A. M. Macdonald

Author and Geek Culture Emissary. Speaking the word of nerd.

CSS, Sigil, and e-publishing.


Apparently, you need to do these things to publish an e-book:

  1. Write it;
  2. Edit it;
  3. Format it; and
  4. Design it.

I wrote the book. I tried editing the book – twice – and decided to pay a freelance editor. I’m also likely going to pay an artist to design the cover. Instead of parting ways with more money, I decided to try and format the book myself. Here’s the thing about formatting: It’s really called programming. I spent all weekend learning CSS and relearning HTML. To my horror I learned Geocities is no more, and with it my amazing HTML skills. That’s an old person joke, for you kids out there.

To my amazement, I think I’m doing OK. I watched a lot of YouTube videos (A LOT), read a lot of websites (not just Reddit), and coded hundreds of different stylesheets to see how they work. I’m using a program called Sigil to do the CSS coding (I copy pasted the manuscript from Word as plain text). I don’t know what other programs are out there, but Sigil seems clean. Once finished with the Sigil file, I load it up in Kindle Previewer to see how the finished form looks. Many, many attempts later, I think I’m finally satisfied with a title page and and text format.

Getting there.


The edits are coming along nicely. I’m targeting a holiday release, and I expect the manuscript with will be polished and tightened by then. Right now I’m on the self-publication train, so I’m looking at several different artists and their visions for a cover design. My first thought: An abstract representation of a circuit board ‘melting’ into lines of light that make up the architecture of the Academy in the Singe. I hope to convey imagery of two worlds with a faded gradient transition. Still not sure how to get across the central concept of gaming. Excited to see the first concepts!

So it ends (begins?)


I want to share with you the Facebook post I shared in December 2015 when I finished the first draft of Dybsy:

Wow. What a journey. 17 years I ago I became obsessed with becoming a published author. I dreamed about writing my very own novel. I spent the last 15 years learning the craft. I’ve trashed more words than you could possibly count. Millions upon millions. Ideas of some kind or another have lived full lives in my head without escaping. Not completely, anyway. That all changed 3 years ago as I was lying in bed over the holidays. Suddenly, I was hit with inspiration. I thought up an idea so good I couldn’t let it go. Not this time. I immediately set out writing, and I wrote and wrote and the idea began to sprawl across the paper (or screen, as it were). The characters took shape. The story began to be told. 5 minutes I wrote the last word of the first draft of my first ever manuscript. What a rush.

I remember the exact second I finished. I was sitting in Starbucks, sipping a bitter black coffee with a hint of cinnamon, and regretting the decision to write an entire novel on a tiny MacBook Air. The book came in at 35 chapters and 98,700 words, which is 533 pages in manuscript format. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to go to Staples and print the entire thing, buy some sharpies, and go through the entire manuscript page by page. 3 days later I realized how far I was from the end. Subsequently I rewrote the entire manuscript twice, editing heavily along the way. Still, the product was not good enough. So I hired a professional editor. Let me tell you, so far the process has been an exercise in humility. But, like a phoenix, Dybsy is rising from the ashes. Soon, I will share it with the world.