Monday, March 31, 2014

Creating an illustrated cartoon eBook (on Kindle)

Hello everyone, just wanted to share my adventures in self publishing. Literally, anyone with a PC can do it my way--however, I seem to be tromping through unmarked territory. Here are some pointers, in case you should want to do the same.

For the hard copy, I published using CreateSpace. It's a very simple process, so I probably don't need to elaborate unless someone requests it. I created the book in InDesign, then exported to a pdf. If you don't have this highly expensive industry-grade software, you could go through the annoying but do-able process of pasting your images in a word document. Like other online self-publishing sites, the vast majority of Create Space users write print books, not totally illustrated books. Producing full color children's books seems like a big deal, but pasting cartoons onto a page was a very easy and under-exploited process.

Creating the eBook was a more interesting process--I hinted as much in a previous post. I used Kindle Direct Publishing to upload the eBook (CreateSpace offered to publish to KDP directly, but only with the same pdf I used to create the hard copy--that would never work). After much ado wrangling with epub conversion, I opted for simple html. Here is the code I used, please feel free to do the same:
Just keep copying and pasting the image line and pagebreak, and rename the image. Done!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Kindle is LIVE!!!

I didn't think I had it in me, but...

Kindle is now live and (should be) in working condition! Now the book is available everywhere, especially for my friends in Vietnam!

Again, it's not completely the same book--some pages with lots of text were taken out, but I added a bonus cartoon. Please check it out!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

On Kindle?



I sort of put the old book on Kindle. If you haven't tried to publish an eBook, you wouldn't know--it's a total mess. Apparently there are all kinds of eBook readers and publishers and distributors and they are all jealous of this media-type and they have their own formats. So plopping stuff into an eBook, not easy. Especially for someone like me, who absolutely must have it done within an hour or I start breaking stuff.

Also, illustrated books just aren't done on eBooks yet. What I did you really want to know? I reformatted my book in inDesign, exported as a PDF, tried to convert to an EPUB which totally screws things up, then converted the PDF to a DOC--then I found I could delete the massive text preface image and paste type into the doc, which was a good thing, then uploaded it to Kindle. Whew.

So, this is the result. The lowest price I could give it is $2.99, which isn't bad (UPDATE: I found a way to make it $1.99 (Wah, UPDATE UPDATE, it has to be $2.99))--I believe you can actually get it for 99 cents if you bought the hard copy, will have to check that. From the preview, it seems that the DOC conversion was almost as wonky as the EPUB conversion--page breaks are pretty random. The cover is nice at least. Then I intended there to be a title, followed by the characters--there is a rogue page break there. Then copyright info, also supposed to be on the same page. Then BLANK PAGE. Then the forward, which was broken into 2 pages--no harm done there. Then ANOTHER BLANK PAGE. After that, there is a neatly placed cartoon. That's all I'm allowed to preview. I can only hope that, since the rest of the book is single comics, everything should be fine--can't anticipate more blank pages.

So, you pretty much get the whole book. Plus some blank pages. I can't recommend you buy it now, I will try to fix the issues before I cut the red ribbon. Possibly if you bought it and I updated it, the changes will automatically override. Clearly I'm in over my head , don't have any sort of eBook, and didn't get to see the final version of what I sent to Kindle (thanks for the support, Kindle!), I'll be at it for a while. Or it'll just be a complete failure. At least you get a lot of free BLANK PAGES, and, of course, I threw in ONE BONUS CARTOON!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This Mallowman went a' Polling

Hello friends, please take a quick look at a poll on Facebook. It will help me choose the right format for both the new book and a possible relaunch of the old book. After numerous requests, I am looking into eBook options. Most of my viewers live in Vietnam, and I'm still fuzzy on what can be ordered online/ shipped there.

As for the new book, so far so good! I have the entire cover, which isn't necessarily a good thing because I may need to change the format. As is, it will be the size of a small textbook (though not nearly as heavy and thick!) so I can go all out and do multi-panel stories. If this will be an eBook, even the cartoons will need to be completely redone. Oh well, the life of an author--making stuff, checking it, editing, and, sadly, throwing out stuff!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Where Have I Been?

Sorry for the hiatus, I've been designing the basics for the upcoming book. New cartoons are currently backlogged--I'd like the book to have entirely original cartoons, none from the last book or this blog.

Here is a rough for the back cover. Looks like Saigon during Tet, no?

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Blah Blahs

This isn't a Vietnamese thing, this is a couple thing. We all know what drives our spouses crazy and we keep doing it. My main thing is I want her to do more work, or at least get her own glass of water. Her main thing is she doesn't want me to make a "cartoon face," and that's much harder to fix--it's a fundamental part of me, and I just can't sit there for a photo with the same fake grin over and over and over. On the other hand, she has an amazing "I can't believe I married you" kind of face, and she'll never give that up--I wouldn't ask her to anyway!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Book Cover!

What's the book about? Will it be published in the US or in Vietnam? Will the setting be the US, Vietnam or both? Will it be in English or Vietnamese or English with Vietnamese translations or in Vinenglish? Will it have old cartoons, new cartoons, 2 panels, 3 panels, whole page stories or will it be an autobiographical graphic novel? Will there be any pictures at all? Is it really a book or could it be a magazine, comic book or colorful toilet paper?

I don't know! Seriously, I really have no idea. But at least I have a cover! And, of course, all proceeds will go to baby. If you point out that we don't have baby yet, I'll say "Exactly!"

Monday, March 10, 2014

Bird Brained

Travelers get their hearts broken in Vietnam by one means or another--whether it's the orphans selling gum, the old and disabled selling lottery tickets, the coffee-clads "selling" another kind of ticket, zoo animals doing life-sentences, the roasted dogs, the turtle soup, Pizza Hut, you name it.

Of course, I hate the way Vietnam treats birds. The beautiful Golden Weavers are completely disappearing--the field guides don't mention why, but we've seen them crammed in boxes on motorbikes. The ubiquitous caged Red Whiskered Bulbul (above) is a very sad case to me. They are very nearly gone from the wild around Saigon but are kept in almost every household, squashed in the most ridiculously tiny cages, almost always overexposed to sun, rain and, especially in garages, pollution. They are also not very bright. Apparently, the way to catch a bulbul is by hoisting an open cage with a captive bulbul inside. Stupidly enough, a wild bulbul comes in to say hi and is caught. It's quite amazing that this technique is successfull enough to extirpate this usually abundant species, but there you are.

Former British colonies like Hong Kong have bird watchers, but bird enthusiasts in Vietnam are a serious conservation threat since they collect rather than appreciate birds in their natural environment. Bird hobbyists will often hang out at a cafe near the park so their sad little captives can enjoy eachother's song. It is interesting that people don't breed birds, though they would have to build large enclosures to make them happy, and that's not going to happen.

But it's not a Vietnamese thing, it's a human thing. We are doing a little better in the West, especially with preserving just enough important bird areas and drinking shade-grown coffee. But the vast majority of all people really have no idea how many amazing birds are out there and declining fast, and the main causes--feral cats, development, and habitat loss--are not going away any time soon.

Sorry for the bummed-out message, but if anyone has any solutions for Vietnam, I'd be interested in hearing them.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Boy Got Back

This is the ONLY thing about me she doesn't complain about.

I'll tell you one thing about this string of cartoons, though--I'm totally exaggerating. She would NEVER wake up before me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Brook, Linh, Brookleenk.

Grapes: braps, craps, graps, rape, prabs, grapbst
Rape: grape
Crab: crap, brap, prap, prab
Taxes: tassus, Texas, tessus
Dallas: Da Lat
Park Slope: Pucklub
Peek-a-boo: pockypoo
Lunch: luns, lunss, lunts, cholunts (to lunch)
Linkedin: clinkly, glinkly, glinking
Precious: pressus, pressus, pressus
Yucatan: Zoock-A-ten
Unguessable activity: Crick da crack'
Sheet-rock: Xerox
Content: contEnt, contEnt, contEnt and a million other examples of wrongly emphAsized syllAbles

Monday, March 3, 2014

No Country For Clotheslines

Apparently this isn't just a Vietnamese thing. But it is definitely our thing.

Even in Vietnam, I had my suitcase (which I had to live out of) propped up on those little plastic stools. Apparently, anything involving the floor is dirty. Just scrubbed? Still inherently dirty. Feet? Dirty!!! Just scrubbed and ex-foliated? Still, don't wipe it on the towel, it's dirty.

So I said whatever and put the suitcase on the floor. I noticed a neat string of ants coming from the bathroom drain. I thougth, wow, Vietnamese are buddhist-like, won't harm animals. How nice! Well, by the time our family noticed the ants, they had created an entire colony underneath the suitcase. That day, the suitcase was dirty, the ants were dirty, the bathroom was dirty, the floor was still dirty, my feet were still dirty, and I was, generally, considered dirty. Now we hang things.