Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Voice of Technology or How I Used an iPod Touch to Edit My Book (Alissa Grosso)

I feel like I need to preface this post with the caveat that I am not really a tech savvy person and am a far cry from an early adapter. This year I finally replaced my trusty iPhone 5, and that was only because the battery was about to explode, but did I splurge on a spiffy new iPhone X? Hell to the no. I got myself an iPhone SE which looks nearly indistinguishable from my 5, I even went with the basic white color because change is for other people.

Still, when those around you are more extreme in their refusal to embrace the latest and greatest, it's easy to feel like a techy. Last year my boyfriend finally replaced his flip phone with--wait for it--a new flip phone. My attitude is that I'm all for technology that can make my life easier, which is why in a few minutes I'm going to let my Roomba clean the floors for me. It's also why, when the rights to my second and third YA novels reverted back to me this year, I decided to use technology to prepare them for re-publication.

Tools of the trade: an iPod Touch, a paperback copy of Ferocity Summer and my not-completely-edited file.

First of all, a little bit of backstory. The reason I needed to work on these books to re-release them was that the files I had in my possession had only gone through the first round of copyedits. I did not have files that contained all the final edits.

I knew it would be tedious work. So I decided that technology could be used to make my job easier. It took some trial and error, but eventually I worked out a system that worked. I used an iPod Touch to help me in my task, but my iPhone SE would have worked just as well. I just decided to have a device devoted to the work at hand since there might still be calls and messages coming in on my phone.

Here's the system that worked for me, in case you find yourself in a similar situation:

1. Went through and chapter by chapter converted my document to HTML files. Why HTML? I don't know, but for some reason these files seemed to work better than using text files. Could you convert the whole book to one single big HTML file? Yes, but from my experience it was a LOT easier to work with those single chapter files.

2. One by one AirDrop an HTML chapter file from my Mac to my iPod. Again you could easily use a phone or tablet instead of an iPod, and you could also transfer the files over in other ways, too, email, text, etc.

3. Open the HTML file in Pages on my iPod. Once again, there might be other programs/file types that can be used. This is just what worked for someone who is not truly tech savvy, see above.

4. Highlight the whole text. This was actually one of the trickier steps for me. I couldn't find an easy way to "select all" on my iPod so I had to do a lot of dragging to get the whole file highlighted. This was extra tricky because there was a delay of a second or so, and if I didn't do things just right I could accidentally unhighlight everything and have to start over from scratch. Some profanity might have been used when this happened.

5. With my unedited file open on my computer, I would pick up my published paperback book and open to the corresponding chapter.

6. On the iPod a little box is popped up and I select the option for speaking. There was sometimes a slight delay after pressing the speak option.

7. As my iPod reads my unedited chapter, I follow along on the page of my printed book looking for discrepancies. When I find one I have to hit Pause, fix it on the computer file, and then keep going forward.

One problem that I ran into a few times was that at some points while in the midst of working on a chapter, the phone would ring or the handyman working on my bathroom would need to ask me a question and my iPod would fall asleep, and so I would have to go through the tedious chore of re-highlighting the text. I complained about this in one of my Awkward Author videos and viewer, online friend and beta-reader-extraordinaire NevadaG pointed out that I could set the options on my iPod so that it stayed awake. See, what I said above about me not being a tech savvy genius.

By the way, that handyman that I mentioned? He was here working on my bathroom pretty much the whole time that I was working on this project. So, if you really want a full picture of what things looked like imagine him in the next room installing tile, while I'm in my office with my dog angrily barking at the intruder and my iPod reading my books aloud to me. This was especially interesting when I was working on Ferocity Summer that has some, shall we say, colorful language in it. Probably should have used some headphones for that one.

I used the default iPod voice--you've likely heard her before. She's a bit monotone and robotic sounding, but not too bad. She does get a bit tripped up by homographs like read, live and tear and there were a few secondary characters whose name's she pronounced incorrectly, but mostly her reading was pretty impressive. I was able to hear where the commas were just fine, though italics didn't come through at all. (Note: that could have had something to do with the conversion to HTML files.)

I am happy to report that I finally got through the re-editing process for both books and am now hard at work getting those files shaped up for re-publication. With any luck, I will stop hearing that flat, robotic voice in my head one of these days.

Alissa Grosso is the author of the YA novels Popular, Ferocity Summer and Shallow Pond. You can pick up a free copy of Popular at her website, and she promises that soon copies of Ferocity Summer and Shallow Pond will be available for purchase once again.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! I have to admit, there was a lot of Googling and trial and error involved in figuring out this plan.