Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I am guest blogging!

Go here to my friend Stephanie Draven's blog to see the post. It's mostly about my favorite topic, ebooks!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I am on LibraryThing

In case you aren't familiar with it, LibraryThing is a social networking site for book lovers. I have recently joined as a member and also added myself as an author.

Social networking for book lovers is a good way to find new books by seeing what people who own the same books are reading. Two other sites in addition to LibraryThing are GoodReads and Shelfari. Check them out to see if one would be right for you!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Library ebooks come to the Kindle!

In the past, when people asked my advice about what ereader to get, I always asked them where did they plan/want to get the books? If they said they wanted to borrow library books, I told them, “Don't buy a Kindle.” Unlike other ereaders, such as the Sony, Nook, and Kobo, the Kindle didn't support borrowing library books. Quite frankly, I thought Jeff Bezos had no interest in helping people borrow books; he wants to sell them books.

Well, I'm pretty sure he still wants to sell books, but Amazon has recently announced that by the end of this year they will support borrowing library ebooks on the Kindle through OverDrive, the primary US provider or ebooks for libraries. This move pretty much shoots down the main argument for not buying a Kindle, as least in the US.

After I got over the shock, I started thinking about how it would work. Some folks who perused the notice on the Overdrive site noted that they were advising librarians that they would not have to re-buy the ebooks; their existing collections could be loaned to Kindle owners. Now, since Kindle's format (and pretty much only the Kindle's) for ebooks is based on Mobi, and not ePub, that suggested that Amazon planned to make the Kindle support ePub.

I don't think so. I think Amazon plans to clone the workflow they used to put user-to-user Kindle borrowing in place. Here's how that works:

If I have a friend named Sue, and she loans me a Kindle book (assuming she can find one that the publisher hasn't turned off borrowing on), she initiates the loan from her Amazon web page. She provides my email address, and once I accept the loan, I have to provide an email address that is linked to a Kindle or Kindle app. At that point in time, Amazon sends the book to my Kindle, and they send Sue's Kindle a message that basically deletes that book from her Kindle (it looks like it's still there because the title still appears on the home screen, with an “on loan” notation, but it's not really there). Amazon doesn't somehow send me Sue's copy of the file, they send me a copy from their servers, just like they do when I buy a book. Once the two-week loan period is up, my Kindle gets a seek-and-destroy file that deletes the borrowed book. To get it back on her Kindle again, Sue has to reload the book from her archive. She doesn't have to delete the entry that says “on loan,” but it won't go away until she does.

Once they have everything set up with Overdrive, I think Amazon will actually initiate the loan, and send the book to the user's Kindle. If they can do that, then they will actually have wireless delivery of library books, which no one else has; right now a library borrower has to download to PC and copy the file over via a USB cable. It's possible that Amazon will require that, too, especially since only the Kindle 3 has wifi, and Amazon would have to pay for the wireless charges. But who knows? Maybe they could allow for wifi delviery of library books to the Kindle 3's out there. They are already offering to let you highlight and annotate the library book, and they say they will keep those annotations and if you later buy the book, voila! They will be part of the book again. In order to do that, I think the book on the Kindle has to be standard Mobi/prc format.

What I'm not sure of is how Amazon will make money from this. It's possible they have a deal with Overdrive— who has now expanded their potential client list exponentially— to get a small cut when a book is loaned. But I can be pretty sure that Jeff Bezos didn't cut this deal from the goodness of his heart. He may be more reader-friendly than say, Steve “Nobody Reads Anymore” Jobs, but he is still a businessman and he is out to make money.

But I think it's a good thing for libraries and for readers and, in the long run, for authors. I already bought one book because I didn't finish it before the loan period was up. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has done that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Sixth Discipline Got Its First Review!

The Sixth Discipline got a review on Amazon! The reviewer gave it four stars and wrote a very lengthy and in-depth write-up! You can read it here if you're interested!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Links to buy the Haven books

To put them all in one place, here are the links for the Haven books:

The Sixth Discipline (first book in the Haven series)
on Sony
on Diesel eBooks

note: also available on iBooks

No Safe Haven (second/last book in the Haven series)

note: will also be available on iBooks

Do It Yourself Publishing

Well, I now have two books out as ebooks. In case anyone is interested, I thought I would report on my experience with the self-publishing process.

So far, I can report several facts, as seen from my perspective (even facts can have perspective):

1) Amazon sells a lot more ebooks than anyone else; of course, I don't have much to go by yet, as almost the only people who have bought my books are people who know me, IRL or online. But I gave my family and friends three choices and 90% of them picked door #1, Amazon. This may not be typical as probably 2/3 of my friends and family don't have ereaders yet— hard to believe, I know -) — and ereaders determine a lot of folks' choices.

2) It pays to get a pro to convert your MS Word file. I used a company called 52 Novels. I think it's really one guy with his wife helping out, but he did an excellent job. I am very pleased with the appearance of the ebook. Plus, he took care of embedding the cover and creating a table of contents, so everything links as it should. The Kindle offers a nice feature that lets you jump chapter-to-chapter by pressing the right and left sides of the 5-way controller, but it only works if the chapters are coded as chapters. This works in my books, but not in a lot of traditionally published novels.

3) Smashwords, Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and Barnes and Noble's PubIt are all very easy to use, if you have your files in the right shape. This is where it really paid to have the pro bundle everything up for you. Smashwords was actually the fastest to get the book up, with PubIt next, and then KDP. A nice plus for Smashwords is they will push their books out to other platforms. I don't recommend using them to push to B&N or Amazon, since both vendors provide an easy-to-use interface that lets you have more control over how the book will look, but Smashwords is one way to get a self-published book into iBooks (although you need an ISBN and really good formatting to do that).

4) Covers matter! Even though the book is digital, it still needs a cover. For one thing, it's what ebookstore browsers see when shopping on the web, so it needs to be eye-catching in both thumbnail size and in book-size. I paid a graphic designed to create my covers.

5) There is writing the book (write, edit, proof, get feedback, rinse and repeat). There is creating the ebook (getting a pro to do both the cover and the conversion, in my case); you need to be sure you allow for a review step, to see the book as it will look and proof it one last time. There is loading the ebook (the easy part, if you have the right files, all ready to go). And finally there is marketing. That is the hard part. In order for strangers to buy your book, they have to know it's there, and have a sense that they want to read it. Writing the blurb is not the end of marketing! I'm working on getting reviewers, even while I'm still proofing my next book Tribes (not part of the Haven series).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

No Safe Haven is in the Kindle store!

No Safe Haven, the sequel to The Sixth Discipline, is now for sale in the Kindle store!

A third (unrelated) book called Tribes will come out later this year. It's waiting on a cover and some additional proofing. I will be posting about the process of publishing ebooks in about a week or so.

No Save Haven is up!

No Safe Haven, the sequel to The Sixth Discipline is up on Smashwords and now on Nook! ! It should follow shortly on Kindle, and in a couple of weeks, iBooks.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

iBooks and the sequel!

The Sixth Discipline is now available in Apple's iBooks application. If you have a iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, you can use that app to get the book.

Also, No Safe Haven, the sequel, has just been loaded to Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. I will post links as soon as the book becomes available.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

To print or not to print

Technology is having a profound impact on the process of publishing. It used to be that the only option for self-publishing a book was to hire a printer, publish however many books you thought you could sell, and then cart them around to bookstores and try to get the store owners to put your book on their shelves. It took a fair amount of money and a huge amount of effort.

A new option for self-publishing printed books these days is print-on-demand or POD. A POD machine such as the Espresso can crank out a single book almost like a photocopier cranks out a report. The book can be digitally printed, bound, and and trimmed in about 15 minutes. Once these machines get more affordable, we might even see them in bookstores. But for now, most POD services operate with both the production process (where the author provides the book content) and the sale to the reader happening online. Some examples are Lulu and Amazon's CreateSpace.

This means that POD doesn't provide any noticeable advantage when it comes to getting a book into a bookstore. Also, the books cannot be produced as cheaply one at a time, so they can't be priced as competitively as ebooks.

Which is why I went with publishing my books as ebooks only, rather than also adding a print option. I haven't totally written of the idea of producing print books, but making the book look decent takes some skills I don't have.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I have been interviewed!

The Kindle Authors blog has posted an interview with me by David Wisehart, in which I talk about how I write and give advice for other writers.

Go read it if you're interested!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A word about ebooks

A few years ago, very few people had heard of ebooks, even though they have been around for decades. Several things kicked off the change that started book publishing on the path to digital books becoming a mainstream phenomenon. First was the invention of e-ink, as seen first on a Sony Reader, then the Kindle, then the (non-color) Nook ereader. The e-ink screen offered vastly reduced eyestrain, much better battery life, and no glare in bright light.

Second, Amazon got into the business with their Kindle ereader. The Kindle had two additional things going for it, in addition to e-ink. The first was wireless delivery of ebooks. You didn't even need to own a computer to buy and download books; you just needed a Kindle. The second was that Amazon had a much bigger, better organized ebookstore than Sony or Fictionwise, or any previous ebook vendor.

The combination of an easy to use ereader and a well-stocked store made ebooks take off. Barnes and Noble got into the act with the Nook and the Nook Color, and Apple came out with the iPad.

The Kindle and other dedicated ereaders hooked the voracious readers— people who read two or more books a month. The iPad hooked the casual reader. They already had the device, and it allowed them to download several different ereader apps, including Apple's own iBooks, and read books in color. Over the last year, ebook sales have been growing by leaps and bounds.

Which is the main reason that publishing solely in digital form is now a viable option! And that's why my first book, The Sixth Discipline is now in the Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords ebookstores.