Sunday, July 25, 2010

Content design for the Kindle

A good article on designing and writing content for the Kindle.

Writing your book for the Kindle

Amazon now sells more Kindle books than they do hard-copy books.

I just read my own book on a Kindle. I was not happy with the page layout, or the way my book read. (I read a lot of Kindle books.)

If I were writing the book today I would do a few things differently, to make the book easier to read on a Kindle. I would:

1. Use a simpler layout, with short paragraphs (130 to 200 words max).

2. Use extremely high contrast black and white illustrations.

3. Rely more on stories and anecdotes to illustrate concepts.

4. Use illustrations that stand alone, and don't have to be physically placed on the page close the text.

5. Limit or eliminate tables

6. Limit or eliminate numbered lists (The numbering scheme in my book did not translate to Kindle)

7. Limit or eliminate bulleted lists.

Maybe eBooks will one day faithfully reproduce the layout and contrast ratio of a printed page. But until that day, I'm going to use a much simpler layout on everything I write.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Publicize Your Book, by Jacquline Deval

Publicize Your Book focuses on mainstream publishing houses, as opposed to self-publishing, and shows what goes on inside the publishing house. Well written, time-saving tips from someone who knows the business from the inside.

Scroll down to the reviews for well written analysis of the book by the author of The Joy of Digital Photography.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

digital barn raising?

When I was a kid, I used to watch the Amish community get together for barn raisings.

The day before the raising, all the materials were delivered to the site. The next day everyone in the community showed up in the morning, and started work on the barn. By the end of the day, the farmer had a barn.

What if a group of authors did the same for new books? Maybe we get five, seven or more volunteers together for two hours to do a digital "barn raising" for new books. If you participate, that means the others in the group will do the same for you some day in the future.

We might shoot a dozen short videos, write a dozen Amazon reviews, write twenty 130 word blog posts (to use in future), a bunch of tweets and facebook entries. By the end of the day the book would be launched.

The corporate world just did this kind of thing successfully with the Old Spice commercials. Here's an explanation of how it worked for them:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tips for responding to the media

What do you say when a reporter wants to interview you?

Here's a link to a very good tip sheet, "Tips for responding to the media" from Resource Media:

From the tip sheet:

When a reporter calls … first ask questions.

When’s your deadline?
This question is imperative. Let them know you will get back in touch before that time.

What’s the story about?
Don’t be afraid to ask for more information. It’s possible the reporter will ask YOU to identify the news. This is your chance to set the tone for the interview and, possibly, the article.

What do you need?
Get specifics.

Who else have you called?
You may not get an answer, but this is a fair question. It can help reveal the “angle” of the story.

Next … do the following:

Hang up to get prepared:
This is key.

Enlightenment masters podcast

Here's my first experiment at a podcast. Ed Dalton talks about direct experiences and the enlightenment intensive.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Concerning the 'Interview,' by Mark Twain

Concerning the 'Interview.'

No one likes to be interviewed, and yet no one likes to say no; for interviewers are courteous and gentle-mannered, even when they come to destroy. I must not be understood to mean that they ever come consciously to destroy or are aware afterward that they have destroyed; no, I think their attitude is more that of the cyclone, which comes with the gracious purpose of cooling off a sweltering village, and is not aware, afterward, that it has done that village anything but a favor.

--Mark Twain

From a previously unpublished manuscript by Mark Twain. You can read the whole essay on the PBS Newshour blog, Rundown, here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

So you want to write a book in Word

On very good days, Microsoft Word and I have a love-hate relationship. On all other days we have a loathe-hate relationship.

Unfortunately for me, the rest of the civilized world is standardized on this bloated, over-complex piece of software. Whether they like it or not, professional writers have to learn how to use Word. (But "Surely," you say, "There are good alternatives?" So far I have researched about 15 Word alternatives but they all have drawbacks that rule them out as professional writing tools. Word is such a behemoth in the marketplace, that new word processing packages can't seem to muster the development resources and money to 'make it'.)

If you are writing a long document in Word, here are a few simple things you can do to defend yourself. Things that make it more likely that your long document will not crash, reformat itself, or otherwise trash your work--usually on the day you promised to send your manuscript to the publisher.

So You Want To Write A Book In Word is an eloquent article about what you can do and how to do it. It appears to be written for Word versions between 97 and 2004, but you can easily adapt it to later versions.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Chapter by Chapter: a program for writing books in Word

If you ever try to write a book in MS Word, you will quickly realize that there is no easy way to write a long document in Word. (By long, I mean 50,000 to 100,000 words, or more, with multiple chapters.)

There seem to be three options when writing a book in Word:
1. Using Word's Master Document feature.
2. Creating one humungous document.
3. Writing each chapter as an individual document and assembling them into a book at the end of the process.

I've never been able to get the Master Document feature to work satisfactorily. Probably just me, but I can't make it work. I've had equally bad results with creating one humungous file. Word tends to crash, or automatically reformat parts of the document, or incorporate infuriating "hidden" formatting. I find the safest way to work is to make each chapter a separate .doc file. Then assemble all the doc files just before publishing. But... you have to keep track of where the files are are on your disk, make sure you have the right version, and assemble them in the right order... I find it a frustrating organizational nightmare. Chapter by Chapter is a companion program to Word that goes a long way toward solving these problems.

Chapter by Chapter is a free program that helps you write a book in MS Word. It allows you to pull together multiple Word documents into a single longer one.

As you work, Chapter by Chapter gives you an outline view to the left of your editing window, so you can easily jump back and forth between various chapters. When your book is finished, Chapter by Chapter handles the task of compiling the documents.

Overall Chapter by Chapter seems to be a faster, more reliable way to assemble a book from multiple Word documents than using Word's frustrating Master Document feature, or creating one humungous book file.

You can download Chapter by Chapter here:

A good description of Chapter by Chapter is here:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Restrepo: cameras used to film the doc

Documentary Tech has a good article about the superb documentary Restrepo.

Roger Ebert says in his review: "It was filmed at great personal risk by the war photographer Tim Hetherington and the author Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm)..."

A couple technical notes:
One of the things that struck me is the way journalism, still photography and filmmaking are converging.

Cameras used:
Sebastian Junger used a Sony HVR V1 and Tim Hetherington used an HDV Z1. Both are HDV tape cameras.