Publishing, formatting and metadata headaches


Head of the Beast, the Manuscript of the first of the Paul Calvin novels, is almost about as ready as I can make it. Nothing from Harper Vector since acknowledgement of receipt 2nd October 2012, so I’m assuming they don’t want to know. Had they been interested I’d have expected them to be in touch long before now. Quite frankly that nails the lid on mainstream publishers as far as I’m concerned. They’re too rude or ignorant to send out a polite or timely emailed notice of (dis)interest, so I’m no longer interested in them. I will submit no more work to mainstream publishers and agents. Three months per submission? I don’t think so. Are they expecting prospective authors to die of old age before they even look at their work? Not playing that game. I’ve played it for too long with very little to show. No more slush pile. No more hanging around, wasting my hope and effort. Back to the self publishing grindstone. At least I only have myself to blame if my business model falls flat or royalties don’t arrive on time.

There are two remaining major manuscript headaches, formatting and metadata. The formatting, because when an error occurs, I can’t strip out all the unwanted codes, which in turn screw up the formatting; I can’t seem to reformat the page to the correct paper size for publishing, and I’ve read the goddamned Openoffice help file and manual back to front, searching for an answer. Chapter headings won’t stay put. OpenOffice 3.3 is just as bad as Microsoft Word in all its appalling iterations. I may have to cut and paste the raw text into a fresh template and go through the tedious business of inserting new headings, italics, paragraph formats. It’s all so Byzantine and unnecessary. A 70,500 word document is a lot of work to reformat. All over one unassailable code error.

I used to be a confirmed WordPerfect fan for one reason; Reveal Codes. That Alt-F3 hotkey was an absolute lifesaver on long, complicated technical documents when one specific piece of code buried in the text was mucking up the format of a manual or report. Especially when other people had been making their own untracked revisions. These untouchable codes can completely screw up your day and important, time sensitive documentation. Specifically when you’re racing deadlines and need stuff ready for meetings. WordPerfect used to make my working life so simple. Search and replace used to be so easy. When formatting is critical, particularly in OpenOffice 3.3 and Microsoft Word (All versions) one hidden code can ruin a weeks work of crucical revisions. As for Macs, I’ve heard the same things about them, too. That and I’m like most relatively unknown writers – broke. So no money for new software. I’d love a copy, but I don’t have the three hundred dollars after my day job pays the bills.

Have finally cracked the metadata issue, so there is going to be a proper eBook release via Barnes and Noble, iTunes etc. with decent heading and document structure to make navigation an absolute snip for the reader. Also I won’t end up tearing my remaining hair out over multiple distribution rejections. So long as I follow the instructions properly. There’s even a handy dandy little video explaining Metadata.

Update: Have had to reformat a whole new document. All twenty five chapter headings are now firmly ensconced in the headers and footers. Just the italicisation to do tomorrow. Late shift on day job tonight, so I’m going to pack in now, grab a snack and see what tomorrow brings.

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Martyn K Jones

A writer who first trained as an Electrical Engineer, then fulfilled various roles within the computing industry. First published in 'SuperBike' magazine, 1978 under the pseudonym Harry Matthews. Since then has written and had published a wide variety of work; from PR copy in trade magazines to supernatural short stories and the occasional satirical article. Emigrated to Canada in 2007. Became a Canadian Citizen December 2014. Now branching out as a serious science fiction novelist.

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