Wednesday 21 March 2012

Publishing a Kindle Book

I just published my brother's book of poems - Metre Readings - on Amazon. It's very interesting to do and I thought I'd add my own experience to the many posts and forums on the subject.

At the end is a brief summary of useful information for someone thinking of buying a Kindle.

I prepared the original document for the book in Word which doesn't have to be a very recent copy as the document should be saved as .doc, not .docx which is the latest Word format. I used Arial throughout as the Kindle only uses one typeface and I placed the various illustrations (in JPG format). The document was then saved as "web page filtered". This creates an HTML document.

This can then be edited if necessary. I discovered that Amazon automatically indents the first line of all paragraphs and this is inconvenient for poetry which depends very much on retaining its original format, unlike simple blocks of text. I opened my document in Wordpad and found the CSS tag which applied to the body of the text and added "text-indent:0;" (not forgetting the semi-colon!).

I have Sarah Dawson in the UK (Poetry after Ink) to thank for pointing out text-indent:0.

It looked like this:
 /* Style Definitions */
 p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal

In other words, if you're not familiar with CSS, this says that:

"every time there is a <p> tag, a  <li> tag or a <div> tag called MsoNormal, apply the following (8) settings".

This is a typical line of text in the body of the document:
<p class=MsoNormal align=center style='margin-bottom:0cm;margin-bottom:.0001pt;
text-align:center;line-height:normal;text-autospace:none'><span lang=EN-US

Verbose, isn't it?

Having tweaked the HTML file, I then opened it in Mobipocket Creator which I downloaded from This converts the HTML into a .PRC file in two stages which is one of the formats that Amazon accepts. I could then copy it directly to the Kindle in order to test it.

Also Amazon provides a Kindle preview application but, for some reason, it didn't work on my Windows XP computer (it just shut down when I loaded a book) but it was ok in my Windows 7 netbook. To download the Kindle previewer go to this link.

When first I published the book, I uploaded my HTML file to Amazon but, 24 hours later, when the book appeared for sale, the illustrations were missing. My first guess was that they were too large but the Kindle screen resolution is 600x800 pixels and most of my JPG images were in that region and I had carefully kept the image file sizes below the 127k limit which Amazon specifies. Most were around 80KB. But one was still in RGB mode and was too big, so I changed it to Grey Scale. I've re-submitted the book and I now have to wait 12 hours to see if it is ok this time. The book is already up for sale but anyone buying it will get rather a raw deal, no illustrations and no quick link to the Table of Contents!
So, another important point is not only to have a Table of Contents but also to tell the computer at Amazon that it exists. It's no good just having a list of items with hyperlinks to each chapter, the Kindle will recognise the hyperlinks, that's no problem, but the "Go To" menu in the Kindle won't recognise the TOC and the selector will be "greyed out". I tried to create a TOC in Word and became very frustrated and gave up! I looked again at "Convenience Features" at Amazon and the solution is simple. One places a Bookmark in Word at the Table of Contents calling it "TOC" and the Kindle will recognise it. Google calls this feature "Guide Items".

I just checked the book for sale but it still doesn't have its images. When you think about it, there's no point in sending just an HTML file because, of course, it doesn't contain images. So now I've zipped my HTML file together with the folder containing the images that Word saved and I've sent that. 

Now on Saturday 24th March, the book is published... with illustrations! I think many people have similar problems. It's important that, when zipping the HTML file and its illustrations, that the illustrations are in the same sub-directory that Word used to store them when saving the book as "Web page filtered". It's all too easy simply to zip all the files together in one chunk losing the sub-directory relationship but this won't work. This is the main reason for using PkZip, it's not the compression that's so important, it's the relationship between directories.

The book is called "Metre Readings" and it's at or depending on where you live.
Are you thinking of buying a Kindle?

I have the earlier keyboard model so I have no experience of the new cheaper (sorry, more economical) version with touch-screen. I don't use the keyboard very much but it's handy for doing a word search inside the book.

All Kindles have the facility to alter the text size so, if your eyesight isn't very good then this will solve the problem. You can also choose between viewing the book in portrait or landscape mode. When I was preparing my brother's Kindle book, I soon realised that page numbers were meaningless (in fact they don't exist). This is due to the fact that because the user can select a text size the total number of pages will change. So the Table of Contents is vital and it should have hyperlinks to each of the chapters (or poems in the case of my book). I.e., click on the item in the Contents and it will take you directly to the poem or chapter.

Where to buy your books. You don't have to buy all your books from Amazon but those that you do are "locked in" to your Amazon account and can't be copied to friends. On the other hand, there are many sites in the internet that sell books in formats that the Kindle can read. Sometimes "Kindle Format" is specified but .mobi and .prc files providing they are not copy-protected can also be read by the Kindle. Simply download the file into your PC and copy to the Documents folder in your Kindle. There are so many sites that it's impossible to list them here, just do a search for Kindle format books (or free Kindle books). There is one site worth mentioning and that is Project Gutenberg: (Gutenberg was the inventor of the printing press). At this site you will find many free books for your Kindle.

One disadvantage of living in Spain is that one can't buy Kindle books from (unless one has one of those crafty service providers that makes it appear that you are in the UK!) You are stuck with buying from in the USA or This point is often raised in forums.

One other subject which is frequently raised is why Kindle books are sometimes more expensive than their printed counterparts. The reason given is that the cost of printing is not very great and, as with the limitation as to where one can buy the books, the reason is all tied up with copyright and royalties. But I don't pretend to understand it!

Wednesday 7 March 2012

The Wonderful iPod and a Tripod Mount

About a year ago, I bought an iPod Touch with 32Gbytes of memory and I wouldn't be without it. It's an iPhone without the phone so it's slimmer. But it has wifi so, providing I'm close to a hot-spot (and virtually the whole of Girona is covered) I can use it for e-mail and browsing the net.

I have Plane Finder, Boat Finder, Ultralingua English-Spanish and English-French dictionaries which are superb and my entire collection of 170 CDs. I had an Ultralingua dictionary on my old Palm PDA and it was awful. The difference bewteen that and the iPod version is astonishing.

My latest passion is to use the built-in video camera. Frequently I use the camera for taking pictures which, later, may become paintings but I'm keen on producing videos about art. For this, I need a tripod mount for the "camera". Apple doesn't produce such a device so I did a search on the web. They do exist but I decided to make my own. I used a flat metal plate with a 1/4" thread in the middle which was originally supplied to artists for mounting an art board on a tripod and I built a wooden frame for the iPod. I then mounted the contraption on top of a small tripod and I use it for mobile shots, rather like a "Steadycam" but a little cheaper. Note the tasteful varnish.

You've probably guessed the reason why I haven't shown my iPod mounted in the wooden frame!

I've ordered 100 square nuts to take a tripod mount which I plan to use to make my own iPod and iPhone tripod mount. The photo shows the home-made version but obviously the production version will be more sophisticated. So, if you live in the Girona area and you would like more information then please contact me. The price will be around €15.

I've upgraded my Quick Time application to the Pro version which enables me to edit videos. I need to buy a decent microphone to clip onto my clothes which then plugs into the headphone/mic socket on the iPod. Being an ex-BBC sound man, obviously I need to produce the very best quality audio!

Stand by for art videos on this Blog. I know I have a bit of catching up to do but I get there in the end!

Sunday 4 March 2012

Making Money Out of my Art

I know that many artists are driven by a deep passion for something in their lives and their paintings reflect that particular subject. There is a clear theme running through all their pictures. I wish I could say the same about myself but my paintings reflect many different themes and are painted in a number of different styles, from conventional watercolours of landscapes to slightly surrealist oils!

My motivation is this: I love experimenting with different mediums, papers, canvasses and paints. As a consequence, I end up spending large sums of money on materials, some of which I give away if they are not a success. To compensate for this I need to sell the end result rather than having it stacked up in one of my bedrooms.

My exhibition in May should help my plan as it's the pivot for a lot of self-publicising at this time. But I'm always being told that no one has any money these days. I tell people that, one day, my paintings will be more valuable when I'm not longer able to paint - that's a euphemism for being dead. But it doesn't seem to help!

Many artists make money by producing screen prints, etchings and other forms of art where one can create several copies fairly quickly but one can still say that they are the work of the artist. I  discount here lithography which, to me, is just printing, unless of course it is done manually by the artist with plates and tins of printers' ink. But that sounds incredibly messy! 

No, what I mean is a shop simply ordering a print run of, say, 500 and calling it a "limited edition". There is no harm in making money out of litho copies. I have a friend in Barcelona who makes a good living out of selling his incredible original artwork as posters in the newsagents in La Rambla. But they are posters, nothing more. The artist makes no contribution to each copy as it rolls off the press.

I tell people that I'm more than happy to print a poster of any of my artwork, whether or not it's previously been sold, on heavy watercolour paper on my A3 printer for €12. I'll even sign it! The result is very good but only is really authentic in the case of watercolours. All ink-jet printers are "watercolour", they uses water-soluble ink. If the original is in oil, then the copy looks nothing like the original.

Making money

I don't claim to be anything more than an upstart amateur. I never received formal training in art but people make many kind and positive comments about my work so I must be doing the right thing. But, at my level, I can't hope to sell my pictures for €2000 or to make a good living out of art. So I will build on my strengths. I'm a technician and I've written elsewhere that I'm fascinated by the "technology" of art. My latest purchase is transparent gesso primer. I'll tell you about my plan.

Recently I painted an acrylic of Celrà as a commission for my doctor but I wasn't sure whether it was destined for the health centre or for his home. In the end, it was the latter and I was disappointed that it's not reaching a wider audience because I really liked the painting but I didn't like the colours. But see my posting elsewhere in this Blog about acrylics. The original version is on my web-site.

I'm going to re-paint it, this time in oils. Every painting gets scanned into my computer and my plan is to print it but as a weak image onto A3+ heavy grade paper. The paper is so thick that it has to be fed in at the back of the printer and it remains flat during the printing process. Being water-based, my first step is to seal it with a fixer spray which is normally used to seal pencil and charcoal sketches. Then I will paint a coat of transparent gesso primer.

The image is now ready to receive the oil paint. I can re-paint parts that I didn't like but I have the advantage of starting with the outline image. Now, I have to think of a name for this process! I like the word "re-mastered", it's rather cheeky as it is used in sound recording to re-mix the original multitrack tape into a new stereo copy in order to squeeze more sales out of the original recording.

I suppose the closest thing is in the case of artists producing monochrome etchings which they then paint with colour, each copy therefore is different.

This process gives me some more ideas. Now I can paint oils onto any surface, including paper, but retaining the original image. I can draw a sketch on paper, seal it, prime it transparently and apply the oils. I can go back to some of my early pencil sketches and update them in oil.
But, in the end, it is a commercial process! I need to recover my material costs. In this year alone, I've spent around €350 not forgetting the stock that I've carried over from previous years, very little of which has been paid for through sales.

I seem to have lost one of my paintings, "Arcos de Pals", but it's still in my computer and on the web-site. So it's not totally lost! I'll re-master it, make a clone. Aha, maybe that's the word to describe what I'm doing. (1st June: just sold the replacement Arcos de Pals).