Sunday, July 2, 2017

Smashwords Summer sale is on!

Smashwords is an ebook retailer and distributor. Authors and small press publishers use Smashwords to sell their books on that site, and to push them out to retail partners, like iBooks, B&N Nook store, Kobo, and others. The summer sale lasts through the end of July and applies only to sales directly from Smashwords. However, since they provide ebooks in both epub and Kindle formats, it's not limiting to buy from them. Their FAQ has lots of info on how to get the ebook file to your Kindle or other ereader.

All my books on Smashwords (which is all my titles except for Turnabout) are either free or half price ($1.50 instead of $2.99) during this sale. Check out my Smashwords author page to see my books or browse the catalog of sale books. Use the special coupon code (e.g., SSW50 for half price books) when you check out.

Please post a comment here if you have any questions on or problems with the sale.

And have a happy 4th of July!


Friday, June 16, 2017

Win a Kindle copy of TURNABOUT!

I'm running another giveaway of Turnabout, but for a Kindle copy this time. There are still two copies left to win!


The giveaway runs until June 29 or until all copies are claimed.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Amazon has redesigned the Kindle Highlights page

Kindle readers have, from day one, had the ability to highlight text in Kindle books, and to add notations. I blogged about this in 2011, because it's a very useful feature for book reviewers. While you are reading, highlighted text appears shaded (on a Kindle Fire you can choose shading colors) and notes look like footnote references. But what makes this feature so useful is you can access these notes and highlights from your web browser, which means you can copy and paste them into a Word document or blog post or email or whatever.

Now Amazon had redesigned the web interface, and changed the URL. Here's the old look, which was accessed from https://kindle.amazon.com/your_highlights:



Usable, but pretty bland, no?

Here's the new look, accessed from https://read.amazon.com/kp/notebook:



Not only is it visually more interesting, because of the book cover from on the left, but the edit and delete notes and delete highlights buttons are easier to see. When you sync your Kindle, edits you made to the web version are copied back to your Kindle. That's pretty cool! 

Sadly, they did not change the limitation that makes this page only display notes and highlight from books bought at the Kindle store. Any other item on your Kindle, whether it's an MS Word doc containing your shopping list, or a Project Gutenberg copy of War and Peace, is treated as a "personal document." It can be highlighted and annotated on the Kindle, but those will not appear in the web interface. 

Even the look of the tab in the browser is different. New on the left, old on the right:



What I find most interesting is that Amazon has spent the time and money to enhance an existing feature, which suggests that readers are, in fact, using that feature. I can only assume they use the data they collect to plan their development efforts. If so, I wonder if the growth in audio-books will make them restore the read-aloud function, which is not available on the new e-ink models, like the Voyage and the Paperwhite.  They put some development into helping people with limited or no vision with the Voiceview feature, so I would hope they wouldn't give up on read-aloud Kindles. 

Updated: I miss the Update button! It seems slower to load to me, although that might be a function of  Chrome since it seemed to load OK with Edge. 



Monday, May 29, 2017

Win a paperback copy of TURNABOUT!

I'm giving away three copies of Turnabout, my hot new release. I kind of like the blurb I came up with for the giveaway title:

It's not a super power if you can't control it!

Go here to enter, and (hopefully) win! Remember, paperback giveaways go fast!



NB:  This requires  US mailing address to enter.


Friday, May 26, 2017

TURNABOUT has launched!

So, Turnabout  is now available in paperback and on Kindle! I always launch first on Kindle only,as far as ebooks, because that way the book can participate in KDP Select, which allows Amazon subscribers to borrow the book. They pay a flat fee, and the author is paid based on the number of pages they read. The agreement lasts 90 days, at at the end of that time, I will decide whether to renew Kindle Select or launch on additional platforms.

Meanwhile, here's the blurb!


  • Jason Miller's biggest worries were keeping up with his homework, paying for his classic jazz habit,and hiding the fact that he carried a flip phone. But then one day he finds himself teleporting from place to place, a talent he can't control. It gets worse when he lands in an alternate world, one that has many, many more women than men. It sounds great until Jason learns the downside to being a precious commodity: Having a harem is no fun when you're the one who's locked up.



Cover by Alexander Von Ness

Friday, April 21, 2017

Formatting an ebook: New Amazon tool for self-published authors

If you want to self-publish ebooks, you need to learn some things about ebooks. Ebooks are really just files, and in those files the underlying format is HTML tagging. the same tagging that drives the web. There are two main sets of tagging schemes. Epub (sometimes written as ePub) works for iBooks, Nook, and pretty much all others bookstores. Amazon's Kindle, though, has its own format based on mobi. It still uses HTML tags, remember, but it's a different set of rules on which tags do what and how files are structured.

Amazon's KDP platform for self-publishing actually allows authors to upload a MS Word file. If you have a novel that is all text, and you use Word's formatting styles consistently, KDP does a good job of converting the files. If you want new chapters to start on a new screen, for example, you need to be sure the word style for the chapter name or number creates a new page in print. But of course, you can't really tweak the format easily. If you want to change something, you need to go back to Word, edit the file, reload it to KDP, and look at it again. If you have the kind of book that has fancy formatting or lots of images, this can be tedious.

As first reported by The Digital Reader, Amazon has launched  a beta version of a new tool called Kindle Create.  The Talking New Media blog checked it out, too, and reported on their first impressions.




The new tool is different because you download it and run it locally, o your PC or Mac, and then preview the results from within the app itself. It takes over 500 MB of disc space, but hard drives are pretty big these days. 

Although the Amazon page only mentions Word files, the program will accept PDFs, but there was some discussion in the comments on the Talking New Media post that suggetsed it wasn't really converting the PDF but just wrapping it in code that made it into a "print replica" not a true ebook. 

I'm not sure this new took will help me that much since I have started putting my books out in paperback, also. I now use Adobe's InDesign which can produce a print-ready PDF and also an epub file from the same input. But if you self-publish books with a tricky format and want to try this new tool,Amazon is actively soliciting feedback.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A new Kindle Scout campaign

I have new book entered in the Kindle Scout Program. Kindle Scout is Amazon's version of a talent contest. The book is called Turnabout. It's a YA/alternate world/dystopian story. I like to describe it as Jumper meets A Handmaid's Tale, but with the genders reversed.

The way Kindle Scout works, if the books gets enough nominations, Amazon will publish the Kindle version. If it doesn't win, I can, of course, still self-publish, but Amazon gives a lot more help to books it publishes than to self-published books. Either way, I plan to publish the paperback via CreatSpace (Amazon) and Barnes & Noble.

Here's what the print cover will look like

print cover for TURNABOUT
Cover by Alexander Von Ness


Check it out here, and feel free to share this link with anyone who might be interested. Hopefully, that's everyone you know!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Print vs ebook: Amazon Giveaways

I recently used an Amazon feature called "Hosting a giveaway." If you look at the product page of a book, below the reviews and just above the "What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?" section, you will see a link to create a giveaway.

Amazon offers this feature on a lot of items, not just books. Basically, whoever "hosts" the giveaway pays for the items, including delivery. It can be anyone, not just an author, but for books, it's usually hosted by the author. Until just about a year ago, you could give way print books but not Kindle books, but now it works for both formats.

Setting up a print giveaway

The set-up process lets the host determine number of prizes, odds of winning (e.g., 1 in 1000, 1 in 500,etc), and what users have to do to enter (e.g., watch a video, or follow the author's Amazon page).

The process also allows some control over who can share the link. If you want to give away copies a part of your own promotion, you might want to use this option to limit how the giveaway was accessed. On the other hand, if you just want more readers and hope for reviews, you would wanted wider distribution not narrower,

What you don't get is a way to contract the winners. You can see their Amazon user names, but not contract them. But Amazon handles picking the winners, so it's guaranteed to be fair.

I have run giveaways in the past, but this time Amazon had added a new button that let them distribute the link for you. It sounded good,so I went for it.

Based on prior experience, I set the odds at 1 in 150, and since it was for print books, I limited the prizes to two. I created my welcome message, my congrats to the winner (with a plea for a review), my sorry you lost message (with a reminder that I have another book free, in Kindle format), and clicked the button.

I was waiting for the email to tell me that the giveaway was live, so I could post the link. I never got it. The giveaway ended in 16 minutes. A total of 282 people entered and, of course, two of them won.   I was astounded.

The ebook giveaway

A couple weeks later, I tried a giveaway that was as identical as I could make it, but this time with the same title in Kindle format, and three copies as prizes. I used the button to make Amazon distribute the link, and since it was a test, I didn't mention the giveaway here or anywhere else until after I gave away two kindle copies. That took 18 hours!

Once the second copy was given away, I advertised the link but even then, the number of entrants slowed to a trickle. I will be curious to see if the third copy is claimed before the giveaway end date of March 15.

So it looks like, as a prize, a print book is still much more valuable than a Kindle book.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

E-Book Sale!

Read an eBook Week starts Sunday, March 5, 2017, and in honor of that Smashwords is running a huge promotion. A lot of ebooks are on sale, including mine.



 If you're not familiar with Smashwords, it's a site that allows authors to publish and sell their ebooks globally.  Authors can opt to also push their books out to iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and a bunch of  other more well known book vendors, but those sites are not where the sale is happening. Smashwords itself sells directly to readers, allowing a choice of non-DRM'd books in a wide variety of formats, and that's where the sale is.

To promote ereading, Smashwords makes it easy for authors to put their books on sale, as they offer the use f coupon codes at checkout, and I've taken advantage of that. If you use the promotional coupon, you can buy any of my books this week only for half price (except for The Sixth Discipline, which is always free, and my fantasy novella Where Magic Rules, which is free this week only). .

Once you buy a book from Smashwords, you can download it, and read it on pretty much any device. If you have a Kindle, be sure to select that format (Mobi/Kindle), and download the file to a location on your PC where you can find it again. I have directions for putting Mobi files onto your Kindle here and here.

You can browse the sale page by genre to see what all they've got. Some books will be free and others really cheap.

Remember, all mine are either free or only $1.50, but you have to use the coupon code RAE50 for the non-free titles..