Jutoh Ebook Creator ~ For the Win!

I’ve just finished creating the e-versions of Third Person Press’ new anthology release, Airborne. While I was at it, I created new formats for our first anthology, Undercurrents, which previously existed only in .pdf format. I did that because with Jutoh from Anthemion Software, it was so easy.

I’ve spent some time experimenting with, and ultimately being frustrated by, other ebook creators (this over a period of several years). I’ve tried some that were proprietary and some that claimed to handle multiple file formats, but it seemed to me that all of them were difficult to figure out, required enormous and time-consuming amounts of hand-correcting, or simply did not produce properly-formatted, readable output in a reliable way. Then I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Jutoh.

I was already a fan of Anthemion’s Writer’s Cafe, which I know I’ve spoken of here before in glowing terms. I don’t tackle any large writing project now without using its Storylines feature to keep track of my…well, storylines. I rarely write a short story without using it, either. I can see after using Jutoh for just these two projects that it has also become an indispensable tool for me.

My other reason for heaping praise on Anthemion is the absolutely superlative support offered. Questions are answered promptly and personally, and guidance is always close at hand when needed. Their software is also extremely reasonably priced. Writer’s Cafe is $45US and Jutoh is $32US…although buying both together nets you a deal on Jutoh. As a registered WC user already I inquired about the Jutoh discount and was promptly afforded it. I really can’t say enough good things about the support!

As for usability, with Jutoh I was able to take an already-heavily-formatted, multiple-chapter document and convert it with only a minimal amount of hand-formatting into epub, mobipocket, and Smashwords-ready formats. Other formats are also available, as well as export as an .mp3. I expect that the program would have dealt even more handily with a document that was not already extensively setup for its print format. Next time I will create the ebook version first and then do the formatting necessary for print, and see how that works.

The user interface is easy to understand, and upon launching a new project, a wizard walks you through the process of getting started. I particularly like this feature, as opposed to some software programs that seem to sit smugly waiting to see if you will be able to figure them out. In addition, Jutoh has an excellent help file which opens in the workspace, so that you can read instructions and carry them out without a lot of switching back and forth between windows. A sample file is included if you need some visual cues to get started with the program. A built-in “check” feature also reviews ebook files after they are compiled, and offers warning and error messages when problems are encountered. A cover designer with several templates lets you create a cover easily if you don’t already have one.

I did encounter a slight error when using the “find” feature, however, the program automatically generated an error report which was submitted to the developer, and I had a reply to that report in short order. That’s what I mean about the superlative support–they’re actually paying attention to their customers’ experiences with their products. I have seen this in action before with the mailing list for Storylines, where there is a lot of interaction between users and the developer so that everyone’s experience of the program is improved.

If you are interested in creating ebooks of any sort in multiple formats, I recommend Jutoh very highly indeed.

Manuscript Impressions ~ The Cover Letter

Although we’ve detoured into novel formatting in this series of posts, now we’re going back to talk about short story submissions. In most cases, it’s a good idea to include a cover letter with your submission. Remember, we’re talking cover letter here, not query letter. That’s a whole other post (or series of posts!).

In writing a short story cover letter, keep the KISS principle in mind. Keep it Simple, Submitter!

1. The simplicity should begin with your paper. Don’t use fancy, overblown letterhead, paper with images of books or other writerly symbols, parchment-look paper, or anything other than plain white bond. If you have a simple letterhead, just something with your contact information, like this:

Sherry D. Ramsey
123 Street Street, Sometown, Someplace, Country, Code
Phone, Email, Website

…go ahead and use it, but remember, keep it simple! Otherwise follow standard business letter format.

2. Use a plain, easily-readable font. We’ve discussed fonts previously, and the same rules apply–don’t make the editor struggle to read your letter. The letter is brief, so if you want to move a little outside the box of Times New Roman and Courier, it’s probably okay, but stay simple and professional. Using something like Old English or Jokerman is not going to make you stand out from the crowd–at least not in a desirable way.

3. Know the proper name and address of the editor you’re contacting. These things change, so check for the most recent information you can get.

4. First paragraph: Tell them what you’re sending.

Please find enclosed my story, “This One’s A Winner,” which I would appreciate your considering for publication in Your Awesome Magazine. This piece runs approximately 5000 words.

If you want to call it “my science fiction story” or “my steampunk story” etc., that’s okay, but sometimes it’s better not to pigeonhole your work–let the editor decide what it is. If you’ve done your market homework, you’re sending the right type of story to the right market anyway, so you shouldn’t have to mention it. Right?

4. Second paragraph: Tell them who you are. By this, I mean; mention any previous publications in the same general genre as the story you’re submitting. If you have quite a number of credits, don’t list them all; just the few (three or four) most recent or most prestigious (however you define that). If you have no previous publication credits, don’t sweat it, and don’t try to stick in a bunch of other stuff instead. You may, if you wish, mention fiction for which you’ve won an award, but only if it’s relevant.

5. Third paragraph: Thank them in advance for considering your story, and tell them you look forward to hearing from them. Finish with a standard business closing.

That’s it. Short and simple.

Now, for those of you who think I must have forgotten something, here are some things you do NOT want to include or try to do:

1. Don’t include a summary or synopsis of your story. Your story is going to speak for itself, and that’s what the editor wants to read.

2. Don’t try to be cute, clever, funny, threatening, or anything other than straightforward and professional. This is only a short story you’re trying to sell, and the editor will know if it’s right for the publication upon reading it. Anything else is irrelevant.

3. Don’t tell the editor how many times this story has been rejected, that they will love it, or anything else about it.

4. In short, don’t do anything that isn’t listed above. CAVEAT: Always read the guidelines (have I mentioned this before?) and if they request anything else, then of course include that. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

More questions? Anything I haven’t covered yet? I can’t think of anything just now, but of course I reserve the right to post more on this subject at any time. :)