I have regretfully given up on this after finding another e-mail from my agent's office suggesting that my mss. are unacceptable to Smashwords in their current (already corrected several times) format. The instructions for changes do not deal with terms I understand. Furthermore, the formatting destroys title page appearance (like caps, larger fonts, and centering), makes it impossible to center chapter titles, objects to more than 3 or 4 paragraph breaks per page (that also affects title pages), objects to setting poetry apart by indenting or centering.  And what is Dashboard?  Text box? 

 

I should add that I use the tab key a lot to indent. It has become a habit.

 

The Kindle project may still be alive.  That is in the hands of someone else.

 

Initial reports suggested that the formatting can be achieved in about 2 hours.  I've already spent at least 20 hours on this.  I assume that the time quoted does not include struggling with the instructions.

 

Life's too short.

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Ah, but what the devil do they do about poetry? Run it on like prose? For most poems (among them Japanese ones) you have to observe line breaks at the very least.

I still operate under PMLA rules for publication, but I'm open to making adjustments if there is a satisfactory way to set poetry apart from the text.

My mysteries rarely contain quotes, but THE HOLLOW REED is a historical novel that relies heavily on poetic passages, partially because they were part of the culture and partially for the sake of style.

The books (trilogy) are going on Kindle and they are being done by someone else, so maybe things will be all right. Still I have Akitada novels to get ready for Kindle, and any useful info would help. So far I have only changed underlining and special letters.
Yeah, like I said, poetry has been a bear since the beginning of the ebook. Because you don't control the size and dimension of the page or the font or text size, you have serious limitations on layout.

There are three ways of dealing with poetry that I've seen.

The most common is simply to left-justify the lines and have a hard return after each line.... but you have to realize that on smaller screens those lines will wrap. This is why they forbid you to indent poetry - because if you indent it, it's even more likely the line will have to wrap. Set off the poetry from the body of the text, or the stanzas from each other, with an extra line space.

The above is what they usually do with Gutenberg. (Although in the early days they assumed reading on a computer screen rather than a reader and they did do indents. If it's a small indent, it won't hurt with larger screens, but it will look terrible to those reading on smaller devices, which appears to be a large part of the market.)

(I indented a song the same amount that I indented a regular paragraph, and it worked okay. If you do your whole layout with indents rather than block style, then the lines will naturally indent and it should fly past the style checks. The one advantage of an indent is that if the line does wrap, you can still tell the difference between a new line and a wrapped line.)

When you have shorter poems and intend them to definitely be for small screens (say cellphone messaging or twitter) you insert a slash or dash between the lines - like this haiku: The old pond/A frog jumps in/Plop!

The only way to preserve specially formatted poetry is to give up on the usual ebook format and create a special PDF - which is an electronic representation of a physical book. It's got a fixed presentation, pagination, layout, font, etc. You will lose the majority of the market who read on an ebook reader, but poetry readers are a special breed.

I really advise just keeping it simple. Don't indent the lines further than a regular paragraph (no indent at all if possible) and set it off with a line of space before and after each stanza.
Thank you again, Camille. I stand in awe at your expertise. The extra line and the indent (5) will work. I'd do this via line return? e-books don't like the use of tabs.
I.J. - for some reason it won't allow me to reply to your other message.

"Thank you again, Camille. I stand in awe at your expertise. The extra line and the indent (5) will work. I'd do this via line return? e-books don't like the use of tabs."

First of all, I guess I should ask how you are paragraphing in the first place. There are two choices - one is "block style" which is how we're creating paragraphs here. There are no indents and paragraphs are separated by two return characters.

The two return characters is what I mean by an extra line of space. This method is also the easiest, and it was the method used by the earliest ebooks, because plain text (ascii) cannot handle indents at all.

When you use that method, though, dialog looks awful, and you also need to find a different way to separate sections (where you would normally use just an extra line space. This is kind of important because if a reader does something to automatically reformat the text to suit their tastes, they could lose the separation between sections.

So what to do for places you want those extra lines of space to stick around?
* * *
Asterisks and pound signs are time honored ways of separating sections. And they look okay.
#
For poetry (or quoted internal text - like a sign), though, they don't look so good.

Pretend Poem:


You can simply add in THREE lines of space
instead of two.
And you can italicize.
But don't put extra space between each line.


Not perfect, but the good thing about preparing your manuscript this way is that you can easily use search and replace to change things.

This is long, and indents are harder to explain if you don't know how to do them, so I'll see if I can give you more info tomorrow.
Camille, I usually hit "enter". The setting does the rest: it indents 5 spaces. The only time that doesn't happen is when my publisher wants no indent after a line space starting a new section. Of course, there have been times when the computer balked and I had to use the tab key. That could mess up the electronic books.

I don't know what the pros who are putting HOLLOW REED on Kindle are doing about the poetry. Maybe I should check. Or maybe Kindle doesn't have the same issues.

This whole business is far from perfect technologically.

Thanks much for the input. At a pinch the poem will just have to start in the left margin.
Then you don't have to worry about indents. You've got the style set up properly.

There are two possible reasons why a paragraph won't indent properly when you hit enter. One is that somehow that paragraph has a different style setting. The other is that, if you are typing really fast you might accidentally have the shift key down when you hit enter, and that creates a "non-breaking space" or in some cases, simply overrides your paragraph settings.

It is easy to fix when you realize that "enter" is just another letter. And you can fix it the same way you fix any other time you capitalize a letter when you shouldn't: backspace over it and type in the right thing. (In this case the backspace will join the paragraphs together - giving them the style of the previous paragraph - and then when you break them apart again, they both have the right style.)
Excellent advice. Thanks again, Camille. (The shift key, eh? Who knew?)
Thanks, Benjamin. I will check that out, if only to educate myself.
I have been blogging about how to use MS Word, the most common word processor. I'm taking e-publication into account. Take a look at the posts in the archives and see if they prove useful. I've also started a column in The 3rd Degree, the MWA newsletter.

Best of luck!

annlittlewood.blogspot.com
Thanks, but I've used Word for years. This is a more complicated issue involving existing mss.

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