Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Copyright Challenges 21st December 2010.

I had an interesting weekend with a retailer this last week, when they decided to challenge our right to publish some of our books.

We were finally able to sign an agreement with this particular prime e-book retailer when they lifted their restriction on dealing with small publishers who didn’t have a US bank account. Since they’ve now changed this policy and will pay us by cheque I was setting up the agreement within 30 seconds of finding out they’d relaxed the restriction. That’s not to say they told us they were relaxing it, it was when I found out.

Obviously, to ensure the process is working properly (as much from our end as from theirs), in the first instance, I only loaded one book to them planning to check it on their site before going any further.

I was quite surprised when they challenged our “copyright” on this book, but that wasn’t that unreasonable when you consider their reason was the author’s name didn’t match the account name. Clearly this was an automated response, the word “Publishing” in the account name would have been a clue to a human operator (Ed - there again, perhaps not!).

Answering this question brought another automated response - it takes 2 working days to process e-mails. I waited for a day and then checked again – lo and behold the book was up on the site and I downloaded and checked a copy. I never did get an answer to my e-mail. Since the book was okay I continued with the upload process, and have currently uploaded 48 books.
Of these 48 books so far uploaded, some 15 (including some of mine and Paulette’s) had been published previously by an American publisher whose unlamented demise in mid 2009 is documented elsewhere.

Over the weekend this retailer challenged our “copyright” on two of these books since they had already been published by said publisher before. One of those books was mine, and one was Paulette’s. Interestingly the other 13 or so weren’t challenged and have been loaded onto their web site.

Of course, I have responded to the e-mail again, asserting our right to publish, and enclosed copy contracts, but again the response I received is the same “it takes 2 working days...”

Seeing as how, like all reputable publishers we only contract the “publishing rights” to a book and NEVER EVER infringe on the author’s copyright to the original material, it’s a little upsetting that this retailer throws the word “copyright” around with such abandon.

Mildly irritated would be the correct description of my current frame of mind...

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The Trouble With Text Boxes 18th December 2010.

Now, we all know, or should know by now, when we’re writing we avoid certain of Word’s little gizmos that are designed to help presentation material, sales literature or simply jazz up a business document.

There are loads of these, but the last thing a publisher needs is for an author to include them in a manuscript. Some are obvious, watermarks, document papers (i.e. backgrounds) and colourful ornaments of any type.

These obvious ones are very easy to spot, and essentially easy to deal with, preferably by the author, if necessary by the poor sap art the publisher who has to format these books into e-books. On our case, that poor sap, in case you haven’t realised it is of course me.

The less obvious ones are more difficult to track down, especially as for some of them Word doesn’t provide you with a mechanism to jump to them. One of these is a pesky little devil called a text box.

I have spent a fairly fruitless afternoon attempting to upload a 120,000 word book to one of our wholesalers, and each time their autovetter (the program that checks the uploaded book) rejects it because there is a text box in the document.

Now, in a presentation document you use a text box for all sorts of things, but unless it’s a heavily formatted illustrated book, it’s not something you would use, and if it is, there are other alternatives – mainly to using Word in the first place!

The autovetter doesn’t like it, because it would play havoc with the e-book formatting, essentially destroying the formatting in extreme cases. The problem is this particular autovetter doesn’t tell me where the problem is in the book – which is why I’ve had to parse through it so many times in fruitless attempts to locate the “wavy grey line” that is the only indication Word will give you that the box actually exists.

Can I find it?

Can I hell as like.

Have you ever tried to read through a 250 page book at speed, five or six times one after the other?

I have, and believe you me; it’s not something you want to try.

In near desperation I’ve called their customer support team for any clues, especially as I’ve now checked every version of the book we do and there is no hint of any formatting issue in any version.

Of course, it’s the weekend, so that’s another job that’ll get put on the back burner till Monday.

Damn it!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Double L meant double hell 14th December 2010.

I guess taking the time out from wring this blog in order to complete my double NANO challenge was a mistake – I don’t seem to have managed to get back into the swing of it since. Apologies to those few poor tortured souls who have been tuning in regularly to be faced with no fix for their addiction.

Anyway, on to the point for today. I had a really weird conversion problem last night, something of a seriously disturbing nature which I’ve never come across before. All revolving around the use of words containing a double L.

When a finished manuscript lands on my laptop from the editing team I have a lot of work to do in terms of formatting, adding copyright pages, dedications, biographies, cover images and so on. As well as to ensure the formatting meets all the input needs for all the conversion programs I subsequently have to use.

Then when the book is finally finished it’s time to fire up the convertors, you’d think one at a time, but in fact I have to produce two different versions of the Acrobat format and no less than three different versions of the Kindle format (due to the different security settings needed by different wholesalers!). Then it’s over to “old trusty” the 6 year old desktop machine that’s the only one that will run the Microsoft Reader conversion software before settling down in front of the third screen of the day to run the Epub conversion suite which takes as its input one of the Acrobat files rather than the Word file.

This final conversion involves a pair of programs since the converter will not allow you to edit the resulting file and has mangled the formatting, so you have to go in and edit the file to reinstate said formatting. This is where the problem came in. When parsing down the file I started noticing some odd spelling issues suddenly cropping up, ones there was no way our editors had missed, let alone our author had perpetrated.

Every single double L in the document had been changed to an L and a space. Since the main character’s name was Chelle this was a bit of a problem as it had become Chel e everywhere. As had every other word containing a double L.

The editor I have to use to work on an Epub file, doesn’t like long (novel-length) documents so won’t do find and replace all on them, besides I’m sure the author and readers would be up in arms with fruitfull rather than fruitful etc, etc, if I did a full mass replace. Do you know just how many words there are with a double L in them? It seems especially true of a Canadian author, but that’s another issue and I’m sure she will read this and know I’m joking. (Ed – He hopes!)

It took several hours of trying things, all to no avail before I tried something off the wall. I went back to the original Word document, did a find replace there for double L and replaced all 3409 occurrences with double L, reconverted to Acrobat, then reconverted to Epub.

Lo and behold it worked.

How bizarre is that?

Answers on a postcard...

Monday, 6 December 2010

A Gaffe that bites 06th December 2010.

Sorry, it’s been manic this last week so haven’t blogged as much as I used to – it’s been seriously bad weather and we’ve been dealing with a pre-Xmas rush, trying to get books released in time for Xmas orders to be fulfilled.

It was so bad last week, weather wise, that a proof copy of one book, which should have been delivered on Monday was actually delivered on Saturday – and this was by a national carrier. Luckily it was fine so the book has been good to go, and I spent yesterday “drowning” in a flood of print orders for it.

It’s clear; I’m going to have to look out our internal processes, downloading the order from our site, uploading it (manually) to the printer, updating the royalty spreadsheet and posting it to the account system, make four manual operations in an on-line business. Don’t yet know a way around that but the thinking cap is on.

I did however have a chance to take a good look at some of my author friends on Facebook and see what they were up to and look at both their promotional practices and, of course, opportunities for our own promotion.

This is where the gaffe of the title comes in.

I found a friend of a friend and went to look to see if this friend was worth friending. God, that’s a lot of friends in one sentence but it does make sense. (Ed. Huh? Hmmm... Maybe)

This person, whose blushes will be spared, is a freelance copy editor. Interesting, I thought, so I read a bit further, and then went back and read her public bio once more.

She had repeated the same sentence three times on her bio and I really had to read it twice to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.

“When I’m copy-editing for an author, I go through there MS line by line...”

Well, it made my day. What a lovely way to advertise her skills.

I wonder if I should pass it on to my son – he loves posting to FailBook but I suspect this is one for us writers and not one for the general populace.

By the way, I didn’t add her as a friend, but I did drop her a note to respectfully suggest a change. Well she had given me a laugh after all... No, I’m not going back to check if she corrected it.