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Louise's current project is to make all her sweet romances available on the internet.
Look out for her new Regency romance, Regency Fortune, coming soon!


Thursday, 30 June 2011


I've just discovered Goodreads, so I put my books up with them as well, why not? This post is to test the widget, which seems to work. It's a fun place to hang out. I've just had a nice conversation about SF - I was one of those kids who was utterly blown away by the discovery of authors such as Robert Heinlein - I read a book called Red Planet just about every week for my life from the age of about 10 to 18. I'm still not sure just what the appeal was, but I loved it. A great website for book lovers, and I'm glad I discovered it.

How to Format a Book for E-Publishing (when you use Word)

It's not hard, once you know how. It only takes an hour or so, once you know how - finding out how took me forever - so here are a couple of useful tips. The first concept to understand is that Word is not always your best friend. In fact it reminds me of Terry Pratchett Igor characters, shuffling around helpfully in the background, inserting bits of liver or eyeballs that it thinks you might like. This concept especially applies if you have written your book at more than one computer, and it is quadrupled if you used more than one version of Word. I think we've all had the experience of Word stubbornly altering our formatting while we sit there shouting, 'No! Leave it alone! I don't want a capital letter/double spacing/whatever it is Word thinks is needed there.' Word sticks in all kinds of formatting that it thinks you might like, and the extra formatting upsets the E-publishing machines, which are machines, and need telling what to do, and are easily confused.

The publisher Smashwords has a useful style guide that you can follow. Most of my info came from there. You should read it if you are going to format your own book - but here's an overview. The first thing you do is to find Notepad and open a new document. Then you go back to your precious book, select all (CTRL+A) copy all, and paste all into Notepad - this gives you a clean, unformatted text.

Next open a new Word document and turn off ALL the auto formatting, (go to the Office button then Word options) because you don't want Word putting any commands back into your text once you've formatted it. Paste your text from Notepad into the new Word document, and there you go. A nice clean book in Word with no gremlins, ready to format for Kindle or any other e-publishing format.

You have to learn how to use Styles (there are plenty of good tutorials on the internet) because the idea is that you set the style you need for chapter headings, ordinary text and first line indents, and then, to make sure it's consistent, you click on the style to apply it instead of formatting by hand. It's also quicker, once you have got your head around styles.

The most important tips for me were:
Line breaks and page breaks throw up weird floating spaces. Reduce the distance between chapter ends etc to 1 space only.
If you use the tab command to make new paragraphs- that also makes the text in e-books float around, and readers complain. It's easy to fix: enter find ^t and leave the replace box blank and thousands of replacements will be made in two seconds.

The good news is that you don't need page numbers or anything fancy - the E-publishing machines will pop in all that is needed, except a table of contents, that technique eludes me so far.

Once you kno whow, It takes about an hour to scan through and get a document ready, but it's so worth the effort, as you'll see when you preview your text.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

It's not the Writing, it's the Selling!

Louise ArmstrongI guess it's the same with just about anything. You could sit in your shed happily making left-handed widgets for the joy of it all day every day and life would be perfect - but then how do you pay the bills?

If anyone knows how to sell/promote books on the Internet, do please let me know. I'm making a start by entering a profile everywhere and anywhere telling people that I write books - but what do you do next?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

How to make book covers for e-books

As you can see, I am far from being an expert, but then, I'm a writer not a graphics artist!

The key to the process is to find a good photograph - the better the photo, the less you have to do. I have found Morguefile http://www.morguefile.com/ to be the best source of free images that allow comercial use. All their images are free to use as book covers, so you don't have the experience of finding the perfect photo only to find it says strictly no commercial use and their photos will open with Adobe Photoshop, which I coiuldn't make images from StcXchng do (http://www.sxc.hu/.) although I'm sure that's just me.

I tried all kinds of free programmes - but they were either too simple and wouldn't do what I wanted, or they were too difficult. Fine for an expert, but no good for someone with no skill who just wants to get the job done. So, do you know anybody who can use Adobe Photoshop? Ask them to spend an hour or so showing you the basics (I am slow with things like this, and it took me 2 hours. Thanks to my colleague Matt Briggs for putting up with me!) After than, you will be familiar enough to be able to find what you need in Photoshop for Dummies or a similar reference guide.

You then open a new document in Photoshop, set it to the required size (Kindle suggest 800x1280 pixels) and then download your chosen photo. You click on 'open with photoshop' and it will open in a new document. You can then cut and paste the part of the photo you want into your already waiting document.

Then you add a couple of textboxes and type in the title and your name. There is a good range of fonts to choose from and Matt suggested using the 'eyedropper' tool. This will pick up a colour from the photo and you can use it for the text, which makes the colour scheme look pulled together.

Light backgrounds don't work on the tiny thumbprints that e-books show, so you can colour the background of the document and just shrink the photo slightly so that the background acts as a border.

It may sound simple - but it's taken me about 3 weeks to learn this. Let me know if you know any good tricks that make covers look better.

Free Romantic e-books for Reviewers

I'm so pleased with my new covers - oh, I know they are not quite professional, but as thumb-sized placeholders they do the job. Now, I need people to see my books. I'm told that reviews are vital - so here's an offer - if you would like to read and review any of my e-books, leave a comment or email me at louisearmstrong58@btinternet.com and I will send you a coupon that you can use on Smashwords (all formats are available) for a free copy. You enter a code at the checkout and then download a book for free. This is a genuine offer - you are free to leave honest feedback. If you like my sweet romances then hurray! If not, then I'll learn something.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Hurray for Matt Briggs & PhotoShop

Matt was on my PGCE course. We teach in different departments now, but I suddenly remembered that he was a whizz at graphics. He's also a great teacher - look at that cover! He gave me a 2-hour lesson on Adobe PhotoShop and one hour after that, I'd made this cover. I'm so pleased! And all in exchange for a couple of bottles of posh beer. Thanks, Matt!

Monday, 20 June 2011

What Would You Write if You Couldn't Fail?

One of the books that I have put out as an e-book was firmly turned down by my editor - but I'd finished it anyway, and I liked it even if she didn't, so I put it out to see what would happen. It has sold a few copies already - and done better than some of the previously published titles. It's taken me a while to absorb the implications, but basically, with e-publishing, you cannot fail. There is no gatekeeper to say 'my readers wouldn't like this book'. The readers themselves get to decide.

So what will I write? Well, you know what? I always liked Regency romances. They are hard to sell, but they suit my style - lots of fun and frolics and not too much navel gazing. We are going to Greece for 2 weeks, so I just might treat myself and write a Regency.

But it's a liberating thought, isn't it? You can't fail.

Friday, 3 June 2011

To Update, or not to Update?

Well, I sold my first e-book - I couldn't resist clicking on the little link that tells you how many books have been sold. What a thrill - it's all going to be worth it. I have found a 69-page instruction book on how to format a book for e-publishing - and realise that I have not being doing it properly. Now I'm not sure if I should remove the books that are already up there, or just carry on and then go back and tidy up the original books. I'll probably just leave them for now.

I'm working on the very first romance I ever sold right now, and it wasn't that long ago (honestly) but how the world has changed! My heroine has videos. There are no mobile phones - not even the secret agent hero has one! She lives in Japan and her family write letters to her. No email, no Facebook. Her father loses some 'slides' that he needs for a lecture. Nobody looks anything up on the Internet, and people smoke in restaurants. Would you update it or not? I think probably not, on the whole, it's of its time, let it stay there.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

What's a Sweet Romance?


Somebody asked me what a 'sweet' romance was. I put the word 'sweet' on all my romances because it kind of tells the reader what to expect - lots of story and not much sex. Some romances focus very much on the feelings and emotions between the main characters - and as they are falling in love, these are usually sizzling and sexy contrasted with whatever feelings are holding the two characters apart. This does happen in my romances, of course it does, BUT I prefer to keep my couples busy - lots of adventures and not too much navel gazing. I don't mind adding sizzle and bedroom scenes, but the publishers who take sweet romances adhere to the old Hollywood rule: one foot on the floor at all times! I once wrote a very passionate scene where my couple made love in a four-poster bed with navy blue sheets in a room with a crackling log fire. This was replaced by a line where the heroine opens the lounge door and announces, 'You can sleep on the sofa bed tonight!' They weren't married, you see, so my deathless prose hit the carpet again!