Helping authors publish

Author: Robin Phillips (Page 2 of 13)

Thank you, and happy holidays!

It’s been a great year for Author Help and we wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for being part of it.

At the start of the year, we officially became a limited company under the name Shilka Ltd. We got a shiny new logo, tidied up the website, and made all sorts of behind-the-scenes changes to accounting and so on.

Later in the year, Robin and Jen both successfully completed a diploma in proofreading and copy editing with distinction. Just as we were starting to use our newly polished skills, we realised we’d grown to the point where we couldn’t manage all the proofreading ourselves. We’re now working with three lovely subcontractors: Mel, Paul and Charlotte. With their help, we’ve improved turnaround time massively while still giving a great quality service.

We’ve also started working with Formatted Books, who help us with books that need something a bit special on the pages, such as children’s books or where the author wants a very particular look for their chapter headings. We’re still doing straightforward formatting in-house, and thanks to a recent software upgrade we’re expanding the range of options.

Last month, we added up the books we’ve helped to publish and realised we’d done over a hundred! This is a magnificent milestone for what started just a few years ago with Robin just doing what they love.

And of course, throughout it all our cover designer Henry and copywriter Cat have been absolute champions.

We’ll be taking some time off over Christmas, so responses to emails sent after 21st December may be slow. We will try to keep an eye on the inbox and respond to anything urgent, but otherwise things will be picked up in January.

We wish you all a peaceful and safe holiday season and a joyful new year.

Robin & Jen

International Day Of Disabled Persons

It’s the International Day Of Disabled Persons, so here’s a short list of easy ways to make your web pages and social media posts more accessible.

When writing hashtags, use BumpyCase (also known as CamelCase). It’s better for screen readers and is less ambiguous (note the difference between #CarEbook and #CareBook)

On web pages, use headings to communicate the organisation of the page, not to make the text bigger. If you want bigger text, just adjust the font size. Again, this helps screen readers and accessibility tools. It also helps with SEO.

Use clear link text on web pages. The text in the link should describe what it links to, even if read out of context. Avoid link text like “click here”, that doesn’t indicate what is being linked to.

Always set alt text (“alternative text”) for images. In the alt text field, describe the image as well as you can. If you’re not sure what would be useful, remember that any alt text is better than nothing. If you forget to add alt text when adding images to Twitter, the Alt Or Not browser extension can help.

Use a website theme that has good contrast between text and background. Light grey text on a white background is much more difficult to read than black text on a white background.

If you use self-hosted WordPress, the AWS for WordPress plugin will automatically create audio versions of your posts.

For more information, see the Content Best Practices chapter in the WordPress Accessibility Handbook, or the Web Accessibility Initiative’s web accessibility tutorials.

Weekly News: 15th November 2021

Every week, we post a curated list of links that authors should find useful or interesting. Here are this week’s links:

If you want to publish your book, email us to find out how we can help.

Weekly News: 8th November 2021

Every week, we post a curated list of links that authors should find useful or interesting. Here are this week’s links:

  • Kobo’s unlimited subscription service, Kobo Plus, is coming to Australia, New Zealand, and Italy.
  • Books2Read now supports print books, as well as ebooks and audiobooks.
  • Writing and publishing poetry can be a challenge, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.
  • You don’t have to start at the beginning.
  • Structure can help you write your book, but it’s not the whole answer.
  • Indie authors don’t generally pitch to agents and publishers, but we still have to pitch to others.
  • The conventional advice is to write a series, not a standalone novel. But can you expand a novel into a series?

If you want to publish your book, email us to find out how we can help.

Weekly News: 1st November 2021

Every week, we post a curated list of links that authors should find useful or interesting. Here are this week’s links:

If you want to publish your book, email us to find out how we can help.

Weekly News: 25th October 2021

Every week, we post a curated list of links that authors should find useful or interesting. Here are this week’s links:

  • How authors support each other on social media.
  • Amazon will start adding a transparency code to KDP Print books if the uploaded cover doesn’t include a barcode.
  • Lots of authors are looking for alternatives to Audible & ACX. Be careful, even established companies like Scribd can engage in rights grabs.
  • Facebook (or any other social media company) could delete your account at any time. Make sure you have a mailing list that you control.
  • Give your chapters titles, not just numbers. Chapter titles are useful for marketing.
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch on deadlines.
  • Writing non-fiction? Avoid these mistakes that make your work look amateurish.

If you want to publish your book, email us to find out how we can help.

Weekly News: 18th October 2021

Every week, we post a curated list of links that authors should find useful or interesting. Here are this week’s links:

If you want to publish your book, email us to find out how we can help.

Weekly News: 27th September 2021

Every week, we post a curated list of links that authors should find useful or interesting. Here are this week’s links:

  • Authors have many options these days. How do you choose the one that’s right for you?
  • We’d all like to be more productive in our writing. These ideas might help.
  • New opportunities appear at a dizzying rate. Kristine Kathryn Rusch on how to work out which ones are worth pursuing.
  • Joanna Penn has been a full-time author entrepreneur for a decade. Here’s what she’s learned in that time.
  • Being approached by an overseas publisher is exciting, but a note of caution is advisable.
  • The pages your website should have, and the ones that are good to have.
  • Your website theme came with stock images and text. Make sure you delete all of it.

If you want to publish your book, email us to find out how we can help.

To DRM or not to DRM?

One of the questions we ask our authors is whether or not they want to enable DRM for their ebooks. Our recommendation is always not to enable it, but as with everything else, it’s the author’s book and so the final decision is theirs. This article explains what DRM is, why you might want it, and why we always recommend against using it.

What is DRM?

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, which is technology that tries to prevent unauthorised copying of electronic files. There are DRM technologies available for various types of electronic files, but this article is only concerned with ebooks.

In theory, an ebook with DRM can only be viewed on an authorised device. In other words, if you buy a Kindle ebook from Amazon, you can read that ebook on any Kindle app or device that is registered to your Amazon account. If you buy an ebook from Kobo, you can read it on any Kobo app or device registered to your Kobo account. There’s no point uploading your file to a piracy site, since no-one else will be able to read it.

Does it stop piracy?

If it worked as intended, DRM would stop piracy. In practice, for anyone who knows how, removing DRM from ebooks is quick and easy. Most readers don’t know how, of course, but anyone wanting to pirate ebooks can find it out from a quick internet search.

This means that pirates know how to get around the restrictions. Thus, the pirates aren’t affected, and piracy isn’t prevented.

What does it mean for readers?

Most of the time, nothing. But if a reader has been reading books on one platform and decides to move to another, they won’t be able to take any DRM’d books to their new ereader. While it’s possible to strip the DRM to do this, the average user is unlikely to know how.

If the vendor decides to stop selling ebooks, the reader will not be able to read their DRM’d books elsewhere. If you’re thinking that’s unlikely, note that Microsoft stopped selling ebooks as recently as 2019. Back in 2013, Kobo removed all self-published books from its catalogue in what turned out to be a temporary purge. In the early days of Kindles back in 2009, Amazon removed copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from Kindles.

So overall, there is no real benefit to enabling DRM, but you might potentially cause problems for readers.

Reading PDFs on ereaders

A while ago, a friend was thinking about buying an ereader for her husband, who reads a lot of PDFs. She thought it would be great for him to be able to read them on an eink device. She asked for advice, and this post is based on what I told her.

Screenshot of a PDF displayed on a Kindle Paperwhite
Reading a PDF on a Kindle Paperwhite. The page size is A4, but the Kindle has a 6″ screen, so the text is very small and difficult to read.

There are many articles online claiming that Kindles and other ereaders support PDF, or how easy it is to convert PDF to your ereader’s preferred format. They’re right, but with some significant caveats. Reading a PDF on an ereader is a far cry from reading an ePub or mobi format ebook on the same device. The PDF won’t resize and reflow to work nicely on the screen. This leads to a lot of zooming and scrolling. I found it such an unpleasant experience that I bought a 10″ tablet to read PDFs on. I still prefer my Kindle and my Kobo for reading ebooks, but won’t use them for PDFs.

Screenshot of a PDF on a Kindle, zoomed in so that the text is large enough to read.
The same PDF on the same Kindle, zoomed in to make the text large enough to read. The user has to scroll horizontally to read each line.

So, why not convert the PDF to ePub or mobi, and read that on the ereader? Converting PDFs is simple enough using Calibre, but the results are very uncertain. The Calibre manual states that “PDF documents are one of the worst formats to convert from.” If it’s a single-column PDF it might work reasonably well. It won’t be as pretty as the original, paragraph breaks might be in odd places, etc. If the PDF has headers and footers, they will be included in the converted file as if they were a standard part of the text, which can be jarring.

Screenshot of a PDF converted to mobi and displayed on a Kindle Paperwhite.
The same PDF converted to a mobi file to read on a Kindle.

Two-column PDFs won’t convert well at all. The converter doesn’t recognise the columns, and so you get the first line of the first column, then the first line of the second column, second line of the first column, second line of the second column, etc. The result is unreadable. Text boxes and the like can also really mess with it.

If you’re going to read a lot of PDFs, I would strongly recommend something with a 10″ or larger screen. 10″ tablets are common and some are reasonably inexpensive, but many people don’t like reading on a back-lit screen, hence the popularity of eink devices for reading ebooks. Kobo recently announced the Kobo Elipsa, which has a 10.3″ eink screen. This should be excellent for reading PDFs and ebooks, but it’s significantly more expensive than either a standard ereader with a 6″ screen or a 10″ tablet.

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