as bad at socializing as I am at setting up a Table of Contents that actually works. Combine those problems with my utter ignorance as to how to get the most out of Twitter, Facebook, et al., and, well, I’ve already got two strikes against me, and I just fouled the third pitch off my foot. Things aren’t looking too good for the home team.

My technophobia even worms its way into my writing. If my main characters aren’t Luddites to begin with, it’s only because they’ve found themselves in a world where the electricity’s about to go out for good anyway. And one of the story ideas kicking around in my head involves a regular Joe who has to take down a tech-savvy group of terrorists. The working title? Luddites, of course.

However, there may be a bit of light at the end of the tech/social media tunnel for me, although that light is probably illuminated via a process I’ll never completely understand. A few weeks ago, I saw some tweets at the top of my Twitter feed with the #TheHandmaidsTale hashtag attached. Turns out The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my all-time favorite books, so I tweeted a short message saying so. And that was retweeted by Margaret Atwood herself! Okay, maybe it was an assistant of hers. But still. I’m pretty sure that’s going to go down as my greatest literary accomplishment ever.