Formatting TYOTE for CreateSpace POD

This post documents the workflow I followed while formatting my short story collection, The Year of the Elm (TYOTE), for printing with CreateSpace. If you’re venturing down the same print-on-demand (POD) road I hope my experience makes your project a little easier. I also fervently hope this post reminds me of all the useful things I learned the next time I have a manuscript to format. (Had I not kept notes, ninety-percent of what follows would already be lost.)

As posted previously, I finalized my cover redesign, uploaded the files to CreateSpace, and got the proof back in short order. To my utter amazement, all of the decisions I made turned out exactly as I hoped, and I was quite pleased with the result.

But I worked hard for that happiness.  Read more ]

Clay Shirky’s Web Presence

A couple of days ago Clay Shirky put up a blog post on his WordPress blog that got a fair amount of play. I don’t have anything to say about the post itself because I haven’t read it, for reasons that I will explain momentarily. I do have something to say about Clay’s blog, however, and it’s something I first noticed last year, when another of Clay’s posts was being bandied about.

What caught my attention then, as now, is that the man who wrote Here Comes Everybody is making some odd choices in presenting himself and his thoughts to the public. To see what I mean, pop over to Clay’s blog, where you’ll find a minimalist, two-column WordPress template, with one nagging concession to form over function. (And I say this as a decidedly form-follows-function person, which is going to be driven home in embarrassing fashion in the following paragraphs.)

Specifically, Clay’s desire for a streamlined look prompted him to use justified text in his blog formatting — meaning spaces between words are varied on a per-line basis, so each line is the same length, regardless of the words in the line. Like this.  Read more ]

Formatting Documents for e-Publishing

I have a collection of short stories I would like to publish online. I’ve been working on cleaning them up for the past six months or so, and I’m now at the point where I need to confront a variety of technical questions. I know that a lot of people have already wrestled with these issues before me, so I’m asking for links/comments that will shorten my learning curve and prevent me from having to reinvent the wheel.


  1. I write in Word, and that’s not going to change any time soon. My goal here is trying to develop a clean, clear work flow that makes the transition to any/all online publishing options as simple and painless as possible. (Including print-on-demand.) The first thing that (I think) I need to know is whether I should convert my original Word docs into another file format first (say, e-Pub, but that’s only an example), then change that internet-friendly file to meet the requirements of any particular publishing site/service, or whether I should only do so on a case-by case basis. What’s the right first step here?
  2. I need all the how-to links and advice I can get. I’m willing to read until my eyes bleed, but again, the goal is short-circuiting the learning curve. Who’s been down this road recently and written about it? Site-specific feedback is fine: I’d like to read about Smashwords author experiences, Amazon, etc.
  3. I know there are passionate views on both sides of the e-Pub file format issue. I’m not even sure what all the fuss is about, but I’m willing to learn. Who should I be reading? I like the idea of non-proprietary file formats. I know I’ll have to deal with Amazon’s proprietary format at some point, but I’m not eager to abet its dominance. Opinions? Links? Is this even worth wading into, or should I just stick with the practical issues related to getting my text ready?

Any and all feedback/links/comments appreciated.   Read more ]

Format Freaking

Whether you know a little or a lot about the interactive entertainment industry, it’s worth reading this (short) article if only to see how pervasive the current uncertainty is in all content-driven mediums. You might think the software business would be less at-risk of the internet as a distribution mechanism, or to concerns about formats, but you’d be wrong.

The article is also hilarious in demonstrating the kind of outdated reference that suggests key executives in all content-driven industries are missing the bigger picture:

For example, [Yoichi Wada, CEO of Square Enix] said, films are generally two hours long or less; television is a half hour or an hour, and runs in a series regularly for several months; and a newspaper is delivered in roughly similar size every morning.

Those mediums could have evolved in very different ways, but at a certain point, they standardized, and consumers know roughly what to expect when they experience one.

Newspapers? Delivered? Wha….?

Note, too, the complete omission of reference to the book industry, which is going through its own format freakout. Each industry will evolve in its own way, but if you believe that form(at) follows function (and I do), then all of these format issues are really just an(other) result of the inevitable move to internet distribution.

– Mark Barrett

Online Fiction Format

Two well-thought-out posts from Eli James at Novelr on the formatting of online fiction. Part 1 here, from August; Part 2 here, two days ago.

As noted previously, character blogs in particular and online fiction in general haven’t taken off as I would have thought they might, given that the internet is itself seems a viable new medium. The points Eli raises clearly speak to part of the problem, and I hope to contribute to this issue as well in the near future.

– Mark Barrett