Thursday, March 31, 2011

Promoting your eBook: Part Two

One of the pieces of advice I picked up recently recommended having more than one title to offer on your eBook journey. This move tends to lend credibility to your profile.

While I have one more novel in the tidying up stage and two more that need work, I'm not ready to convert any of them yet.

However, I did have a short story I wrote about ten years ago. Conversations with Marilyn is a little bit of suspense, a little bit of Vegas and a little bit of coming to terms with your life. I decided to add that to my list on Amazon. I priced it at 99-cents because that seems a fair price for a short story. I think it gives some insight into my style of writing in this genre.

I hope you'll take a look at it and give me an opinion.

Meanwhile, take a look in your stash of stored writing and pull out something you like to add to your list. It could be some poetry, a short story, a collection of short stories, or even a memoir. Add them to your list of published works.

Who knows, maybe one day you and I will be as recognized in the eBook world as Amanda Hocking.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Promoting your eBook: Part One

Promoting your eBook has to be one of the tougher parts of the writing and publishing process. You have to sell yourself and your title. If you're the more reticent type, someone who is good with words as long as they aren't "personal," you have to figure out how to come out of your shell and spread the word.

I used to be that reticent person but the more I read and learn about self-promotion the more I realize there's no sin or crime or negativity attached to tooting your own horn.

Shameless commerce works!

As I figure out ways to tell the world about my own work, I'll post them here so you don't have to travel all over the Internet trying to figure out how to get more sales.

I started out by announcing The Mine on my facebook page. That encouraged my friends to post the news on their pages.

Immediately after, I tweeted the announcement.

I'm not sure the twitter thing has brought any visitors to look at the title. I know facebook resulted in a couple of sales.

Next, I joined the Kindle Board Community because I see that many independents use the boards to hype their work and discover what's going on in the eBook world. I started by reading other posts, making lists of books that sounded appealing to me, and then dropping into the Indie Authors: Plug Your Book Here discussion to introduce myself and my work.

For now, I'm off on the hunt for more. As soon as I find them, you'll know about them.

Monday, March 28, 2011

More on the future of the publishing industry

Joe Konrath's latest blog post features an interview with Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. His comments on the future of the printed book are interesting and his comments about the publishing industry are on target.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The future of publishing -- from my view

Just because I published my first novel as an eBook doesn’t mean I’m thinking or hoping that the print book will disappear from the face of the known universe. I love print books, have a lovely little library of my favorites, mostly hardbound, and I read them--often. I’m also privileged to have good friends who loan me books to read.

I’m also not thinking or hoping that the publishing industry fades into the sunset. The inherent value of this media is obvious. Publishers have editors who find typos, grammatical errors, inconsistencies, talented cover artists, typesetters who know the difference between an inch mark and a curly quote, all of which, the independents probably can’t afford to hire. This leaves the self-publisher working within the boundaries of their own knowledge and education--and sometimes (probably most of the time) that isn’t enough to get the job done right.

I know, for example, I can’t proofread my own words. In fact, two people read the finished product before The Mine went live and while making their edits they presented to me I found two additional mistakes in the manuscript. (And we all know, most word processors fall short when it comes to recognizing grammatical errors and even certain typos.)

Publishers also handle all the accounting, the royalties, even (although not so much anymore), the publicity for their authors.

The biggest problem I see regarding publishers is their reluctance to take on new authors. They prefer the big name (celebrity, politician, guru) and established (published and successful) names. Emerging writers stand a miniscule chance of ever getting their work to a publishing house.

Then, that no-name writer has to try to enter the hallowed realm of the agent with a spot-on query letter and breathless hopes that the letter, the genre, and the sample chapters hit home enough to whet the agent’s appetite.

Now agents apparently have very little time to commit to unsolicited requests.

How is it, I wonder, that I can read a book in a day but agents can’t read a query letter for months or more?

When I was polishing up another novel, I sent one query letter by email to an agent. After months without a response I fired off a second letter to another agent who took three months to proffer a rejection message. A third attempt brought an almost instant “No thanks, not for me.”

If an agent does take on an unknown author, there could be a year or more lapse of time between a sale and the actual appearance of the work.

These observations (some could call them complaints) are so old they might even be considered tradition by now, but they make up the hurdles a novelist or non-fiction author has to scale in hopes of seeing his or her work in print.

Of course I’d like to see my books on the shelves of bookstores that still exist but I prefer not to go to my grave while waiting.

However, I love the look and feel of a hefty novel. I like sitting on the porch enjoying a glass of iced tea and a good story. I appreciate the way the words look on paper. So I will continue to support the authors who have been fortunate enough to make it in this tough field.

I will buy the hard covers I want to keep. I will buy the paperbacks I want to read. I will download whatever suits my fancy.

I’m sure there are a lot of other folks who, like me, will buy tangible books for their own personal tastes and reasons, for a long time to come – if publishers do a little trip into the present and realize they must make some changes, I figure they can last a long time as well.
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

The ebook journey - Part Ten: The Wait is Over

It official … The Mine is now a finished ebook for sale on Amazon.

I put up a quick description as a placeholder weeks and weeks ago and am now researching how to change it because it’s as weak as a very poorly written query letter. I’ve managed to modify it on the pages that Amazon calls author central and I believe that will transfer to the sales page eventually. We’ll have to wait and see … but just in case it doesn’t, I’m inserting it here. In a few days, I’ll check the page description again to determine if I have to resubmit from the bookshelf page. (Actually, the description consists of the first few paragraphs of the book with thanks to a great suggestion from Phil, owner of Greyhounds Books and author of Books of Worth. )

I’ve expanded the excerpt here:

Something was ripping Terry Baker’s arms and legs out of their sockets, pulling and straining at the muscles and tendons, trying to separate them from bone. The boy tried to open his eyes but his lids were pressed hard against the searing pain behind them. The ache in his limbs was dull but powerful, like the breathless strain of a chest-cold cough.
It’s nothing to worry about. I’m just asleep and this is a dream, Oh, gosh, don’t wet the bed again and raise Father’s anger yet another time. I promised I’m not going to do it. Am I? No …

No! That wasn’t right. He wasn’t home in bed under his Roy Rogers flannel sheet. This was some place and something else that would cause his daddy’s wrath to erupt from beneath the thin layer of tension where it seethed like an angry swarm of bees.

If Father knows where I went, I’ll be black-and-blue for a month. He’ll tell me that as he raises the belt to spank me another time. Whatever …

…Whatever was going on, Terry wanted it to be sleeping so he could wake up because waking up would mean the end of this dream that was rushing out of control toward a nightmare. But he couldn’t remember ever being inside a dream and knowing it.

I don’t care what that half-baked teacher tells you about the woods. They’re not safe, Terry. And the only thing you’ll see there are the same trees and flowers and bushes and weeds we’ve got in the backyard, which by the way I told you to clean up, so you better get to it before the end of tomorrow. Get out and work some of that fat off. Be good for you. You go in the woods and you’ll come back with poison ivy all over you. Remember what it was like when you and that Winslow kid decided to go stomping off across Whitaker’s field to his pond for a swim last summer? Your eyes were swollen shut for two weeks. Goddamn kid. Should be playing ball. What kind of a shit teaches twelve-year-olds that kind of shit anyway? And don’t forget what I said about the yard. You do what I say because I’m your …

Father hadn’t always talked in shouts. The new voice started when he lost his seat in the House, which, if Terry remembered right, came to pass just after mommy started disappearing and coming back again.
Terry felt something sharp and cold, like an icicle, tracing its way slowly across his naked stomach. Then came a warm, burning wetness. Was it pee? Was he wetting the bed yet again? No. Pee would ooze between his legs to his backside and soak into the sheets. It wouldn’t flow down both sides of his rib cage.

Writing the novel was a great journey but admittedly, getting it in proper ebook form was the proverbial labor sans love. But I learned a lot and soon, I’ll be at it again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The ebook journey - Part Nine and a Half: The Wait is Over

Let me rephrase the headline for this post.

The wait is almost over.

It took more than 24 hours for The Mine to go live. I downloaded a sample to my kindle and almost cried. The images did not show up!

So it was back to the proverbial drawing board, an hour of searching, and a quick review of where I went wrong. Apparently, when I uploaded the file, the images (a color cover, a black and white cover and a vignette) didn't upload. Actually, I missed that step somehow.

To rectify the error, I had to download the title -- it's comes as a zipped file -- add the images to the to the zipped folder that contains the title, and upload again.

Not a problem except that it will be another 24 to 48 hours before the book goes live again.

As soon as it does, I'll sample it and make sure it's okay before making the final announcement that it's available for purchase.

The ebook journey - Part nine: Waiting

It took a bit longer than 24 hours for The Mine to pass the review stage on Amazon's Kindle page.

I believed the review process would be the final step but apparently there's one more -- publishing. The novel has been in that stage for about the same 24-hour time period and my sense of dread is growing. Those people who live in my head are having nonstop anxiety conversations.

What if there's a mistake? What if she missed a typo? What if it doesn't look like an ebook? Are you sure the cover is going to be sufficiently attractive? What if it gets stuck in the publishing stage? Did she miss a step along the way? How is she going to promote this baby? And finally, the worst question: What if nobody buys the darn thing?

Then somebody up there chimed in with a totally unrelated question: "What's the correct way to spell ebook (eBook, Ebook, EBook)?"

Think I'll take the day off and work in the yard.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The ebook journey - Part eight: Uploading to kindle


The uploading of The Mine to Kindledesktop publishing went through with just one minor problem.

It seems there’s a blank I “forgot” to fill in. I say “forgot” because I never saw the blank in the initial form.

What was missing? Something called Additional Contributors.

Well, I’m the only person who contributed so why would have to list any additional names?

Don’t know. Just have to.

I just filled in my own name and clicked the save button and the minor problem disappeared.

Now it's a waiting game while the folks at Amazon go through some review process.

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The ebook journey - Part seven and a half: Images

Okay, so I guess the real answer to getting everything right the first time around is simple: Read the directions!

But, being adventurous, I usually don't resort to that when all else fails.

And, of course, previewing The Mine on Amazon had me upset because my images didn’t show up … so all else failing, I read the directions – and there are tons of them.

Seems images don’t show up in the preview.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The ebook journey - Part seven: Finding formatting gliches


It’s time to upload the spiffed up, cleaned up, formatted, reformatted, html file of the novel.

Or so I thought.

After following the directions and confirming the coding by searching for and finding several sources, I believed the product was ready to upload and preview.

Hmmm. We know about those “best laid plans.”

Apparently, after fifteen reformats, there’s a problem getting the images to show up in the preview. I’ve used only two – a version of the cover and a little vignette to separate some of the sections in the novel.

Neither image shows in the preview. In fact, there’s some little camera icon with that scary little exclamation point inside a triangle – you know, the one that serves as a warning that you’ve done something wrong.

Interestingly, both images displayed properly in the two ebook readers I used to review my changes.

So it’s back to the drawing board to see if I can figure out what the deal is.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The ebook journey: Part six- cover design

I've made a mock-up of the cover for the novel I've been putting into ebook format. 
How does it look?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The ebook journey: Part five - editing and proofing

Following the guidelines from Guido Henkel, the first pass of the ebook formatting went well.

Viewing the results in my browsers (I used Firefox, Explorer and Chrome), I was able to read it over. This doesn't show page breaks, of course, but it's a good way to check for coding errors. I also noticed a couple of problems with chapter heads and italics. (I use italics a lot.) So, it was back to html for redo.

I'm not a perfectionist in my everyday life. Good enough works for me most of the time. You know, a swift wipe with a cloth works; no need for polish and wax. That sort of thing. But when it comes to something that's going to last, it has to be as perfect as I can make it.

Even though I have kindle for the PC, I'm not able to use the app to review my own work. So my next step was to look for some kind of software that would output the look and feel of an ebook. For this, I downloaded Calibre and followed the directions outlined in Henkel's post.

Great! Except! Viewing the draft wasn't okay but some cliches did occur, so I opted to get some additional reader software, just to double check. Firefox has a an add-on reader called EPUBReader that worked well.

Finally, we're getting somewhere! I'll soon be ready for a kindle upload.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The ebook journey: Part four - copyright permissions solved

I've decided.

The lyrics are gone!

Maybe one day some big movie company will option the rights to the novel and I'll hand over the original manuscript, lyrics intact, and let them work it out. (One can aspire!)

Maybe one day my ebook will become an electronic best seller and I'll be able to hire someone to get the permissions needed for the copyrighted lyrics and I'll do a second edition. (One can aspire.)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The ebook journey: Part three - copyright permissions

Oh crap!

I mean it!

Oh crap!

My novel uses various song lyrics to set the tone of different chapters and I'm about to strip all of them out.

Here's the deal. Song lyrics are protected by copyright and in order to use them, you have to get permission from the copyright holder.

Well, let me tell you, this is a daunting task.

First you have to find out who owns the rights. Not so hard? Don't bet on it. Sometimes the author owns the rights; sometimes the rights have been transferred, not once, not twice but three times. Sometimes, the owner of the copyright is dead, which means looking for heirs. Then, if you manage to get to the end of the search, you might have to pay for using the rights.

This could take longer than it took to write the darn novel!

This seems weird, especially since the lyrics are spread across the web in dozens of sites, with no permission and sometimes without attribution.

But that's how it works. Don't believe me? Check out this article from the Stanford University Libraries.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The book journey: Part two - formatting your ebook

A few years back (Please don't ask how many.), I decided to do an online newsletter at work. Using Microsoft Word as my platform, I created the content then exported it as html.

Let me tell you, the output was outrageously complicated, not so much in the look in feel of the copy as in the editing phase. The html code looked like an ancient foreign language.

This lead me to research html for beginners. Thankfully, the web was (and still is) filled with instructions for html coding. I dug in, opened my file in Notepad, and began deleting all the extraneous Word stuff in the coding. Trial and error, undo and save, hit and miss, start anew ... eventually the newsletter made it to the web in (almost) perfect coding.

Remembering all this made my decision not to format my ebook directly from Word easy.

What made it even easier?

I came across a nine-part post by Guido Henkel titled Take pride in your eBook formatting. Suddenly, the task is turning from a dark and stormy night to a breezy, sunny day. If you haven't seen the post, take a look at it and you'll understand that the task of formatting doesn't have to weigh you down.

Henkel recommended some editing software but I've been using a free and extremely easy program called html kit, which I found back then, so I'm using that.

Granted, the conversion will take time, but right now it's looking up.

(For those who need an even tighter, more thorough look at formatting for Kindle, check out this book.)
(See Part One of the journey)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The ebook journey begins: Part one

Been reading instructions for ebook formatting ... so many different opinions. Should you use pdf, transfer directly from a word processor, format in html, hire a pro, download software?

Just to muck up the works, it looks like different readers use different submission guidelines.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.