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Howdy Folks,

The message this time around will aim to be more informative than the usual witty, but vacuous fare, I normally offer up here. I thought you might be interested in how one goes about making a printed book into an ebook. This entire process of turning "old" published works into "new" ebooks is a tedious task. First, we send a copy of the printed book to a business that scans the print into a "raw" Word doc. "Raw" means that what you get back is a cow plop of prose with no chapter breaks, no paragraph breaks, nothing. Just run-together sentences. Why this is so, I have no idea, unless it be the viciousness of the scanning machinery. Anyway, Shirl has to go back through that jumble and convert it into readable prose, with appropriate formatting symbols for the guy who actually formats the thing we upload onto Kindle and Nook. While Shirl is doing this, she also edits the prose that was supposedly edited by the pros in New York. It was surprising to us how unpro-like some of these pros could be.

Next, Shirl gives the copy to me to edit again. I look for typos, incorrect word choices, punctuation problems, inconsistencies in details, and lack of necessary format symbols. During this process (while Shirl is not looking), I sneak in my embellishments that make the book outstanding.

While this is going on, Shirl's cover designer, Kim Killion, is at work on the covers for the novels. Now since this is not a physical book, I can't see why you need covers, but need them you do. First off, Shirl selects a review quote or tag line to go on the cover. Then the designer and Shirl agree on the kinds of type faces to be used for the title, her name and any other "mechanicals" that will appear on said cover. For example, "A Blackthorne Book," or "The Gone-to-Texas Trilogy."

Once those matters are settled, they search various websites (and the designer's own) for suitable models and background scenery. Finally, the designer works her magic--after much email haggling with Shirl--and we get the finished jpeg for the cover. Now, on Shirl's most recent offering--the American Lords trilogy--the same model was used, a guy who sells his photos to epub writers via the Net. But Kim was able to play tricks with the guy's hair color and length, even made it curly on one cover to fit the hero's description. The results of the alterations made it appear as if Shirl had used three different models. However, it really would not make much difference if the reader recognized that the covers all featured the same model. The guy tends to elicit all sorts of embarrassing secretions from females.

In any case, while all of this is going on, I am writing a draft of the "product description." This is the descriptive copy that appears on the back cover of a printed book. In the print world, it is called the "blurb." Then, Shirl and I begin the highly scientific and technical process of refining the product description. This means Shirl makes stupid alterations to my unfailingly brilliant copy. During this process, I tactfully point out that she is a dumb heifer, and she helpfully responds that I am a braying jackass. Occasionally, during this stage of the process, one or the other of us suffers some mild physical injury. We try to avoid going for the eyes or breaking bones in the upper body as this would render the injured party useless to begin the process anew for the next book. Eventually, we get our product description.

The next step is the easiest. We send all of this crap to the formatter who lives in Canada (contrary to what you might think, we did not drive him to flee there). He puts it all together: the polished text, product description, and cover. Now we have an ebook package ready for uploading. He posts the work on sale at the iBookstore.

We must upload it on Kindle and Nook. This latter exercise brings a quarreling couple together. We both scream obscenities at the computer screen, directed at the torturous process devised by Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They both use the same software engineer--Tommy Torquemada. His family has been in the business for years...ever since the Inquisition.


Oh yeah, a while back one writer gave an excerpt of a query from a reader who demanded to know how authors had the gall to charge such outrageous prices for their ebooks. (Most backlist electronic romance novels range from 2.99 to 3.99) I am googling a Chippy Farnsworthy. After all, how many Chippy Farnsworthys can there be? There will be one less when I find her.

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