Archive for May 16, 2012

Alternate Horizontal and Vertical Layouts – are they really necessary?

Alternate Layouts graphic.

That’s a headline intended to create controversy. I’m working with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite CS6 to publish a fiction monthly. The thing was really under control until I learned about alternate layout, or liquid layout. It’s a way of making a vertical page re-design itself, somewhat automatically, into a horizontal layout. And a true digital publication – which is not an epub, but actually an application – that you download to your tablet device should really have two layouts. But those of us who have actually done design for multiple devices, and multiple layouts for each of those devices know that it is really a pretty big project (pain point). So I ask, if you are reading an ink and paper magazine, and enjoying its glossy papery goodness, but then you switch to your Kindle Fire and read the digital version, do you really expect or even feel entitled to a horizontal version? For example; The New Yorker, I think, is one of the best designed digital magazines out there. It’s made with Adobe’s DPS, and the experience is excellent without calling attention to itself. And it has no horizontal version (at present, anyway). It makes use of scrolling pages, audio links, a way to view all the cartoons at once – which is something we all do anyway – it is a lot more than the print version, not simply a .pdf of the magazine made available digitally (Runner’s World, I’m looking at you) So while I’m going to soldier on through this design in both layouts, are there any strong opinions out there? (full disclosure; I work at Adobe, so while I talk up DPS, it’s not only because it is a truly awesome product for publishing, I also say it because I’ve got mouths to feed.)

Take the survey, a link to the responses is available at the final page.


I published from Adobe InDesign to Kindle

A few people who read my short story on Kindle asked about my workflow for including images. It wasn’t rocket science. Plus, the next time I publish it will be via the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite – which is. Rocket science.

I submitted to Kindle Singles. I wanted to publish the thing just to get it out there. Take my shot, hell, just to hear the sound the gun makes when it goes off.

I was a little surprised — though maybe not — at how easy it was. Kind of. There was some confusion. (Maybe just skip to the next paragraph.) I was expecting a traditional submission experience, and the response wasn’t totally gratifying. There was no acceptance. “Thank you for your submission, we’re pleased to tell you that it meets our criteria…”

Here’s the rub: Don’t be distracted by the E-Mail you receive a day or two later which gives you instructions on how to publish on Kindle. You might think that you’ve made it. That was easy. Too easy. As much as it sounds and feels like victory, it’s not. Read carefully. It’s an invitation to self-publish on Amazon for Kindle. Two weeks later you might probably get an email that goes something like this:

Our editors have carefully reviewed your recent submission, and it has not been selected for inclusion in the Kindle Singles store. Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to consider it.

And that’s the familiar part. Are you with me? I don’t think that there was an English major interning at Amazon over the summer who read the first four pages of my short story. No, there’s a virtual Linux server (Amazon sells these, too) running a language algorithm that checks if you used the Oxford comma, or words like recalcitrant and desultory, or the active voice – these things have gotten sophisticated, people. And the Master Control Program rubber stamps a rejection. End of line. (Maybe this is not how it happens, I don’t really know.)

But I did pull the trigger when that E-Mail arrived (paragraph three, remember?). I…self-published <hangs head>. So I could say to people over lunch or, more likely for me, cocktails, that I published a story on Kindle. One way to be a writer is tell people that you’re a writer, right? Own it. Don’t dream it, be it. (Rocky Horror Picture Show)

And so here is my workflow for how I got my story formatted and uploaded to Kindle Direct Publishing – which is not Kindle Singles – according to the requirements. Disclosure: I work at Adobe. I know my way around layout and image editing programs. But, if you’re handy at all, publishing for Kindle is not hard.

My workflow is Buzzword -> InDesign -> Kindle. But there are instructions for publishing from other editors like Word.

Buzzword is how I write. And maybe you should, too. You can write a piece and either publish it ( anyone with the link can get to it) or share it with individual people (people who you choose log in and can read your piece – you can assign them a role such as reviewer which allows them to leave in-line comments but not change anything, or co-author, which allows them to make changes.) Your work exists in this cloud thingy that everyone is talking about and is available to you via login on any computer.

And InDesign has an import from Buzzword menu. Too easy. You should use InDesign, I’ve got mouths to feed.

In my story, the hero, Charlie, meets two black widow spiders. The first one spooks him, while the second one…well, read the story. I wanted to include an icon-like picture of a spider to break up the text. I used some Photoshop filters to make it look like a pencil sketch. And I also searched around and found a few other iconic images to include.The image was was much bigger than I thought it would be. And I generally feel that way about spiders, too. Plus, the Kindle converter takes an image and expands it to the width of the page – stretching an image is always bad in my opinion, but this was huge, and the resolution was bad. So I gamed the system by creating the image with a bunch of white space on either side – in the picture below I’ve included a black box around the picture so you can see what the actual file is. The real one, though is just a white box.


And the Kindle viewer made it thusly

Bang. I win.