First of all: Hatrack is alive!
I released The Case of the Perambulating Hatrack on April Fools Day, as is fitting for such an absurd romp of a book. I’d intended to release it earlier, and then I planned to put it out in March, and then…
The problem was, I wrote Hatrack in piecemeal through 2020, starting in about February, and continuing through to October. Some of it was dictated, and never got edited from dirty transcription (or at least, not in manuscript. I think that I did editing as I posted it on the blog, but Past Cedar is the worst. Present Cedar isn’t happy with her), some of it was, well…
This book was written from weekly prompt challenges over at MOTE. It wasn’t meant to be more than, perhaps, a short story. And following the plot progression was a bit like random number generation, as I allude to in my afterword, a Drunkard’s Walk. Which meant that editing it was a chore and a half. Plus, I’ve been… it’s been a year. I just haven’t had the mental or physical energy for a big project. I find writing much easier than editing.
However, finally, I put my nose to the grindstone. The last editing was actually done sitting in a doctor’s waiting room with my son and my iPad. I looked at him and said a small yay! and then realized that I had finished it on March 31…
We got home, eventually, with no one the worse for wear other than the terminal ennui that affects anyone spending that much time sitting and waiting for answers. I looked at my husband and asked him to make dinner, please, and I went straight to the computer.
Here’s where it got interesting. When I opened up the KDP dashboard to start inputting the book details, I remembered an email I’d seen from them a while back, pointing out that the same tool I’d used for formatting the children’s books for uploading could also be used for text-based books.
What the heck, right? This book has been an adventure in experimenting from the beginning. So I downloaded Kindle Create and loaded the stripped-down manuscript into it. I’d done almost no formatting. As a matter of fact, I compose in Google Docs, and then download to Word, where I make sure I’ve got my paragraphs formatted correctly, but that’s it. I have body text, and chapter headings.
Kindle Create, it turns out, does a great job at making it all pretty and it’s incredibly easy. Plus! and I was chatting with friends sending them excited little commentary during the hours I was working on it… It’s not just ebook. The same file package it spits out does paper, and hardcover, formatting. I had the whole thing uploaded and ready to roll – and that included a paperback full cover spread – in four hours. Which time includes stopping to eat that dinner my husband made for us.
Here’s the title page – formatted from the form you get when you click on that little plus sign in the upper left toolbar, and select title page. It even had a little place to put a logo. Velocipede Squirrel worked nicely for this book! As you can see, I was also able to generate a copyright page, partly their provided boilerplate, and some of my own. A dedication page, and an automatic TOC based on the chapter headings.
There are limited font options right now. I expect that to change, possibly. For one thing, when you are talking ebook, that’s best left to the reader to select what font they prefer reading in. But for paper, this gives you a handful of solid readerly fonts to use. You can also choose from 8 or so page layout formats (chapter title, author name, page number) for print.
I’ve fought so long and hard with print formatting over the years. I’ve put off buying expensive software. And now? I don’t have to. You can create a handsome ebook – I’m still waiting on my paper copies to arrive for verdict on the paperbacks. Hardbacks are going to have to wait on me being able to format their covers. That’s a whole ‘nother thing.
I will say, looking at the print previewer in the KDP dashboard, the signs are promising! Oh, and you can put those spiffy dropcaps in with Kindle Create.
There are some handy features here, including the ability to add in standard bits of book business. This afterword was typed up in the form provided by clicking on that lower left plus button. So was an author bio, and the books by the author. Well! That was the feature that really had me bouncy and happy. You get a form to fill in with a title, the amazon link, and a brief description. What you get out on insertion is a live-linked page without having to fight formatting. So readers can one-click their way to your whole back catalog.
Also, you’ll note at the top of the page that there is a handy little reminder that pops up every few minutes telling you to save. On the right, you’ll see some of the formatting options. To use these, put your cursor where you want the change to occur and select. Some cascade through the entire manuscript (like chapter headings) others do not (like drop caps).
Overall I was delighted with the whole process, and I think I will be running some of the back catalog through this, if for no other reason than to make sure I have updated links to ‘other books’ in the older titles. A chore that should be done every so often!
And if you’d like to read the Hatrack, I’d love to hear your feedback on the formatting. And the story!