Tag Archives: independent publishing

BAIPA Needs Judges!

The Bay Area Independent Publishers Association is a diverse and open group involved in the world of independent publishing, from folks who simply have a book idea to published authors, editors to illustrators, readers to reviewers, agents to printers, audio book experts to book shepherds.

—Becky Parker Geist, BAIPA Board of Directors, President



  • Judges will be asked to read up to five books from Sept. 30 to Jan. 15.
  • Read in one of six genres (your choice):  Fiction, Non-Fiction, Memoir, Young Adult, Children’s, Poetry
  • Judges will read, review, and judge books using criteria provided by BAIPA. 
  • Judges will receive either a complementary BAIPA annual membership worth $90 or an honorarium of $75 (your choice).

By agreeing to judge books for BAIPA’s contest, you will be making an important contribution to independently published authors.  

Awards conferred in this contest will give deserved recognition to authors and will assist in their promotional efforts.


Please contact Bev Scott: bev@bevscott.com

Include name, email, the college/university, library, bookstore or organization that recommended you as a judge, and which genre you would prefer to read.

Weekly Roundup — What’s new in digital publishing?

From a scandal that rocked the world of digital publishing to some nice, relaxing podcast recommendations, here’s our latest weekly roundup. Continue reading Weekly Roundup — What’s new in digital publishing?

Elements of Style: CSS for Ebooks

I originally published this post on Joel Friedlander’s wonderful resource for self-publishers, TheBookDesigner.com

If HTML is the blueprint, showing how an ebook (or a web page) should be laid out, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are the interior design, saying how everything should look. While that may sound superficial, in fact learning to use CSS can have a profound impact on your ebook.

This is a somewhat complicated topic, so I am going to take three posts to cover it. This time round, I’m going to show you what CSS is and how to apply it. In the second post, I’m going to look at some of the different properties that you can use to define how your ebook looks. And in the last post, I’m going to talk about how to know which rules take precedence when.

CSS was created to define the presentation style to any XML document — but it’s most common use is in conjunction with the HTML in web pages and, of course, in ebooks. It’s what allows you to add color, to change fonts and (within reason) typefaces, to define where and how images display, and much more.

The Rule of Law

All CSS really comes down to is a series of rules that define how a particular element (or kind of element) will look when an ereader displays it.[1]

Each rule has two parts:

  1. A selector, which can be:
  • One or more type of HTML element (that is, any instance of a particular tag: <p>, <body>, <em>, etc.)
  • One or more class (that is, any elements that have been given the attribute class=”whatever”)
  • An element with a particular ID (that is, having the attribute id=”whatever”)
  1. A declaration — that is to say, one or more properties defining how the selector(s) should display

So here’s an example from the stylesheet file Styles/Styles.css in the “White Robes” ebook that I linked to a couple of posts back:

h1, .Text-break {color:darkred;}

That’s a lot simpler than it might at first look.

The part before the curly brackets ({}) marks the selector(s); there are two here, separated by a comma:

  • h1: If you look back to my last post, you’ll see that h1 marks the top-level section head — usually a chapter title.
  • .Text-break: This is a class — the name of a particular style. You can tell because of the period at the beginning. [2]

Sometimes you see these selectors combined. I could have marked the second one p.Text-break, because in fact it’s a style that I apply to whole paragraphs — in the case of “White Robes,” paragraphs that contain a single em-dash to be used as a separator between sections of text. But I don’t have to say what kind of element the class needs to be applied to (although that can sometimes be useful). By leaving the p off before the period, I could apply the same rule to other kinds of elements, if I wanted.

The part inside the curly brackets is the actual rule — the declaration. It contains a color property that tells the ereader to turn sections that match those selectors dark red. Simple, right?
Since there can be more than one rule per declaration, each declaration needs to end in a semicolon:

h1, .Text-break {color:darkred;font-weight:bold;}

I’ll get into more detail on some of the various rules that you care about in another post — sorry, this one is already complicated enough!

Location, location, location

Now there are three places you can place a CSS rule:

  1. Inline as part of an HTML tag
  2. In a <style> tag inside the <head> at the top of the HTML file
  3. In a linked CSS file, either in the ebook itself or on the open internet

Inline Style

If you want to apply a CSS style to just one HTML tag, you can do it inline by adding a style attribute to an HTML tag.

For example, if I were to want to center a particular paragraph, I could add style=”text-align:center” to the <p> tag, like so:

<p style=”text-align:center;”>

(Remember: those quotes must be “straight,” not “smart” or “curly.”)

Likewise, if I were to want to make a particular section (or <span>) of text in Garamond, I would do this:

Here is a phrase displayed as <span style=”font-family:Garamond;”>Garamond</span>.

Now, that would only work if Garamond were actually installed on the ereader or embedded in the ebook, so I added the generic serif, which tells the ereader to use its default serif typeface.

Notice that I don’t use a selector when using the style attribute. Since the declaration is inside a tag, it’s clear what the rule refers to. Make sense?

<style> Tag

You can do all sorts of wonderful things when you apply styles inline — but when you do, they will only apply to those tags where they’re added, and they will always apply there, until you search through and change them. (I know, setting all of the text to orange Comic Sans seemed like such a good idea!)

So how can you make your CSS styles more powerful and easier to edit?

Use global styles. These are the equivalent of the styles used in word-processing and page-layout apps — changing the style changes every part of the document to which the style has been applied.

There are two ways to do this in any HTML document — including one of the files that makes up your ebook.

The first is to add a <style></style> block to your file. As I said, it is placed in the <head> section of the file, and would look something like this:

<style type=”text/css”>
h1, .Text-break {color:darkred;}
p {color:black;}
#Green {color:green;}
<h1>This header is red</h1>
<p>This paragraph is black.</p>
<p class=”Text-break”>This paragraph is red!</p>
<p id=”Green”>This paragraph is green.</p>

Notice that the <style> tag should always include the attribute type=”text/css.” That tells the ereader that this is standard CSS.

That would display this way:

Now, notice that in addition to styling the <p> element black and the h1 element and the Text-break class red, I styled the paragraph with the id attribute Green as… you know, green.

Just as a period before the name tells us that the selector is a class, the pound sign (#) before the name lets us know that the selector is an ID. So in the style tag above, that looked like this:

#Green {color:green;}

By having a single set of declarations in the header, you can save yourself the trouble of adding the same rule over and over again, and then having to change every instance of it if you decide, for example, to make the .Text-break blue instead of red.

CSS Style Sheet

The third way to add style to your ebook’s HTML pages is to create one or more style sheets and link to them in the <head> section of each page.

This works just like having a <style></style> section at the top of your chapter — except the rules will apply not just in one file, but in all of them. This is especially important if you’re working on a longer, multi-chapter ebook.

First create an empty text file with the file type .css. In the “White Robes” ebook, I created the file Styles.css in the directory/folder Styles:

You can also create the file in whatever editing software you’re using. In Sigil, go to the File menu, and then select Add>Blank Stylesheet.

The contents of the file looks almost exactly like the <style type=”text/css”> section I showed you above. Here’s the style sheet from “White Robes”:

Some of those rules might make sense to you; most of them won’t. Don’t worry; the next post will be a primer on some of the most important rules and properties.

Oh — notice that each property in the declaration section (the part inside the curly brackets) is on its own line. Just as in HTML, those line breaks are meaningless. What separates one property from the next is, as I said above, a semicolon. So Sigil puts each rule on its own line for no reason other than making it easier to read.

Also, something important: in CSS, the rule closer to the bottom has priority. So notice in the third rule that says that a whole bunch of different kinds of HTML elements, including the body element will have no margin, no padding, and no border width.[3]

Then the very next rule sets the padding (that is, the space inside the edge of the element before words and images can show up) to five pixels.[4]

Because the second <body> declaration is closer to the bottom, it takes priority. The rule means that every page in the ebook will have a thin white space around the outside edge of the screen or window.

(Prioritization — which rules apply in which cases — is a complicated issue. I will get to it in the third and final post on CSS.)

Okay, so you’ve got a style sheet. But if it’s not linked from the XHTML file, those files won’t show up at all!

So you’ve got to add a <link> element to the <header> block of each XHTML file (that is, chapter) in your ebook to which you want to style sheet to apply.

The link element looks like this:

<link href=”../Styles/Styles.css” rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css”/>

That tells the ereader to look for the file Styles.css in the directory Styles (just where I put it); it tells the ereader that the relationship between the files is that Styles.css is a style sheet for the current XHTML file, and that’s it’s a CSS file.

Once you’ve added that link, all of the formatting that you’ve defined in the sheet will be applied to your now-beautiful chapters.

So, that’s our quick introduction to CSS.

Next time, I’ll run through some of the most important properties that you can define using CSS, and after that, I’ll finish up with a quick overview of style priorities.

Like this post? Sign up for my newsletter, and you’ll get my ebook An Indie Publisher’s Intro to Ebooks for free!

[1] Remember: an element is a block of HTML, usually set off at the beginning and end by open and close tags, like this: <tag>[stuff]</tag>

[2] By the way, you can apply multiple classes to a single element — just separate them with a space: class=”red small-caps”. Two things to keep in mind: First, the later class will take precedence, so if I added a class attribute with the values red and blue, the text would display as blue, since the blue class came last. Second, some older ereaders don’t handle multiple classes well (I’m looking at you, old-style Kindle). I usually try to stick to one class per element for that reason.

[3] You’ll often see a rule like this at (or near) the top of a style sheet; it’s called zeroing out or initialization. It makes sure that there isn’t any carry-over from the ereader’s default settings or other styles.

[4] Yeah, it looks like it’s stuttering; the four 5px values apply to the top, right, bottom, and left padding, in that order. That allows you to customize the spacing between elements quite a lot.

Weekly Roundup – 6 Fresh Topics in Ebook Publishing

Don’t call it a comeback! Here’s the second installment in our now weekly roundup of interesting articles in the world of eBook publishing.  Continue reading Weekly Roundup – 6 Fresh Topics in Ebook Publishing

Speaking in Code: Ebook HTML basics

This post originally appeared on Joel Friedlander’s wonderful site, TheBookDesigner.com.

If, as I keep saying, an ebook is just a website a box, then in order to know how to get in and edit your ebook, you’re going to want to know some HTML. However you choose to work on the file, knowing the basic building blocks is essential in creating a finished  product that presents your book to its best advantage.


When we talk about HTML, we’re actually talking about two separate things:

Continue reading Speaking in Code: Ebook HTML basics

Weekly Roundup: 7 Interesting Articles on eBook Publishing

As a matter of principal (both personal and professional) I spend quite a bit of my time keeping up to date with what’s new in the eBook publishing world. Having built up a relatively substantial feed to scroll through, it recently occurred to me that I’m not the only one who could benefit from a list of new ePublishing articles  to peruse while I’m going about my day.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to start publishing a weekly list of recent articles I think are important, interesting, innovative, etc. Here are this week’s choices:

Continue reading Weekly Roundup: 7 Interesting Articles on eBook Publishing

Inside the Box: The Anatomy of an Ebook

Over the next few posts, I’ll be showing you how ebooks are coded and formatted. We’ll look at the anatomy of an ebook, and what makes it tick.

You’ve heard me call an ebook a website in a box. This time we’re going to talk about what’s inside the box.

First thing’s first: let me share an ebook with you. It’s the ePub file for a short story of mine called White Robes.

You’re welcome to read it, obviously, but for the purposes of this post (and the next two), we’re going to be opening up the box and dissecting the ebook.

This is the actual production file that I’ve uploaded to Amazon, by the way — it includes all of the coding and formatting that I typically include in creating an ebook. It will be the model that I’ll be using over the next few posts in discussing an ebook’s innards.

Continue reading Inside the Box: The Anatomy of an Ebook

Wow! Keeping Time Kickstarter Funds 330%!

Stillpoint Digital Press’s Kickstarter campaign to complete Heather Albano’s steampunk time-travel adventure trilogy Keeping Time finished on December 20 with $3,325 in backing from 91 backers.

This enthusiastic response was over three times the amount Stillpoint and Albano’s goal.

Publisher David Kudler sent this message to the backers:

Thank you!
Thank you!

 We crossed the finish line at 330% of our minimum goal.

Thanks to all of our backers — not only for supporting this project, which was a wonderful act of giving (that we look forward to rewarding!), but for sharing it with your friends.

We’ll be in touch in the coming days to get information so that we can send you your rewards. If you have any thoughts or questions, please do comment here.

Happy solstice, and happy holidays!

David Kudler & Heather Albano

PS If you missed out, worry not! You can still pre-order your copies of all three books at StillpointDigitalPress.com/Keeping-Time

About Keeping Time

You only THINK you know
what happened at Waterloo.

The real story involved more monsters.
And a lot more time travel.

“Waterloo and time travel are made for each other and Heather Albano has done a wonderful job of giving us a delightful cast of characters, tasked with stitching together the proper nineteenth century while fending off several monstrous alternatives. Propulsive adventure with historical insight.” – Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars and 2312

Keeping Time: A Steampunk Time Travel Adventure Trilogy by Heather Albano

It’s 1815, and Wellington’s badly-outnumbered army stares across the field of Waterloo at Napoleon’s forces. Desperate to hold until reinforcements arrive, Wellington calls upon a race of monsters created by a mad Genevese scientist 25 years before.

It’s 1815, and a discontented young lady sitting in a rose garden receives a mysterious gift: a pocket watch that, when opened, displays scenes from all eras of history. Past…and future.

It’s 1885, and a small band of resistance fighters are resorting to increasingly extreme methods in their efforts to overthrow a steampunk Empire whose clockwork gears are slick with its subjects’ blood.

Are these events connected?

Oh, come now. That would be telling.

About Heather Albano

Keeping Time Kickstarter - Heather AlbanoHeather Albano is a storyteller, history geek, and lover of both time-travel tropes and re-imaginings of older stories. You most likely know her from her game design work (which most recently included A Study In Steampunk, produced by Choice of Games, and contributions to TimeWatch and The Dracula Dossier, both published by Pelgrane Press)—but she writes non-interactive fiction too. Like the Keeping Time trilogy.


Signing: Risuko Author David Kudler to Read at Book Passage

david-kudler-headshot-cropped-off-center-_EHP85271-150x15011.jpgOn Monday, October 3, author/publisher David Kudler will read from his new teen novel Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale at the Left Coast Writers monthly salonIn addition to sharing sections of the book, he will discuss the process of publishing his first novel. The salon takes place at Book Passage in Corte Madera. Copies of the book will available, and he will be signing as well. Continue reading Signing: Risuko Author David Kudler to Read at Book Passage

Avast! Piracy and the Self-Publisher

I just had a conversation with a friend about the issue of piracy. I thought I’d share this post on the subject I wrote for Joel Friendlander’s TheBookDesigner.com:

Screenshot 2016-08-25 17.35.47I hear from a lot of authors — traditionally and self-published — who are panicked to find their work being stolen. “I just did a Google search,” they’ll moan, “and found a site that’s giving my book away!

I take a deep breath, pour myself some (metaphoric) rum, and prepare to repel pirates — but mostly imagined ones.


It’s true: as long as there has been a commercial internet, there have been sites and apps that operated to “share” intellectual property illegally, to indulge in what is colorfully known as piracy.

Everyone remembers Napster: it was a peer-to-peer (P2P) app dedicated to sharing MP3 files across the internet back at the height of the so-called dot-com boom at the turn of the twenty-first century. The music industry did its best to shut Napster down by attacking its servers, its founder, and its users, and it did eventually force it out of business in 2001. But this didn’t stop P2P sharing; it simply moved the sharing on to other vectors — Limewire, BItTorrent, and many more.

However, a funny thing happened, also in 2001, that made music sharing less of an issue to the musicians and music companies: the launching of Apple’s iTunes (along with the iPod) made it easy actually to buy music through legitimate channels. Some folks still shared music online — but far more bought the music and downloaded it legitimately. iTunes became to music what Amazon has become for books: a way for even the smallest label to reach an audience and make some money. In some cases a lot of money.

Self-Published eBooks

Continue reading Avast! Piracy and the Self-Publisher