wasting time,  writing life

Sisyphus

I’m pushing a rock up a hill right now.
It’s name is Kobo and Nook.

Ever try to upload an ebook to either of these? No? Lemme tell you how it works: write a book, convert it to an epub then pound your head against the wall. All done!

Really though it should be as easy as writing, converting and uploading. Just like you would a picture from your phone to any one of your social media accounts.

I’ve done this Write, Convert and Upload biz before with a small company called Amazon. I exported the book out of its perfectly formatted form in InDesign (using the Amazon provided plug-in) and went to Amazon KDP where I setup an account, uploaded my book and whallah! I’m online. Easy!

And you wanna know why? It’s because Amazon knew that to be #1 in the ebook game they had to make getting author ebooks online easier than buttering toast. The easier you make it, the larger number of authors can participate. Larger your author pool, the larger your selection is, and the larger your selection is the more readers you’ll have. In turn, the more readers you have the more money you make. My dog can make this connection.

Here’s the Kobo issue: ebook rejection. Not in the way you’re thinking. No, they did not read my novel and go, “What a load of horse shit you’ve written, I’m not publishing this smut.” If that were the case, I’d understand. No, rather I showed up to the party, got to the door and they looked at me, held up a hand and said, “Sorry, you can’t come in.” And when I asked why, their reply was to look past me and say, “Next in line please.”

Prior to that rejection I’d made sure that there were no errors nor any warnings associated with the epub file using Adobe Digital Editions reader (ADE). Having passed the ADE test I went online and made an account with Kobo WritingLife. Easy. Then filled in the metadata about the book, easy. Then uploaded the file and got this: “Sorry we could not upload your file.”

That’s it. Just, sorry.

Before we go any farther I should explain the difference between errors and warnings with files. Every ebook, when converted into either an epub or mobi comes with a warning or two, kind of like walking out the door and your mom says, “Stay out of trouble!” You, think, Yeah, whatever mom.

But, errors…

Now, errors are like your mom saying, “If you stop by Jimmy’s house at 4:30p without those cookies, you’re gonna pay.”

If you’re like me, the data (cookies and 4:30p) make me believe her. I’d best not show up without them. If you have errors, you’d better comply or you’ll have a big shit sandwich on your hands. Now, back to the Kobo epub upload…

Having nothing more to go on than just “sorry” I scoured the internet and found this site [Write Hit: Kobo WritingLife upload problems], which says to remove any links to Amazon or other online ebook retailer.

Check. Did that.

Then, it says to put the book through the recommended ebook checker. Now, I’m not Neo from the Matrix. But, I did marry him. He ran the book through the command-line program (note, this is baby hacker stuff. If you know how to get a ‘run’ prompt and enter code, you could probably accomplish this task by the end of a full day. But someone who is not computer savvy? No fucking way.) This epub checker came up with long lines of fluff that it thought were minor warnings. No, errors. The warnings were things like: Hey! You have spaces in your chapter titles! My response? No shit, I have spaces in the paragraphs too! Jackass.

OK, I jumped through those hoops and with the warnings in mind I ran a test on the Kobo app on the Nexus 10. Just to make sure. I transferred the book into the Kobo app library and attempted to open it. Result? Worked like a dream. No problems:

So, what’s the hang-up?

I contacted their Customer Care department. Which isn’t actually a department it’s simply an email, one that is REALLY hard to find on their site. Their response was prompt, I’ll give them that. Though it was this scripted piece of awesome:

Hi [——],

Thank you for contacting Kobo Writing Life.

I’m sorry to hear that you’re having trouble uploading your file. This usually indicates that there’s a formatting error. If you’re receiving errors when you check your ePub, we suggest that you correct these and try to upload the file again.

Please let me know how it goes.

Sincerely,
The Kobo Team

I suppose, my first mistake was to dump this email at the Customer Care person and expect them to know what I meant:

Hi, I’ve got a new account and am attempting to upload an ebook in epub format. I’m getting the error “Sorry, we could not upload your file.” I ran the epub file through two epub validators and loaded into Kobo on my android tablet. It shows up fine in the Kobo app on the tablet and the validators are showing a long list of, albeit minor, warnings (i.e. – chapter title contains spaces and the following: Irregular DOCTYPE: found ‘-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.1 //EN’, expecting ‘XHTML 1.1//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml11/DTD/xhtml11.dtd (http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml11/DTD/xhtml11.dtd) “>’.) 
The warnings are attached to each individual chapters for a whopping list of over 90 warnings – could this be the issue for rejection on the upload to Kobo Writing Life or something else? (Note, as per an online blog’s suggestion there are no references to any other online ebook retailers, linked or otherwise mentioned within the ebook). 
Thank you for your help in shedding light on this issue for me. 
-B

I should note here that I assumed (since they were working with ebooks everyday) they’d know more about ebook creation, acception and potential issues more than I ever would. I know now that might be wrong about that…

As we wait for their second response (yes, I replied to their email, I’d like them to keep that trouble ticket open) I know what you’re thinking. Just go fix all those warnings and try to re-upload it! Seventy-five percent of those warnings are telling me that I have spaces in my chapter titles. Yes, yes I do have spaces in my chapter titles. I put them there so that they don’t look like this: Chapter23. Not only is this weird looking it’s grammatically incorrect and will make the table of contents look like it was written by a monkey pounding on a keyboard, especially when they get to the last “chapter” which is: Excerpt: The Legend of Lady MacLaoch. It’ll look like this:

Excerpt:TheLegendofLadyMacLaoch. 

Keep in mind, this is the same file (albiet in .mobi format) that Amazon KDP slurpped up and is currently sending out to all its millions of readers. It’s also the same file that displayed perfectly on the Kobo app on the Nexus 10 I demoed above.

Now, on to the Nook. Why are they a bunch of ding-dongs? I can’t even get into my account. Yeah, I know that sounds like I’m the ding-dong. But when I signed in it says:

OK, no problem. My account needs to be confirmed. This happens all the time – great security measure. Though with all the other sites that I’ve done this with (MailChimp, LinkedIn, Amazon, Google, aka everyone that has my email address), that confirmation email comes in .00009 seconds. 

Three hours and counting… Yes I checked my Spam folder for the email. Yes, I tried various other tactics, but it seems that I simply must wait by my inbox for some mythical email to arrive so that I can be “confirmed.”

So, as we wait for these minor but blocking tech issues to be resolved, Nook and Kobo aren’t making money off of me. 

This explains a bit about why Barnes & Noble are losing money over their Nook platform. Or rather, the cuts they’ve made to the Nook division explains why they can’t send a confirmation email.

And sure, Kobo? I could go through Smashwords and be on there in a day or two (as I had been in the past with another novel). But let’s be serious: no. For many reasons, and this blog post is already too long.

Stay tuned. 

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