david foster wallace did not use scrivener

Ed Ditto’s tutorial on creating print manuscripts from Scrivener is required reading for self-publishers. It’s gotten me a huge portion of the way to formatting The Dandelion Knight for print, and I thank him for his service (and Garrett Robinson for the video version, which I haven’t watched yet but would like to one day). But, through no fault of Ed’s, the process fails at one step that is critical for me and perhaps no one else.


I know. Let’s just stipulate that they’re necessary. But, if you’re compiling to PDF, Scrivener forces you into a Sophie’s choice with footnotes—use Proofing layout and lose some fonts (as well as some amount of control over whether your pages end up recto or verso, at least allegedly), or use Publishing layout and tolerate endnotes. I refused to give up IM Fell for my title page and chapter titles, and I refused to tolerate endnotes. So I opted to compile from Scrivener to Word.

Unfortunately, there are a few aspects of the conversion that weren’t great. They’re all manually fixable, but they do kind of need manual fixing. I’ll show some screenshots.


Problem 1: Author and title are too close to the main text.

Solution: This is easy but annoying—manually go through the headers and change them. Unfortunately, Scrivener makes each chapter heading into its own “section” and edits to one don’t propagate through the rest. I’ve tried to fix this in styles but haven’t managed to figure it out.


Problem 2: Footnotes are the same size as the rest of the text. (Oops, it looks like a useless hyphen has also crept in.)

Solution: Also easy, not annoying: Just put your cursor into a footnote, select all, and change the size.


Problem 3: Pages don’t always end on the same line. (In its “two pages” display, Word displays odd pages on the left and even on the right, because it starts with 1—so don’t worry that the odds and evens are on the wrong side or that the margins are reversed for recto and verso. At least, I think you shouldn’t worry.)

Solution: Select the entire main text, then go to Format -> Paragraph. Click “Line and Page Breaks,” then deselect “widow and orphan control.” You want to select all because the document is divided into different sections; the last thing you want them to do is treat widows and orphans differently!

Henson on genre, part deux

On The Muppet Show, the young and annoyingly earnest Scooter gets to have his way—because his uncle owns the theater. Kermit, in order to put on his show, must keep him happy. Scooter suggests a number with a dancing poodle.

Kermit says, “It sounds, said the frog, displaying his artistic judgment, sappy.”

Scooter mentions his uncle.

Kermit adapts: “It sounds, said the frog, displaying his will to survive, wonderful.”

Ibid. (I’ve just discovered the “your Kindle highlights” page on Amazon — can you tell?)

Jim Henson talks about genre without talking about genre

[Henson:] I didn’t call him a frog.

[Interviewer:] Right, he was just Kermit the thing.

[Henson:] Yeah, all the characters in those days were abstract because that was part of the principle I was working under.… I still like very much the abstract characters and some of those abstract characters I still feel are slightly more pure. If you take a character and you call him a frog, or like Rowlf, our dog, call him a dog, you immediately give the audience a handle. You’re assisting the audience to understand; you’re giving them a bridge or an access. And if you don’t give them that, if you keep it more abstract, it’s almost more pure. It’s a cooler thing. It’s a difference of a sort of warmth and cool.… [I]n terms of going commercial and going broad audience, you want to reach the audience as much as possible, and you need those bridges.

Quoted in MAKE ART MAKE MONEY, Elizabeth Hyde Stevens

the wattpad experiment

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about Wattpad. Since then I’ve published the stories that Amazon still hasn’t price-matched, but I’ve been a little bit reluctant to post new work, or work that’s for sale elsewhere. But I’m now far enough along with a work in progress that I think it’s worth doing.

For those who care about the “business” angle, the work in progress is a novelette or novella (it’s not done, so I’m not sure) set in the world of THE DANDELION KNIGHT, titled “Dispatch from a Colored Room.” I don’t intend ever to sell it; its role is to be a free introduction to the series. The Wattpad version will be somewhat unpolished, but I will assuredly post it to my various ebook retailers and try to make it free as soon as it’s actually done. So those of you who don’t have Wattpad accounts can wait for that, although I wish you wouldn’t. To encourage you to follow along, here are the cover and an excerpt:


They do not teach you, in the offices of Dawnroad Bank, how much it strains your credibility with clients when you’re standing on their doorstep shivering hard enough that you’re actually a little out of breath from it. Dawnroad Bank does not often pay personal visits to clients in the boondocks of the sinistral sixth. But Dawnroad Bank never leaves money on the table.

Think about where that’s gotten them now, when the skies are split like the bellies of week-drowned rats and you can’t take a bite of bread without gritting your teeth on black bone-ash.

Some of you are going to want me to get to the point. You know that’s not how it works. Who’s here tonight? I see Aurea Laclois, the only woman in this room brave enough to admit she’s whored to live so she could walk this stage; I see Ambrose Chrysaor, who still can’t talk after a Champion nearly strangled him backstage for the crime of playing his part too well. Everyone here has suffered something like, and not for any “point,” because any geometer will tell you that a point is defined as nothing. A thousand points adds up to empty space. And you’re here, listening to me, because you know it.


I really enjoyed Joanna Penn’s recent interview with Ashleigh Gardner of WattPad–enough, actually, that I set up an account and started to check out the service. The tl;dr for people who don’t listen to Joanna’s podcast: WattPad is a social network set up around serializing fiction, which makes it a little like a mashup of Facebook and blogging. If Ashleigh is to be believed, it’s growing like kudzu and has a kind of shockingly favorable reader:writer ratio (about 9:1). You can’t charge anyone for the read, so you have to figure out how you’re going to convert readers to sales on your e-publishing platform(s) of choice, but the line from reading free fiction to buying fiction is a lot clearer than the line from, say, following someone on Twitter. That makes it a viable option for making a series starter permanently free, and so it all seems pretty interesting.

I’d say they do the core things right. The story interface on the mobile app is readable–if you don’t care about the social aspect of it, you can pretty much pretend you’re in your Kindle app. It’s not so great on the PC, which is just to say it’s cluttered in the way you’d expect from a social network. But who reads on their computer anyway? The problem with the mobile app is that some basic things are hard; e.g., there’s no way back to the home screen, so if you’ve just binge-searched a bunch of authors, you have to go back through them (or maybe quit the app?) if you want to do anything except search. I imagine these problems will get sanded down in time.

One thing that’s really surprised me: I’ve generally been underwhelmed by the quality of self-published fiction on the major e-publishing platforms. In my highly subjective judgment and not compendious experience, well-respected authors who are making a living at it seem to be hovering around the 50th percentile of quality relative to traditionally published work. (I haven’t read Joanna’s work. It’s also worth noting that I tend to start with the first book in a series, written almost by definition when the author is least experienced. So some of the people I sniff at might be quite skilled now.) Anyway, I’ve already found a couple of titles on WattPad whose prose really seems to be a cut above–and I’m not talking about Cory Doctorow or Margaret Atwood or people you’ve heard of (Brandon Sanderson is also on the site, offering WARBREAKER for free). I haven’t gotten deeply enough into either one to see if the stories work at higher levels, but solid writing at the sentence level is not something I’m used to in self-publishing, and I’m glad to find it so easily. And free!

So anyway. I’ll probably put something short up, just to see what happens. You know, in my copious free time.

help me price-match “statler pulchrifex” and “wormwords”

statlerpulchrifex wormwords

“Statler pulchrifex” and “Wormwords” are now available on the Kindle Store for $0.99! But, as at least some of you know, they are also available, respectively, at NATURE and COSMOS—for free. There’s no reason to make anyone pay for them on Amazon, except that I can’t charge less than $0.99 unless Amazon is aware that there’s a free alternative.

I’d like to enlist your help in that project. I’ve published both stories on Kobo—here’s “Statler pulchrifex,” here’s “Wormwords.” It would be great if I could get just a couple of people to do the following for each story:

1. Find it on Amazon (the serene blue covers above link to Amazon),
2. Ctrl-F “tell us about a lower price,” then click on it,
3. Click the “Website” radio button,
4. Enter the corresponding Kobo URL (linked in the previous paragraph), with $0.00 for the price and shipping cost of the stories.

I’ve done this myself, of course, but reports seem to suggest that price matches from people other than the author get quicker responses from Amazon.

Why go to all that trouble to make my work free? Same reason anyone gives out free samples—I want to give people a taste. I’d very much like to earn some money at this, of course, but I have a fair bit written and plenty more ideas. I don’t need to earn on every word.

In case anyone’s curious about the covers, incidentally, I wanted an easy way for free stories to stand out. As I add stories and collections, the system will become clearer, but the basic way it works is this: Collections have full-color covers, collected stories have sepia covers, free stand-alones have blue covers. The idea is that any short story that costs money will be collected, and therefore available at a discount; any short story that isn’t also presented in a collection should be free. Especially those available elsewhere on the Web for free.

Thanks for your help! I’ll post an update when the price-match goes through.

“keynote speech…” free on amazon through monday!

For anyone who missed the free promotion of BLOOD, WAX, MIRRORS, I’m now offering the first story, “Keynote Speech: Fourth Annual Symposium on Information Toxicity, Inaugural Section on Reverie Syndrome” at a 99-cent discount from its usual price of 99 cents until Monday, August 12. Here’s a brief passage:

I blame my wife for Kieran.

I’m not saying it’s fair. I’m sure I’d find my own excuses if it’d been my womb he’d grown in, and God only knows the Internet has said some uncharacteristically accurate things about my own role in the whole nightmare. I’m not saying you should blame her. But I do.

I’ve done this enough, I should be better at it. Here we go: Thank you, Dr. Desai, for your gracious introduction. And for such a distinguished physician-scientist to say such things about a humble carpenter, well, the heart just swells.

I am here behind this lectern because I famously sued several flagships of the insurance industry to medicalize reverie syndrome, an act of ham-fisted legal terrorism that Dr. Desai has elegantly edited to suggest that I was trying to set something right in the world. This, naturally, is arrant bullshit. Dr. Desai seeks to elevate both our fortunes by representing that we are in some alliance to improve your lives, him through medicine and me through stumbling around drunk on stage and telling you horrible things about my son. But I am impoverished by this ordeal, and I wish only to get paid—a disposition, incidentally, not entirely alien to Dr. Desai, who makes a fuck of a lot more from insurance payouts at his glittery new practice than he ever did running his cute little patient studies at the National Institutes of Mental Health.

So perhaps you now have some idea where I stand.

Should you download it, read it, and enjoy it (a tall order, I know, but I have faith), please consider following the blog for future announcements, purchasing the collection in which it skulks, or writing a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Thanks!

ed robertson on starting up as an indie publisher

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

All worth reading. The “nuclear option” in Part 3 is an intriguing idea—definitely the opposite of my approach. I guess I’m worried about the preoccupation that the SPP started to develop in maybe late 2012 or early 2013—the idea that free used to be useful, but now (due to algorithm changes and miscellaneous jiggerypokery) isn’t worth the risk inherent in training your readers to expect all your work to be free at some point. But the SPP has always been in favor of permanently free books used as low-friction introductions to series, and that is essentially what Ed’s talking about.

I think the insight comes down to: If you’re a new author with just one title, or (if you’re me) a few unrelated titles, you’re not going to make any money anyway. So you might as well do what you can to get readers, and free is one of the more powerful things you can do.

At the moment, I’m not sure I have the cycles to devote to making a book permanently free in any case—honestly, I’m not sure I have the cycles to reformat THE DANDELION KNIGHT for Smashwords, much less execute any price-matching trickery correctly. And I’m not even working on the sequel to TDK right now, so permanent free isn’t going to buy me any follow-on sales for a while (although it could drive sales of BLOOD, WAX, MIRRORS or a subsequent collection). Still, it’s at least good practice to think about all this.

I think I’m on the final 10,000 or so words of THE EIGHTH KING. Two weeks’ work, in theory. We’ll see.

new book, free book

BLOOD, WAX, MIRRORS is free on amazon.com from 8/6-8/8!

bloodwaxmirrors DKcover_1563x2500

Not entirely coincidentally, THE DANDELION KNIGHT is now available on amazon.com for $4.99! The plan is to get it to other distributors as well, but that’s going to take a bit of time. What I’d really like you to do, naturally, is to view this as an opportunity to get $8 of books for $5, rather than $3 for $0—but if free’s all you’re up for right now, I’ll take it.

It is perhaps worth saying that BLOOD, WAX, MIRRORS is unlikely to be free again in the foreseeable future. For those not conversant with how Amazon works, there are only two ways to make it free: (1) Put it up free somewhere else and wait for Amazon to price-match it, or (2) Enroll it in KDP Select, which allows me to make it free for 5 days out of each 90-day enrollment period in exchange for exclusivity on Amazon. BLOOD, WAX, MIRRORS is now in KDP Select, but I don’t want to keep the book exclusive to Amazon, so I don’t plan to re-enroll it. After I’ve built up my library a bit, it’s possible that I’ll go route (1), price-matching to free—but I think I need more books and stories out before that starts making sense.

This reminds me, I really need to see whether I can publish “Statler pulchrifex” and “Wormwords” on Amazon; those would be neat to have as permanently free promotional stories, since both are available for free online anyway. I’m reasonably certain I’m allowed to do this, but I’ve lost track of the contracts, so I should probably contact the editors at NATURE and COSMOS to be sure. Also, I need to set up proper affiliate links and update the DANDELION KNIGHT page on this here blog.

Also, I have a kid and a job. Well, one step at a time.