What's it all about?

In Summer 2009, Andy Allsopp participated in LEL: A 1400km international ultra marathon cycling event, played out between the capital cities of England and Scotland.

In early 2010, a record of his attempt was published as a paperback, now made available through Amazon UK (and US), or worldwide through LULU.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Now available for iBooks (no, really, check the iBookstore!)

Well, that was an interesting 7 weeks. I submitted BarringMechanicals to Apple's iBookstore, having spent a few days marshalling it into ePub format, adding a further reading section, and neatening up the HTML formatting. I got a mail back saying it would be reviewed for acceptance, and that submission was not a guarantee of placement.

Nothing heard. Weeks pass.

Then today, I get a mail from lulu summarising the month's royalties, which I note includes 2 copies for the iPad. Without an iPhone (iOS4) or iPad, there's no way I can check this, but if its been plucked from the digital shelves, presumably it must be up for grabs.

So, go have a look. You should be able to browse direct from your device.

ID Name Quantity Royalties
8923487 Barring Mechanicals - From London to Edinburgh and back, on a recumbent bicycle -- Apple iPad 2£2.16


Monday, 21 June 2010

Now available for iBooks

Good news for all you apple fans.

Barring Mechanicals is now readable on your iPhone 3G/3GS/4, iPad, and 2nd/3rd gen iPod touch. Simply install iBooks from Apple (for free) then download the ePub edition of Barring Mechanicals from lulu, and sync via iTunes.

Screenshots from an iPhone, courtesy of my good friend D.

Friday, 4 June 2010

EPUB: Previewed on an iPhone

Thanks to some excellent assistance from HWMBO and my buddy D, I've finally seen Barring Mechanicals running inside Stanza on an iPhone OS. Ok, not the same version as runs on the Pad, but I've seen it on the iPhone itself, and can report, it looks good.

HWMBO has given the greenlight to the ePub version authored just prior to this one, which has now been submitted through Lulu to Apple.

...and now we wait...

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

EPUB: One step closer

Got dragged into the whole Apple marketing machine last week, and started trying to produce an eBook version of Barring Mechanicals for distribution in their new iBookstore.

The result? Well, currently approval, and an estimated 6 week wait whilst they scurry through the text checking I'm not saying anything nasty about deitys, prophets, boobs or Steve Jobs.

The release of the iPad has seen a serious attempt to get iBookstore up and running with a wider set of content, and its a privilege to be part of that. Lulu makes the process relatively painless, once you've got a compliant ePub file for submission.

What the world doesn't tell you is that getting a 'compliant' ePub is a bit of a rollercoaster, and the guidance isn't really mature enough to get you through using anything other than trial and error.
For those looking to follow suit, here's the broad process I followed:
  • Find your market (in my case, someone with an iPad who wanted a copy and was prepared to help me make it.)
  • Lift all the text out of your original files, and put them into individual HTML files, validated as XHTML1.1. 
  • Import them all into your (nascent) editor of choice. (I used eCub on the PC).
  • Battle with what passes for Unicode on the PC until everything is in UTF-8.
  • Run a validator against the source, and remove all the 'bold' and 'strong' tags.
  • Double check every opening p tag ends with a corresponding slash p tag.
  • Move all the formatting into CSS.
  • Add alt-tags for every image.
  • Build, and mail a copy across for approval.
That gets you to stage 1, whereupon you'll find everything compiles nicely, but the text flow is a bit odd. It'll work on Adobe Digital Editions, but not so on all devices. Adobe Editions will report some 'issues', but won't tell you what they are.
Anyway, once your friendly iPad owner has had a run through, you'll find yourself going back through the text of each chapter, removing all the extended characters that Dreamweaver helpfully pasted, and replacing them with their HTML equivalents. Then you'll swap all the apostrophes and double quotes. Then the dashes. Then the ellipses. Then go back through and realise the PDF export you based the whole thing on gets confused about the numbers 1 and 3, and sometimes omits or replaces them with random characters.

The result will work better, but you'll then want to do the below:
  • Learn about ePubCheck and the command line.
  • Learn about validation, link checking, case sensitivity, character sets.
  • Resample all the images so that they're max 760px on a side.
  • Go through a few more revisions, moving footnotes into javascript alerts, then back into the main text (as not all readers handle the script) then into a glossary, then into individual files with 'back' links appended to each.
  • Lose a few days to arrive at a ePubCheck 1.0.5 compliant file, that passes all checks with no warnings, no flags, no errors.
  • Publish the file to Lulu, build new cover art, buy the 'iBookstore' distribution package.
  • Submit it to Apple and wait.
Net result for me was that although the file is fully compliant with the ePub standard and recommended validators, it doesn't meet the 'apple' standard, as the table of contents references filenames that have 'spaces' in. Next step is pretty simple...
  • start over with all new files.
Its an interesting process, and only marginally more challenging than, say, riding to Edinburgh and back.

Takes a touch longer too. :)

Hopefully it'll be worth it though. Then we have to DRM or not to DRM...

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Interviewed by The Loop 365

Got interviewed by the editor of TheLoop365 today, who are doing a season on 'new writers'. The transcript is over at their blog.

Take a look around for some inspiration. Its an interesting community, brought together by a love of artisan crafts, ecology, fashion, haiku and cake.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Barring Mechanicals Charts!


Seems Lulu is keeping tabs on things. I've just been pointed at the categorised 'top 100' for May, and suddenly find Barring Mechanicals at Number 18. Considering Lulu published around 8,000 new titles each month in 2009, I'm calling 18th a very good place. :)

More annoyingly, the graphic arrow suggests it was higher ranked last month, and I'm willing to bet higher again the month before. Sales seemed to peak in March, so I'd love to be able to roll back and see where i was then.

Oh well... 

Got some possible news coming up about a new distribution channel too, but more on that later.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Arrivée review spotted in the wild

Arrivée magazine calls Barring Mechanicals "A remarkably fresh and accurate account", going on to endorse it as "a gripping tale, told with honesty and humour."

Spotted in the month's edition, the magazine features a synopsis of the book, recommending it to readers but inadvertently revealing a few plot points. If you don't know the story, you might want to skip to full extract below.

Thanks go to LadyJulian who brought it to my eye.

"In 2008, Andy was diagnosed with a degenerative spinal condition and, following surgery, was told that he would not be able to ride a bicycle again.  Within days he had ordered a recumbent and was training for his first audax ride, the London-Edinburgh-London 1400km, which was to take place from 26 to 31 July 2009.
The result of his 107 hours cycling epic is a remarkably fresh and accurate account of our longest randonnee.  Andy faces, and overcomes, all the familiar trials of the long distance rider.  His wife recovers his mislaid cycling shoes but then he is on his way, and on his own, with 500 riders from 28 countries and a small army of volunteers, who are only available to help at control points.  Immediately Andy falls victim to mechanical failure, which requires endless supplies of cable ties.
The milder effects of sleeplessness kick in early on.  Severe storms and resulting hypothermia take their toll but a kindly villager with a bed and several bin liners restores our lucky rider.  Rolling home, Andy's gears refuse to change, he falls victim to a wheelsucker and finally, confused by road closures he runs the gauntlet of A10 sliproads at night.
Whether you are a seasoned randonneur or an armchair rider, it's a gripping tale, told with honesty and humour."

Arrivee is Audax UK's quarterly magazine, with over 50 pages of articles, photos, letters, news and information, available to members of Audax UK, the long distance cyclists' association.
It's published each February, May, August and November.